Spoiler Policy: All spoilers up to and including the currently discussed episode will be unmarked. Spoilers for episodes beyond the current point will be enclosed in Fast Forward blocks, which will include spoilers for the entire series.
Starting with this article, future Steven Universe recaps are only going to cover one episode by default.
Why am I making this change now? Two reasons. First, the current global crisis plus developments at work have me stressed and under significant pressure, which has resulted in a reduction of my creative output. Second, this happened to coincide exactly with hitting the stretch of S1B that contains classic episodes that really deserve in-depth analysis. As a result, I’ve been having difficulty meeting my self-imposed deadlines, which has resulted in several Rewinds going up late.
Going to a default of one episode per week will allow me to avoid burnout and make sure I have plenty of time to dig into the episodes I love. It’s probable that I’ll still sometimes do two a week in cases where we have two back-to-back episodes that aren’t very substantial, and I still plan to handle the double length episodes as one article.
Unfortunately, this means it will take me much longer to cover the entire series, but it also means I’ll be far more likely to actually finish.
Thank you for understanding, and please comment if you have any opinions on this.
Official Description: Steven joins Pearl on a special mission to a place that belonged to Rose Quartz.
The Gems are walking through the Strawberry Battlefield, a location we last saw in Serious Steven. Pearl expositions: “This was a site of a historic battle. Every weapon here was left by a gem five thousand years ago. I don’t like to disturb it, but Garnet said we can’t just leave these lying around.”
The last time we saw this location, we didn’t have any information about Homeworld or the reason the Crystal Gems are apparently the only Gems on Earth. Now we have a lot more context for what happened here: a fight between Homeworld forces and the rebellion that Pearl and Garnet participated in (though not Amethyst, as she emerged from the kindergarten later).
The amount of traditional forged weapons on the battlefield is interesting, given that the Crystal Gems fight almost entirely using the hard-light weapons they produce from their Gems. It could be that some Gems cannot produce weapons or that they use the physical weapons to supplement their own, or even that humans fought alongside the rebellion army.
Later we learn that at least the first two things are true. Not all Gems can produce weapons, although our primary example of this is Peridot, who claims it’s because she’s an Era 2 Gem, so it’s unknown if this would have applied to any of the Era 1 Gems on the battlefield. Gems using physical weapons even when they can produce hard light weapons is absolutely a thing, though. Rose uses her sword to compliment her shield, and Pearl commonly used a sword in battle.
Much later, we learn that most of these weapons were forged by Bismuth, and she becomes deeply emotional upon seeing the Strawberry Battlefield.
It’s unclear why Garnet apparently thinks these weapons need to be cleaned up, given they’ve apparently sat there undisturbed for five thousand years and clearly aren’t hurting anything.
Garnet shows off her strength by picking up an enormous battleaxe: “Never know when you might need one of these.” Steven is enthusiastic: “I need one of those all the time!”
What kind of Gem might have wielded such an enormous weapon? This is almost big enough for one of the non-Pink Diamonds. We later learn that Homeworld accepts same-Gem fusions as a battle tactic, so it could possibly have been used by a fusion of many Quartz soldiers.
Pearl encourages Steven to look for a weapon of his own. He enlists Lion to help him look, but Lion just turns away, uninterested. “You really need to train that thing better,” Pearl comments.
Pearl’s minor animosity towards Lion here is foreshadowing of the fact that Lion is a secret that Rose kept from her.
Lion ignores Steven as he calls him, instead thoroughly engrossed in digging up the pink scabbard shown above. Pearl is shocked that Lion has found the scabbard to Rose’s sword and pulls it out of his mouth.
Pearl proudly talks about how she fought alongside Rose in this very battle.
Amethyst: Man, I wish I could’ve seen it!
Garnet: No, you don’t. Countless Gems were broken here. It was a maelstrom of destruction and death.
Pearl: But we won!
High school American history in a nutshell
Pearl attempting to sugarcoat what went on here is very consistent with her constantly trying to spare Steven from knowing too many unpleasant things too soon. This scene is also reminiscent of the scene in On the Run where Amethyst talks about the kindergarten and sarcastically says “but it’s okay now, we won!” while Pearl tries to shut her down.
It’s also related to Pearl not being able to bear anything critical of Rose, which is something we will see shortly.
Pearl proudly describes a battle where they fought alongside rose and “made a stand against [our] Homeworld!”
Returning back to the beach house, Amethyst has an armful of weapons to store in her room, and she helps Garnet maneuver the enormous battleaxe into the Temple.
Steven asks Pearl what his mother was like.
“She was courageous, and brilliant, and beautiful. Sometimes, you look so much like her.”
See, things like this aren’t going to help at all with Steven feeling like he’ll never be able to live up to his mother’s legacy. It also ties into how Pearl is really still in mourning for Rose and sometimes has a difficult time accepting Steven, although she does care about him.
Pearl offers the scabbard to Steven, which he happily takes, talking about how he’ll bop the monsters with it.
Pearl: That’s just the scabbard, Steven. It held your mother’s sword. Nothing else could fit so perfectly inside. For all this time it’s been incomplete.
This is accompanied by a close-up of Pearl’s hands interlocking, and the gay subtext is rapidly becoming text here. This is the episode that makes it pretty damn clear that Pearl was in love with Rose romantically.
Pearl feeling incomplete without Rose has been hinted at before, and it’s going to become her major character arc for basically the rest of the series.
One of the show’s other major relationships has similar imagery associated with it, with Connie wielding the sword and Steven carrying the shield. It also shows how their dynamic is much more healthy and equal than Pearl and Rose, since the sword and shield are equally important to the fight, whereas the scabbard is just a carrying case. Thsi comparison is made fairly explicit in Sworn to the Sword.
Of course, much later we learn that Pearl was a Gem made explicitly to serve Rose, and even though Rose at least somewhat encouraged her to do what she wished, Pearl never fully shed that servant role.
Pearl asks Steven if he wants to know a secret. We saw back in Secret Team how much Steven really enjoys having a secret, so of course he agrees. Pearl says there’s a place that Rose kept hidden even from Amethyst and Garnet, and since Steven has Rose’s gem, that place is his now.
Pearl really enjoys knowing something that Rose never told the other Gems. It’s symbolic of the close relationship she had with Rose — and Pearl can also be extremely jealous at any indication that anyone else is as close to Rose as he. This episode is also one of the best examples of how Pearl often treats Steven as a replacement Rose instead of his own person, and sometimes feels disappointed when he can’t fulfill that role.
They warp to a new location. Pearl tells Steven that the place they’re looking for is a several mile walk followed by a steep climb. We cut to Pearl carrying Steven up a cliff and oh stars, does this ever look terrifying.
Pearl: I was your mother’s sole confidant! For the words she could share with no one else, I was there to listen.
Steven: Why’d she keep so many secrets?
Pearl: She had to, Steven! It’s the mark of a great leader, knowing just what to keep hidden from everyone you’re trying to protect. Everyone except me!
First of all, we can already guess that Pearl was not Rose’s sole confidant. All the way back in Laser Light Cannon we had Pearl’s surprise that Rose entrusted the light cannon to Greg and never told her where it was.
Secondly, it’s telling that Pearl thinks secret-keeping is one of the marks of a great leader. Yes, a leader is careful with the information they share, but Pearl keeping Steven out of the loop on extremely important things he should know about is an ongoing problem with her. Some examples are refusing to tell him about the kindergarten in On the Run and not letting him know that the mirror was a former Gem in Mirror Gem.
It takes until season five until we learn the true reason why Pearl believes herself to be Rose’s only true confidant: because Rose trusted her with her most critical secret, the secret that she was once Pink Diamond. She even compelled Pearl to be unable to speak her secret aloud, and it’s obvious in hindsight that it was eating away at her. It’s no wonder she holds this view of Rose and her secrets. She has to, in order to justify what Rose did to her.
We also learn, later in the series, about some of the secrets that Rose did not tell Pearl, such as poofing and bubbling Bismuth, abandoning Spinel in the garden, and her abuse of Volleyball.
At their destination, Pearl proudly presents Rose’s armory, eagerly anticipating Steven’s reaction. Steven crushes her spirits by proclaiming that he’s been here before, and that Lion showed him. This took place in Lion 2, and he was with Connie at the time.
Pearl offers to show him how to work the armory’s controls, but Steven says “I can do it without you!” oblivious to how irritated Pearl is becoming. How much of Pearl’s very careful doling out of knowledge to Steven has to do with protecting him, and how much has to do with her wanting to be essential to his life in the way she wished she were for Rose?
Steven shows off the armory’s various weapons, with Pearl listing off their ridiculously overdramatic names, like “The Heretic’s Anguish.” This circle of armor is called “The Armor of the Fallen,” and it’s interesting that it’s all roughly human sized and shaped. Gems have been known to wear armor, but this hints at the idea that humans may have fought alongside them. The fact that it’s the armor of the fallen indicates that this may be sort of memorial to soldiers they lost in the war.
A frustrated Pearl points out that they haven’t found Rose’s sword. Steven floors her by saying that he knows where that is.
Back at the beach house, Steven pulls Rose’s sword from Lion’s mane, just as he and Connie did in Lion 2. We also saw the sword sitting in the pocket dimension in Lion 3. Steven demonstrates that he keeps other things in Lion’s pocket dimension, too, like his bicycle.
It’s a little frustrating that Steven takes multiple seasons to actually tell the Gems about everything inside of Rose’s pocket dimension, most notably the obvious bubbled Gem in there.
Pearl presses on Lion’s mane to try to reach in herself, but is rebuffed. She wonders if Lion has anything to do with Rose. Garnet and Amethyst think it’s obvious he does, because he’s pink.
Pearl: Rose didn’t have a lion, because if Rose had a lion I would have known about it!
Garnet: Rose kept many secrets, even from us.
Pearl: But not from me! I was the one she told everything!
For all her talking earlier about how secrets are the mark of a great leader, she really doesn’t like when it’s turned back around on her. Garnet is right, of course — this Lion did belong to Rose, and she didn’t ever tell Pearl about it.
Amethyst starts to get heated up too.
Amethyst: Yo, you’re not the only one who misses her!
Pearl: You can’t understand how I feel! None of you had what we had!
Steven: She probably just wanted to protect you, like everyone else!
Pearl: (screaming and pounding the wall) What do you know?! You never even met her!
Both On the Run and Maximum Capacity made it very clear that Amethyst hasn’t really dealt with losing Rose in the healthiest of ways, so it’s no surprise she blows up at Pearl here.
Pearl saying that they didn’t have what she had works on multiple levels. Obviously, Pearl had a romantic relationship with Rose. It wasn’t just that, though — Pearl was Rose’s very own Pearl, created specially for her, and she was Rose’s primary confidant when she was Pink. Of course, they also shared the bond of being the only two Gems to know Rose’s secret.
Pearl being so hurtful to Steven here shows how badly she’s been shaken by the revelation that Rose had secrets that she didn’t know, but that Steven found out.
Pearl hitting the wall knocks down Rose’s portrait, which Garnet catches. Pearl, crying, runs to the warp pad. Amethyst yells after her in anger: “I hate it when she gets like this!” This shows that even though we’ve never seen Pearl like this, she’s had these sorts of moods before — almost certainly at their worst directly after Rose’s death.
Steven asks Garnet if Pearl is okay. Garnet doesn’t respond, so Steven takes Lion to follow her. As Steven warps out, Garnet says under her breath, “Good luck.”
She’s likely used her future vision to see that sending Steven after Pearl will turn out okay — at least in the short term.
This little scene stands out to me a lot more after having watched Steven Universe Future. Yes, Garnet probably used her future vision to see that Steven could help Pearl. However, she’s still sending a child out to deal with an adult Gem’s very real, very serious adult problems. The trauma from having to sort out all of the Gems’ longstanding issues will eventually take a very heavy toll on Steven. Really, it should be Garnet going after Pearl here. Amethyst has it right in What’s Your Problem when she points out how they dump too many of their problems on him.
Steven finds Pearl crying and clutching Rose’s sword in the Strawberry Battlefield. Pearl runs from Steven, jumping across precariously placed chunks of earth floating in the sky to escape. “Get that thing away from me!” she says, referring to Lion.
Steven leaves Lion behind and begins to jump after her, struggling along the way. He finally reaches the top, where Pearl is on a larger platform. “Pearl! Did I do something wrong? You gotta tell me!” Steven’s developing a pattern of assuming things that have nothing to do with him are his fault. He tries to jump to Pearl, and almost makes it…
…until he sees Pearl’s face and plummets downwards.
Later, we learn that Steven has limited gravity manipulation powers that are controlled by his emotions. It definitely looks as though they’re kicking in here: he’s floating in midair until Pearl turns around, at which point he immediately falls.
Pearl cries out. Steven manages to grab onto some of the roots attached to the platform. Pearl looks down and sees him struggling to climb up — and turns away.
This has to be one of Pearl’s darkest moments, and it certainly makes me wonder if sometimes Pearl wished that Steven would die in the hope that it would bring Rose back. The way she considers pulling out Steven’s gemstone in Three Gems and a Baby is another such moment.
Steven manages to climb all the way up, and finds Pearl with her hand clutching her mouth.
This is the first time we see Pearl makes this gesture, which becomes very significant later — it’s symbolic of the fact that Pearl cannot tell anyone about the secret that Rose Quartz is Pink Diamond. I doubt it’s a coincidence that she first does it here, in an episode all about the secrets Rose shared with her. Unfortunately for Pearl, it’s going to be a few more seasons until she can finally be relieved of this burden.
Steven: Pearl, you have to tell me what’s wrong.
Pearl: Sometimes you even sound like her. Do you remember this place? Do you have any of her memories? We were right here, over five thousand years ago.
My heart breaks for both Pearl and Steven here. This is not at all going to help with Steven’s anxiety over not living up to his mother’s memory, nor his sadness over the fact that he doesn’t know anything about her. As for Pearl, she lost someone who was her closest companion for thousands of years. As hard as it is on Steven, it’s no wonder that she sometimes can’t help wishing for at least a little piece of her back.
In later episodes, we see that Steven does have some of Pink’s memories, although he doesn’t seem to have any control over when and where they bubble up.
Pearl creates a holographic Rose and uses her to act out the conversation they had thousands of years ago.
Rose: I’m going to stay and fight for this planet. You don’t have to do this with me.
This is a little dishonest on Rose’s part, given their power dynamics. Pearl was literally built to serve Rose. Even if Rose is technically giving her a choice, she knows very well that Pearl is likely incapable of refusing. The fact that Pearl is on her knees in front of Rose here really highlights that.
Furthermore, given Homeworld dynamics, what choice would she have if she refused? Where would a lone Pearl without an owner go?
I have to wonder if guilt over what Rose did to Pearl factored into her decision to give up her form for Steven. She must have realized that Pearl would never be free as long as she was alive. The movie makes this fairly explicit when Pearl only regains her identity when she loses her “owner.” I think Rose on some level truly did love Pearl — just not likely in the way Pearl would like, and it didn’t prevent her from hurting Pearl.
Rose points out that if they lose the battle they’ll be killed, and if they win they can never go home. “Why would I ever want to go home if you’re here?” This scene makes it fairly clear that Pearl chose to fight Homeworld not because she wanted to protect the Earth (although she may have cared about that at least somewhat) but so she could stay close to Rose. This puts her longing for space and for Homeworld in Space Race into perspective. It wasn’t really the Earth and humans she chose, it was Rose.
Rose calls her “my Pearl,” which seems like a sweet term of endearment upon a first watch, but becomes less sweet when you learn that Rose literally owned Pearl.
Pearl: Everything I ever did, I did for her. Now she’s gone, and I’m still here. Sometimes, I wonder if she can see me through your eyes. What would she think of me now?
This is basically Pearl’s character arc in a nutshell. Her feelings of being left behind and not knowing what to do with her life are extremely relatable.
Pearl’s line here is eventually echoed in Sworn to the Sword, where she’s imposing her role onto Connie and encouraging her to sacrifice herself for Steven.
Change Your Mind establishes pretty definitively that Rose is, in fact, gone, and cannot see Pearl through Steven. I like to think she would be proud of her Pearl anyway.
Steven hugs Pearl. “Well, I think you’re pretty great.” Excuse me, I have something in my eyes.
This is a good display of Steven’s superhuman empathy, as he comforts Pearl just minutes after she coldly turned away when he was close to falling to his death. The way Steven looks up to and respects Pearl, and the way Pearl gradually comes to accept him as his own person and not just a replacement Rose, is one of my favorite character developments in the series.
They return to Lion, and Steven and Pearl return the sword to Lion’s mane together. Steven playfully pulls out a top hat and scarves out of Lion, before jumping in and retrieving the Crystal Gem banner. Pearl is moved, and we see her wordlessly telling a war story using the banner as a prop.
The music here (“I’m Still Here”) is absolutely gorgeous, incorporating Pearl’s signature piano.
Pearl and Steven ride Lion home, Pearl looking down at Steven, thinking.
One thing we’ve talked about in the comments is how a lot of these S1B episodes end on an uncertain note. I really like this brief moment — Pearl still isn’t entirely sure what her relationship with Steven really is, yet, but she’s trying.
I’ve said enough words about this episode, so I’m just going to close out by noting that this is one of the absolute best Pearl episodes. If you’re not sold on her character by now, I don’t know what to tell you.
Next time on Steven Universe Future! More cuteness with Steven and Connie in Open Book!