Steven, Universally Hi all, I"m Jay. I"m a children"s librarian who thinks Steven Universe is the most important cartoon of the 2010s, and I write episode-by-episode reviews that analyze why. As they"re written with hindsight and take the full story into account (including the movie and Steven Universe Future), all reviews are placed within context of future events, so I"d only suggest reading if you"ve completed the series unless you love constant casual spoilers! Click the Archive to find specific episodes or Just the Reviews to scroll to your heart"s content, and check out Going Over the Garden Wall for my miniblog on the classic miniseries.

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Episode 102: Back to the Moon


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Perhaps Steven’s moments of normalcy seem odd, but as we’ll see in Bubbled, our kid is in shock. It takes a while for the weight of this information to sink in, and he spends the next fifty-odd episodes recovering his shattered pieces and rebuilding himself into a stronger individual than ever. He’s not Rose Quartz, and he never has been, but this is final arc is about him realizing that he shouldn’tbe.

So that, to me, defends his odd behavior. What I find less defensible is the level of coincidence involved in the reveal. It’s not a hugedeal, but from a storytelling perspective it’s just sloppy to have Jasper mention Pink Diamond for the first time by saying Rose did something to her, then for Steven to learn what Jasper was talking about one episode later, and for those two events to have no bearing on each other. Steven would’ve been told about Pink Diamond whether or not Jasper said a thing, which takes a lot of the narrative oomph out of her last words. All we needed was for him to mentionPink Diamond, just to spark the conversation, and I’d be fine with this. I can forgive the Ruby Squad just happeningto show up right when Jasper is defeated—I would’ve loved to see Jasper and the rubies teaming up, but that would be a wholly different story—yet the execution leading up to Eyeball’s explanation irks me to this day, because there’s no good reason for it. If I extend a generous reasoning, perhaps it’s to signify Steven’s lack of agency in this story? Enh. Naw, it still just comes across as contrived to me. Again, it’s not a huge deal, I just wish it was a little tighter.

Obviously the major twist is worth talking about, but Back to the Moon is so much more than than a game-changing revelation. The episode itself doesn’t focus on the consequences of the twist, so we’ll be covering the fallout in Bubbled (y’know, the episode about the fallout).

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While Amethyst gets the most focus, this is really a curtain call for all our friendly Gems now that we’re moving to a new era of the series. Garnet and Pearl, after hamming it up together while playing prisoner (Pearl is louder, but Garnet is funnier), remind us of how far they’ve come in mending their relationship’s lowest point with a cameo from their very hammy fusion. I appreciate the elegance of the Sardonyx factor, because it works as a capper for the Crystal Gems’ stories in Act II, but it also makes sense that these two would fuse to counter another big fusion, considering Amethyst is exhausted from fighting Jasper then playing Jasper.

Peridot and Lapis don’t have such an obvious moment of reflection, but we still get a finishing touch on their Act II relationship. They’ve gone from unwilling accomplices to reluctant roommates to friends, and they’re done with Homeworld conflicts. Lapis’s cheerful “Come on down!” while releasing rubies evokes game show lingo that goes hand in hand with her newfound love of television, and she’s otherwise her wonderful bitter self. Peridot doesn’t get as much to do, but she stands united with Lapis upon being offered the chance to play prisoner: as we saw in Beta, Peridot has gone from using Lapis as a tool to appearing more sensitive to Lapis’s traumatic past than even Lapis herself. I’m sure it won’t come back to haunt them in, say, Season 5.

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Here’s a convoluted but true sentence:Back to the Moonis the first half of the third two-part episode in a row (arguably the fourth, considering how seamlessly Crack the Whip leads to Steven vs. Amethyst). On top of this, it borrows from The Return, not only in the shared Rose reveal but in an opponent ominously saying “I was there” as a sort of invasion of Steven’s history. It also borrows from It Could’ve Been Great, returning to the lunar base that preceded our first full look at a Diamond. It’s a first-half episode that’s beholden to first-half episodes of the past: it has so much in common with others of its ilk that it’s unsurprising to see this story end in a cliffhanger. But the secret here is that if “this story” refers to the story of everyone but Steven and Eyeball, we get a pretty solid self-contained episode. Amethyst gets her win, the other Gems help save the day, the rubies are thwarted, and Lapis and Peridot are safe and sound on Earth.

It all feels a little mishmashed, to be honest: it’s a good Amethyst episode, but it’s also about the rubies, and it’s also about Pink Diamond, and it’s also about the end of Act II, and it also ends with our hero getting sucked into space. It shouldn’t work as well as it does. But considering how much time we’re about to spend on Steven all alone with someone who wants him dead, I’m glad to get a first-half episode that sends the rest of Act II off in style. Here comes the hard part.

Future Vision!

Theorists guessed that Rose Quartz was Pink Diamond long before the latter was ever mentioned by name, and whileBack to the Moonkilled this theory for most, there were a few crazy holdouts who held true. I wasn’t one of them (I was iffy on the initial theory, even), but kudos to those who remained loyal, because they were right. And the first hint was right after Steven heard the story, in this heartbreaking shot that gets so much worse with context.
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The gag of our heroes in space being this close to getting away with a ruse only to be caught in the last minute is repeated in That Will Be All.

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We’re the one, we’re the ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!

This is a great Amethyst episode, and a humongous lore episode, but that by itself doesn’t get it in my top twenty. I still love it, as it contains a ton of individual elements that I love (the opening sequence especially, which might not stick out compared to the twist but is so much fun), but we won’t get the ramifications of its reveal until later. It might actually feel more complete if it was just an Amethyst episode, but it works wonders as it is, so I’m happy giving it a good home in the list.

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