Though Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems initially believed all of Rose Quartz’s memories were erased when she gave up her physical body to bring Steven to life, the past few episodes of the “Diamond Days” event have slowly revealed that they were merely locked away deep within her gem, waiting for Steven to access them.
Surprising as it might be to Steven, everything he thinks he’s only learning about the Diamonds and the Gem Homeworld, he’s actually kind of known all along.
This week’s episode, “Escapism,” pumps the breaks a little and slows the pace to remind Steven where his roots are — and that no matter how far away from home he feels, he’s always got family in his corner who are ready and willing to drop everything and do all that’s in their power to keep him safe.
While Cartoon Network and the Crewniverse obviously know that everyone’s excited to see how the Homeworld-focused aspect of “Diamond Days” is going to play out, “Escapism” pushes pause on those plots to pull Steven back home. After having their asses handed to them by the Diamonds in a fight that left Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl poofed, Stevonnie finds themselves locked in a remote dungeon they can’t escape from, and while Connie’s confident that they’ll figure out a way to escape, Steven isn’t nearly as optimistic.
Though Steven hasn’t lost his will to try and convince the Diamonds to restore the corrupted Gems on Earth, it’s gradually sinking in for him that trying to reason with them as “Pink Diamond” simply isn’t getting him anywhere.
In “Diamond Days,” Steven’s shown a willingness to fully embrace his identities as Rose Quartz and Pink Diamond in an effort to take responsibility for their actions and make amends with the Homeworld Gems they (and he, by extension) deceived thousands of years ago. But the gesture’s something Blue and Yellow Diamond haven’t really appreciated, in part because they can’t. To them, “Steven” is merely Pink Diamond getting up to her old shenanigans, and every little bit of humanity and uniqueness he reveals to them is an affront to Gem culture that, to them, solidifies their belief that Pink Diamond is still a problem child in need of punishment.
What Steven doesn’t really understand, though, is how difficult it must be for the Diamonds to be reunited with him after all that time, and to see him being both very much like his old Pink Diamond self and very different. He’s got Pink’s ship and her Pearl and a Ruby and Sapphire by his side—all things they’d expect from their fellow Diamond—but Steven’s love of fusion and seeming ignorance of Homeworld culture presents them with an understandably frustrating predicament.
What’s wild is that’s all subtext “Escapism” assumes you’ve gleaned from earlier “Diamond Days” episodes, and will see revisited in an odd story set in the community of Watermelon Stevens living on Mask Island back on Earth. After realising that they’re trapped in the Homeworld dungeon, Steven devises a plan to psychically project his consciousness back to Earth to call Bismuth and Greg for help. But rather than beaming directly to them, Steven accidentally ends up in the body of a Watermelon Steven, and try as he might, he can’t get off the island to deliver his message. He also can’t speak.
In the time since Steven last visited Mask Island, the Watermelon Stevens have split into two warring tribes that he ends up interacting with as he tries to devise a way to make it back to Beach City. Though Steven doesn’t initially realise it, their conflict is a simplified reflection of the Crystal Gems’ battle against Homeworld. Despite their perceived differences, the two tribes of Watermelon Stevens are fundamentally the same kinds of beings simply trying to preserve their way of existence.
The Watermelons aren’t really able to understand that about one another until Steven becomes directly involved in their communications and gives them a common goal to rally around, and it’s a lesson that feels very much like a glimpse of how things are going to end up back on Homeworld.
In time, Steven’s able to relay his message to Bismuth and Greg. As he lays on the beach in his quickly decaying watermelon body, there’s a brief moment where the whole of “Escapism” really hits you in a bittersweet way, because you can see the episode as a brief moment where Steven was able to escape the dangers of space to return to his home. As Steven wakes up, though, “Escapism” rather subtly reminds you that, in a way, Homeworld is just as much Steven’s home as Earth is, and the reason he’s there is really to bring his two homes together in a peaceful way.