One of the best things about Steven Universe is how infinitely re-watchable the entire series is. But now that Steven and the Crystal Gems are uncovering new truths about the Diamonds, the primary but mysterious antagonist of the show, watching it from the beginning is a completely different experience.
There have always been layers upon layers to the larger story that Steven Universe is telling, but the recent arcs building up to what feels like the series finale have revealed a whole host of shocking details that complicate the story even more. There’s no specific word yet as to when Steven Universe is coming back later this summer, but in the meantime, these are the most important details from the past that fans should be keeping in mind when they’re rewatching.
It’s wild to think that Rebecca Sugar as the rest of the Crewniverse have known where Steven Universe has been going this entire time, but that definitely seems to be the case when you go back and watch the pilot episode, “Gem Glow.” The lyrics to the Cookie Cat jingle that Steven sings are actually a fairly accurate account of how Pink Diamond left her homeworld behind and became involved in an interstellar war.
It’s interesting to consider the possibility that the reason Steven’s gem first begins to glow while he’s eating Cookie Cats isn’t just because he enjoys them, but because on some unconscious level, the part of him that is Pink Diamond is responding (or relating to) Cookie Cat’s story.
We still don’t know why Pink Diamond decided to disguise herself as a Rose Quartz, rather than any of the other castes of gems under her rule on Earth. But we do know that the Rose Quartzes that didn’t join the Crystal Gems in rebellion paid a terrible price for Rose’s betrayal of... well, herself. Every Rose Quartz was personally poofed and bubbled, trapped in their gems, for the rest of perpetuity, by Pink Diamond. All those poor innocent quartzes, condemned to imprisonment for the rest of their lives for the sake of Pink’s disguise is a hell of a thing for her to have to live with—and given that Steven himself really doesn’t like bubbling unless it’s absolutely necessary, it’s a disturbing piece of the puzzle for him to put together now that he knows Pink Diamond’s real identity.
Now that we know Rose Quartz was actually Pink Diamond, it changes Steven’s relationship to all of the monsters he and the Crystal Gems have bubbled over the years. Were it not for Pink’s deception of the other Diamonds and the Gem War, Blue, Yellow, and White probably wouldn’t have blasted the Earth with whatever weapon that led to the corruption of other Gems.
You can interpret Steven’s empathy for the monsters as his innate tendency to care for other living beings, but you could also read it as subconscious guilt for Pink Diamond’s actions.
Even for a gem, Steven has always had a surprisingly diverse set of magical abilities—many inherited from Rose herself, who as a “lowly” Quartz seemed wildly powerful as well. So knowing that Rose and Steven actually have the abilities of an almighty Diamond, it suddenly makes sense that they can do a lot more than summon weapons and whatnot.
While trying to convince Pearl and Amethyst to fuse with the song “Giant Woman,” Steven mentions that if given the opportunity to fuse the way they could, he would relish becoming a giant woman—something that he does, in a way, in his past lives.
“Rose’s Scabbard” is one of the first big moments where we learn about Rose in the show, but it’s also one of the most touching episodes of the series, in the moments where a tearful Pearl recounts her decision to stay and fight by Rose’s side on Earth. Before the Pink Diamond reveal, it’s seen as affectionate that Rose calls Pearl “My Pearl,” but now we know that she was literally Pink Diamond’s personal Pearl, there’s another intriguing layer to their relationship, hidden in plain sight.
The nature of Lion’s abilities have always been shrouded in mystery, but now that we know that Rose Quartz was Pink Diamond, Lion makes a bit more sense. Judging from Lars’ new powers after being resurrected by Steven, it seems that any living thing brought back to life with the power of Rose/Pink Diamond’s gem becomes connected to the pocket dimension in Lion’s mane.
That power always seemed rather disproportionately large compared to the other Gems, but it’s understandable why a Diamond would be able to do that sort of thing.
The impact of Rose being Pink Diamond in disguise affects perhaps no other character on rewatches more than it does Pearl, the sole confidant of Pink’s secret. Going back to some of her biggest musical moments in the show with the knowledge of Pink Diamond’s identity makes some things take on new meaning—from all of her slip-ups in “Do It for Her” to her musings over who she could possibly be in a world without her onetime ruler in “It’s Over, Isn’t It?”
But arguably the most intriguing line of all now comes in the special extended version of the show’s theme tune, released for Comic-Con a few years ago. Pearl has a brief stanza as Steven watches her do laundry atop the temple that now—knowing how long she’s wanted to tell Steven his mother’s true nature—takes on a new meaning:
If you could only know,
What we really are
When we arrived on Earth,
From out beyond your star.
Even at that age, Steven is aware that the Gems aren’t of Earth, and have magical abilities—it’s why he writes the theme song for them. So what else could Pearl have meant besides his mother’s real identity?
While Steven’s always been very into the idea of fusing, it’s interesting to note that in every circumstance where he’s expressed interest or actually done it, Pearl’s initial reaction was one of deep concern and perhaps fear.
When Amethyst and Garnet are preparing to form Sugilite in “Coach Steven,” Pearl makes a point of trying to cover Steven’s eyes, and when Steven and Connie first fuse into Stevonnie, Pearl immediate tells them that they should un-fuse. On the one hand, Pearl could have just been her usual worrywart, but it also stands to reason that Pearl was concerned that in fusing with others, the secret about Steven being Pink Diamond might have been exposed. More than that, though, Pearl has her own complicated set of emotions, specifically about fusing with Rose, that one imagines would make her somewhat jealous of fusions like Stevonnie and Smoky Quartz.
One of Pearl’s most common expressions is holding both of her hands over her mouth, usually in overt shock at something Rose or Homeworld-related being revealed (or even banal things—Pearl is, in a lot of ways, overly dramatic). But going back and seeing how many times she actually performs that action in the show is kind of mind-blowing, now that we know one of Pink Diamond’s final acts before her “shattering” was to grab Pearl’s hands, place them over her mouth, and make her swear to keep the secret of Pink’s deception forever. For so long, was it just a tic, or a forced reaction to physically stop herself from letting something slip?
Also, between the present day and Pink Diamond’s supposed death, it’s been approximately just under 5,000 years. Pink Diamond wanted Pearl to hide this secret—to force her hands up to her mouth just to stop her from saying it—for all this time? Pretty rude, PD.
Pearl’s deception in “Cry for Help” takes on a whole new layer of complexity when you factor in the lie that she and Rose Quartz/Pink Diamond perpetuated in order to break free from Homeworld and start the Gem War. As unsettling as it was to learn that Pearl was willing to trick Garnet into fusing with her, it pales in comparison to the kind of lie that Pearl and Rose chose to tell the early Crystal Gems that ultimately led to many of them being shattered.
Poor Bismuth, the Gem weapons crafter. She dropped one of the biggest hints about Pink Diamond’s shattering being a lie so long ago, when she proudly touted designing Rose’s sword so that it specifically did not shatter Gems, only poofed them in a single strike. But beyond that, the thing you notice going back is the source of her original falling out with Rose about her development of the Breaking Point, a weapon that specifically targeted and shattered Gems. But now that we know Rose was Pink Diamond, was her opposition to the weapon truly altruistic, or was she simply preserving her secret by avoiding the development of a weapon that could be used by the rebellion to permanently kill her?
“Maximum Capacity” was one of the first episodes of Steven Universe that really foreshadowed some of the heavier, darker themes that would be introduced later on in the series. Amethyst and Greg’s relationship, we learn, was much closer—so close that it got to the point of being unhealthy and somewhat dysfunctional.
Amethyst shapeshifting into Rose in order to get a rise out of Greg is an awful, low blow that at first seemed to hint at there being some kind of twisted romance between them. While it’s not clear whether this is the first time Amethyst’s shapeshifted into Rose’s old form, the negative impact it has on Greg and the Gems now reads as a rather on-the-nose hint about the truth about Steven, foreshadowing that shapeshifting into Rose is something truly significant indeed.