With the reactions post-Storm in the Room, I feel that Steven doesn’t get enough credit. Going to Rose’s Room, searching for answers, and comfort even though he didn’t know that yet, Steven wasn’t setting out to create a perfect mother or project himself the ideal version of Rose. He starts, the moment he enters the room, by saying he knew it wasn’t real.
Everything Steven did with Cloud Rose, everything that happened between them, were reasonable assumptions we could make of Rose. And this is because the Rose we saw was from Steven’s expectations of what she would be like. And Steven was wary about idealising Rose the way the Crystal Gems did. He says this explicitly several times. Also, Steven’s view of Rose was tempered early on by Greg’s stories of her.
So the Rose we see isn’t a sad Steven’s attempt at finding the perfect mother figure. Steven’s attempt at a reasonable and believable portrayal of Rose deserves to be acknowledged. Had it not been the case, the Rose we saw could not have evoked the feelings she did. It’s because of the depth Steven introduced to her from all his memories of her that it was made possible.
And what I want to talk about in this post, is how the images of Rose reflect which narratives he’s channeling as he tries to piece together, quite literally, the image of Rose.
The first appearance of Cloud Rose shows her with messy hair, parts of it stick up and around her. Her facial expressions are often wiggly, for lack of better word, and she shows her thighs a lot more than in the succeeding scenes, either in cross-sitting or running.
This Rose is goofy and funny and casual. And it’s the Rose whom Greg’s stories have constructed in Steven’s memories.
The same scenes we see Rose hitch up her dress in the same way (such as when she’s reading books with Greg on the bed) or similarly goofy, like stopping a ferris wheel with her bare hands, she’s with Greg.
Even the line Steven takes from her video in Lion 3: Straight to Video, about “every X being unique and beautiful” is shot in Greg’s presence. Without realising it, Steven is remembering this image of Rose.
And she cares about Steven. She engages in his interests. It’s not so far a stretch because some episodes back, Bismuth was willing to do the same thing. Rose was a fun person. There’s a running joke that she would have loved cheesy and corny jokes. She probably told a few in her day.
She probably wasn’t always as poised as presented in her portrait. Greg remembers the Rose he changed, when she was starting to understand human beings in earnest and come to terms with how they could exist with gems on the same level.
Rose at that point still didn’t want to talk about her past, and Greg never made her. So Greg and Rose made new memories and didn’t dwell on the old. And those memories were filled with fun and laughter and love.
The moment sobers when it is Rose not Steven, who gestures the latter to sit down and stare at the expanse of clouds.
And we should know that what we’re about to see means something has changed. The first hint is that Rose’s body language changes. She sits perfectly straight, even though she’s cross-sitting the way she was earlier. And we don’t see her legs anymore. Her hair neatens and her expression calms.
What’s more, her hands assume the position Garnet did in Here Comes A Thought in Mindful Education. And that emphasises the kind of role Rose plays in this moment. Steven felt Rose taught Garnet how to manage her feelings, because it was a motherly thing to do. In a very Steven Universe fashion, the music changes from the bright xylophone to a quiet piano music, which is the mark of another Crystal Gem, Pearl.
And when we go back to the senior Crystal Gems and their image of Rose, it is exactly the way she’s presented.
Cloud Rose is a huge presence, with Steven a small child by her side. She speaks deliberately, every word is one of wisdom. She is magnanimous and comforting at the same time.
She tells him, “But we’ve been together the entire time.” And it brings back the idea of how our parents are always with us, and a part of us, because one way or another they’ve left a mark on us.
At the same time though, the similarities of the scenes between this moment and the one at Rose’s Fountain in An Indirect Kiss, lead to the same end.
Rose is viewed as a godly icon, very distant from Steven. She’s not sitting beside him, playing with him, kneeling on the ground anymore. He looks up to her, and he can’t reach her.
In both times, he realises she’s not really there. That he talked to the statue of Rose in the fountain, confided his deepest insecurities about how he didn’t know how to feel about her when everyone else did, parallels the empty image on his phone.
And it segues into the next scene perfectly.
Because Steven doesn’t know how to feel about Rose. Now, he’s more certain than ever that he doesn’t even know who she is. The Rose we see at the end has a blank face, because Steven can’t project anything on it. He’s thinking of Pink Diamond’s shattering, Bismuth, and the Rebellion, and all the people hurt by them.
When he sees Rose, he can no longer see himself, which is why her eyes, one of the facial features most like Steven’s, (next to his nose) are nowhere to be seen.
And this Rose is distant, because there’s no mitigating narrative linking him to her. In the other scenes, the room remained the same, because these stories he was told of Rose and who she was firmly rooted the first two Roses as part of the real Rose’s identity.
This Rose is foreign, because nowhere in those narratives did Steven think it possible to for her to do the things he learned she did.
And in that moment he begins to doubt.
Because he can no longer see the image of his mother, he doesn’t know where he himself stands. A huge part of his identity is being Rose’s son. What happens when the “Rose” part becomes fuzzy, blurry, and unintelligible?
What happens to the Steven?
Notice that this Rose is silent. She offers no response to the accusations Steven hurls at her, about all the people she hurt and her act of leaving them all behind.
At this point, we see the part of Steven that understands Rose is gone. That he’s never going to get these answers and there won’t be an explanation coming from her.
There are some things he’ll never get to hear about, some memories he’ll never know, some experiences he’ll never share with her.
And it’s sad and disheartening and lonely. In losing his idea of Rose, Steven loses a part of his identity. Such that he felt it would be better if he denounced Rose, cutting off the part of himself he didn’t want to think about: That he was created just to fix her mistakes.
It’s then that we see Rose’s face for the first time since we’ve entered the paradigm of Rose-through-Steven’s eyes. Not Greg’s, not the Crystal Gem’s. Because these new things he’s learned about Rose are things the others would never have known without him. How else would they have heard the Diamond’s song of mourning? How would they have known Bismuth was there all along?
And the things Rose said in the tape were meant for Steven, in a space only Steven could find.
The Rose speaking to Steven at the end is the Rose who’s already spoken to Steven directly before, through the tape.
A lot of negative reaction has been given to this moment, because it feels as though the tape absolves Rose of everything she’s done. It doesn’t and I don’t feel that was the point.
The point of her saying that, was to reaffirm Steven’s belief in Steven. To show that it wasn’t about Rose anymore, that Steven’s birth wasn’t about Rose but about him.
And it’s striking that’s the only time we see her face again. Because immediately after, Steven hugs her, and her face is obscured.
That’s Steven’s recognition that he’s never going to hear any other words straight from his mother for him. He understands and he realises that nonetheless, Rose is exerting a presence in his life. He really is always with her and never alone.
The past few episodes and everything leading up to them were about Steven’s realising his mother was still an individual, one who could made mistakes and rash, selfish decisions.
He was afraid that upon realising his mother could be a selfish individual, could do huge selfish things that affected thousands of lives, he feared the act of his birth, the most personal thing about him, was meant to serve her self-interests alone too. He needed a concrete and tangible answer, which was what prompted him to go to the room.
At the end of the episode, he didn’t think that anymore. He knows he has a lot of work ahead in figuring out Rose’s place in his life, but the lingering doubt of the very foundation of his existence is gone.
And because of that, he finally feels comfortable letting her go.
Isn’t it remarkable, Steven? This world is full of so many possibilities. Each living thing has an entirely unique experience. The sights they see, the sounds they hear, the lives they live, are so complicated and so simple. I can’t wait for you to join them.
Steven, we can’t both exist. I’m going to become half of you. And I need you to know that every moment you love being yourself, that’s me loving you and loving being you. Because you’re going to be something extraordinary, you’re going to be a human being.
Take care of them, Steven.
Isn’t it wonderful, Nora? This world is full of so many possibilities. Each living thing has an entirely unique experience. The sights they see, and the lives they live, are so complicated and so simple. I can’t wait for you to join them.
Nora, we can’t both exist but i won’t be gone. I’m going to become half of you. And every moment you enjoy yourself, that will be me loving being you. Because you’re going to become something extraordinary, you’re going to be a human being. And that’s my favourite part, a human being. A human being, a human is an action. i wonder who— how you’ll be, what you’ll think, what you’ll want… I’m so happy for everybody who’s going to know you. I’m rambling. if they look to you, trust yourself.
Take care of them, Nora.
From what we can see, comparing the two videos, Steven’s was shot first. Not only are Greg and Rose more unsure about what they’re going to say and do, they’re also figuring out what should go into the video in the first place.
The first few scenes, which show Greg’s sleeping, messing around, and meeting the seagull for the first time, as well as Rose’s not knowing what the buttons do and experimenting with them, reveal that whatever practice they did going into the video shoot ultimately didn’t prepare them for it fully.
At the same time, when comparing what’s being said between Steven’s and Nora’s tapes, they have the same substance; the same message is being delivered: Rose hoped her child would get to live life to the fullest and make experiences that were fun and happy. She wanted to assure her child that she cared, even though she wouldn’t be there. Most of all, she wanted to assure them that being human was a great thing.
The thing is, Steven’s message is much more brief, and a little more formal. Rose clearly practiced what she wanted to say, and in the first tape, she went for it, likely because of nerves.
By the second filming, she seemed more comfortable in front of the camera and that’s also why she could clear up her nerves and keep expounding on her ideas.
So Steven, who read very deeply into the words of his mother, may have picked up on her saying he would be extraordinary and a human being. And he fixated on becoming someone worth calling extraordinary, when in fact, Rose had always meant to say by virtue of living, one could be extraordinary.
And we can’t really blame him, because he went from being another Beach City kid to being at the centre of an intergalactic conflict. It’s hard to accept that these things would happen to him if he weren’t destined for something.
I’d go as far as to say that hoping he was part of some magical destiny gave him strength at times, despite how bleak the situation could be.
The thing with this line of thinking though, is how much it wears on someone. The responsibility of being accountable for all these people and all these systems that were quite obviously out of his control and consequently responsibility in the first place was heavy on him.
Steven does want to be a hero. He does want to help people. But he felt more comfortable with this being his choice and his decision, not some destiny thrust upon him, not a tradeoff between his life and the many others he’d have to save.
I think Greg’s talk with him helped him process those feelings, which he’d been keeping inside for a while now. Steven thought everyone expected him to be like Rose, and that may have been true at some points in the show, but his father never did. And that’s what made Greg’s words so reassuring, because his sincerity could be felt in all of them.
Lance names his energy rifle Sophia. When asked, he explains that he named it after a “pretty lady back home.” Everyone groans, assuming it’s some girl he had a crush on back on Earth. He actually named it after his mother, a pistol of a women. It comforts him in battle. He imagines his mother is always with him, protecting him. Even out here across the universe.
Some thoughts on the Maheswaran mother-daughter relationship
Connie looked so much like Dr. Maheswaran in this episode.
It’s adorable because in the canon time of the show, she’s picked up on her mother’s mannerisms in the way that a decade of living with her did not. It’s shows how much they’ve grown together as a family, and how their relationship has changed.
Considering this was how she looked in her first appearance:
There’s a marked change not only in design but also in her expressions.
And it’s been hinted at before, but in this scene, she so explicitly worries about her mother the way her mother worries about her. It’s very touching, especially because we know they started out caring about each other but not understanding one another. Because you can love someone and never try to understand them. It leads to a lot of conflict but both parties can still come out of it feeling like they did what was “best” for the other.
Connie used to think it was better that her mother knew nothing so the latter wouldn’t worry about her. And Dr. Maheswaran wanted to be on top of everything so that Connie would have an easier life.
What we learn from them is that to be able to love someone better, we open up to them and let them open up to us. Connie used to act as though her parents were infallible, or at the least, able to manage themselves. Over time, and in this episode, she’s shown to be worried about them because she knows they’re human beings too. They can get hurt, make mistakes, and put themselves in danger.
Knowing these things puts the other person in perspective. It makes their place in our lives mean more. And it makes it harder to take the people we love for granted.
So I would say Connie and her mother interact a lot more now. They probably talk about each other’s days. Notice how even Dr. Maheswaran talked about everything that happened to her prior to picking Connie up. She believed her daughter deserved an explanation. And that’s a far cry from the mother who would proudly bring out the “Because I said so,” and “We’re doing this because we love you,” cards in Fusion Cuisine.
Not everyone has this experience with their parents. Sometimes things just happen to drive parents and children apart. But in their case it worked out, and now they each have one more person who will always be there for them.
When Connie told her mother that Steven just came from outer space, there was no incredulous reaction. Only an, “Oh?” in an interested and calm tone.
They’re both trying. And I’m certain they still have their share of disagreement, but it’s dealt with in a much healthier way now.