‘Steven Universe’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 16: ‘Storm In The Room’
Welcome to Together Breakfast, the feature where Elle Collins and Katie Schenkel come together to dig in and relish every last drop of Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe. With the show back on a weekly schedule, at least for now, we’re keeping up with it once a week.
In this episode, Steven comes face to face with Rose Quartz for the first time. Storm in the Room was written by Colin Howard and Jeff Liu, and directed by Joe Johnston and Ricky Cometa.
Elle: Am I right in thinking that every episode since the beginning of last month’s Steven Bomb has started right where the previous episode ended? Ever since Steven dreamed about the Palanquin, it’s been one thing after another without a break. So here we find Steven still in his Human Zoo uniform, relieving Connie of her duties as Protector of Beach City.
Katie: I believe you are right. Not only are Steven and Connie getting him settled back at home, but the Gems are out with Greg putting up his new car wash sign. This also allows the adults to be elsewhere both while Connie worried about her mom and later when Steven deals with some pretty intense feelings.
Elle: Steven has such a hard time relating to Connie’s worry about her Mom. It’s not just that Steven doesn’t have a Mom (at least not in the traditional sense), it’s that he isn’t used to have the kind of constant contact with any of the adults in his life that Connie has with her Mom. But watching their reunion was enough to get Steven thinking about his own life.
Katie: This is when having essentially a large studio apartment is a negative for Steven, since he can’t seem to eat his dinner in peace without his mom’s angelic portrait looming over him… or getting rained on when he tries to eat outside. This leaves him wishing he could know the real Rose, which leads his/Rose’s temple room to open up. Anyone who has seen the room’s other appearances knows this will probably not go particularly smoothly.
Elle: I really love the quiet sequence of Steven taking a shower and then making his dinner. It sets a mood with great subtlety, which you basically never see in animation. But of course once he goes into the temple room the episode really gets going. And Steven’s reaction to meeting his Mom, even knowing that she’s just a construction of the room, is really touching.
Katie: It’s hard not to think of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry chooses to pull up a similar vision of his parents before he goes to face Voldemort. Of course Steven isn’t dealing with such a dire situation here, but that same vulnerability is there. There’s a sweet moment where Steven is explaining the video game they’re playing and he sort of rubs the back of his neck as he’s describing how silly it is. It’s around this time that Rose’s responses seem just a little too perfect, too encouraging, and it is off-putting. But as you said, Steven knows this just a construction of his mom, so he’s not put off by it himself.
Elle: I love that monologue she has about how every sport is beautiful and perfect. It’s basically a parody of the kind of speech Rose has had in just about every flashback about the beauty of humanity. And naturally that leads directly into a Peanuts homage, with Rose pulling the football away before Steven can kick it, like Lucy always does to Charlie Brown.
Katie: I was impressed by how the show so distinctly shifted its style to match the Peanuts shorts for just a few seconds. Even Zach Callison’s voice work was slightly tweaked to be more Charlie Brown-y.
It’s after this little homage that Steven really sits down with Rose and explains how he’s been thinking about her even more than usual. Two parts of this broke my heart. First, when Steven nervously mentions how he’s thought about dying his hair pink more than once to be more like her. And second, when he curls up on her knee, really looking like a little kid in a way we don’t get to see often.
Elle: I liked those moments too. But when he attempts to take a selfie with his Mom, the phone screen only shows Steven all alone in a dark space. That not only ruins the magic of getting to hang out with Rose, it makes the whole idea of the Room much creepier all at once. And of course that gets Steven thinking about the darker truths he’s learned about Rose recently. And the way the Room works means that she gets scarier the more he thinks about how scary she might be.
Katie: It’s worth noting that Steven acknowledges the hypocrisy of Rose in regards to Bismuth, specifically that Bismuth was banished by Rose for wanting to do the very thing Rose ended up doing to Pink Diamond. There are some deep shades of grey when it comes to that storyline, and it’s good for Steven to clearly still be thinking about it and pointing it out.
In any case, Steven also demands to know from Rose (who is now looming over him similarly to her portrait in the main room) if she made him just to be a scapegoat for her mistakes, so she didn’t have to deal with them herself. It’s interesting that Steven essentially answers his own question, in the form of Rose reminding him what was in the videotape she left.
Elle: That’s a really nice touch. A reminder that while Rose is a mystery to Steven in so many ways, he does have one very direct message from her, in which she makes her feelings about him very clear. And as dark as this encounter got, I’m really glad it ends with a hug. And the only thing better than a hug from Mom is when it’s followed immediately by a hug and a pizza from Dad.
Katie: Especially after his mac and cheese was ruined. I have to admit that it was weird for them to include the Gems in this last moment when they clearly didn’t record the actresses for this episode (similar to the last episode as well, actually), but I suppose it was to stress the family Steve does have in his life.
Elle: It does seem important for the whole family to be in this scene, even if they don’t all have lines. And this moment, with Greg and Steven back in their regular clothes and everyone safe at home with a pizza, feels like the ending, finally, to the long story that started with "Steven’s Dream." Maybe next week’s episode will start while this pizza is still being eaten, but I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t.
Katie: Apparently next week will be a Ronaldo episode, so I’m guessing you’re right.