Fans of Steven Universe have been anticipating the return of the series for the past few months and haven’t been disappointed yet! It all kicked off with a double episode dealing with two major plot points simultaneously, The Cluster and Malachite, was critically accepted as a powerful introduction into a new bout of episodes. Despite the expectation that the most recent episode, “Same Old World,” would nearly be of the same magnitude as the previous two or of anticipated episodes to come like “Barn Mates,” the newest episode revealed several very important elements.
The episode mainly involves Lapis coming to terms with where she belongs. Lapis decides to leave in the night, telling Steven that she can’t possibly stay on Earth with the Crystal Gems. However, the next day, he finds her on a nearby water tower where she tells him that she has nowhere to go as Homeworld will view her as a traitor for trapping Jasper. Steven decides to show her around Earth to see if he can find a place for her to live and be happy. Eventually Lapis realises that she is free to live anywhere because she finally has a choice, and she thus chooses not to leave.
One of the interesting things this episode shed light on is the geographical location of Beach City. As stated in previous Steven Universe material, Beach City resides in the fictional state of Delmarva, a mixture of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. However, other fictional cities in this episode are shown to be in reference to real life places. “Jersey,” is based off New Jersey. “Empire City” is an amalgamation of New York, Paris and Vegas, which explains Steven’s comment that “What happens in Empire City never sleeps!” This is confirmed by a series of tweets made after the episode aired by former supervising director Ian Jones-Quartey where he also confirms that the Steven Universe equivalent of Hollywood is “Kansas City.”
Another important thing to take from this episode is the origin story we’ve all been waiting for from Lapis. She tells Steven that she was visiting Earth thousands of years prior while the rebellion was still going on. It could be hypothesised that she was supposed to report on the war. However, she was poofed and mistaken by a Homeworld soldier for a Crystal Gem. She was trapped in the mirror where Homeworld soldiers attempted to use her as an informant to no avail. When it became clear that the rebellion could not be stopped, the Homeworld gems fled and left the mirror behind where Lapis was trapped until she was found and kept by Pearl thousands of years later. This revelation gives further weight to Lapis’ trauma concerning her containment and really sheds much needed light on to her character.
This episode was also noticeably beautiful in two completely separate ways. It was written and storyboarded by Lamar Abrams and Katie Mitroff, who worked on “The Answer.” While this episode didn’t have the obvious influence of famous pioneer of silhouette animation Lotte Reiniger as “The Answer” did, the episode was still full of the same stylistic elements that are typical of a well storboarded animation. It had typical breathtaking skyscapes and various scenery, from cityscapes to more rural landscapes. While you may have been watching the episode simply for the narrative elements, the animation and visual design elements are worth watching the episode in themselves.
However the true beauty is in the development of Lapis Lazuli. She starts this episode as a jaded and lost gem who doesn’t truly believe she belongs anywhere. She doesn’t feel a part of the planet that trapped her for centuries and she can never return to Homeworld without being labelled as a traitor. She is a vagabond of the universe and seems resigned to remaining that way. However, Steven, as is typical for him, brings her hope once more that she can belong anywhere she chooses too seeing as it is finally her choice to make. The character development for Lapis in this episode moving as we can finally see one of Steven Universe’s most universally loved characters as a gem who can finally make her own decisions and is finally on her way to healing.
Words by Eilís Nolan