Steven Universe Review: "Rose’s Room" (Season 1A, Episode 19)

Steven’s gonna have a whale of a time with this room. I am the duke of bad puns.

Airdate: May 14th, 2014

Plot: It is a pretty bad night for Steven. First, the Gems can’t go mini-golfing with him because they have a mission. Then, his attempts to play video games are interrupted with the trio’s post-mission idiocy. Irritated, he wishes for things to go his way for once – a wish that opens up Rose’s Room. In effect a holodeck, Rose’s room can generate whatever Steven wishes for. Unfortunately, the effects can often be… dangerous.

Review: “Better Than Life” is my favorite episode of Red Dwarf. The episode features the trio’s exploits in the titular Total Immersion Videogame. However, it winds up rooting itself in self-generated psychological terror on Rimmer’s part, with his sweetest dreams turning into nightmares. He goes from being a respected, opulent real admiral to a married, bankrupt piece of ant chow, and he drags down the rest of the Red Dwarf gang with him. Needless to say, I died laughing… and brought more Red Dwarf episodes on iTunes.

Speaking of which, “Rose’s Room”. It takes a similar path. Except with less comedy. And very more emotional overtones (which, considering that the Red Dwarf episode involved Rimmer learning that his abusive father died before Arnie suffered radiation poisoning, is a rather hard feat.)
What is Steven’s main gripe in this episode? It’s left rather vague through most of the episode – at least, the first time one watches it. Future viewings do showcase many a hint, though, through the episode. I like this strategy – it allows the viewer to come back and re-watch the episode to try and pick up on things they never noticed before.

Here’s the thing – Steven and the Crystal Gem Trio still tend to operate on two separate planes of existence. Sure, they’ve crossed a few times (“Cheeseburger Backpack” and “Serious Steven”), but otherwise, their mentalities are different. The trio seem to have this great purpose, protecting Earth and Gem structures, going on these various adventures. Steven’s mentality is that of your typical pre-teen. Quite a disconnect there.

Every single one of his wishes in Rose’s room are underwhelming for a reason – they don’t represent what he really wants. All he wants to do is connect with the trio – a rather hard feat, considering that they are mentally in separate spheres. Does he understand why? Maybe he holds a vague grasp of the dynamic, but he certainly doesn’t understand the complexities. This doesn’t mean that he’s a bad kid, though – far from it. It’s a bit more of an innocent selfishness than anything.

As far as the scenario laid out in Rose’s room itself, it runs on this idea of “anti-idealism”. The room wants to create a sense of instant gratification for the user, yet it ultimately subverts this, whether through the inability to eat the donut, the underwhelming game ending, nonsensical speech patterns and advice, or Frybo. In this case, it was because Steven’s goals were a combination of instant gratification and denial of himself wanting a closer connection with the Gems.

Thus, I take from this episode, three things:

  1. Instant gratification will only lead to short term satisfaction.
  2. Absence might make the heart grow fonder.
  3. Steven has some issues he might need to work out. (The worst part is that we aren’t even in the “dark” part of the show yet. Give it, what, five more episodes?)

On a technical level, I really like the dark turn that the show took midway through. It’s hard to pull off well, though. Here, there was a bit of a shift in the shading, the character designs, and the music, and it was all done very, very well. Also, I like how the goofy whale proved to be the one to ask the ultimate question – “what do you want?” (Side note, that voice will come up later.)

When it comes to the ending, at first glance, it does come off as a parody. Steven learns that he can’t get what he wants, just before the Gems decide to go golfing with him, thus leading him to exclaim “I always get what I want!” Seems rather silly, but it really does run deeper if you take up the interpretation that maybe he was agitated over not having a close enough connection with the Gems. In this case, getting what he wants isn’t just a goofy subversion of an old TV aesop – it’s a reflection on what is, for now, an improvement in his relationship with the Gems.

“Rose’s Room” is a well-constructed combo of horror, comedy, and emotional drama. While it’s certainly not a standout from this show, it is an example of how Steven Universe is starting to move from sci-fi comedy to character drama.

Tidbits:

  • One standout moment from the dream would have to be Steven’s vision of Connie. It’s just her repeating “He was incredible!”, from “Bubble Buddies”. If we take Rose’s room as a view of the gratification of Steven’s mindset, this pretty much confirms that, more than friendship, he seems to revere Connie.
  • I love Steven’s way of figuring out that he’s back in the real world – biting Garnet’s arm – if only because it inspires Amethyst to do the same to Pearl. The end result is one of the funniest Pearl faces of all time.
  • Kudos to the golf video game, which is some hybrid of an action RPG, “Pokemon”, and “Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge”.
Favorite Scene: No duh, it’s Rose’s room collapsing in on itself.
Best Character: No duh, it’s Steven. Poor kid…
Memorable Quote: “What do you want, Steven?” – Mysterious Whale that has a very interesting voice.
Score: Silver. A solid, fascinating episode.
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