It was 2016 when I was first introduced to Steven Universe. The word of mouth surrounding the Cartoon Network show piqued my interest, and I decided to give it a chance. Soon, the show captured my interest with a cast of distinct and lovable characters, quaint adventures, exciting actions, and powerful social messages. The season finale of Steven Universe Season 5 has it all.
If you look at Change Your Mind’s wiki page, you will find out the 44-minute-episode (the longest one in the history of the show) “takes up the production slots of 29th through 32nd episodes”—four episodes worth of length. But, the finale does not feel like four episodes plastered together as the production description may suggest, for Change Your Mind is a seamless rollercoaster ride of emotions.
As I have mentioned in my previous inaccurately-titled Season 5 review (no one knew exactly how many episodes CN ordered, and we’ve had no words from the Crewniverse for months after Legs From Here To Homeworld was shown during SDCC last year), Steven Universe is one of the most emotionally mature show that is currently on air, and Change Your Mind digs deep on the issues of emotional abuse and self-worth.
After spending some time with Connie in a jail cell, Steven finally has a visitor. Blue, the closest Diamond to Pink, came to chastise Steven. White Diamond’s wrath mustn’t be risked, so Steven has to apologize to everyone for fusing with something as puny as an organic life form. For the folks that have been paying attention to the news, they may notice that the title of the season finale was changed in the last moment from the Battle of Heart and Mind to Change Your Mind. Indeed, the Crystal Gems are outmatched in terms of battle prowess, but the biggest struggle in Change Your Mind is to get Steven’s Diamond family to change their mind. Despite this, there are still plenty of battles to go around.
Change Your Mind features several dramatic battles that each showcases the unique powers of the gems. Fans of Lapis Lazuli and Peridot (I am one myself), will be happy to see the dynamic duo join the fight as reinforcement, along with the new-old-member, Bismuth. The episode also boasts the highest amount of gem fusions in a single episode, which includes brand new fusions that haven’t before seen. These new fusions and newly formed Crystal Gems outfit designs will surely keep enterprising fan artists occupied for months to come.
The stakes during the conflicts could not feel higher, and the tension can largely be attributed to White Diamond—the ultimate ruler of the Gem Empire. She first appeared on screen in Legs From Here To Homeworld, and though she had very little screen time, Christine Ebersole dominated the scene absolutely. The unnerving sing-song quality of her voice personifies the terrifying beauty White Diamond represents. In Change Your Mind, well, you get to see a lot more of her, and she loses not an inkling of her ability to simultaneously instill awe and fear to the extended exposure. The final confrontation between Steven and the perfect gem is an intense showdown amplified with extra-dramatic camera angles and warped proportions that leaves me breathless.
The battle for the heart and mind is fought hard and well. The Diamond Authority is a dysfunctional family, and the first part to confronting a problem is to acknowledge it. The show at times uses Steven or Connie to simplify the situation—reminding us that this is an all-ages show. Though LGBTQ-positive messages and had always been a huge focus of Steven Universe, I have a hard time imagining Steven’s earnest pleas for understanding and acceptance would not resonate with everyone. The story moves at a quick pace just like previous episodes in Diamond Days, but the inner struggles of characters are nothing short of heartfelt. In one particularly affecting scene—animated by animation legend James Baxter no less—it elegantly conveyed the loving essence of the show in the span of seconds and marked the completion of Steven’s inner journey of his own identity. You’ll know it when you see it.
Besides the TV movie that is dropping in Fall, there are signs of two other seasons in the works, which means this isn’t the end. Although Change You Mind is merely a season finale, it did provide a satisfying closure for most of the series’s longstanding quests. The show, however, does leave enough loose ends and opens up new problems (for example, the empire’s new policy on colonies) to guarantee its new seasons won’t suffer from the unrewarding-victory-laps syndrome. As a fan of Steven Universe, of course, I would want to see more of the show, but I wouldn’t mind terribly if it ended right there—Zach Callison’s effortlessly moving titular tune is as perfect as an ending could be.
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