Steven Universe – We Need to Talk Review
The relationship between Rose Quartz and Greg Universe has always been something that I haven’t quite been able to wrap my head around. It has only made sense to me on one single occasion, and this is at least partly due to the fact that Steven Universe has largely kept the details of their relationship a mystery. We of course had the episode Story for Steven, earlier in the season, which provided viewers with a glimpse of the first encounters between the two, but that only showed us the first awkward sparks of a connection between the pair. The one occasion in which I personally found the pairing to feel natural and believable was in the home video from Lion 3: Straight to Video (Which, by the by, is a personal favorite of mine). The video was short, lasting about two minutes, but it was the one time that I had the opportunity to really grasp the connection between the two characters. I bring this up, because, in a number of ways, We Need to Talk serves to bridge the gap between the initial awkward interactions of Story for Steven and the loving intimacy of Lion 3: Straight to Video, and in the process succeeds in constructing an episode which is a prime example of what makes Steven Universe such a great show.
We Need to Talk opens with Steven and Connie helping Greg sort through his extensive album collection. Upon learning that Connie’s exposure to non-classical music has been quite limited, Greg puts on a record by The Philosophy Majors and Steven and Connie start dancing together to it… and fuse into Stevonnie. Greg is obviously shocked by the fact that his son and Connie can fuse, though they become unfused the moment Greg stops the record player. Connie panics thinking that Greg may tell her parents, but Greg is quick to assure her that he might be the only human who properly understands the implications of fusion. Feeling there is a story behind that statement, Steven asks to hear it.
Greg starts off his story by showing Steven and Connie a music video he made with Rose, Garnet and Amethyst. The video was for the song “What Can I Do for You?,” a two-minute number which is probably one of my favorite Steven Universe songs to date. Rose’s lyrics (“Human man, you are so much fun. | I hadn’t planned on finding you quite this entertaining”) contain a vague quality that leaves it unclear whether she considers her relationship with Greg to be serious or not, and, judging from Greg’s expression, the lack of distinction isn’t lost on him. In a clear attempt to show up Greg, Pearl has Rose fuse with her to form Rainbow Quartz, ostensibly to enhance the video. Once Rose leaves, Pearl points out to Greg that he is just a phase and that he could never be as intimately connected to Rose as another gem could, because he can’t fuse.
Greg decides that he is not one to back down from a challenge, and points out that just because a human/gem fusion hasn’t occurred before doesn’t prove that it is impossible. Furthermore, even Pearl has to admit that she isn’t aware of an occasion in which anyone attempted it before. Greg tries practicing the moves that Pearl performed before fusing. Garnet stops him and tells him that she thinks he can do it, but that the key isn’t to dance like Pearl. He needs to be himself and try and foster a connection of his own with Rose. She states that only by being open and honest will he be able to “fuse.”
What follows is a brief but touching dance scene where Greg clearly went out of his way, even setting up a dance floor complete with lighting on the beach. However, as one would expect, his attempt at actually fusing with her ultimately fail. The moment where he mentions his disappointment over not fusing is one of the more notable laugh-out-loud moments of the episode as Rose goes from starry-eyed enrapturement to a shockingly bemused “WHAT!?!” in no seconds flat. Greg has difficulty getting through to her about his concerns as Rose keeps on laughing and lightly dismissing each of his questions. He ultimately begs her to just talk to him for minute like a “real person,” which brings a rather abrupt end to her laughter. What follows is arguably the first real and heartfelt conversation the two have had in the show, and it provides a perfect example of why they work as a couple. Despite my earlier statement that “What Can I Do for You” was one of my favorite songs on the program, the conversation between Rose and Greg is still the highpoint of the episode. It serves to clarify everything about their connection and transforms them from simply being a peculiar pairing into a couple that feels real and grounded.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- So… Crystal Gems and the Holograms? It’s odd. I’ve never seen anything but still images of Jem and the Holograms, and know next to nothing about it. Yet somehow this episode made me feel nostalgic for it.
- It’s odd that I haven’t really had a chance to discuss the gorgeous art style of the series yet, but I feel it is worth noting that many of the scenes of Greg’s past in We Need to Talk are awash with pink light. It’s a nice detail which hints at Rose’s presence in his life.
- I suspect that there might be a number of musical references amongst Greg’s records, but, aside from Orange Magic Orchestra being a possible ELO reference, I’m not sure… though, Quadrinometry is probably a Quadrophenia allusion.
- Greg: *Upon seeing behind Garnet’s glasses* “EYE!… think I get it.”
- “I’m getting a little worried about the future.” “Oh! Just ask Garnet!”
- Garnet gets some privacy with Greg by using a stick to play fetch with Amethyst. I laughed.
- It seems that, for the past week, when I don’t have Rebecca Sugar songs running through my head, then it’s songs by Regina Spektor. I guess I’m in a “Songs composed by Jewish females with the initials R.S. who did musical work for prominent TV shows,” kinda mood… it’s admittedly a somewhat limited subgenre.
We Need to Talk comes close to being the strongest episode of the season, and, in my opinion, is only barely beaten out by Sworn to the Sword from earlier this week. It serves to inform a relationship that has, in some ways, been at the core of this show since the beginning, but has rarely been explored. This episode is nearly a perfect embodiment of the strengths of Steven Universe as a show.
We Need to Talk offers up a compelling exploration of both Greg and Rose's characters as well their connection with one another.