Pointless Filler Vs. Character Development Pt. 01 – Storm In The Room

This is not a review. I am going to be talking about a Steven Universe episode here, but the topic of this post goes a little bit beyond that. If you could all be so kind as to bear with me throughout, I’d really appreciate that. If you really, really, really, don’t like Steven Universe, though, or if you just don’t care enough to read about my reasoning… Wait for the next post on this topic.

If you want to read along and don’t know the episode in question by the title of this post, let me summarize it for you. Steven’s mom had to ‘give up her physical form’ so that he could be born. That is to say, she’s been ‘dead’ since the beginning of this show. We never actually meet her at any point, we only know her through what the characters say or flashback episodes which; again, are told through a character’s point of view. In earlier episodes this season, Steven learns some things about his mom that sort of put a dent in this flawless picture everyone had painted of her. He never knew his mom, but he thought he at least knew who she’d been, and slowly he’s starting to realize that what he knew was a lie or, well, in the very least not the whole truth.

Storm In The Room is an entire episode of Steven alone at home being haunted by his thoughts, and finally confronting them by projecting an image of Rose in this magic room that makes things out of clouds (if you don’t know the show; that’s… exactly what it is). And for me, personally, as someone who lost a parent at a very young age… I could relate to that. Okay, so my dad wasn’t an alien rebel who started a war to defend Earth, but the him that I know; that I think I know, is a construct of memories others projected into me. I don’t actually remember him. I don’t remember his voice, I only remember his face because of the picture I keep on my desk.

And right now, that’s perfectly okay. I’m okay with that. I understand that it’s how it usually goes. But along the course of my childhood, these were things that weighed really heavy on me. And the image that Steven projects of Rose in that room; the ideal image of her that he formed in his mind, is the same one every kid who grew up without a parent has created at some point. He doesn’t ask all the big questions about her past; things that he might actually need to know in order to deal with very real threats, no… He plays video games and football with her. He does what he imagines normal kids would do with their parents. It’s not that he’s never had that. The Gems play video games with him. They’d play any silly human sport he wants with him. But he’s never had that with his mom.

Now, here’s the main reason I really love Steven Universe and one of the many reasons I find it hard to review current episodes without going over the whole series… They build up to things like this over the course of… A LOT of episodes. And I’ve been waiting for this ever since Lars and The Cool Kids. When Steven snaps at Lars and says “I didn’t even get to know my mom!”. There have been little moments like this in a lot of episodes. Some of them were almost throwaway lines but they were there nonetheless. And more recently we’ve had Mindful Education; an episode revolving around Steven learning that you have let yourself go through negative emotions in order to move on and accept and heal. And Three Gems And a Baby which, may seem like just another flashback episode, but it shows the moment where the Gems accept the fact Rose isn’t coming back, and that ‘everything needs to be about Steven’.

Rose Quartz is a big question mark on this show and I completely understand people’s need to have the answers to some of the questions Steven never asked in this episode. However, when people call this episode filler they are under the misconception that this episode was about Rose. It was never about Rose. It’s always been about Steven. Steven Universe is, well, about Steven Universe. Steven isn’t Rose Quartz. As much as I want these answers too, as a writer I’m fully prepared for the possibility of there NEVER being any concrete answers about Rose’s past. Because everything we know of her is what Steven knows and the fact is, Steven is within his right to make peace with the memory of his mom and decide that maybe he doesn’t need those particular answers.

The previous episode, the ‘comic relief episode’ where Connie, Lapis, and Peridot are trying to be the Crystal Gems, hints at where and why this episode was so important. When Connie is trying to keep things from getting too out of hand she tells Lapis and Peridot that it’s impossible to solve problems by copying other people and that they should have tried to do things their way. I think Steven coming to terms with who Rose was will help him break away from her shadow and stop trying to constantly live up to this glorified image of her he’d been building up in his mind his whole life.

So, you may be wondering if you bothered to read all this, why is connecting this episode to a series of previous episodes as well as speculating how it may affect the story from now on important to the point I want to make?

Well, according to TV Tropes filler episodes are…

…entries in a generally continuous serial that are unrelated to the main plot, don’t significantly alter the relations between the characters, and generally serve only to take up space.

Now, character development, in a nutshell, is the change a character goes through in the course of a story, how the person they are changes as a result of the experiences they have throughout their journey; and their life in general.

Funny enough, Steven Universe also explains this in Three Gems And a Baby, right at the end. The Gems bring up in the flashback that they didn’t know how to deal with the fact Steven grows because ‘gems don’t grow’ and in the end of the episode Steven says they were wrong because they had grown. In fact, almost every character in the show had had at least one episode where they have some huge emotional or psychological breakthrough. Except for Steven. He had grown and developed and changed, but, for the most part, he was always the one supporting everybody else. With Rose’s shadow still looming in the background. With everything that happened in the past few episodes… This was the time to do this.

Okay, so, was Storm In The Room filler? I think it’s pretty safe to say that no, no it wasn’t.

Was it necessary? Yes, absolutely yes.

Why are you writing this wall of text bitching about people saying it was? I’m not. I’ll admit I wanted to at first, but honestly, I’m not. Like I said; I understand why people think that. And like I also said, I want to take this a little bit beyond talking about just this one episode of a show. I just thought this was a great example of character development being wrongfully labeled as pointless filler.

Coming up in part two: More on the difference between character development and filler, good vs bad filler, and good vs bad character development. Yes, there is good filler and bad character development; trust me.

Was this post filler if you don’t care about Steven Universe? Let me know in the comments maybe. 😛

Later, guys!

B.B

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