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Recap / Steven Universe S4E20 "Lion 4: Alternate Ending"

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Steven discovers a tape in Rose's landfill meant for "Nora".
Steven travels with Lion.

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  • Absentee Actor: Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl don't appear except for a flash in Steven's memories.
  • Audience Surrogate: Steven spends the whole episode acting like a lot of the show's fans, obsessively poring over every last detail in the video Rose left him in absolute certainty that there's some deep meaning behind every bit of it.
  • An Aesop: Not everything has some sort of greater purpose. Sometimes you just are who you are.
  • Bait-and-Switch: After finishing Rose's tape for "Nora", Steven says "So that's it then, she just wants me to be her kid", in what sounds like a disappointed tone. When Greg asks if he's all right with that, Steven turns around to reveal he's smiling tearfully, relieved and moved by the freedom to live life as he chooses.
  • Because Destiny Says So: The episode reveals that Steven was not born with any particular destiny or purpose, Rose and Greg had him merely because they wanted to. Thus making this an Subverted Trope, because even though Steven has powers, lives with Alien Gems and has a mysterious pet Lion, in the eyes of destiny or fate or whatever you wanna call it, he's just another kid.
  • Call-Back:
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    • Steven rewatches the video from "Lion 3: Straight to Video".
    • Steven refers to his "magical Gem destiny", the same phrase Connie used to describe Steven's life back in "Lion 2: The Movie".
  • The Chosen One: Subverted. Steven spends the episode trying to find out what his role as this is, but at the end, it's revealed he's just another being in the universe.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Greg tries to explains "Nora" isn't another person, it's just the name Rose and he picked in case their child was female, but it takes Steven a minute.
    Greg: Nora is you.
    Steven: I'm my mom and my sister?! What kind of destiny is this?!
  • Continuity Nod:
    • When Steven briefly thinks Rose left a hidden message about Asia, he wonders if that means he should go back to Asia, referencing his trip to Korea in "Steven's Dream".
    • Steven describes Rose’s theoretical plans for his life as a "magical destiny", which is a line Connie used to describe his life (in contrast with hers) in "Lion 2: The Movie" that's been referenced several times before.
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    • Lion coughs up a lizard covered in crystal, which was something he was shown eating in "Lion 2". He later finds and chases another after arriving at the ruined temple.
    • Steven revisits the arsenal from "Lion 2", Rose's fountain from "An Indirect Kiss", and Rose's room while trying to find where the key fits.
    • Greg mentions that he changed his last name, which "Gem Harvest" revealed.
  • Cool Key: Lion coughing up one, seemingly in response to Steven's desires, leads the kid on a chase to figure out what it's supposed to unlock and how it relates to him. Turns out it's the key to a new, previously unseen Gem ruin... that's missing three out of four walls (making the key pointless) and which Rose was using as a garbage dump. Though it did lead him to the Nora video.
  • Creating Life Is Awesome: Rose’s ultimate reason for giving birth to Steven was just so he would exist.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: To "Steven's Lion", "Lion 2: The Movie", and "Lion 3: Straight To Video".
  • Deliberate VHS Quality: The "For Nora" tape has even more fade and tracking lines than the "For Steven" version of the video because it was sitting in a pile outdoors.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Steven is clearly desperate to find some special purpose for his life, specifically one his mother wanted him to have.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The Nora tape has as alternate ending in case Steven was born a girl, which would have been also been an alternate ending to Rose's life.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: What Rose loved most about humans was their ability to choose their own lives, instead of being made for a specific task like Gems. Steven spends the episode desperately trying to find out what his mother wanted him to do.
  • Exact Words: After going into Rose's room, Steven asks for something that the key unlocks. The room produces a heart-shaped lock that the key fits into perfectly and unlocks it. However, the lock immediately disappears afterwards since Steven only asked for something to unlock.
  • Myopic Architecture: The ruin Steven finds has a big door locked by the giant key Lion coughed up... and almost no remaining wall.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Lion coughs up the key, showing he can apparently store things in his body physically and not just using his mane's Pocket Dimension.
  • Occam's Razor: Steven wonders what purpose Rose Quartz could have intended for him, but the real answer was that she didn’t have any specific plan.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Steven does this to Lion when asking him to take him to the desert.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Spend a few hours in a hot desert with no shade or water, you’re going to get extremely parched.
    • As Steven was the first of his kind, Greg and Rose didn't know if he would be a boy or a girl, so they made two videos to account for the possibility.
    • As with most parents, Rose and Greg didn't plan out what Steven would become in the future; they only wanted him to be happy as he was.
    • Nora's tape has spent more than a decade in the middle of the desert, exposed to the elements. While still watchable, the film is noticeably more grainy and discolored than Steven's is.
  • Shoehorned First Letter: Steven uses the first letter of each sentence in Rose's tape to try to find a message, though it only spells a word with no meaning (because there is no hidden message).
  • Shout-Out: Amongst the junk in the desert is the storybook from the opening of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: When arriving at the mysterious chamber, Steven tells Lion that he could have just teleported them there instead of spending four hours running across a hot desert.
  • Tuckerization: Steven would've been named "Nora" if he were a girl. Rebecca Sugar reveals that her parents had considered naming her Nora.
  • The Un-Reveal: The first thing Steven tries to open with the key is the mysterious chest in Lion's mane. It doesn't fit.
  • Vicariously Ambitious: Rose's thoughts for Steven can be seen as vicarious or very much the opposite. She didn’t have some plan for him to fulfill or even want him to take her place, Rose just wanted Steven to be born and live his own life. However, choosing one’s own life was something Rose wanted, and thought Humans Are Special for being able to do so.
  • What Could Have Been: In-Universe; the end of the episode has Greg reveal that Steven would have named “Nora” if he was born a girl.

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