Most of Steven Universe is about the titular hero befriending the various extraterrestrial and supernatural elements that exist in his world. But one of the few that comes to him instead of the other way around is Lion.
The mysterious animal quickly becomes invaluable to Steven and the rest of the Crystal Gems on their mission to protect the Earth, serving as a guardian and guide to the young boy. Now, CBR is taking a look back at the history of this character and how his role evolved over the course of the fan-favorite Cartoon Network series.
WHO IS STEVEN UNIVERSE'S LION?
The earliest hints about Lion come in the fourth season episode, "Buddy's Book". While reading the journal of explorer Buddy Buddwick, Steven and his best friend Connie learn that the young man eventually encountered the mysterious Rose Quartz on his journeys. At that time, Rose was living with a pack of lions in a desert, one of whom bears a resemblance to the Lion Steven would eventually meet. However, his fur wasn't pink and he possessed none of the powers that Lion has in the modern day. The pack was apparently a secret of Rose's, as not even her most loyal soldier Pearl was aware of their existence.
While we don't see the exact moment Lion was changed, we do have a good idea of what must have happened given something similar appears to happen to Lars, another one of Steven's friends. After Lars was seemingly killed during an adventure in space, Steven's healing powers restored Lars, but the severity of his injuries meant that Lars was different. While his mental state and personality were the same, his skin now had a pink hue. He also seemed to no longer feel pain or need food, becoming functionally immortal. This suggests Rose had a similar moment with Lion, bringing him back to life with new powers and a never-ending lease on life.
LION AND STEVEN
Lion remained a secret for most of Steven's life before coming to him in the first season for the first time. The animal quickly had a connection with Steven, even if he acted more like an average house cat instead of some majestic magical creature.
Still, Lion proved to be incredibly loyal to the young boy, utilizing his powers to help Steven in various missions for the Crystal Gems and the boy's general life. He also used his powers to help Steven on his adventures, utilizing his sonic roar in fights and his ability to create portals for transportation (although that later power has a notably draining effect on Lion's stamina.)
He also served not just as a pet and occasional war mount, but also as something of a spiritual guide for Steven. This came up most when Lion brought him to the otherworldly dimension accessed through the Lion's mane. The dimension is filled with possessions formerly belonging to Rose, which suggests that this dimension became a safe haven for the intergalactic leader. It's here that Steven finds out more about his mother, who she was and what she believed in.
This connection even ends up creating a bond between Lion and Lars that comes in handy. Lars' hair ends up having the same properties with his own hair, which also goes to the same dimension the mane leads to. When Steven and Lars are trapped in space, Steven is able to use this connection to actually return home, although Lion isn't too pleased with him when he does.
HOW LION BECAME THE GEMS' PROTECTOR
While everyone is happy Steven made it back home at the beginning of Season 5, Lion and Connie aren't pleased with him. The previous season ended with Steven surrendering himself to save everyone else, leaving Connie and Lion angry and disappointed at his refusal to let them fight alongside him. Connie spent an early chunk of the season not talking to Steven, and Lion went to live with her for the duration of their fight. Lion eventually forgave Steven when he and Connie made up however, and returned to living with Steven.
Lion quietly resumed his role as a guide for Steven, helping him find many small (and big) ways to help his friends and neighbors. He even seemed keenly aware of where Steven needed to go to do the most good, including taking Steven to find Lapis on the moon, which eventually helped convince her to return to help protect Earth. Lion helps in the battle against Yellow and Blue Diamond, and eventually leads the Crystal Gems to a ship hiding in Rose's former safe space that they can all use to travel to Gem World. Although Lion remains behind, he does help find Watermelon Steven which in turn leads to the cavalry getting the call for help.
As the series ended, Lion was seen walking up to Lars. There was seemingly a moment of understanding between the pair, which most likely has to do with their now shared status as immortal protectors of Pink Diamond/Rose Quartz/Steven Universe. It's likely that Lion will appear again to help Steven in the upcoming Steven Universe film as well, although his eventual role is unknown.