WARNING: Contains spoilers for the episode, "Legs From Here To Homeworld" of Season 5 of Steven Universe.
After five seasons, White Diamond -- the mysterious ruler of the Gem Homeworld -- has finally made her grand entrance in Steven Universe. The current season of the Cartoon Network show is shaping up to be its most dramatic, with core relationships tested, Gem-shattering revelations and the truth about Rose Quartz finally out. With few stones left unturned now, and a Steven Universe movie on the way, it feels like Rebecca Sugar's hit cartoon is nearing its endgame.
The Great Diamond Authority have been a looming presence, though it's kept largely to the background throughout much of the show's run. The matriarchal quartet of White, Blue, Yellow and, formerly, Pink have ruled the Crystal Gem's home planet for eons, and before Rose Quartz's rebellion on Earth, their rule went completely unquestioned within Gem society; something they hoped to roll out across the universe.
Like every Gem, each Diamond has a distinct personality and design that best fits their purpose. Yellow, the calculating military leader, is made up of angular shapes and sports a Napoleonic uniform; Blue, the keeper of Gem culture, is in a perpetual state of mourning since Pink's shattering, made of flowing lines and rounded edges while Pink, the young upstart, was smaller than her sisters, with a quirky harlequin-esque costume and puffy features. The Diamonds' sheer size compared with most non-fused Gems, as well their race's unwavering loyalty, made them imposing figures in each of their brief appearances, from Yellow's cameo in Season One to White's surprise reveal in Season 5.
Until now, little was known about what the supreme Diamond leader would look like aside from a color and spiky-headed silhouette, as pictured on the mural at the abandoned base on Earth's moon in Season Four's "Back to the Moon." This was also when we got a sense of the character's aura of divinity, showing her painted against the heavens with a glowing halo behind her head. A heavy hint of her imminent physical debut in the show was dropped at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, when visitors to Cartoon Network's "3-D Steven Universe photo-booth" were gifted a short animation clip of a pair of blinking, feminine eyes on a white background.
Because of the network's not-so-fun tradition of dropping clusters of Steven Universe episodes at random intervals (dubbed "Steven Bombs" by staff and fans) rather than stick to a regular release schedule like, y'know, every other TV show, there was no way to guess how long it would take for White to actually get here. Sticking to its non-traditional tradition, though, Cartoon Network released an episode just after the surprise movie announcement at SDCC 2018, in which Steven suddenly comes to face-to-face with White. And she's terrifying.
Not terrifying in the strong and angry way that Yellow is, but terrifying in the way that some of the strange and beautiful cosmic entities of DC and Marvel comics are. Her body is perfectly symmetrical, her face is an abstract glowing shape and her voice has a Mary Poppins, sing-song quality to it that dares you to defy her through measured politeness. Despite Steven's attempts to have a proper conversation with her, she easily whisks him away to a strange, pink prison before he can finish a single sentence, like a mom grounding a wayward child.
It's an introduction that is somehow everything and nothing like what we were expecting of the enigmatic Gem Empress. With this episode bringing Season 5's total up to the standard 25, it seems likely that we won't see the conclusion to Steven's encounter with White any time soon, possibly not until Steven Universe: The Movie airs on Cartoon Network, a release which could very well serve as the show's swan song.