This one was a very interesting episode to watch for the first time, back when you couldn’t be sure whether Steven was really changing or if he was dreaming. Of course, even on repeated viewings all you really need is to be pointed in the direction of the Baby War and it’s on.
So Many Birthdays was pretty good for lore, packing some solid firsts for the show:
- It made it clear that the Gems are quite old
- We learned their bodies are illusions
- Steven manifested a new(ish) power
Of course the arrival of Pearl the Sad Crying Clown was great as well.
Steven’s ability to shift his age is still kind of an unknown element, however. Like so many things it was introduced once and never used again, so unlike Gem fusion we can’t really say we know much about it.
He likely learned to control it at least enough to not have it happen accidentally, since he had to work with the Crystal Gems to get his legs back to normal (plus we’ve never seen his age shift, so he must have it under control), but that’s about all we know. Why does his shapeshifting power respond to his mental state as such a powerful age changer? Did Amethyst go through similar problems learning to control her Gem powers, or is shapeshifting like summoning her weapon (i.e. something she’s never had to work at)?
And then, of course, there’s our favorite outlandish theory: that the person at the back of the boat in the old-timey painting is an older Steven who traveled back in time at a later point in the series. With hair like that? Come on. We can’t be the only ones who see that.
It’s possible, right?