Steven Universe Review: “Keeping It Together” (Season 2, Episode 7)

Steven Universe Keeping It Together

“You’re a civilified part-gem too, after all.” – Garnet, inavertedly inviting Steven onto a path of psychological trauma!

Airdate: June 17th, 2015
Written By: Raven Molisee and Paul Vilecco
Plot: Still on the hunt for Peridot, Garnet invites Steven on a trip to the Kindergarten to try and track her down. They do manage to come across her as she rises up from an inspection period. As Pearl and Amethyst try and track her down, Garnet and Steven choose to investigate further. The results are… less than pleasant. Particularly when fused parts of Gems come tumbling down on the two.

Review:

On occasion, there pops up internet comments that talk about Steven Universe being dark and gritty television. Even as a fan of the show, I have to wonder who, in particular, thinks this. I mean, it’s a damn good show, but I don’t think it’s that particularly dark. If anything, it’s the most optimistic thing on television right now. There are days when it honestly makes The West Wing look gritty in comparison. You want dark and gritty television? Breaking Bad would like to speak to you.

If anything’s dark about this show, it’s via subtextual and psychological elements – the analysis of autocracy, the negative side-effects of social castes, and the hell of war. Yet even then, Steven Universe manages to take a relatively optimistic analysis of these things, largely showing the antagonists in a sympathetic/tragic light or ending with a major burst of optimism that they shall overcome. Even the show’s more sobering episodes, such as “Rose’s Scabbard”, contain that hint of hope at the end, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s only really “dark” if you sit and think about it for too long. (Which, given that I penned 3000+ words about two episodes so far, includes me. I have no life.)

Still, if these posts praising SU‘s “darkness” were coming off of “Keeping It Together”, then they are coming from an understandable place. I am not going to mince words here – even with a relatively bright last scene, “Keeping It Together” is the single darkest episode in the canon. Yes, darker than the one where Pearl trained a child soldier, Pearl almost let Steven fall into the eternal unknown, and darker than the one with the soldier who has militant attitudes.

Two words – forced fusion. Continue reading

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Scullyfied Simpsons: “E-I-E-I-D’oh!” (Season 11, Episode 6)

E-I-E-I-D'oh

“That’s pretty clever, Dad. I mean, for a product that’s evil and deadly!” – Lisa, trying her hand at marketing criticism. Hey, she was a food critic, sort of.

Airdate: November 7th, 1999
Written ByIan Maxtone-Graham
Plot: Homer’s newfound penchant for declaring duels to get what he wants ends badly, when a Southern Gentleman takes up on his offer. Facing a duel by pistol, he and the family skip town and become farmers. Initially unsuccessful, they wind up tapping into an untapped market, thanks to some tobacco seeds, some tomato seeds, and radiation.

Review:

Over the past few seasons, The Simpsons has slowly embraced weirder, more outlandish elements in their plots. While there was always a cartoonish aura to the show, most of these elements in the first eight seasons were there for a quick joke, particularly in the David Mirkin era. Suddenly, with the Mike Scully Era taking hold, entire plots began shifting in the third act to a more cartoonish climax – ironically, as the animation became more stolid, and as the rest of the writing skills (characterization, plot development) began flatlining.

Season 11, in particular, is infamous for these more zany twists. Examples given include a swordfight between Homer and a motorcycle gang, Maggie gaining superhuman strength in a time of crisis, self-dancing tap shoes, and everybody’s favorite, the society of evil jockeys.

“E-I-E-I-D’oh!”, in particular, has a rather interesting “third-act twist” – one where Homer, during his new job (again) farming, becomes a tobacco baron. Thanks to tomatoes. And plutonium.

No, this wasn’t written on cannabis, as far as I am aware. Continue reading

Red Dwarf XII Release Date Stateside

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Worth noting ahead of time that Red Dwarf XII is due to be released on physical formats on November 21st.

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I bring this up because Red Dwarf XI was formally released to streaming services on November 8th, 2016 – the same day the DVD/Blu-Ray came out.

Now, I am aware that XII is somewhat different in one regard – streaming services. The series was released on BritBox as the episodes aired in the UK. Unfortunately, I did not subscribe to said streaming service, not because I’m not excited for the new series (I SO AM), but because for me, one streaming service is quite enough for me right now. (It’s going to cost about the same for two months of BritBox compared to buying the entire series and having it in perpetuity.)

Also, I put it off because I wanted to make a dent in my Steven Universe and Simpsons reviews. (And I had to do stuff for school and all that.) Make of that what you will.

Putting it simply, new Red Dwarf reviews will debut on this blog in December – in effect, a Christmas Spectacular Thing. Bookmark, subscribe, follow, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Steven Universe Review: “Rising Tides, Crashing Skies” (Season 2, Episode 6)

A screenshot from "Rising Tides, Crashing Skies"

“For years, I’ve run a blog called “Keep Beach City Weird”. My mission: keep Beach City weird, and also to expose the truth.” – Ronaldo, engaging in shameless self-promotionMaybe I should perfect that art of self-promotion… maybe…

Airdate: June 16th, 2015
Written By: Hellen Jo and Lamar Abrams
Plot: In a groundbreaking documentary, Ronaldo Fryman exposes the underworld of Beach City, and what causes the oddities within. As it turns out, though, his thesis and goal might lead to the downfall of his campaign

Review

So, who wants to talk about Alex Jones again?

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Alex Jones has, in many ways, become one of the most recognizable faces in the modern media – which is kinda ironic, given his anti-establishment opinions. A conspiracy theorist, his shows are known for their drama, his actions infamous for their eccentricity, and his views often radical, if not incoherent. He believes that the United States was at the center of several major massacres in a covert attempt to take over the individual, including the Oklahoma City Bombing, the 9/11 attacks, and (and this one drives me spare) the Sandy Hook shooting.

Oh, and President Trump once appeared on his show. And this wasn’t something very early on during the campaign – the interview occurred in December 2015, when he was well in the lead in primary polls, even though many thought the actual electoral season would expose and ruin his campaign. (Ah, the naivete of times past.)

So, yeah, Jones is nuts, he makes his money off of selling miracle drugs that probably don’t work, and he may have played a small role in giving the host of The Apprentice some power over the nuclear arsenal. Weird times we live in, huh?

Now, if you like Alex Jones, either ironically or legitimately, fine. You do you. (I’ll think you’re a bit out there if you like him legitimately, but whatever.) I just think he’s a lunatic, and so do many other people. Including, it seems, the Crewniverse, who practically transposed the persona of Alex Jones onto Ronaldo, one of the show’s least liked characters. Continue reading

Scullyfied Simpsons: “Treehouse of Horror X” (Season 11, Episode 4)

Treehouse of Horror X

Airdate: October 31st, 1999. (The stars aligned that year…)

Well, here we are – “Treehouse of Horror X”. As its name suggests, it is the tenth Treehouse of Horror. Naturally, like the one before and the one before that, my review of it has come out around Halloween. Eerie coincidence, or fantastic planning? Eh, there’s a good idea to support both theories.

Now, I am aware that I didn’t do a Halloween-themed special last year, for a couple of reasons. A, I tend to slack during October due to the presence of midterms and papers and stuff. B, there was no Halloween-themed episode directly in my review schedule (although one could interpret “Warp Tour” as a bit of psychological terror). Finally, and more coincidentally than a direct aversion, that election was freaky enough.

But here we are… yet again, it’s TRILOGY TIME!

Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Sworn to the Sword” (Season 2, Episode 5)

A frame from the Steven Universe episode "Sworn to the Sword"

“It was here that I became familiar with the human concept of a knight – completely dedicated to a person and a cause. This is what you must become, Connie – brave, selfless, and loyal.” – Pearl. Oh, this is gonna be a happy episode, right?

Airdate: June 15th, 2015

Written By: Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu

Plot: After seeing Connie ward off a flock of seagulls (they flew so far awaaaaayyy), Steven encourages her to take up sword fighting under Pearl. Despite Pearl’s initial reservation, she takes up on the offer. However, in spite of Steven and Connie thinking they’ll make a great team, her teaching methods are unorthodox and a bit self-sacrificing… by which I mean, her methods are borderline suicidal.

Review:

Ever since I reviewed “Rose’s Scabbard” back in May, I’ve made it no secret that it is my single favorite episode of Steven Universe. Time and time again, I’ve argued that the episode is not only the pinnacle of character pathos, but manages to take a scenario that would be the height of melodrama and hit the perfect beat – between the fantastic score,  the fantastic visuals, the sobering climax, and the ambiguous ending, “Rose’s Scabbard” is known to reduce fans to tears. It was the episode that secured my fandom, and I will never regret it.

However, as I mentioned in the review, just because I think it’s my favorite episode doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the objective best. Not that I don’t think “Rose’s Scabbard” is a remarkable eleven minutes of television – it is. But I have entertained the idea that the show has produced episodes that, on a technical level, are better. In my head, I think of at least two episodes that raise that possibility. There’s “Bismuth”, the half-hour third season special that gave us the titular character and how she impacted the Crystal Gems.

And then there’s today’s episode, “Sworn to the Sword”. Coincidentally, it is the sequel to “Rose’s Scabbard”… as well as two other episodes – “Steven the Sword Fighter” and “Full Disclosure”. Continue reading

My Futurama Blog Will Return, Meatbags!

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“On the count of three, you will awaken feeling refreshed, as if Futurama hadn’t been canceled by idiots, then brought back by bigger idiots!”

As some of you might know, I have a blog dedicated to reviewing every single Futurama episode ever. It was launched in January 2015, and I am currently up to “The Route of All Evil”, from Season 3.

It has not been updated since this past January.

Yeah, I dropped the ball in a river and hurled the river into space there. I have no excuse for my unexplained hiatus… other than the show not being available to stream on Netflix since this past July. (I could also pull the “burnout” card and wanting to catch up on Steven Universe and Scullyfied Simpsons, but… yeah, people have powered through worse.)

But, after a period of contemplation (and news that reruns will begin to air on SyFy and the show will stream on Hulu) I’ve decided that the show will return to my review schedule. It will probably be one episode a month, maybe two if I’m interested, but it’s high time that I watched Futurama again. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Reformed” (Season 2, Episode 4)

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Don’t worry. I have an old friend who shares your pain. His name is Mr. McGreg.

“What’s the right answer?” “There is no right answer.” – Steven and Amethyst. Open-ended questions… one’s kryptonite, one’s source of power…

Airdate: April 30th, 2015

Written By: Raven Molisee and Paul Villeco.

Plot: Steven’s attempt to administer a Crying Breakfast Friends personality quiz to Amethyst is interrupted by a mission – catch a mysterious entity within Amethyst’s junkyard of a room. Unfortunately, Amethyst is feeling particularly insecure, and tensions culminate in Amethyst getting poofed and forced to regenerate. Several times. To extents that are less hilarious than the descriptions of said regenerations would leave you to believe.

Review:

“Who wants to watch a cartoon about people crying?

Let’s be real here – chances are, fans who got into Steven Universe during Season 1A were not prepared for the sheer emotional rollercoaster that was to occur. Sure, they got “So Many Birthdays” and “An Indirect Kiss”, but it seemed like Sucrose and Co would come down closer to the side of comedy rather than drama more often than not. Boy, were they in for a shock…

I really got into the show during Season 2, though, so I knew damn well what I was getting into when I began watching on a regular basis. By that point, the show had thrown at a floored fanbase such happy episodes like “Lion 3: Straight to Video”, “Rose’s Scabbard”, and “On The Run” – the latter of which forms the basis for today’s episode, “Reformed”.

Continue reading

Scullyfied Simpsons: “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner” (Season 11, Episode 3)

Simpsons Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner

“Only your father can take a part-time job at a smalltown paper, and wind up the target of international assassins!” – Marge Simpson. Don’t worry, ma’am – at least he hasn’t become the enemy of the Federation of Jockeys. Yet.

Airdate: October 24th, 1999

Written by: Al “President for Life of The Simpsons” Jean.

Plot: While on a field trip to the Springfield Shopper newspaper, Homer winds up tracing the smell of food back to a food critic’s retirement party. His love of edibles convinces the paper’s manager (played by Ed Asner) to ask him to run a pilot. Unfortunately, he can’t write a good review, so Lisa helps him land the job. While things go well at first with his glowing analysis, he’s pressured to shift to a more critical tone. The lengths he goes in this new style not only alienate Lisa, but lead a mob of restaurant owners to plot his assassination.

Review:

The art of critique is strange. The cliché “everybody’s a critic” comes from the fact that anybody can look at a work of art and deem it either sublime or subpar. And on the age of the internet, even a dork like me can rant about Steven Universe, and somebody can read it before clicking onto Roger Ebert’s review of My Dinner With Andre. Such is the brilliance of our relatively egalitarian society, as well as the beauty of the internet.

But what, exactly, makes a good critic? That’s a question that can only result in subjective responses. If on one hand, you take a critical eye to everything, then you come off as an unpleasable grouch. On the other hand, if you take a positive view of everything, you come off as a sycophant to the show. The latter, personally speaking, is my biggest fear. I’ve criticized Gravity Falls and Steven Universe on occasion, but I sometimes wonder if I was (or am) too loose on occasion because I love(d) the show so much. And many of my early reviews, man… I don’t delete them on the grounds that, hey, we’ve all gotta look back on our early stuff sometimes and wonder how far we’ve come.

The art of critique is put on display in “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner”, episode 3 of Season 11 of The Simpsons. So, let’s critique an episode… about critique…

…this is strangely meta… Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Love Letters” (Season 2, Episode 3)

 

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Love burns.

“When I saw you rise like an ancient sea nymph, a white-hot steel pierced the deepest artery of my being! You, you are a cardiac surgeon and I am your transplant patient, and you stand poised over my chest, holding my still-beating heart, hesitating, waiting, wondering!” – Um, I think this letter speaks for itself…

Airdate: April 23, 2015

Written By: Lamar Abrams and Hellen Jo

Plot: While working his mail route (involving dropping off Sea Pals at Steven’s house), Jamie manages to catch Garnet walking out of the ocean. Immediately, his heart starts missing a beat, his heart starts missing a beat everytime… uh, where was I? Oh, yeah, he becomes infatuated with Garnet and pens a (very verbose) letter asking her out on a date. Just one problem – Garnet ain’t interested. So it’s up to Steven, Connie, and Garnet to reject him, be it by a simple letter, or through pose thick enough to insulate a house in Montreal.

Review:

Love. It’s in the air. It’s all you need. It comes quickly, whatever you do. It will tear us apart. And most of all, it’s the answer.

If I could sum up Steven Universe in one word, it would be love. A love for Earth, a love for the ideas that drive our modern society, a romanticism of reform, an admiration for the people around us, familial love, platonic love, romantic love, forbidden love, love that builds us up, love that brings us down. It’s a beautiful emotion that drives us to our best, but also a toxic state of mind that surrenders us to our id.

But what is lo… actually, no, I’m not going there. How do we know when we’re in love? What if we’re just devoting ourselves to a lost cause without actually providing any insight into our “target”? What if we’re just trapped in a state of (I don’t know how else to put this) lust?

Thus, the stage is set for what is largely a four-man performance – Steven Quartz Universe, the heart; Connie, the bookish intellectual; Garnet, the alien enigma, and Jamie, the romantic working-class hero. Continue reading