Steven Universe Review: "Gem Glow" (Season 1A, Episode 1)

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This transformative moment in Crystal Gem history… brought to you by Ice Cream. Maybe.

Airdate: November 4th, 2013

Synopsis: It has not been a good day for Steven Universe – his favorite brand of Ice Cream sandwiches, Cookie Cat, have been discontinued. Not helping matters is the fact that he can’t harness the powers of his gem – even when his fellow Gems are under attack by Centipeetles. However, when eating some of the last Cookie Cat ice cream sandwiches available (Amethyst stole them, and Pearl paid for them afterward), Steven’s gem seems to activate. With the three gems giving different techniques on how they activate their gems, Steven believes that his technique is to eat the Ice Cream… which comes at an interesting time, given that the Mother Centipeetle attacks the quartet.

Review (SPOILERS)Steven Universe begins on a note that, while at first casual, has many of the hallmarks of a pilot – near-universal character development, and elements of world-building, but also a simple, breezy plot, to get the most casual viewers sunk in.

As far as the rest of the show goes, though, it’s a pretty mild affair.

Steven’s dilemma is that many people face – their favorite food product is discontinued. It happens all the time. Steven being… a preteen (his age is not known), this consumes his mind, and at first, it seems it will for the entirety of the episode. However, it’s handled in a manner that still makes Steven a likable character – he’s a nice person, just not mature enough to see how it compares with other situations… such as a centipeetle attack.

However, he does have some level of seriousness to him that might seem strange, given the setup of the episode. It is through his inability to control the powers of his gem that we see some of his conflicts with being a human/gem hybrid. By exploring this alien concept, he becomes humanized beyond the plucky comic relief we see at the beginning of the episode. While there is a long way to go for the character, it’s through the entry stages of the character development that we see just how deep Steven can be.

This episode isn’t just a one-character affair, however. We are introduced to the other three main characters – each of them with a vibrant personality from moment 1, and each representing the Freudian trio.

For example, the very first line from a non-Steven Gem? “Hey, Steven.” Said by Amethyst, as she was trying to beat up a “centipeetle.” She jokes (?) that she stole a bunch of cookie cats, and is quick to dismiss Pearl’s strict techniques of gem power harnessing in favor of going with her instinct. That’s all we need to know about Amethyst – she’s the id of the three.

In contrast, Pearl is seen as a strategist with a perfectionist method of fighting and trying to harness her powers. Already, we note her grace in attack mode – a grace that does not detract from her power, but rather, aids it. This complements her method of harnessing her weapon – one that suggests that, with practice and perfection, a gem can harness their power. Superego? It seems like it.

But what about Garnet? This first episode mainly keeps her as something of an enigma – the closest thing to a leader figure of the quartet, who seems to have plenty of experience in fighting the various antagonists. Her way of harnessing her gem – getting in connection with the entire universe – definitely shows that. She also has a strange combo of stoicism and intensity. However, there’s this mystery about her. How did she get to be this figure that seems to stand out beyond Pearl and Amethyst? Why is her advice so… complex? Still, Garnet fits in the “ego”, at least in terms of technique.

As far as the action is concerned, there’s not a lot of explanation of what the Centipeetle is, or where it came from. There are hints that the Gems fight other monsters with Gems, but little is confirmed in this episode. All that seems to happen is that the four fight a bunch of Centipeetles.

Being a comedy… so far, at least… of course, it ends with Steven’s love for Cookie Cat backfiring on him. At the end, he has no ice cream, and no answers on how to activate his gem.

The problems that lie in this episode are more because, well, it’s the first episode. Not only has the tone of the show not settled yet, but as I mentioned above, I didn’t find Steven to be really lovable yet. Likable, certainly, but not exactly lovable. He gives off a slight “annoying kid” vibe – not bad, as the next episode will explain, but it could be off-putting for new viewers looking to marathon through the show. Also, the show is also more comedy-centered, meaning that those hearing about the show’s dramatic aspects won’t find too much of it here.

Still, as far as first episodes go, it’s a cute launch to a great series.

Tidbits:

  • This episode was written by Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu. The two of them are often paired together for storyboarding and writing purposes.
  • Now that we’re speaking about discontinued food items, I remember, way back when, Burger King had Tacos. That was about, what, 13 years ago? I with BK would bring them back, just for nostalgia’s sake. (Hey, we don’t have a Jack in the Box here on the Island, so BK’s the closest we’d get for now.)
  • Amazingly, Zach Callison does a good job singing the first song in the show’s history – the “Cookie Cat” song. There’s actually a sizeable amount of foreshadowing to the overall myth arc in that song. However, if I’m honest, it’s not as memorable as “Giant Woman”, from a few episodes onward.
  • Oh, and I’m no longer doing season labels. In fact, I intend to erase the current season labels as soon as possible. Makes the label section too wild.
Favorite Scene: Steven sacrificing his Cookie Cats for the good of the Gems.
 
Best Character: I would have to say, the most interesting character is Garnet, mainly because of the enigma status she has so far.
Memorable Quote: “You’re fun to have around, even if your gem is useless… I mean, you’re one of us, Steven! We’re not the Crystal Gems without you.” – Amethyst. While the first part of that quote was insensitive, the second part, even if forced out by Pearl, was delivered with such sincerity, that it really does feel like the bond between the four is genuine.
Score: 7. (Bronze)Bronze:
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One thought on “Steven Universe Review: "Gem Glow" (Season 1A, Episode 1)

  1. Anonymous August 4, 2015 / 8:17 pm

    It's great to know that you're a fan of Steven Universe.

    Like

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