Airdate: April 23rd, 2014
Plot: Steven and his once bubble buddy Connie want to go see Dogcopter 3, the movie based on a series of books. To try and get to the theater in time for the showing, they take Steven’s really, really pink lion. However, said lion takes a little detour through a wormhole into a cave full of armor, weaponry, and all that.
Review: We’re about ten episodes away from Steven Universe‘s first “epic” story – the “Mirror Gem/Ocean Gem” two parter. Those episodes are often cited as the moment that propelled Steven Universe from merely a quirky Cartoon Network cartoon into one of the most lauded science fiction shows of all time. From that moment on, episode upon episode became laden with heavy character development, emotional levity, and an awesome soundtrack from Sucrose and Co.
However, the seeds for what seems to be the show’s current critical “imperial phase” (to steal a saying coined by the Pet Shop Boys) have been sown all along – even as far back as “Gem Glow”. Few episodes in Season 1A, though, laid more seeds than “Lion 2: The Movie”
First thing’s first, Steven and Connie. Last time we saw these two, Connie was flipping out (in a good way) over the fact that Steven managed to take down a sea monster, even if it was pretty much by accident (read, the dock broke.) And thus, a friendship took off – one between the quiet intellectual and the emotional eccentric. The two’s friendship, so far, has developed a sizable amount offscreen… at least, I think. We don’t need to see every detail about everything – if I wanted to see the Gems order some Jack in the Box, I’ll write a fanfiction, thank you very much.
Back on topic, if “Bubble Buddies” displayed the two dodging the disaster of the week based on Steven’s eccentricity, then this episode takes an analysis of the positives within Connie’s “averageness”. “The most interesting thing in my life is tennis practice”, she laments as the two are about to go down to the cinema on Lion. In pretty much every regard, this indicates a rather stilted life, and doesn’t comprehend why Steven hangs with her. In fact, from the beginning, she notes that her parents won’t let her buy snacks at the movies. I mean, that’s not too bad a rule. (C’mon, they’re oversized and overpriced. No one, least of all a tween/teen, needs a 64oz Pepsi and a tub of popcorn.) Still, these two facts indicate that her life is run on routine, that she lives a controlled lifestyle.
Yet, it is this outsider view – her “averageness” – that allows for a battle strategy to take on the robot threatening both of their lives. In this sense, Connie serves as Steven Universe‘s purest everyman – with no powers, she finds herself trapped in these extraordinary circumstances. And given Steven Universe‘s idealistic view of humanity, I think she’ll play the role to the hilt.
Ironically, Steven himself isn’t that much in tune to his incredible life as Connie would believe. This episode, alongside ones such as “Arcade Mania” and “Cheeseburger Backpack”, seem to set the fact that he’s largely been protected from the full impact of his half-alien makeup. His reaction to being sent to what is effectively an armory is one of shock. In fact, he seems to regard this development not in terms of him being “bigger” than he thought he was, but rather, a sign that he messed something up again – carrying on the trend of his self-doubt from “Serious Steven”.
If his comment to Connie as to why he still stays with her is any indication, Steven still admires your average things in life. He’s not out to be this great warrior – he has the tastes and the mentality of your everyday kid. He just happens to have these extraordinary powers. We’re going to see this balance come up in many, many future episodes – even, I think, “Mirror Gem”.
As far as their interactions go, I love just how in-sync the two are. Interestingly, their conflict is not targeted to each other – it’s largely self-depreciation, maybe laconic mocking of their lives. And yet, the writers still manage to make their conversations interesting. Every line they share, every action they take – it really shows just how in tune these two (relatively, I assume) new friends are. Later episodes will show a deeper connection between Steven and Connie, and will result in what is often cited as one of the show’s sweetest episodes.
This episode, however, is most well known for hinting at something deeper in the show’s mythology. Not only does Steven effectively gain access to an armory (which will come back in a later episode), but he also finds out that his Lion serves as his protector, despite often being left to his own devices prior to this experience. Abandoning these threads afterward would just make this episode full of coincidence after coincidence. Thankfully, the writers of SU are pretty damn good at their craft, so make of that what you will.
Early Steven Universe episodes might not be as gripping as the later episodes, but that doesn’t mean that the show was simplistic schlock. “Lion 2: The Movie” is an early indicator of just how fantastic this show can be. Great characterization, better world-building, and 9/10ths of the jokes connected. Can’t complain about this one.
- I love how the screen is “shrunk” vertically for the Dogcopter trailer. In fact, if you skipped the title card (and the opening theme), you could probably trick somebody into thinking that it was a real trailer… until Steven and Connie are watching it on their smartphone.
- Speaking of which, I sorta have slightly mixed opinions of them watching Dogcopter on the smartphone. It does sorta date an otherwise timeless series (if you catch my drift) to a more specific place in time. Then again, I do like how sparingly these modern technological trends are used in Steven Universe, and when it is used, it’s effective. (The modern trends aspect is probably the only concern I have about the Cartoon Network sitcom We Bare Bears – it does sorta set the episode in the 2015 era.)
- One thing I absolutely loved is just how Steven and Connie are able to access the armor – Connie pokes Steven. It’s an indicator of just how silly this show still is. Soak it in, the Space Opera era is coming sooner rather than later.
- Oh, and I just love how the theater employee, as soon as the battle is over, goes right on as normal. Maybe the Gems have been doing strange stuff around town, and she’s become borderline desensitized to this.
- I have a feeling that Penny in the armory is going to be significant in Season 3. (By the way, yes, I am excited for “In Too Deep”.)