Hello, and welcome to another edition of…
NOT ANOTHER TOP X LIST!
And today, what else should I take a look at but a season from one of my favorite TV shows?
Steven Universe season 1 is an intriguing block of episodes. I mean, take a look at episode 1, where Steven tries to harness his powers by eating ice cream. Goofy sci-fi comedy, right? Now take a look at episode 52, where Steven and the Crystal Gems are arrested for crimes of treason and face death row just as he starts to realize what the title means on a political level.
Goofy sci-fi comedy, right?
The second half of Season 1, while not perfect, is impressive as all hell, taking what once seemed like a silly little show and making it one of the most stunning and moving shows on cable television. Even the first half, while lighter and more self-contained, is often given a poor rap by the fandom (at least in my opinion), bringing with it some rather intriguing episodes under its belt.
But what episodes, from the season as a whole, managed to leave the largest and most positive impression with me? That’s where this list comes in.
Now, I will admit that, with one or two exemptions, this is basically a recap of my episode rankings, specifically, the top 12. I just happen to go more into detail here – think of it as a happy medium between my longer reviews and the simple list of episodes on the ranking.
With that said, X=12. I present to you…
THE TOP 12 EPISODES OF STEVEN UNIVERSE SEASON 1
12. Mirror Gem
I contemplated tossing this over to “Warp Tour”. But being the episode that introduced us to the show’s myth arc gave “Mirror Gem” the edge here. It only gets a relatively low ranking because of a slightly less impressive middle, but the end really takes the episode, the show, to new heights. Lapis Lazuli is introduced and almost instantly gets set up as a tragic antagonist, with the aid of skeletons in the Trio’s closets.
11. The Test
Do the Crystal Gems even know what the hell they are doing? This episode answers the question with a resounding “hell no.” Do they throw him to the fire, put on the kid gloves with him? They’re lost. It’s one of the most introspective episodes of SU, and one that showcases Steven as he matures greatly, pulling his own Kobayashi Maru to satisfy the emotional needs of the trio. Don’t let em tell ya that SU is just written by hippies. It is, but this episode is proof that it can be so much more.
10. Giant Woman
The earliest episode on the list, “Giant Woman” was also the episode that introduced us to the concept of “Fusion” and the episode that brought us the opening salvo of genuine serialization. It’s not only an episode that focuses on Pearl and Amethyst, it also brings us a statement that Steven will, slowly but surely, be able to get a grasp of his powers as a Gem. Combine that with one sweet little ditty from Steven, and you have an episode Aimee Mann should put on her CV.
9. Space Race
Pearl’s nostalgia for a land she can never return to only makes this episode more poignant – as she deludes herself into kidnapping Steven into space on a ramshackle spacecraft. “Sometimes, it’s OK to bail” is one hell of a lesson to teach kids, but sometimes, it’s necessary. Oh, and the first half of the episode is a really cute recovery from the rather lackluster “House Guest”.
8. The Return
Season 1’s climax features Homeworld coming down to put Steven and the Crystal Gems to the test. What makes this stand out is the fact that there is very little comedy in this episode – as Steven’s feet are put to the fire. He defies expectations by intergrating himself into the Crystal Gems… only to realize that the Homeworld trio (read: Jasper) aren’t the antagonists he’s used to fighting. What a cliffhanger.
7. Ocean Gem
If I might go off on a brief tangent, despite her being on a shortlist of my favorite SU characters, there are only a couple of episodes featuring Connie on this list in a significant manner. She’s a fantastic character, its just that there were even better episodes.
Back on topic, “Ocean Gem” is the first SU episode to show the Crystal Gem quartet as a cohesive fighting unit. Yes, they’ve fought and solved dilemma before, but this episode gives us a peek at what the Crystal Gems are capable of – especially Steven. Add to that the continued brilliance of Lapis Lazuli, and you have one of the most captivating second halves of the show’s two parters.
6. An Indirect Kiss
The best episode of 1A, and surprise surprise, it revolves around Rose Quartz and contains Connie. Steven wondering who his mother is always provides for some emotional bits of character introspection. This just happens to be among the first episodes to do so, as well as being amongst the best. Combine that with the first hints of Pearl’s mental instability and Steven getting a greater handle over his powers? It only just misses the top 5.
5. Lion 3: Straight To Video
Effectively tied with “An Indirect Kiss”, I gave this episode the edge largely due to it being Rose’s opening salvo in terms of a character appearance. Ironically, this doesn’t provide a sense of closure as much as it opens us up to the character. By seeing her talk to Steven, we get a hint of her modus operandi, why she became the leader of the Crystal Gems, and just how and why she got on with Greg like a house on fire. It’s a sweet, sublime episode, and contains one hell of a moving ending.
4. On The Run
“On The Run” is cited as the greatest Amethyst-centered episode ever, and for good reason. This episode takes a bulldozer to not only what we knew about Amethyst, but any sort of naivete we may have had about Homeworld as a society. This episode is heavy on the pathos, contains one of the most brutal and vicious fight scenes in the series, and even the ending has a rather sobering aura to it. If you want a kick in the gut, this is the episode to provide it.
The Season 1 Finale really does encompass Steven Universe as a whole, at least up to 2015. I mean, not only do we get major character revelations and massive character development otherwise, but it’s an episode that hits the action unlike any other episode before, and unlike most episodes since. Combine that with the silly little fact that “Stronger Than You” is just three minutes of sheer awesomeness, and you have one of the all-time greats.
2. Alone Together
I love character dynamics, and when the couple is right, I’m a sucker for romance. What better way to take those two together and create “Alone Together”, one of the most well-known Steven Universe episodes? It takes the show’s most endearing relationship – that between Connie and Steven – and raises it to its literal end, that of Stevonnie. What follows is the perfect combination of euphoria and anxiety in a relationship, if not the general state of the modern teenager. It remains one the most relatable Steven Universe episodes, even today. I dare all, teenagers, university students, adults, even the President, to sit down and watch it.
1. Rose’s Scabbard
Yeah, you damn well knew this was coming. Taking the whole aura of saudade and romanticism of hell and distilling it to its purest form is impressive enough. Giving it to the show’s most sympathetic and sobering character really amps it up. Taking all of this, and putting it through the lens of a thirteen-year-old who is forced to confront this on his own merits? And without a happy ending? All while discounting a general antagonist in favor of a protagonist piece, two souls missing the same tangent?
In lesser hands, this would be cloying. Here? This is the episode that made me a Steven Universe fan, being emotionally gutting and perfectly produced on a technical and emotional level. “Rose’s Scabbard” is the best episode of the series, and by method of deduction, the best of the season.
Well, that’s all she wrote for Steven Universe season 1. I’ll be starting Season 2 sometime over the next couple of weeks, albeit not immediately. Hey, still gotta dive into my Simpsons queue.