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

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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

Steven Universe Review: “Joy Ride” (Season 2, Episode 2)

An image from Steven Universe's
Now, this is what summer’s all about. Top down, Ozzy’s Boneyard on the radio, and an emotionally scarred 13-year old in the front passenger seat. Did Top Gear ever capture this beauty?

“I only wanted to see you laughing… in the pizza rain.” – Buck Dewey. And with that, the characters disappeared in a little red corvette, partying like it’s 1999, going uptown.

Airdate: March 26th, 2015

Written By: Hilary Florido and Katie Mitroff

Plot: The Gems apparently have never heard of the cliche, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, and are on edge after the recent events – Steven in particular. After a long day of picking up debris, Steven is woken up by the Cool Kids, who convince him to come on a ride. Out in the sticks, they come across a pod… Peridot’s pod…

Review:

Steven’s life is both the road to heaven and the road to hell.

On one hand, we have a protagonist that is discovering these various superpowers, is half-alien, lives with (and was all but raised by) three warrior alien ladies, has an intellectual and compassionate confidante in Connie, a kickass ex-rocker (if somewhat dorky) dad, and isn’t afraid to showcase his own emotions. Steven’s one of the friendliest, warmest, happiest protagonists in all of animated television, and anybody that meets him is bound to have a good time.

On the other hand, he’s the son of a separatist, never even got to meet her, has been labeled public enemy number one by an alien civilization millions of miles away, is only just learning to control his powers, is naive to a fault, has been kept in the dark for his whole life so far, and is being raised by three soldiers who have no idea what the hell they are doing. He’s screwed, and anybody that allies with him is in for a world of emotional shock.

We want to be Steven… and yet, in some ways, we don’t want anything to do with the kid.

How does the kid deal with the pressures of his two lives? Well, “Joy Ride” provides an intriguing answer, thanks in part to the Cool Kids. Not too much to say about this one, but we do get some more insight into their behavior. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Full Disclosure” (Season 2, Episode 1)

Before the review, just a brief PSA – my thoughts go out to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, including (but not limited to) the relatives of victims, be they deceased or “merely” homeless. The flooding is devastating right now, will likely be so for days, and there are certainly people in the Houston area who face a reset of their whole lives. I am certain that Texas and Louisiana, though, are resilient and will recover from this disaster smarter, stronger, and more united than ever before. Still, I encourage you if possible to donate even a dollar (or pound, or whatever) to a relief organization of your choice, be it the American Red Cross or whatever.

steven universe full disclosure

“That could’ve gone a lot worse!” “Could’ve gone a lot better, too!” – Pearl and Garnet, starting off the season on a rather… pragmatic note.

Airdate: March 13th, 2015

Written By: Raven Molisee and Paul Villeco.

Plot: That little incident with Homeworld has done a number – Steven’s wanted, Beach City is trashed, and Connie is worried sick. So worried, in fact, that she calls Steven just to make sure he’s alright. Steven, however, is afraid that he might drive Connie to a fatal heart attack. His fears are compounded when Ronaldo encourages him to protect her by cutting himself off from the world. Smart move, kid – especially since Connie is probably the single smartest person in the state.

Review:

“Steven, I got your message. Are you OK? What’s going on?”

Well, here we go – Season 2 of Steven Universe. This season has a personal significance to me – being that I watched the second half as a fan of the show. I had caught up on various episodes prior, but this had been the first season where I considered SU priority viewing. We’re not there yet, but strap in, as we get a fun block of episodes.

Much like the last episode after a two-parter, we follow up on the events of “Jailbreak”  – in this case, immediately. And while the last “downbeat” episode focused on Steven’s relationship with Greg, this episode mentions that while zeroing in on Steven’s budding partnership with Connie.

First, though, I have a question… who here has heard Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall”? Continue reading

Scullyfied Simpsons: “Brother’s Little Helper” (Season 11, Episode 2)

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C’mon people – this poetry isn’t gonna appreciate itself!” – Bart Simpson, of all people. Drugs – they do weird things.

Airdate: October 3rd, 1999

Written By: George Meyer

Plot: One of Bart’s stunts during a Fire Prevention event at Springfield Elementary results in the destruction of the gym. Having had enough, Skinner concluds that Bart has Attention Deficit Disorder, and makes his enrollment at the school conditional on a prescription of Focusyn – an experimental drug meant to combat ADD symptoms. While Bart does become much more focused, there’s also the odd side effects, such as a paranoia about satellites spying on him…

Review:

Well, episode 1 of Season 11 was a bust. Next time I want to watch a satire of Mel Gibson, I’ll just throw on that South Park episode where he turns into Daffy Duck and goes full blown Road Warrior because two kids dared criticize his movie. Not even the shifty-eyed dog could save that.

Thankfully, the season does improve with “Brothers Little Helper”. While flawed, I do think it does more to capture what The Simpsons can do at its best – analyze our society, in this case, mental disorders and how we diagnose/treat them, alongside the pharmaceutical industry. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Jailbreak” (Season 1B, Episode 27)

Steven Universe Jailbreak

“Tonight, there’s gonna be a jailbreak
Somewhere in this town!
See, me and the boys, we don’t like it.
So we’re getting up and going down!”
– “Jailbreak”, Thin Lizzy

Airdate: March 12th, 2015

Written By: Joe Johnston, Jeff Liu, and Rebecca Sugar.

Plot: After getting head butted by a brutish Homeworld soldier, Steven wakes up in a cell on a prison ship. Unfortunately, the cell doors don’t take into account human biology, so he’s able to escape. While looking for the others, he comes across three particular prisoners. One is Ruby, a tomboyish hothead desperately looking to initiate contact with her partner, Sapphire. Sapphire, meanwhile, is a more levelheaded and stoic prisoner who has been vocalizing through the prison, clearly to garner Ruby’s attention.

All while Lapis Lazuli has hit the depths of despair, resigned to what awaits them on Homeworld. Her desperation, however, does not take into account a prisoner rebellion – in particular, Ruby and Sapphire teaming up once again to try and fight Jasper.

Go on.

Guess what their strategy is.

Review (SPOILERS FROM MOMENT ONE):

Ah, yes. “Jailbreak”. It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll, and here we are – not only the final episode of Season 1, not only it’s climax, but also probably the single most well-known episode in the history of Steven Universe. Poll anybody on the street what they know about Steven Universe, and you’ll get a select few answers:

  1. “SECURITY!”
  2. “Isn’t that the show about that kid that summons weapons by eating ice cream? Even Into Darkness had a better premise than that.”
  3. “That fandom made me abandon Intersectional Marxist-Leninist Feminism and vote for Trump.”
  4. “Oh, yeah, one of the characters is actually two lesbians in a purple British trench coat.”

Yeah, that last one is what everybody thinks about. Garnet is not one person – she’s two people. As one person.

This is gonna be weird to explain… Continue reading

Movie Review – Star Trek: Nemesis

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“A Generation’s Final Journey Begins…” (Taken from Memory Alpha)

“You’re wasting time!” – the Viceroy, to the movie Shinzon.

Premiere: December 13th, 2002

Written and Directed By: John Logan and Stuart Baird

Plot It’s 2379. The Romulan Senate has just been assassinated en masse by being turned into stone en masse. This is part of a chain of events involving Shinzon, a clone of Picard who found himself brought up in mining pits by Remans, an alien race disliked by the Romulans. As you would guess, the Enterprise is sent to investigate, and Picard gets a look at the mirror of himself… sort of.

Maybe.

If you squint hard enough.

Review:

Y’know, after the dull fest that was Star Trek: Insurrection, I was actually getting myself hyped up to review the fourth and final movie in the TNG part of the film franchise, Nemesis. Not because I was particularly excited for a movie often ranked as the weakest of the franchise, but because after Insurrection almost served as a sleep aid, I figured that Nemesis would be at least slightly better. I wasn’t expecting anything good, but I figured that it would be more interesting than its predecessor. In fact, maybe I would be surprised and the movie would actually be halfway decent. Even if neither the director or the writer were involved with Trek before (in fact, the former never saw an episode before), maybe some new blood was needed.

So, I popped the movie into my PS3.

And, indeed, I was surprised. It did hold my attention more than Insurrection did. Because Nemesis ain’t a bad film. No, no.

It’s shameful.

In the interest of not burying the lede any further, it is hands down my least favorite of the TNG films. Pending a rewatch of Into Darkness, it might even be the worst of the entire film franchise. Oh, yeah – this movie is worse than the one where Kirk finds God. Worse than the one where Kirk gets crushed under a poorly constructed bridge. Far worse than The Slow-Motion Picture. Hell, even the reboot films are less irritating than this. This movie killed the franchise the way fans knew it for 40 years – and depending on how charitable you are to the reboots, stuck the knife in one of America’s most recognizable franchises.

To paraphrase a quote from Jeremy Clarkson, how was so much done so badly by so many?

Well, let’s start by going to the yin to this movie’s yang, The Wrath of Khan. Continue reading

OK K.O.! Debuts Tomorrow Night

OK KO Let's Be Heroes Title

Just a reminder for anybody interested that Cartoon Network’s newest show, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes is set to debut tomorrow night (August 1st) at 6:15. For the impatient, the first few episodes are online right now.

I bring this up because the show is the brainchild of Ian Jones-Quartey, well known as a Steven Universe alum. It got its start in 2013 as part of a shorts program from Cartoon Network, became a web series that debut on YouTube and on CN’s Website last year, and is now set to hit Cable TV. Continue reading