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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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

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

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

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)

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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.

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“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

Not Another Top (X) List: Top 12 Episodes of Steven Universe Season 1

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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?

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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

Continue reading

Steven Universe Reviews: Season 1B Wrap-Up

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Poster by Rebecca Sugar, taken from Wikipedia.

“I’m a Crystal Gem, too!”

In that one simple line, at the climax of “The Return”, we get to take a look at the grand overreaching theme of Season 1B of Steven Universe – what is Steven? In exploring that theme, Season 1B takes itself several cuts above its predecessor and cemented Steven Universe‘s place in the science fiction and animated pantheons – the latter moreso than the former.

In fact, I would probably call 1B my favorite of all of the Steven Universe seasons so far – pending a rewatch of Season 2, of course. It’s strange because it probably has a higher ratio of “dodgy” episodes compared to 1A (“Fusion Cuisine”, “Horror Club”, and to a lesser extent, “House Guest”) and 2 (maybe “Rising Tides/Crashing Skies” there), but there were more episodes rated “Gold” or Platinum in 1B than in 1A. In other words, it was slightly less consistent but made the top of the rankings more frequently. 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