Steven Universe Review: “Friend Ship” (Season 2, Episode 14)


Pearl and Garnet trapped in a room about to compact them.
“I got a bad feeling about this.”


Cast in this unlikely role
Ill-equipped to act
with insufficient tact.
One must put up barriers
To keep oneself intact.
“Limelight”, Rush.

AIrdate: July 17th, 2015.

Written By: Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu

Plot: Pearl finally has her pulse on Peridot’s every move. There’s just one issue, though – her attempts to take Pearl down on her own only serve to push her further and further. You see, there was this thing that happened a few episodes ago that cut through the Crystal Gems like a knife. Anyway, they manage to corner her (sort of) in an old Gem Ship, only to wind up stuck there thanks to the angry nerd. Facing possible death, Pearl is forced to face her inner demons.


Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends, Steven Universe (thanks, Cartoon Network). And today, we take another stop at ROCK BOTTOM! Here, we take a look at the moral and ethical depths of a character, their psyche, and the impact it has not only on themselves, but those surrounding him/her, the people surrounding them, and the grand plot as a cohesive whole.

In short, welcome to the end of the Week of Sardonyx, starring Pearl as, well, Pearl.

While Pearl has scraped Rock Bottom before, the Week of Sardonyx was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back. Her prior callousness mainly impacted a kid so forgiving that it’s almost unreal. This time, though, she dared to cross Garnet, and the results were disastrous. Not only was Pearl practically abandoned, Garnet came undone and turned into a borderline divorcing couple for a night, Greg’s attempt at feigning a holiday was ruined, and Steven had to watch Onion get propelled out of his mother’s body. Emotional turmoil for everybody!

But all good displays of psychological trauma must come to an end, and so must the story arc. So let’s cap it off the way it started with everybody’s favorite Zim deconstruction, Peridot, and have her and Pearl enter psychological breakdowns simultaneously! Continue reading


Steven Universe Review: “Historical Friction” (Season 2, Episode 13)

Bad language or abuse, I never, never use
Whatever the emergency;
Though “Bother it” I may occasionally say,
I never use a big, big D.
What, never? No, never!
What, never? Well, hardly ever!
Hardly ever swears a big, big D!
Then give three cheers, and one cheer more,
For the well-bred Captain of the Pinafore!

“You’re the only one that showed up. But, hey, some plays only have one person in them, so we’re already in two hundred percent better shape than that.” – Jamie. I mean, you have enough actors for one of EastEnders infamous two-handers. Just get a Cockney accent and check your shame at the door, and you’re in!

Airdate: July 16th, 2015

Written By: Hilary Florido and Lauren Zuke

Plot: Jamie has been commissioned to direct a play about the founding of Beach City. Entitled Beach City or Bust: The Tale of William Dewey, he soon encounters one major flaw with the production… the script is bad. Like, Emoji Movie bad. The glaring issue is the script’s lionization of William Dewey to godlike status… because the script was written by the mayor. Afraid that his friend will have his career go down in Shamalayn-shaped flames, he takes it to Pearl for a rewrite. Good timing, as Pearl’s deep into introspection. Deep.


Welcome to Part 4 of the Week of Sardonyx!

What we’ve seen this week is a deconstruction and analysis of our four main protagonists. What started with Pearl’s desire to fuse with Garnet, even if it required deceit, has resulted in every single one of the trio being analyzed on their own terms. “Keystone Motel” took a look at how Garnet maintains a balance between her two components, and how they can come apart with a great internal conflict exacerbated by their own flaws. “Onion Friend” took a look at the surprising loneliness of Amethyst, the most openly social of the trio, as she met back up with an old friend. Concurrently, the two episodes have also featured Steven-related plots while fleshing him out – showing how he tends to internalize the grand turmoil between the Crystal Gems and how he manages to befriend even the weirdest of landbound persons.

Today’s episode focuses, surprise surprise, on Pearl and Steven. However, it does so in a manner that is simultaneously more meta and more unique. In many ways, it’s the odd episode out within the Week of Sardonyx, as it poses one overarching question – how do a character’s flaws make them so lovable? And how can a lionization of a character backfire dramatically?

The answer, surprisingly, actually plays into the overarching worldbuilding of Steven Universe, and results in what I think is one of the show’s more underrated episodes. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Onion Friend” (Season 2, Episode 12)


Steven Universe Onion Friend
Forget Lapis, forget Jasper, forget the Strawberry Fields, forget Bismuth, and forget the Diamonds. This is the moment Steven’s childhood came to a crashing end.

“Why do you hate food?” – Steven, thinking that he can unwrap the grand enigma that is Onion.

Airdate: July 15th, 2015

Written By: Lamar Abrams and Katie Mitroff

PlotSteven’s breakfast is ruined when Onion steals his packet of Chaaaps. While running to get him, he finds a garage of paintings… of Amethyst. Turns out that those paintings were from Onion’s mother… Vidalia. Y’see, Vidalia used to be one of Amethyst’s closest friends. The two reconnect and have dinner, along with Sour Cream, Onion, and a weirded out Steven. The weirdness only continues when the two younger kids hang out for a bit.


Hey, there’s an Onion in my StevenBomb! What maniac thought that was a good idea?

…Two of them. I see. Now, what maniac signed off on this?

Note: images of writers taken from SU Wiki.

…oh, her. I see. Alright, Crewniverse, you sadistic nuts – an Onion episode it is!

OK, seriously – Onion has historically been one of Steven Universe‘s less popular characters. Part of this is due to the comparatively poor showing of his debut episode, “Onion Trade” – ranking fourth from the bottom in a recent Steven Universe fan poll (as well as the bottom for Season 1). My argument for the comparatively cold fan reception (of which I am part of) came from how it failed to make Onion a sympathetic character, as well as the awkward implications of how his behavior might be rooted in his father being out of town all the time. I mean, there are worse things that the writers of Steven Universe could’ve done, but that wasn’t a major standout, so to speak.

That, meanwhile, was well before Steven encountered Lapis Lazuli, found out that Garnet was two smaller people in a trenchcoat, met Peridot, realized that his guardians are emotionally warped while not realizing he’s heading down a worse path, and oh yeah, found out that Pearl was starved for some form of stability driving her to a grand act of deceit.

Yeah, in Part 3 of the Week of Sardonyx, “Onion Friend” is in a somewhat more sober environment compared to “Onion Trade”. And it shows.  Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Keystone Motel” (Season 2, Episode 11)

Steven Unvierse Keystone Motel

Mirror’s on the ceiling.
The pink champagne on ice.
And she said:
“We are all just prisoners here of our own device.”

And in the master’s chambers
They gathered for the feast.

They stab it with their steely knives
But they just can’t kill the beast!
– “Hotel California”, Eagles

Airdate: July 14th, 2015

Written By: Paul Vilecco, Raven Molisee, and Rebecca Sugar

Plot: Garnet’s not particularly pleased – Pearl sorta tried to manipulate Garnet into forming Sardonyx a day or two ago, and the two are not on speaking terms. Greg, though, barges in with a possible reprieve – a road trip to the state of Keystone to pick up some car wash brushes from an internet man. Despite tagging along with Greg and Steven, Garnet mentally breaks… and splits into two. Ruby and Sapphire are on edge – the former in an uncontrollable fit of anger, the latter just wanting to move on. And Steven winds up caught in the middle of it all, out a hotel room and the ability to swim in the pool.


Last time on Steven Universe

…boy, Pearl done goofed up, huh?

I mean, wow. Our heroes have failed before, but this time, man, Pearl really threw a wrench into the Crystal Gem dynamic. So, what, does it carry into the next episode before things get back to normal.

Well, it does carry into here. And the next episode. And the one after that. And the one after that before coming to a conclusion. This is actually an intriguing strategy. It allows for us to focus on the Crystal Gems as individuals – nothing unusual except for the fact that this time, there is a serious interpersonal conflict that is causing a schism within the three, all while Steven looks at this complete and utter disaster.

In a rather gutsy move, the show decides to start this journey by looking at Garnet, a gem whose personality has historically been a tough nut to crack… and paradoxically does so by breaking her down to her key components – Ruby and Sapphire.

Go ahead and squee. I’ll wait…

Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Cry For Help” (Season 2, Episode 10)

Sardonyx Silhouette

“She’s taken my time, convinced me she’s fine
But when she leaves, I’m not so sure.

It’s always the same. She’s playing her game.
And when she goes, I am to blame…”
“Cry for Help”, Rick Astley.

Airdate: July 13th, 2015.

Written By: Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu

Plot: Amethyst and Steven’s routine of lounging around in front of cartoons is interrupted by Peridot, who managed to get to the Communications Hub to send out a message to Homeworld requesting backup. Deciding that the last attempt to destroy the hub only resulted in too much trouble, Garnet instead decides to ask Pearl to fuse. Enter Sardonyx, a showman who manages to take out the hub with precision. Amethyst takes on a whole load of guilt… all while the hub keeps going up.


A full disclosure is necessary before we begin – “Cry for Help” was the first Steven Universe episode I watched on it’s first run as a fan.

Don’t get me wrong – I watched one or two episodes first-run before, and was quite impressed with what I saw. Hell, I even contemplated reviewing it back in 2014, thinking of the show as “quite awesome” in (on reflection) somewhat hyperbolic terms, because I was intrigued with what I saw up to that point.

But it would be months before I actually sat down to watch it. It was in late spring/early summer 2015 that I began checking out episodes that had already aired. And I was far more impressed than I was before. “Rose’s Scabbard” ultimately was the point of no return – as soon as I saw that, I was going to be damned if I didn’t begin watching this show.

So it’s July 13th, 2015. Donald Trump was still regarded as that goofball from The Apprentice who was but a foot sandwich away from leaving the primary in disgrace. (Any day now…) Leicester City were in a turbulent position in the Premier League, preparing for another season where they would fight off relegation. Kevin Spacey was hailed as one of the all-time greatest actors ever. Half of the Wachowski sisters wasn’t publically known as a sister.

It was still a weird time, people.

So what was I treated to for my opening salvo as a Steven Universe fan? Pearl crossing a moral boundary of one of the Crystal Gems related to one of the show’s main themes.

More specifically, sobbing foodstuffs. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Chille Tid” (Season 2, Episode 9)

Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 6.38.53 PM

“‘Sleep is a curse, and yet a curse I need to live.’ – Steven Universe.” – Hey, that kid stole my quoting thing!

Airdate: June 19th, 2015

Written By: Lamar Abrams and Lauren Zuke.

Plot: Unable to find Malachite in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Crystal Gems return back to Beach City exhausted. While Garnet continues an expedition of her own, she tasks Steven with forming a slumber party with Pearl and Amethyst. Amethyst takes to it like a fish to water. Pearl has some difficulties comprehending the entire thing. And Steven, well, his dreams send him in contact with Lapis Lazuli as she enters the struggle of her life.


“Chille Tid” is one of the most unusual Steven Universe episodes ever.

That’s saying something, right? I mean, the very nature of Steven Universe itself lends itself to a broad story engine. Want to guess Garnet’s day in a life through a parody of Shonen anime? You got it. Want to cross over with the most eccentric show to air on Cartoon Network in ages? Well, hello, Uncle Grandpa. Want to explore an Alex Jones wannabe in his attempts to achieve documentary fame? Ronaldo Fryman will take care of that. Want to do a loving tribute to Broadway musicals? “Mr. Greg” don’t cost nothing, my friends.

The point is, there are only two rules. A, keep it PG. B, put it in the perspective of one Steven Quartz Universe.

So here we are – Steven, through his dreams, gets to experience Lapis Lazuli on the business end of psychological trauma! Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “We Need to Talk” (Season 2, Episode 8)

Steven Universe We Need To Talk

“Is this torture?” – Rose, getting straight to the heart of what makes love tick.

Airdate: June 18th, 2015
Written By: Hilary Florido, Katie Mitroff, and Rebecca Sugar
Plot: A moment of dancing while sifting through old records causes Steven and Connie to fuse. Again. This time, in front of Greg. In spite of being stunned, he tries to reassure Connie and Steven that he himself knows about fusion.

It’s some years ago. While filming a music video for his record “What Can I Do”, Pearl decides to fuse with Rose Quartz to show off a power that humans don’t seem to have. Staggered, Greg is further taunted by Pearl by claiming that since he can’t fuse, the love between him and Rose won’t last. A determined Greg decides to get at the heart of this – by trying to fuse himself. But is Rose the goddess that Greg thinks she is?


I’m not even going to bury the lede here – “We Need To Talk” is a Platinum episode of Steven Universe. Between its fantastic pacing, it’s breathtaking visuals, some beautiful dialogue, and it’s complete and utter humanization of one of the show’s most mysterious characters, it’s probably my favorite of the “flashback” episodes up to this point, and is bound to remain in my top 20 for quite a while.

So, why should I review this episode, then? Can’t we all just go home, eat some popcorn, and watch America slide further into the depths of insanity? Well, no – there is so much in this episode to pick apart, so much to analyze, that leaving it in the dumps would just be a waste.

It’s another one of those “sequel” episodes – directly, it follows up on “Story for Steven”. Indirectly, though, it fuses elements from the “Rose’s Scabbard/Sworn to the Sword” duet, “The Message”, and “Alone Together”. The end result, in contrast to my previous review of note, is a jam-packed episode that actually has enough balance to follow through on every promise laid out by Hilary, Katie, and Rebecca.

Yes, Rebecca Sugar penned this. Prepare to start on the road to heaven, while taking a detour down the road to hell. Continue reading

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, inadvertently 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.


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

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


So, who wants to talk about Alex Jones again?

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 4.40.02 PM

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.


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