Steven Universe Review: “On The Run” (Season 1B, Episode 14)

“This is where I was made, dude. One day, just – pop! – right out of this hole!” – Amethyst succulently and briefly describes her horrifying, horrifying genesis.

Airdate: February 5th, 2015

Written By: Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu

Plot: Steven is enthused by his book series, The No-Home Boys, and begins to romanticize the idea of living away from home, especially when he finds out about the genesis of the Crystal Gems. Amethyst is the only one that responds positively to Steven’s newfound enthusiasm – albeit because of her own issues regarding where she came from – and the two run away. Steven finds the life on the road to be less romantic, while Amethyst uses the escape as an excuse to take Steven to her birthplace – the Kindergarten. And thus begins a night of an almost unspeakable heartache.

Review:

The last time I reviewed Steven Universe, we got to see a darker, fallible side to Garnet. Meanwhile, in the real world, the United States of America had just voted to experiment with a real life simulation of Tropico 4* a new wave of populism. This review is being posted just after the experiment was launched, what with the inauguration of President Donald Trump. (I still can’t believe I typed those last three words as a fact.) How poetic. So, what better way to come back to Steven Universe than by an episode that shines a darker light on another main character?

When you get down to it, Steven Universe‘s central characters are all a part of tragedies pulled together, each one dealing with their aftermaths. From the start, it’s been established that Greg lost the love of his life. Pearl’s mental state is on the verge of a total collapse for various reasons (one of which we’ll see in a few episodes). Lapis Lazuli was trapped in a freakin’ mirror for years. And Garnet and the others, we’ll get to during Season 2 (and 3, and 4).

Here, though, we get a look at Amethyst and what happened to her. And damn, if this episode doesn’t prove that Steven Universe toes the line of tragedy, I’ve got nothing for you.

Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Alone Together" (Season 1B, Episode 10)

“A Gem fusing with a human being? It’s impossible – or at the very least, inappropriate!” – Pearl. She probably thought the same thing way back when.

(Note: for those wondering where my review of “Warp Tour” is, I am going off of the order posted by Ian Jones-Quartey in terms of my episodic analysis. This allows for more consistent continuity in a show that thrives off of it.)

Airdate: January 15th, 2015
Written By: Katie Mitroff, Hilary Florido, Rebecca Sugar
Plot: Steven’s attempts at fusing with the Crystal Gems haven’t been up to snuff. After another failed round, he goes and meets Connie on the beach. There, Connie exposes her unease when it comes to dancing in public. With the two alone, they decide to dance together on the beach. One dance later, the two wake up as a teenager. A teenager. That’s singular.

Review:

Y’know, I’ve been thinking about a witty way to start this review. It’s hard, though. I mean, we’re talking about “Alone Together” – an episode that manages to be both undeniably sweet and still a bit terrifying. While my last review brought up the concept of the “Steven Universe Imperial Phase”, and noted that “Lion 3” was a massive step towards it by introducing Rose as a character, this episode may have very well done more to build the show’s cult following than any other so far, or maybe even since.

And it all is wrapped in one of the show’s central plot threads, the power of…

…fusion. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Lion 3: Straight to Video" (Season 1B, Episode 9)

I wonder what kind of lunch my mom would’ve made me? Maybe actual space cookies! (sighs) I just wish I knew a little more about her. – Steven, unaware that he said the secret phrase…

Airdate: December 4th, 2014

Written By: Joe Johnston, Jeff Liu, and Rebecca Sugar. (Yup, the creator wrote this.)

Plot: Sadie, disenchanted with the fact that her mother kept making her lunches, tosses one of them to Steven. This gets him thinking… what was his mother like? Could he get one more hit at the woman who brought him into the world? Well, thanks to Lion, he can… although it almost results in his suffocation.

Review:

You know, there is a question that often presses into my mind when I think about a certain sci-fi show… when did the Steven Universe Imperial Phase begin?

Or, rather, what is a Steven Universe Imperial Phase?

Well, to put it simply, the Imperial Phase a term Neil Tennant (of Pet Shop Boys fame) coined to note an era when a production or producer (in this case, the show) is judged to have done no harm. In the case of Steven Universe, this entails emitting critically beloved episode after critically beloved episode, being hailed as something so awesome that one has to wonder if the show is being written by super-humans.

The second question is – has it ended yet? Sure, there have been incidents in the fandom that have left them fighting off a stereotype of overzealous SJWs who constantly post on Tumblr that Hillary Clinton is the second coming of all major religious prophets combined. And of course, this could lead to a prejudice that the show is a hotbed of quasi-progressive SJW groupthink*. Still, the show’s critical standing remains strong – ratings on The AV Club haven’t dipped below a B yet, and “The Answer” even got nominated for an Emmy. (Then again, given that “Jurassic Bark” lost to “Three Gays of the Condo”, the Emmys aren’t exactly paragons of what is good.)

The third is, of course, when did it start? Opinions in the fandom in terms of “first great episode” range from “Mirror Gem” to “Jailbreak” – so, generally, Season 1B can be deciphered as the general start of the show’s Renaissance.

I’ve mentioned this idea before – mainly concerning the two-parter “Mirror Gem/Ocean Gem”. Still, I don’t think we’ve reached that point yet. Sure, “Mirror Gem/Ocean Gem” stretched the show’s boundaries from silly “monster of the week” into a myth arc that stretches through the galaxy. But after that, we had some inconsistent episodes, including two of my least favorite – “House Guest” and “Fusion Cuisine”.

Personally, I don’t think the Imperial Phase was truly confirmed yet with “Lion 3”, but it is not only a huge step towards the start, but it served as part one of a three-part link that cemented the show’s critical acclaim.

Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Ocean Gem" (Season 1A, Episode 26)

Before I begin the review, I would be remiss to not offer my deepest condolences to the victims of the recent terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, as well as their friends and families. Not only was this the deadliest mass shooting in postwar US history – with 49 dead and 53 wounded – this was also (as far as I’m aware) the second deadliest domestic terrorist attack in postwar American history, superseded only by the 1995 Murrah Bombing in Oklahoma City. That this particular massacre happened at a gay nightclub, in a region so many Americans associate with happiness and innocence, is especially heinous.

It goes without saying that this shooting was a disgusting act of hatred against LGBT people, an attack against all Americans and the values that the nation thrives on, and even a crime against humanity, which should have moved beyond acts such as this. I’ll save the political discussions for somebody else – partially because I don’t want this post to be overshadowed by talking points on issues such as homophobia, religious extremism, gun laws, tabloid media, and counter-terrorism. I will, however, proudly declare myself an ally to the LGBT Community.

And yes, I am very aware that Steven Universe is a show that has strong gay and transgender overtones. If anything, take the existence of this show – virtually unfathomable ten years ago in its current form – as a way of saying that attempts to set back rights and progress for LGBT people, especially via terrorism, will achieve so little in the end. As far as terrorists in general, no matter what ideology they use to justify their warped actions, well, Jon Stewart put it best after 9/11 –

“They live in chaos. And chaos… it can’t sustain itself. It never could. It’s too easy, and it’s too unsatisfying.”

And, remember – letting terrorism deter you from doing whatever you would normally do – whether going to a nightclub or marching in a Pride parade- only gives these madmen a sense of victory. We can’t let that happen.

Now, on a hopefully lighter note…


27dbd-screen2bshot2b2016-06-162bat2b9-42-062bpm
“Your pain runs deep! Share it with me!” (I may have just gotten myself banned from Trek fandom for life.)

“I’m gonna bring the ocean back, or get really thirsty trying.” – Steven, stating his resolve. Gonna need a lot of water, kid.

Airdate: September 25th, 2014

Writers: Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu

Plot: Last time on Steven Universe, Pearl introduced Steven to a magic mirror, the mirror proves sentient and begs to be released from it’s prison, the Borg capture Captain Jean-Luc Picard and rename him Locutus, Charles Montgomery Burns is shot outside Town Hall after angering the entire town, Kryten creates a franchise-killing dinosaur with the Time Wand, Bill manages to start the Apocalypse via a distraught pre-teen, President Bartlet and his staff are targeted by assassins, and Lapis Lazuli is released before threatening to drown the Crystal Gems in an act of revenge.

Just as Steven is being reprimanded and grounded by the Crystal Gems for insubordination, they find out that the ocean has receded. To nothing. This presents a problem – Beach City stands to lose quite a lot of tourism dough. Realizing that he helped screw up an entire town’s economy, Steven, the Trio (who nullify the kid’s punishment), Connie, Lion, and Greg all go out to bring the ocean back. En route to the source, Steven finds out about a schism in the Gem society.

Review (Spoilers):

So, in the last episode, Steven Universe raised the stakes plot-wise. It hinted that our heroes might be in greyer territory than we thought. that Lapis might be morally questionable while still coming off as tragic, and that there is a universe of Gems beyond Earth.

This episode merely serves to confirm what we learned in the past episode, yet does so in a way that supersedes almost every episode up to this point in terms of quality.

Continue reading