“My powers mean nothing to an infant!” – Garnet. No wonder why this show wound up knocked off the schedule in favor of Teen Titans Go! Damn their bright colors and lack of intense drama intended for twentysomethings who still watch cartoons.
Airdate: January 5th, 2016
Written By: Lamar Abrams and Katie Mitroff.
Plot: On Steven’s 14th Birthday, Connie comes over to the Barn. The initial satisfaction of her visit is nuanced when Connie discovered the 1.25 year age difference between the two and the fact that Steven might not physically age at the same rate as humans. Disturbed by this, Steven decides to force himself to grow a few extra inches. But this could prove to be to his detriment.
Just in case I haven’t mentioned this before, Steven Universe is quite possibly the among the most romantic shows on television. And before anybody asks, yes, that is intended as a double entendre.
On one hand, Steven Universe is quite philosophically dedicated to the art of romanticism. It doesn’t quite adhere strictly to this – the show is inarguably socially liberal (often tied more to the enlightenment in some circles), and the approach to morality is tinged with a touch of grey for both protagonists and antagonists alike. But the mere concept of Steven Universe revolves around a society that broke from the perceived technological admiration and social stratification in favor of a more natural, humanistic (for lack of a better word), meritocratic world.
However, Steven Universe is also fundamentally a show about romance. It depicts the joys of a budding romance, the liberation that love can bring, but also the tragedy that the failure of love thereof can inflict on humanity. Ruby and Sapphire’s relationship (chiefly “The Answer”) analyzes the art of a romance that defied social mores despite not harming anybody. Pearl’s arc has depicted the trauma of a love lost, and how one has to put stock in oneself when they have measured themselves against an idol for so long.
“The Pearl here has exhibited an aptitude for engineering that I begrudgingly respect. But that doesn’t explain the spontaneous singing… crying… singing while crying.” – Peridot. Hey, she has a point. I mean, I love this show and how it stitches up the characters like kippers, but damn if these writers don’t love to take us on mood swings.
Airdate: October 15th, 2015
Written By: Hillary Florido and Lauren Zuke
Plot: Tensions between Peridot and the Crystal Gems are still rather high. Her views of Pearl are still rather reluctant, her views of Garnet get her tied to a fence, and the existence of Steven perplexes her. That, and Earthican English still perplexes her. Amethyst takes advantage of this for giggles. However, when the trio wind up at the Kindergarten, Peridot tries to emulate… with pathetic results.
I’m willing to admit that I went a bit “Cal State sociology professor” in my review of “Back to the Barn”. I mean, the response so far has been quite positive, but that’s not normally my style. So, let’s head back to something more of a character analysis with the review of this episode, “Too Far”… which is actually a sequel to “Back to the Barn”.
And we all know that sequels are hit and miss. For every Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, there’s a Highlander II: The Quickening (a movie so loathed that practically every home release has tried to edit the movie into some form of sanity). For every Toy Story 2, there’s a Hunchback of Notre Dame II. And for every Fraiser (tossed salads and scrambled eggs… mercy), there’s a Cleveland Show. (Yeah, Cleveland from Family Guy once had his own show. It lasted four seasons, weirdly enough, although I think Bob’s Burgers drove a knife in the show’s back.)
Unfortunately, that trend does not abate here. It’s not to as dramatic an extent as I listed here, but it’s not quite as compelling an episode as it’s immediate predecessor. Continue reading →
“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-promotion. Maybe I should perfect that art of self-promotion… maybe…
Airdate: June 16th, 2015 WrittenBy: 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?
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 →
“It’s so current, you can’t stop it. I’m a tastemaker, and I’m gonna keep making tastes… forever.” – Buck Dewey, proving that he would either be the centerpiece of the new Beach City art scene… or be washed up in a tiny Tampa studio by the time he’s 30. Either one works.
Airdate: April 16th, 2015
Written By: Lamar Abrams and Hellen Jo
Plot: Steven has the bright idea to promote his father’s business by putting a silly little drawing of “Guitar Dad” on fliers through the city. Buck Dewey catches wind of this, and decides to put the drawing on T-shirts – all as his father is running an election campaign. The promotion doesn’t do much to support the business… but Buck doesn’t seem to mind – he views Steven as more of an artist.
The Cool Kids aren’t cool kids.
Don’t get me wrong – they are the most chill group of teenagers in the Steven Universe universe, enough to attract the (tragic) admiration of resident grump Lars. By all accounts, they carry this aura of being the coolest group ever. Yet, they’re not stock “cool kids” – they function within the rules of society (“There’s nothing lame about seatbelt safety!”) They have lives outside of the quasi-clique they’ve formed – there, they are but normal, everyday teenagers, doing everyday, normal teenage things such as working and navigating everyday issues.
And what aspect of normal everyday teenage life is more relevant than tensions between parent and child? Or an unintentional conflict between friends regarding the use of art and what it means?
“Snake people, or sneeple, control our government at the highest level!” – Ronaldo Fryman. If this man took a government course in high school, he must’ve been very disappointed at the curriculum.
Airdate: October 30th, 2014
Written By: Raven Molisee and Paul Villeco.
Plot: Steven stumbles across Ronaldo, in the hunt to validate his own conspiracy theory. He has compiled the various strange events going around across Beach City, and has come to his ultimate conclusion… the world is ruled by otherworldly snake people! Unfortunately for him, a pretty valid counterargument comes up – there are these three aliens who happen to live in the town, and get on to various misadventures. Once Steven disproves Ronaldo’s theory, he suffers an emotional collapse. Steven, feeling bad, tries to fix what went wrong… only to see Ronaldo at his most insane.
We all know the reason for Steven Universe’s existence, right? Well, it’s the result of Rebecca Sugar’s deal with the Illuminati, a group of Freemasons led by Preston Manning and Bill Shorten, who power the megabanks that engineered the Allen Gregory false flag, to power the sale of propane and propane accessories, all to line their pockets so that they can financially appease their sentient god, the Great Computer.
Yeah, that makes no sense, right?
Conspiracy theorists generally have stretched things really far to determine that certain world events are all part of this idea to start a new world order – whether it be the September 11th attacks, the election of Barack Obama as President, the rise of Donald Trump to the GOP nomination, even the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shootings. (Really? Arguing that children getting shot were actors in your attempt to prove that the world is controlled by bankers going to get your guns?What the hell?)
While Steven Universe largely takes it’s social commentary on a larger level (analyzing authoritarian governments and the role of “eye for an eye”), this episode decides to take a targeted look at the conspiracy theorists – what makes them tick? Continue reading →
“Now, Greg, there’s no need to be so pathetic.” – Pearl, introducing Greg to the whistle – aka, the plot device de jour.
Airdate: October 2nd, 2014.
Written By: Lamar Abrams and Hellen Jo.
Plot:Greg’s van, which he conveniently uses as a house, was damaged in a recent confrontation with a livid ex-prisoner. Between that, and his injury, Steven lets him coop up in the temple for a while. However, Steven still has to go on missions with the Crystal Gems – for example, to try and repair a damaged Geode. Thus, Greg is given a whistle to play in case of an emergency. With great power… ah, what the hell, Greg abuses it.
“House Guest” marks the premiere of the second half of Season 1 – which, for the purposes of this blog, I will consider its own quasi-separate season. In my opinion, “House Guest” also concludes what I consider to be Steven Universe’s first genuine five-part arc, starting with “Monster Buddies”. (One could argue that the “arc” could start with “An Indirect Kiss” and go into “Space Race”, but I personally think that “Monster Buddies” to “House Guest” contains a more appropriately placed and stronger climax.) So, how does the first episode of the quasi-newly dramatic Steven Universe go?
Greg Universe is the “secret weapon” as far as Steven Universe characters go – probably the most relatable human adult on the show. A lot of his appeal comes in just how many tropes related to father figures and masculinity he twists around, if not outright defies.
Now, I’m not saying that masculinity is inherently bad. Hey, I’m a dude, and while I wouldn’t consider myself the most macho person in the world, I do like things that we stereotypically associate with masculinity – football, cheeseburgers, and WBAB. I also consider myself something of an egalitarian/pro-feminist (I know I’ll likely get a flame or two either way) and enjoy myself some Diet Pepsi and soft rock, which are stereotypically considered feminine. Ultimately, humans are complex people – they are more than the sum of their appearances. The same message applies when it comes to men as it does for women. We’re not all perverted, ignorant louts or stoic macho figures, and those of us that are not traditionally masculine are not all complete dandies.
There also, for the longest time, seemed to be this societal view that masculinity and parenthood are somewhat distant – that fathers should be more active in guiding their children through big life experiences, yet also that they are the main providers of the family. Now, this has been changing over the past 50 years, with the second wave of feminism in the 60s, women going out into the workforce on a regular basis, some men staying home, and, affecting some people, societal acceptance of same-sex parenting – all of which combine to slowly dissolve the gender barrier and the perceptions we tend to hold for mothers and/or fathers. Still, old habits and traits take quite a while to dissipate.
At first glance, Greg does seem like your stereotypical father figure – round, balding, and rather unconcerned about his appearances. However, he happens to be quite intelligent – bucking the Bunker/Simpson/Griffin trend of fathers being complete dolts, Greg provides some rather great insight into humanity. Also, unlike Peter Griffin*, Greg Universe gives a damn about his son’s well-being – he’s actually involved in his life, even if he lets his kid be raised by three alien rock women. (It’s far less strange than it sounds.) Here, though, he seems to lament his decision.
And that’s fine – we all have our life decisions that we regret. You might regret rushing into marriage and have to undergo a cumbersome and stressful divorce. You might also regret going to a university based solely on their sports program and “cool” reputation, and have to manage student debt for an unsatisfying school. You might even regret promising to hold a referendum on EU Membership in the event you won a second term in office, thinking your nation will stay in and shut up a competing conservative party, only to see it backfire and wanting to bail out of office as your nation undergoes a political meltdown unseen in modern history.
For Greg, he laments that decision because, putting it simply, he’s not really seeing his son grow up, thinking that he’s not connecting with him as much as he should be. Thus, his actions in this episode are almost sympathetic.
Note that I said “almost” – they’re still annoying and are only kept out of complete cliche thanks to the relatively skilled writing staff. Even so, it’s a bit irritating, and the idiotic things that he calls Steven off of his mission for makes him maybe a bit too unsympathetic.
Here, we get to see just how badly Greg messed up Steven’s psyche. His little lie about the broken leg led to a hell of a lot of self-doubt at the single worst possible time. For Steven, the Crystal Gems, while certainly not all he knew through life, were the ones that apparently raised the kid. He gets on very well with his dad, but he connects with the Crystal Gems. He wants to be one of them, powers and all.
To have his dad be the one that could’ve sullied that dream cuts like a sharp knife. Deep. He’s not only upset about this, he seems almost disgusted, almost like his father intended to sabotage him. He does come to his senses after a second, but still… that scene hurts.
Thankfully, Greg shows genuine remorse and goes to fix the error of his ways. And, in a pretty cool twist, the Geode is not repaired with gem magic, but with duct tape. Not only does this imply that Steven’s powers work on Gems and Humans, yet not their weapons, but also showcases that maybe the most complex problems have simple and obvious answers.
Honestly, though, I thought this episode was slightly underwhelming. Granted, it’s coming off the heels of the legendary “Ocean Gem”, and it is a breather episode to relax and take in. I get it. Besides, an episode that focuses on Greg and Steven’s relationship is actually rather interesting.
Still, I felt like a lot of the writing was a bit too much on the safe side. Some moron abuses a power, is exposed as a liar, and tries to make amends. And while this episode does go a bit deeper than “broken trust”, it’s still an irritating cliche. That hurts the episode a bit in my eyes. That, and maybe it was just me, but the van being repaired so quickly would seem like an easy resolution to the plot… if it wasn’t done by Pearl. (Seems natural for her to be the technician of the quartet.)
“House Guest” is certainly not Steven Universe‘s strongest episode – it runs a bit too strongly on cliche, and I didn’t really like the dialog in this episode. Thankfully, there’s just enough character development for Steven, especially expanding on the consequence of Greg’s actions, to make it worthwhile – at least for one viewing.
Before anybody asks, I’m sorry that this is out a bit late. Besides some other obligations I had, I also got hooked on the NBA Draft. And that Brexit thingy. If I might editorialize on the former for a split second…
For those unaware, the Orlando Magic drafted Domantas Sabonis from Lithuania, and had him for about two seconds before dealing him, Victor Oladipo, and Ersan İlyasova to the OKC Thunder. In exchange, the Magic got Serge Ibaka. While it’s quite the risk given the slow and steady improvement the Magic have made, it honestly wasn’t enough within four years. The Magic kept dropping leads in the 4th Quarter last year. Something had to be done. With Ibaka, the team has some balance in terms of “big men”, and with his experience on a playoff team, might be able to bring some magic to, well, the Orlando Magic. This team needs something – even going to the playoffs at this point would be a boost, even as an 8th seed.
Honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of the song. It was cute to see Callison and Tom Sharpling duet (and for Scharpling to show off his singing chops), but left little impression on me. I did like the callback close to the end of the episode, though.
On a side note, Gravity Falls has apparently been added to Hulu. No wonder why Disney isn’t cutitng a DVD set. I predicted that they would go the route of streaming – albeit on Netflix rather than Hulu.
Favorite Scene: Guess I’ve gotta go with Greg’s sheer audacity of getting up to get food, mere seconds after Steven leaves for The Big Donut. And then getting found out. And Steven’s rant – which, again, cut like a freaking knife.
Best Character: Steven. Greg crossed a line for me, so it’s gotta be the kid. His frustration is so real.
Memorable Quote: Not really a quotable episode, honestly. I’m going to forgo this.
Verdict: Bronze. Steven’s rather realistic reaction to his father’s idiocy saved it.
* I’m referring to the more sociopathic post-cancellation Peter, not “pre-cancellation” Peter Griffin, who was more of a lovable, if somewhat selfish and short-sighted, goofball.
Plot: While on a rather silly mission, Steven comes into possession of “the Glass of Time” – which allows him to, well, control time. His original plans for his Beachapalooza performance scuttled due to an issue with his dad’s business, he decides to merely copy himself thrice over, forming the eponymous band. When appointed as the leader, however, conflict breaks out between the four Stevens.
Review: “Steven and the Stevens” is another episode that, while at first glance appears disconnected to the rest of the show, actually makes up for its canon-lightness. In this case, we have an episode that takes a look at the Crystal Gem character dynamic, as well as how Steven bounces off of everybody else in the show. Oh, and how power corrupts and all that. Continue reading →
Ah, to have the drive to play volleyball… or any sports.
Airdate: April 30th, 2014
Plot: An attempt to destroy a pufferfish results in Garnet crashing into the roof of Fish Stew Pizza. With the trio walking away from the situation, Kofi Pizza (the owner) tells Steven that the trio are not welcome in the shop. Steven tries to patch things up by inviting the Pizza family to a picnic near the Temple. There, we see a bit of a clash between the two sides, drowning out possible underlying similarities… and any potential pufferfishes.
Review: Well, after the dense boringness of “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday”, I’m watching a more straightforward episode with a more down to earth plot… in a show revolving around alien rock people. (Congratulations, modern Simpsons – you are denser and more removed from reality than a cartoon on Cartoon Network. Says a lot, doesn’t it.)
The most notable aspect of “Beach Party” is the fact that fans often tend to overlook this episode. It’s not as “disliked” as “Onion Trade” is – they just tend to skip over it in discussions. While I can see why they tend to overlook it, I actually think that this episode isn’t simply an episode thrown together to fill the season. Continue reading →
Before anybody asks, the fact that Onion is watching this shows two things – either Onion finds this unusual, or he’s looking for another way to win a prize that, as far as I’m concerned, is above his age level… I think.
Airdate: February 17th, 2014
Synopsis: After failing to capture the spinoffs spawned by a Drill Creature in a cave… Garnet declares them to not be a threat, and calls the mission over. The Gems proceed to go to the local arcade, where Garnet trashes two games before getting hooked onto Meat Beat Mania, a rhythm-based games where the player shakes various meat-based products. And by hooked, I mean she ignores the return of the mini-Drill Creatures.
Review (SPOILERS):Steven Universe is a show that thrives on continuity. It’s not noticeable in the first half of the season, but the show’s world-building provides a lot of foreshadowing to events that will impact the rest of the series. The first half of Steven Universe’s first season is genuinely aided by the power of hindsight – either that, or a really sharp eye. Speaking of which, “Arcade Mania”, at first glance, one of the show’s more “pedestrian episodes”, is very much aided by hindsight. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t hold up on it’s own merits. Our first few interactions with Garnet seemed to indicate that she was very much a stolid character – no-nonsense, stoic, focused. And, for the most part, they were right. However, the past few episodes have shown a lighter side to the once (and still) enigmatic leader of the Crystal Gems. She’s taken Pearl and Amethyst out of sight for “messing with Steven’s funky flow”, joked around with the kid, and even was able to comprehend why Amethyst was going to wrestling matches late at night.
Now, we get to see a vice – she becomes hooked to Meat Beat Mania.
Remember Dance Dance Revolution, a game which made everybody think they were both getting exercise and learning how to dance like Tony Manero? Yeah, imagine that with meats. And meat puns. It’s pretty stupid, and very, very addictive. Garnet – of all people – gets sucked in.
Well, something’s obviously getting her third eye hooked to the screen. (Yes, she has three eyes. Bit of a shock, right?) What is it? Well, let’s leave a full explanation for a later review. All I’ll say is that it takes the potential drawbacks of her id, and fuses it with the potential drawbacks of her superego, all to the detriment of her mission. Hey, not every Kirk-esque “medium decision” will work.
However, in the immediate term, it does appear that her third eye possesses some powers of it’s own. What they are, we don’t know, but it allows her to master the game. On a larger level, this episode reinforces the idea of Garnet being the Crystal Gem most likely to maintain a sense of focus on her mission. Or at least, we get an exception to the rule. She slips up when it comes to the Drill Parasites. Now, was she just focused on the immediate effect of defeating the Drill Creature, or eliminating any later threats. Once she gets her focus, she gets it at the worst possible time.
One thing I definitely liked in this episode is that Steven is still awkward with his relationship with the Crystal Gems – he sends Pearl and Amethyst to arcade games more suited for the opposite. This implies that the Crystal Gems still have a relatively distant relationship with Steven – whether it be that they’ve been fighting monsters for the past week, or if Steven only recently began living with them.
Going further, Pearl’s comment of arcades being “a fascinating way for humans to waste their time” is a golden Spock-esque reaction, one that showcases just how alien she is. Unlike Garnet and Amethyst, who at least seem to comprehend the concept of the arcade, Pearl is still confused on how and why we would waste time.
On a somewhat personal level, I have fond memories of arcades… hotel arcades, mind you. When I was younger, me and my family took a couple of trips to Orlando, and pretty much every hotel we stayed at had a little arcade – perfect to waste time. (Obviously, it was minor compared to, well, everything else in Orlando, but still.) That, combined with odd trips to my local Dave and Busters, means that episodes like this one bring back fond memories.
Other than that… not a too much to talk about regarding this episode. Really, with the exception of some foreshadowing, the exposure of the third eye, and some subtle character development, this episode is one that can be skipped without fear of missing much. It’s not a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination – it’s funny, quirky, and cute. However, it’s not a must watch.
Onion returns… again… and just becomes even more of an enigma. He wins a scooter (implying he has too much time on his hands), and in his next scene, he just sits there, watching Steven challenge Garnet at Meat Beat Mania. Also, I have to wonder what a kid who looks no older than 10 (and that’s at max) is doing at an arcade… presumably alone. Maybe the culture is different in DelMarVa than it is on Long Island.
What is this – the fourth episode out of the past five that had Mr Smiley? I’m starting to think Sinbad met a friend for lunch at the CN Offices, Sucrose and Company noticed, and asked him to record a few lines because they couldn’t find another voice actor. (Either that, or he took the job to try and stave off future trips to bankruptcy court.)
Steven threw a silver dollar to the side. Most brilliant piece of subtle social commentary this show has had… up to this episode. (Side note – I am all for changing from the bill to the Dollar Coin, but that’s a rant for another time.)
Favorite Scene and Memorable Quote: Amethyst playing Skee Ball… and ignoring the rules. “Imma win an airplane!“
Best Character: Garnet, for pretty obvious reasons. Most character development, plus exposure of vice, plus the fact that she’s playing a video game makes this episode brilliant.
Synopsis: Amethyst manages to impress Steven with her shifting into a cat. Shocked by this, Steven wants to know how he can shape shift, despite Pearl’s objections. Amethyst teaches him to trust his id, and Steven… manages to create a cat out of one of his fingers. Unfortunately, Steven’s own id takes over, and he’s unable to get rid of the cats once tired of them.
Review (SPOILERS): Glad to know what my nightmares will be about for the next month or so.
Ah, yes – “Cat Fingers”. This was the creepiest episode of Steven Universe amongst fans for quite a bit, and has only been surpassed by the likes of “On The Run”, “Keeping It Together”, “The Return”, “Jailbreak”, “The Message”, ah, hell, the fact that this was scary at one time shows just how slow this show was to really start burning the oil.
Still, this episode is incredibly creepy – surprisingly so, even. Let’s put the obvious aspect of the creepiness this way – cats aren’t supposed to be scary. They’re supposed to be cute, huggable, and relieve any situation of any stress present. This episode… doesn’t use any of those aspects of the “kitten” cliche. Not by a long shot. Continue reading →