Steven Universe Review: “Political Power” (Season 1B, Episode 25)

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Every civilization is three meals away from revolution. Beach City, meanwhile, only made it one night without power.

“Tip the truck!”  – Nanufea. Politics is strange…

Airdate: March 11th, 2015

Written By: Hillary Florido and Katie Mitroff.

Plot: Pearl’s EMP, constructed to destroy the robonoids, instead takes power out in Beach City. With the power still out the morning after, Mayor Dewey is forced to go to the Crystal Gems to try and get some assistance. Steven tags along and gets an inside look at how spin works, as well as how the facade of strength factors in the chain of command. Kinda timely

Review:

I know it’s a bit of a strange way to start off a review of Steven Universe, but stay with me…

Why was Donald Trump elected President of the United States?

I don’t pose that question in a “holy macaroni, we actually elected him” sort of way, although, holy macaroni, we actually elected him. I pose the question in a more contemplative, analytical way – what drove so many people to vote for a political neophyte? The answer, like most things in life, is complex. Reasons given include a rejection of the Democratic Party and the perceived elitism in modern culture, a feeling of the working classes being left out economically and socially over the past few decades, Secretary Clinton coming off as inauthentic and manufactured, concerns over terrorism and crime rates, a few votes used him as a vehicle for more odious rationales, etc.

Still, say what you will about the man, but President Trump’s campaign was undeniably grandiose. That made him stand out amongst a crowd of politicians that stuck to their own platitudes – all while creating a few of his own, ironically enough. He promised his supporters the world by appealing to their Id (even if that attracted and included more insensitive and politically incorrect elements), and generally speaking, it worked enough to get him in.

Now, what does this have to do with our silly little TV show? (Besides the fact that the writers probably got inebriated the day after the election?)

Three words – Mayor Bill Dewey.

…you’re all prepping your torches and pitchforks, I presume?

Continue reading

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Steven Universe Review: “Maximum Capacity” (Season 1B, Episode 17)

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Looks like Greg’s storage unit is at… no, not completing that joke.

I haven’t really cleared this place out since your mom… ahem. – Greg, admitting he just collected 13 years worth of junk. TLC cameras are coming – people have to learn about this insanity!

Airdate: February 26th, 2015

Written By: Hillary Florido, Katie Mitroff, and Rebecca Sugar.

Plot: It’s almost New Years, and what better way to celebrate than looking at Greg’s storage unit, full of garbage collected over 13 years. As Amethyst comes over to sort through the trash, she discovers old tapes of Lil’ Butler, a sitcom that Greg and Amethyst used to watch way back when. The two binge watch, neglecting the world around them.

Review:

Steven Universe is a psychologist’s nightmare come true.

Shocking, right?

Yeah, anybody that’s watched from “An Indirect Kiss” on can probably generate an undergraduate thesis on this goddamn show and how messed up its characters are. (Gotta get that diploma from State somehow!) Unfortunately, there are no therapists in fiction (and even if there were, I dunno if Steven would afford one), so these characters have to work through their mental anguish/trauma/lost Lenores with each other… and in so doing, wind up screwing up Steven mentally for years to come.

This episode… is another example of the characters’ collective descent into madness and despair.

And it all started with Rose Quartz. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: Winter Forecast (Season 1B, Episode 16)

 

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I have a bad feeling somebody’s gonna try and use this in a PSA.

 

“If we leave Beach City, bad things are gonna happen. I’ve seen it. Bad things. Several bad things!” – Steven, surprisingly not suffering through hallucinations… well, not exactly.

Airdate: February 19th, 2015

Written By: Lamar Abrams and Hellen Jo

Plot: A blizzard is plowing its way through to Beach City – thus, Steven must get Connie home before they wind up stranded. However, in an attempt to get more time together, they wind up screwing up, Greg winds up crashing his car in a snowbank, and the three have to trek through the tundra. The Maheswarans, surprisingly, aren’t too pleased with this turn of events. Thinking that he may have pulled a David Cameron with his friendship with Connie, Steven begins seeing a pattern on the back of his father’s suit… only to return to the scene of the crash.

Yes, before leaving, Garnet gave Steven a bit of a look into the future. But how does he use it? Who will live in his mindscape? And who could die with every turn?

Review:

Starting with a personal tangent here – winter is not my favorite season. I dislike the cold, layering up in clothing is an irritating waste of time, snow is a nuisance for the road (although snow days for schools are rather cool), digging out is a nightmare, and any sort of outdoor activities are restricted (granted, I’m not an outdoorsman, but still). Not helping is that, in the New York area (where I live), winter conditions (within a week, like this past one) often vary from “barely present” to “makes New York residents forget the intricacies of global climate change.”

 

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Yes, because man-made global climate change always results in unseasonable warmth during the winter. (Fun fact – thanks to this particular New Yorker’s newest hobby, this sage advice will be stored by the federal government in perpetuity.)

 

Still, I will admit that winter tends to stir up some rather passionate and warm feelings. While there’s a loud passion about summer, a nostalgia about fall, or a romance about spring, winter gives us a more subdued, warm atmosphere. All I want to do when the snow falls is switch the kettle on and drink a nice cup of tea. In short, while I dislike the technical aspects of winter, I absolutely admire what it symbolizes.

I think that explains part of my warm feelings towards this warm, warm episode of Steven Universe – a fine showcase on one of the most enduring partnerships I’ve seen in any sort of media, as well as a more positive follow-up to the more dramatic “Future Vision” and a damn fine analysis of leadership presented by Steven and Garnet. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "The Test" (Season 1B, Episode 12)

 

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Ow.

 

“I’m now the owner of the golden can opener. Yes… yes…” – Garnet. Ah, the thrills of opening a can WITH GOLD!

Airdate: January 22nd, 2015
Written By: Hilary Florido and Katie Mitroff
Plot: It’s a rainy, miserable day in Beach City. While looking for another board game to play with the Gems, Steven comes across the Moon Goddess Statue. One thing leads to another, and Steven finds out that his trip to the now-destroyed Lunar Sea Spire was a test – and a relatively easy one at that. Demanding a new challenge, the Gems create a module for Steven to avoid high-intensity dangers. As he almost finishes up, he finds out that this test was fixed, as well.

Review:

Dear Cartoon Network schedule builders, thank you for your obsession with Teen Titans Go and “The Answer”. Because of that, this episode barely airs on TV. I betcha that Rebecca Sugar probably wrote several letters to this extent, and Cartoon Network simply responded by threatening to go back to the days of November 2015, when Teen Titans Go aired with a borderline illegal frequency on the network. (Yes, we get it. The award for sound design went to Rob. Please shut up.)

So, anyway, “The Test”. Whereas “Warp Tour” focused more on driving the plot forward by introducing one of the show’s most beloved characters (by featuring her squishing one of her robonoids), this episode focuses more on fleshing out the Crystal Gem Trio, their relationship with Steven, and how the hell they can function as guardians – especially with the specter of Rose lingering over the quartet.

Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Warp Tour" (Season 1B, Episode 11)

 

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Whoever thought of this defense mechanism owes Brad Bird some money.

 

“Sneeze into your anticubital fossa!” – Pearl, giving advice that could very well screw the quartet all over. Or save them…

Airdate: January 8th, 2015
Written By: Raven Molisee and Paul Villeco.

Plot: While in transport between planets, Steven accidentally sneezes his head out of the warp. Whilst there, he catches sight of a foreign object being pulled within a warp. Pulled back in, he becomes convinced that he saw something, while the others insist that they are alone, stuck on Earth. Trying to ease his mind, they take a tour to the various other places they’ve traveled to in the past, eventually causing Steven to relent.

However, he overhears them reveal their true intent of the trip – just to pacify the kid – and is genuinely offended, especially at Pearl, who’s been more arrogant than normal. With the trio thinking that the kid’s gone nuts, an exhausted Steven is finally ready just to shut up about the whole thing when he comes across the UFO – one that takes him into the warp pad, puts him on the brink of death, and brings the Crystal Gems within inches of an alien technician…

Review:

Ah, here we are. The final part of what I consider to be the Steven Universe “Imperial Phase” trilogy.

If “Lion 3” was the bedrock for Rose to be placed on, and “Alone Together” the centerpiece for Steven and Connie to transcend notions of friendship and gender, then “Warp Tour” is the episode that formally cemented Steven Universe as a piece of dramatic science fiction – a transition that started with Lapis Lazuli’s release in “Mirror Gem” – via its introduction of what would become one of the show’s most beloved characters. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Mirror Gem" (Season 1A, Episode 25)

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“School’s out!” – Steven, after taking a class on a Gem mirror. His summer vacation takes a bit of a downward turn from there.

Airdate: September 22nd, 2014

Writers: Raven Molisee and Paul Villeco

Plot: Steven, as it turns out, hasn’t received formal schooling. At all. He manages to get Pearl to teach him a lesson – one revolving around a magic hand mirror. At first, it appears that the magic mirror doesn’t work. However, it begins repeating phrases that it overhears during Steven’s walk. In a way, it becomes sentient. And when the Gems find out, they all begin to think that Steven might be in danger. However, Steven also begins to think that the mirror itself is in danger.

Review (SPOILERS):

“Mirror Gem” is well known in the Steven Universe fandom for it’s twist, one that completely re-routed the plot development in Steven Universe and marked the show’s transformation into a dramatic, science fiction epic…

Pearl stabbed MC Bear Bear! 

That’s just an absolute tragedy, unforeseen in the show’s canon. And for one of our heroes to do it? An action on par with the destruction of Alderaan, that is. It’s as if a stuffed bear cried out in shock… and then was silenced…

…oh, and Steven lets loose a gem, one that’s hostile to the Trio and wants them dead because, apparently, they effectively imprisoned and kidnapped her before tossing her mirror prison aside like a subpar movie that they got at the Walmart dollar bin.

Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Coach Steven" (Season 1A, Episode 20)

 

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You’ve messed with Sugilite for the last time! Prepare! For! GLOBNAR!!!!

 

Airdate: August 21st, 2014

Plot: A Gem communication hub is causing bursts of electromagnetic interference. The effects? As Garnet puts it, “it’s hurting television”. Rather than one of Pearl’s strategic moves, Garnet instead opts to use raw power.

“Amethyst, fuse with me.”

Enter Sugilite. Built, arrogant and boisterous, she becomes reckless in her destruction of the hub. This doesn’t deter Steven, who suddenly wants to become macho, buff, full of muscle. Hell, he even recruits others (Lars, Sadie, Greg) to join him in his quest to become built. Pearl, though, is driven up the wall because of this.

Review (SPOILERS): First, no, I don’t really listen to Nikki Minaj’s music. I could not care less about it. I’ll stick with the Pet Shop Boys and whatever’s playing on WBAB and WLIX, thank you very much. She does a rather good job in voice acting, though.

Now that my disclaimer is out of the way…

There’s a lot of irony in the title of this episode. Despite the title indicating that this will focus on Steven, instead, we get what might be the very first “Pearl Pathos” episode – an episode revolving around fleshing out Pearl beyond her neurotic exterior. That helps combine with a bit of social analysis to create what might be the standout episode from Season 1A. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Lion 2: The Movie" (Season 1A, Episode 17)

 

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The difference between this and IMAX? IMAX is slightly less deadly. Slightly.

 

 

Airdate: April 23rd, 2014

Plot: Steven and his once bubble buddy Connie want to go see Dogcopter 3, the movie based on a series of books. To try and get to the theater in time for the showing, they take Steven’s really, really pink lion. However, said lion takes a little detour through a wormhole into a cave full of armor, weaponry, and all that.

Review: We’re about ten episodes away from Steven Universe‘s first “epic” story – the “Mirror Gem/Ocean Gem” two parter. Those episodes are often cited as the moment that propelled Steven Universe from merely a quirky Cartoon Network cartoon into one of the most lauded science fiction shows of all time. From that moment on, episode upon episode became laden with heavy character development, emotional levity, and an awesome soundtrack from Sucrose and Co.

However, the seeds for what seems to be the show’s current critical “imperial phase” (to steal a saying coined by the Pet Shop Boys) have been sown all along – even as far back as “Gem Glow”. Few episodes in Season 1A, though, laid more seeds than “Lion 2: The Movie”
Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Giant Woman" (Season 1A, Episode 12)

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Airdate: February 24th, 2014

Synopsis: A fight between Pearl and Amethyst leads to Steven finding out about Opal. Who is Opal? Well, Amethyst describes it as “the two of us – mashed together!” Basically, Opal is a fusion between Amethyst and Pearl, combining their personalities and attributes to form a cohesive whole. Trouble is, the two are like a Prius and a Hummer.

Good timing – Garnet chucks the three up to the Sky Spire to get the Heaven Beetle, and requests that Steven act as a mediator. He does this by requesting Opal – even singing about it. Eventually, they come across said beetle… guarded by a bird. One who eats Steven and his pet goat.

Review: One of the great things about science fiction shows is the more liberal story engine that they tend to share. Most importantly, this affects character interactions. Sure, talking can be done anywhere, but some of the vehicles found in science fiction allow for characters to truly understand their own or each other’s position – whether it be mindswaps, alternate realities, or, in this case, fusions.

For Steven Universe, it’s fusion. This being the first episode to explore the concept, we “merely” get a look at the powers within.

Well, that would be the case for most other TV shows.

Rather, this episode presents a sizeable chunk of character analysis and interactions in 11 minutes, and the end result is one of the early greats in the Steven Universe canon. Continue reading