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

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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

Steven Universe Review: “The Return” (Season 1B, Episode 26)

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“E-vac-u-ate!” – Mayor Dewey, putting “get out of dodge” succulently.

AirdateMarch 12th, 2015

Written By: Raven Molisee and Paul Vilecco.

Plot: Lapis’s warning was rather prescient, as a hand of death makes its way from space into Beach City. The town bails out, and Steven is sent along to keep them calm and help them carry on. However, Steven encounters a disquiet when he realizes the sheer scale of the conflict and that the Crystal Gems may have thrown themselves to the wolves.

Review:

Well, after two long years, here I am – the end of Steven Universe Season 1.

And what a season it was. I mean, consider that the show was advertised as “some kid rooms with aliens, eats ice cream, and acts like a dork”. Now consider that Season 1B has exposed our protagonists as psychologically messed up, unsure of what the hell they’ve been doing or will do, and you start to realize that either Cartoon Network’s marketing department is incompetent, or Sucrose played them (and, by extension, us) for fools. In a good way.

With Steven Universe cementing itself as a more (albeit not exclusively) serialized dramedy in Season 1B, it was imperative that the two-part finale serve as the coda to the themes that this season was built on. Now the question is – what does “The Return” do to make said coda as effective as possible?

The answer – it focuses on Steven. That’s a good sign.

(And it’s written by the duo that’s partially responsible for “Rose’s Scabbard”. Even juicier!)

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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?

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Steven Universe Review – “The Message” (Season 1B, Episode 24)

 

That's a huge marshmallow mic.
That’s one huge marshmelon on a stick.

Don’t you know? Video killed the audio star!” “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” – Steven and Greg. Well, this episode does have a message – raise your kids on healthy doses of new wave.

Airdate: March 10th, 2015

Written by: Lamar Abrams and Hellen Jo

Plot: Remember the wailing stone that the Crystal Gems picked up in the northern hemisphere? Well, it’s starting to receive transmissions from parts unknown. With no way to transmit it, the Gems reluctantly turn to everybody’s favorite van dweller. Their expectations are lowered, not necessarily to Greg’s pleasure. Little do they know that the message is being transmitted from Steven’s old summer fun buddy…

Review:

Well, here we are. The first episode of Season 1B’s ending arc.

It’s been a long time, eh?

To frame it all, the end of Season 1A was epochal in the grand scheme of the series, expanding Steven Universe’s universe (heh) far beyond Beach City into the darkest and deepest depths of space. However, the heart of the show still lies solely amongst the Crystal Gems and their interactions with each other and the worlds they are trapped between. Aliens on Earth, expelled from their own land, all but raising their dead leader’s son while shutting out his father, they are in a continuous balancing act.

“The Message” finally confirms that the house of cards that they built up for many years has finally, completely collapsed – and while many are involved, no one else bears witness to this like Greg does.

(And yes, I am aware this makes our second Greg episode in a row. Neat, eh?)

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Steven Universe Review: “Story for Steven” (Season 1B, Episode 23)

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This is the tale of how your father met your mother… now including Marty…” – Greg. Lemme guess. It’s gonna take nine years to tell the story only for you to realize you should’ve dated your Canadian tomboy best friend?

Airdate: April 9th, 2015

Written By: Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu

Plot: Greg regales Steven with a story about how he met Rose Quartz. Way back when, Greg was a struggling rock and roll legend playing to scarce audiences. One attendee, Rose Quartz, catches his eye after a Beach City concert. Meeting her further, he winds up in the decision of his life – the aimless career of a rock and roller, or a romance with a far-out space woman…

Review:

A breather from Steven Universe‘s plot development was, in some ways, necessary. I mean, “Rose’s Scabbard” was one of the most emotionally draining episodes in the show’s canon, punching the viewer in the gut and managing to fuse saudade with a tinge of cautious optimism. In the original production order, following that is a Conniverse two-hander that showcases what makes Steven and Connie tick, a “townie” episode that fleshes out the Dewey family and has Steven try and solve an issue on his own merits, and… whatever the hell this is.

But all breaks must come to an end. On that note, Steven Universe plunges back into plot development with “Story for Steven”. Even more intriguing is that this is a flashback episode – one that allows for the show to deviate somewhat from its Steven-centered perspective.

And what better character to inaugurate our first flashback episode than Steven’s own father, and how he quit the rock and roll industry and found love within the span of a few short hours. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Say Uncle” (Season 1B, Episode 22)

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On one hand, it’s less creepy than it looks. On the other hand, it’s even more insane than it looks.

Amethyst, have you seen Steven this morning?” “Yeah – he’s hanging out with some weirdo. I think he’s trying to vaporize Steven!” – Pearl and Amethyst. I’m not going any further.

Airdate: April 2nd, 2015.

Written By: Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu… apparently.

Plot: Steven is still fretting about how he can’t get his shield to generate. He wishes that someone will help him find a way. That someone happens to be Uncle Grandpa, a strange… thing that tries to help people, only to make them wonder if the water supply has been poisoned. Naturally, the Crystal Gems decide to kick his ass.

Review:

This past May, Time Magazine wrote up a piece relating to President Trump’s new and thus-far eccentric term in office. One aspect of the essay that got attention related to the President’s dining habits. Time not only noted that the President takes Diet Coke with his food and has various other alterations to his dinner, but that instead of the customary one scoop of vanilla ice cream with his pie, he takes two. This scoop encouraged a full-blown report on sister news source CNN, led some to question whether the president was mentally fit for his role as commander in chief, and led others to further despair about the state of American news media.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking… what does this have to do with Steven Universe?

The answer might surprise you…88d76-screen2bshot2b2016-04-292bat2b7-08-252bam

NOTHING! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! In fact, it bears no impact on anything whatsoever, outside of Coca-Cola stock!

Now, here’s my review of “Say Uncle”, an episode that makes about as much sense.

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Steven Universe Review: “Shirt Club” (Season 1B, Episode 21)

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“It’s so current, you can’t stop it. I’m a taste maker, 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.

Review:

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?

Hence, “Shirt Club”.

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Steven Universe Review: “Open Book” (Season 1B, Episode 20)

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FYI – This is the perfect screenshot to use if you ever want to milk some money off of clickbait! You won’t believe what happens at the wedding! #21 is the cooliest!

“It completely dropped all the anti-authoritarian stuff and described a wedding cake for 50 pages!” “Yeah! That cake was worthy of 20 pages – tops. There weren’t any strawberries on it!” – Connie and Steven, starting an in-depth analysis of a book series. Truly, they are the Siskel and Ebert of the book world.

Airdate: March 19th, 2015

Written By: Hilary Florido and Katie Mitroff.

Plot: Connie is miffed that her favorite book series, The Spirit Morph Saga, ended with the two protagonists getting hitched. Having heard her rant about how the ending defied everything the book was meant to represent, Steven allows Connie to generate her own ending of the book in Rose’s Room. And as is the way in Rose’s Room, everything goes south, as well as a bit psychological.

Review:

So…

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…how do you follow up on that?

I mean, the writers had to know that “Rose’s Scabbard” would drain the viewers emotionally. Let’s also combine that with the fact that there exists a wide swath of fans – myself includedthat consider it their single favorite of Steven Universe. So, how the hell were the Crewniverse going to follow up on what was arguably their Mona Lisa?

They didn’t have to, strangely enough. Thanks to Cartoon Network, they were able to slide “Rose’s Scabbard” at the start of a week-long sequence of more dramatic and plot-driven episodes, up to and including the season finale. Thus, the writers had carte blanche to do whatever the hell they wanted.

So… what about something of a two-hander to change things up? Continue reading