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 (note: not 4000 words. I may be insane, but not that insane):

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 weeklong 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

Steven Universe Review: “Rose’s Scabbard” (Season 1B, Episode 19)

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Kid… believe me. You haven’t seen the half of awkwardness.

“It held your mother’s sword. Nothing else could fit so perfectly.” – Pearl, not even trying to hide her crush on Steven’s dead mom when talking about the titular scabbard. And believe me, it just gets more unnerving from there…

Airdate: March 9th, 2015

Written by: Rebecca Sugar, Ravin Molisee, and Paul Villeco

Plot: At the Strawberry Fields, Lion unearths an old scabbard. Pearl instantly recognizes it as one to Rose’s sword and begins waxing quite a bit of nostalgia over it. Determined to have Steven comprehend it’s importance, she takes Steven to the storage cave where the sword is said to reside… and is shocked when Steven not only knows how to access the armor and weaponry, but that the sword lay in Lion’s mane. In fact, Pearl is quite shocked that Rose even had a lion in the first place.

A breakdown ensues.

Review (WARNING: LONG REVIEW AHEAD):

In 1990, the Pet Shop Boys released their single, “Being Boring” – a song about a man’s idealism being compromised by the inexorable march of time. Once mingling amongst the crowds of parties inspired by “a famous writer from the 1920s”, he’s now alone, having formed his own successful path while those around him, including his partner, died. In spite of its comparatively weaker chart performance, “Being Boring” has become Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s most acclaimed song, and it’s easy to see why. It combines beautiful vocals; melancholic themes of love, loss, and regret; and gorgeous instrumentation.

Bizarrely, that song reminds me of this particular Steven Universe episode, “Rose’s Scabbard”. I know what you might be thinking – doesn’t this connection seem a bit tangential? A pop record and an episode of a cartoon? When you put it that way, it might be. Still… may as well go to another dynamic duo – that of Steven and Pearl.

Full disclosure – Pearl is my favorite Steven Universe protagonist, and probably my all-time favorite character. Sure, many fans might feel enthralled by Garnet, or might really believe in Steven. Personally, though, Pearl is one of the most complex and well-written characters in western animation – behind the intellect she possesses is a character full of neuroses and faults, yet one that remains lovable.

Makes sense, then, that one of my favorite characters is the main focus of an episode that is cited as a fan favorite. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Marble Madness” (Season 1B, Episode 18)

Round FIVE! Yes. Five.
This is the fight that goes on forever Because it never, ever ends!

“They just keep coming and coming!” – Pearl, as the Crystal Gems beat up the marble pictured above.

Airdate: March 5th, 2015

Written By: Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu

Plot: Steven has to balance two things going on in his life at one moment. The first, is a new book series that Connie introduces him to, The Spirit Morph Saga. He winds up being fantastically wrong when it comes to book order. The second, a series of Robonoids are crashing into the Earth. The Gems defeat them, relax, and fight another one. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Review:

Steven Universe is loved for many reasons. Some cite the animation, which is unrivaled at it’s best. Some cite the voice acting – making every single character seem even more real than before. Some cite the show’s liberal values, which have probably caused a couple of fans to ship copies of the few SU DVDs to Mar-A-Lago with rants scrawled on the box. (If anybody actually did so, those discs are probably Diet Coke coasters right now.) Some (such as myself) cite the characters – with one or two exceptions, they are all so vibrant, so sympathetic, and so full of life. And, lastly, some cite the second layer that every good piece of literature/film/TV has… a plot.

“Marble Madness” shows Steven Universe return to its plot – one of political separation, of attempts to get old territory back, and the march of history. Still, this plot is driven by its characters – in this episode, the titular one. Continue reading

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)

I have a feeling that somebody’s gonna turn this scene into 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 at 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.”

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