Steven Universe Review: “Steven Floats” (Season 3, Episode 6)

Screen Shot 2018-12-22 at 2.02.47 PM.png
“…noughts and crosses?”

“Oh, Steven! How do you keep getting in these predicaments?” – Steven himself. You just had to find that Lapis-containing mirror, Pearl. You just had to find it!

Airdate: July 18th, 2016.

Written By: Paul Villeco.

Plot: The prospect of having the first Big Donut donut of the day on his first day back in Beach City excites Steven so much, he flies in the air. Trouble is, he has a hard time falling back down. Y’know, his powers being tied to his emotions and all that.

Review:

Steven Universe has become almost legendary for having a rather erratic airing schedule. The show will often disappear from the Cartoon Network roster for weeks – if not months – on end, only to show up with a week straight of new episodes, every night. Occasionally, you get a more traditional airing schedule – an episode or two weekly – for a few weeks before it was yanked off the schedule yet again.

This whole rigamarole began in March of 2015, with the first StevenBomb, and has continued ever since. Some commentators have speculated that this is part of a ratings grab by the network – that Steven Universe episodes can net high ratings for their premiere dates, all while apparently less expensive shows (cough*TeenTitansGo*cough) get rerun slots that can allow for higher profit margins per rerun broadcast.

Alternately, this could be a response to the rise of streaming services that allow for multiple episodes to be viewed in one sitting, serving as an effective competition to traditional TV (with some theorizing that traditional Cable might be closer to the sunset, in favor of IPTV and Netflix/Hulu services). Complementary to this, TV shows have become increasingly serialized. Steven Universe is a rather serialized show, but showing an entire season in one go would be a rating debacle for the network. (They tried it with Summer Camp Island in 2018 – that show has vanished from the schedule since, although it might pop up in 2019.) This could serve as a happy medium – the network could have their cake and eat it too! And since the 6-11 demos were largely out of school and had reduced responsibilities, well, bingo bongo!

Hence, the Summer of Steven – a month straight of new Steven Universe episodes. And what better way to kick it off by returning the show to its roots – literally and figuratively? Continue reading

Advertisements

Steven Universe Review: “Hit The Diamond” (Season 3, Episode 5)

Before I begin, I would like to celebrate a meaningless milestone – 400 posts on this blog! First off, I just want to thank everybody that’s continued to read and comment on my blog over the past few years. I can’t thank you enough.

Now, here’s the dealio. For my 100th, 200th, and 300th posts, I took on a Star Trek movie – Wrath of Khan, Final Frontier, and Generations, respectively. While I did initially intend to tackle Star Trek (2009) for the 400th, I’ve ultimately decided to push the Trek 09 review towards the Christmas season, given that a) it’s a monumental movie, in terms of the Star Trek franchise, b) there is a lot to unpack with that movie, and c) it would bring the movie just a little bit closer to the decade of its debut in American theaters.

In effect, this review will be a bit more muted. For reasons that I will talk about in the review, though, this subject still reflects something of a memorable moment in the Steven Universe franchise.


screen-shot-2018-11-24-at-7-05-39-pm.png

“Alright, it’s the bottom of the ninth. We’ve got Lapis on second, but one more out and the game’s over for us. We need to hit a home run.” – Steven. The counterargument, as per Moneyball, get on base. Boom – hit it far enough to get Lapis to third, and get somebody that won’t be distracted by the Ruby to send two of the home team, well, home.

Airdate: June 2nd, 2016.

Written By: Jeff Liu and Joe Johnston

Plot: A quintet of Rubies has crash-landed in Delmarva, and they’re not happy. Neither is Peridot, thinking that this is the end of the line for them all. While Garnet un-fuses to get Ruby to play with the quintet’s… absent-mindedness, Amethyst’s recommendation that Steven have a baseball bat ready to go leads him to strike a deal. The Homeworld ship can search the barn if, if, they win a game of baseball. This seems easier said than done, especially since two participants on opposing teams are infatuated with one another.

Review:

Let’s just get this blast of admiration out of the way.

I love baseball.

There’s the tension between the pitcher and the batter, as the former tries to outwit the latter and protect his lead, all while the batter could very well have the scoring opportunities of three men on the line. There’s the utter thrill of watching a ball fly in the air, hoping that it becomes unreachable to the opposition outfield to secure every run possible. Likewise, watching a pitcher throw a no-hitter (or, maybe, a perfect game) manages to demonstrate the sheer power of strategy on top of arm strength. The dichotomy between the defensive side and the offensive side makes each half-inning starker than any other sport (except for Cricket, I think). How every single play, every single strike, every single movement matters – any team can theoretically come back in the bottom of the ninth. And the parity in the MLB is virtually unparalleled, with teams often rotating between rebuilding periods and periods of dominance. The appeal, in my opinion, is ceaseless. For those that like action? There are sluggers across the league. Stats? Nothing less. Strategy? A pitchers duel is right up your alley.

Beyond that, the sport stirs up feelings of nostalgia in many an American (and even quite a few fans from other countries.) Baseball, to me, is permanently intertwined with the seasons of Spring and Summer, as well as the memories within (although the MLB always climaxes in autumn). Kicking back on a spring or a summer night, unwinding, and watching the sunset as our icons take the field. This is triply true for those that are lucky enough to see a game, especially at the highest levels.

Now, I could go on, but I’m going to keep myself brief. Baseball might be my favorite sport, and if it’s not, it’s very close to soccer. I mention my admiration of baseball because that’s the driving force between today’s subject – the Steven Universe episode “Hit The Diamond”.

…and if you’re not a fan of Steven Universe but like other sci-fi shows, a chill ran down your spine. Why didn’t it do the same to me?

And for our Steven Universe fans, why are others that are stumbling across this review freaking out? Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Barn Mates” (Season 3, Episode 4)

screen-shot-2018-10-13-at-12-12-55-pm.png
Can two stateless women share a barn without driving each other crazy?

“We’ll find a home together, and sleep there every night.
There’s a time and place for most things – this time, we’ll get it right.
You may not always love me; I may not care.
But intuition tells me, baby, there’s something we could share if we dare.”
– 
“Why Don’t We Live Together”, Pet Shop Boys

Airdate: May 26th, 2016.

Written By: Hilary Florido and Jesse Zuke (Credited as Lauren Zuke)

Plot: Steven’s best-laid plans for having Peridot and Lapis room together fall apart. Apparently, being kidnapped, interrogated, and left to the devices of a brutish general did not bode well for Lapis’s view of Peridot. Frustrated, Peridot tries to demonstrate that she’s not the same gem that did those pesky little traumas. Hilarity Ensues.

Review:

Well, “Alone Again, Natura-Diddily” got me a bit riled up, huh?

I mean, wow was that bad. It was a disaster on every single level that I have seen in anything that I have reviewed. Honestly, I can single-handedly say that, given everything involved, it will likely be my single least favorite subject that I have ever reviewed. It angered me that much. If I had been reviewing The Simpsons from moment one, that would’ve very likely been the moment I pulled the plug and walked away. There is virtually nothing left of the show.

God, I don’t think I can find an appropriate parallel to my face when I watch episodes from that point on. If only I can find something, anything, to represent how I feel when I was watching… that… if only…

screen-shot-2018-10-13-at-8-28-03-pm.png

NAILED IT, ALL HAIL OUR BLUE TRAGIC WATER GODDESS.

In the last Steven Universe episode, “Same Old World”, Steven tried to introduce the idea of Lapis Lazuli living in the city by relying on some good old TV cliches about Big American City life. Amongst the tropes was the idea that Lazuli could crash with a wacky roommate. It was meant to reflect a strange duality – that the world of Earth was more open to a diverse set of life experiences than the homogony of Homeworld, all while Steven cribbed these ideas from shows akin to The Big Bang Theory (which is a nerdy LA take of “straightlaced guy with a wacky roommate” sitcoms.)

So, plot twist, this episode has Lapis Lazuli paired up with a wacky roommate. Her name is Peridot. She used to work for Homeworld, but a series of rather tragicomic events drove her away. Amongst said events included a failed capture of the Crystal Gems… where she once held Lapis Lazuli prisoner as an informant, before bailing out of the crashing ship.

Well, as long as nobody gets knocked off of bleachers by a barrage of T-shirts, I’m good.
Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Same Old World” (Season 3, Episode 3)

screen-shot-2018-09-28-at-9-51-47-am.png

“Take me out tonight.
Where there’s music, and there’s people, and they’re young and alive
Driving in your car, I never, never want to go home
Because I haven’t got one anymore…”
 “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”, The Smiths

Airdate: May 16th, 2016

Written By: Lamar Abrams and Katie Mitroff

Plot: Having been rescued from the clutches of Malachite, Lapis is trapped in a conundrum. Given what transpired between her and Jasper, returning to Homeworld is out of the question. Yet, she is still adverse to staying on Earth – her past still lingers in her mind. To try and convince her to stay on the planet, Steven offers to take her on a tour around the northeastern United States. Said tour makes Lapis more aware of the world around her… and makes Steven more aware of Lapis’s past.

Review:

Well, after the insanity of Jockey Elves that have a weakness for Hefty Bags, it’s time to bring ourselves down to Earth just a little bit. And what better way to do so then by focusing on a tv episode that revolves around a flying water lady and a half-human fourteen-year-old who acts like a twelve-year-old?

See what you did, Tim Long and Mike Scully?

Anyway… welcome back, Lapis Lazuli.

Many a commentator on Steven Universe has remarked on the transformative nature of Lapis Lazuli’s character. It was, in fact, her appearance that marked Steven Universe‘s transformation from a goofy slice of life comedy with occasional tragic elements, straight into a science fiction space opera-styled comedy-drama. With her appearance, the show begins to embrace the greying of morality from both ends of the spectrum – no character is completely depraved, and no protagonist (not even Steven, occasionally) is free of character failings.

Caught in the center is Lapis Lazuli. She has found herself a captive of both the Crystal Gems and Homeworld forces – the former holding her in the back of a Five Below mirror, the latter manipulating her into a fusion that she immediately drove into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. In many ways, she is probably the show’s most tragic character. Sure, Pearl’s lust over Rose has generated some of the show’s biggest tearjerkers (and, in my opinion, four of the show’s all-time greats.) But while Pearl’s is a deeply romantic tragedy, Lapis Lazuli’s drama centers around the idea of being a stateless woman – unable to return to Homeworld, unable to trust the Crystal Gems or the planet they defend, she is a Gem without a home.

The episode that first peels away at her character is “Same Old World”. And ironically, though this episode may focus on a character that deeply begrudges the Earth, I don’t think that any episode of Steven Universe is as big of a love letter to the planet we inhabit as this one. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Gem Drill” (Season 3, Episode 2)

Steven Universe Gem Drill

Are you ready to drill down into the planet to depths never before reached by your species to stop the Cluster before it forms and save your world? – Peridot. Ma’am, might I direct you to Jules Verne’s 1864 classic?

Airdate: May 12th, 2016.

Written By: Raven Molisee and Paul Villeco.

Plot: With the Earth about ready to explode in a Cluster-related disaster, Steven and Peridot decide to drill to the center of the planet. It’s their one shot, and Peridot will be damned if she can’t wipe them all out. However, as the Gem Shards attack the drill, Steven begins to experience a massive disquiet with the idea.

Review:

Ah, a big one here.

For all that the Steven Universe fandom has been critical of the episodes swinging between Big Ones and “Townies”, let it be known that – at least for me – the big ones are a big reason why so many of us keep up with the show. Because the Big Episodes are generally sublime, universally considered amongst the show’s best. In short, it shows that the Crewniverse are doing something right.

“Gem Drill”, however, might be the most controversial of the Big Ones, apart from maybe “Bismuth”. But while “Bismuth” generated some political controversy, “Gem Drill” found fans debating over whether or not it satisfied the development of the plot well enough – or more specifically, brought a major plot thread to an adequate conclusion.

If I’m honest, the Cluster Arc in Steven Universe was executed in a rather… peculiar way. What was meant to be the Ultimate Destruction of the Earth As We Know It (TM) was actually wrapped up in a rather interesting fashion… not only did the end of the arc not come at the end of a season, it came as the second episode of Season 3. In a show that has at least five seasons.

Many fans have called this a moment of wasted potential for Steven Universe. And in that regard, I can’t totally disagree. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Super Watermelon Island” (Season 3, Episode 1)

Screen Shot 2018-08-16 at 8.36.26 AM

“I’ll never survive – I’m not the Robinson Crusoe type. I’m lousy with woodwork. I’m no good in the wild. Do you know, when I was in school, it took me five terms to make a tent peg? How long is it going to take me to build a two-story home with running water and a balcony/sun patio? Six hundred years? I won’t even have finished planing the wood!” – Rimmer, Red Dwarf, “Rimmerworld”. I use this quote because, if a bunch of watermelons whose species came from a thirteen-year old’s saliva can create their own functioning society within months, you have no excuse at all.

Airdate: May 12, 2016

Written By: Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu

Plot: On an island somewhere far from Beach City, a civilization of watermelons that look strikingly familiar have set up shop and embraced the agricultural society. Beyond that, they have also taken to occasional sacrifices… particularly with a mega-sized Gem Fusion that is constantly in conflict.

Yup – it’s Malachite! With Steven having possessed a now-dead Watermelon Steven, he alerts the Crystal Gems to this predicament, and the trio go to the island to try and take her down. With encouragement from Peridot, Steven winds up sleeping his way into aiding his comrades.

Review:

Steven Universe‘s third season found it’s genesis in a rather unique way. Technically, it was intended to be the back half of a 52-episode Season 2 of Steven Universe. However, for reasons that I can only assume include Christine Miller wanting a brand new vacation villa, the season was split in half.

Which, strangely enough, worked out well. I mean, Season 1 was basically two seasons – the very comic and lighthearted 1A, and the more dramatic and arc-driven 1B. Likewise, the resultant Season 2 largely dealt with Peridot’s fall and rebirth, as she went from chasing the Crystal Gems in the name of Homeworld to trying to save the Earth, defecting from and angering Homeworld as a result.

Season 3’s arc, then, can be summed up as “Steven tries to solve everybody’s problems, and this time, he isn’t quite as successful.” I mean, he did play a decently-sized role in reforming Peridot, even if her defection came from her own conclusions. This season will see that idea of Steven the Grand Savior rebutted with example after example of how it doesn’t always pan out this way, as well as shine a light on some of the darker layers of the Crystal Gems.

And we kick off this season with… his children. Made of watermelon. Continue reading

Sketching The Next Several Months of The Review Nebula

Hey, look – I posted for the first time in a week and change!

Yeah, sorry about that. I have no real excuse this time. I got a bit caught up in World Cup action (really, Germany), took advantage somewhat of the nice weather here on Long Island… but really, those aren’t even great excuses.

Simply put, I think I hit something of a writer’s block with my recent review, for reasons that will become apparent when it posts tomorrow morning. Don’t worry, the next few things I’m reviewing should pique everybody’s interest. Continue reading