Steven Universe Review: “Reformed” (Season 2, Episode 4)

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Don’t worry. I have an old friend who shares your pain. His name is Mr. McGreg.

“What’s the right answer?” “There is no right answer.” – Steven and Amethyst. Open-ended questions… one’s kryptonite, one’s source of power…

Airdate: April 30th, 2015

Written By: Raven Molisee and Paul Villeco.

Plot: Steven’s attempt to administer a Crying Breakfast Friends personality quiz to Amethyst is interrupted by a mission – catch a mysterious entity within Amethyst’s junkyard of a room. Unfortunately, Amethyst is feeling particularly insecure, and tensions culminate in Amethyst getting poofed and forced to regenerate. Several times. To extents that are less hilarious than the descriptions of said regenerations would leave you to believe.

Review:

“Who wants to watch a cartoon about people crying?

Let’s be real here – chances are, fans who got into Steven Universe during Season 1A were not prepared for the sheer emotional rollercoaster that was to occur. Sure, they got “So Many Birthdays” and “An Indirect Kiss”, but it seemed like Sucrose and Co would come down closer to the side of comedy rather than drama more often than not. Boy, were they in for a shock…

I really got into the show during Season 2, though, so I knew damn well what I was getting into when I began watching on a regular basis. By that point, the show had thrown at a floored fanbase such happy episodes like “Lion 3: Straight to Video”, “Rose’s Scabbard”, and “On The Run” – the latter of which forms the basis for today’s episode, “Reformed”.

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Steven Universe Review: “Love Letters” (Season 2, Episode 3)

 

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Love burns.

“When I saw you rise like an ancient sea nymph, a white-hot steel pierced the deepest artery of my being! You, you are a cardiac surgeon and I am your transplant patient, and you stand poised over my chest, holding my still-beating heart, hesitating, waiting, wondering!” – Um, I think this letter speaks for itself…

Airdate: April 23, 2015

Written By: Lamar Abrams and Hellen Jo

Plot: While working his mail route (involving dropping off Sea Pals at Steven’s house), Jamie manages to catch Garnet walking out of the ocean. Immediately, his heart starts missing a beat, his heart starts missing a beat everytime… uh, where was I? Oh, yeah, he becomes infatuated with Garnet and pens a (very verbose) letter asking her out on a date. Just one problem – Garnet ain’t interested. So it’s up to Steven, Connie, and Garnet to reject him, be it by a simple letter, or through pose thick enough to insulate a house in Montreal.

Review:

Love. It’s in the air. It’s all you need. It comes quickly, whatever you do. It will tear us apart. And most of all, it’s the answer.

If I could sum up Steven Universe in one word, it would be love. A love for Earth, a love for the ideas that drive our modern society, a romanticism of reform, an admiration for the people around us, familial love, platonic love, romantic love, forbidden love, love that builds us up, love that brings us down. It’s a beautiful emotion that drives us to our best, but also a toxic state of mind that surrenders us to our id.

But what is lo… actually, no, I’m not going there. How do we know when we’re in love? What if we’re just devoting ourselves to a lost cause without actually providing any insight into our “target”? What if we’re just trapped in a state of (I don’t know how else to put this) lust?

Thus, the stage is set for what is largely a four-man performance – Steven Quartz Universe, the heart; Connie, the bookish intellectual; Garnet, the alien enigma, and Jamie, the romantic working-class hero. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Joy Ride” (Season 2, Episode 2)

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Now, this is what summer’s all about. Top down, Ozzy’s Boneyard on the radio, and an emotionally scarred 13-year old in the front passenger seat. Did Top Gear ever capture this beauty?

“I only wanted to see you laughing… in the pizza rain.” – Buck Dewey. And with that, the characters disappeared in a little red corvette, partying like it’s 1999, going uptown.

Airdate: March 26th, 2015

Written By: Hilary Florido and Katie Mitroff

Plot: The Gems apparently have never heard of the cliche, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, and are on edge after the recent events – Steven in particular. After a long day of picking up debris, Steven is woken up by the Cool Kids, who convince him to come on a ride. Out in the sticks, they come across a pod… Peridot’s pod…

Review:

Steven’s life is both the road to heaven and the road to hell.

On one hand, we have a protagonist that is discovering these various superpowers, is half-alien, lives with (and was all but raised by) three warrior alien ladies, has an intellectual and compassionate confidante in Connie, a kickass ex-rocker (if somewhat dorky) dad, and isn’t afraid to showcase his own emotions. Steven’s one of the friendliest, warmest, happiest protagonists in all of animated television, and anybody that meets him is bound to have a good time.

On the other hand, he’s the son of a separatist, never even got to meet her, has been labeled public enemy number one by an alien civilization millions of miles away, is only just learning to control his powers, is naive to a fault, has been kept in the dark for his whole life so far, and is being raised by three soldiers who have no idea what the hell they are doing. He’s screwed, and anybody that allies with him is in for a world of emotional shock.

We want to be Steven… and yet, in some ways, we don’t want anything to do with the kid.

How does the kid deal with the pressures of his two lives? Well, “Joy Ride” provides an intriguing answer, thanks in part to the Cool Kids. Not too much to say about this one, but we do get some more insight into their behavior. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Full Disclosure” (Season 2, Episode 1)

Before the review, just a brief PSA – my thoughts go out to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, including (but not limited to) the relatives of victims, be they deceased or “merely” homeless. The flooding is devastating right now, will likely be so for days, and there are certainly people in the Houston area who face a reset of their whole lives. I am certain that Texas and Louisiana, though, are resilient and will recover from this disaster smarter, stronger, and more united than ever before. Still, I encourage you if possible to donate even a dollar (or pound, or whatever) to a relief organization of your choice, be it the American Red Cross or whatever.

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“That could’ve gone a lot worse!” “Could’ve gone a lot better, too!” – Pearl and Garnet, starting off the season on a rather… pragmatic note.

Airdate: March 13th, 2015

Written By: Raven Molisee and Paul Villeco.

Plot: That little incident with Homeworld has done a number – Steven’s wanted, Beach City is trashed, and Connie is worried sick. So worried, in fact, that she calls Steven just to make sure he’s alright. Steven, however, is afraid that he might drive Connie to a fatal heart attack. His fears are compounded when Ronaldo encourages him to protect her by cutting himself off from the world. Smart move, kid – especially since Connie is probably the single smartest person in the state.

Review:

“Steven, I got your message. Are you OK? What’s going on?”

Well, here we go – Season 2 of Steven Universe. This season has a personal significance to me – being that I watched the second half as a fan of the show. I had caught up on various episodes prior, but this had been the first season where I considered SU priority viewing. We’re not there yet, but strap in, as we get a fun block of episodes.

Much like the last episode after a two-parter, we follow up on the events of “Jailbreak”  – in this case, immediately. And while the last “downbeat” episode focused on Steven’s relationship with Greg, this episode mentions that while zeroing in on Steven’s budding partnership with Connie.

First, though, I have a question… who here has heard Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall”? Continue reading

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: “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

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: "Future Vision" (Season 1B, Episode 13)

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NO! NO, NOT THE BEES! NOT THE BEES! AAAAHHHH!!!!

“You could just be going on about your business, eating your fry bits, and then suddenly you choke to death!” – Garnet. Hey, dying eating fries ain’t a clean way to go, but it could be worse. Far worse.

Airdate: January 29th, 2015
Written By: Lamar Abrams and Hellen Jo
Plot: After saving Steven from an object on the stairs, Garnet informs the kid about her “future vision” – one that allows her to see the paths that the world can take. At first, Steven uses Garnet’s power to decipher what path his life will take. Unfortunately, Garnet also notes that he can see possibilities for a more permanent end for our little Stew-ball. Kid goes paranoid, and even contemplates suicide just to fulfill Garnet’s predictions.

This airs on a network aimed towards children. Just putting it out there.

Review:

Should we have access to what could happen in the future? Can we change the concepts of causality, or does our knowledge of the future only damn us to it with an increased sense of fear? These concepts have been explored in various science fiction shows and books. Hell, it actually provided the plot of Red Dwarf‘s second episode – “Future Echoes”. In that episode, the Red Dwarf crew (or what’s now left of it) experience the titular phenomenon – events in the future that are seen in the present. Lister slowly becomes paranoid after seeing a vision of his death and tries to prevent the future, but when events shown in the echoes start occurring, he prepares himself for the end. (When all is said and done, the only thing that they find out is that Lister will wind up with twins – and that doesn’t happen until series 2, thanks to Lister having a drunken one-night stand with a woman who happens to be himself. He has to have a caesarean. Yes. He.)

As you can tell, it’s a very fun topic to send up – allowing for cool comedy and delicious drama. Steven Universe adds its own twist to the equation by having a character experience these future echoes all of the time.

So, what about Garnet’s third eye? Yeah, we don’t see it that often because she has those shades (which are, quite frankly, freaking awesome), but she does have it. We saw it in “Arcade Mania”, as a way for Garnet to succeed at the Meat Beat Mania game. How did she do it? Well, one could argue that Garnet is focused on whatever task she has in front of her, and uses that third eye to that advantage. This episode proposes option B – that she saw what was going on in the future, and used insane dexterity to reach that goal.
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Steven Universe Review: "Watermelon Steven" (Season 1B, Episode 8)

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The Cat: Think of all the glorious, beautiful, wondrous things about having children.
Lister: Like?
The Cat: Like when they grow up and leave home!
Red Dwarf, “Parallel Universe”.

Airdate: November 20th, 2014

Written By: Lamar Abrams and Hellen Jo.

Plot: Steven and Greg spend one evening holding a watermelon seed spitting contest. Steven wins by a mile. The next morning, he wakes up surrounded by a bunch of humanoid watermelons. Stunned, he learns that Rose grew plants as a form of defense. Not seeing them move, he decides to sell them. It’s only thanks to Onion’s daily high misdemeanor that Steven realizes that they can move. And, indeed, anybody that wrongs Steven even slightly – even lays a finger on them – faces an ass kicking. And, no, the Crystal Gems are not spared.

Review:

I seriously can’t believe I have to type these words out… Steven has sired an entire species of watermelons. By spitting out seeds.

Yes. Steven is effectively a father. And God. James Kirk and Benjamin Sisko, eat your heart out – Steven has usurped both of you. One can only laugh.

How the hell do I review this? “Watermelon Steven” has one of those “high concept” plots that should make for epic episodes. Hey, characters creating species gave us “Godfellas”, often considered one of the most thought provoking and best Futurama episodes of all time. The last time I reviewed something that directly dealt with God, though, it had Kirk and his friends sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and Uhura fan-dancing, before they met a version of God that looked like an effect from The Wizard of Oz.

Not helping is that this episode was written by Lamar Abrams and Hellen Jo, who contributed to the relative mess that was “Fusion Cuisine”. My expectations are lowered thus – if this episode turns out to be worse, I’ll ask Paddy Ashdown how to best prepare a hat for consumption.

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