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 (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: “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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Steven Universe Review: "Island Adventure" (Season 1B, Episode 4)

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It could be worse. You could be trapped on a shuttle that crashed on an ice planet.

“I’m the warp master!“That’s nice, Steven.” – Steven and Sadie, the latter starting to sound like she knows where her life is going, and ain’t liking it.

Airdate: October 23rd, 2014

Written By: Raven Molisee and Paul Villeco

Plot: While bragging about his ability to warp to Lars and Sadie, Steven realizes that the two’s relationship is down in the dumps… to say the very least. He suggests the trio go to the island that he and the Crystal Gems were on just before. Lars doesn’t want to stay, but the Warp Pad goes missing, thus stranding them on the island. There, Lars’s emotional defenses begin breaking down, leaving him vulnerable, and bringing him closer to Sadie.

Review (SPOILERS):

Last we left the tragic saga that was the relationship of Lars and Sadie, the former was breathing fire as a result of the latter’s act of revenge. Said revenge was caused by Lars betraying Sadie’s trust, after (apparently) they slept with each other. Yeah, those two get on like water and oil, and still work together. Get these two to Corrie already.

Personally, while not as interesting as the sci-fi antics of the Crystal Gems, I do like these two characters. They serve as Steven’s connection to the human world that the other Gems have a tenuous grasp on. And as the Gem sphere of Steven’s little life prepares to catch fire, the sparks are flying at the Big Donut. Continue reading