Steven Universe Review: “It Could’ve Been Great” (Season 2, Episode 23)

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“Hey, look over here. I think it’s a door. (Opens said door, all the air begins getting sucked out of the base) Yup. We’re on the moon!” – Amethyst, almost sucking the Crystal Gems out into space.

Airdate: January 6th, 2016

Written By: Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu

Plot: Well, smoke me a kipper, they did it! The Crystal Gems and Peridot managed to construct a drill. But before they drill, they have to locate coordinates to get the Cluster. Therefore, they decide to take a trip up to the Moon. They arrive on a former Homeworld base that contains the schematics of all of Homeworld’s plans for Earth. Unfortunately, this piece of nostalgia and Peridot’s attachment to it begins to drive the wedge between her and the Crystal Gems back in.

Review:

One of the great themes of Steven Universe that is often overlooked in favor of it’s more “academic” sociological themes is the concept of leadership. In short, the question that the show often poses is “what drives people to follow leaders, and what makes a good leader”?

I first dissected this in my review of “Political Power”. In that review, I compared Mayor Dewey’s approach to leadership and public presentation to those taken by more populist figures, such as Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn or President Donald Trump. As part of that analysis, I noted that people tend to follow those leaders that can present a certain charisma, as well as appeal to their Id – for good and/or for ill. Figures often lure us in with their ability to communicate our deepest desires, making us dismissive (if not blind) to their faults.

This cuts every which way – as demonstrated here, in “It Could’ve Been Great”, we get to see how both propaganda and ideology drive protagonist and antagonist alike to defend their leaders and their philosophies. Continue reading

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Steven Universe Review: “Catch and Release” (Season 2, Episode 17)

Just letting you know why I posted this relatively deep into the month. A, schoolwork. B, I’ve been engrossed in what appears to be the utter collapse of Channel Awesome. 

 

Steven Universe Peridot in a Toilet
“It’s agreed – if the International Drainage Commission places a nine hundred dollarydoo call to respond to this, Peridot’s paying.”

 

“Goodnight, happy bear. Goodnight, sad bunny. Goodnight playful kitty. Goodnight, ominous triangle at the foot of my bed.” – Steven. Sometimes, even I wonder how this kid has survived thus far.

Airdate: September 24th, 2015

Written By: Lauren Zuke and Hillary Florido

Plot: Peridot kidnaps Steven out of his bed in a last-ditch attempt to get the hell out of dodge. Unfortunately, Steven’s healing saliva can’t repair the warp pad, and Peridot begins breaking down. She begins to fret about a potential threat to Earth… but before she can complete her warning, the Crystal Gems poof and imprison her. Unnerved by the potential danger to Earth, Steven decides to free Peridot and try to talk to her.

Review:

What arc is more indicative of Steven Universe than any other?

I’m not talking about my favorite SU arc – I mean, I can’t possibly choose between them. I wonder what arc encompasses the themes of Rebecca Sugar’s creation than any other. Is it the Pearl/Rose/Greg dynamic, dealing with themes of loss, regret, delusion, resentment, and a longing for the past? Is it Amethyst’s arc, dealing with intense self-loathing thanks to a society that yearns for the ubermensch and created her as a war machine? Do we focus on Garnet and how her genesis exposed the acerbity of Homeworld against the unknown, the readaptation of tactics for purposes outside their “intended use”? Is it Steven trying to wonder what exactly his life encompasses, and what is expected of him by the Crystal Gems?

All of these are valid answers, but I would like to throw one arc in the mix… the Peridot arc, at least that from the first two seasons and change. That arc has a technician revealed to be her antithesis, going from a stoic heartless cog in the machine to an eccentric, paranoid dork not afraid to question authority.

She’s been sliding down for a long time, but with this episode, Peridot officially and dramatically crashes into rock bottom. By kidnapping Steven.

Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Historical Friction” (Season 2, Episode 13)

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Bad language or abuse, I never, never use
Whatever the emergency;
Though “Bother it” I may occasionally say,
I never use a big, big D.
What, never? No, never!
What, never? Well, hardly ever!
Hardly ever swears a big, big D!
Then give three cheers, and one cheer more,
For the well-bred Captain of the Pinafore!

“You’re the only one that showed up. But, hey, some plays only have one person in them, so we’re already in two hundred percent better shape than that.” – Jamie. I mean, you have enough actors for one of EastEnders infamous two-handers. Just get a Cockney accent and check your shame at the door, and you’re in!

Airdate: July 16th, 2015

Written By: Hilary Florido and Lauren Zuke

Plot: Jamie has been commissioned to direct a play about the founding of Beach City. Entitled Beach City or Bust: The Tale of William Dewey, he soon encounters one major flaw with the production… the script is bad. Like, Emoji Movie bad. The glaring issue is the script’s lionization of William Dewey to godlike status… because the script was written by the mayor. Afraid that his friend will have his career go down in Shamalayn-shaped flames, he takes it to Pearl for a rewrite. Good timing, as Pearl’s deep into introspection. Deep.

Review:

Welcome to Part 4 of the Week of Sardonyx!

What we’ve seen this week is a deconstruction and analysis of our four main protagonists. What started with Pearl’s desire to fuse with Garnet, even if it required deceit, has resulted in every single one of the trio being analyzed on their own terms. “Keystone Motel” took a look at how Garnet maintains a balance between her two components, and how they can come apart with a great internal conflict exacerbated by their own flaws. “Onion Friend” took a look at the surprising loneliness of Amethyst, the most openly social of the trio, as she met back up with an old friend. Concurrently, the two episodes have also featured Steven-related plots while fleshing him out – showing how he tends to internalize the grand turmoil between the Crystal Gems and how he manages to befriend even the weirdest of landbound persons.

Today’s episode focuses, surprise surprise, on Pearl and Steven. However, it does so in a manner that is simultaneously more meta and more unique. In many ways, it’s the odd episode out within the Week of Sardonyx, as it poses one overarching question – how do a character’s flaws make them so lovable? And how can a lionization of a character backfire dramatically?

The answer, surprisingly, actually plays into the overarching worldbuilding of Steven Universe, and results in what I think is one of the show’s more underrated episodes. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: “Onion Friend” (Season 2, Episode 12)

 

Steven Universe Onion Friend
Forget Lapis, forget Jasper, forget the Strawberry Fields, forget Bismuth, and forget the Diamonds. This is the moment Steven’s childhood came to a crashing end.

“Why do you hate food?” – Steven, thinking that he can unwrap the grand enigma that is Onion.

Airdate: July 15th, 2015

Written By: Lamar Abrams and Katie Mitroff

PlotSteven’s breakfast is ruined when Onion steals his packet of Chaaaps. While running to get him, he finds a garage of paintings… of Amethyst. Turns out that those paintings were from Onion’s mother… Vidalia. Y’see, Vidalia used to be one of Amethyst’s closest friends. The two reconnect and have dinner, along with Sour Cream, Onion, and a weirded out Steven. The weirdness only continues when the two younger kids hang out for a bit.

Review:

Hey, there’s an Onion in my StevenBomb! What maniac thought that was a good idea?

…Two of them. I see. Now, what maniac signed off on this?

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Note: images of writers taken from SU Wiki.

…oh, her. I see. Alright, Crewniverse, you sadistic nuts – an Onion episode it is!

OK, seriously – Onion has historically been one of Steven Universe‘s less popular characters. Part of this is due to the comparatively poor showing of his debut episode, “Onion Trade” – ranking fourth from the bottom in a recent Steven Universe fan poll (as well as the bottom for Season 1). My argument for the comparatively cold fan reception (of which I am part of) came from how it failed to make Onion a sympathetic character, as well as the awkward implications of how his behavior might be rooted in his father being out of town all the time. I mean, there are worse things that the writers of Steven Universe could’ve done, but that wasn’t a major standout, so to speak.

That, meanwhile, was well before Steven encountered Lapis Lazuli, found out that Garnet was two smaller people in a trenchcoat, met Peridot, realized that his guardians are emotionally warped while not realizing he’s heading down a worse path, and oh yeah, found out that Pearl was starved for some form of stability driving her to a grand act of deceit.

Yeah, in Part 3 of the Week of Sardonyx, “Onion Friend” is in a somewhat more sober environment compared to “Onion Trade”. And it shows.  Continue reading

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”.

Continue reading

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 every time… 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?)

Continue reading

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