OK! Format change! There’s a new episode of Steven Universe every night this summer. Rather than dominate this blog with SU Overload, I will be doing bite-sized recaplets of the week’s episodes right here. Short sweet and so much Steven. So let’s start off with…
In this episode, Steven and the gang are finally back home, cluster behind them. Steven gets overhyped that he can get a fresh donut from The Big Donut in the morning, and in doing so discovers a new power; he can control his density. He plays with this gift, jumping higher and higher. It’s all fun and games until he jumps above the clouds and realizes his long descent will keep him aloft for hours. The gems eventually discover Steven and try any manner of things getting him down. Eventually they just opt to spend time with Steven until he finally touches down. Small problem, Steven will land after his donut is ready, costing him that first fresh sugary morsel. Through some machinations, Steven and the gems separately discover that the density powers are tied to Steven’s emotions. Steven, sad that he missed his deadline, begins falling to Earth faster. The gems are worried that he’ll crash, but Garnet reassures them. Steven does hit a tad harder than expected but he bounces back. Young Universe dashes off to the Big Donut in hopes that a miracle has happened and there’s still a fresh donut. Luckily, absent-minded Steven forgot that they open later that day. Steven exuberantly celebrates. FYI, jumping for joy with density powers can lead to your head meeting the ceiling.
Final Score Time
Additions to the Lore: Steven discovers his new density powers. The gems reveal that Rose had similar powers.
Geek References: Steven’s gaming systems appear again. While playing checkers with Steven, Garnet has a Metal Gear Solid moment with an exclamation point appearing by her head, complete with the sound effect. When Steven smacks his head on the ceiling, he uses Winnie the Pooh’s catch phrase of “Oh Bother”.
Queer References: Nothing really touched in this realm this episode, but no matter.
Final Thought: This episode felt very much like an early Steven Universe episode. It was completely isolated, lighter, and eschewed larger story arcs. It was a nice respite from the preceding Cluster story. Still it was nothing groundbreaking. It was fun but not terribly memorable, and for that, this episode receives 3 gems out of 5.
Drop Beat Dad
In this episode we re-meet Sour Cream. Steven has signed on as his unofficial roadie. The two are preparing for SC’s next show when his step dad Yellow Tail gives him a hard time about DJing. Sour Cream stops off at the car wash to collect himself leaving Steven and Greg alone for a bit. Up pulls a heinously over-pimped tour bus and out comes Marty; Greg’s old slimy manager. Marty is clearly artificially nipped and tucked, and still behaves like a 20-something; he still oozes slime. Shock of all shock, Sour Cream sees Marty and calls him “Dad”. We knew Sour Cream’s mom Vidalia once hooked up with Marty, now we know Sour Cream was the result. Marty tries to save face for his decade long absence and convinces Sour Cream that he’s going to take him under his wing as a music promoter. Marty poo-poos SC’s performance venue and convinces him to switch it. Steven is apprehensive, but Marty appeases Steven by making him an official roadie. It’s the night of the big show and an apprehensive crowd has gathered on the beach. Marty offers to hype up Sour Cream. In doing so Marty reveals that the entire show is a vehicle to hype his new disgusting “Guacola”. Sour Cream is PO’d and upon hearing Marty is involved, Yellowtail hightails it out of there. SC questions Marty’s motives and Marty calls his son selfish. SC, channeling Yellowtail lays into his father. Marty decides to bail, and delivers an envelope to Greg on his way out. This hand-off was apparently his entire reason for visiting Beach City in the first place, not his son. Just as Sour Cream is ready to give up on his dreams, Yellowtail arrives with his step son's old DJ equipment. Sour Cream and Yellowtail reconcile, and SC puts on a killer beach performance. Oddly his setup is almost entirely made up of retro handheld video game systems wired together. With the problems resolved Greg turns his attention to the envelope which contains… a check for $10 Million. Cha Ching!
Final Score Time
Additions to the Lore: Marty is confirmed as Sour Cream’s biological father. Yellowtail is his Step-dad. Sour Cream can speak Yellowtail and Onions nonsensical language. Steven reveals more of his super strength.
Geek References: Marty semi-quotes Zoolander at one point saying “What is this, a concert for ants?” Sour Cream’s DJ setup is made up of old video game tech, including an original Game Boy, a Game Boy Color, a Game Boy Advance, and what appears to be a Digimon Digivice.
Queer References: In Steven’s thought-bubbles on the life of a roadie, the characters are all male, including the love-sick fan and the pining-from-afar roadie.
Final Thought: This wasn’t an episode centered around Steven or the gems, in fact there were no gems present at all. Instead it was a great dive into a previously unexplored Beach City citizen, Sour Cream. This episode also went into an uncomfortable topic; a parent who cannot live up to the title. For many kids in the audience, this could be an important lesson. For fleshing out a character in a lovely way and teaching a difficult lesson, this episode receives 4 gems out of 5.
So it appears Greg has amassed his fortune from Marty licensing one of his songs to a fast-food chain. Greg and Steven are jazzed but Pearl seems put-off. Steven and Greg opt to spend a chunk of change on a trip to Empire City, explained through song. Steven decides Pearl should come along. She objects but goes along anyway. The trio check into a SUPER fancy penthouse through another campy and delightful song. If you didn’t realize, this is a musical episode. Pearl ruins the song by refusing to dance with Greg. This opens old wounds between the two. The mood fizzles. Later on Pearl finds Greg and Steven asleep and launches into a solo about her lost love, Rose. If this song doesn’t win Pearl’s voice actress, Deedee Magno an Emmy, there’s no justice in the world. Pearl laments her loss of Rose, and that Greg beat her for Rose’s affection. Greg overhears and excuses himself, apologizing to Pearl for making her be around him. Pearl is mortified but Steven tells her that a situation like this is precisely the reason he brought her along. Downstairs in the bar, Steven brokers a reconciliation between Pearl and Greg. To do so, he launches into a beautiful ballad about how the two have a lot in common; their love of Steven, their love of Rose, and their shared loss over her. They hash things out, and even dance. The episode concludes with a content Steven hoping Pearl and Greg’s feud has ended.
Final Score Time
Additions to the Lore: Pearl and Greg’s rift is fully fleshed out, about how both fought for Rose’s love. Empire City has a Brooklyn and Bowery, much like real-life New York City.
Geek References: This is a broadway nerd’s episode through and through.
Queer References: Pearl’s love for Rose takes center stage, with no obfuscation or confusion.
Final Thought: This could very well be my favorite episode of the show to date. The music was extraordinary, the story made me cry, the humor was top-notch and the animation was breathtaking. I could seriously see this episode win an emmy (or 5). For elevating Steven Universe to an even higher art-form, this episode receives 5 gems out of 5.
Too Short to Ride
Peridot’s back! Steven regifts an old tablet to her, and she loves the tech! It reminds her of her old touch screens. Amethyst arrives and invites Peridot to hang out with her and Steven. They settle on Funland, and have their heart set on the roller coaster. New height requirements means the “Shorty Squad” can’t ride. Steven and Amethyst simply grow artificially. Peridot says she’s rusty. It seems Amethyst and Steven cannot enjoy the carnival without using their gem powers. Peridot sets her sights on winning a stuffed alien at a ring toss game. The others try to help, but again use powers to, erm, cheat. Peridot only wins a small prize and is put out. After having a chat, Peridot reveals that she can’t shape-shift, which is why she hadn’t been keeping up. In fact, she has no gem powers. Amethyst and Steven offer to train her to draw some power out of the diminutive gem. After repeated attempts, Peridot gets supremely frustrated and says she has no powers because when she was made, resources were scarce. That’s why her abilities were originally supplemented with tech. Amethyst has a heart to heart and gives some great real-talk. Peridot is too frustrated to hear it. Amethyst in turn gets frustrated with Peridot’s frustration. Amethyst wrest’s Peridot’s new tablet away, and tries to throw it into the ocean. Peridot, desperately gestures to stop it from frying in the sea. In doing so, the green gem unleashes latent metal controlling powers. The gem is now empowered literally and metaphorically. She uses her new found gifts to win her originally intended ring-toss prize.
Final Score Time
Additions to the Lore: We learn that Peridot is an era 2 Peridot, and was not created with intentional gem powers due to dwindling home-world resources. Peridot discovers her latent metal powers.
Geek References: Peridot is now Magneto... basically.
Queer References: There really wasn’t anything particularly queer about this episode.
Final Thought: On the one hand this episode fleshed out more of Peridot’s back story and gave her a new power; very cool. On the other it had Amethyst waffling between emotionally mature and infantile, despite recent character arcs. It also kind of sent the message that cheating can be okay. It was a fun episode but was overall inconsistent, which is why it only receives 3 gems out of 5.
The New Lars
Steven is hanging with Sadie and Lars at the Big Donut. Lars blows Sadie off, rather callously. Steven catches on and questions Lars, but the older teen goes on the defensive. That night, Steven dreams about Lars, but accidentally possesses him, like he did with Watermelon Steven. Steven wakes up in a very naked Lars. Steven says he’s going to respect Lars’ body and privacy, but I feel he might do just the opposite. Also, Lar’s loss of body autonomy is giving me a real “ick” sensation right in my social-justice organ. This is a fine line to walk. Steven-Lars, or "Stars" begins by being loving and considerate to Lar’s parents... uncharacteristic. Then he endears himself to the other local teens... uncharacteristic. I get wanting someone to better themselves, but forcing it on them is very wrong. Lars winds up at Sadie’s and she is understandably irked. They hang out and Stars tries to do Lars a solid and says he loves Sadie. She is FURIOUS. She thinks he’s pandering and half-assing. Steven finally comes clean, and Sadie believes him but is pretty upset. They race back to the temple to hopefully unswitch bodies, prompting much of the town to follow for various reasons. Stars slaps the unconscious Steven awake, and forces a switch-back. To the assembled group it looked like Lars was attacking Steven. Lars freaks out, the others ask him to calm down but Lars LOSES IT. Steven tries to patch things up after but is not entirely successful. Lars and Sadie DO actually patch things up and it all seems forgiven. No, just no. Not okay. See final thoughts.
Final Score Time
Additions to the Lore: We learn Lar’s full name is Laramy. We also learn that Lars isn’t just mean, he’s a cliche of a mild delinquent; underachieving, rebellious, flippant, disrespectful, angry and avoidant.
Geek References:There’s a picture of an At-At in Lars’s kitchen. The whole conceit of the episode come from Being John Malkovich.
Queer References: The only relationships and expressions were fairly heteronormative, NTTAWWT.
Final thought: I know this was intended as a bit of a fun romp as Lars with an emotional payoff but there were some serious implications regarding one’s rights to body autonomy. Steven took over Lar’s body, took over intimate functions, decided Lars's interpersonal responses and seriously violated his privacy. This is a very rare instance of the writers being socially tone-deaf on an important issue, and for that this episode receives 1 gem out of 5.
Beach City Drift
Steven and Connie are hanging with Greg at the car wash, admiring his “new” car. I love that Greg is staying grounded with his newfound wealth. While the gang is washing the new ride, Steven and Connie’s nemesis shows up, Kevin. Kevin is rude and asks for a wash, Steven is furious at the sight of him. Steven even says he hates Kevin, surprising Greg. Connie explains to Greg that when they were Stevonnie, Kevin was a little too pushy and basically didn’t understand that No Means No. This is important but unexpected territory for a kids show to cover. Are they really going to explore assault on Steven Universe? Greg tries to be empathetic, and encourages Steven and Connie to not give Kevin the time of day. Later, Steven is outwardly mad, while Connie has internalized her anger. They want to get back at their aggressor and decide to fuse back into Stevonnie and “borrow” Greg’s car. They challenge Kevin to a road race. Kevin succeeds in further agitating Stevonnie. They race and honestly have some sweet moves behind the wheel. I can’t remember the last time I saw Steven Universe in 3D. I enjoyed the Speed Racer callouts as well. Kevin invents a fake sob story that almost gets to Stevonnie, but he admits his ruse and causes Stevonnie to freak out, spin out and defuse. Steven and Connie realize that, although Kevin did violate them, and is horrible, Steven and Connie do not have to play his game. They do not have to give Kevin power over what they do and how they feel, because they no longer want to give their abuser power over them. This might be heavy handed, but it certainly delivers a strong message. They refuse, and Stevonnie strives to finish the raise for their own betterment and they utterly ignore Kevin, infuriating him. Kevin ultimately wins but Stevonnie enjoyed the remainder of the race immensely. Stevonnie even tries shaking Kevin's hand, and be friendly. Kevin hates not having power over someone, so much so that he freaks out.
Final Score Time
Additions to the Lore: Kevin gets fleshed out a bit more; he’s still the worst.
Geek References: There’s a few Speed Racer visual callouts, namely the still graphics on flashy backgrounds with only the lips moving..
Queer References: Stevonnie came back, the gender queer wonder. We <3 Them.
Final thought: I don’t think I’m adequately able to rank this episode on the lessons taught. I am a cis white middle-class male who has not been the victim of assault. I think any type of analysis I could offer on the central plot is a tad “man-splainy”. I can say that glorifying street racing on a children’s cartoon is questionable. I do appreciate the lessons offered though. I appreciate that victims of assault can be angry or sad, and that may not manifest outwardly, but it also can. I appreciate that victims of assault can behave out of character, and that requires love and compassion. I can appreciate that victims of assault should be free to reclaim their lives, even if that does not include direct retribution. This was a heavy episode at its core. I love Steven Universe for being willing to go there. In juxtaposition to the previous episode, this was handled with much more delicacy and care. I feel there are many teachable moments in this episode, but am honestly not sure what to rate it. I enjoyed it, but do not feel I have the authority or experience to quantify and judge lessons that include such sensitive topics and demographics. So instead of my usual gem rating, I’ll offer a big ole’ heart and encouragement for any and all survivors of assault.
If you decide to seek support after sexual assault, there are resources available to you
Next Episode: “Restaurant Wars”, July 25 @ 7:00pm EST
Please feel free to add things I missed, your reactions, theories, and whatever else you’d like in the comments!