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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Image: Cartoon Network
Image: Cartoon Network
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“Guys, I love you, but you can’t help me anymore.”

Analyzing Steven Universe Future is just as revealing as staring into a full-length mirror. All of its faults seem too obvious to write about and too human to ignore. Sometimes I found myself pausing episodes to stare out the window; classic procrastination called to me. Like most of the people in the world right now, I’ve rarely gone outside in weeks. A virus has taken over the world, and I’m at home scared of my computer because I know Rebecca Sugar’s astonishing show is going to tell me about myself again, and I’m afraid to listen. Before the virus, I was always going somewhere. Even in my darkest times I would always leap to be there for a friend. In the past couple months, it became something of an addiction. I would be at home, depressed, avoiding my journal because that’s where my thoughts lived. And then, a text message with a frowny face would be enough for me to get dressed, grab some books, and hop on the train. Distance never bothered me—the longer I spent on the train the more I could zone out, losing myself in subway maps and people watching. For me, nothing was scarier than being at home with free time. If you spend enough time there, you eventually meet yourself. Steven is afraid of himself too, but now that he’s saved everyone else there’s nothing left to do:Guys, I love you, but you can’t help me anymore.”

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With these words, Steven makes the choice to unravel. Everything has been leading up to the moment when Steven can’t control his pink outbursts anymore. It’s been a long road, maybe too long, but I can’t deny how satisfying it was to watch him really let go, unleashing the pain he’s been holding onto for years. Steven has always been a sensitive boy—that’s the root of his power. But no one could have ever imagined the full-extent of his anger. “Homeworld Bound” (A) is a showcase of that anger, culminating in a scene that tops his argument with Greg and shattering of Jasper. His need for vengeance even manages to shock White Diamond.

“What was that?”

Before that, there was a moment of hope when Steven made the decision to go back to Homeworld. It’s a place that has always managed to answer questions for him before. It was encouraging to see Spinel again, happy and healing since the movie. And now that Homeworld has become a democracy, its former monarchs Yellow, Blue, and White have dedicated the rest of their lives to making Homeworld a better place to live. Now they’re basically the English Royal family, if those people actually did anything. For a moment, it’s a joyful, fairy tale journey through the palace. And then, Steven snaps.

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It’s 16 years of confusion and frustration released in one violent, nightmarish outburst. It’s impossible to overstate how jarring it was to watch Steven take control of the most powerful being in the universe and bash her head into a pillar. Who knows what would have happened if Spinel or any of the Crystal Gems saw him do that? It’s an image that seems meant for another show entirely. And yet, its brutality is necessary. Steven has to watch himself do this to truly understand that Greg and Jasper were not isolated incidents and that something needs to change.

Faced with this realization, Steven chooses denial. His behavior in “Everything’s Fine” (B+) is almost as scary as his previous outbursts. His forced grin and faux innocent eyes in this episode are eerie. Imagine Steven as a reckless evil clown with a grin painted onto his face. It’s not that far of a reach. He barrels through Little Homeschool, leaving disaster and confusion in his wake. But what’s even stranger is the way that the Crystal Gems stand by and let him do it. That little boy they spent so many years protecting is suddenly a large, angry, destructive man and they have no idea what to do with him. I couldn’t help but think back to “Mr. Universe” where Steven laments never being given boundaries or structure in his life. That has almost as much to do with his recent breakdown as his feelings of isolation.

“Everything’s Fine” treads a lot of familiar territory from the first half of this limited series. Steven realizes something is wrong and he tries to avoid it by “helping” the other Gems. But even more than before, the Gems don’t need Steven’s help and his behavior is a transparent warning sign for everyone around him. Steven has become a Frankenstein monster, powered by his self-doubt. There’s an element of hubris to his behavior as well. He’s a kid who has been treated as an adult for so much of his life that he’s begun to think that he has nothing left to learn.

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To save himself, he’s going to have to surrender to the guidance of his family and friends. He can’t be the hero this time.

Stray observations

  • “I can’t believe half of Homeworld is going to vote for that diamond stooge Zircon. Now Zircon, that’s a face you can trust!” Perfect.
  • I would watch a short spinoff webseries all about Spinel.
  • Lisa Hannigan is having a total blast as the new happy Blue Diamond and I wish there was more of her.
  • Steven’s giant plant minions are incredible.
  • Wedding armor?
  • “Steven’s here to help, Steven’s here to help, Steven help, help Steven!” Yikes.
  • Zach Callison is such a soulful actor and I can’t wait to see what the rest of his career looks like. Just fangirling here, but what if he did something with Jeremy Shada?
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Jourdain Searles is a writer, comedian, and podcaster.

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