In the thirty-fifth episode of the first season of Steven Universe, I’m still crying. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Well, I’m destroyed.
I’ll admit straight up that “Lion 3: Straight to Video” satisfies me in a purely superficial sense. I have long wished that I could have a giant animal friend who constantly wants to cuddle with me. Lion looks so soft! And cuddly! THIS IS WHAT I HAVE WANTED FOR A LONG TIME. Lion’s silent presence on this show, though, has always been a bit of a mystery. Since they can’t communicate like the other characters, I had just accepted that they’d always be a quiet part of the background of Steven Universe.
That’s not the case here, and even from the opening scene in Big Donut, Lion is the most important character in terms of pushing the plot forward. They can understand Steven perfectly, even if they can’t speak, and if it weren’t for Lion, Steven never would have found out about how Sadie’s mother packed her lunches for her every day. THAT IS SUCH AN IMPORTANT PART OF THIS STORY, Y’ALL. But it’s when Steven remarks that he wish he knew his mother better that Lion affects this story the most. Now I understand all the cuddling and why Lion kept smothering Steven, and I just want you all to know that I’m tearing up again.
There are some incredible dream sequences in this episode, though one particularly one is revealed to not be a dream at all. I love how vivid Steven’s dreaming is, and I’m not surprised by it either. He’s got such an active imagination, so of course he’d sit down to a chess/checkers hybrid game with Dogcopter and learn about the value of pursuing for one’s self. RIGHT? I assumed the same thing of the dream world inside Lion’s fur. That was how Steven’s brain interpreted being smothered by Lion. Right?
I was wrong, and I PAID FOR IT DEARLY.
A Secret Place
The entire time, Lion was trying to help Steven with the exact thing he’d asked for: to know what his mother was like. This is contrasted with someone like Sadie, who has her mother in her life, but is perhaps not as close to her as she once was. That distinction is vital to the end of the story, but I bring it up here because I thought it was a fantastic way to point out how non-traditional Steven’s life has been without putting down Sadie in the process. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that there are many people in the world who have had a life just like Steven’s. They never got to know their mothers, and it’s spectacular that this show exists for kids like Steven to have someone to look up to.
But there’s some powerful storytelling at work here, too. Because of the nature of Steven Universe, we’ve only gotten small pieces of Rose Quarts over the course of the previous thirty-four episodes. Photos. Remnants of her life. Stories from the other gems. The sparse nature of her “appearances” in the show give rise to tension and anticipation whenever there’s anything about her, and I suspect the people making this show knew that. So once Steven started to explore the weird space within Lion, I knew that Rose Quartz had made this place. (Which also means that Rose hid Lion somewhere that Steven or the Gems would eventually find, right? Did the Gems know what Lion was this entire time?)
I started tearing up once Steven came across the hill full of things that Rose wanted to save. The idea was just so sweet to me, y’all, because that meant that she wanted Steven to know what was important to her. Greg. Greg’s shirt. A bubbled gem??? A videotape. OH NO, A VIDEOTAPE.
Sadie needed to be there, and I can’t imagine this story unfolding differently. I was overwhelmed by the power of hearing Rose’s voice for the first time, by watching her focus the camera on the man she loved, by listening to her talk about the beautiful things on planet Earth. Up to this point, I’d only heard about her ability to love everything around her, and now, I got to see it. But I knew, deep down, how important this was for Steven. His mother got to tell him that he was special, that he’d be extraordinary, that half of him is made up of her, and that EVERYTIME HE ENJOYS HIMSELF FOR WHO HE IS THAT IS ACTUALLY HER LOVING HIM. Steven got what he wanted and more, and I was not okay.
And then I lost it when Sadie called her mom. Goddamn it, it was too much. All Steven ever wanted was to get to know his mother, and now there’s an entire secret world available to him in Lion. He has a video tape that will allow him to see her face and hear her voice, and I am going to be done until the end of time.
The video for “Lion 3: Straight to Video” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– I am now on Patreon! There are various levels of support, from $1 up to whatever you want! You’ll get to read a private blog, extra reviews, and other such rewards. I POST A LOT OF CUTE PHOTOS, OKAY. Think of it like a private Tumblr blog that only SPECIAL PEOPLE get to read.
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