Mark Watches ‘Steven Universe’: S02E02 – Joy Ride

In the second episode of the second season of Steven Universe, the cool kids help Steven… sort of. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe. 

Y’all, I just love this show so much. “Joy Ride” could have been just silly, and it could have been just serious. The balance achieved here is a thing of beauty because, while Steven messed up here, the Crystal Gems are also compelled to think about things differently.

And seriously, Steven has been under a lot of pressure. The events of “Jail Break” aren’t just a metaphorical mess to clean up; Peridot’s ship is in pieces all over Beach City, and the group can just let the debris sit there. This, combined with the emotional weight of Peridot’s inevitable return, has left Steven a little bit on edge.

So I loved that Jenny, Buck, and Sour Cream came to Steven and gave him an opportunity to do anything that wasn’t serious. (I also adore that they genuinely love hanging out with him. HE IS A COUNTER TO WORLD-WORN CYNICISM AND IT’S THE BEST.) Yet in doing so, they actually provide him with a catharsis he couldn’t get otherwise. That scene where they’re all in Jenny’s car and commiserating about their families is so goddamn awesome, y’all. It channels The Breakfast Club while also poking fun at it through Steven. His admission is jarring and surreal, but you know what? It works as a joke to break the tension. And then, his friends listen to him. They don’t invalidate his anxiety; they don’t make fun of him; they don’t tell him that his problems don’t matter.

Bravo, Steven Universe.

Peer pressure is a hell of a thing, too, especially when it comes from people who are older and cooler than you are. It’s even harder in Steven’s case because he did wish to have fun free from anxiety. That’s a fair thing to want! “Joy Ride” ends up being much more complex than it could have otherwise been because both of these conflicting desires are addressed. Steven knew he should have delivered that escape pod to the Crystal Gems, yet the entertainment was so intoxicating to him. Thus, the escalation begins. First, it’s playing with the pod; then selfies with the pod; then Steven gets inside of it and begins to control it, which he masters soon enough. (That actually felt significant as a detail all on its own, right? How did Steven figure that out so fast?)

And when everything goes to hell, Steven is nearly destroyed by his own family. The lesson felt clear: DON’T PLAY WITH GEM TECHNOLOGY. Except “Joy Ride” gives space for two themes within the same episode! I love that Jenny confronted the Gems about how much pressure they’ve put on someone who is a whole lot younger than they are. Steven’s friends supported him when he most needed it, y’all. FRIENDSHIP. IT’S MY FAVORITE.

I want to see more Snapchat filters on this show, FYI.

The video for “Joy Ride” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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