In the sixth episode of Steven Universe Future, Steven discovers the hard way what happens when he ONCE AGAIN believes that taking everything on at once is a bad idea. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe Future.
Oh, this episode was a TRIP. Even without the framing device/twist, it still has a fascinating implication for the show as a whole, which I’ll get to in the end. But let’s talk about that framing device, which is hinted at in the title and then revealed to be literally true in the final minute. Up until the scene before the fourth wall break, this actually progressed like a normal Steven Universe episode would, which is why I fell for the sleight of hand. The story itself built on two established bits of canon: One, Onion is the most chaotic character in existence, and two, many of the gems are still struggling to learn how to live on Earth. Actually, now that I think of it, there’s a third thing, one that’s pretty exclusive to Steven Universe Future: Steven is also learning that this wonderful trait of his–wanting to help those in need–has increasingly negative ramifications for his own life.
But we’ll get to that. Let’s talk about what Steven splits his time between. I assume Vidalia asked Steven to babysit Onion, which only provides Steven a challenge because Onion develops a rather intense attachment to Rainbow Quartz, the Mary Poppins-esque fusion of Pearl and Steven. This is understandable because it’s exactly the kind of behavior we expect from ONion, and LORD, is this episode EVER packed with some of Onions more distressing behaviors. What was that doll that looked like Steven? How long was that piece of broccoli in his mouth? Please tell me that bag of hair wasn’t Greg’s???
The problem is that Steven double-booked himself in ANOTHER fusion exercise: teaching four other gems about safety on Earth as Sunstone. Both of these responsibilities are important. As independent as Onion is, he DOES need supervision or else he’ll… well, imagine I am handing you a compilation of every chaotic thing he did on the previous show. The four gems we see here–Earth Beetle, Heaven Beetle, a Jasper, and a Nephrite–desperately need to know what is and isn’t dangerous on Earth, particularly in the context of having humans around. What things would cause harm to a human that a gem wouldn’t even conceive of?
The problem, of course, isn’t with each individual responsibility. Steven spreads himself impossibly thin. He literally cannot be in two places at once, and yet, each scenario requires his help. Pearl absolutely CANNOT deal with Onion. I think that even if Onion wasn’t obsessed with Rainbow Quartz, he still would have been too much for her? I mean, let’s be real; he’s too much for literally anyone. With regards to Garnet, it’s not quite as intense, but she needed to see Steven gently guide the gems towards recognizing and understanding danger without being rendered so terrified they can’t do anything.
At the same time, though? It’s a nightmare to watch, and this episode continually escalates Steven’s stress until he nearly breaks. That comes when he decides to combine his responsibilities and take Onion to the safety geminar. In theory, it makes a ton of sense! As Steven stated, Onion was the one MOST in need of understanding danger. (Though I suspect Onion does get it; he just doesn’t care about OTHER people being in danger. Animated darts, for example.) Except once Onion showed up, he turned into the Pied Piper of Chaos, leading the safety geminar gems on a parade of destruction. It wasn’t until the gems walked off a cliff following a blade of grass (can’t believe I get to type that sentence and it makes perfect sense) that something was off. Because no one seemed to notice that the gems had definitely hit the ground? Like, the Crystal Gems were arguing over spending time with Steven and all I could think was, “Are they still falling?”
Then Garnet hit us with that dramatic and absurd NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO and things were REALLY off. I absolutely loved the reveal that this was all one of those after-school special stories, a means of teaching an important lesson. That lesson served a direct purpose, first of all. I love reminders that this is a show for children, and it’s one that often feels like it is aware of that responsibility. I can’t even imagine how valuable it would have been to me when I was younger to learn I can say no in this context? Or that I can tell someone that I have too much going on, and there’s nothing wrong with NOT being super busy? (It is a lesson I could stand to apply to my current life LMAO.)
But I think this exists for another reason: all of these episodes so far have, in one way or another, shown us that Steven is wearing thin. There is so much expectation placed upon him. Here, it’s mostly by others, but he also holds himself to such a difficult and complicated standard. He really does believe it is his responsibility to help everyone, regardless of whether he can, and regardless of whether he should. He doesn’t ask himself these questions, at least not until he’s forced to. And he’s forced to here! He should have said no and let one of these parties work without him. It isn’t fair to anyone that he be so booked up that he can’t take care of himself.
I really believe that’s what the point of Steven Universe Future is. It would be way too coincidental if that’s not the case in the end. So, does that mean Steven is going to change? Will he have an epiphany about himself and how he operates? HMMM MUCH TO THINK ABOUT.
The video for “A Very Special Episode” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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