In the twelfth episode of Steven Universe Future, Steven heads to the local roller rink, where he learns an important lesson in friendship. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.
Y’all know I love friendship. And emotions. And character growth. AND FEELINGS. So “Bismuth Casual” hits EVERY mark I could have wanted from an episode, and IT’S SO FUCKING GOOD. Let’s talk!
I’ll start with her story. First of all, I was so pleased we finally got a Bismuth episode!!! Because Steven Universe Future takes place a significant period of time after the events of the previous finale (and the film), this allows the writers to have development happen off-screen. Bismuth has spent a lot of time on Earth relative to some of the other gems who have come to Little Homeschool, so she’s further along in her understanding in how Earth works. (Plus, she also BUILT the school!) That being said, there are still things she hasn’t learned, and “Bismuth Casual” focuses on the daunting challenge of dealing with romantic feelings or attraction to someone else.
Like Steven, Bismuth is adjusting to a world without the same kind of conflict and violence that they’re used to. It’s not just that the war is over! In Bismuth’s case, she’s no longer part of the whole gem caste system either. So, how do you approach another person without that understanding? That’s ultimately what was so fascinating about this to me. Bismuth found it easier to interact with people in the world she came from because it was what she knew. It was her familiar, her day-to-day. That’s not the case with this problem. For what it’s worth, she manages to get along with Pearl’s human friends just fine. (One of whom—Jaime—was wearing a Bad Brains shirt. I think??? That design looked super familiar, and those kind of references are rarely an accident.) So while her story has a parallel with Steven’s, it’s not the same. Bismuth doesn’t know how to express this specific emotion. She frets over it; she doesn’t approach Pearl; she pines from afar. (THE PINING IN THIS EPISODE IS EXQUISITE.) She does what probably a whole lot of us can relate to: We just wish this was easier.
But maybe it can be.
Because while this is unfolding, Steven is dealing with his own problem. As I mentioned before, the writers structure this episode so that both storylines are in parallel with one another. I was teaching writing recently and got to talk about parallel story structure and how the really well-executed structures allow you to truly compare and contrast. So yes, we can see similarities in Bismuth and Steven, but there’s also one HUGE difference in the two stories.
See, Steven is dealing with feeling like Connie is drifting away from him. Part of that is his flawed perspective, of course, but unlike Bismuth’s conflict—all that distant pining!—Connie ACTUALLY OPENLY ADDRESSES STEVEN MULTIPLE TIMES. She correctly guesses that Steven kinda wanted to hang out with just her, and she literally offers to spend time off the rink (eating tater tots, for the record, a time-honored pastime that I honor as much as humanly possible) with him.
Here, the problem is that even faced with direct communication, Steven once again defers to what he thinks someone else needs. It’s a defense mechanism to him as much as it’s his normal, too. That’s been such a common thing across these episodes! When he’s uncomfortable, when he’s scared, when he’s dealing with the unknown, even when he’s happy… it’s easiest for Steven to make sure someone else is getting what they need before he ever vocalizes what he needs.
And this show is demonstrating over and over again why that’s not a good thing. How is Connie ever going to know what Steven feels if he doesn’t tell her? What happens when you don’t know how to communicate what you’re feeling? Because that’s a huge part of this, too! Steven genuinely wants the best for Connie, and his perception here is telling him that he will hold her back if he asks her to spend more time with him. He truly believed that Connie preferred her newer friends, Daniel and Patricia. That’s a hard thing to deal with!!! Like, I think that’s something a lot of us can relate to as well. What happens when a best friend has relationships that are meaningful and joyous outside of us? Why does that trigger feelings of inadequacy and jealousy?
At the same time… Steven is different. Sometimes, I forget that his entire upbringing wasn’t like anyone else’s, and then here, as Daniel asked Steven what grade he was in, it was hard to ignore this. How does Steven relate to anyone who didn’t go through what he did? Despite that Connie was involved in much of Steven’s childhood, she’s still had a bit of “normal,” so to speak. What if she preferred that over Steven’s world?
The resolution to both of the stories in this episode centers around active communication. (Which is a repeated motif on Steven Universe, for the record, and I love it!) Steven and Connie had to give Bismuth a little nudge so that she felt brave enough to make her feelings known to Pearl. At the same time, Bismuth gave one hell of a motivating speech to Steven to help him realize that Connie OBVIOUSLY still cared for him and that he should tell her how he felt.
WHICH GIVES US THE RETURN OF STEVONNIE. I love how normal this is in the world now??? There’s only the awe of Stevonnie here, rather than anyone acting shocked that fusion exists. That was a nice little worldbuilding detail, since I assume there’s no reason for anyone to be secretive about gems existing. I mean… granted, the gems have been “known” in Beach City for a long time, but still! These are new characters! It’s neat to see what’s “normal” to them.
I also hope Bismuth + Pearl becomes a thing because YES.
The video for “Bismuth Casual” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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