In the first episode of Steven Universe Future, I AM SO HAPPY THERE IS MORE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe Future.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of trauma/PTSD.
I’m so happy. I AM SO HAPPY. I know virtually nothing about this sequel/companion show aside from it existing? And it having twenty episodes? I was pretty happy with where the show ended after the movie, but from just the first half of “Little Homeschool” alone, I’m already seeing how much potential there is in this new show. Plus, now that I think of it, there are so rarely stories that explore the aftermath of huge, climactic battles? And that’s what this seems to be about?
I’M EXCITED. LET’S TALK.
I address this just a bit at the end of this episode’s video, but I want to expand up my thought here. The opening of this episode is a masterclass in how to do exposition without it feeling overwrought, confusing, or overwhelming. We’ve got a framing device: an unnamed gem who was shattered during the massive Homeworld war is brought back to life, but it’s a life that’s very different. Timeline-wise, I think this is about two to three years after the events of Steven Universe: The Movie, given the one anchoring event we do get here. In that time, gems are not only present on Earth, but Steven and the Crystal Gems have built a place to help them become a part of a warless society. Little Homeschool is show to us in bits and pieces, but it’s all done through the lens of this newly-healed gem, who is getting a tour from Steven.
It’s brilliant, y’all. We see practically every single gem from the original series, first of all! Each of the main Crystal Gems teaches a class that fits their personality and their journey, from meditation with Garnet, to learning the human world with Pearl, to Amethyst showing gems how to find independence and personal autonomy when they were always denied that. But I also spotted Peridot and Bismuth!!! EVERYONE IS HEALING BUT ALSO TEACHING OTHERS TO HEAL. Which is a huge deal! So much of Steven Universe dealt with the immediacy of trauma and PTSD, and now we’ve got a whole SCHOOL for the gems to help them on their own journeys???
There are also bits of Beach City that have changed, too, like Lars’s beautifully-named pastry shop that he runs, and Sadie and the Suspects are touring off of their success. Mr. Smiley was the first Beach City resident we saw, too, and I gotta wonder if we’ll find out what exactly the rest of the city feels towards the changes that haven happened in town.
Anyway, I expect there are lots more things to learn that will come in future episodes. But what a set-up here! The opening establishes the new normal for all of these characters, which is also smart because that “normal” is then immediately challenged.
So much has changed since the movie, but two characters have not: Steven and Jasper. After everything that’s happened, Steven still feels compelled to help others, even when it is not wanted. Or when it is not needed. Or when it isn’t even his responsibility. It’s like second nature to Steven, and right about now is when I can hear my therapist’s voice in my head, telling me to stop putting other people’s needs before my own because that’s often a trauma response!!! It may have protected you at one point in your life, but now you’ve clung to it as the only way to exist and it is exhausting!
Which is not me saying that this is the source of Steven’s compulsion. It’s only that I recognize it, though I come from a different context as Steven. Still, Steven is firmly a teenager now, and this part of him is still VERY MUCH present. It’s difficult for him to deal with it because of the sole gem who refuses to live and teach in Little Homeschool: Jasper.
Who also hasn’t changed much since we last saw her. Yet this episode does not go where I thought it would go at all. The subversion of that expectation was a fascinating thing to experience. Jasper is angry. Her anger is, most likely, exactly due to what Steven says in this episode: she doesn’t have a purpose anymore. Within Homeworld culture, her role was defined. her meaning was defined. It was, of course, a wretched system built not just on imperialism, but internal hierarchies and oppressive structures.
So where exactly does Jasper fit into this new world without all those rules?
Steven, being who he is, approaches Jasper with the mindset that he just has to say the right thing to her, and then maybe she’ll stop living out in the forest. Maybe she’ll come to Little Homeschool and learn something new! In this, we can also see how Steven’s desire to help can unfortunately make it so he can’t see the forest for the trees. He is so certain his technique and his approach will work that he becomes incredibly upset when it doesn’t. He saw Jasper as being bitter and stubborn, which isn’t to say that she’s not those things. It’s just that there’s so much more to her than that, and it’s only after he tries something completely new that he learns that.
That new thing he tries? He just straight up fights her.
God, y’all, watching Jasper’s transformation during the fight scene was AMAZING. I noticed how much more she was engaged the harder that Steven tried. The more he appeared sincere in his fight against, the more she was willing to let go of her (deeply understandable) cynicism. Hell, there was a point before The Thing happened where she started looking… happy??? Or maybe not happy, but certainly entertained!
And then a new power emerges. I don’t know what the fuck that was, but apparently, Steven can now… how do I describe that? He can turn pink? He kinda looked like he became a gem himself??? I don’t even know what that power is capable of. In general, Steven is way more in control of the powers he knew about than he was in the original series, but this? What happened???
Going by the logic of Steven’s powers, it has to be connected to some emotional truth, or maybe something in Steven’s subconscious. But what did Jasper trigger in Steven to finally make it show up after all these years???
Out of everything here, though, it’s the reversal of roles that is most interesting to me. Maybe Jasper really will refuse to teach Steven anything, but it was a stunning character moment to have Steven realize he was wrong. He’d approached Jasper with assumptions in mind, barged past her boundaries, and then… well, all THAT happened. It was a sign of maturity that he was willing to rethink himself and accept Jasper’s feelings.
And also I WOULD LOVE TO SEE WHAT JASPER COULD TEACH STEVEN. It’s such an odd pairing, but it’s got so much potential??? This whole premise does, and I, for one, and thrilled to see what unfolds.
The video for “Little Homeschool” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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