More often than not, when a television series rebrands itself for a new season, that’s all it is… a new season. Very little changes aside from the title and it’s usually a ploy just to get people interested in the series again. Steven Universe Future, however, is more than a rebranding, the series has fundamentally reinvented itself into something brand new.
Picking up some time after Steven Universe: The Movie, Steven Universe Future has promoted itself as the epilogue final season to Steven Universe and, why not? As they said in the movie, there’s nothing to fear and no one to fight… so what do you do when there is nothing to fear and no one to fight?
It turns out… a wide variety of things.
“Little Homeschool” is the premiere episode and has Steven and the Crystal Gems trying to teach the new uncorrupted Gems how to acclimate to Earth society and learn how to make decisions on their own now that the Diamonds have relinquished control, but much to Steven’s chagrin, one Gem is refusing to participate, the violent and villainous Jasper.
A lot of people in the fan community have speculated that Jasper was going to be the big bad this season, but it appears that she is on her way to redemption and not damnation, not that it isn’t going to be an easy road. Where she has seen Steven as an annoying insect, here she begins to grow a respect for him and his strength. The episode doesn’t end with a definite win in Steven’s column, but it doesn’t end with a defeat either. Rather, it chooses hope that things might work out.
“Guidance” picks up with Amethyst finding jobs for the uncorrupted Gems on the Beach City Boardwalk. Steven, however, is troubled that she is giving Gems jobs that echo the jobs that the Diamonds programmed them for and opts to break them out of their comfort zone. What follows is… well, catastrophic.
I can say this for Steven Universe Future, it really has no problem humbling Steven and showing that he can be wrong. “Guidance” is funny, optimistic, and wonderful.
“Rose Buds” is another fairly hilarious story as the Human Zoo returns to Earth and the Zoomans introduce the recently unbubbled Rose Quartzes to Steven who is fairly uncomfortable with this idea because they look just like his dead and completely awful mother.
It’s a deceptively deep episode about moving on and that, sometimes, it’s easier said than done and that legacies can hang over you whether you like it or not. The reaction of Steven and the Crystal Gems to the Quartzes were all hilarious and the resolution was pretty wonderful.
Finally, the best episode of the initial four episode run, “Volleyball,” which is in every conceivable manner, a story about living with abuse. In this episode, the one-eyed Pink Pearl we met in last season’s “Change Your Mind” comes to Steven asking for her eye to be healed, but when Steven is unable to do so, Pink Pearl – nicknamed “Volleyball”, Pearl, and Steven travel to a Pearl production facility called “The Reef” to fix her up only to discover that the damage is far deeper than they could have guessed.
This episode was drop dead tragic, seeing Volleyball make excuses for the person who damaged her and seeing Pearl realize that she did the same thing for years. The two Pearls share one of the most heartbreaking and emotional scenes that the entire series has seen and the resolution… that the combined experiences and viewpoints of the Pearls, allow them to deal with the abuse, was beautiful. The idea that we don’t actually know if Volleyball was or ever will be fully healed is such a profound coda on the episode, making it feel more real.
With the four episode premiere, it’s easy to see where the show seems to be going… there is no one to fight and so, one must look on the inside. Steven has issues to deal with, from his feelings towards his mother, his frustration that others don’t want his help, the legacy that he seems incapable of escaping, and his own mysterious new powers that seem to be taking him into a darker place. Perhaps when they say there’s no one to fight, maybe the big bad of the season is Steven himself?
In any case, here we are in the future and its bright. Steven Universe Future is a completely new show. It feels different, it has a new energy, and a new purpose and, at the same time, it still allows us proper time to say goodbye to these amazing multilayered characters we’ve grown to love.
Steven Universe is just a special thing and I’m so glad I get to experience it.