Steven Universe Analysis: Return From Hiatus (Part 2)

Since Cartoon Network has released these new Steven Universe episodes in a signature StevenBomb (a collection of SU episodes that premiere one after another), it’s a lot to process. The word count was also  a bit too high for a single post, so I’ve split it up into two parts. Thus, my nerdy ramblings about this amazing cartoon continue.  (Click here for part 1 of this analysis)

At the beginning of “Back to the Kindergarten,” Peridot has been left in a slump after the events of the previous episode. Amethyst and Steven decide to check in on her, finding Peridot in the bathroom, slumped over/out of her bathtub bed, listening to sad cowboy music. She is, in a word, devastated, after Lapis’ departure. Seeing Peridot in this state inspires Amethyst to suggest a trip to the Kindergarten. For her, she can see it with new eyes after having met the other Amethysts that came from it, and for Peridot, they offer to let her feel smarter than them by explaining the science and whatnot behind it.

The trio ride the train there, taking the “scenic route.” After losing Lapis, Peridot, is understandably, pessimistic, a tragic shift from her newfound optimism found in Earth life. Her outlook has become incredibly negative and her thoughts are stuck in the past. Undeterred by the “scenic route,” Peridot does not want to be “entranced” by Earth’s beauty, as she claims her bit of countryside, the farm and barn she shared with Lapis, was already perfect.

But it’s gone now, as is, to her, any reason to go on. After this dark tone is lain, the trio arrive at the Kindergarten. There, Amethyst attempts to match up the empty Gem holes with the other Amethysts she met at Pink Diamond’s human zoo. Peridot is slightly cheered up when Amethyst compliments her on her helpful knowledge of the Kindergarten.

But then, there’s another down shift. Peridot admits she used to think that life, Gem life that is, began at these Kindergartens. But now, she knows Earth life ends here. All the grass and bugs and sunshine has been ripped from this place, leaving only a lifeless husk. Peridot inadvertently finds a parallel to her own life in this; the life she built with Lapis was literally ripped from the ground. And like her situation, nothing new can grow what’s left from the Kindergarten… or can it?

The trio find a flower has bloomed in the middle of the Kindergarten, a rather healthy-looking one at that. Peridot wants to run some tests and as a result the group decides to “re-garden” the Kindergarten. Begin the farming montage! The three of them work hard to plant sunflowers, having a lot fun along the way. But, there’s the underlying notion that it’s all a distraction. Peridot is genuinely having fun planting the flowers, and it’s given her something to do, a purpose to fulfill. The energy she was putting into moping around is now being put into creating new life in a place once thought lifeless. But is it genuine, or a distraction?

The next day, on the train ride over to check in on the garden, Peridot thanks Steven and Amethyst for helping, going on to say how she’s happy she was able to fix something. Again, there’s a connection to the events of “Raising the Barn.” Peridot wishes she could fix her relationship with Lapis, but she’s happy to settle for the alternative, the distraction of fixing the kindergarten.

But, the distraction is soon shattered. Upon arriving at the Kindergarten, they find the flowers have all died. They haven’t just wilted, they’ve crumbled to dust and there’s little to no evidence that any work had been done to the field. As one might expect, Peridot breaks down. Peridot deems her previous hope that the field would bloom to be pointless. She should have known it wasn’t going to get better, and when Amethyst says she and Steven were trying to make her feel better, she snaps. Peridot sarcastically retorts that she feels so much better knowing nothing is ever going to get better. She’s not just talking about the garden, the life she made with Lapis is also not going to get better, at least not for the foreseeable future.

Steven attempts to calm her down by pointing out the original flower managed to bloom here, but after Peridot angrily stomps on it, we find it’s actually the top of some hideous gem-mutated plant creature. Well, that’s just great, there was never hope to begin with.Steven and Amethyst use Smokey Quartz to quickly take out the creature and save Peridot from its clutches.

Afterwards, the physically and emotionally exhausted trio take the train back home. During the ride, Peridot admits to using the garden as a distraction from both her despair from the loss of Lapis and her day-to-day hopelessness. Despair that she verbalizes by claiming that once something is ruined, its ruined for good. Steven seems to relate this to his own situation with nothing but a simple look – I was astounded by its effective subtlety, heavy props to the Crewniverse for that – before having his attention grabbed by their surroundings.

Outside the train, there is a field of beautiful sunflowers and, while she wanted the same for the Kindergarten, Peridot is taken aback by the beauty. The three agree to try gardening somewhere else. Because, as Steven wisely puts it, they couldn’t do anything for the Kindergarten, but there’s plenty they can do somewhere else.

I will never stopped being amazed at how Steven Universe exhibits healthy emotional growth, and this episode was so densely packed with those kinds of lessons, thus the need for a double-length analysis (sorry about that). Peridot has had a tough time moving on, thinking she can fix a situation and losing hope when she cannot. But she ends with the knowledge that one ruined facet of her life doesn’t mean the end of it. And that, is a lesson we’ve all had to learn.

After such a heavy episode, “Sadie Killer,” despite what the title might imply, provided a much-needed change of tone. These “filler” type episodes, focusing on the citizens of Beach City, are always a nice change of pace and end up being some of the best episodes in the series. “Sadie Killer” is no different.

Once again we join an overworked Sadie at the Big Donut, clearly sleep deprived and going slightly crazy from her busy schedule. Steven has stopped by to grab donuts for band practice with Sour Cream, Jenny, and Buck. Steven says the music has been helping him deal with all the stuff that’s been going on, even though their band has yet to find a name or a sound. Sadie seems interested in the band, so Steven invites her to watch practice, something she might not be able to do with her busy schedule. But she agrees anyway.

At band practice, Steven, Sour Cream, Jenny, and Buck are still struggling to find a sound, in issue made more pressing by the fact that Buck got them a gig. They play all night but still nothing has come to them. Just as they plan to pack up, Sadie arrives late, disappointed that she missed them practice. So, the next day, the band decides to bring practice to her, showing up at her house when she’s free from the clutches of her endless shifts.

This change of scenery ends up being the perfect catalyst for the band, and upon discovering Sadie’s collection of horror movies, they finally find their sound. While watching “The Lurch,” they begin to form a spooky-sounding song, Sadie chiming with some dark lyrics. She sings about the despair and desolation she’s felt since Lars’ abduction. The song, titled “The Working Dead” has such a powerful energy that the band asks Sadie to be their singer and front-woman, dubbing her “Sadie Killer” (a play on her surname, Miller).

But, Sadie can’t join, for she has, you guess it, work the next morning. The band is disappointed, but decide to to the gig anyway. However, on the day of the show, Steven shows up at The Big Donut, hoping to get some advice from Sadiw on writing spooky lyrics like she does. Sadie responds by saying it comes from losing; losing her youth to her job, losing the only person she felt close to, and losing her mind covering his shifts. It’s more of a vent than a piece of advice, but Steven takes it anyway and joins the band outside.

The band is not confident that Steven, lovingly adorable, can pull off the spooky sound like Sadie can. But, they still head off to the gig, only to stop and check the directions. In that moment, Sadie takes advantage to catch up and proclaim she’s quitting work to join the band, bringing the episode to an end.

There’s not too much to analyze in “Sadie Killer,” which isn’t a bad thing. Like I said, this is a nice, fun little break from all the emotional drama in the previous (and the next) episode, and it definitely sets some potential future episodes with the horror-rock band. That said, what we can take from this episode is that Sadie’s life became a literal horror show after Lars’ abduction, and her sudden shift in personality, quitting her job and developing a spooky-persona, is her reaction to it all. It’s a fun episode with that signature Steven Universe emotional core.

The final episode of this StevenBomb is “Kevin Party,” and it’s a fitting end to the overarching story of Steven and Connie. What began with “Dewey Wins” finally comes to a close, but not before a ton of heart-wrenching drama.

It starts with Steven putting up missing poster for Lion, who’s been gone since Connie rode him home. At the pier, he runs into Kevin. Freaking Kevin, the jerk popular kid who we last saw starting a drag race with Stevonnie in “Beach City Drift.” As usual, he’s after something stupid and superficial, he wants Stevonnie to come to his party. He thinks Stevonnie’s coolness will make him cooler by association, so he’s inviting Steven to the party. Steven says Stevonnie can’t make an appearance because he and Connie aren’t talking, but upon learning that Connie was also invited, he agrees to go.

At the party, Kevin continues to be a dumb jerk with a big dumb jerk face and Steven ends up finding Lion. But, more importantly he finds Connie, talking and laughing and sporting a lovely new haircut. Steven wants to talk with her, but he’s scared, and then he gets emotional and rushes towards her, only to be stopped by Kevin. He doesn’t want Steven to ruin any chances of Stevonnie showing up, so he makes a plan.

Kevin proceeds to “help” Steven “play things cool” so that he can get the two back together. The gesture is seemingly nice, at least to Steven, who is too emotional, or perhaps a bit too naive, to recognize that Kevin’s advice is terrible. But, he goes through with Kevin’s ideas, which involve dressing and and acting “cool,” to the point of almost ignoring Connie completely. Even though everything goes “according to plan,” it doesn’t feel right to Steven, and he just comes out with it all to Connie.

Turns out, Connie wanted to talk to Steven, she just needed time and wasn’t sure what to say. Steven says he understood why she was mad. He made a big decision and acted like it wasn’t a big deal. Even worse, he couldn’t imagine Connie being taken away and then offered to be taken away himself. He apologizes and they are friends once more, both admitting that they’d missed each other. It’s beautiful and emotional and as usual teaches us about emotional growth and the struggles of life and friendship.

But of course, Kevin ruins it. Freaking Kevin.

Mr. Jerkface takes their rekindle friendship as an opportunity to bump up the party’s status with a Stevonnie appearance. Luckily, Steven and Connie just straight up bounce from the party, warping away on Lion’s back, embarrassing Kevin along the way. Good, he deserved it.

Overall, this episode is a fitting end to the StevenBomb. It was a nice change from all the space-adventures drama to see how things settled in Beach City in the aftermath, and this episode brought everything full circle. Lessons were learned, characters grew, and relationships grew stronger.

Now, let’s hope we don’t have to wait another seven months to see what happens next. Check back soon for new reviews or to see if I’ve gone insane from a lack of new Steven Universe episodes.

Also I hate Kevin. Freaking Kevin.

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