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Saturday’s episodes of ‘Steven Universe Future’ explores the series’ diverse characters. (Image provided via Cartoon Network on YouTube)

TV Review: ‘Steven Universe Future’ revisits old villains, fusions in a comical pair of episodes

Following a blend of comedy and drama in Steven Universe Future’s four-episode premiere, Saturday’s two new episodes, “Bluebird” and “A Very Special Episode,” lean more into the former, reintroducing two secondary villains and the series’ first new song.

“Bluebird” sees Steven Universe (Zach Callison) run into a new gem, Bluebird Azurite (Larissa Gallagher), clearly a fusion of former Steven Universe antagonists, “Eyeball” Ruby (Charlene Yi) and Aquamarine (Della Saba). Normally trusting of others, Steven immediately recognizes Bluebird as a fusion of the two and distrusts her motives.

Throughout the episode, which consists of blazingly fast scene cuts and transitions — even for Steven Universe’s fast-paced format — Steven is continually the recipient of practical jokes obviously enacted by Bluebird. Although these jokes are often benign — in one instance, Steven’s car is toilet-papered, but instead of being draped across it, they are stacked neatly on top — Steven still has his misgivings.

The episode’s format of “old villain turns over new leaf” is an old one, even for Steven Universe, carrying a striking resemblance to the 2017 episode, “Room for Ruby,” in which another member of Eyeball’s Ruby squad, in that case, “Navy” (Yi), has a similar seeming transformation of morals. In the original episode, it is the more skeptical Lapis (Jennifer Paz) who has the most misgivings, but the two episodes carry many of the same narrative beats and overall structure, in a way that feels more derivative than iterative.

Nevertheless, the episode has a series of fast-paced references and jokes with the final confrontation ending comically fast, and Steven’s father, Greg’s (Tom Scharpling) intentionally melodramatic performance being the highlight.

The second episode of the night, “A Very Special Episode,” leans into the show’s zaniness so strongly that it seems to harken back to the series’ first season, where the much younger Steven and company would embark on bizarre and often weirdly unsettling adventures. It’s a part of Steven Universe’s infancy many fans would like to forget, but “A Very Special Episode” draws from some of that era’s best qualities to live up to its title in a surreal fashion.

Just as Steven was a relatable character in the original series for being presented with challenges typical of tweens and early teens — being trusted with more autonomy, dealing with change and growth and so on — the 16-year-old version of Steven also faces problems typical of older teens: being crushed by an overambitious schedule and taking on too many responsibilities.

The series revisits two fusions unveiled in Steven Universe’s finale, “Change Your Mind,” under far less stressful circumstances, giving the opportunity to explore each one’s character a bit further: Rainbow Quartz 2.0 (Alastair James), the fusion of Steven and Pearl (Deedee Magno) and Sunstone (Shoniqua Shandai), the fusion of Steven and Garnet (Estelle). 

Rainbow has promised to babysit the mute and unpredictable Onion, while Sunstone has promised to give a few of the uncorrupted gems lessons about safety on Earth. The goofy premise sees Steven scramble to balance his two responsibilities with Callison and the supporting cast delightfully committing to the episode’s absurdity with increasingly melodramatic performances.

The episode also introduces the series’ first song, beyond its intro and closing songs, titled “Stick by Stick.” The jaunty tune Rainbow sings to help Onion clean up his room is highly reminiscent of Mary Poppins’ “Spoonful of Sugar,” while implementing the fusion of Steven’s and Pearl’s chiptune and piano instrumentation, respectively, along with a healthy serving of gay imagery.

Although Saturday’s episodes may not have packed the same emotional punch many other episodes of Steven Universe can, they further endear the audience to the diverse cast of characters while catching up on some old favorites. “Bluebird” may be one of Steven Universe Future’s weaker offerings in particular, but even so, the limited series has continued to explore life in Beach City and beyond.

Two new episodes of Steven Universe Future air Saturdays at 8 p.m. on Cartoon Network.


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