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‘Steven Universe Future’ brings new depth to the beloved show. (Image provided via Cartoon Network on YouTube)

TV Review: The 4-episode ‘Steven Universe Future’ premiere celebrates growth, change

Steven Universe has had a crazy year.

In January 2019, the main series had its climactic finale in which the titular hero confronted the show’s ultimate villain and brought peace to the galaxy. In September, Steven Universe: The Movie aired, carrying the story two years into the future while celebrating its past. Now, Steven Universe Future, a sequel and limited series to Steven Universe, aims to tie up some loose ends from the original series before the beloved cartoon is finally laid to rest.

Each episode of Steven Universe Future returns to the traditional 11-minute format, but each of the four episodes aired Saturday packs the same humor and heart into every second. With tense and tearful reunions, stunning animation and delightful music, Steven Universe Future’s premiere promises one last emotional journey through Beach City and the cosmos while uncovering the last mysteries of Steven’s past.

Set two years after the main series and some time after the film, 16-year-old Steven Universe (Zach Callison) is now comfortably back in his hometown, helping out both human and gem citizens acclimate to life in Era Three. As Steven says in his introductory tape to recently uncorrupted gems, “We’re all safe to explore our dreams.” All except, it seems, Steven himself, who consistently sacrifices his own well-being for the benefit of those he tries to help.

In the series premiere, “Little Homeschool,” Steven focuses his attention on Jasper (Kimberly Brooks), one of the show’s earlier antagonists who became corrupted midway through the show, effectively closing her arc until the finale, where she and the other gems regained their consciousness.

Despite the other uncorrupted gems’ willingness to learn and grow, Jasper remains aloof and aggressive despite having nobody left to fight. Giving into Jasper’s provocations, the two kick off the series’ first fight, which Steven wins by unleashing a pink aura only seen before in the series’ climactic confrontation with White Diamond (Christine Ebersole), granting him a temporary burst of strength. That pink aura returns in subsequent episodes, especially in extremely tense or upsetting situations.

The following episode, “Guidance,” sees Steven and fellow Crystal Gem Amethyst (Michaela Dietz) find suitable jobs for the uncorrupted gems living in Beach City. Their search often results in humorous hijinks but also displays how far the previously insecure and self-doubting Crystal Gem has come since the show’s inception.

“Rose Buds” introduces Steven and the Crystal Gems to the Rose Quartzes (Brooks), gems created by Steven’s deceased mother (Susan Egan), whom she took the form of to hide her true identity as Pink Diamond. Due to complicated feelings from Steven and the Crystal Gems about Steven’s mother not being the infallible gem they once thought she was, the Roses’ similar appearance and mannerisms make everyone else highly uncomfortable.

The standout of the batch, however, is “Volleyball,” in which Steven, Pearl (Deedee Magno) and Pink Pearl (Magno) — nicknamed “Volleyball” to avoid confusion — venture to “the Reef” to try to heal Volleyball’s scar across her left eye. As they begin to learn of the scar’s true cause, some of Volleyball’s past trauma is unveiled in a painful yet elegant sequence. Yet again, Steven Universe takes strides in tackling serious subjects, in this case, abuse, in a smart, tasteful manner that respects its severity while presenting it in a way that audiences of all ages can understand. It’s a powerful, touching story of pain and healing, with some of the series’ most beautiful shots and sequences in its entirety.

Steven Universe Future is already shaping up to be as funny, smart and bold as its predecessor, utilizing its rich history to instantly draw out emotions across the emotional spectrum. Although the series is much smaller in scope, it uses the time it has to show how its characters have changed, grown and healed, even though their stories are far from over. 

Steven Universe’s future is looking bright.

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


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