“Too Far” Demonstrates Hope of a Sustained Excellence for Steven Universe

By: Dylan Hysen

 

When Steven Universe returns (presumably) next year, the biggest thing I will be looking for from the show is consistency. There are many shows on TV right now that are consistently good or even very good, but none can achieve the heights of quality that Steven Universe demonstrated this year with episodes like “Rose’s Scabbard”, “Jailbreak”, “Sworn to the Sword”, and “Back to the Barn”. For every incredible Pearl episode, we get two minor-character based ones. Some of these ones are still very good, like “Sadie’s Song”, but more are like “Historical Friction”, inconsequential to the plot, and not of a very high quality. Then there are episodes that are consequential to the plot, but still aren’t incredible, like “Friend Ship”, “Catch and Release”, and “When it Rains”. These episodes are still good, but they’re nowhere near the level of a “Sworn to the Sword”.

This inconsistency is a major problem for the show. I think Steven Universe is the best show on TV right now, because it has demonstrated that it can hit a quality higher than any other show on TV, and it has done it multiple times. But when it has such a fluctuation in quality over and over, it can be very frustrating to watch.

I became more discouraged when I found a connecting thread between the top four episodes of the show. All four are highly charged with emotions. That’s Pearl’s MO, so it makes sense for three of them, but “Jailbreak” focuses on Garnet and is also highly emotional. These high levels of emotion simply cannot be sustained for an entire season, episode-to-episode. The show can turn to it once in awhile, which is what it seems to be doing now, but you have to quickly return to a normal baseline of emotion.

But then I rewatched “Too Far”. I think the episode is of a quality very close to these top four episodes, and it is a much more subdued, character-focused piece. Tensions run high at one point between Amethyst and Peridot in the episode, but it’s nothing close to the “makes you want to cry” level of emotion that the four other episodes elicit. The episode characterizes Peridot and her adjustment to Earth and the other gems incredibly. The episode continues to further its metaphor between our societal norms and the gem’s incredibly. And it does this all very subtly, without the need for highly charged emotions.

This is so very encouraging to me for the future of the show. This show can hit very high levels of quality without trying to make us cry or jump for joy. Not only that, but it can do it with an episode focused on a more minor character (and one not by Joe and Jeff). If Steven Universe can again hit such high levels of quality in more subtle ways with characters that aren’t Pearl and Garnet.. this show can get even better than the incredible it currently is.

Dylan Hysen, a software developer from the DC area, hosts the Overly Animated podcast discussing everything animation.
 

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