Steven Universe Can Shake Things Up With One Big Boom
By: Dylan Hysen
Steven Universe is the best show on TV, has been for well over a year now, and yet is in desperate need of a shake-up to the show’s traditional format. It’s become increasingly obvious over the past few weeks of daily episodes that this show is very capable of executing absolutely incredible episodes, but those episodes come every other day, sometimes less frequently, completely due to the narrative structure this show has been beholden to since its inception. The solution is simple: completely change how the show approaches narrative arcs and groupings of episodes, and it’s a solution I think we’re going to see come in play very soon.
First: the problem. Steven Universe feels the need to bounce around recurring characters and plot arcs, never staying focused on any character except Steven (with a major exception: the Peridot barn arc). When Steven Universe began it imported the Adventure Time structure: a loose plot continuum told through a rotating slate of the show’s very large cast and the plots associated with those characters. Adventure Time doesn’t stay still: we rotate between BMO episodes, Bubbline episodes, Ice King mythology episodes, Jake’s kids episodes, and there’s at least 20 more. The structure works for Adventure Time, which doesn’t really have a recurring narrative. We’re not going anywhere in that show, which makes the audience very content to explore the show’s vast, vast world at a relaxed pace.
Steven Universe is different. This is a show with a large overarching narrative: us learning about Gem Homeworld bit by bit and Homeworld eventually coming after the Crystal Gems. This is even a narrative the show has continuously chosen to make urgent, especially with the Cluster recently, and Peridot’s rejection of Yellow Diamond. This choice completely eradicates the relaxed pace of the show’s first season, which was more similar to Adventure Time, and makes a constant stream of episodes about characters irrelevant to the overall narrative extremely frustrating.
We’re past the point now where we can go back to the Season 1/Adventure Time relaxed pace. We’ve turned the corner. This show now needs to move to a more focused, continuous narrative structure. One where the only characters we see have a direct relation to the big narrative at hand. One more similar to the Peridot barn arc, where we focused in on Peridot and her relation to the main characters because that was what was both most important and most interesting at the time.
I think we’re actually going to get this. The natural question is how do you break out of this holding pattern we’ve been in? And I think there’s one very elegant way to accomplish almost all of this at once, and one the show seems to be heading towards:
Destroy Beach City. Blow it up. Just wipe it off the map. I’m looking at you, Yellow Diamond.
What this would do (whether the denizens of Beach City survive or not, which I suspect they would) is cause our main cast to completely change locations (maybe a different Gem colony planet? Homeworld? Just a different place on Earth?), and only bring the most important characters. Steven, Garnet, Pearl, Amethyst, Peridot, Lapis, Greg, Connie, Lion? You guys can come. Everyone else? I’m sorry, but we’re rarely if ever going to see you again (Lars and Sadie you almost made the cut but no).
Getting rid of Beach City gets rid of the ties we have to all the very minor characters that live there that we occasionally check in on. It also forces us into the action of the plot, via whatever location we end up in. It’d certainly make for an incredibly interesting Season 4, and one which would more closely match where this show has naturally been headed.
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