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Still sticking with “Steven Universe”

(Warning: Spoilers for Steven Universe episodes: “Lars of the Stars” and “Jungle Moon”)

The “Stranded” special of Steven Universe aired on Jan. 5 and consisted of two episodes:  “Lars of the Stars” and “Jungle Moon.” And to be honest, I was kind of. …disappointed. The whole special was very hyped up. I know there was a major moment in “Jungle Moon” but I was not wowed.

The special begins with Steven and Connie finally going to visit Lars after God knows how long. Seriously. Lars could have been in space for months. Despite being obviously worried about his safety after returning, the previous episodes had Steven more concerned about reconciling with Connie and running around Beach City. And it seems like even after they reconciled, they still didn’t go right away.

There didn’t seem to be a tremendous point to the previous episodes beyond one or two moments, and I felt it ruined the pacing and urgency that we felt when Steven returned home after his last space adventure. I also didn’t understand why we needed to focus on Steven and Connie’s communication issues. Neither of them really learned anything from it and this plot was already done in Season 2, except the roles were switched.

The big “reveal” of  “Lars of the Stars” was that Lars was the captain of a space ship with the Off-Color gems as his crew. That would have been great, except that we’ve known about the twist since the clip aired at 2017 Comic-Con. It took a lot away from the episode, and these spoilers are almost impossible to avoid.

But I still enjoyed the anime style introduction to Lars’ new situation, with him being the cool, confident captain of his own ship, stolen from Homeworld. I haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy but I don’t think that a comparison between Lars and Star Lord would be too far off. Lars jokes with Emerald, a very hammy and loud Gem leader who is pissed at having her ship stolen. Her appearances are the best part of the episode. I hope we see more of her in the future.

I wish that this episode had focused solely on Lars and his crew. I feel like they all could have gotten some nice development. Steven and Connie are just kind of there and don’t do much until the end. Except for when they cause Lars to have a minute and a half long break-down about Sadie going on with her life.

Because the incident is so short, it seems unnecessary and out-of-place. It makes sense Lars still has some self-doubt but if that is something the Crew wanted to touch on they should have devoted more time to it. None of the Off-Colors get any development, they all play their schtick: Padparadscha states the obvious, Fluorite talks in a slow, dissonant tone, Rhodonite is an anxious mess and the Rutile twins repeat each other. We also  learned Lars has become more confident as a space captain except for the two minutes where he is reminded of Earth and Sadie and puts everyone in danger.

It would have been so much more interesting to see Lars and the others stealing the ships, or Lars trying to adjust to his strange new life or seeing him actually, I don’t know, develop his confidence as a captain? That isn’t something that happened overnight.  It’s far more interesting than this episode’s plot.

What “Jungle Moon” lacks in plot, it makes up for in visuals and its place in building the narrative of the series. Steven and Connie, fused as “Stevonnie” is stuck on a alien moon after a crash landing in Lars’ unique ship “The Star Skipper.”

In this episode, we finally get to see what Pink Diamond looked like, albeit in a dream sequence. The sequence itself was interesting and I loved how they integrated Connie’s subconcious by having Yellow Diamond look like Connie’s mom. I also loved how they kept Stevonnie looking the same. It was a good part of the episode. I liked how it was done.

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But back to Pink. She’s tiny, about the size of Stevonnie (if we’re to take the dream as is) when the other Diamonds are huge. It’s not clear what relevancy this has on the story, but it seems as though Pink Diamond felt like she had a lot to prove to the others about her leadership skills as she never had a colony before (and possibly failed with her colony early on, which is why Rose Quartz was able to lead a rebellion whereas other gems didn’t or possibly failed very early on). At the very least, now the “Rose is Pink Diamond” theory can be officially, officially put to rest.

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Still, the scenery on this moon is stunning. It’s full of life, and unique aliens (which somehow comes as a surprise for Stevonnie despite being around aliens constantly). I did love the huge, blobby bird creature.

It was great to see some of the other alien lifeforms in this world. It does bring up an interesting question though: Why was only this unnamed planet colonized and destroyed? Why not the moon as well?

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There are lots of other nitpicky questions I have about these episodes that aren’t related to the plot but are about consistency and logistics: Where did Lars get his new clothes?  We know Gems don’t really wear ‘clothes.’ How did Lars and the Off-Colors build the “Star Skipper” ship? The ship is designed to be like a car and only Lars can pilot it. Does that mean Lars has some mechanical ability that’s never been mentioned? And very nitpicky, but why are the “WARNING” alerts in English, if Gems have their own written language? Like I said, silly things that really don’t matter in the end but  they do make me think.

Now, some of you may take this review as proof that I hate Steven Universe. I don’t. I enjoy it and I think it’s a good show that’s definitely taken some big risks. But I think it could be better. I don’t think it’s living up to its full potential. And I want it to. But that’s a whole other review in itself.

I was just underwhelmed by the special in a lot of ways and I wish they did more with it. I am looking forward to future episodes, though, whatever they’re called and whenever they may air. Hopefully, it’ll be soon because I really want to see more of Emerald and Pink Diamond, and I’m hoping we might finally get a hint about White Diamond’s deal as she’s an even bigger enigma.

And that’s the scoop!

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