There are definitely many things worth criticizing in Steven Universe, but it’s weird because one of the biggest criticisms I see is something I personally love about the show?
It’s a lot of criticisms that basically boil down to “pacing”.
Like “They keep setting up this big mysteries and then not paying off on them!” or “A big thing happens and then we get right back into filler episodes!” and like
Yeah? Exactly. IDK what to tell you.
Rebecca Sugar is like reverse Steven Moffat, I almost feel like. She sets things up without you even knowing anything is being set up, so it doesn’t build tension, but then when you get the payoff it’s satisfying and obvious. Or, alternatively, she introduces a big plot element, and it’s like “Are we ever going to address this?” and then, eventually, when it naturally comes up, we finally do.
We saw Connie’s glow bracelet in episode 1, and didn’t even know it was foreshadowing until we me Connie 8 episodes later. We didn’t learn Garnet was a fusion until 50 episodes in.
We met Lion in episode 10, and there were SO MANY QUESTIONS. What is he? Where do his powers come from? What is his connection to Rose? And we never directly got answers to those questions - instead they were indirectly answered in a “filler” episode about a historical Beach City in episode 106 that really only raised more questions than it answered, followed by the most recent episode, 132, which was about Lars and Homeworld and also, you know, incidentally answered the entire Lion mystery.
Over three years after it was introduced we finally learned what Lion’s deal is, and it wasn’t even in a Lion-centric story. But you know what? It was still satisfying. At least, I thought so.
I don’t get the feeling that that explanation was made up. Watching it, I get the feeling Rebecca Sugar knew three years ago what was up with Lion. She just wasn’t going to incorporate it until it became immediately relevant.
It’s slow, honest, sprawling worldbuilding that I can really fucking get behind. The writers know what this world is and who these characters are, they just aren’t going to force exposition or explanations where they wouldn’t naturally occur if they can avoid it.
IDK, the whole “we just introduced this big new thing, but now the characters are just dinking around? Living their lives? Why???” thing is, to me, at least a solid half of the draw. I like the show is approachable, that the tension is present but not overbearing.
It feels like life. Big, life-changing, worldview shifting things happen. And at the same time that it changes everything, it doesn’t actually change very much at all.
A good friend dies suddenly, you still have to make yourself lunch. Your parents are getting a divorce, you still hang out with your friends and maybe even act like everything is normal. And maybe even forget while you’re hanging out with your friends what is going on at home. You get arrested, get out on bail, know you have a huge case coming up that could determine your whole future, you still play video games for a couple hours the next night, you still go to work the next day. You’re working with your lawyers and everyone to put together your case, of course, but normal life doesn’t stop. It rarely ever does.
IDK, I see these criticisms like “They introduces Bismuth and then just benched her!” or “They introduced the cluster and then it didn’t actually do anything” and it’s like, yet. I have no reason not to trust that those things won’t be coming back around. Everything else in this show has, in time, come back around so far. From seemingly insignificant side characters, to weird locations, to random trivia.
There’s an old saying, “things change slowly, until they change all at once”, and it has, in my life, generally proven to be true. And it seems to be the Steven Universe approach to story pacing. And I, personally, really really like it. And it’s cool if you don’t. But I don’t think I’d like the show as much if it weren’t so chill. It’s a show that drips along in tiny, soothing, sentimental increments.
It’s fine if that’s an aspect of the show you don’t like. I have preferences and there are things I don’t like even though they’re arguably good. But I keep seeing people propose it as an aspect of the show that is bad writing. And, I just can’t wrap my head around that? It’s perfectly fine writing. It’s even, often, great writing. I prefer a slow and quiet accruement to a plot-heavy infodump any fucking day. Not that there isn’t often call for the latter, depending on the story you want to tell and how you want to tell it. But I prefer the former.
So far I haven’t been given any indication there isn’t a planned followthrough for all the many, many threads Steven Universe has laid. They’ve successfully followed through enough times before, often on things we weren’t even aware we should be looking out for, that I imagine they’ll keep doing so. The only reason I ever see the show failing to do so, and having a rushed and unsatisfying end, is time. If they get prematurely cancelled, or prematurely decide to end things out of personal desire to work other projects, then yeah, SU could end badly. Lots of stuff could end up unexplained or given a quick unsatisfying end. But there’s no evidence of that yet, so right now I’m going to take the pacing choices as just that. Choices. Good ones, that I like. Even if they aren’t to everyone’s taste.