Steven Universe Future: Hey Old Friends
After some rude awakenings, the next pair of Steven Universe Future episodes dish out some optimistic respite while carrying over the despondency that has now plagued Steven Universe’s (Zach Callison) life.
In the first episode, “In Dreams,” Steven is awakened by the arrival of his maniacal green Gem-pal Peridot (Shelby Rabara). He’s happy to reconnect with her over the reboot of their soap opera, Camp Pining Hearts. However, the pair are disgusted with the reboot for the typical reasons that fans get disgruntled over sequels or reboots: changed characters and dissatisfying arcs.
While venting their dissatisfaction, they discover something bizarre: Steven’s dreams can radiate their way onto the cassette tape and produce images of his dreams. In a very extreme case of fan-editing, Steven agrees to Peridot’s harebrained scheme to try to dream up a more proper episode to record onto the cassette tape—“Reboot the reboot!” The less I say about the plot specifics of “In Dreams,” the better, but it gives a lesson for children about respecting and expressing their own limits when hanging out with friends, and Peridot also receives a lesson in respecting a friend’s limits. Although Peridot has gotten quite far with her friendship with Steven, even she needs to proportion herself carefully.
Also, the humor is some of the most rib-cracking this season, especially for those who know the charm of hanging around fanbases. When Steven draws up and then impersonates his own Camp Pining Hearts character in his dreams—an OC ,“original character,” in fan fiction terms—who’s a very obvious hunky self-insert, it results in the most priceless soap opera comedy, matched by Callison’s performance.
“Bismuth Casual” follows up with a parallel lesson about the mental exertion of putting up with your friends’ interests and desires to spend more time with them, albeit with a more open approach. Whereas Steven took his commitment to the extreme in the previous episode, here the social challenge teaches him and a friend to turn a crummy anxiety-fueled night around.
Steven drives his human companion Connie (Grace Rolek) and his Gem-friends, Bismuth (Uzo Aduba) and Pearl (Deedee Magno Hall), for a night of fun on the roller-skating rink, an activity he actually never tried. We learn that the typically awkward and human-averse Pearl has happily acquired some human friends there. Then Steven faces major anxiety socialization with Connie’s human friends, realizing he’s out of practice with human interaction, especially for humans his age. Although the younger Steven has always been bold, older Steven has grown more self-conscious of his otherworldliness to humans and perhaps seeing the template of normalcy in other humans makes him more uncomfortable with the life he has led before.
“Bismuth Casual” has a visible departure from Steven’s point-of-view. Usually, everything is approximated around Steven’s point-of-view, with a few cheats (even Garnet’s solo number in the season one finale was observed by Steven through a screen), but there are moments of clear-eyed focus on Steven’s loved ones existing in their own space. For a few seconds, Pearl can be seen as a star in her own universe, wearing her societal awkwardness in human spaces with boldness (her love of a commercial jingle and giving away toilet paper because she assumes it’s a human gesture is quite Pearl).
Even as it works toward a lighter outcome, a great melancholy and alienation haunt Steven and Bismuth. Although content to be present, Bismuth has trepidations with the new environment and is putting up with it for Pearl’s sake, and she’s weary about how much time has passed and how much Pearl has evolved—perhaps away from her old friends. It’s a stark reflection on how commitments can swallow away leisure time and cause friends to drift apart. But with a humorously sweet gesture that involves a commercial jingle, Steven manages to bring his two old friends together. “Bismuth Casual” reminds viewers that even bold people like Steven and Bismuth need to be reinforced of their friends’ love and acceptance.
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