Steven Universe Future shined a spotlight on its main character’s worst traits

Photo Credit: Steven Universe/Cartoon Network Image Acquired from Turner Press
Photo Credit: Steven Universe/Cartoon Network Image Acquired from Turner Press /
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Steven Universe Future put us through the wringer once more in an exploration of hefty emotions and the way it goes awry for even the noblest of characters.

From the very beginning, Steven Universe was a character that operated so strongly out of this ingrained sense of empathy that it was one of his strongest qualities. He always believed in other and we all loved him for that. There was something wonderfully redemptive in the way that Steven saw everybody.

It didn’t matter who you were. You could be a soldier bent on carnage, a scientist who wanted to study a world-destroying weapon, or just a jerk who wasn’t good at emoting, you were never past the point of return. Even if you were galaxy-ruling despots, it was in the very ethos of Steven Universe to help in some way.

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That’s where Steven Universe found yet another place to break our hearts because it makes the case that this was never a good part of Steven to begin with. He is selfless to his very detriment and that’s where Steven Universe Future really wanted to explore things.

This has also echoed back further into the show that this willingness to help others has forced to ask too much of himself but this epilogue series really pushed that into a new stratosphere. It emphasized the kind of toxicity that exists not only in his desire to help, but also in his belief that he needed to have that kind of thing in his life to be useful to others.

The main series had spent so long building up this idea that Steven would save the galaxy and have this big hero’s journey that when it finally did all of that, the only question that was left was how do you proceed from there? What do you do when ostensibly your life’s work was completed at a drastically young age? What is next?

The answer to that was you are utterly stuck with yourself now and if you were to have elements to yourself that were unhealthy or unsustainable, of course you would begin to crumble. Steven, throughout this season, has to deal with the fact that there are parts to himself that are inherently self-destructive. He helps others but at what cost to himself?

What a lot of this ultimately came down to was that Steven didn’t like himself very much. A good deal of this was brought on by the trauma of everything that he has to deal with at a young age that would scar anyone, but it’s also that, as he claims during “Everything’s Fine,” he does not think that he is the virtue of goodness that everyone else and himself believe him to be.

As a result, these emotions get pushed down and repressed and become even more toxic than they would before because he has no safe outlet for the way he feels. This is illustrated rather well with “Prickly Pair,” where he unwittingly pours his feelings into a cactus that comes alive and regurgitates the nastier parts of his personality.

By the end, Steven Universe Future doesn’t come away with a cut-and-dry answer for the way that Steven should feel or even how to get better. He does what anyone does, in all of its inelegance, and just shows that Steven has done the work with the help of people that loved him, along with some professional counseling. It’s perhaps Steven Universe at its most human only to be followed up by Steven making the decision to move on from his home.

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Steven Universe Future was often hard to watch and often times gut-wrenching, but it told stories that were recognizably human amongst grandiose backdrops of alien gem beings and magical powers. In that, it was the perfect ending.

What did you think of the series? Let us know in the comments below.