Steven Universe: The Essential Episodes

With Steven Universe and Steven Universe Future finished, we suggest the episodes that will get you hooked on this groundbreaking show.

Steven Universe: The Essential Episodes

After seven years on air, Steven Universe and its companion series Steven Universe Future have finally come to a close and solidified themselves as some of the best TV out there. It’s funny, thought provoking, beautifully animated, and broke all kinds of ground when it comes to queer representation in media for children. (We talked all about that right here, actually.)

All together the series totals 180 episodes. Even if they’re typically eleven minutes each, that can still be a lot for a newbie to jump into. With that in mind, I put together this list of episodes I feel best represent Steven Universe on a whole. It isn’t a list of all the main plot relevant episodes or the objectively best episodes, it’s ones that capture what makes this show so great and why you should check it out. There are some minor spoilers ahead, so if you really want go in spoiler free, just check out what episode titles I suggested.

Now let’s find out why you should believe in Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. And Steven!

Steven Universe Season 1 Episode 2: Laser Light Cannon

Season 1 Episode 2: Laser Light Cannon 

While the first episode does have a lot going for it (we wrote about it here), especially the Cookie Cat song, episode two features what I feel is the mission statement for the show (and is later proven in the fifth season). It’s foreshadowed at the beginning when Steven excitedly asks for fry bits. He has no desire for the whole and perfect fries, he just wants ‘the bits’. Later on we hear Steven’s dad, Greg, give his best piece of advice on the show,

Ad – content continues below

“If every porkchop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs.”

On first watch that just seems like a cute saying but once you see the whole series it takes on another meaning. These characters are all cast offs from society. They don’t fit in any particular mold (much like the fry bits) but are still worthwhile. Ever if you aren’t perfect, like a porkchop, you’re still valuable, like a hot dog.

It’s astounding the show is able to lay out its central message so early while also laying in a lot of foreshadowing for future events that don’t distract from the wacky plot of the day.

Steven Universe Season 1 Episode 22: Steven and the Stevens

Season 1 Episode 22: Steven and the Stevens

With a plot that wouldn’t be out of place on Rick and Morty, this is one of the first instances where Steven Universe takes on a beloved sci-fi trope, time travel. The lesson is fairly straightforward, Steven learns to stay true to himself, but this is not your typical ‘lesson of the week’ show.

It starts off sweet and innocent, with Steven just wanting to go back in time so he can perform with his dad, and ends in Steven watching himself die (as the song goes in the episode). It never goes full on dark and serious but in fact uses humor to make the whole thing even more macabre. While the show can sometimes get very heavy, it never loses its humor. This is not a bleak and cold world, especially with Steven’s sense of humor. 

Steven Universe Season 1 Episode 32: Fusion Cuisine

Season 1 Episode 32: Fusion Cuisine

Even with the mission statement of the show made clear so early on, Steven Universe makes many of its seemingly ‘filler’ episodes about exploring it. In this episode, Connie’s (Steven’s best friend) parents want to meet Steven’s parents. The only problem? Steven’s mom is dead and he considers the Crystal Gems his whole family. Not wanting to lie or upset Connie, he has Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl all fuse into Alexandrite and takes them to dinner with Greg.

Right off the bat, Steven lies through his teeth about his ‘mom’, trying to conform to what society expects of a nuclear family. This of course leads to wacky shenanigans but the message of the episode is clear. 

Ad – content continues below

Connie’s parents strict expectations of her and her friends is a fantastic reflection of the caste system the Crystal Gems were born into and rebelled against. Both Gem society and Earth’s society expect people to fit into certain molds, sometimes literally with Gems. It’s only when you appreciate and love those around you for who they are, even if they are different, that you can truly be happy.

Plus, you there are some great one-liners and Steven not getting to watch the mid-season pre-finale of his favorite show, Under the Knife. Yes, Steven loves hospital dramas. 

Steven Universe Season 1 Episode 25: Lion 3: Straight To Video

Season 1 Episode 35: Lion 3: Straight To Video

For a show that can be very loud and wacky, this episode is all about the quiet moments. I’ve had several people mention that while they enjoyed the earlier episodes of the series, this is where it became clear that Steven Universe was something different. There won’t be a dry eye in the house once you see what Steven finds in Lion’s mane. Yep, that’s a sentence you just read. It pulls no punches and sets you up for the feelings train that this whole show is.

Steven Universe Season 1 Episode 37: Alone Together

 

Season 1 Episode 37: Alone Together

One day while Steven and Connie hang out they unknowingly fuse into the gender neutral Stevonnie. Yep, Steven can fuse with humans and the rest of the episode plays out as a lesson in consent and learning about your own body. Stevonnie is at first awkward in their new form, not sure how to handle all the attention they’re now receiving, being so attractive. This sleazebag, Kevin, who doesn’t know the meaning of the word, ‘no’, hits on them. This is where the consent part comes in. Stevonnie doesn’t like how it feels and becomes engulfed in feelings of dread. She manages to pull herself out of it with the powerful decree to Kevin, “I am not your baby.”

It’s so important that a show aimed at kids like Steven Universe explored this topic, something that shows aimed at adults could learn from. Also of note is how encouraging Garnet is when Stevonnie first asks for help. She doesn’t shame Steven and Connie for fusing or their gender-neutral body. She simply smiles and says, “You are an experience.” Did I mention Steven Universe on a whole is super positive and encouraging to minorities of all kinds?

Ad – content continues below

Steven Universe Season 1 Episode 43: Maximum Capacity

Season 1 Episode 43: Maximum Capacity

While nearly every episode of the show is viewed through Steven’s POV, sometimes we get a larger focus on the other characters. This one squarely focuses on the toxic friendship between Greg and Amethyst. When Greg tries to clean out his storage shed, he also uncovers a box of Lil’ Butler (a sitcom) VHS tapes. He loses himself in them with Amethyst, forgetting about his own son.

When Greg finally snaps himself out of it, Amethyst is not pleased. She’s bitter that Greg would choose anyone over her, just like he chose Rose, Steven’s mom, years ago. Rose casts a huge (eyyyyyyy) shadow over the series and its characters. This comes to painful light when Amethyst shape shifts in front of Greg in what is easily the most harrowing moment of the series.

While most of the episodes end on a joke, this one is more contemplative. It reminds the characters and the viewers that moving on isn’t easy and emotional scars can reopen at any time.

Season 1 Episodes 51-52: The Return/Jail Break 

I really could just link ‘Stronger Than You’ and just move on to the next entry, but let’s actually talk about this. Steven Universe plays the long game, both with its emotional arcs and plot arcs. Its here where so many of the plot threads come together into an epic season finale. The stakes are raised, back-story is reveled, and we get a ton of world building. Don’t be fooled into thinking Steven Universe is just a touchy feely show. It’s got a universe of epic stories that sit comfortably beside Avatar: The Last Airbender, Star Trek, Stargate, and other sci-fi and fantasy classics.

But you know what Steven Universe has that most of those don’t? Lesbians, in the forms of Ruby and Sapphire.

Also of note, when Steven is rushing to save the other Crystal Gems he stops Lion from coming with him. “Lion stay here. If things go bad, dad will need a new son.” This show kills it with the low key jokes.

 

Ad – content continues below

Steven Universe Season 2 Episode 6: Sworn to the Sword

Season 2 Episode 6: Sworn to the Sword 

Ah, another dozy of an episode centered on a Gem’s connection to Rose. Here we have Pearl teaching Connie how to swordfight and in doing so projects herself onto her. She instructs Connie to give everything to Steven, as she did for Rose. I’m about to go into some in-depth character analysis, mostly because it demonstrates just how much effort and care are put into these characters.

Before the war, Pearl was a servant. She had one job in this universe and that was it. It was Rose who gave her a chance at individuality, to become something more. Even if Pearl learned to be herself she could never escape wanting to serve someone. She was willing to lay down her life because that’s in her DNA (or whatever Gems have). Rose wouldn’t let her do that. She wanted to fight WITH Pearl, but I don’t think Pearl could comprehend someone fighting for her and with her. Even subconsciously, she wanted to serve Rose. Both to protect her and to show her devotion.

If Rose could fight for herself… What would Pearl have? Without fighting, did Pearl have any use to Rose? I mean sure, Rose clearly cared about Pearl but I could see Pearl worrying that without the fighting, Rose wouldn’t see any use for her, so she pressed even harder in that fighting as she presses Connie harder and harder. 

When she sees Steven convincing Connie to work with him and not for him, it begins to dawn on her. This is why she lost Rose in the end. Greg wanted to be an equal while Pearl, no matter how hard she tried, saw herself below Rose. Pearl’s whole arc is about finding confidence in herself. To be able to love herself and in turn, better love others. 

Steven Universe Season 2 Episode 17: Sadie's Song

Season 2 Episode 17: Sadie’s Song

Steven Universe does a fantastic job of fleshing out every person in Beach City, but my favorite is Sadie. Part of that is Kate Miucci’s pitch perfect performance of the character, but it’s also this episode. While up to this point Sadie’s focus episodes were also dominated by Lars, here we finally see her on her own with Steven… and Sadie’s mom, Barb.

Steven overhears Sadie singing at the Big Donut and convinces her to sing in front fo the whole town. Sade isn’t so sure but Steven is able to convince her. Barb overhears though and decides to get involved. Too involved. She takes over the whole thing, giving her daughter an extreme make over. Completely transformed, Sadie basically has a panic attack before she goes on stage. She can’t take it. She hates what her Mom is done and rails, “This is not your daughter.”

Ad – content continues below

I love that this show demonstrates that even when a parent thinks they’re being loving and encouraging, it can go too far. Sadie is overwhelmed, dare I say smothered, by her mothers love. Barb thinks she knows what’s best for Sadie and on the surface that seems great, especially to Steven, but Sadie isn’t comfortable with that level of attention. Yeah, maybe she would do well as a singer, but if she isn’t comfortable with it no one should force her.

Its yet another example from the show that you can’t force people to change. They have to gradually come to it if they want to. Even Steven, who means well, has to realize that what may work for him doesn’t work well for others.

Steven Universe playing the long game with its character arcs succeeds at demonstrating this lesson so well, even with a side character like Sadie.

Bonus points go to this episode for Steven rocking Sadie’s outfit when he goes to perform. I adore how the show does not hold back on Steven’s femininity and how the town doesn’t bat an eye at it.

Steven Universe Season 2 Episode 22: The Answer

Season 2 Episode 22: The Answer

Hey, did you know Steven Universe is a primarily artist driven show? Yes, the series has writers but the artists have a huge say in where it goes and boy… Does this episode ever put the artists at the forefront. It’s a gorgeous episode that takes on its own visual style, inspired by Sleeping Beauty and the work of Lotte Reinger. The whole thing reads as a metaphor for LGBTQ people discovering themselves and dealing with hatred and fear from society.

It’s our first big glimpse into just how oppressive Gem society is and just how big an act of rebellion it was to break away from it. Whenever Steven Universe gets into a flashback of any kind, they knock it out of the park.

Ad – content continues below

It also revisits the shows mission statement. Remember, “if all pork chops were perfect we wouldn’t have hotdogs” thing? Well to take it even further, Steven Universe asks us how we get to that conclusion. How do you have that philosophy? What does it take to get there? The answer is simple. It’s love. 

Steven Universe Season 3 Episode 5: Hit the Diamond

Season 3 Episode 5: Hit the Diamond

This is just a fun one. Rarely do we get to see all of the main characters, especially at this point in the series, on screen together and this episode balances them so well. With a team of Ruby’s dispatched from home world to seemingly track down Peridot, Steven and the Crystal Gems have to protect her by… playing baseball. So many great gags are had here, from Lapis’ completely unenthused reaction to the game to Ruby and Sapphire flirting up a storm and nearly costing the team a win.

The opposing team of Ruby’s are also a hoot to watch. Even if they all mostly look the same, the subtle difference in their voices always makes me smile. Also, check that visual reference to Dragon Ball Z when the first Ruby comes out of their ship. Steven Universe loves to pay tribute to past animation, especially anime.

Season 3 Episode 8: Mr. Greg

We return to both Greg and Pearl in this musical episode. Yep, Steven Universe does a full on musical. Both Pearl and Greg have a lot to work through when it comes to Rose, Pearl most of all. In the shows most heart breaking musical number (and that says a lot), Pearl sings, “It’s over isn’t it? Yhy can’t I move on?”

Ironically it’s only through admitting that can she can finally begin to. The song, performed beautifully by Deedee Magno, is a series highlight because it also makes no bones about Pearl’s love for Rose. Whereas before a lot of fans could convince themselves Rose and Pearl were just ‘very close friends’ there’s no mistake that Pearl’s love for Rose was romantic, thanks to Magno’s performance.

One of the many great things about the series is how it taps into real emotions. Sure, it’s a show about Lesbian Space Rocks, but it uses that sci-fi setting to tell stories about genuine emotions so many of us have. Pearl avoided being near Greg for so long because of how jealous she was, but the two really did need each other. They both needed someone who knew Rose and loved her. They needed to grieve together. 

Unlike “Sadie’s Song”, this is one of the times where Steven wanting to help someone change is for the best because Pearl has already started to make that decision herself. Sadie didn’t want to sing in front of everyone, Pearl however does want to change. She just had to admit it to herself first. 

Ad – content continues below

Steven Universe Season 3 Episode 13: Kiki's Pizza Delivery Service

Season 3 Episode 13: Kiki’s Pizza Delivery Service

Another fantastic focus episode for the citizens of Beach City, this one on Kiki, who has a twin sister she works with at her family’s restaurant. Kiki more or less has it together, able to express her feelings around everyone… Except for her sister. She thinks she has to sacrifice her own happiness for her, “because she’s my sister.”

Like “Sadie’s Song”, we are shown that family relationships are complicated. Kiki loves her sister and says she doesn’t mind helping her, but it starts to take a toll. When Steven offers his help, she instantly puts it all on his shoulders. It’s tough for her to face the problem and Steven gives her an easy out, until he gives her the most Steven sounding advice ever.

“We’ve been dealing with the toppings of the problem. We have to get to the sauce.”

Kiki learns even people you love can take advantage of you, even if they don’t realize, and it’s okay to say something. It’s the only way to deal with each other in the long run. Plus, we get that Evangelion reference.

Some fans may call this and other episodes about the Beach City residents ‘filler’ but they serve a grander purpose for the show. They make us care about the Earth Steven and the Gems are fighting for. Without them, it’s just your typical ‘save the world’ show. Once you had that emotional compenent of friends and family? That’s where emotional investment comes in. When a big evil threat is bearing down on the Earth you’re scared, just like the Gems, that the people they love could get hurt. These ‘filler’ episodes help the audience get invested in the world around our main characters.

Steven Universe Season 3 Episode 15: Alone at Sea

 Season 3 Episode 15: Alone at Sea

This is another time where Steven means well but taking Lapis out to sea, especially when she was trapped there with Jasper for so long, was probably a bad idea. Lapis is forced to confront her trauma head on when Jasper reappears and begs her to fuse again. Jasper is nothing short of an abuser, making Lapis feel less then, uh, human by demeaning her. Saying she’s nothing without her. It’s rough to watch because it’s so close to what people in the real world go through.

Ad – content continues below

The show gets abuse perfectly right in much the same way Marvel’s Jessica Jones did. If I was ranking these episodes, this one would be at the top.

Steven Universe Season 3 Episodes 20-21: Bismuth

Season 3 Episodes 20-21: Bismuth

Up to this point Rose was portrayed as a fairly benevolent leader. Oh sure, she was the leader in a war but she loved the Crystal Gems with all her heart. Here we get a different side of her. She hid a crucial piece of information from the Gems, that one of their friends, Bismuth, wanted to turn the tide in the war with a Gem shattering weapon. It’s another episode that hits you with the world building but it also asks us if Rose was as good a leader as the Gems make her out to be. 

Rose Quartz shattered Pink Diamond, yet she refused to allow anyone else that power. She preached that the Gems had freedom of choice, freedom to make new lives for themselves, but apparently that was only to a certain point. Rose bubbled Bismuth rather than allow her to make what she deemed was a bad choice. But is that really freedom of choice then? These are tough issues that Steven is forced to tackle with no easy answer. As much as he’s living up to his mom’s love, he’s also inheriting the mistakes she made as well. Is this little boy up to it? Can he face these horrors and make it out the same happy go lucky Steven?

Season 4 Episode 4: Mindful Education

In direct follow up to the last entry, we learn just how Steven is dealing with these horrors. He isn’t. When Connie relates a bad experience she had at school earlier that day, Steven advises her how to deal with the bad thoughts, “Sometimes you just don’t think about it.”

This throws off their fusion but thankfully the fusion expert, Garnet, is there to help them work through it. Connie is able to deal with her problems, but it takes a lot more for Steven. He’s seen death and destruction. Bismuth, Jasper, and the Eyeball Ruby all come back to haunt him. These become a literal swarm in his mind of thoughts that grip him so tight he nearly dies. Only through this bit of advice does he finally break out of it.

“You have to be honest about how bad it feels before you can move on.”

‘Here Comes A Thought’, the song featured in the episode really sums the whole thing up.

Take a moment to think of just flexibility, love, and trust. 

Steven Universe Season 4 Episode 6: Last One Out of Beach City

Season 4 Episode 6: Last One Out of Beach City

Another really fun episode that sees Pearl not just talking about moving on but actually doing so when she goes to a concert with Steven and Amethyst. On the way she does everything she can to appear ‘cool’ but it backfires every time. She tries to drive and gets chased by the police. She tries to flirt with a mystery girl and nothing happens.

Ad – content continues below

Again we see just being you is what wins out in the end. Even if you’re a fry bit or a repressed nerd lesbian, love who you are. Don’t change for someone else because if you do, you won’t be happy.

Steven Universe Season 4 Episode 17: Storm in the Room

Season 4 Episode 17: Storm in the Room

Who knew that a Peanuts reference would perfectly sum up Steven’s feelings about Rose? Season four of Steven Universe can perhaps best be summed up as “sins of the mother.” Throughout the main arcs Steven desperately tries to come to terms with his conflicting feelings about Rose.

On the one hand, he loves her. He wants to have known her. He creates a vision of her in this episode to try and catch up on all the time they’ve never had together. On the other, he blames her for everything. He thinks that by creating him she was just hiding from the mess she made.

Being able to unload all of these complicated emotions, even if they’re only to a vision of Rose, helps Steven to process them. It’s another great example of Steven Universe portraying realistic and complicated emotions. There’s no easy answer here, but at least Steven is willing to confront his feelings and not shove them away. Check out our full review of this episode here.

Steven Universe Season 4 Episode 20: Room For Ruby

Season 4 Episode 20: Room For Ruby

In a lesser show’s hands, this episode would have focused on Lapis learning to trust others more. The set up is all there. The Navy Ruby, once the team’s enemy, is now looking for sanctuary. Peridot and Steven accept her but Lapis isn’t sure. In a delightful twist, Lapis’ gut instincts are completely correct. Navy was playing them all and she steals their only spaceship.

While trauma can sometimes hold people back (both in real life and in fiction), here Lapis’ defenses ended up saving the team. While getting over that trauma may be a big part of her arc, the defenses she’s built up because of it aren’t immediately brushed off as something to move past or forget about.

Ad – content continues below

All of that plus another masterful turn by Charlyne Yi as Navy; this episode is one of Steves Universe’s most hilariously dark hours yet. Check out our full review of this episode here.

Steven Universe Season 4 Episode 25: I Am My Mom

Season 4 Episode 25: I Am My Mom

Steven Universe plays the long game and this is one of the episodes where there’s some major payoff. A seemingly throw away scene from Steven’s first interaction with Peridot, leads to many of his human friends being kidnapped. 

When Steven confronts Aquamarine and Topaz, we get the scariest Steven Universe moment of all time. Aquamarine threatens to kill Steven’s kidnapped friends and while Steven and the Crystal Gem’s reactions to this are of course ones of panic, it’s Jamie’s quake of fear that really sells it.

This is the episode that proves why the regular people of Beach City are vital to the Steven Universe story. Many fans dismiss episodes focused on them and favor Gem heavy outings, which is understandable enough, but these characters getting so much screen time help sell the ultimate reason why Steven gives himself up. 

To save his friends. Through those friendships, Steven makes what he considers the ultimate sacrifice and will finally confront his mom’s actions. Now that’s how you do a cliffhanger. Check out our full review of this episode here.

Steven Universe Season 5 Episode 2: The Trial

Season 5 Episode 2: The Trial

This episode possibly gives fans the real answer they’ve really been looking for. It isn’t one that reveals the back-story or blows open the mythology.

Ad – content continues below

It’s one that points to a parallel between how Rose gave up her life to make Steven and how Steven is willing to give himself up to save Lars. The more Steven is willing to sacrifice himself the more he’ll come to understand why Rose did what she did.

She didn’t do it to escape responsibility for shattering Pink Diamond. She did it solely out of love.

Steven (and the fans) may have been looking for a more complicated back-story for why Rose made him but it’s really simple. It’s because of love. That love is far more pure whereas the love Yellow Diamond feels for Blue is twisted. Steven Universe is committed to showing all kinds of love, even the twisted and messed up kinds. Check out our full review of this episode here.

Steven Universe Season 5 Episode 7: Raising the Barn

Season 5 Episode 7: Raising the Barn

I appreciate the absolute balls of this episode to portray a victim of abuse as being in the wrong. It’s not that Lapis is painted as a bad person, it just demonstrates that even if you’ve been hurt you have the capability to hurt others if you don’t deal with your pain.

Lapis is running away from her pain, which isn’t a bad thing, but we also see how it deeply affects Peridot. She’s (quite literally) bent over backwards for Lapis. She’s done everything she could for her and it wasn’t enough. Lapis would still snap at her.

Now Lapis didn’t exactly ask for that so Peridot has something to learn to but the complicated emotions on display here surpass anything I’ve ever seen on TV. Check out our full review of this episode here.

Ad – content continues below

Steven Universe Season 5 Episode 9: Sadie Killer

Season 5 Episode 9: Sadie Killer

“You ever feel so bad you feel good?”

With that one line Steven Universe nails the crushing yet comforting sense of normalcy that can plague any creative type. Not reaching for your dreams or just accepting you’ll always feel sad brings you a false sense of security.

Sadie sees her job as bad but at least it makes sense. Singing in a band would be fun but, like “Sadie’s Song” proved, it could also come with complications. There are no stakes at the Big Donut. While Sadie may not be struggling with anything as deep as Peridot and Lapis her problems are still treated as valid and worthy of exploration.

While some of the story arcs of Steven Universe can feel like they go on for eternity, it’s nice that Sadie’s story has taken a big step forward here. Let’s hope she’s done with the Big Donut forever. Check out our full review of this episode here.

Steven Universe Season 5 Episode 20: What's Your Problem

Season 5 Episode 20: What’s Your Problem

It’s always the quieter episodes of Steven Universe that land the hardest. Here we get a much needed check-in on Amethyst and how, while it might not seem this way on the surface, she’s the most mature of all the Crystal Gems. Steven thinks she needs help but she can actually see Steven is the one who’s hurting. She refuses to burden him anywhere and working through her problems is something she handle on her own.

Amethyst keeps it inside because she doesn’t want to hurt anyone. She keeps it inside because that’s comfortable for her and that’s presented as a perfectly great thing to do. Unlike many shows that seem fairly content just asking the questions about how we relate to others, Steven Universe is giving us answers. Check out our full review of the episode here.

Ad – content continues below

Steven Universe Season 5 Episode 23: Reunited

Season 5 Episode 23: Reunited

While there’s a big battle that’s pretty much the climax of the series, there’s two lines that really make this episode stand out. One is in Ruby’s perfection delivered speech at the wedding.

“I wanna be me… with you.”

So simple and yet it says it all. The kind of love this show has been striving for, a love of pure and simple acceptance of others for all their strengths and weaknesses. The other was from Lapis, after the Diamonds try and destroy her.

“I’ve felt worse.”

Lapis is a survivor. She’s not perfect. She’s messy, but she’s still there for her friends when it counts. Her hurt may try to define her but she fights it and right here? She wins, if only for now. Check out our full review of the episode here.

Steven Universe Season 5 Change Your Mind

Season 5 Episodes 29, 30, 31, and 32: Change Your Mind

In many ways the culmination of Steven Universe’s mythology arc, this episode is a nonstop ride. Featuring new fusions, incredible action, and the most beautiful visuals of the entire series, this is an episode you can tell was being planned for a very long time.

Of particular note is the climatic “talk” between Steven and White Diamond, that brings home the series mission statement of “If every porkchop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs.” It becomes the biggest thing to confront White Diamond with and what ultimately brings her down. Check out our full review of the episode here.

Steven Universe Future Episode 4: Volleyball

Steven Universe Future Episode 4: Volleyball

How Steven deals with the fallout of his mother’s actions has been a huge part of Steven Universe up to this point but there’s something different and all the more interesting going on in this episode. Since Steven has grown up in the time skip before this season we get to see more of his reactions to what Rose did. We see just how angry he gets at what she did to Volleyball Pearl. It has Steven question whether he should even forgive his mother for what she did.

More importantly the show focuses on Volleyball and doesn’t try to absolve Rose of her actions. In a touching scene between our Pearl and Volleyball Pearl they make it clear Rose’s actions, however Steven feels about them, are inexcusable. It colors a lot of what we’ve seen or heard about Rose in the earlier seasons and lets the audience make up its mind how to feel about the character. Check out our full review of the episode here!

Steven Universe Future Episode 10 Prickly Pair

Steven Universe Future Episode 10: Prickly Pair

What happens when you can’t hide from your emotions anymore? What happens when you’re finally confronted by the deepest fears and anxieties in your life? What if it all becomes so big you can’t handle them? And what if this was all done thanks to a magical cactus that repeats everything you say? Only in Steven Universe.

In this episode we start to pull back the curtain on what Steven has been wrestling with inside his head. He puts all the responsibility on himself for everything. He’s afraid to tell Pearl how he feels because he worries she’ll blame herself and spiral out of control and he’ll have to pick up the pieces. He doesn’t know if that’s actually true or not, he just assumes it and it’s all informed by the trauma he’s been through his whole life.

This is the kind of emotional storytelling grounded in real world psychology that made Steven Universe Future stand out amongst the other seasons. This isn’t a season about Gem battles or even wacky goofs. This is about Steven and letting him process his trauma. Check out our full review of the episode here.

Steven Universe Future Episode 14: Growing Pains

Steven Universe Future Episode 14 Growing Pains

Grounded emotional story telling has made up a lot of Steven Universe but some of it has been through metaphor. Fusion has been a stand in for all kinds of intimacy, for example. In ‘Growing Paints’ however, even if Steven is growing larger with a gem glow around him, it’s mostly brought into plain text. Connie’s mother informs Steven he’s dealing with trauma. It takes all the horrific things that have happened to Steven across the whole show and frames that as experiences that make up his trauma. It’s played extremely seriously and the team behind the series clearly consulted real world texts to help with the explanation of trauma. Steven’s dialogue also reinforces this, with heartbreaking lines such as,

“How do I live life if it always feels like I’m about to die?”

Read our full review here!

Steven Universe Future Finale

Steven Universe Future Finale (Episodes 17-20)

It all comes to an end here. While the explosive climax of Steven turning into an actual monster is a great chance for all the major characters to show their stuff, it’s the build up and aftermath that really sing. Seeing Steven slowly lose his grip and try to act like everything is fine is a rough watch, especially after the preceding episodes did so much ground work to set it up. Steven is so afraid of admitting he needs help he keeps everything bottled up inside, to his detriment. That’s what makes him feel like a monster and that’s what makes his transformation into one so powerful.

The final episode, while very subdued in comparison to Season 5’s finale, still delivers a satisfying conclusion to the series because it lets Steven have some great final moments with the main cast and finally go out on his own. He doesn’t need to be what others need him to be, he can figure out exactly what he needs and that’s beautiful. Read our full review here.

Steven Universe with Cookie Cat

As mentioned at the start of this article, don’t take this list as ‘the best of Steven Universe‘ or ‘skipping the fillers of Steven Unvierse‘. I do recommend that if you check out a few of these episodes and they catch your attention to start from the very beginning. Watching all of the episodes slowly pays off once you see just how much is foreshadowed from the beginning. Even the early episodes, while technically not as strong as the later ones, are still a ton of fun and lay all the groundwork that make those later episodes so great.

If you think I missed an episode that makes Steven Universe great, feel free to comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear what all the Steven Universe fans out there think.

Shamus Kelley is a pop culture/television writer and official Power Rangers expert. Follow him on Twitter! Read more articles by him here!