Steven Universe Future Episode 10 Review: Prickly Pair
Steven Universe has already hit the climax of its plot. Now we're getting the climax of its emotional core and it's perfect.
This Steven Universe Future review contains spoilers.
Steven Universe Future Episode 10 Review
Aha, you thought all those Watermelon Steven’s in earlier seasons of Steven Universe were pointless! No no, they were actually all just establishing his ability to create new versions of himself. I’m glad they did because Cactus Steven is without a doubt the show’s best metaphor so far.
Steven is dealing with a lot. After the events last episode he’s given up Little Homeschool and is instead focusing on gardening. This seems perfect but he’s worryingly naming all his plants after the people who are slowly leaving his life. Steven isn’t dealing with his emotions and he’s running punch drunk away from them as fast as possible.
It’s good Steven left Little Homeschool but now he’s in the darkest place possible, he has no purpose. At first Cactus Steven seems like the perfect distraction. A new friend to take care of! It’s what Steven’s always known. He’s comfortable with this… until he starts using Cactus Steven to finally vent out some of his negative self-talk.
He says the Gems don’t need him anymore. It’s obviously not true but Steven is in such a depth of despair he can’t believe anything but the worst… and Cactus Steven repeats it all back to him.
“Why do I need to be needed?”
Steven can’t bare to have his true thoughts heard by the Gems and tries to cover Cactus Steven’s mouth but he gets hurt in the process. This is where the episode really hits its stride. Cactus Steven is so perfect as a metaphor because, much like dealing with your own negative feelings and emotions, a cactus will hurt if you get too close. It’s easy to want to run and hide from those feelings after getting pricked. That’s what Steven does but he can’t help venting more negative feelings.
“I can’t tell Pearl how I feel cause she’ll blame herself and spiral out of control and I’ll have to pick up the pieces.”
That quote is very telling. Steven assumes that Pearl will be that way, disregarding all the growth she’s gone through. He puts the responsibility on himself that he has to deal with his problems because; he assumes wrongly, no one else can handle it. He frames it as caring about Pearl, that he’s just looking out for her but this removes Pearl’s entire agency. Maybe she would spiral out of control, maybe she wouldn’t but Steven is just using this logic to keep everyone away.
The more Steven denies help and keeps it all inside the worse Cactus Steven gets. The metaphor grows more obvious. Steven’s negative emotions are so big he can’t deal with it himself and he needs his friends, his family. Crucially though they can’t solve this problem for him. Steven has to take it into his own hands, which he literally does. Bristling against the pain, Steven hugs the personification of his own bad feelings and accepts them.
“I should have given you more of the love and kindness that you deserve.”
Steven needs to give himself love and kindness. He needs that self-love. This first step was hard. It left him full of cactus spines, but it worked. Now he can’t put his problems away again, as represented by Cactus Steven running away. He can’t put him back in the dome. Steven has to confront himself… but can’t.
“Is there anything you need to talk about?” “I think I’ve said enough.
Steven isn’t quite there yet. He can’t talk to the people closest to him, the people he has so much baggage with. I don’t know where Steven will go from here but I hope he finds a therapist or some equivalent to speak to. He has a lot to get off his chest.
Steven Universe continues to prove it’s a masterpiece in emotional storytelling. This show was always focused on Steven as a character because it was always about how he grew and changed. Now, after the climax of the main series? We finally come to the true climax, or at least just before it, of what really mattered in the show.
Steven’s emotional health. I can’t wait to see where they go with it.
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Shamus Kelley is a pop culture/television writer and official Power Rangers expert. Follow him on Twitter! He also co-hosts a Robotech podcast, which covers the original series and the new comics. Give it a listen! Read more articles by him here!