This Steven Universe Future review contains spoilers.
Steven Universe Future Episode 11
Don’t fall into the trap this Steven Universe Future episode gives you. It’s easy to do, I understand, but don’t let all the Camp Pining Hearts jokes fool you. This isn’t commentary on fandom or reboots. This isn’t the writers getting a dig on the newest reboot that’s “ruined their childhoods.” This is an episode, as all episodes of Steven Universe Future have been, about the long-term effects of trauma on Steven.
All the jokes about Camp Pining Hearts, hilarious as Peridot made them, were really just a way to get Steven and her together again. This was so Steven could fall right back into his old patterns. The way he’s lived his entire life. The way that caused part of the trauma in the first place.
Steven fixes something for Peridot. It seems small, making their own reboot of Camp Pining Hearts seems like it’s a fun self-contained idea for the Steven Universe comics. In fact they did a story titled “Camp Pining Play” that, if you haven’t read it, you should pick up. Steven uses his dream to tape a new version of the show that makes up for the reboot they don’t like. If that’s all the episode was it’d be fine, a solid episode of Steven Universe.
But this isn’t Steven Universe, it’s Steven Universe Future. The show brilliantly takes what would have been a standard plot and shows what it’s done to Steven. How so many of these plots have effected Steven in the long term. It made him feel like no one will want him around if he isn’t fixing things for them. When Steven was younger and going through traumatizing events, this is how he kept himself and those he loved alive. It was necessary at the time but the coping mechanisms we develop can turn harmful once we grow past our need for them.
This isn’t a knock on Steven or any of his friends. They were all just trying to survive. For as many jokes as the show loves to make and all the good times they had? Steven still faced things that rightly give him nightmares. In fact it’s those nightmares that Steven has to deal with but can’t. He’s shoving it all down, trying to act like it’s fine when it’s not. Steven’s subconscious (and Gem powers) is crying out for help but he doesn’t know how to deal with it. How could he?
Steven doesn’t know how to fix himself. He thinks he can only fix others. That’s the main point of this episode, not Camp Pining Hearts. It’s good Steven starts to realize it but we all know full well that isn’t enough. Steven has to confront it head-on.
Steven Universe Future returns with an emotional episode but thankfully gives us some comedy to smooth it out. I’m sure a deep and dark episode is coming but the Camp Pining Hearts bits worked as a nice comedy chaser to the darker elements Steven was wrestling with. The series, once again, is tackling concepts very few others can touch with this level of depth and nuance. Steven feels isolated because of his trauma and can only rely on those old coping mechanisms to find some meaning. This is so true to life for a victim of trauma or even just being an over giver as a child it hurts to watch. It’s still great though. It’s the kind of hurt we need to see in order for Steven Universe Future to do what it does best. Use the characters and world of Steven to hold up a safe mirror to the audience and let them be reflected in it. Bless it for that.