This Steven Universe review contains spoilers.
Steven Universe Future Episode 16
“Fragments” connects Steven Universe Future all the way to its very beginning, when all Steven seemed to care about what his precious Cookie Cats. Back in “Gem Glow” Steven was learning to control his powers and he was excited about it. Brimming with excitement and energy, he went to Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl for advice and they tried their best. Even if took Steven awhile longer to harness his Gem powers it was still a positive experience.
Flash forward to now and Steven’s in the exact opposite place. He’s still trying to control his powers but they aren’t positive emotions, they’re negative. He doesn’t know what to do about them and neither do the Gems. They aren’t used to having to deal with Steven’s emotions for the most part, he was often solving their issues! They try their best but Steven can’t take having to shove his feelings down for them again so he runs away to the one person who knows anger the best. Jasper.
While last episode I praised Steven being able to let loose his emotions, here Jasper has a negative influence on him. She pushes him to embrace his anger and while at first he resists he soon begins to like it. It overwhelms him to the point he intentionally shatters Jasper before he narrowly manages to bring her back. It’s harrowing to watch but it pushes Steven even deeper into the depths of despair he’s been in these past few episodes.
Why is this all happening now? Why is Steven feeling these things when nothing major is happening in his life and not when he was under constant attack? Well there are many reasons but one I’m going to focus on is that Steven is older now. When we’re younger we don’t have the ability to process these complicated emotions and especially trauma. We do everything we can to protect ourselves and this can manifest in many different ways. Instead of Steven quietly taking it all on himself and constantly giving a big smile, maybe he would have been angry and yelled about things a lot.
When we get older though we can finally start to put it all together as it slowly dawns on us how much our everyday lives are impacted by what happened to us as children. Steven is finally old enough to be putting these things together and it’s killing him inside he’s never learned how to express that anger. The only time he ever dealt with it was in a crisis. When he was getting attacked or, and I will keep bringing this up because it was so horrifying, having his appendages turn into cats. When the only time you’ve expressed fear or anger is in a crisis? That will completely warp how you deal with it in these lower stakes situations Steven has found himself in.
Jasper isn’t the best teacher and, like Greg in the last episode, what may or may not work for her certainly doesn’t work for Steven. He can’t go to others and use what worked for them. He needs to find what works for him but he can’t figure that out now because it all seems like too much.
This episode, like “Mr. Universe” before it, feels like another stepping stone to Steven’s ultimate breakdown and him finally figuring out what he needs. That makes it feel less complete and more just set-up. On re-watch that’ll make this better but I wish there had been a little more to make it feel like a more complete episode on its own. Still, at least we got an extremely well done fight from a show that doesn’t normally give us this sort of anime brawler action.
The audience, Steven, and Steven Universe has come a long way since all Steven wanted was a Cookie Cat.