This Steven Universe Future review contains spoilers.
Steven Universe Future Episode 9 Review
“I’ve always been trying to help my friends. I don’t know who I am without them.”
This admission from Steven sets the stage for Steven Universe Future to start revving up the plot. We’ve had enough setup of Steven slowly being overwhelmed by his responsibilities at Little Homeschool but ‘Little Graduation’ took it in a direction I wasn’t quite expecting.
The main issue with Steven isn’t that he’s just overworking himself and not dealing with his emotions. It’s that Steven is overworking himself because he has to feel like he’s needed. He’s trying so hard to help his friends because that’s the only way he feels like he can relate to them. Little Homeschool was perfect for that because everyone needed him but now that house of cards has fallen. Once the Gems leave? They don’t need him anymore. He’s not a part of their lives.
This was inevitable for Steven. All the way back when the full version of the theme song was unveiled, Steven sang, “I will fight to be everything that everybody wants me to be when I’m grown.” It stemmed from the way everyone expected him to be Rose. He’s internalized it to a certain degree and he’s developed bad coping mechanisms to deal with it. Now that no one expects him to be Rose he’s transferred that desire to helping others with anything and everything they need.
Steven has become that friend in the group who’s always willing to listen to your problems but doesn’t know how to tell you to stop. He takes on too much and is slowly cracking under the pressure. Seeing his reaction to all his friends leaving tied in nicely with all the themes of growing up Steven Universe Future has been tackling but it adds an extra layer of meaning for Steven’s internal conflict.
Steven creates those walls around everyone because he doesn’t just want them to go, he needs them to stay so he can feel as if he has a purpose in life. Steven is finally confronting who he is. He can’t hide in his youthful optimism or coping mechanisms anymore, he needs to confront it or risk hurting himself and others. Like in ‘Volleyball,’ Steven got very close to hurting people he cares about because of his unchecked emotions. The series is beautifully setting up the idea that if you don’t deal with your more difficult emotions it’ll eventually blow up in your face.
The series has previously tackled mental health issues in episodes such as ‘Mindful Education’ but this is taking it a step further. That episode was just Connie and Steven dealing with a few bad actions. Here though, it’s a whole lifetime of coping mechanisms that helped Steven get through a lot when he was younger but is now holding him back.
It should be said we often develop coping mechanisms when we’re younger just to survive and that there’s nothing wrong with that. Kids especially need them. It’s when we get older though that they start to show more of a negative impact overall.
Steven Universe continues to tackle topics that no other show has done with such care and realism. It’s taken the show this long to build up to this plot and it feels like it was the series’ long game all along, to tell a story involving Steven learning about and then unpacking coping mechanisms. It’s absolutely brilliant and I can’t wait to see where it goes here. Steven was confronted with some harsh truths but will he deal with them head on or try to avoid them once again? We’ll have to see.
I must also shower the series with praise for the character of Shep, fantastically played by the non-binary Indya Moore. While Shep never identifies themselves on screen all the characters use they/them pronouns. Since Moore is non-binary in real life it’s safe to assume that Shep is non-binary as well. Not only that but they’re a person of color!
Also that more than likely means Sadie is queer (used as an umbrella term) as well. Straight people can obviously date non-binary people but come on, Sadie is more than likely queer and that’s incredible. Bless this show and its glorious representation.
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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!