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Well, I’m learning some things about myself, at least.

When I started my Steven Universe project back in June, I intended to have the first four seasons of the series finished within that month, allowing me to finish it within the span of Hulu’s free trial without having to actually pay for it; I even laid out a schedule of what episodes I’d watch each day. The hope was that devoting that much energy towards a project like that could help me refocus my energies on other projects I’ve been procrastinating on for the past few years. That quickly fell by the wayside once I started writing actual posts about the series on top of tweeting while I was watching, as each post usually took multiple days to complete, holding up my progress on the series, and the Season 1 recap post took an especially long time to complete. Part of the problem was that I so rarely could muster enough brainpower to work on the posts and bring them up to the standard I set for myself, to the point I started loading up on protein bars when I was about to work on a post. Basically, there was a good reason I spent so little time on posts over the last few years.

Anyway, we’re coming up on two full months since I finished Season 2, and I haven’t finished its recap post yet, though I’ve reached the point where the only work I have left involves rewatching selected episodes. Right now that post isn’t even that much longer than the Season 1 post, though it may still end up being split into two posts. I do want to get back into the swing of things if only to have a chance to catch up before the start of any sixth season. And I definitely intend to have at least one post in the next week, namely an introductory post for the new season of the SNF Flex Scheduling Watch introducing some significant changes for how it’ll work this year. But in terms of having a consistent posting schedule, to work on all the projects I hoped to or even get back to the posting frequency of years past? That prospect looks a lot darker than it looked before June.

Morgan Watches Steven Universe In-Depth: The Answer

2018-07-02 (17)Or: Why I’m not impressed with Ruby and Sapphire’s story.

(Note: Although I’ve been spoiled about most of the plot to the series right up through A Single Pale Rose, this post attempts to approximate, as best as I can, the perspective of someone watching on January 4, 2016, the day this episode aired. To aid in maintaining this perspective in future posts any discussion of this post in places I would be privy to should avoid any events depicted or things revealed past this point. You can also read my original tweets while watching this episode.)

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Morgan Watches Steven Universe In-Depth: Too Far

2018-07-01 (5)Or: The slow, painful, conversion of Peridot.

(Note: Although I’ve been spoiled about most of the plot to the series right up to the most recent episodes, this post attempts to approximate, as best as I can, the perspective of someone watching on October 15, 2015, the day this episode aired. To aid in maintaining this perspective in future posts any discussion of this post in places I would be privy to should avoid any events depicted or things revealed past this point. You can also read my original tweets while watching this episode.)

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Morgan Watches Steven Universe In-Depth: Nightmare Hospital

2018-06-26 (4)Or: Why Connie Maheswaran might be the best, most fascinating love interest in the history of children’s television.

(Note: Although I’ve been spoiled about most of the plot to the series right up to the most recent episodes, this post attempts to approximate, as best as I can, the perspective of someone watching on September 10, 2015, the day this episode aired. To aid in maintaining this perspective in future posts any discussion of this post in places I would be privy to should avoid any events depicted or things revealed past this point. You can also read my original tweets while watching this episode.)

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Morgan Watches Steven Universe: Season 1

I won’t have too much to say about the season as a whole, because I have a lot of character analysis to get to (this post is nearly seven thousand words as it is), and a few other things besides, and I already gave some of my thoughts on the season in my post about the finale.

The early part of this (half-)season, as already chronicled, frustrated me because of its refusal to address the unanswered questions Mirror Gem and Ocean Gem left behind, and even without that seven of the first eight episodes were rather milquetoast one-offs (though that’s not to say that episodes like Island Adventure, Garnet’s Universe, or Watermelon Steven were complete wastes). As the season picked up steam, though, it picked up a level of quality and complexity unseen in the first half of the season, hitting long strings of high-quality episodes that built up the plot, delivered emotional moments, developed and rounded out characters, or some combination of the above. Even Horror Club, the episode in this stretch that delivered on these things the least, gave us insight into Ronaldo and Lars. Episodes like Rose’s Scabbard, On the Run, Lion 3: Straight to Video, and Alone Together managed to transcend the limitations of being merely a “kids’ show” and addressed complex topics while giving Pearl and Amethyst emotional depth and fleshing out the background of the characters. Meanwhile, the moment of solemnity at the end of Ocean Gem was compounded in Warp Tour with the prospect of Homeworld discovering the Gems on Earth, built up further with every episode filling out the past of the Gems and their history with Homeworld, and eventually built to a crescendo with Marble Madness and the string of season-ending episodes starting with The Message.

It really is a shame that Jailbreak was such a disappointing ending that failed to live up to the build-up. While I might disagree with the message of The Test, if you accept that message there’s no doubt that the way it delivers it is well-done, but Jailbreak is so structurally deficient that I’m honestly amazed it seems to be so universally beloved. Maybe I’d feel differently if I hadn’t been spoiled about Garnet’s nature, or if I were LGBT and was just celebrating the show’s first clear depiction of an intra-gem romance that wasn’t depicted as dysfunctional and unhealthy. But as I said, Jailbreak is not a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination; if it weren’t being asked to serve so many masters and let its role as season finale take second fiddle to focusing on Garnet and fusion, or conversely if it were able to focus on Garnet without worrying about also living up to the build-up, it’d be perfectly fine, even great.

Even with that, Steven Universe has built up enough of a mythology around itself that it can remain engaging on its own momentum. There’s no single pressing question hanging over the heads of Steven Universe the show or Steven Universe the character; even if the two-parter did leave some open-ended dangling threads here and there for the show to answer later, most notably Peridot’s escape and Jasper and Lapis’ mutual imprisonment, none of them really stand out to the degree Lapis’ “don’t trust them” did. The bigger issue is that there’s no reason to expect Homeworld’s interest in our heroes to end with Peridot and Jasper, and every reason to expect even tougher forces to come. The world the show has built and the conflict it’s set up can survive most any bump in the road, and the development our characters have received and continue to receive can carry the show in the meantime. All it needs to do is keep doing what served it so well this season: keep developing the characters while fleshing out the mythology and overarching plot. Read More »

Morgan Watches Steven Universe In-Depth: The Return/Jailbreak

2018-06-15 (2)Or: Well, that was a bit of a letdown.

(Note: Although I’ve been spoiled about most of the plot to the series right up to the most recent episodes, this post attempts to approximate, as best as I can, the perspective of someone watching on March 12, 2015, the day these episodes aired. To aid in maintaining this perspective in future posts any discussion of this post in places I would be privy to should avoid any events depicted or things revealed past this point. You can also read my original tweets while watching The Return and Jailbreak. Also, apologies in advance for going back and forth with Jasper’s pronouns.)

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Site Migration Alert

After ten years, I am leaving HostMonster.

The quality of HostMonster’s hosting and support seems to have declined over the years and while things have been mostly fine for me, I still decided I wasn’t satisfied with how things were going with them and wanted to find a cheaper option for hosting, given my problems with getting anywhere with the site and the resulting financial problems (I’ve been renewing my HostMonster hosting on a monthly basis for the past year, which explains some of the periods of downtime the site has had in that time). I found it much more difficult to find a suitable host than I remember it being ten years ago (especially since part of the problem with HostMonster is that it and several other of the biggest and best hosts from back then have apparently been bought out by a faceless mega-corporation), but A2 Hosting seems to be good enough for my purposes. HostMonster served this site fairly well for the past ten years, and it is my hope that A2 can continue to serve it well going forward.

Unfortunately, I procrastinated a little too long to sign up for A2 Hosting, and as a result I’m not comfortable with using their migration service (which has a lead time of 3-5 business days when my HostMonster account expires Monday or Tuesday), so as a result I’m going to be migrating the site over manually. There may be some downtime later today, possibly as long as a few hours, as I transfer everything over, and there may be more than a few hiccups along the way. (This will likely coincide with tonight’s Steven Universe-watching session.)

Somewhat relatedly, Project Wonderful is shutting down. I always liked the fact that I could count on Project Wonderful ads to be static images that didn’t bog down the browser like so many ads on so many other websites, but it sounds like the direction the Internet has taken in the past decade has taken its toll on the ability of non-intrusive (or even non-Google/Facebook) advertising to survive, and I seem to recall the amount of money I was getting from Project Wonderful ads, never particularly strong to begin with, plummeting even before my semi-recent decline in productivity. At some point over the weekend I’ll be replacing Project Wonderful ads with Google ads, and I’ll be trying my hardest to keep them as non-intrusive as the Project Wonderful ads were, but I don’t know how much I can do about that. This also means the Advertising FAQ is now a deprecated page; I’ll keep it online for historical interest but it will not be linked to from anywhere.

Morgan Watches Steven Universe In-Depth: The Test

2018-06-11 (7)Or: Why I’m not impressed with how the Crystal Gems or Steven treat each other.

(Note: Although I’ve been spoiled about most of the plot to the series right up to the most recent episodes, this post attempts to approximate, as best as I can, the perspective of someone watching on January 22, 2015, the day this episode aired. To aid in maintaining this perspective in future posts any discussion of this post in places I would be privy to should avoid any events depicted or things revealed past this point. You can also read my original tweets while watching this episode.)

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Morgan Watches Steven Universe In-Depth: Mirror Gem/Ocean Gem

2018-06-07 (9)Or: Suspecting the Crystal Gems.

(Note: This post was excised from the season wrap-up post I did over the weekend, and thus won’t be as consistent at maintaining the unspoiled perspective as future in-depth posts will be. This also means it was written when the episodes in question were the most recent ones I’d seen, and has been left unedited even though I’ve watched several subsequent episodes since then. It picks up from the sentence that was left in the season wrap-up. You can also read my original tweets while watching Mirror Gem and Ocean Gem.)

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Morgan Watches Steven Universe: Season 0

As I said way back when I started Da Blog eleven and a half years ago (!), I’ve always fancied myself as someone who doesn’t jump on the hot new fad all the time, and despite spending way too much time on TV Tropes and spending plenty of time in contact with various fandoms, I’ve usually found it pretty easy to resist jumping on whatever show or other thing is the hot new thing on the Internet, with my usual reaction being an eyeroll, shaking my head, and at best observing it from a distance. Homestuck was the main exception, because at the time it was taking over cons across the nation I fancied myself a webcomic reviewer, specifically one of “popular” webcomics, and I sure as hell couldn’t let Homestuck go unreviewed (and as much of a reason as any that I kept reading Homestuck was that no one else in the “webcomic blogosphere” was covering it on a regular basis, leaving it up to me to give it the kind of deep analysis other story-based webcomics got, which now seems kind of laughable in retrospect considering the directions Homestuck fandom started going in after I started reading it). But somehow, someway, my involvement with Homestuck has gotten me to start watching Steven Universe.

Near as I can tell, this is how it happened: As I obliquely referred to in my post on Homestuck‘s ending, I’ve found myself following numerous “liveblogs” of Homestuck that allow me to relive it vicariously through people reading it for the first time. The sizable audience crossover between Homestuck and SU and general monolithic presence of SU on Tumblr meant that there were of course several SU references to be found that I wouldn’t get, and on occasion, the Tumblr dashboard I only set up to send messages to liveblogs would recommend SU liveblogs to me, which I only looked at for just long enough to determine that they weren’t HS liveblogs. But then I started following one liveblog in particular that was particularly heavy on the SU references and in fact was created by someone who served as screener for the Loreweaver Universe liveblog (which actually has its own TV Tropes page). At some point they started liveblogging new episodes of SU as they came out as well, which meant interrupting the HS liveblog, and while at first I just stayed away during SU liveblogs and only took enough interest to know when things would be getting back to HS, eventually I ended up reading enough of it to become engrossed enough in what was going on to read and follow along, even if only by proxy. Then earlier this month the show aired two episodes that culminated in a major revelation that took several days to fully digest, and around the same time I discovered Loreweaver’s episode rating list that tied right into my weakness for order and lists, one thing led to another, and pretty soon I’d read Loreweaver’s liveblogs of his top 60 episodes and numerous others besides (not to mention most of the show’s TV Tropes pages), leaving me with enough detailed knowledge of the show that I figured I might as well be able to say I’ve actually watched the darn thing.

Honestly, this keeps happening. “Blogs” still felt as much of a buzzword as anything else when I started one, my more general disdain for social media didn’t stop me from jumping on Twitter, I’ve already talked about Homestuck, and there’s probably others besides where I witnessed their popularity from afar, considered myself “too cool” for them, and ended up jumping on board anyway. And so often when I jump on a new work of fiction with an established fanbase I always end up regretting not jumping on board earlier and been part of it through what I would consider its peak, as was the case with just about every webcomic I kept reading after I reviewed them – even Homestuck, for which I was around when it broke the Internet, I still felt like I jumped on board while it was in the later stages of its peak. One of these days I want to be the hipster that can say I was into it before it was cool. I don’t know if that’ll ever actually happen – normally TV shows aren’t the sort of thing I can easily commit to watching (not least of the reasons why being that that’s time I’d rather spend working on more productive blog posts) and I don’t review webcomics anymore – but if the opportunity presents itself I’m not going to hesitate to jump on board. I’m tired of considering myself “too cool” for anything anymore. If something’s all the rage on the Internet for smart reasons (not because it’s a stupid meme), I’m not going to be caught joining the party late again.

As alluded to earlier, because the whole reason I’m doing this is because I already know just about everything, I’m not exactly coming into this blind. People looking for unadulterated reactions are probably going to be disappointed, but I have tried (and probably failed) to clear my head enough before starting that at least some reactions are going to be genuine and I can at least get a sense of what it would be like watching without knowing what’s to come (after all, my original read-through of Order of the Stick was wildly out of order). To try and get through the first four seasons over the course of the one-month free trial Hulu offers, I planned to watch four or five episodes a night, though at this point things may become more free-form as watching episodes has proven to take substantially longer than I originally expected. I originally wanted to use a hashtag to denote my live thoughts as I’m watching on Twitter, but I ended up starting a separate account, @MorganWatchesSU, which you can follow for my thoughts as I watch each episode. This summary post was originally intended to be a compilation of my tweets as I was watching, but I quickly proved to have so much to say that any such post, even if limited to the “highlights” and using the ability to display parent tweets in embedded tweets to cut down on size, would be too long for comfort. Instead these summary posts will be more for broader analysis of each season. As we go along and the show goes further into Cerebus Syndrome, I may feel moved to write detailed analysis posts after selected episodes (the first of which may come after my very next episode as soon as Monday), not dissimilar to what I used to write for webcomics, and for those I’ll try to write from the perspective of someone who’s only up to that episode. I also have a few more ideas for projects adjacent to the show that I may end up instituting as well. All posts on these topics, as well as links to my tweet chains for each episode (that I don’t do a deeper analysis post for), will be available on this page.

The first season is twice the length of the other seasons with a midseason finale that serves as the starting point for the overarching plot and which, apparently, the creators have called the “true” start to the show. When split, they seem to usually be called season 1a and 1b, but given the first half’s status as a prelude to the “true” show, I’m referring to that half as season 0.

And unfortunately, that prelude status also means I don’t really feel like I can fairly assess it.

(Note: I’m not going to bother introducing the premise of the series or a lot of the background knowledge of what happens in the first 22 episodes or so, something I wouldn’t do for a webcomic review. If you don’t know any of that yourself, click the read-more at your own risk. If you feel the need to, read the character analysis at the bottom first.)

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