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.Character Analysis:
Steven: I covered most of Steven’s development this (half-)season in the finale post as well, but I really do wonder whether it’s entirely coincidental that, in the episodes immediately after I complained about his deference to the Gems and lack of curiosity in The Test, we got, first, Future Vision, which not only had Steven actually pressing Garnet about her future vision but suggested the Gems might have a point about him not handling the truth well by showing how poorly he reacted to it, and then, On the Run, which had Steven actually asking and getting an answer about why the Gems fear the arrival of more gems on Earth and what actually happened so many thousands of years ago, first in a form Pearl thinks he can handle and then a more concrete, darker version as a result of Amethyst taking him to the Kindergarten.
I talked about Steven’s developing emotional maturity and how it played into The Return, but by no means is Steven flawless and by no means is his development over. In particular, he’s still way too quick to trust people, even those he knows are enemies, and give them information that might be better kept secret. I made fun of Pearl for characterizing “the mark of a great leader” as “knowing just what to keep hidden from the people you’re trying to protect”, but it’s true that Steven is way too incurious about why Rose would keep some things secret, even from Pearl, that he’s perfectly willing to give away, even if he has no way of knowing what those reasons would be at the moment. This especially worked against him to the point of outright stupidity in Marble Madness. Yes, simply fighting each individual robonoid as it lands on Earth and having no curiosity about what they’re doing and what else might be coming is probably not the best approach, but by that point you know what the Gems are fearing and what the consequences are of letting Homeworld have too much information. Accepting that you had to get to the point of letting the robonoid drill deep beneath the kindergarten and begin to report back to Peridot, you had enough information to know to, if not stop, at least slow down what was going on. Asking Peridot what was going on was a fruitless and needlessly risky endeavor, and even accepting that that at least had going for it that you didn’t look like a gem and so didn’t necessarily reveal the Gems’ continued existence, to not have the basic self-preservation instincts to get out of the way of the giant fist coming down to crush you, forcing Garnet to step in and blow the Gems’ cover, was mind-bogglingly stupid. Between Ocean Gem and Marble Madness, Steven may be singlehandedly responsible for bringing Homeworld’s attention back to Earth and alerting them to the Crystal Gems’ continued existence, but while he at least acted out of ignorance when it came to Lapis, that’s no excuse for his behavior with Peridot.
Still, all this ultimately comes from Steven’s valuing of honesty and straight dealing. Steven is not so naive as to think every potential enemy can be talked down (as he expresses to Lapis in Jailbreak), and he seems to be quick to accept that the Crystal Gems did the right thing in rebelling against Homeworld and defending the Earth. Establishing him as different from Rose Quartz in this way, whether for good or ill, is probably for the best for him as a character. Story for Steven implies that Rose was fascinated by humanity but didn’t necessarily understand them that well, or even respected Greg as much more than someone to “play with”. By having/becoming Steven, Rose hoped to impart to herself the qualities she admired in humanity and become as much a defender of humanity from within as without. As Garnet tells him in The Return, “Your voice inspires us, binds us, reminds us why we promised to protect the planet.” Steven can relate to humanity on more than a purely academic level while also having a deep relationship with the Crystal Gems. People of both races tend to see him as either a human or a gem, but he wouldn’t be nearly as effective in either world if he wasn’t both.
That Steven would value honesty and straight dealing sounds odd considering my post on The Test, but the more I think about it the more I think the writers were creating deliberate character development when it comes to Steven’s attitude with the truth. In many ways, Political Power is the antidote to The Test: the general consensus among the livebloggers I’ve been reading is that when Steven briefly hesitates before saying that Mayor Dewey lied to the townspeople about the power coming back “because he loves you”, that was him realizing the Crystal Gems tried to hide their worry about Peridot for the same reason. If so, however, his response is the opposite of The Test: rather than simply hiding his own feelings, he goes to confront the Gems directly and asks them to be honest about their feelings with him, and says if they’re going to be scared, they should be scared together. I’d go so far as to say that what happens with Mayor Dewey has some very strong parallels to my problem with The Test: lying to make the townspeople feel better only ended up backfiring on him and making the problem he was trying to solve worse, just as lying to the Gems to make them feel better wasn’t actually going to solve any of Steven’s problems. Not only in The Test but also in Secret Team, Steven is willing to lie to make the Gems feel better about him and each other, but in On the Run he sees that what was really driving a wedge between Pearl and Amethyst was Amethyst’s conflicted feelings about being the result of the very process Pearl and Garnet fought so hard to stop and Pearl’s perceived insensitivity towards it, and that confronting those feelings honestly was the best way for all parties involved to heal. Steven already knew the gems weren’t perfect at the time of The Test, but it wasn’t until after that episode, in episodes like On the Run, Rose’s Scabbard, and Maximum Capacity, that he actually started seeing them as people.
There’s a common theme in both Political Power and The Return, back-to-back episodes near the end of the season, and it’s an aspect of Steven’s development I didn’t mention when I talked about the latter but probably should have. By the end of the season, Steven is less concerned about measuring up to the Gems, trying to “prove himself” as he did in The Test, and has increasingly come to see the Gems as equals and expects them to treat him as an equal in return. That, not any development in his powers, is what was ultimately needed for him to establish himself as a full-fledged member of the Crystal Gems. I mentioned Steven’s emotional maturity as critical to how his development culminates in The Return, but just as important for his place in the group is how he manages the Gems‘ emotions. As with worrying about the threat of Peridot, for Steven to be a Crystal Gem he and the Gems would have to help each other work through whatever issues came their way together, working with each other to overcome them, rather than just observe them from afar as the kid everyone else tells what to do and gets sad when his parental figures can’t get along without understanding why.
Garnet: In accordance with Steven slowly coming to see the Gems as people, the Gems themselves started to become more fully fleshed-out this (half-)season from the relatively flat characters they were in the first part, with each of them receiving a primary and a secondary episode giving them insight into their psyche. Garnet received the least development, in part because her primary character-development episode, Jailbreak, happened to be the season finale, which limited the work the secondary episode, Future Vision, could do. (Given my issues with Jailbreak, you could argue that Future Vision should be the primary episode and Garnet’s Universe the secondary episode, even though the latter mostly gives Steven’s perspective on Garnet with very little of Garnet’s own attitude.)
While I may have a problem with the fact that Jailbreak focuses on Garnet so much, as a Garnet episode it’s quite enlightening and enjoyable. Upon being re-fused, Garnet exudes a sense of pure joy, of excitement and confidence at being together and back in action, genuinely loving tearing Jasper apart in an almost playful manner with a sense of determination behind it whereas before it might have seemed all business, as though being separated even for the relatively brief time she was (and with her parts worrying whether the other was even okay) gave her a new appreciation for herself, to the point of singing for the first time in the entire series if you don’t count the opening theme. The closest we’ve seen to seeing Garnet so genuinely happy before this point was probably Alone Together, which not coincidentally, involved another fusion consisting of a loving couple.
It’s often said that falling in love and being in love are different, and that longstanding couples often have trouble maintaining those initial fires of infatuation and come to take each other for granted, and Garnet is a married couple in the most literal sense possible (and possibly for far longer than would even be possible for human couples). It’s unclear whether she’s been unfused for more than a single frame in Fusion Cuisine since Steven was born, certainly for as long as she is in Jailbreak. The connection between her parts was doubtless as strong as ever, but her fusion had become less the result of passion and more a simple fact of life; Pearl warned in Coach Steven that staying fused for too long could result in the components “losing themselves”, and while in Garnet’s case that might not necessarily be a bad thing (or at least not seen as one), it can result in losing the perspective and fire powering it in the first place. (Ruby’s line of “I can’t see!” implies that she forgot what her own abilities are and that she doesn’t have future vision outside of the fusion.) There’s a reason why, while Garnet being a fusion was a fairly common theory before the airing of Jailbreak, the character of that fusion seems to have been something few guessed despite Alone Together: before Jailbreak, Garnet hardly seemed to be a being “made of love”. I joked about the fact that Stevonnie in Alone Together felt lonely without each of their components having the other for actual, physical company, whereas Garnet confidently claims in Jailbreak that “I’m never alone”, but I do have to wonder whether that’s actually true, whether she’s just riding the high of being re-fused again, whether she’s just so used to being fused and so preferring of it she doesn’t really mind the drawbacks of being one instead of two, whether her components are so in sync they wouldn’t really gain anything from being separate, or whether Garnet is simply able to derive the benefits of her components actually interacting while remaining fused and without even outwardly conversing with herself the way Stevonnie did (she does sing that she’s “a conversation”).
As such, Jailbreak brings a new perspective on Garnet’s appearances before this point. Before Jailbreak, Garnet was no-nonsense and all-business, completely stoic and usually speaking in near-monotone, only showing a more playful side on occasion when alone with Steven in episodes such as Serious Steven, Garnet’s Universe, and Future Vision. Even then, Steven spins a whole tale in Garnet’s Universe with the message that, for all her awesomeness, the one thing he’d most like to hear from her is a simple expression of how much she appreciates and loves him, which she finally obliges in literally right after re-fusing in Jailbreak, suggesting she needed to be split up to reconnect with having emotions at all. In my Season 0 post I mentioned that Garnet tended to go along with whatever the other Gems wanted and only really stepped in when they came into conflict, if even then; starting in Mirror Gem she starts taking more decisive stands when it comes to dealing with her fellow gems, but even those seem to be limited to “stop whatever might happen from happening” until partway through Marble Madness. Looking back, I wonder if Garnet had become so self-absorbed, had subsumed so much of her components’ personalities, that she was barely left with any personality, only really processing the basic facts of what was in front of her and acting on those without passing any value judgments except those at the most basic core of her being. Having future vision doesn’t help, both because she seems to be so reliant on it and because, whether a result of Steven’s perspective or otherwise, Future Vision and Winter Forecast seemed to depict it as showing her an unending stream of disastrous outcomes.
Unlike Pearl and Amethyst, we never really get a sense of what losing Rose meant to Garnet, although the foregoing suggests that may be because she hasn’t allowed herself to feel anything since then. It seems to have thrust her into the role of leader by default, with Pearl implying back in Arcade Mania that the other Gems only defer to her because her future vision allows her to know when to be at the right place at the right time. Garnet does seem to have some genuine leaderly chops – witness how she tells off Pearl and Amethyst in Secret Team, her tactical planning for how to deal with Peridot in Marble Madness, or arguably, focusing on the actual accomplishment of getting the message decoded rather than its content in The Message – but it’s hard to tell how much of that is the strength of her future vision or, in the case of The Message, her simple single-minded focus. Future vision does have limitations, and it’s not always clear which path will lead to the most fortuitous outcome, and it probably says a lot that Garnet becomes more lost when she’s faced with more complex and risky situations involving Homeworld gems or protecting Steven.
Only time will tell if, having rediscovered herself in Jailbreak, Garnet will start to open herself up more, mellow out, connect to the other gems and Steven on a more personal level, and take a more pragmatic stance on the challenges the gems face.
Amethyst: Amethyst’s primary character development episode is On the Run, while her secondary episode is Maximum Capacity. In On the Run we learned that Amethyst has felt somewhat alienated from the other Gems and maybe even harbors feelings of self-loathing, not only because (as Rose’s Scabbard confirms) she never actually fought in the war, but she’s the result of the exact thing at the core of what Rose and her rebellion fought against. She’s never truly felt at home with the Gems and has felt judged every time Pearl calls her out on her irresponsible behavior or Garnet jokes about how “we kept Amethyst”, but has preferred to keep her emotions bottled up until she can take them out in the wrestling ring. Pearl at least begins the process of healing by assuring her she’s valued and has been a net positive to the team, but it’s fair to wonder just how much connection she has to the team’s goals and how much she goes along with the team because that’s what she’s supposed to do. If the conflict with Homeworld ramps up enough, would she come to feel more loyalty with her own kin without the firsthand experience of what the Gems fought for and with her origins giving her more connection with what Homeworld wants to do?
Certainly if Amethyst is to remain loyal to the team and to the Earth, it’s her relationships with the other Gems that would serve to power it. Reading between the lines, we can surmise that Rose was probably instrumental in helping Amethyst find herself and be comfortable with the only sane remnants of her kin on Earth, helping her overcome whatever issues she might have, and Amethyst was probably most loyal to her and most valued her friendship with her. She watches TV with Greg to take her mind off losing her and try and form a connection with him, but she can never really stop herself from blaming him for losing Rose, and once she reaches her limit, takes it out on him in the most painful way possible. She seems closest to Steven for a different reason: Steven is the closest to her in maturity level, willing to have fun once in a while, and, like her, doesn’t have any sort of firsthand knowledge of the war. He has the same feelings of being disrespected by the other Gems and is willing to go along with most of what she wants to do. She takes him to the kindergarten because she feels that, unlike Pearl and Garnet, he won’t judge her for her origins, and in The Return she’s the only one who’s actually happy to see Steven come back. In short, she’s the closest he has to someone who can actually relate to him as an equal, and to some degree the reverse is true as well.
Amethyst wants to be the parental figure the other gems are to Steven, wants to be an active contributor to his development and project the same level of maturity and authority Pearl and Garnet do. But she’s been with the Gems for hundreds of years and still has the maturity level of a bratty teenager. The day may well come when Steven is the one with more maturity than Amethyst and she has to lean on him to work through her issues, even as Pearl and Garnet are still trying to help him. What will Amethyst do when she needs Steven as much as she wants Steven to need her, or perhaps, as she once needed Steven’s mother?
Pearl: Pearl’s primary character development episode is Rose’s Scabbard while her secondary episode is Space Race, and they’re worth considering together because they provide a more complete picture of her reaction to Rose’s death than either one alone, but we’ll start primarily talking about Rose’s Scabbard. Rose’s Scabbard seems to present her as having an obsessive romantic crush on Rose, though perhaps partly because of the show’s need to tiptoe around issues of romance, especially LGBT romance, it’s also easy to look at it as pointing to something deeper and more disturbing (arguably the romantic angle is more explicit in Story for Steven with her apparent jealousy at the attention Rose shows to Greg). Pearl seems to have wrapped up her entire sense of self-worth and purpose in Rose, utterly accepting and going along with everything she did as the right and proper way of doing things solely because she did it, and she seems to completely crash when forced to confront the notion that she didn’t confide every little secret she had with her. She even kneels when she summons a hologram of Rose towards the end of the episode, replaying a moment when Rose warned her that rebelling against Homeworld would mean either their deaths or never being able to return home. Her response then was “Why would I ever want to leave… when you’re here?” but “now she’s gone… and I’m still here”, and without Rose, we saw in Space Race that she so desperately wants to go, if not necessarily home, at least back out into the cosmos.
Back in Giant Woman Amethyst complained that “you’re not fun anymore”, and while we don’t have a very good sense of how “fun” she might have been before losing Rose, it’s clear that losing Rose meant losing so much of her identity she was paralyzed, utterly unable to figure out what to do next, and retreated to her neuroses as the only way she knew how to cope. (One reason she has so little patience with Amethyst before On the Run may be a combination of Rose always knowing how to deal with her and feeling that fun has no place in a world without Rose.) Another part of that would be latching onto Steven. Throughout Rose’s Scabbard she constantly compares Steven to Rose, saying how much he looks like her or sounds like her, and in the climactic scene she asks “do you even have any of her memories?” suggesting that at least part of her motherly attitude towards Steven – and especially, how overprotective she’s been towards the last remnant of Rose she has left – is her grasping to the hope that some part of Rose lives on in him, wondering what she thinks of her now from her gem in Steven’s belly. Rose seemed to suggest as much in Lion 3: Straight to Video, but as mentioned earlier Steven is not entirely Rose, isn’t everything that Rose was, and ultimately might be someone healthier for Pearl to form an attachment to than what she had with Rose. Steven will never have the same sort of deep connection with Pearl she felt with Rose, in part because he doesn’t feel he needs to share anything exclusively, but he still thinks she’s pretty great.
Connie: I have a whole post about Connie I’ve been working on since Lion 2: The Movie, and most of what I could say here would be giving away a lot of what I would say there, but for now I’ll mention that it is by no means a coincidence that Connie is presented, almost from the beginning, as a fan of fantasy novels and action films. She’s practically found herself dropped into one, and not only that has found herself worming her way into the role of the protagonist’s love interest.
Connie makes only five appearances in the first (half-)season (three of which are the last three episodes), and most of her appearances this season center around her parents and her relationship with them. It’s tempting to write them off in the aftermath of Fusion Cuisine as overly controlling and smothering, especially her mother, but I think they really do want what they think is best for their daughter, don’t want her to get into any trouble, and don’t know what to make of this strange boy she keeps hanging out with but doesn’t tell them a whole lot about. Connie realizes that if they knew what he and his parental figures really got up to they’d never let her set foot in the same town as him, but of course that’s exactly what she likes about him. But her mother’s reaction to finding out she lied to her in Fusion Cuisine is perfectly understandable: you don’t want to find out your kid has been outright lying to you about anything, because then you start wondering if you really know what your kid is up to, what else they might be keeping from you, and whether you’re even doing a good job as a parent. Once she sees that the Gems do still act as (her vision of) good parents towards Steven she’s assured that he’s growing up in a relatively well-adjusted enough household to let Connie keep seeing him, and even lets Steven and Greg spend the night with them at the end of Winter Forecast. She may be somewhat strict, maybe shelters her kid a little too much, and doesn’t really know her all that well, but I do think she means well even if Connie doesn’t necessarily realize it.
A couple different liveblogs have characterized Connie as early as Season 1 as a “subversion of the love interest archetype”, someone who interacts with Steven as an equal more than a subordinate, and I have to say I don’t necessarily see it, at least not through the end of Season 1 (spoilers indicate she certainly ends up there). It’s true that she does help defeat the robot in Lion 2 by helping Steven use Rose’s sword to deflect its shots and even jumps onto Lion to save him from the collapsing water tower in Ocean Gem (to say nothing of trying to chase off her own doppelganger in Open Book), but to the extent she is such a subversion, it says more about Steven than it does about her. For most of Season 1 Steven is still trying to get a handle on his powers and prove himself to the Crystal Gems, and only slowly gets an appreciation for what it is the Gems do and why. Connie may not have any magical powers, but she still wants to explore the world Steven inhabits and help him achieve his “magical destiny”, and in An Indirect Kiss, assuring him that even if he never gets there living out life as an ordinary human like her isn’t the end of the world. She’s almost like a protagonist in a gender-flipped Magical Girlfriend series, except her “magical boyfriend” is still very much in training and has his own hang-ups and flaws she supports him and pushes him in, even as he helps her with her own problems.
I’m going to bend my own rules a bit here and talk a little bit about Full Disclosure, the first episode of Season 2, because it says a lot about Connie as a character and where she fits in Steven’s life. Coming on the heels of the developments of The Return and Jailbreak, Steven decides he doesn’t want to talk to Connie or anyone else about his adventures, to “protect” them and keep them from worrying about him. But again, the fact that Steven goes on all these wild and crazy adventures is exactly what she likes about him; she wants to hear about all the danger he puts himself in. “You’re the one that’s been through everything,” she says. “The least I could do is just listen.” And it’s clear Steven needs Connie to listen to him, because once he starts trying to ignore her and shut her out, he starts talking more like Pearl and Garnet would about trying to protect the humans and how he “can’t keep clinging to the vestiges of my humanity”, trying to shut out his human side entirely, to the point that Pearl and Garnet themselves get concerned. There aren’t many humans Steven can talk to about his adventures; Steven’s worries start when Greg, who probably knows more about what the Gems do and has been as supportive of him as any human, freaks out when Steven tells him what happened. Ronaldo paints himself as someone whose job it is to protect the rest of humanity from the “awful truth”, but a) he ultimately still blabs about everything he knows (or thinks he knows) on his blog and b) he probably isn’t the best person for Steven to get a human perspective from anyway. But Connie is someone who understands and supports what he’s going through, who wants to know about everything he does, who’s willing to be someone he can talk to and give a human perspective on his adventures, who reminds him what he’s fighting for just as he reminds the Gems. She’s arguably as much of a mentor to Steven as anyone short of the Gems themselves, even more than Greg, keeping him grounded and giving him a connection to humanity he’ll still have even if Greg never appears in the series again.
Where the notion of Connie as a “subversion of the love interest archetype” has more weight is that I’m not sure that’s necessarily going to be good enough for her, especially as Steven becomes more and more of a full-fledged Crystal Gem and needs less cheerleading about his development, though I’m not sure how much being spoiled about her future development is influencing that. Connie may like to hear about Steven’s magical adventures, but what she’d really like is to experience them, to experience the full wonder of everything that Steven has to deal with every day, to plunge into the heart of the story and be an active participant or at least witness. She doesn’t even seem like she’d be content to settle for the damsel-in-distress role wailing for her boyfriend to save her. At the very least, she’d want to be useful enough not to be complete dead weight to what Steven and the Gems do, and she wouldn’t want to feel as useless to him as she did in Lion 2, wondering why he hangs out with her when he has such an interesting life without her (and after Full Disclosure, he wouldn’t want her to feel that way either). She’s already helped with both the robot and the water tower, and Steven’s magic is already as much a part of her life as anything, something she’s reminded of every time she can see without her glasses; she’s even formed an unprecedented fusion with him, giving them a deep bond nothing can take away.
What Full Disclosure helps demonstrate is that, if Connie is a “subversion of the love interest archetype”, that also says more about the love interest archetype than it does about her. So often love interests in action works are just sort of there, someone for the protagonist to angst over, to be a damsel in distress, to worry about all the danger the protagonist is getting into, or just to assure us the protagonist has a love life at all (all of which Steven seems to see Connie as for most of Full Disclosure). If you’re lucky, the love interest will be a fellow member of the team or a fellow hero (or even villain), and the relationship between them will just be an added layer to their interactions as teammates (or foes), with no indication of their interactions beyond their usual line of work and only a few bedroom eyes, flirtatious lines, extra angst when one party is in danger, and the occasional kiss separating them from ordinary colleagues. Perhaps in part because of the additional characterization possible in a TV series compared to a movie, Connie comes across as an actual character, someone with her own desires, personality traits, and flaws, someone defined as much by her ability to nerd out at her favorite book series or enjoy dumb action movies as her relationship to the protagonist, and there’s an actual believable relationship between her and Steven, one built on shared interests, fun experiences, the desire to experience each other’s worlds, the mutual support they provide with each other’s problems (magical or otherwise), the belief they have in each other, and the simple deep connection forged through all of it.
Again, Connie will have much further to go in future episodes and seasons, but in Season 1? Connie isn’t a subversion of the love interest archetype. She’s everything the love interest archetype should be.
Greg: Another thing Full Disclosure illustrates is that, if Connie wants to help Steven achieve his “magical destiny”, Greg would much prefer if he just had an ordinary son with ordinary kid problems. He went so far as to lie about his injury and thus possibly accidentally put Steven’s powers on the fritz just to spend time with him as an ordinary father and son, and while ideally he would stay with the Crystal Gems all the time to have that quality time with him (after all, without them he’s literally homeless and living out of his van), it’s pretty clear he’s not particularly welcome with them, partly because he’s “a mess” but also possibly partly because the Gems blame him on some level for the loss of their beloved Rose (though even then, The Message makes clear he would like to be useful enough to the Gems to, if not stay with them on a regular basis, at least have a cordial relationship with them). It doesn’t help that his decision-making can be questionable at times, both running off to try and court a magical woman he’d barely met and, in Winter Forecast, walking for miles in the snow and possibly giving Connie pneumonia to get her to her parents. When he has found himself caught up in their “magic stuff”, he’s been very concerned for Steven’s safety and at having so much responsibility being placed on him at such a young age. But he does eventually allow Steven to go back to the Gems in The Return, even if it does take a good amount of coaxing, and even if it still must not be clear from his perspective that it’s the right idea.
Surprisingly, we haven’t seen much of his reaction to losing Rose; Maximum Capacity is the only episode that even hints at how he coped with it, and it really says more about Amethyst and how she might have made things worse than about him. If he knows that Steven’s birth will mean losing Rose, as Rose does, when making the video in Lion 3: Straight to Video, he doesn’t show it, instead just showing off what an “awesome dad [he’s] gonna have”. How much did having Steven mitigate the loss of Rose, something the Gems likely wouldn’t have appreciated right away? At this point, that remains an unanswered question.
Lars: Lars has started the process of becoming a somewhat more complex character, at least. Horror Club made clear that he’s very much concerned with what people think of him, or at least with being seen as “cool” and being above caring about anyone else, so his desire to be part of the cool kids in Lars and the Cool Kids, which I originally wasn’t sure if he was just trying to impress Steven with, does seem to be genuine. He still doesn’t seem to particularly care whose feelings he hurts, but he does get anxious and vulnerable whenever put in a situation that’s outside his comfort zone. We see the early signs of some sort of reciprocal crush towards Sadie in Island Adventure and Horror Club, though how much he’d be willing to admit it, even to himself, is another factor, especially given the screwed-up circumstances in the former episode…
Sadie: In a weird way, Island Adventure actually made me a believer in a Lars-Sadie relationship for all the wrong reasons. For all of Lars’ assholery, what Sadie did – make Lars think he was trapped on the island for however many days or weeks they spent there, to the point of making Lars vulnerable enough to kiss her – was far worse than anything he’d done, emotionally manipulating him into a state of unintentional Stockholm syndrome, showing off a dark side to Sadie’s character the first part of the season hadn’t hinted at. It made me think that perhaps they really are perfect for each other or at least deserve each other, whether their relationship is hopelessly dysfunctional, whether they go off and be assholes together like Black Hat Guy and his girlfriend from xkcd, or whether they simply go through the agonizing process of helping each other become better people while confronting their issues with each other and with themselves. I actually hope this isn’t written off as a single moment of weakness but actually shows some insight into Sadie’s character, because otherwise everything I said about the prospect of a Lars-Sadie relationship still stands if it hasn’t gotten worse, no matter how complex Lars gets without Sadie’s help.
Mayor Dewey: Loreweaver has characterized Mayor Dewey’s appearances as repeatedly setting up the uncaring, sleazy politician archetype only to subvert it and reveal him as genuinely caring about the city, but near as I can tell, that’s really only explicit with the gag from Joking Victim. If anything, I would say he’s both. More specifically, Mayor Dewey reflects how democracy is supposed to work: that egotistical, power-hungry politicians end up working for the genuine betterment of the people they represent in order to maintain their hold on that power, or in Mayor Dewey’s case, because Beach City doing well is ultimately a reflection on him and pumps up his own ego.
Mayor Dewey’s problem is that he’s in perpetual campaign mode and can’t seem to shut it off even when doing actual mayorly things, to the point he goes everywhere in a truck that chants his name and exhorts people to vote for him, even just changing the chant when trying to evacuate the city in The Return. It’s this approach that bites him in the ass in Political Power: from a campaign perspective, it makes some degree of sense that his response to a power outage would simply be to assure everyone that it’ll come back, even though he has no way of knowing that, and hand out campaign buttons, because his main concern is making sure everyone likes him and sees him as leaderly, at least in the near term. But it sets him up for failure once the sun goes down and his promise is revealed as empty, especially since the outcome he was trying to avoid was only going to make itself known at that point and thus would be made worse, and ultimately targeted at him specifically, by having his promise undermined at the same time. In the end, the worst that happens is that he ends up being embarrassed by Steven turning out to be better at his own self-applied job description, and time will tell what he ends up taking away from it going forward.