Steven Universe: Gem Glow
December 27, 2014 2:51 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

The first episode. Steven's mourning of the discontinuation of his favorite ice cream sandwich intersects with an attack of "centipeedles."
posted by JHarris (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm going to take advantage of my current obsession with the show to write up the earlier episodes. I've discussed it with Small Dollar and it's okay with him.

As per normal FanFare protocol, I'm saving serious geeking out and frame-by-frame examination for the comments. All that follows are my observations and opinions -- they are not "officially" part of the post.

So! Here are some items of interest. Some contain spoilers for this episode. A few contain spoilers for later episodes, but these are hidden -- for text surrounded *with asterisks*, hover your mouse over the text to see the spoiler. (I have no solution for doing this on mobile platforms, sorry):
  • "He's a frozen treat with an all-new taste/'Cause he came to this planet from outer space!/A refugee of an interstellar war/but now he's at your local grocery store! Cookie Cat! He's a pet for your tummy!/Cookie Cat! He's super-duper yummy!/Cookie Cat! He left his family behind!/Cookie Cat! Now available at Gurgens off Route 109."
  • *In the freezer full of Cookie Cats is a glowing ring.* I hope we get some indication of what Steven's younger life was like.
  • The events of later episodes of Steven Universe often cast earlier stories in a new light. *Note what's left when they defeat the Centipeedle Mother.*
  • The episode highlights one of the most interesting aspects of the show: while the Crystal Gems are powerful, the ordinary world is not defenseless. Steven saves the Gems' lives with a damaged freezer. This happens from time to time, and it helps keep the series grounded against the lure of Dragonball Z-style power leveling, where having Power Level X means you're immune to anything power Level X-1 can do.
  • It was part of the pilot, but I'd say that, as the first "real" episode, that the core of the show is established here, the interesting relationship between little Steven and the Gems. Why do the *Gems* let little boy Steven hang out with them? Why do they care so much when he's in danger? Why do they want to make him happy enough to get the kid a freezer full of Cookie Cats? This is where that's all established.
  • Of particular note: the Gems tell Steven that they'll get the centipeedles "out of his room." Steven's room is the wooden structure built onto the front of the Gem Temple. The thing with Steven's bed, the TV and game systems, the loft, the refrigerator, the oven, the couch and table and other stuff, the "normal house" stuck on the front of the Gem Temple, all of that is Steven's room. The other Gems' rooms are inside the Temple, and are much stranger.
  • If you don't include the pilot, this episode also introduces the major, but non-central, characters of Lars and Sadie, the employees of Big Donut. The two are favorites of Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar: they were her first characters, created by her in college. They turn up many times in later episodes. I think they're great, Sadie is very expressive and Lars is the kind of jerk we all know -- they could carry a whole show by themselves. Some of my favorite episodes center on them.
  • *The exterior of the Gem Temple is weird itself: a statue of a huge woman with two faces and eight arms.* Some of the arms are broken off; part of one of the broken pieces, the tip of a hand, gets melted by the Centipeedle Mother in this episode.
  • This is the show's first fight on the beach, a site that will see many monster battles in coming episodes. This becomes the focus of Reynaldo's obsession in Keep Beach City Weird.
  • Steven Universe won an Annie for background art, this seems to be a good place to mention it. If you examine at the backgrounds, you'll notice that often the colors are purposely shifted a bit from the outlines, which gives it a bit of a look as of being offset printed. It's cool, and I think it gives the look of the show a slight Schoolhouse Rock kind of appeal.

posted by JHarris at 2:57 AM on December 27, 2014

Two more things --

The Lion Lickers display in the store contains surprisingly accurate renderings of badly-formed character ice cream treats, with running colors and badly-placed and malformed eyes.

For examples of what I was talking about with the offset/bleeding colors, there are a number of places this can be observed from freeze-framing in the intro, especially in places with man-made structures and horizons. Check it out!
posted by JHarris at 7:38 AM on December 27, 2014


Possibly the most interesting resource to the die-hard Steven Universe fan is the production Tumblr, Steven Crewniverse. They have a lot of interesting artifacts of the show's creation up online. I suspect, when the show finally ends, that this stuff will eventually succumb to bitrot (links will die, material will 404), so enjoy it while you can.

They have a particularly large around up for the first couple of episodes. One of the best items is the entire storyboard for the first episode. Reading through the episode shot-by-shot, seeing every scene and effect described in English words with accompanying illustrations, and seeing little edits made (Pearl originally punctuated the baby centipeedle's dissolving the floorboards with a remark), casts a new light on the show's creation.
posted by JHarris at 10:18 AM on January 24, 2015

Why do they want to make him happy enough to get the kid a freezer full of Cookie Cats?

This event and Garnet's insistence that it was her idea was a very early hint of what is revealed in Future Vision.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:39 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

He left his family behind!
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 7:29 AM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

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