Steven Universe: Cheeseburger Backpack
December 28, 2014 9:38 AM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

The Crystal Gems finally allow Steven to accompany them on a mission, where the fate of a thousand-year-old shrine depends on the contents of his novelty backpack. Is there anything more Steven Universe-y than that? Written and storyboarded by Ian Jones-Quartey and Rebecca Sugar.
posted by JHarris (3 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I forgot to mark this one as Rewatch (I just learned what the labels even mean!), but it is one, don't worry about later episode spoilers here. Because of this I am not hiding spoilers anymore, read at your own risk.

Here's my list of observations:
  • Steven goes on his first mission! From here on, the Gems let him accompany them periodically, making him the coolest kid in the world.
  • A quest to restore a centuries-old monument through the use of a backpack shaped like a giant hamburger. It's beautiful if you think about it. I think the story does the idea justice.
  • We meet Steven's easy-going postman here. Internet sources identify him as "Jamie." Like practically everyone in Steven Universe he's incredibly likeable. (Should I call it the Steven Universe Universe? Or maybe just the Steven Universe?)
  • The moment when the Gems get back is funny. Amethyst's huge egg, once put in the fridge, is immediately forgotten.
  • Steven's backpack is the real star here, even if he does forget something rather important in the end....
  • Blink and you'll miss it: when Stephen is packing, you can see a picture of what I believe is the Weekly World News' Bat Boy in the background. Also sightable here, a N64 system, a couple of controllers, and cartridges. From this and later episodes I think we can safely assume that Stephen is a Nintendo enthusiast. This is the first time we see Steven's sleeping area, BTW.
  • The Lunar Sea Spire is a masterpiece of impractical architecture. Why build a structure that requires magic to keep it from getting washed out? Why build it so it's a tall vertical tower with a huge spiral staircase? Can't Gems make simple elevators? I guess what I'm saying is, the ancient, highly advanced race could probably have thought this through a bit more.
  • First sweaters that can be tied together to make a rope -- good idea! Then bagel sandwiches to lure away monsters -- very nice! Then they reach the water, and Steven pulls out an inflatable raft. Pearl is really impressed! So am I: the kid has talent. (Mr. Queasy is not as helpful though.)
  • The nature of the crystal shrimp, other than having deadly shards, is left unstated. These don't appear to be natural creatures. Animals around Gem artifacts appear to mutate strangely -- see Island Adventure for an example.
  • Considering how unusually appropriate most of the things he brings are, it causes one to wonder if maybe Rose Quartz isn't somehow speaking through Steven? Alternatively, maybe Steven is just really good at lateral thinking -- he saves missions multiple times later by coming up with clever practical solutions to Gem problems. It's a trait it seems like he might have gotten from Greg, who himself saves the day in a later episode in an immensely practical way. Sometimes you see a promo for the show or description of the character that claims Steven isn't that smart (Cartoon Network's own site is guilty of this), but I disagree. Lateral thinking, the ability to apply insight to a problem and solve it in a non-linear, unexpected way, is hard to quantify but very important, and it's Steven's biggest asset.
  • It's heartwarming to hear, first Amethyst, then Pearl, shouting "Cheeseburger backpack! Cheeseburger backpack!" That's why I like this show. Especially great is the elation in Pearl's voice about Steven's sensibility over the raft, like it's the moment where she realizes this kid may not be a total liability after all. Thinking about it, Pearl's lines often have good reads. Her voice actress is Deedee Magno-Hall. She particularly excels later in Steven The Sword Fighter, which reveals a wide range.
  • The Cheeseburger backpack will return....

posted by JHarris at 9:44 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rewatching in preparation for June 15 Stevenbomb, so neat to pick up the little details. Poor Mr. Queasy.
posted by emjaybee at 6:41 PM on June 5, 2015

What I liked about this episode is how you know the minute Steven overpacks his backpack that he's going to leave the MacGuffin behind and the whole episode has you wondering at the back of your mind how they're going to get around the fact.
posted by comealongpole at 5:46 PM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

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