Steven Universe S01E03 Cheeseburger Backpack Review

So in between watching the first two episodes and writing the reviews, I took a break from writing more reviews and instead decided to get caught up on the series first. So if for the first two reviews it seemed like I didn’t know what I was talking about, it’s because I didn’t. Since then I’ve watched every single episode multiple times. I’m going to go ahead and review everything that is available on Hulu at the moment. Once I get through that I’ll decide if I’m going to pony up the money to buy the episodes off Amazon, or wait for Hulu to finally post the next batch of episodes. Either way, that’s¬†many¬†episodes before I have to make a decision. Please be aware that I will be commenting on events with knowledge of future episodes in mind. It is recommended you watch the episodes before reading the reviews.

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So. Let’s do this.

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Pearl is becoming the stand out character for me. I enjoy the worrywart aspect to her character, it gives us a lot of amusing dialogue and reactions. She feels like the most motherly of the gems, to this point. And her main story arc at this point appears to be of the overprotective mother figure that needs to learn to trust Steven. Though to be fair she’s fairly justified in a lot of her concerns. She comes around to Steven’s unorthodox approach to problem solving by the end of the episode so that arc comes to a conclusion in this episode, while at the same time it remains a part of her personality. Because personality aspects aren’t resolved in a ten minute episode. Not to mention Pearl is somewhat justified in worrying.

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I called Steven leaving the statue behind, so on a first viewing it was a fairly predictable plot. Fortunately this was only an issue during my first viewing. Once I know the plot, subsequent viewings become more enjoyable since I am not focusing on how smart I am for having figured the plot out.

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The predictability of the plot ties in to the overall maverick solutions story. There are problems, and Steven has solutions that are unorthodox. This builds up the ending where we expect the maverick solution to work. So in a way the predictability was played with in a way that showed the writers knew exactly what they were doing. It doesn’t change the fact that a first time viewer is going to call it from a mile away and spend most of the episode going “Yeah I know what’s going to happen.” Which leads up until the final twist, but putting viewers into a negative mindset for the sake of last minute subversion is tricky. Which is why I feel this episode works better on a repeat viewing.

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So in a strange way my biggest complaint with episode is a deliberate writing choice, and it pays off. But it’s a risk I don’t think works every time. If you’re going to subvert an obvious trope then you need to be careful not to annoy viewers too long while they think you’re playing the trope straight. The purpose is to entertain, not show off how clever you are for playing with tropes.

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The art style was a bit off putting this episode. I’m not sure if they changed animation houses for this episode, but it feels much looser than previous episodes. Which I’m not sure if I’d necessarily consider a bad thing, but it stands out visually which isn’t necessarily a great idea when you’re going for visual cohesion.

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A minor complaint, but when the Crystal Shrimps first appeared we see one appear in Pearl’s field of vision, and she’s clearly looking at it, but she continues with her dialogue before reacting to it. Feels like she should have reacted much sooner. A timing issue, but a minor one at that.

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This was a dicey episode mostly only upon first viewing. The plot feels very by the numbers, but at the end the subversion shows that the writing staff has a handle on the tropes. At the same time playing around with tropes can get you a “Oh that was clever” reaction, but not leave the kind of lasting impact you want.

Author: Derek Bown

Spirit Shark: Bahamas Sawshark. Anime, Manga, Book, Comic, Cartoons, TV, and Movie Reviewer. I write things. Ask me about fanfiction.

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