Steven Universe – Rising Tides/Crashing Skies Review
I’ll be honest. I didn’t go into Rising Tides/Crashing Skies with particularly high expectations. Ronaldo has never been one of my favorite characters, and at a glance it appeared that the episode would be centered primarily around him. As a character, I feel that he was designed to be slightly annoying, and while that can be a decent source of comedy, those types of characters are rarely counted amongst my favorites. Still, he has his moments and, as it turns out, he is less the focus of this episode and more a framing device. In fact, the episode spends much of its time providing an outside looking in approach to the Crystal Gem’s activities as Ronaldo tries to construct a documentary about the bizarre events that occur in Beach City.
When you take a step back it quickly becomes notable that Rising Tides/Crashing Skies is constructed in a manner that is reminiscent of Lower Deck Episodes, in other words, episodes of a show where the focus is primarily on the tertiary cast and/or is presented from the perspective of an outsider. These are similar to Bottle Episodes in that they are traditionally used to circumvent budget or scheduling constraints since they require little involvement from the primary cast. Here, Rising Tides/Crashing Skies is set up as a peculiar and ham-handed attempt to make a web documentary through which we get to take a look at the various reactions that the townsfolk of Beach City have to Crystal Gems and the events surrounding them. This is mainly constrained to the Pizza and Fryman families, but Sadie and Joel Hodgson’s Mayor Dewey make notable appearances as well.
This is probably the best Ronaldo episode since his dual role as both narrator and editor allows the funniest aspects of his character to be emphasized. The weakest parts of the episode are the moments where he is the focus, because, in those instances, his doofus nature has the potential to get slightly grating. This is particularly true towards the end of the episode, though fortunately there is no point where Rising Tides/Crashing Skies ceases to be enjoyable. It’s mostly the small details that really make it work. The overly long title, the cheap and silly reenactments, and the confused reactions from the townspeople all aid in constructing a bizarre documentary experience that brings to mind some of the best parts of Community’s classic mockumentary Pillows and Blankets, and that I don’t find myself bemoaning the fact that Keith David didn’t narrate this is a testament to how good Ronaldo is in his role as the self-absorbed documentarian. Peedee gets some good moments both as an interviewee as well as Ronaldo’s occasional cameraman, though even that mostly relies on highlighting Ronaldo’s incompetence as a filmmaker. It may seem to some like they keep mining that one joke for comedic effect, but it’s hard for me to argue when it keeps paying out.
Rising Tides/Crashing Skies is a damn fine episode. It doesn’t aim for really even a modicum of pathos, but that’s fine. It works best as a farcical look at the perspectives of Beach City’s residents and it boasts nothing but success on that front.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- My expectations for this episode were also tempered by the fact that, by my understanding, it was originally supposed to air before Sworn to the Sword, but the broadcast order was swapped so that Sworn to the Sword aired first, presumably so that Steven Universe would have a stronger episode marking its return. That was just my assumption, and, while it does hold true that Rising Tides/Crashing Skies isn’t as good as Sworn to the Sword, that is in no way a knock against this episode.
- Ronaldo’s KBCW set is him sitting in an office chair in between two ferns… it just occurred to me that Ronaldo is the Zach Galifianakis of Beach City. Huh… that actually kinda fits.
- I love the fact that Pearl thinks Ronaldo’s name is Frybo.
- Okay… I kinda hate that episode name. It’s funny as the title of the documentary, but I couldn’t tell whether or not the episode was going to be a two-parter until it actually aired.
- I look forward to seeing Ronaldo’s incoherent rant on YouTube when his follow-up documentary fails to meet its Kickstarter goals.
Rising Tides/Crashing Skies is a pretty straightforward Lower Deck Episode that mines its premise for comedy more that it does plot or emotional weight, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is, in my opinion, easily the best Ronaldo episode that the series has had, and it offers up a bunch of great laughs. On the Doctor Who scale of Lower Deck Episodes, with Blink being the highest possible rating and Love and Monsters being the lowest, I’d say this falls far closer to Blink than it does the alternative. …For those of you who don’t get the reference, both Blink and Love and Monsters are Doctor Who Lower Deck Episodes. One is considered a modern classic, and the other involves oral sex with a brick… Actually, maybe that reference was better off being left unexplained.
Fun is the primary descriptor for Rising Tides/Crashing Skies. It may not offer up narrative or emotional complexity, but it is still an enjoyable romp around Beach City.