Steven Universe – Historical Friction Review
Historical Friction is one of those episodes that might have endeared itself to me more had it not been located where it was in the episode order. Like Onion Friend, Historical Friction is an episode that focuses primarily on residents of Beach City rather than on the Gems. In this instance, it focuses on Jamie as he tries to perform a play, with the help of Steven, which tells the story of Beach City’s founding. The play is being funded and scripted by Mayor Dewey, and, while this allows the episode to make a number of jokes about the play’s limited budget, they don’t capitalize on the metahumor of Joel Hodgson running a low budget production as much as one might hope. Still, like Onion Friend before it, Historical Friction is an episode that is entertaining and enjoyable, but otherwise not particularly notable.
The episode kicks off with Jamie asking Steven to audition for the play. Steven agrees and, as it turns out, he was the only person to do so. The play is called Beach City or Bust: The Tale of William Dewey and it tells the story of how William Dewey came to found Beach City. The problem is that, rather than present his ancestor as a person who struggled against adversity, Mayor Dewey decided that William Dewey was the kind of man who always succeeded at everything and never had to struggle. Jamie quickly recognizes the problem, but is unable to make changes to the script because of Dewey’s insistence that it is fine as is.
Steven ends up telling Pearl about the problems with the play, and, in the process, informs her that a hero doesn’t give up despite facing adversity. In doing so, he also encourages her to continue trying to mend fences with Garnet despite how hopeless it may seem. This is really the only point where the episode establishes itself as taking place during Garnet and Pearl’s fight, and it could have easily been relocated with little effort. It isn’t necessarily out of place here, but it feels a bit like a distraction. Anyway, since Pearl was present for William Dewey’s arrival on the continent, she offers to edit and correct the script so that it is in keeping with what actually occurred.
Jamie is so enamored by Pearl’s rewrite that he and Steven decide to perform it instead, despite the fact that it could potentially anger Dewey. The play itself is a lot of fun, and is easily the highlight of the episode, as Steven and Jamie try to deal with low-budget effects and casting limitations. Watching Jamie perform the roles of all three of the Gems was hilarious, and the entire experience could best be described as a bizarre blend of Mystery Science Theater and Mabel’s sock puppet rock opera from Gravity Falls. It’s quite enjoyable, and cheesy in the best way possible.
The narrative of the play is nothing surprising, however, and the outcome is even less shocking. The audience loves the play, and Dewey gets complimented by Buck for treating his great-great-great grandfather like an actual person.
From there, it is a pretty standard all’s well that ends well scenario. Historical Friction is a fun episode, but, aside from the antics in the play, there really isn’t much to write home about. It is also a bit odd to have another Jamie episode this soon. Love Letters was only 10 episodes ago, and, given the number of notable residents in Beach City, it feels peculiar to be coming back to him so soon.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Am I the only one who felt that the scene in which Jamie as the first mate, Buddy, was abducted by a giant tentacle was reminiscent of Bride of the Monster? Maybe my mind is reaching… or tampering in God’s domain.
- I was thinking about the other residents of Beach City, and it occurred to me that it’s been awhile since we’ve heard from either Lars or Sadie. Admittedly, the last time we heard from them (outside of Rising Tides, Crashing Skies) was in Horror Club, so… maybe we don’t need to hear from them again any time soon…
- Watch out for snakes!
- “This could either make or break my career.” “You could lose your job at the post office?” “This could either make or break my hobby.”
There isn’t a lot to say about Historical Friction. It’s fun. The play has a bunch of great visual gags. It is a bit more up my alley than Onion Friend was, but ultimately it doesn’t stand out that much. It’s an enjoyable episode with a bit of metacommentary about heroes and narrative, but by the time the next Stevenbomb rolls around, I’ll have probably forgotten most of it.
It would not be unfair to refer to Historical Friction as a filler episode, but at least it is enjoyable filler.