Steven Universe – Steven’s Birthday Review
“I’ve known the Gems since I was 22, and they don’t change. They just… are what they are.”
Well… that was a tad strange. Steven’s ability to transform his body hasn’t been used often in the show, but it has contributed to two of the stranger episodes of the first season, specifically Cat Fingers and So Many Birthdays. In a sense, Steven’s Birthday feels like a reexamination of some of the issues that were at the heart of So Many Birthdays, as both deal with the subject of aging and how it affects both the Gems and Steven. This is an interesting subject and the episode deals with it rather well, though, towards the end, it is hard to deny that things get more than a little weird.
The episode kicks off with the Gems, minus Peridot, preparing for the titular birthday celebrations. Greg arrives with Connie and expresses his dismay that Steven is already turning 14, a statement that clearly catches Connie off guard as she realizes that Steven is more than a year older than her. Upon looking through Greg’s photo albums, Connie and Greg notice that the photos of Steven’s last few birthdays all look roughly the same. Connie calls Greg away so that she can speak to him alone, and he admits to her that he doesn’t know if Steven will continue aging or not. She is clearly concerned by this possibility, but agrees with his assertion that the best thing they can do is just wait and see.
From a conceptual standpoint, this is an intriguing problem, and Steven’s decision to try and stretch his limbs out, so that he can emulate a growth spurt seems perfectly in character for him. He doesn’t want to grow apart from Connie, and so he’d be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that age doesn’t keep them apart. The weirdness comes about later in the episode when Steven experiences a backlash from having transformed his body for too long. Admittedly, the peculiarity of the resulting scenario is such that it seems a bit odd how quickly Greg and Connie come to terms with it. It seems somewhat understandable that Greg has learned to roll with the punches when it comes to raising Steven, but, for Connie, it seems that she comes to cope with current crisis a bit too quickly to feel natural.
Fortunately, Steven reverts back by the end of the episode, and to cap it off, it turns out that everyone was seemingly worrying over nothing due to an overly conveniently timed discovery. The problem with this setup is that it essentially ends back where it started. The episode may have been improved had it ended with a sense of ambiguity as opposed to having things get tied up a little too neatly. Steven’s Birthday is still a really good episode that succeeds in eclipsing both So Many Birthdays and the notably-inferior Cat Fingers, but it finishes by providing answers to every question it posed back at the beginning. As a result, it feels slightly more like a detour than it would have had it left some of those answers to be discovered in the future.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Well, I think this is the first time we have received confirmation of Steven’s age. It is something that I have occasionally wondered about throughout the course of this show, though it was obvious that it was somewhere in the late tween to early teen range.
- We haven’t really seen much of the citizens of Beach City in a while. It is understandable that this is the case since they’ve been at the barn for the last few episodes, but it still seemed notable that it was just Greg and Connie visiting. I thought that maybe Peedee might tag along or that Sadie might drag Lars to the party or that Onion might emerge from the darkness of the barn attic… On the other hand, maybe it is best that it was just Connie.
- I’m attempting to add a quote from the subject matter at the top of my reviews in order to capture some aspect of the material. It’s an interesting exercise, though I may not do it every time.
- Man… Cat Fingers was rather bizarre.
Steven’s Birthday is a great episode, that is only hindered slightly by its sense of weirdness and its need to answer all of the questions that it poses. This results in it feeling like more of a standalone episode, but it is an enjoyable one nonetheless.