Steven Universe – Future Boy Zoltron Review
“I am Zoltron, robot fortune teller from the future! I know your future, because I am from there!”
Future Boy Zoltron is an episode about the importance of communication and understanding. As a follow up to Mindful Education, which dealt with similar themes, it doesn’t exactly hold up. However, when viewed on its own merits, it is an enjoyable enough story with some fun character building for Mr. Smiley. That being said, it also relies a little too much on contrivance to pull off its narrative, including when Steven borrows Garnet’s future vision so that he can be a more capable fortune teller. The episode attempts to make a joke out of this, but it doesn’t succeed in covering up the seams in the narrative. Still, the episode does introduce a fun new character in Mr. Frowney. Maybe fun isn’t the right word. He’s fun in how unfun he can be, and he provides a decent straight man for the show to work off of.
The episode kicks off with Mr. Smiley setting up an old mechanical fortune teller called Zolton. Now, I’ve never seen Big in its entirety, but that certainly didn’t stop me from picking up the references to its famous Zoltar fortune teller. It’s hardly a subtle reference, and I question whether or not it would benefit from a softer touch as it can be slightly distracting at first. Setting aside the reference, Zolton bears little resemblance to its namesake outside of its basic form as it is a barely functioning machine that breaks during Steven’s second use. Mr. Smiley blames Steven for manhandling the machine, and, to smooth things over, Steven uses his robot voice to pose as the fortune telling contraption to try to pay for the damages. Steven also uses his new position and his knowledge of the denizens of Beach City to guide his friends towards happiness. This plan proves ineffective, however, when a melancholic stranger wanders by the booth and begins to inquire about what he should do.
The MVPs of this episode are definitely Colton Dunn as Mr. Smiley and Brian George as Mr. Frowney. I might be alone in this, but I didn’t notice that Sinbad wasn’t voicing Mr. Smiley anymore. Apparently, Colton Dunn took over voicing duties back during the episode Sadie’s Song, and I never realized. Mr. Smiley admittedly isn’t a heavily recurring character, but I still feel the need to applaud Dunn’s performance as that proved to be an exceptionally smooth transition between actors. It is also nice to hear Brian George using his natural British accent since in his live action roles he tends to be type-cast as a heavily accented south Asians. I also like Mr. Frowney’s design, but that admittedly might have something to do with the fact that he looks like what would happen if you left your Dylan Moran out in the rain. While the vocal work for the episode was good, the humor and writing felt weaker. I mentioned before that Garnet’s future vision shows up as a narrative crutch to help Steven deal with Mr. Smiley and Mr. Frowney’s problems, but even on rewatch it feels like an awkwardly shoehorned plot device. The scene is played as a joke, but it is literally Garnet’s only scene in the episode. She shows up, fulfills her purpose, and then leaves to whatever cartoon limbo the Gems hang out in whenever there is an episode about the Beach City residents.
Future Boy Zoltron is an episode that skates by on the quality of its characters and little else. Even though he probably has twice the dialogue here than he had in Too Short to Ride, Mr. Smiley isn’t nearly as funny as he was in that episode. Fortunately, he is an enjoyable enough character to still ensure that the episode is at least decent, and I look forward to any future appearances that Mr. Frowney may make. Will he be a recurring character? Only Zoltron knows!
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Brian George is probably best known as restaurant owner Babu Bhatt on Seinfeld as well as the father of Raj on The Big Bang Theory. He has also lent his voice to Guru Pathik in Avatar: The Last Airbender and numerous characters in Bioware games. Remember Samesh Bhatia from Mass Effect or Knight-Commander Greagoir from Dragon Age: Origins? That’s him.
- Onion has a brief appearance in this episode. It involves a balaclava…
- It is more than a little odd the number of character who are willing to leave important decisions up to a carnival attraction. Then again, I am only willing to date people I can beat at skeeball. Balls in holes.
- No, I don’t know how that turned into a Deadpool reference. Just go with it.
This is the kind of rating that feels like it could drop with the slightest breeze. The characters keep it from being a chore, but, were one to go through the season a second time, I could easily see this being one of the episodes to skip. I'd be interested in seeing what more the show could do with Quinton Frowney though.