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Sunday, 28 of May of 2017

Steven Universe – “Sadie’s Song”

“This is not your daughter.”

Steven Universe title cardSteven Universe realize pretty quickly — more quickly than Adventure Time did — that its supporting cast is a key component of the series. Eric Thurm’s discussed this in his reviews at TV Club a bit (and with me in other conversations), but by giving us looks into the lives of the denizens of Beach City, Steven Universe gives us a reason to really care when some sort of cataclysmic Gem fight breaks out. It’d be one thing if Greg were really the town stand-in, but by showing us folks who are a few degrees removed from the Gems and their adventures, there are real stakes involved in anything that happens when it comes to the Gems fighting off scary things.

The show has elegantly done this with episodes like “Sadie’s Song” that doesn’t involve fusions or weapons or powers of any sort. Certainly the show can blend supporting cast episodes and all that Gem stuff — see last week’s super-effective and genuinely creepy “Nightmare Hospital” — but there’s always been something really great about the show taking a break to just show us a snippet of someone’s life that exists outside of it.

Some of those episodes don’t particularly work for me. I’ve come to terms with the fact that Ronaldo-centric episodes will always be a little flat since I struggle with finding a connection to him, and the same goes to Lars, albeit for a lesser extent. But I’ve always really liked Sadie. Sure, part of it is just Kate Micucci, and she’s great anyway; but another part it is that Sadie’s probably the supporting cast member that feels the mostly fully realized. She’s responsible, struggles with asserting herself and her feelings, and genuinely cares about others. It’s easy to think of her having a life outside of Steven’s little universe more so than most of the other characters on the show who don’t interact with the Gems all that regularly.

And that’s what we get in “Sadie’s Song.” Turns out she likes to sing to herself while she works (who doesn’t?). And when Steven discovers this, he insists that she perform at the annual Beach-A-Palooza.  Sadie rather reluctantly-but-half-excitedly agrees, and she’s even keen on working out a costume with Steven. But when Barb arrives, we find out that Sadie has given up a bunch of things in the past. Ballet. Softball. Competitive swimming. The hint that isn’t entirely on Sadie, however, is there with the pile of stuffed animals that aren’t “really [her] thing” and when Barb hands her a new one.

It turns out that Barb is just an over-enthused, loving mom who drives Sadie a bit harder and faster than her daughter’s natural inclination to take it slow and steady or even to remain a bit private. Worse still for Sadie, Barb gets stuck in thinking of Sadie as these things before Sadie moves onto something else. It’s lovely that Barb doesn’t judge Sadie for shifting interesting as she tries to figure herself out, but it also makes it hard for Sadie to do that when she’s feeling pressured to be that thing to her fullest before she’s even managed to dip her toe into it.

So her blow-up at Steven and Barb at the episode’s climax is a big deal because Sadie, as she gets to do every so often, finally makes herself heard among pushier, louder personalities. It’s a big deal that Sadie gets this moment, coupled with the bit of victory at the end when she gives a private recital in the back of the donut shop. It grows her as a character — even if we don’t necessarily see that growth in a future episode, though we probably will the next time we get something Sadie-heavy — and it gives us just one more reason to care about Beach City: Sadie still needs to figure out her life, and now hostile Gems should take that away from her.

Random Bits

  • That was Olivia Olson, voice of Marceline on Adventure Time as the pop singer. Also: I really dug the pop song. Early Miley Cyrus-y.
  • Speaking of songs, did you know that there’s full version of theme song? I just found this out when I went to the aivi & surasshu SoundCloud. So, you know, give it a listen.
  • “Barb! I knew you delivered the mail, but I didn’t know you delivered Sadie!” Steven’s word play is always solid.
  • “Ever since my act two years ago, there’s been a rule that you gotta wear clothes.”

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