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Episode 139: Lars of the Stars
The fourteen episodes between Doug Out and Kevin Party pile on so much tension that we need a follow-up that feels like a break, which Lars of the Stars is happy to provide. But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate how far our characters have come during that chunk of episodes, and that’s exactly what happens here. Part 1 of the big stretch ends with Steven leaving everyone behind as he goes to space, and now we get an episode about him returning to space but including Connie in the way he should have from the start. Part 2 of the big stretch ends with the Off Colors trapped on Homeworld with little hope in sight, and now we get an episode about their freewheeling lives among the stars. And Part 3 of the big stretch ends with Steven and Connie establishing a new understanding of their relationship, and now we get an episode where they share what they’ve learned with the class.
In our last episode, Connie showed an ability to socialize without Steven. While this makes him worry that she might only be at Kevin’s titular party to have a good time rather than reconnect, the furthest he goes in terms of dark thoughts is that she doesn’t wanna hang out with him anymore. Meanwhile, Lars takes Sadie’s similar ability so socialize without him as a personal insult: his instinct is to assume she’s hanging out with the Cool Kids as an act of revenge, because it turns out people don’t just flip personalities after major life events, and despite some tremendous changes Lars still has work to do. (This is something that happens more and more as the show goes on, it’s almost as if the perpetual need to work on yourself is a major theme of the latter-day series or something.)
Stevonnie’s ability to help Lars out works in any episode, because Stevonnie embodies close relationships and Lars could use some tips on that front. But the fact that their defense of Sadie in this situation is what causes Steven and Connie to fuse in the first place gains new power when this it comes right after watching Kevin Party, because feeling uncertain about a friend/love interest’s new friends is something they just experienced both sides of. And as one last reflection of the kids as individuals, Steven reacts to Lars’s concerns with a thoughtful monologue about his feelings, but only after Connie chews him out for being such a dingus.
Confident Lars is marvel to behold, because it’s the real deal. His insecurities are still there, but rather than patching them up with a superiority complex (which so often is the case when insecure folks go too hard in building themselves up) he doesn’t feel the need to put on a front anymore. He’s cocky, but he loves his crew for who they are and is never as mean to them as he was to Steven, even as a joke. His exaggerated anime poses aren’t just dopey and delightful for the sake of being dopey and delightful, but show a newfound ability to have fun without being crippled by self-consciousness. And his zany schemes, shouted about by Emerald at first but then seen in action, actually work! He comes into his own as a space pirate, and as neat as it is to see him become a baker when he returns to Earth, Lars of the Stars makes a strong case for a life in space.
Speaking of Emerald, while I’m sure a lot of folks who hyped themselves up on Lars of the Starswere disappointed that this is all we see of her (especially because emeralds are big-name gemstones in the real world), I think her single appearance makes the episode even more of a hoot. This is not Steven’s story, so we get very little frame of reference for what the Off Colors have been up to: it feels like a crossover episode with a nonexistent spinoff. Having a small glimpse into the greater journey was a great call, because this is just one of many tales from the Sun Incinerator’s sterling crew, and it keeps up the thread of Steven being out of the loop on Lars and Sadie’s lives.
It also lets Jinkx Monsoon ham it up even harder than Moy without getting bogged down by character complexity. This is a ridiculous space adventure, and that tone is heightened by a baddie who doesn’t chew so much as gorge herself on the scenery. I mean, this is still Steven Universe, so even someone as over the top as Emerald gets a tiny arc: Lars seems to be the instigator of their rivalry, and while we side with the Off Colors because they’re the underdogs escaping persecution, Emerald has legitimate reasons to see herself as the wronged party. And Lars’s realization that she would never fire on her own ship doesn’t just work as a conclusion to his story, showing that he learned a lesson from his bitterness towards Sadie, but for Emerald’s, showing that while she wants her revenge she more just wants her stuff back. But this is still an opponent who we only see screaming from a screen, and that’s exactly what this episode needs.
Finally, Lars of the Stars doesn’t just celebrate the end of Act III’s fourteen-episode sweep: this is the last episode from Jesse Zuke, who came out swinging with Chille Tid and maintained an unbelievable batting average over the course of their twenty episodes. There’s only one episode Zuke had a hand in that I’m not huge on, Know Your Fusion, and even that is funny as hell if you’re into that style of meta humor. Alongside Hilary Florido, Zuke gave us two of the show’s greatest instances of characters just hanging out in Beta and Last Stop Out of Beach CIty, and the pair laid and reinforced the foundation for Peridot’s post-villain characterization in Catch and Release, Too Far, Log Date 7 15 2, Barn Mates, Too Short to Ride,the aforementioned Beta, Gem Harvest, and Room for Ruby. But on top of being a master of comedy, Zuke could also do horror (Chille Tid and Are You My Dad) and drama (Beach City Drift, Steven vs. Amethyst, Gemcation), and had a good enough understanding of Steven and Lars to earn solo boarding credit on Stuck Together. I would’ve loved to see what else Zuke might’ve brought to Steven Universe, but that makes their unbelievable consistency that much more of a gift while it lasted. Bingo Bongo, Jesse.
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Future Vision!This is the first time we hear Sadie Killer and the Suspects by name, and it thankfully won’t be the last.
We’re the one, we’re the ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!
It speaks to the range of Steven Universe that teen drama Kevin Party can stand alongside Lars of the Stars in my list of favorites. Granted, my top five also speaks to this range, but it’s nuts that the last two episodes are back-to-back and it not only works but benefits from this viewing order despite their wildly different tones.
Top Twenty-FiveLars of the Stars
6. Horror Club 5. Fusion Cuisine 4. House Guest 3. Onion Gang 2. Sadie’s Song 1. Island Adventure