Every once in a while, Steven Universe strays away from gem-related business and does what fans of the show call a “townie” episode. These episodes usually revolve around residents of Beach City—usually friends of Steven—and Steven’s civilian life, but they are sometimes intertwined with the main storyline due to the involvement of gems. Escapism is another townie episode, and it is a weird one.
In Escapism, the Watermelon Stevens—a species of sentient watermelons created by Steven—make their return. The story picks up right after Together Alone; the Crystal Gems were poofed (their physical forms destroyed) by Yellow Diamond, and Steven and Connie were thrown into solitary confinement. With all of his friends on Homeworld incapacitated, Steven tries to reach out to his friends back on planet Earth through astral projection. But before he can contact Bismuth, his consciousness accidentally gets stuck in a Watermelon Steven and he begins an odyssey from the secluded watermelon island to Beach City.
I said this episode is a weird one because so far, the Diamond Days arc has been non-stop gem business on Homeworld—the crème de la crème of main storylines! It is weird to interrupt the flow of the story when the protagonist is in such a desperate situation, and what makes this even more baffling is that the breather episode sits right before a two-week-hiatus, rendering its function as a breather episode obsolete. As a result, Escapism felt really out of place in this arc.
As a fan of the show, it is a lot of fun to read fellow fans’ discussions on townie episodes, as you’ll find that everyone has a diverse selection of loved/loathed townie episodes and characters. Watermelon Steven is no one’s favorite. Don’t get me wrong, Watermelon Steven episodes aren’t terrible, but they don’t advance stories or develop characters as much as some other townie episodes, due to them being almost entirely dialogue-free and highly isolated from the main story. For the bulk of Escapism, you watch Watermelon Steven mime his way home.
I am used to Steven Universe’s capability to express complex themes and tell an engaging story within a short span of 11 minutes. I don’t know what I was expecting from Together Alone’s cliffhanger, but it certainly wasn’t this mildly dull adventure with nothing much to say. Lukewarm and ill-placed, Escapism is a disappointment and the first misstep in an otherwise amazing arc.
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