ORIGINAL AIR DATE: Jan. 13th, 2014
SONG: Yes, a small one at the end called “Serious Song.”
SYNOPSIS: Steven tries to prove he’s serious when the Crystal Gems take him on a new mission.
Steven wakes up at the Beach City Funland Amusement Park, but that’s not a good thing. He’s surrounded by debris, confused people, and the Crystal Gems. Something wrecked the place up good, but Serious Steven isn’t spoiling just yet.
Two weeks later, Steven is getting ready for another Gem mission. The last one didn’t pan out the way the Crystal Gems or Steven wanted it to, but it was the thought that counted. He has a ways to go, exemplified when he gleefully messes around inside the teleportation beam taking the team to their location. He brought his ukulele as well for reasons he can’t explain, he was just too excited, so why not?
The Crystal Gems end up in a large field bursting with strawberries. Steven is coated with the stuff, attracting nearby butterflies. He panics until Garnet brushes them away. This place was once a Gem battlefield, now it’s covered in strawberries. The fruits are extremely big, indicating that perhaps whatever the Gems did after the fight may have mutated them. It’s telling how abnormal and alien an average Earth food is after Gem interference, yet the Gems’ 6000+ years on this planet means giant strawberries might just be the norm. Either way, Pearl is pleased at the beauty of this place, cheerfully declaring that perhaps this will be an easy mission.
Garnet isn’t too sure. They stand before an upside down pyramid temple. Inside, there are large murals on the wall and a pedestal in the middle holding a floaty triangle thing. Pearl tells Steven not to touch it, but it’s too late, he pokes it. The triangle flips the other way and sends the four into another room. Surrounding them are multiple doors. Pearl tells Garnet and Amethyst to figure out the mystery while she stays put to protect Steven. Garnet, however, takes Steven to solve it, but warns him not to take this lightly.
Steven tries, but singing happily doesn’t exactly put him in the best position. Pearl certainly doesn’t think so, worried it’ll be the teacups all over again. The temple is a living Zelda dungeon: Garnet and Steven enter a room that locks them from the other side. They have to solve a puzzle to unlock the other door, but it’s a simple one: step on the glowing pattern only. Steven gets that right, but a mysterious quake shakes the room up, causing Steven to lose balance and touch a non-glowing block. This forces the entire floor to give way, unleashing a fiery pit below. Steven almost falls to his death until Garnet saves him. And my god, the kid laughs about it like this isn’t a big thing. I’ve mentioned this was the case in “Cheeseburger Backpack” and Serious Steven analyzes that issue more closely.
Steven keeps repeating to himself and Garnet over and over that he’s taking this mission seriously, but he constantly makes quips and only marginally agrees the situation he’s in is dangerous. The consequence is something that he’s not really getting. His interaction with Garnet is refreshingly fascinating though. Pearl’s concern is expected: worried guardian figure who tells the kid to stop messing around or pinning him in a safe spot. Amethyst is more of an older sibling who tends to go along with Steven regardless of its questionable nature. Garnet settles somewhere in between. She encourages Steven’s lightheartedness, even humoring the boy. Garnet doesn’t lose sight of what they have to do and constantly keeps him on track, but her patience is endless. She readily preps Steven and lets him follow his own instincts and suggestions, only stepping in when it goes awry. Case in point, she watches Steven as he tries to figure out the next puzzle. He accidentally pushes a button on the wall, activating spikes from the ceiling. Garnet tries to hold them off so Steven can run, but the stupid kid is trying to tune his ukulele instead!
The pressure IS getting to Steven though and when they reach the next room a violent obstacle course he’s sweating buckets. Flashback two weeks earlier: Steven rides a tea cup ride with the Crystal Gems. I adore Pearl bringing a kettle for the ride, misunderstanding the entire concept. Steven can’t handle it, so he leaps off while the ride is still going, landing on Mr. Smiley who’s controlling the tea cups. The handle snaps and the cups careen off-course. Mr. Smiley’s reaction is one for the ages: barely holding in his rage as he tells Steven that he’s banned from all the rides forever. The flashback ends: Steven realizes he’s on the other side. While he was passed out, Garnet managed to carry him across.
Unfortunately, Steven and Garnet’s progress amounts to nothing, the two find themselves back in the beginning room. Pearl and Amethyst tried to find a way out, too, but eventually all the doors lead back to the same area. Everybody is losing it, including Steven. Now he sees the bigger picture and the problem is greater than he anticipated or wanted. Garnet tells the others they will keep trying over again and again until they figure this out. This is too much for Steven that he’s feeling queasy again, just like the tea cups. I admit, Steven’s sudden fear isn’t as smooth as it could have been. While Steven visibly reacted when his life was imminent, the process wasn’t as gradual as I wished it was.
Then a light bulb goes off in his head. Steven thinks the room is spinning around so they end up back in the beginning, much like how the tea cup ride operates. Garnet silently punches the floor to confirm Steven’s theory. There is a diamond device that is indeed, manipulating the mechanics of the room so they end up at the start. Steven also figures out where the device is before anyone else does and asks Garnet for assistance. Garnet tosses him to the platform where Steven pulls out the gem to stop the mechanic. The temple explodes, but the Crystal Gems and Steven are safe and they have yet another Gem to bubble and take back to base. Steven celebrates his victory by singing a song on his ukulele, but since he’s covered in strawberries again, the butterflies return.
Serious Steven is a continuation of Steven’s behavior. Much of his actions are in light of what the actual missions retell and it’s his naive disregard that lands him in hot water again. Yet as Cheeseburger Backpacks proves, his gut instincts is not without merits and he offers another path the Crystal Gems do not. Garnet often sees this more than the other two. If Amethyst agrees with Steven’s method, it’s mostly due to her casual attitude. Garnet has limits, but she encourages Steven to try out his own thing, stepping in when it’s absolutely necessary.
As immature as Steven was back in the early days, it’s telling that Steven is wanted and trusted. It’s all too easy for adults to dismiss children for their outlandish ideals and behavior, thinking they just need to grow up. Children are much more insightful than we give them credit for and the imaginations and potential they sport should be praised. They should have the ability to grow up in a healthy environment, surrounded by grown-ups who are willing to sit down and listen. This doesn’t mean Amethyst or Pearl are bad folks for handling Steven’s ideas differently; indeed, they will acknowledge him and his work when suited, but Garnet has the right train of thought. Steven has plenty to learn, but he has just as much to offer. I dig that Serious Steven was able to repeat essentially the same lesson Cheeseburger Backpack did without feeling tedious.