Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Lars battles with himself on a melancholy Steven Universe

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Of all of the denizens of Beach City, Lars and Sadie have had by far the most character development. Steven has had at most a couple of episodes with each of them. (Ronaldo has, uh, not really grown as a person.) This makes sense, since Rebecca Sugar had both characters floating around for years—the pair are the only human characters in the original pilot. But it’s also necessary, since their dynamic (both individually and as a couple) is too depressing to really sustain a ton of scrutiny without any movement.

So when Buck Dewey shows up to invite Lars, Sadie, and Steven to a semi-ironic potluck, it seems like “The Good Lars” is going to have to end with a real moment of self-improvement, where Lars puts himself out there and realizes it’s not so bad that he bakes after all. The bulk of the episode is pretty low-key, but does an excellent job of priming us for that conclusion. Once he pushes through his original anxiety attack to decide what he wants to make—ube, a dessert from the Philippines—Lars just bakes some really delicious food, and opens up just a crack to Steven.

At the beginning of the episode, Steven gracefully acknowledges Lars’ attempt to be grateful when Steven compliments his baking: “I speak Lars.” Steven is probably always going to be most empathetic, understanding person on the show, but he also has a special relationship with the prickly, insecure Lars. Just a few short episodes ago, Steven did an elaborate face turn just to make Lars a little happier. So when Steven puts his hand on Lars’ shoulder and tells him to “open up about your feelings,” it feels like a real breakthrough. Lars admits (in a really excellent bit of voice acting by Matthew Moy) that he’s worried the cool kids will think his baking is lame, which Steven correctly points out is silly. The worst case scenario is just that the cool kids don’t like Lars, in which case it’s their loss. This is a very mature moment for Lars, who even comes close to publicly admitting his feelings for Sadie.

Except that Lars doesn’t go, which is really his loss. The potluck turns out to be totally awesome: Sour Cream brings soda, Jenny brings pizza, Buck brings assorted fruit, and Sadie comes through with plates. (Sour Cream is very excited about not having to do dishes, to the point of turning off the lights and lazily throwing glow sticks in the air.) So Steven spends a few minutes hunting for him—including a rather nice shot where he uses his floating power to jump up above Beach City and scan for Lars—and finds the ube roll in the garbage outside of Sour Cream’s house. In retrospect, it seems like this should have been Sadie’s episode: She’s comfortable singing in front of people during an impromptu “Pot Luck” jam session, and she has a real breakthrough about Lars, acknowledging that maybe she should invest more of her energy into her own happiness rather than her sulking quasi-boyfriend.

But i’s weird that we don’t get any scene between Lars and Steve. The only way that would make sense would be if this were the show’s way of telling us that Lars is a lost cause. (It isn’t. There are no lost causes on Steven Universe, except for maybe Kevin.) Then, as Sadie sadly walks off past a streetlight, we see the silhouettes of the bulky and small Gems from yesterday’s episode. What really happened to Lars? Bingo bongo!

Stray observations:

  • “The Good Lars” is written and storyboarded by Colin Howard and Jeff Liu.
  • Lars asking for feedback on his baking: “Be honest, but not too honest.”
  • “Of course Steven likes it. He likes everything.” True.
  • My favorite detail about this episode is that Lars has a bead of sweat on his head in every shot of the baking montage.
  • Would you guys like a confident, more caring Lars? I think I’d be into it, especially since he’d probably overcorrect for a while.
  • Lars: “When did you get so mature?” Steven: “Somewhere in between learning to summon my shield and finding out my mom is a war criminal.” This is one of my favorite exchanges on the show in a long time.