Image: Steven Universe (Cartoon Network)

Steven Universe rarely does just one Beach City episode—usually there will be a few in a row, each focusing on a different character or group of characters to check in on how they’re growing and changing in between Steven’s Gem adventures. Here, the conceit of “Letters To Lars”—Steven writing Lars a letter to give him an update on how the town is doing in the wake of the Gem kidnappings—gives the Steven Universe team an opportunity to follow a bunch of different Beach City residents in the span of one episode. Storyboard team Lamar Abrams and Colin Howard are spread a bit thin between all of the characters, but “Letters To Lars” is still a solid episode—especially with the plight of ex-Mayor Dewey working as a funny, inevitable unifying thread.

The episode starts with a shot of the abandoned Big Donut, which, putting aside Garnet’s brief stint as an employee, has been closed ever since Sadie quit. This is an effective piece of foreshadowing as it becomes increasingly obvious over the course of “Letters To Lars” that Dewey is going to wind up taking over for Lars and Sadie. Throughout each of the other vignettes in the episode, Dewey shows up as a sad sack—complaining at the town meeting to plan evacuation policy, trying to insert himself into the rehearsal process for Sadie Killer And The Suspects, gazing sadly at his old car. The Big Donut appears to fulfill all of the emotional needs that drove Dewey into politics: he gets to schmooze with everyone in town in a friendly setting, and, more importantly, stroke his ego by naming doughnuts after himself.

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Besides ex-Mayor Dewey finding his new job, the pieces of “Letters To Lars” are a bit scattered. Ronaldo discovers that Lars has been “whisked away into the infinite cosmos on an adventure of a lifetime” and reacts with typical pique, furious at the irony that Lars, and not Ronaldo, has been chosen to endure constant mortal peril. This is a pretty standard Ronaldo joke, which is funny enough but also highlights how little he’s developed in the past couple of seasons. (What would it look like for there to be a serious piece of character progression for Ronaldo?)

Jamie, meanwhile, has been putting on a series of mail-related one-man shows. (My personal favorite is the Seinfeld-esque “What’s The Deal With The Mail?”) He also runs the Beach City Laughguards, an improv troupe composed of Mr. Smiley, Barb, Amethyst, and Peridot. In the brief, very funny glimpse we get, Amethyst does shapeshifting-related prop comedy by turning into a plunger during a plumbing-related skit, only for Jamie to respond negatively by demanding the need to imagine the implement. (“Looks like I improved improv!” Peridot says.) This scene is great, especially with the quick asides of Pearl asking for Steven-themed skits and complaining that everything isn’t about Steven all the time. Even just the grouping of characters alone is kind of special, since we don’t get a ton of glimpses of Gems just hanging out and being part of the normal social scene in Beach City.

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There are a couple of other Beach City denizens making changes to their lives. Peedee has opened his own fry stand operating out of the truck that used to be the Deweymobile, where he specializes in tater tots—the fries of the future. (Steven, of course, still demands the bits.) Say what you will about Peedee going into the family business, he definitely has his own vision. And Nanefua is an insanely competent mayor, neatly dividing up the work of preparing for another Gem attack and possible evacuation.

All of this is pleasant enough, but none of it hits as hard as the Pink Lars, a doughnut Steven and ex-Mayor Dewey cook up and deliver to the Barrigas. It’s a small gesture, but as a way to communicate that Lars is still part of the Beach City community even in his absence, it works wonders. Best of all, it segues effortlessly into the ending of the episode once Lars finishes reading Steven’s letter on the Sun Incinerator: Lars looks up, followed by a pan upward to reveal Steven poking out of his head, reading the letter out loud. Lars is confused, asking why Steven would go to the trouble of writing a letter when he was just going to communicate verbally instead, but Steven’s response is perfect: “Sometimes it’s nice to be read to.”

Stray observations:

  • Joel Hodgson hasn’t gotten a ton of opportunities to hit a broader range than Mayor Dewey’s standard confusion and bloviating, but he does pretty good work in the episode as Dewey slowly crumbles before finding his groove again.
  • Steven realizes that Peridot has never met Lars, and says that they’ll hang out when Lars gets back to Earth. Bring Peridot on the ship, Steven! She can fix it, probably!
  • See you next Monday for a very big double-header! We’ll have a lot to talk about after you’ve all watched “Can’t Go Back” and “A Single Pale Rose.”

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