‘Steven Universe’ Is Back! Rebecca Sugar Helps Recap The Show So Far

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Steven Universe
Cartoon Network
They, are the Crystal Gems—and they’re finally back to save the day!

Starting Thursday. May 12 with back-to-back episodes, Steven Universe will return in the form of a four-week event titled “In Too Deep” which sees the Cartoon Network animated series pick up from where it last left off in January.

The show—which was recently renewed all the way up to a fifth season—follows the adventures of Steven Universe (voiced by Zach Callison) and the Crystal Gems, Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl (voiced respectively by Estelle, DeeDee Magno and Michaela Dietz), as they work together to save the world from various threats—including gems like themselves.

With a lot having happened since the series began more than 50 episodes—and two seasons—ago, TV Insider asked series creator Rebecca Sugar to help recap the characters’ growth and discuss some of the show’s biggest moments so far—as well as preview some of what’s in store in the next few weeks.

Click through to see what’s coming up!

Steven Universe, Thursdays, 7/6c, Cartoon Network.

Steven's Growth

When the series first began, Steven had just begun accessing his powers. Since then, the youngest member of the Crystal Gems has not only learned how to summon his shield, conjure up a protective bubble and heal injuries with his tears, but he’s also become an official member of the team, accompanying them on recent missions. He also most recently celebrated his 14th birthday.

Steven's grown a lot since the beginning of the series. How do you approach plotting Steven's journey and balancing both his emotional growth and the growth of his powers?
Finding that balance has always been at the core of the show! Early on we were mostly worried about guiding him from being the new, young, powerless Crystal Gem into being an equal member of the team, and we were always interested in what he'd bring as their defensive force and as a healer. As he became more emotionally mature and more empathetic, and more protective of his friends, he became able to express that through his powers.

But now we're at an interesting time in the show where Steven is more than just an equal member of the team. He's no longer struggling to keep up. He's very aware that he has to protect everyone around him and he's learned enough to know that without him they'll fall apart. So he's giving everything his all and rolling with everything in real time with the rest of them. That said, he's still a human kid, now teenager, so he's under a huge amount of pressure, he hasn't really figured himself out yet and he's already giving everything he's got to everyone else. I think that's what's interesting about where he's going. He's got to start recognizing that balancing act and pacing it out for himself. He's getting really strong, so he's got to learn how to process what he's capable of, and he's got to learn something the Gems are notoriously bad at: restraint.

What do you think was the biggest or hardest lesson he's had to learn so far?
Oh, that's definitely coming up. There's a lot he still doesn't know about his mother.
Steven Universe Crystal Gems

The Crystal Gems

Over the course of two seasons the series has begun to explore each of the Gem’s pasts—namely Garnet’s becoming a fusion, Amethyst’s being born on Earth and Pearl’s devotion to Steven’s mother, Rose—as well as what brought the Gems to Beach City in the first place.

The Gems have also grown a lot since we first met them. How has living in Beach City, with Steven, affected them?
They have become much more human and much more emotionally mature from spending time with Steven. Gems don't really "mature," because they don't grow, they come out fully formed and good at the task they need to do. In a lot of ways they're experiencing "growing up" vicariously through Steven. As aliens who aren't accustomed to feelings in general, they're going through a lot, and Steven is both a force that grounds them and a living example of everything that confuses them. The fact that they love him is the only thing that's simple and true and it's a thread they can hold on to while they change.

Gem Fusion

Fusion has always been a part of the series, with Pearl, Garnet and Amethyst fusing to create a super Gem and defeat various foes. However, one of the series’ biggest reveals came in the Season 1 finale, “Jail Break,” which revealed that Garnet herself was none other than a fusion of two gems, Ruby and Sapphire, who decided they'd rather live together as one, than separately as themselves.

Garnet's reveal was such a big one for the series. How did you know when it was the right time to share that with the audience?
We had a lot of early plans to reveal Ruby and Sapphire to the audience much earlier, but the more Garnet developed as a character the less we wanted to share before we could share everything! We wanted the audience to get to know Garnet first, and have her start to open up, and want to open up, before it happened in a way that was out of her control. In a lot of ways I feel like Jailbreak is the true beginning of the series, not just because you finally get to understand Garnet, but because the Gems stop being able to control what Steven knows. They start learning new things together in real time. Steven learns about Garnet, but Garnet also learns that Steven accepts her, and this is huge for both of them.
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Greg Universe

Once an ambitious young musician, Greg gave up his rock star aspirations after he met Rose Quartz (driving a van into her heart in the process). While he doesn’t live with Steven—the titular hero resides with the Gems—he’s always there when his son needs support—be it moral, emotional or sometimes, even physical.

How would you say Greg-and his relationships with Steven and the Gems-has changed since we first met him on the show?
I think Greg has been one of the most consistent characters, honestly! The Gems have changed a lot, and their feelings about Greg have been exposed, but Greg has always been his sweet and patient self. He knows the Gems are aliens, they were even more alien when he met them in his 20s, so he's learned to be really tolerant of their insensitivity toward him, and deeply appreciative of any sensitivity they do show him, which he knows doesn't come naturally. His relationship with Steven has changed a lot, but he knew it would. He knew Steven would be growing up and learning about his Gem side and he was ready to be supportive throughout, though it's definitely been a faster and more dramatic shakedown than he could have anticipated.

Connie Maheswaran

Early on in the first season Steven not only befriended the new-to-town Connie, but the best friends also discovered that they could fuse, creating a one of a kind human-Gem fusion named “Stevonnie.” Since then, Connie has begun training under Pearl so she can help Steven protect Earth.

Connie is a big part of Steven's life. What does that relationship mean to both of them?
Steven's relationship with Connie is all about a partnership between equals. This is tested often because Connie has a tendency to feel less important than Steven, something he really worries about. And Steven has a tendency to want to fix everything himself so other people won't have to worry. But they're better together because Steven shares a drive with Connie that the Gems can't relate to or share with him, a determination to exceed everyone's expectations and an extreme selflessness that makes them both passionate fighters but can also get them both into trouble. They need to protect each other and to remember to protect themselves so they can keep being there for each other. But their relationship will always be tested when either one of them feels that pull to be a martyr for the sake of the other...
Steven Universe Lion


Steven’s adorable trap pet is one of the show’s bigger mysteries—especially given its magical abilities and connection to Steven’s mother, Rose.

What made you decide to give Steven a magical lion as a pet?
Ian Jones-Quartey (my co-executive producer) and I took in a stray cat just before we started working on Steven Universe. We named the cat Lion, though we found out later he had a dozen different names around the neighborhood. That's really where it started, the idea of Steven having a huge magic indoor-outdoor cat, essentially. I also was lucky enough to talk with Mike Mignola (creator of the comic series, Hellboy) when I was starting on the show, and asked him about mythology that I could relate to the Gems. He thought Ishtar would be a good point of reference, a Goddess of love and war, associated with lions, with a star for a crown (though her star is eight pointed). This was the other reason for a lot of the star and lion related imagery that I wanted to associate with Rose Quartz.


Since her introduction as one of the series’ antagonists, Peridot has had a change of heart—both about the Gems and Earth—leading her to not only stand up to Yellow Diamond, but also join the Gems in their mission to defend the planet

What has having Peridot join the Gems' added to the show?
What really excited me about Peridot's arc was that she gave us our first window into the rigid belief system of Homeworld Gems. I always thought of our Gems as this outrageous hippie commune on Earth, but because they're so isolated Steven has had no frame of reference to understand this. And they love that about Steven, he doesn't judge them because he has no sense of how they should be behaving, or at least he didn't before Peridot. What I love about Peridot is that she feels like everything she's saying about the Crystal Gems' insubordination makes total sense. It's not hurtful, it's obvious that a Pearl should be a Pearl and that Garnet should unfuse, etc. By getting to know them, and like them, she's starting to realize there is no one thing that makes sense and there is no objective "right," and that's what's exciting to me about her character now. What is she going to do with herself now that there's no right way to be?
Steven Universe Cluster


The last run of the show’s episodes saw Steven and the Crystal Gems discover the “Cluster,” a mutated experiment consisting of fused Gem shards incubating deep within the Earth's core. If awoken, the Cluster will lead to the Earth's destruction.

The discovery of the Cluster, has allowed viewers to get a little backstory about the Gems' Homeworld. How do you decide when you want to reveal some of that?
The Cluster has really opened up a lot of new information, and led us to the moon base, which is a very important location. We now know that Yellow Diamond is really, irrationally adamant about having the Cluster emerge and destroy Earth, even though she's apparently the most reasonable, rational being in the universe. Peridot has a right to be confused by Yellow Diamond's impractical plan for Earth. Either Yellow Diamond really is a clod, or something bigger is going on.

What can you tease about what's coming on the show for both Steven or the Gems?
Something bigger is going on!!!
Steven Universe Garnet


Since the beginning music has played an integral part of the show, from the background instrumentals that accompany each Gem as they dance their way into fusing with one another, to the full-blown musical numbers that accompany big reveals.

How do you decide which moments in the show get songs?
There is a quote from Bob Fosse that I love, "The time to sing is when your emotional level is too high to just speak anymore, and the time to dance is when your emotions are just too strong to only sing about how you feel." I think about this all the time when planning musical numbers. My favorite song that's aired so far is probably "Stronger Than You," I worked so long and so hard on it and I wanted to say so much with it, and Estelle (who voices Garnet) gave me advice early on that helped me write it, and then Jeff Liu and my composers Aivi & Surrashu helped me so much when it came to arranging it, it was just wonderful to work on it the whole way through. But there are a few songs that haven't aired yet that are really, really personal, that are coming up. I'm wondering how they'll be received.
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