Steven is a mess. Connie is amazing. My heart, it is gone.
Somehow all three of the Gems left on a field trip (when at least Garnet was there last night and knew about Steven’s high probability of an impending meltdown), but I’m willing to let that slide because the resulting episode is just painfully awkward and real.
Steven: Everyone’s getting married but me!
Steven, you’re sixteen. I’m pretty sure you’re legally forbidden from using that line until you’re at least 21.
With the Gems unavailable, Steven tries calling his dad just to have someone to talk to about what happened with Connie, but Steven being Steven, he doesn’t want to make him worry or change his plans or anything…
Greg: Oh, we’re about to head into another tunnel. Do you want to call me back with whatever you wanted to talk about?
Steven: It wasn’t important.
Greg: You sure? We can stop by on our way through Del Marva.
Steven: No, it’s okay. Just, uh, have fun.
STEVEN, IT’S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP!
Especially when you’re glowing pink with increasing frequency. And it’s interfering with your daily life.
Fortunately, Connie is still looking out for him. Because SOMEONE has to.
She calls him, and he tries to not pick up in order not to “worry” her and Steven we’ve been here before, JUST TALK TO HER ALREADY.
Connie: Steven! I’ve been worrying about you. Are you glowing? […] What’s happening to your face?
Steven: Why? What’s wrong with my face?
Steven: Oh, right, the swelling. My body just keeps randomly growing, but it doesn’t hurt or anything! It’s fine.
Connie: How long has it been happening?
Steven: Since…this morning. […]
Connie: You really don’t look well. Maybe you should see a doctor. My mom could see you at the hospital.
Steven: I wouldn’t want to waste her time…
Connie: Steven, you need to see a medical professional.
Thank you, Connie.
I really do feel for Steven, though. I have been in that exact same situation of trying to hide the fact that I’m not actually okay until it becomes impossible to ignore, and then being confronted on it by a friend (and subsequently seeing a doctor).
But there is plenty of awkward to go around, starting with the fact that, good idea-haver or not, Steven still has very complicated feelings toward Connie at the moment (for what it’s worth, she doesn’t reciprocate much of that awkwardness), and it sure doesn’t help that the doctor is her mom.
Connie: Think you’ll be able to help him? Even if it’s some sort of gem issue?
Dr. Maheswaran: Gem issue or not, you have a human body, which means we can run tests. At the very least, we can determine if you’re suffering from a non-gem condition.
Connie: See? I’ll go wait outside. I’m sure it’ll all be fine.
Dr. Maheswaran: Well, these readings are certainly…interesting. If you don’t mind me asking, who’s your GP?
Dr. Maheswaran: You know, your general practitioner…your regular doctor?
Steven: I guess you? I’ve never been to the doctor before.
Dr. Maheswaran: You’re sixteen years old and you’ve never been to the doctor? It’s okay, it’s okay! I’ll have a talk with your father later. We’ll just need to run some more tests.
And then we get to add all the regular awkwardness of a doctor’s visit!
Dr. Maheswaran: This is your chart – definitely a human skeleton. There’s a clear history of numerous fractures, like here on the skull. Everything is perfectly aligned – it almost looks as if the bones healed themselves the instant the injuries occurred.
Steven: That’s good, right?
Dr. Maheswaran: Well, you seem to have made a series of miraculous recoveries, but that doesn’t change the fact that you experienced trauma. You’ve recovered physically, but have you recovered mentally?
Then she literally starts explaining the physiological impact of childhood trauma and seriously, bless this show.
Steven: You think there’s something wrong with my brain?
Dr. Maheswaran: Not wrong! It’s that, adverse childhood experiences, or childhood trauma, can have a lasting impact on how your body responds to stress. This can affect your social, emotional, and physical development. When humans are in crisis, the brain releases the hormone cortisol. Your heart races, your muscles tense – I wonder if your body is reacting to a gem equivalent of cortisol…Steven, do you remember anything bad in your childhood that really stuck with you?
Then he just starts describing everything that happened in Season 1 and I can’t.
Dr. Maheswaran: Steven, this is serious!
Steven: But that was just the early stuff!
Dr. Maheswaran: I think all these experiences have been subjecting your body to a harmful amount of stress, and that’s affecting your ability to respond to new forms of stress in a healthy way. You’ve been dealing with genuine threats from such a young age, your body is now responding to minor threats as if your life were in danger.
Steven: But why am I only swelling up now?
Dr. Maheswaran: Stress is less harmful when we have people we trust to help us through it. Maybe if- if you’re losing your supportive relationships, or if you had a recent experience that was particularly awf-
And that’s what does it.
Connie: What’s going on? Mom, what’s happening?
Dr. Maheswaran: I don’t know. I just asked if he had any stressful experiences lately.
Connie: Steven…you don’t think…
Steven: It’s not you, Connie, it’s everything that happened before…
Dr. Maheswaran: What is he talking about?
Steven: You didn’t tell your mom?
I mean, even if she was planning on telling her, that’s not the sort of thing that MOST people would want to rush, which is all she could’ve possibly done in less than a day between her busy study schedule and her mom’s presumably full schedule at the hospital.
Steven: Please, just- just go!
Steven: I…can’t…be around you right now!
Steven: How’d you know I was here?
Greg: Connie called me about an hour ago.
Steven: Connie…thank you.
Connie: Yeah…I’ll be here when you’re ready.
I have no words. Just feels.
Greg: Come on, Steven. Talk to me.
Steven: I…well, I um…I proposed to Connie!
Greg: You what?
This is the appropriate response, Steven you shmaltzy idiot you.
Steven: My body, it’s reacting like it’s the end of the world. I think I’ve seen the world almost end so many times now that everything that goes wrong feels that- that extreme. I should be feeling so good these days! The Earth is safe, it’s Era 3, but I’m swelling up over these third-era problems. What do I do? How do I move on from all the stuff I’ve been through? How do I live life if it always feels like I’m about to die?
And thus we get to the real point of Steven Universe Future – not just wrapping up a couple loose ends, but acknowledging that a life like that leaves scars, especially on a child. Mental illness doesn’t care how nice and sweet you are – as a matter of fact, it often makes it even harder to open up. It’s hard to admit you need help, especially when you’re used to taking care of everyone else. But understanding what’s going on is a good first step,
Greg: It’s gonna be alright, Stuball. I’m here for you.
Steven: I just…I wanna go home.
Steven just looks so exhausted and I cannot blame him.
Steven: I guess I thought I could just follow Connie to college. Like, if we got married, I’d know what to do with myself. But I’m the one that’s gotta figure that stuff out.
Greg: Cut yourself some slack! It’s okay to be worried and make some mistakes when you’re figuring out what to do with your life. That’s not unusual! Well, the magic swelling is a little unusual, but that’s okay too! If you want to be a giant boy, we can use the car wash as a shower.
Steven: Dad! Your tour! I’ve ruined your-
Greg: Don’t worry about me. Just get some rest, kiddo. You don’t have to solve all your problems in one night.
He is a very good dad.
Until next time…