Steven Universe 4×04 Review: Mindful Education
Last week’s “Buddy’s Book” was a wonderful episode that combined Steven and Connie with Jamie-as-Buddy-Buddwick, as well as including some really positive Rose Quartz screen time. On the other hand, “Mindful Education” was a much heavier episode – one that tested Steven and Connie’s ability to fuse into Stevonnie, while also bringing fans back around to the fact that at the moment Steven is very unsure about Rose’s past activities and decisions.
It was pretty obvious from the beginning of “Mindful Education” that Connie was distracted, although Steven was too busy trying to play out his bald joke to notice right away. By the time he got around to asking Connie if she was okay, Pearl and Garnet arrived, at which point Connie’s distracted attitude was ignored for a bit, because Garnet was there to watch Stevonnie’s fusion training! I do love how excited Garnet was to watch Stevonnie fight…don’t even get me started on the sign she made that said “Go, Steven + Connie” on one side and “Go, Stevonnie” on the other. “It’s two signs in one, a fusion sign,” she quipped – and then when she was actually watching them, as she flipped the sign to the Stevonnie side when they fused her grin was infectious.
At first Stevonnie was doing very well – they even discovered that they have floating powers – but as they dove in to “finish the job” against the Holo-Pearl fusion, they envisioned a little boy instead. This caused Steven and Connie to unfuse, at which point Connie ran off. Of course Steven went to check on her, and imagine my surprise when Connie admitted that she’d beaten someone up! Honestly, I found this hard to believe, but when she explained that it was a kid she didn’t know who bumped into her and startled her and that her “training instincts kicked in”, I definitely agreed with Steven – obviously she hadn’t meant to hurt anyone, and he was right, sometimes you hurt people without meaning to. It sucks, but that’s life, and WOW is this show about a bunch of space rocks better at explaining life than most television shows I’ve ever watched.
That said, I wasn’t sure what to think regarding Steven’s insistence that not thinking about it was best, but thankfully Garnet was there to step in. Let’s be honest, she’s just too cool for words – her line “Hold the phone – now give the phone to me” was sheer perfection. From there she took Steven and Connie down to the beach to teach them a lesson about fusion – via an amazing song, nonetheless!
Of course the idea of fusion has always been about relationships – sometimes friendship, sometimes more, as is the case with Ruby and Sapphire becoming Garnet and choosing to remain essentially permanently fused. Therefore, when Garnet explained that “for fusion to work, there needs to be balance”, and that if one of them was falling apart, their fusion would as well, it was the simplest and best explanation she could give. She continued, “To find balance you have to understand your feelings…to understand your feelings, you have to see them clearly,” at which point she asked that Steven and Connie fuse once again. This is when her song began, and her song became THEIR song, in so many ways – it was a song about Steven and Connie as Stevonnie as much as it was one about Ruby and Sapphire as Garnet.
As usual, the lyrics to this song – titled “Here Comes a Thought” – were nothing short of perfection, particularly the following:
Take a moment remind yourself to
Take a moment to find yourself
Take a moment to ask yourself
If this is how we fall apart
But it’s not but it’s not but it’s not but it’s not but it’s not
It’s okay it’s okay it’s okay it’s okay it’s okay
Of course, one of the most important parts of the song was the animation, including the butterflies that symbolized the intrusive thoughts that Garnet – and later Stevonnie – sang about. Yes, butterflies are generally seen to be pretty and positive things, but in this case they represented anything but. One thought butterfly was enough to drive Ruby crazy, while it took an entire swarm to really bring Sapphire down, but really the main point was that eventually one has to accept how these negative things make them feel before they can move on.
And in the end, it appeared that Connie was able to dismiss her thought butterfly. The song closed with Steven, Connie, Ruby, and Sapphire laying in a circle as Garnet and Stevonnie came out of the sort of meditation/trance that Garnet had created, and back into reality. I was definitely sad to see this sequence end because not only was the song lovely, but the animation was, too…and also, how many chances are fans going to have to see these four characters together?
“Mindful Education” then cut to the day of Connie and Steven’s next training session, and when Connie arrived at the temple she was obviously back in the game. She had faced her fears and talked to the boy – Jeff – not only are they now apparently buddies, but he even asked her to teach him some moves. Connie insisted that trying not to think about the problem only made it worse, and Steven was obviously trying to be happy for her…but then he saw a thought butterfly of his own appear on the end of Rose’s sword.
As it turned out, Steven obviously wasn’t done with his own “Mindful Education”. While Stevonnie’s training seemed to be going well at first, as soon as they took down a Holo-Pearl Steven pictured Bismuth in its place. Next came Jasper, then Eyeball, and even as Garnet was encouraging Stevonnie from the sidelines and Connie was trying to convince him that everything was okay, Bismuth, Jasper, and Eyeball morphed into ROSE. That was what finally caused Stevonnie to drop their sword and even fall off the edge of the Sky Arena, and even though Steven and Stevonnie have floating powers, they unfused and Steven was too worked up to float. He told Connie that he didn’t want to feel “this way”, that he’d tried to help them and couldn’t, but even while they were falling Connie kept a clear enough head to tell him that he had to think about it even if he didn’t want to – that it was okay to feel bad, there wasn’t anything else he could have done, and that he had to be honest about how bad it felt so that he could move on.
Finally Connie’s words got through to Steven and they were able to fuse again, but at first they were falling through a swarm of thought butterflies. To me this was an interesting parallel to Ruby and Sapphire – one butterfly was enough to upset Ruby and Connie, while it took a swarm to cause problems for Sapphire and Steven.
Although we didn’t get to see Stevonnie START to float, thankfully at some point they did, and landed gently on the ground. They collapsed in the grass, laughing, and simply said, “I’m here”. These two simple words, repeated from the lyrics of “Here Comes a Thought”, were truly a perfect end to “Mindful Education”, which was a difficult but beautiful episode.
Two things that are important to note are that of all the voice actors on Steven Universe, Estelle as Garnet and AJ Michalka as Stevonnie have the most experience as singers/musicians, which made it even more awesome to hear them perform such an amazing song together. Additionally, “Mindful Education” featured guest animator Takafumi Hori, and wow, did he do a gorgeous job with his sequences. It’s hard to believe that there are ways to make this show even better than it already is, but the Crewniverse does a great job of consistently stepping up their game, and they deserve so much credit for that!
What was your favorite part of “Mindful Education”? Let us know in the comments!
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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