Steven Universe is a show about saving the day through music and the power of love. It’s also a show about a tyrannical alien government trying to leech the galaxy of all its resources. So below its cutesy exterior, it has had more than its fair share of nightmare fuel. Let’s look back at some of its scariest moments…
Halloween may not exist in the SU-verse, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a Halloween episode. Ronaldo hosted a scary movie night in his lighthouse, but things went awry when old feuds were unearthed and the lighthouse became possessed. Ultimately, the episode was about Ronaldo and Lars (and a little about Steven’s psychic connection with Gems), but there were some genuinely spooky moments. The mouthless scarecrows slithered and clicked their way through the door of the lighthouse, swiping at Lars with intent to do real harm. And then Sadie was taken by the “spirit,” and the boys descended into the red-washed basement. The walls moaned and pulsed with veins, calling for Lars, forming a terrifying mouth. Despite these moments, Horror Club is mostly spent dealing with Steven’s more human side, and a potential triangle between Lars, Ronaldo, and Sadie that hasn’t really been touched on again even three seasons later. Perhaps a deeper, more subtly terrifying part of Horror Club is yet to be revealed… someone stuck that Gem in the wall of the lighthouse above the Gems’ temple. And that lighthouse just happens to have a circular window that looks an awful lot like the Rose Quartz gem. Seek the truth! Don’t close your eyes! Keep Beach City Weird!
Ah, the true horrors of modern life – capitalism and the fast food industry. Seriously, though, this was the first Steven Universe episode to try its hand at the horror genre, and while it wasn’t without its teething troubles, Frybo is nothing if not memorable. A strange mix of terrifying and absurdist, Frybo was the uncanny valley incarnate, every nightmare about fast food mascots made real. If the bulbous, unblinking eyes don’t get you, and the horrifying, veiny details that creep along his surface area don’t either, perhaps the persistent and disgusting squish squish of his feet will do it for you. Either way, I was glad to see Frybo given a burial at sea, because he was Creepy with a capital C…and because this is Steven Universe, hugely relevant to the Cluster plot, which began in earnest a full season later.
6) Rose’s Room
There’s that feeling you get sometimes…late at night while grabbing something from your basement, or walking down a familiar road. You know there’s nothing there. You know nothing is wrong. You know the darkness and the quiet is just tricking your mind, making you jump at things that aren’t there. But still, you can’t help but feel something is off. It’s that quiet sense of uncertain dread that Rose’s Room captured so perfectly. This episode avoided jump scares, monsters, and body horror in favor of disquieting dread, of being in a surreal nightmare and not being able to wake up, the fear that you might end up being alone and never find anyone you love ever, ever again.
5) Chille Tid
You’re sitting down to watch your favorite television show with your friends, a show that is known to pack an emotional wallop. You breathe a sigh of relief – a cutesy episode about aliens learning how to sleep? Silly dreamscapes for the main character? Just when you think it’s safe, BAM! The door opens on NIGHTMARE FUEL! Lapis Lazuli pouring water from her eyes and mouth was (and is) one of the most disconcerting images in all of Steven Universe. And the episode went beyond that, into Malachite’s acidic landscape, making the truly most frightening thing about Chille Tid what it must be like to be inside a fusion of hate.
4) Nightmare Hospital
I’m not ashamed to admit that this episode genuinely scared me. From the moment Connie and Steven opened the doors onto a bleak and empty hospital hallway, I was on edge (Connie and Steven holding hands helped, though). The pulsing, unsettling sounds, punctured only by sparse night shift employees muttering gossip and scuffling along the tile… and then, the terrible wheezing of the figure under the sheet. “It doesn’t look like a car accident,” Dr. Maheswaran said, with a flash of rare unprofessional horror on her face. The figure moaned and writhed underneath the sheet. “No heartbeat…” the doctor said to herself, because if it – if *they* were alive, then they must have a heartbeat. Another mutant joined the fray! (That’s what they were, it turned out: some magical monstrosity that GOT A HOLD OF CONNIE – !) And then the episode switched genres again, and we got a glimpse of what Stevonnie would be like in battle, and Steven got to see a “normal” mother-child interaction play out. And then, because it’s Steven Universe, Steven hugged his mother’s sword and I was torn to pieces for my small, sad space son.
3) Cat Fingers
I (K-K) have a very distinct memory of telling my partner that I had started “Steven Universe” per Tumblr’s overwhelming suggestion, but that I’d just watched a really flippin’ weird episode about cats and shapeshifting. And if it weren’t for Tumblr’s post-Jail Break explosion about the wonders of this TV show, I probably would have quit right there. Feline eruptions all over the protagonist’s skin, as he wailed and rippled in agony. His aggressively unmagical father was the audience surrogate as he gazed in horror at what his son had become. I’m told this is similar to the anime Akira; I didn’t need to get the reference to feel utterly repulsed by what was going on in episode six of this children’s show that Tumblr told me was going to be “super cute and super gay”. Obviously, I’m glad I stuck through it. And now I do appreciate all of the early episodes for their place in the show’s larger canon and on their own. It’s probably even important that if Steven shapeshifts into something organic, he can create life. But man. That first time, Cat Fingers was almost what made me quit the show.
And to give a counterbalance from another perspective, Cat Fingers was one of the earliest episodes that made me (Laura) sit up and go “wow, this show has guts.” This was body horror on a level I’d barely ever seen in a kid’s cartoon, accompanied by surprisingly heart wrenching emotion. No matter what your reaction is, it’s going to be a reaction.
2) Gem Drill
Doomsday devices are a common trope in fiction, and the Cluster fit it to a T. A ticking time bomb, a vague threat in the background that our heroes would somehow need to find a way to disarm. But then the question came: what do you do when the doomsday device is a living, thinking being? And not some ancient evil, but just a suffering victim? Ghostly hands writhed and reached for Steven and Peridot, and after Steven lost consciousness, he was plunged into moaning, shimmering faces. He awakened to ominous whispers: Must. Have to. Want to. Need to. FORM!
Isn’t it just like the Crewniverse to make such a horrifying, all-powerful thing beautiful? That is part of the unsettling nature of the Cluster – she (it? they?) was terrible and wonderful all at once. And Steven talked to her and helped her find healing. What a show.
1) Keeping it Together
The Crewniverse knows how to create emotional ambiance. They know how to make lighting, angles and music all come together to create something scary or jarring. They know how to make characters truly show terror, to make the audience feel through them. This episode was a masterpiece of tension, all culminating in the reveal of the horrified forced fusion, shards of Crystal Gems screaming before transforming into a single giant hand reaching out blindly for something, anything…
The body horror is superb, but not nearly as terrifying as the implications that settle in as the realization hits. Homeworld took sentient beings, broke their minds up, and then pasted them together. Imagine forever being broken, forever being stuck with the mind of someone else, and not being able to do anything about it… That is what truly horrifies Garnet, and for good reason.
Author: KK Bracken & Laura B
Read our before commenting.
Do not copy our content in whole to other websites. Linkbacks are encouraged.
Copyright © The Geekiary