The third season of Steven Universe clarifies that – when it comes to kids’ shows, at least – deep dives into backstory and mythology leave me hopelessly bored. In Steven Universe’s case, it’s partly because these threads tend to emphasis the series’ worst qualities – specifically, a mopey vibe and a didactic desire to spell out its life lessons – at the expense of its best. It doesn’t help that, invariably, these shows are better are suggesting than explicating their universes, which are typically quite clichéd in their specifics.
I can see why the show’s mythology episodes might appeal to über-fans, but for me, they’re a bug rather than a feature. That’s especially true with the introduction of “Bismuth”, in an episode that feels primed to appeal to the “never punch Nazis” folks; disappointing.
Thankfully, beyond its uneven introduction and climax, Steven Universe Season 3 spends most of its time just chilling with Steven and the Crystal Gems: going on adventures, dealing with Beach City kerfuffles and generally feinting at its serialised storylines rather than overstating them. A late arc paralleling Amethyst’s sense of marginalisation with Steven’s increasing powers is a perfect example of the show at its best: funny, entertaining and legitimately poignant.