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Steven Universe Recap: “Nightmare Hospital”

I've always wondered what a G-rated Silent Hill would look like.


Catch up on our previous Steven Universe recaps if you’re behind!

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The Recap: Steven offers to let Connie borrow his mother’s sword for training, only for Connie’s mother to confiscate it. Their attempts to retrieve the sword lead to a standoff with some fusion experiments at the hospital and a few overdue revelations.

Welcome back, readers! It’s been a long summer since last we spoke. And while absence makes the heart go Yonder, and I’ve learned all about parallel universes where probably this summer hiatus wasn’t so long, you all and this series have never been far from my thoughts. You may’ve noticed that the entire episode title list for the rest of the season was leaked, so I hope you’ve all been preparing for our eventual emotional destruction.

We’re jumping back into the series with what I’d call a cartilage episode – it’s obviously indispensable for what’s going to come in future episodes, but that carries with it a sense of biding time in the areas where the audience is already ahead of the show. Dr. Maheswaran has thus far been one of the least developed members of Beach City, with little to do beyond serving as a set of stakes for Connie’s involvement in Gem adventures. That means she has a lot further to go than someone like Sadie or Greg or even Ronaldo would, and this deficit winds up showing pretty plainly in the script. Lines that might’ve had more depth if we’d been able to spend some more time in the Maheswaran house end up without deeper context, leaving Connie’s mother as…well, the basic Overprotective Parent Who Gets in the Magical Kid’s Way, and the fact that this show is so excellent at deftly avoiding such stock archetypes ends up making it ring as a more sour note than it would’ve otherwise.

The half of what makes the rising action so frustrating (it’s a corrupted gem of some kind under there, of course it is, move it along already) is that those scenes walk concurrently with some absolutely beautiful shown development in terms of both Connie’s training and her increased closeness with Steven. Their banter rings absolutely true to the nerdy kid I was and the ones I knew, matching the ebb and flow of borrowed “adult” language with giggly goofiness and a perfect sense of being in synch with someone who totally gets you. Connie and Steven have always been sweet, but this episode basically seals them as the show’s beating heart (their little hands, y’all). The way that their playfulness both contrasts and feeds into their almost wordless synch in battle is a great stroke of storytelling.

It’s not even all bad with Connie and her mother. Once the fight is over and the requisite “you’re not protecting me by overprotecting me” moment has been had, the script makes its obvious shift from box ticking plot conversations to what feels like a real emotional interplay, with the good doctor sticking firm to the point that there will still be times when Connie needs her mother – she might be prepared for more freedom, but she and Steven are both still children. And Connie’s half-determined, half shy and almost forgiveness asking tone is very familiar indeed (I really cannot give enough praise to both Grace Rolek and Zach Callison). It’s less than a minute long, but it feels like the moment the story really wanted to be about only to realize it still had some steps to go through. If that’s what’s on the table, I cannot wait to see how Dr. Maheswaran (and her husband, potentially?) will play into future confrontations – if nothing else, every fighting party with non-regenerating fighters is in need of a good medic.

Aside of the stepping stone nature of the relationship stuff this week, this episode does serve as quite the rush in how much information we learn. So much, in fact, that I’m going to break out the bullet points:

  • Confirmation that yes, Connie has been continuing her training (and if her skills in tandem with Steven are any indication, Pearl is now doing right be her as a teacher). In fact, she’s so advanced that Steven casually assumes she’ll be part of the fight against Malachite.
  • Which, seriously, the terrible-catastrophe-o-meter is heading right off the charts with the increased number of references dropped. Which, given the name of the season finale….yeah.
  • Time has indeed been passing in Beach City – almost a year since “An Indirect Kiss.” Given that Steven was originally based on Rebecca Sugar’s 10 year old brother, that would probably make him 11 now? Roughly, anyway. Did he have a birthday?
  • More Gem fusions have hatched, and probably a lot if they’ve made it all the way to town. It’s unknown whether Peridot’s involved or if they’re waking up on their own. The horrifying screaming every time they move remains a constant.
  • There is an almost Night Valian level of weirdness-denial going on in Beach City’s hospital; either that, or Dr. Maheswaran is REALLY SERIOUS about the Hippocratic Oath.
  • See also: apparently those really were the lens-less frames from way back in “An Indirect Kiss,” and noooooobody noticed.
  • While this episode might’ve been an unbelievably glorious nod to Silent Hill’s spooky hospitals stalked by body horror monstrosities, don’t think I didn’t also notice the hospital room apparently being attended by Dr. Gero.
  • As someone whose family tree consists at least one third of medical professionals, let me tell you that confidentiality just means they remember to redact all personal details before you wind up hearing the gory details and subsequently becoming neurotic about all the things that can kill you (on a more serious note, the cases Dr. Maheswaran deals with no doubt factor quite heavily into her overzealous rules for Connie).

And while we’re here, next week is a Sadie episode! We haven’t gotten to check in with her since season one. There was “Horror Club,” which wasn’t really her episode anyway; and “Island Adventure,” in which she made…some poor decisions regarding Lars. She’s such a wonderful character, I can’t wait to revisit her in light of all that’s happened around town. It feels weird to cover just one episode a week, but that’ll give us more time to think up outlandish theories. Hope to see you there!

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Vrai is a queer author and pop culture blogger; they’re hoping the triangle dork is not responsible and drinking heavily in case she is. You can read more essays and find out about their fiction at Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories, support their work via Patreon or PayPal, or remind them of the existence of Tweets.

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