That’s okay, as long as you’re familiar with the actual premise, and (light spoilers for the final season ahead) the show doesn’t make any assumptions about your emotional responses to the show. However, I wanted to present a few of the themes this show explores, and some explanations of how they tie into the characters’ development.
The visual tone of the show is dark, but that is also at the core of the show’s experience. This is not just a show about a group of strange people living a normal life. The show takes on real social issues, and explores the societal issues between human and alien life. While this is by no means bad, it adds a more realistic perspective, something I hadn’t expected from the show.
Gardening: Steven Universe is a stage drama. The idea is that having a gardener is often a challenge for any family, and turns down requests to have specialized staff members close by. The show is about setting aside the clutter to cultivate closer bonds. That involves understanding your surroundings in different ways.
Steven’s role is more commonly that of a gardener either helping the Crystal Gems or individual gems. However, and remembering the evolutionary aspect of agriculture, Steven has developed techniques for trusting his instincts. This relates back to the show’s bouquet-of-headed trends, in that the reaction between Steven and the flowering plant displays his character. This case also shows that plants have their own feelings and emotions too, and we can relate to them more than just as food. The visual joke is that when Steven’s arm breaks off from Garnet’s protective spell, he visibly sheds his tears right away, as if he’s grieving the loss of another limb.
Farming and family can improve someone’s self-esteem and make them stand out from the crowd as a positive and crucial aspect like a healthy diet.
The Flowering Tribunal: One of the biggest fears people have when getting started in gardening is something like actually growing a plant! Not only that, but it also requires farming knowledge. Steven is aware of this, and that’s the framing of thegardening while exploring this fear. Steven learns that there are different flower types that need to be looked after when they become a flower. What is unrealistic is the large number of gardening shows on TV at this time, or at least the focus on scaling up the technology and equipment. Even the gardens Steven visits in tour areas do not make long term use of technology, so if anything, Steven’s experiences are actually somewhat on the cutting edge of agronomy. He even resides at the little scratch farm he rents in one episode. We can also learn from his journey because it shows how holistic agriculture can really benefit both the human mind and our methods of farming. Garlic is not only delicious, but also a great source of vitamin C!
The Hybridization of Gem/Human: Basically, the show takes on issues around the way humans and gems combine. First, a useful distinction is made between gems that can morph into humans, and those that cannot (and instead can morph into animals using sublimation). This is also covered in a seminal article, and then later proposed in Steven Universe (aka the show itself, although technically the Gems are the ones that don’t morph into humans). It took a lot of fan opinion to keep the idea of fusion secret, and once people found out, they were ecstatic and worried the new zugglings might become the only safe gems in the world. Up until the end of this section, the last episode continues this theme of balancing between our natural dispositions to forming bonds and forming new stepping stones.
At a certain point, everything ends: Steven becomes a fully realized individual with his own traits and abilities who can act independently, and yet still have bonds with his mother, a human, and with him. He grows apart from his Gem perceptions that are based on the physical and biological differences between her and him. She concludes that this is a harder road to take than suggested in the show, because as they’ve grown together more, their perceptions have clashed more. What seems like a trial by fire, becomes a struggle against changing reality.
Is this more business like? The fusion shows that our perceptions of ourselves and others have to change as long as we grow up, and experience such things as breaking a leg, becoming a parent, etc. What is crucial here is that this jics with the theme of diversity within the Steven Universe universe.