‘Steven Universe’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 3: ‘Buddy’s Book’
In this week’s episode, Connie takes Steven on his first trip to the library, where they both get a history lesson about Beach City and the Crystal Gems. Buddy’s Book was written by Lamar Abrams and Katie Mitroff, and directed by Joe Johnston and Ricky Cometa.
Elle: Well, this was certainly a change of pace. I really enjoyed the tale of Buddy Budwick, and the way the episode played with subjectivity as Connie and Steven read his story.
Katie: I’m so used to Steven finding something like this and it being a tearjerker audience experience, so I was bracing myself for Buddy’s Book to be intense and emotional like Lion 3. Instead, it was just very cute and as you said, plays around with perspective thanks to how the kids imagine this historical figure.
But before that, Steven visits a library for the first time!
Elle: Honestly I worry about Steven’s educational situation a lot. I don’t really understand why he’s not in school. But at least he has a strong drive to learn new things, and Connie to provide some direction. And now what he’s discovered the library, he’ll be unstoppable.
Katie: I had those same thoughts throughout the Summer of Steven. Like when Greg sings about how he can buy classes for his son and Steven sings back, “But I’m with the gems all the time.” Okay but Steven, you need an education. Like, with math and stuff.
That being said, it’s really cute how bursting with happiness Steven is at the idea of a whole building full of books to read. And that leads us to his discovering of Buddy Budwick’s journal.
Elle: Yes! Honestly, I had totally forgotten who that was, but we’re quickly reminded that he was the first mate on the ship captained by Mayor Dewey’s ancestor of the same name, that first settled Beach City. And here we learn that Buddy didn’t want to die a first mate, so he became an explorer. Mostly of ancient Gem-related sites, it turns out.
Weirdly, one of the things this episode reminded me of was Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics. They’re full of the stories and journals of adventurers from times past, who had previous encounters with the same mystical stuff that’s relevant in the stories set in the present. And this was the Steven Universe equivalent of that.
Katie: That was a very fun element to the episode, especially how it give us a little more context and hints at what was to come; how the strawberry battlefields were somewhere in Sweden or Norway, and how Steven doesn’t recognize “The Palanquin,” meaning it’ll surely show up in a future episode. And I love how most of his adventures are thanks to running into Garnet and Pearl, with Steven imagining them in colonial-esque garb. If someone doesn’t make fan art of the Gems as Hamilton performers after this episode, I will be very disappointed.
Elle: I’d be surprised if someone hasn’t already made Steven Universe/Hamilton mashup art, but the next time someone does there will be more to base it on thanks to this episode.
And while Garnet and Pearl looked great in their colonial outfits, my favorite was Amethyst. What a fantastic coat! Her behavior seemed a little weirder than usual, but I wasn’t sure if that was actually a difference in how she was back then, or just seeing her through the lens of Buddy’s journal. Either way, it was interesting that he found her hanging around the Kindergarten.
Katie: The other great thing about the Gems showing up is how Pearl’s attempt at protecting this poor, fragile human just spurned him into traveling to all the places she pointed out were too dangerous (which is a quintessential Pearl moment if I ever saw one).
This all leads to our story’s protagonist feeling like his adventures were a sham because he wasn’t the one discovering new places, just visiting old ones on a map the gems laid out for him. It’s hard to even imagine as a 21st century human there being a time when discovering brand new places to human (or humanoid rock alien) eyes was even a thing you could do.
Elle: And it did kind of seem likely that his might have been the first human eyes to see those Gem sites, but of course you can’t beat the Gems anywhere --- they’ve been alive for thousands of years.
But anyway, his despair at finding nothing new leads him to follow Amethyst’s directions out into the desert in search of a “Sandcastle,” where he’s just about to lay down and die, when he unexpectedly encounters Rose Quartz, and her… seven lions?
Katie: Seven lions and yet none of them pink! Will we never find out just what the heck is up with Steven’s Lion?? … Okay I’m sure the show will reveal it in good time, but you drop, “Oh yeah, Rose had a pack of non-pink lions with her, no big deal,” with no other explanation? That’s cold.
Sorry, I went into the Drama Zone for a moment.
Elle: Hahaha. Speaking of the Drama Zone, Buddy putting his head into the lion’s mouth and asking to be eaten was probably my favorite moment of the episode. The lion just looks so unsure of what to do.
But I also really liked that it was Rose who helped Buddy find his purpose in life, by recognizing his talent as a writer. After all the recent revelations about Rose’s actions during the war, it was great to see the return of the wise and kind Rose we’re used to. It reminds us that nothing we’ve learned about her fundamentally changes who she was --- it just adds adds more layers.
Katie: I was thinking the exact same thing! We’ve heard before about how Rose inspired the other gems, made them see themselves as more than what Homeworld told them to be. Here, we’re seeing that in practice. She’s especially good at showing others a different perspective that could shift a flaw into a strength and a failure into an opportunity.
In this case, she inspired Buddy to not be hung up on his lack of discovering new lands, and instead focus on his gift for storytelling. Which we learn led to him founding the very library the kids are enjoying this episode!
Elle: There’s even a portrait of him! Which reveals that he doesn’t look anything like Jamie the drama-obsessed mailman, which is who they’d been picturing him as while reading his journal.
Overall, this was a pretty light episode, but I enjoyed it. Some Beach City lore, some insights into the Crystal Gems, and a hint or two toward things that will come up later. And that’s it --- that’s all we get this week. After the past few weeks, it feels a bit strange to only have one episode at a time.
Katie: Going back to one episode a week really is a shift, but I can’t wait to see what next week’s episode has in store for us!