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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Steven Universe: Wanted is a four-episode arc kicking off Steven Universe's fifth season, and that it aired as an hour-long "special event." (The individual episodes are titled "Stuck Together," "The Trial," "Off Colors," and "Lars' Head.") Though the bright and poppy-looking show has always had an underlying sense of foreboding (it is, after all, about a kid with a dead mom, who's being pursued by angry beings from another galaxy), Wanted ups the stakes considerably, with moments of deep sadness and even a human death. The subject is portrayed matter-of-factly and sensitively -- it is not a senseless or gratuitous death -- but it still may trouble younger viewers.
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What's the story?
Picking up right where the finale of Season Four left off, in STEVEN UNIVERSE: WANTED, our titular hero Steven Universe (Zach Callison) finds himself trapped on a ship headed straight to Homeworld, the mythical birthplace of the Gems, which has long been spoken of -- but never seen. To prevent his kidnappers from abducting his human friends and family as well, he has falsely identified himself as his deceased mother, Rose Quartz, and will stand trial to pay for her crimes. Things get complicated when it is revealed that Beach City's grumpiest donut cook, Lars (Matthew Moy), has hidden himself away on the spaceship as well. The two frenemies have to work together to try to save each other and the Earth, and they encounter a whole host of new, strange, and sometimes threatening creatures along the way.
Is it any good?
This four-episode "special event" marks a huge tonal shift for the show. The dark and brooding elements of Steven's backstory bubble to the surface here, but Steven Universe: Wanted manages to retain real heart and humor while expanding its mythology. Perhaps most noteworthy is the depiction of male friendships. Steven and Lars learn to be vulnerable and honest with one another about their feelings, which isn't something we always see in adventure-based shows, especially between males. There's also a thought-provoking storyline about a group of "Off Colors" -- a roaming band of Gems who have been rejected for their imperfections, and who fear being shattered by the higher-ups of Homeworld, the Diamonds. It's an anime-tinged version of the "Island of Misfit Toys" idea, and it works beautifully to reinforce the message Steven has been learning from his caretaker, Crystal Gems, throughout the show's run: that all lives are valuable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it means to make a sacrifice. Steven and Lars both make hard decisions in Wanted, and those decisions have real consequences. Why do they make those decisions? Do you think they made the right choice?
Steven and Lars meet the "Off Colors," a group of Gems who live in fear of being destroyed because they are different. What does this tell us about Steven's mother, Rose Quartz, and why she may have played a part in the rebellion?
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