So, Steven Universe.
Steven Universe is an experience.
The opening episodes are generally regarded as poor, to the point of people making “How to Watch SU” Guides designed around reordering the episodes to get new people to stick around. I believe the general consensus is it takes 10+ episodes to pick up, which isn’t quite as dire as it first sounds due to them being eleven minutes long.
After it picks up, though, it really picks up!
It hits a wonderful spot where outwardly the episodes are about some silly quirk but the characterization is amazingly subtle and layered, building up slowly episode after episode. The briefness of the episodes produces an interesting effect where there’s only so much time to deal with everything and sometimes, that means instead things aren’t neatly dealt with at all. “But what about ______?” was a common fandom cry. Instead things will persist. Sometimes they’re offscreen, ready to pop back in a dozen episodes later, sometimes they’re in the background of the episodes the whole time progressing very, very slowly, and generally not in the way people are used to in shows.
And that’s what Steven Universe was good at. The first episode pair involves Steven frantically trying to fit the mold he’s expected to but ultimately finding a way to victory by doing his own thing and the second one has the day be saved due to the phrase, “If every pork chop was perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs.” In neither of them are things resolved for good, many of the issues the characters have and the differences between them at the start remain at the end, but they’ve still succeeded. Things aren’t always convenient. Even more so, people aren’t convenient. The gems are alien and so come into conflict with how humans do things. The entire cast is quirky and so come into conflict with each other. Many of them have some degree of mental health issue and so end up in conflict with themselves. A number of the interpersonal trouble episodes “resolve” with someone simply running out of steam and ones attempting to face down inner demons largely resolve much more along the lines of, “Oh wow, I didn’t realize there were demons in here!” instead of the typical, “And then the demons were exorcized, forever, and you stopped being so annoying.”
This is, of course, at the cost of sometimes being annoying to your audience, which may be why things take a sharp turn at the end of the series into resolving the multitude of loose ends and people extremely quickly, intermingled with cute/dramatic/relatable scenes that seemed to be pulled from a fan wishlist. Near the start of it I described it as Steven’s fever dream and each successive episode reinforced this. The ending is Steven getting what he wants, making people happy by giving them what he wants them to have, other people making him happy by coming together for him, personally solving other people’s internal conflicts, secretly being a beloved princess with an awesome wardrobe, and everyone ultimately being okay and friends now. And in the process, it breaks a lot of things set up earlier. especially around the plots/agency of other characters.