Rebecca Sugar's Cartoon Network show Steven Universe began as a sweet series about a boy and his three “Crystal Gem” alien guardians — Amethyst, Pearl and Garnet -- "and quickly transformed into an astonishingly intricate saga of resilience and hope," says Caroline Framke. "It built a world in which aliens and humans support and learn from each other, in which true love crosses binaries and galaxies, in which the hero of the story’s most powerful weapon is his emotional intelligence. As Steven and his friends faced down their fears and shared in their joys, Rebecca Sugar’s deeply empathetic show became one of television’s smartest, period. It also became more and more complicated as Steven, half-human and half-Crystal Gem, discovered the often disturbing truth about his powers and ancestry. In between heartwarming stories of friendship and sharing donuts came bittersweet victories and hard lessons about what it means to survive. With the preternaturally compassionate Steven leading the Gems, though, they always managed to pull through. As the theme song put it: they’d always save the day, they’d always find a way. But in the final 20 episodes of the Cartoon Network series — a coda to the main series arc collectively called Steven Universe: Future, which ended with Friday night’s series finale — the show made clear that it wasn’t about to take the easy (or at least more elastic) way out of its own cataclysmic events. Unlike many cartoons made for children, its characters wouldn’t bounce back unscathed like nothing had ever happened. Instead, Steven Universe: Future explored the aftermath of the show’s game-changing adventures and how its characters would adjust to the new normal of not having to find a way to save the day. In doing so, it also allowed Steven the room to have a true crisis of faith by giving him nothing to do — no wars to fight, no friends to rescue — but be himself, whoever that may be."