Just so you know, some of the best episodes won’t be here, because I only had so much room and wanted to minimize spoilers. That said, if you watch the show like this, you’ve got to be prepared for some degree of spoilers.
Season 1 Episode 23: Monster Buddies
Pretty solid overview of the series. Young boy fights monsters with friendship and tears ensue.
If you like this episode, watch its sequel: Monster Reunion. For a more plot-oriented take on Steven’s interactions with strange gems, check out Mirror Gem and Ocean Gem.
Season 1 Episode 37: Alone Together
This is one of the cutest episodes, and a great introduction to fusion. Steven’s relationship with the gems, Connie, and various other characters is put on display, and a very interesting new character is also introduced.
For more Connie, see Bubble Buddies, Sworn to the Sword, and Crack the Whip. For more on fusions, see Giant Woman, Fusion Cuisine, and Jail Break. For a sequel, watch Beach City Drift.
Season 1 Episode 40: On the Run
Amethyst speaks to me more than any other character in the show. The sheer anger, sadness, and resistance to conformity she embodies hits hard. This episode tells us about her backstory, and is a huge piece of information regarding the setting as a whole.
For more Amethyst goodness, check out Tiger Millionaire, Reformed, and Steven vs Amethyst. For more spoiler-filled Amethyst tales, watch Crack the Whip, Beta, and the excellent episode Earthlings.
Season 1 Episode 45: Rose’s Scabbard
There’s a lot of episodes that could embody what Rose’s loss has done to the characters. This one is light on spoilers, heavy on emotions, and has some great pieces of continuity in it that don’t ruin the episodes that came before.
Another great Rose episode is Lion 3: Straight to Video. For more on Pearl, see Coach Steven, Mr. Greg, Sworn to the Sword, and Last One Out of Beach City
Season 1 Episode 48: Story for Steven
Meet the woman herself, Rose Quartz. This is the first chronological episode of Steven Universe. It contains: a kick-ass rock song, younger-looking versions of the main gems, and the beginning of a fun love story.
For more of early Greg, check out We Need to Talk, Greg the Babysitter, and Three Gems and a Baby. For more music, watch Mr. Greg.
Season 2 Episode 12: Keystone Motel
You want to watch some cool gem powers? Watch this. Want to learn about love and conflict resolution? Watch this. Do you want to figure out the twisted geography of this world? Watch this.
For more episodes with this plot, watch the whole Week of Sardonyx. For more on this side of Garnet, check out Jail Break, Keeping It Together, and Hit the Diamond
Season 2 Episode 22: The Answer
This episode goes from an awesome fight scene, to an adorable romantic musical, to the ultimate emotional climax. “I feel lost… and scared… and happy.” It’s superb and that’s all you need to know.
For more storytelling check out Garnet’s Universe. For backstory, see the episodes under Story for Steven. For more about Homeworld and the Diamonds, check out It Could’ve Been Great and Message Received.
Season 3 Episode 1: Log Date 7 15 2
This is maybe the funniest episode of the show, and it’s all you need to know about Peridot. Maybe skip the first minute if you care about spoilers.
For more Peridot, check out Warp Tour, Catch and Release, Too Short to Ride, and Beta.
Season 3 Episode 2: Super Watermelon Island
This episode has one of the most epic fight scenes of all time. There are definitely spoilers, but they are worth it. My main reservation recommending this is that it is better the more episodes of the show you have seen.
For more spoiler-filled fights, check out Jail Break and Earthlings. Other action episodes include Steven the Sword Fighter, Sworn to the Sword, and Nightmare Hospital.
Season 4 Episode 2: Mindful Education
You ever just feel really bad about something? This episode gets it. So, so well. It’s also one of the show’s aesthetic highpoints, with animation by Studio Trigger’s Takafumi Hori, and features a great soundtrack to boot.
For more aesthetic highlights, check out The Answer, Ocean Gem, and Chille Tid.