Although the relationship between Stan and Steve on American Dad is generally not a very normal one, “The Unbrave One” focused on the relatively universal desire of adolescents to attain approval and acceptance from their father. This is an ongoing struggle for Steve but of course in the American Dad world, the type of conflicts that a parent would normally have with their child don’t necessarily apply.
Perhaps if Stan had been a bigger fan of 70′s soul music, he would have been satisfied with Steve’s peculiar familiarity with Player’s “Baby Come Back,” but what Stan really wanted was a son who would have his back when he threw down in the middle of a movie theater. When Steve did the normal thing and got help from an ultra violent theater usher, Stan decided that Steve was a disappointment as a son.
Steve’s anxiety over attaining Stan’s acceptance was compounded by the news that Francine might be pregnant and a new son could come in to fulfill Stan’s heroic son fantasies. Stan decided to demote Steve to “Eve” and banked his hopes on the future of his possibly non-existent unborn child who he named, Steve. In desperation Steve/Eve turned to Roger for advice and they worked together to set up a superhero scheme which would prove Steve’s bravery to Stan.
Roger went out of his way to help Steve edit and submit footage of their superhero activities, but it was only a matter of time before Roger found something in it for himself that would override his sympathy for Steve – brunch. It’s not really a big surprise that Roger would love everything there is to love about a gluttonous brunch, so when Stan mentioned that he was throwing a hero’s brunch, it was all Roger needed to hear to throw Steve under the bus.
It turned out to be kind of a turning point for Steve and while Stan and Roger were busy brunching and Francine was busy dealing with her potential pregnancy, Steve had to deal with his issues alone. He saved a baby, puppy and a baby bird from a disastrous death and become a hero when he thought no one would be watching. Although the baby’s drug addict mother killed them all a few seconds later, Steve became a person who no longer needed the approval of his father because he had proved his worth to himself.
While Roger and Steve had been working on their superhero scheme, Francine had been struggling to cope with her possible pregnancy. For someone who has presumably been pregnant before, she seemed to know nothing of what an actual pregnancy test would involve. Dr. Vagmire’s “Online Pregnancy Test” was all sorts of wrong, and I couldn’t stop laughing as Francine described the things she had to do while Stan stood there stupefied. I didn’t even consider the connection between the name “Dr. Vagmire” and “Quagmire” as she was talking about her online test, so the final bit of the episode which revealed the online pregnancy test to be one of Quagmire’s perverted schemes ended up being a hilarious reference to the Family Guy world.
In the end, I thought the change in Steve was a great development and I would like to see it be a somewhat permanent adjustment for his character. I enjoy the Stan and Steve father/son centered American Dad episodes, but I’m hoping this more mature version of Steve sticks around for a bit and a more confident Steve can go head to head with his outrageous father in the future.