We may have had to wait a long time for Steven Universe Season 3, but boy was it worth it. Every character beat has been followed up on, with the long-awaited return of Stevonnie, Centipeetle's past revealed, and Lapis Lazuli confronting her disturbing relationship with Jasper. We've also had a lot of blanks filled when it comes to the Gem War, and no episode did this more than "Bismuth".
This was a big'un, folks. Bismuth's presence in the show has been a subject of much discussion among fans for over a year, ever since the appearance of that mysterious bubbled gem in "Lion 3: Straight To Video". Her appearance was foreshadowed again in the Lapis-focused episode "Same Old World".
That last one is veeeeery interesting now we know what role Bismuth played in the Rebellion, and this should have been a clue that Bismuth's methods in war were vicious to say the least.
One Of The First Crystal Gems
Naturally, Bismuth's eventual appearance in Steven Universe was a big deal. But I don't think any of us were prepared for the game-changing revelations within Bismuth's titular episode. Before we get into those revelations — and there were a bunch of subtle hints for the sharp-eared fans — let's take a look at Bismuth's story, and whether she, or Rose Quartz, was right.
It may be painted in pastel colors, with a strong sense of humor, but at its core Steven Universe is about cleaning up after a vicious war, and preparing for another attack. And while the show never gets too heavy, the writers don't shy away from the harsh consequences of their central story.
"Bismuth" poses a difficult question of how far the Crystal Gems should go in trying to defeat Homeworld. At first, Bismuth's return is joyful, as the charismatic gem reunites with her friends. But it slowly becomes apparent that Bismuth harbors a lot of rage and hate towards Homeworld, and rightly so — being from a working class of gems, Bismuth spent her life building structures for "the elite" to enjoy.
Unlike Rose Quartz, whose very weapon was designed to incapacitate gems rather than destroy them, Bismuth felt the Crystal Gems needed to strike back harder at Homeworld — that this was the only way to win the war. And it's difficult not to see her point of view.
Turning The Tide Of War
Bismuth created a horrifying superweapon, one which was guaranteed to turn the tide of war, and maybe even give the Crystal Gems the possibility of staging a full scale revolution on Homeworld itself. But that would come at the cost of massacring untold thousands of gems, for this weapon was designed to destroy, not incapacitate.
As with all good Steven Universe episodes, this was dealt with very sensitively. After seeing Bismuth around the other Crystal Gems we could tell that she was a popular soldier, a strong force in the Rebellion. And knowing how devastating the war with Homeworld was, we can understand Bismuth's desire to end it for good.
Ultimately though, the entire point of the Crystal Gems' purpose is to change Homeworld, not destroy it and their fellow gems. As with Peridot and Lapis, and Rose's entire army, gems loyal to Homeworld can be persuaded against it. Without really realizing, Steven is continuing his mother's mission perfectly, by befriending even those who want to hurt him.
But sometimes that just isn't possible, and "Bismuth" saw Steven make the same decision Rose did, in poofing and bubbling a good soldier, to save the lives of those that want to destroy Earth.
This episode was a real emotional gut-punch, and the best thing about it is how Bismuth's motivations were so understandable. She had seen hundreds or even thousands of years of war, and she came up a way to end it once and for all, to stop the slaughter of her friends. But her way went against everything she, and Rose Quartz, was fighting for. And she had to be stopped.
Revelations & Hints
Now that we've analyzed the moral message of "Bismuth", let's take a look at what we learned about the war. First off, that hint from "Monster Reunion" was followed up on, and it seems as though Homeworld essentially nuked the Earth.
Described in "Monster Reunion" as a a bright light, Bismuth followed up on this by talking about this attack's devastating effects. The intention was to make Earth uninhabitable by humans and gems alike, and the blast wiped out all of Rose Quartz's forces — apart from Garnet and Pearl, whom she managed to get to safety. Hopefully we'll find out more about this soon.
But this isn't the only way Centipeetle's presence was felt — while reminiscing, Pearl and Bismuth mentioned battling a Nephrite captain.
"Remember when we stopped that dropship? I’ll never forget the look on that Nephrite’s face when you pulled her out of the cockpit!"
Nephrite is a green and black gem, and this comment coming just after the detailing of Centipeetle's role as a dropship's captain probably isn't a coincidence.
And finally, we discovered that Rose Quartz was in fact made on Earth, "right here in the dirt." That's a really interesting expansion on her character. It explains her sense of connection to Earth itself, and why she would want to protect it in the first place. It also gives her something in common with Amethyst, which is nice.
And this probably means Rose felt a huge sense of guilt for her creation, knowing that the kindergartens were harming Earth. Was her Rebellion some way to assuage that guilt? We're also left wondering if she ever even visited Homeworld, or the other colonies. Again, hopefully this will be expanded on soon.