This double-length episode is more serious than usual as the show attempts to tackle the subject of war.
Attentive viewers would have noticed the bubbled Gem floating around Rose’s things in Lion’s mane, and Steven finally pops it to reveal the title character, Bismuth. Bismuth isn’t actually a gem in real life – it’s a metallic element, frequently used as a less toxic substitute for lead. It can be found with that particular structure, but I’m quite certain it’s not a crystal.
Steven: There’s a Gem inside of Lion’s mane!
I love Lion’s expression.
Amethyst: Wow, a total stranger.
Bismuth: Pearl, Garnet.
Pearl: Bismuth! You’re back!
It’s honestly heartwarming to see Pearl and Garnet so happy for once – I feel like the only times we see them like that is in the Rose flashbacks.
Bismuth: Woah! The Pearl I know never jumps into my arms! Hey, did somebody lose a pearl? Who do you belong to?
Garnet: Alright, settle down.
Bismuth: You’re one to talk – oh, excuse me, two to talk!
But Amethyst and Steven don’t have a clue who she is.
Amethyst: Who is this?
Garnet: Guys, this is Bismuth. She’s one of the original Crystal Gems.
Bismuth: Hey, new recruits! Welcome aboard, we can always use more amethysts. And who’s this meatball?
Steven: Hi, I’m Steven. You were in my lion and now you’re in my house.
Pearl: I can’t believe it! Rose said she lost track of you at the battle for the ziggurat! She was worried sick!
Bismuth: Wait, where is Rose?
Steven: I, um, actually, I’m Rose’s son. She kinda turned into me. Well, I have her Gem. The rest is from my dad.
Bismuth: Oh, there she is. You…do you know me?
Steven: No. I’m so sorry.
Pearl: It’s not always easy to understand Rose’s choices, but we have to stand behind them.
She conveniently forgets to mention what actually did happen to her…and Steven is the only one who knows she was bubbled, but he naturally fails to understand the implications of that.
Bismuth: No, no way! We were just here! How long was I out?
Pearl: Five thousand three hundred years. We, the Crystal Gems, were able to save the Earth.
Bismuth: But we’re all that’s left of the rebellion, huh?
She finds their pyrrhic victory hard to accept, and actually seems happy to find out Homeworld is still plotting against the Earth, since it means there are still battles for her to fight.
Also, these commercial bumpers are adorable and most likely a reference to the chibi Sailor Moon eyecatches.
Anyhow, they head out to Bismuth’s volcanic forge, and while Garnet and Pearl are enjoying the company of their long-lost friend, Amethyst expresses her doubts to Steven.
Amethyst: Sorry, I don’t know. I mean, she was one of the original Crystal Gems and no one ever mentioned her to me? Not even Rose? Don’t you think that’s a little bit…suspicious?
Steven: I guess that is a little strange.
But Amethyst changes her tune when Bismuth provides an upgrade for her whip, which leads into a sparring match between Bismuth, Garnet, Pearl, and Amethyst.
Bismuth: We are powerful! We are important! We are the Crystal Gems! Steven! Come down and show me what you’re made of!
Steven: Uh, I would, but this is a little intense for me.
Bismuth: But it’s a ritual for us Crystal Gems to spar before battle.
Steven: Well actually, I have some rituals I like a little better.
I wonder what “battle” she thinks they’re preparing for. I confess I would be very curious to see how she handles Jasper, though.
But she’s diverted by Steven’s “rituals”, like badminton, cards, and pizza.
Steven: No, Lonely Blade, don’t use it!
Bismuth: What? If that blade’s got infinite power, of course Lonely Blade should use it. It just makes sense.
Pearl: It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s entertainment.
Now this is a nice use of meta-commentary – it’s just a small line, but it gives you an idea of what’s “common sense” to Bismuth.
Steven: Bismuth, you can chill out here tonight. And sleep, if you want to.
Bismuth: You know, I think I’ll give it a try! I like these new Crystal Gem rituals.
Steven: You know, usually when I meet a new Gem, they try to kill me and it takes me forever to become friends with them! I guess I mean, I’m really glad you’re here.
This is a travesty. STEVEN IS THE SWEETEST KID AND HE CAN’T MAKE FRIENDS!
Bismuth: Rose’s sword! My finest piece of work.
Steven: You made this?
Bismuth: You really don’t remember, huh? Rose Quartz changed my life. I came to Earth thinking this was just another colony. Build another arena for important fighters to fight in. Build another spire for important thinkers to think in. And then I met her. Just another quartz soldier made right here in the dirt, but she was different. And she was different because she decided to be! She asked me what I wanted to build, and I’d never heard that before. Gems never hear they can be anything other than what they are, but Rose opened our eyes.
Steven: Everybody always tells me how great Mom was. I just don’t feel like I can ever measure up to her.
Bismuth: I can’t believe this! That I’m the one giving the pep talk to Rose’s- Rose’s…
Bismuth: Right. You are different! That’s what’s so exciting! You don’t have to be like Rose Quartz! You can be someone even better. You can be…you. And you know what? You deserve an even better weapon.
Because Bismuth is just all about the weapons upgrades!
Bismuth: I designed this weapon for a fair fight. It can cut through a Gem’s physical form in an instant! Destroying the body, but never the gem. […] But Homeworld doesn’t fight fair. That’s why we need a different strategy. I was working on a weapon that would’ve been a game changer. Homeworld knows how to hit us where it counts, but we can do everything they can do, and better! Here it is. The weapon that would’ve won the war.
Steven: You shattered it.
Bismuth: That’s right! One shot from this baby will shatter any Gem in the galaxy in the blink of an eye.
Steven: Shattering a Gem…would destroy them forever.
Bismuth: Exactly! The Homeworld Gems won’t be able to retake this planet if they’re reduced to shards!
Steven: Bismuth, I can’t use this.
Bismuth: What? Why not?
Steven: Shattering Gems…wouldn’t that make us the same as Homeworld?
Bismuth: Of course not! We’d be shattering them for the sake of our cause! To protect our allies, our friends, to free all Gems from Homeworld’s tyranny!
This episode is particularly reminiscent of Lord of the Rings, and not just for the volcano forge – that story has an awful lot to say about power and how it should be used, especially in warfare. Like how using the same despicable tactics as your enemies is a bad idea, no matter how noble your intentions.
Steven: No one is using it! I’m sorry Bismuth, but it’s not right.
Bismuth: That’s exactly what she said.
Bismuth: That’s exactly what you said. It is you, isn’t it Rose?
It’s funny how only his enemies call him Rose…and by funny I mean this poor kid needs help.
Bismuth: Don’t lie to me. You can’t expect me to believe you now, after you lied about everything, you’re lying about this new form, just like you lied to the others about me! But I didn’t just disappear, did I? You know what happened to me!
Steven: Wait, Bismuth, this is just a big misunderstanding!
Bismuth: Liar! Don’t play games with me, Rose. We were right here. I offered you the secret to victory and you refused. The Breaking Point would’ve changed everything! I didn’t want to fight you, but you left me no choice! What type of leader doesn’t give her army the best chance to win? How could you value the Gems of our enemies more than our own? And look what you’ve done without me, without the Breaking Point! You’ve lost!
The word for that kind of leader is “ethical”, Bismuth.
So they have their own little “sparring match”, wherein Steven uses every trick he used against Amethyst last episode…but Bismuth is deadly serious.
Bismuth: So what are you gonna do, shatter me? Go ahead, just do it!
Steven: No! Even if we disagree, nobody deserves this!
I’m pretty sure this is the first time Steven’s ever stabbed a Gem with that sword – and it’s someone who should have been an ally, if not a friend.
Bismuth: You should’ve shattered me back then. At least if I were in pieces I wouldn’t have to know how little I mattered to you. You didn’t even tell them! You bubbled me away and didn’t ever tell your friends – my friends.
Steven: I’m going to tell them. I’m gonna tell them everything.
Bismuth: Then you really are better than her.
Bismuth reminds me a lot of Nikabrik from Prince Caspian, but with a happier ending (since she’s not actually dead). He was a person made bitter by war, to the extent that he was willing to resort to morally dubious tactics if it would ensure the destruction of his oppressors.
Steven: There’s something I need to tell you.
Until next time…