What the magic mirror could mean

Mirror Gem and Ocean Gem gave us a lot of new information to work with, but as is usually the case we now have even more questions than we did before—very interesting questions that it will be great to have answered as the series goes on.

This post pertains to the magic mirror that gives Mirror Gem its title, and the many questions raised by its existence. Later posts will wonder about the history of the Crystal Gems, and finally wonder what Gem society is like.

If you’ve already had a chance to see the episodes, then please do read on.

Gem Inside™

Mirror Gem showed us that at least some of the Gems’ technology is powered by a gem from an actual Gem. Lapis Lazuli had gained the ability to control the mirror she was meant to power, rather than being forced to simply follow orders. This gives us one interesting question right away: are other Gems whose gems are being used to power items also aware of what’s going on around them while forced to sit in an object and obey commands, or was Lapis a special case?

That’s just the first question to come to mind, though. The Crystal Gems obviously knew that there was a Gem inside the mirror. Pearl was perfectly comfortable giving the mirror to Steven, rather than regarding it as a potential danger or a curiosity; the fact that she lets Steven keep it even after seeing there was no benefit to it means that such things are common enough that even the overprotective Pearl doesn’t think twice about it. Just how common is this practice?

Less of a Gem

Lapis clearly didn’t want to be in the mirror; when she got out, she was upset at the Crystal Gems for wanting to keep her in there. She also, however, regarded herself as a non-person while she was in the mirror (asking if the Crystal Gems had wondered who she used to be, rather than who she was).

Her memories were still intact, as she could remember the Crystal Gems, their love for Earth, and where her home world was, so she’s not indicating a loss of her persona or identity. Either she’s internalized a dehumanization (de-Gemization?) that Gem society at large projects onto those used to power artifacts, or she is indicting the Crystal Gems in particular for regarding her as a thing while she was in the mirror.

A harsh society?

Which leads us to the big question: is this something that Gem society at large actually does, or were the Crystal Gems a much larger group at one point which uniquely practiced this means of powering their artifacts? Either way, Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl were clearly not involved with using Lapis Lazuli to power the mirror, as they didn’t seem to know who was inside it.

Given the gem shards in Frybo, and Pearl’s explanation of them, the most likely of the two options is that this is something Gems do to each other, with the weak being made to serve the strong—Pearl did remark that she didn’t expect such a powerful Gem to be in the mirror.

Gem shards were successfully used throughout history to make drone soldiers, but when the Gems tried to assemble an army of them the drones rebelled. If it was the first time the Gems tried to make so many drones at once, it stands to reason that they needed to find a lot of shards very quickly.

They might have successfully made drones using shards of Gems who had been killed by unrelated things; when the need for shards jumped, however, they could have turned to murdering Gems for their gem shards, which caused lingering resentment within the shards and eventually rebellion when their consciousness became powerful enough.

The Desert Glass connection

Finally, the existence of gem-powered artifacts seems to have been foreshadowed all the way back in Steven’s Lion. We get a very good look at the Desert Glass: it is a gem that looks like it could have been taken from a monster (which we know used to be an ordinary humanoid Gem) attached to an object, just like the magic mirror.

Just like the magic mirror, the only indication that the Desert Glass is worthy of notice is that it is “malfunctioning”; just like a person who had become painfully bored after countless years of solitude, the Desert Glass was building meaningless structures in the desert, as if to amuse itself.

We say as if to amuse itself because it clearly demonstrates the ability to think coherently. When it sees Lion approaching Steven, the Desert Glass destroys a column that Steven was trying to hide behind. When Steven attempts to flee, the Desert Glass erects a wall to block his path. It’s possible that these were mere coincidences, but when Steven returns the Desert Glass to the sand it again displays an ability to act tactically to stymie Steven’s efforts, even growing out a ledge so it can drop Steven without losing the growth he was clinging to.

Of course with Lion’s help, Steven was able to retrieve the Desert Glass and the Crystal Gems bubbled it, just as they wished to do to Lapis’s mirror.