Space Race told us a lot with very small signs, and when we went over the lore implications of the episode we did our best not to speculate too much—just the things that were almost assured. However, anyone who was paying attention could see that we were introduced to a very important concept that’s almost certain to come up again in the big season finale.
Today we’ll try to tease out what exactly this means not just for the finale, but for the lore of the show as well.
We need to make sure
The opening scene at the Galaxy Warp involved the Crystal Gems checking each warp pad to make sure they’re all still inactive. This wasn’t dwelled on, but you can put some money down on the fact some point later in the series, perhaps as late as the penultimate episode of the season, one of those warp pads is going to reactivate.
This brings up an interesting question, though: how were the warp pads disabled? Could the Crystal Gems have disabled them manually to keep other Gems from coming to Earth? We know that at least some Gem technology has the ability to regenerate itself after a period of time. It’s possible that they’re simply checking for whether they’ve come online again.
Amethyst seems to indicate that she doesn’t expect them to ever reactivate, though, while Garnet clearly regards it as possible, however unlikely it might be. Perhaps instead the warp pads were all deactivated remotely, either from an attempt to isolate Earth specifically or from some disruption to the galactic warp they travel through.
The reason the warp pads are down has far-reaching implications for the backstory of Earth, the Crystal Gems, and the conflict they fought there. If the warp pads were taken down remotely and intentionally, it was probably for reasons related to Gemkind as a whole – such as an interstellar war unrelated to Earth – and the Crystal Gems could have taken advantage of the travel blackout to fight a war now that the enemy could no longer receive reinforcements.
It’s certainly possible that the warp pads were only taken down after the catastrophe to quarantine the monstrous Gems on Earth. If that were the case, though, that would mean Gemkind already knew about whatever had happened on Earth, so the escape of Lapis Lazuli wouldn’t have been cause for much concern. The only way quarantine as a motive would make sense is if Earth was chosen as a dumping ground for corrupted Gems, and nothing so far has pointed to that.
The Crystal Gems could also have sabotaged the pads themselves, as the first strike in a war to protect Earth, but that brings up the question of why no Gem ships were sent to reestablish contact. Pearl and Lapis both fully expect Gemkind to be flourishing out there in space, so we don’t think this answer to be too likely.
This would also remove any real tension about the warp pads reactivating; if it was sabotage, then the only likely explanation for their reactivation would be their natural regenerative process. Garnet’s concern for the Galaxy Warp seems to be more that Lapis has already reached the Gem homeworld and an attack force could possibly be being mustered. It’s possible that the worry is that a Gem ship will sneak onto Earth and repair the warp pads, allowing more Gems to pour onto the planet.
Where does this take us?
No matter why the warp pads went down, it’s clear where we’re going: at some point this season, probably at the end, we’re going to get more Gems on Earth. It can’t be too many, as the Crystal Gems need to be able to come out on top in the end, so that again points to smaller groups of Gems doing whatever they want rather than a single Gem government ordering its soldiers to retake a lost colony. Lapis will probably tag along to try to persuade Steven to come to the homeworld with her rather than sticking by his friends and dooming himself. Expect us to know a lot more about the initial conflict on Earth and the catastrophe by the time the season is done.