Steven Universe finished off its "summer of Steven" for Season 3 and wasted no time to get Season 4 underway. Season 3 was able to really deal with some huge conflicts for the show, and this is the potential for Steven Universe Season 4 with potential spoilers for those who are not fans of the show.
What is the Steven Universe Backstory?
Steven Universe has a backstory that is over 6,000 years in the making. Some of this massive backstory has been told on the show, but a lot of it is inferred by Steven and the viewers through often subtle details revealed on individual episodes.
Steven has been told that there was a great war that occurred 5,000 years ago, when the Crystal Gems Empire tried to turn Earth into one of their own worlds. The Gem Empire is run by the Diamonds, four matriarchs who lead this systemized method of conquest throughout the galaxy. The Gem Empire has citizens that are not born, but they are made, starting with a Crystal Gem and somehow adding organic material to it.
Rose Quartz, Steven's mother, started a rebellion shortly after the Crystal Gem Empire came to Earth. Why she was motivated by this is not known, and maybe she saw Earth with its inherent individual freedom and decided that she wanted that more than the Gem Empire.
Her first recruit to her rebellion was Pearl, and then they met Garnet, the first fusion of two different stones, who was also an ally. It may have been before or after the war where they met Amethyst, who was being grown in a place they call "The Kindergarten".
There was a lot revealed about the war in Season 3. Rose Quartz apparently had lots of followers, and during the war she killed one of the matriarchs known as Pink Diamond. The other diamonds don't want to forgive her for that, and there is evidence showing that the Gem Empire attempted to destroy the world in a giant white light. Rose Quartz and her three gem friends survived this somehow, presumably using Rose's shield (that part is speculation).
From there, it looks like the Gems were content to just live their immortal lives in that place on the beach called "The Temple". It is a big statue, and it is not revealed who carved it. However, whatever killed the remaining gems on the planet has apparently affected every gem that is left behind, and those gems get corrupted and become hideous monsters that must be stopped. The Gems are content staying out of history's way, and being ignored by the rest of the world.
That is, until Rose Quartz met Greg Universe, and they fell in love and she conceived a child. Apparently Rose knew that in order for Steven to be born, she would need to die, and she did. Steven is the first half-human and half-Gem, and this is his universe.
Where is the Gem Empire Homeworld in Steven Universe Season 4
Season 3 of Steven Universe resolved the plotlines of Season 2 rather efficiently in the first two episodes. The biggest plotline was the cluster, this huge formation of unnatural gem fusion that would have essentially destroyed the earth as it grew underground. Defeating it was done in essentially one episode, but the real question is does the Gem Empire on Homeworld know about it?
Also, Malachite, the fusion of Jasper and Lapis Lazuli, was essentially defeated, even though Jasper escaped. Jasper was eventually hunted down and taken out by Amethyst, who had a lot of time to develop in Season 3.
Homeworld was seen in the form of five Ruby soldiers, who were only sent to get Jasper. Apparently, they learned that her mission to destroy the gems had failed, and had arrived to collect her. These Ruby soldiers were quite inept in their assignment, and they ended up getting sent into space at the end of Season 4.
Is it possible that they could be back? I don't see why not. Homeworld might send someone there to check on their progress, and might be surprised to discover their spaceship in possession by Earth's Crystal Gems. This could be the big bad that Homeworld sends to Earth.
The current batch of Season 4 episodes of Steven Universe (there are about six at the time of this writing) are very stand-alone episodes. They seem to be dealing with issues brought about in Season 3 rather than establish a great foe to fight in the Season 4 Finale, yet.
Is Steven Dealing with PTSD?
Season 4, Episode 4 "Mindful Education" focused on Steven and Connie as Stevonnie as they were again fused into one person with sword and shield. In a routine practice with Pearl, Connie had to deal with some issues, but Steven also had to deal with them as well.
In Season 3, Steven essentially killed Bismuth by stabbing her with his sword. Granted, she still lives in gem form, but it was the first time he had to kill a Gem warrior that was not corrupted. Later on, Steven tries to heal Jasper from being corrupted, but she refuses his help. Then, on the Season 4 finale, Steven has to jettison a Ruby into space before she kills him.
During this time, it doesn't look like Steven has taken the time to allow these events to take their toll. Considering that Steven is a 14-year-old boy who tries to believe the best about everyone, this is actually within character that he doesn't share these negative feelings. Unfortunately, this really works against him in the long run.
Steven also discovered in Season 3 that his mother killed Pink Diamond. In all honesty, it does not surprise me that she did that, as there was a rebellion with casualties on both sides. Both Steven and the audience are learning that Rose Quartz was not as perfect as they thought she was, but there is evidence that Rose Quartz learned to preserve life after she had taken it for too long.
The episode where Bismuth appears shows that Rose was given the opportunity to use a crystal smashing weapon, but she chose not to. She did reduce Bismuth to her gem, hide her, and then tell her friends that she had died in the war. It was a lie that she told to preserve Bismuth's good name, but still a lie.
Where is Steven Universe Season 4 Going Toward its Finale?
One of the themes of the Steven Universe is dealing with who you are, and this season is a good opportunity to explore the fact that Steven is becoming a Crystal Gem warrior. Episode 1 of Season 4 had Steven essentially fighting a corrupted Gem with some (and rather ineffective) help from Peridot, all alone. Granted, Steven's Crystal Gem guardians were watching, but they refused to step in. The fact that they are taking Steven on more missions is a sign of growth on the show's part.
Steven Universe is really a show with a lot of world-building. The show's first season involved the Gems going to a certain place on Earth leftover from the Gem war and finding some creature to fight or item to recover from there. A recent episode showed that there are quite a few of these places on Earth, and it seems odd to me that the governments of Earth don't surround these places like Area 51. It seems like the Crystal Gems are kind of accepted by everyone, which seems even more odd.
So as for the future of Steven Universe Season 4, it will have more Homeworld, more backstory, and definitely more action and emotion. This show has a fanbase that is growing daily, and it shows no sign of any cancellation or the story wrapping up anytime soon.