The Legend of Korra: Kuvira’s Gambit Review

In a packed episode, The Legend of Korra gave us some nice character moments. Here's our review...

So, this is it. Kuvira is finally ready to march on Republic City with the spirit cannon, and she’s going to do it with a GIANT FUCKING MECHA, the design of which is very Evangelion. As Republic City prepares for war, General Iroh and the United Forces at the ready, Team Avatar facilitates a complete evacuation of Republic City. They kidnap Baatar Jr. in an attempt to reason with him. When that fails, they use him as leverage to stop Kuvira. To Baatar Jr.’s surprise, it doesn’t stop her at all, and she fires on the factory where Asami and Varrick’s flying mecha suits were being built, fully expecting to kill not only our heroes, but her own fiancé. Harsh.

This episode of The Legend of Korra was simply packed, and not in an overstuffed, rushed way. Every scene played out perfectly. It was done so well that by the time I got to the end of act two, I was surprised the ending title card didn’t come up; I seriously did not realize that everything I had just seen had taken place over the course of two acts. I was amazed that there still another to come. And it was a pleasant surprise to see the character moments we did, especially in such a story-heavy episode.

Zhu Li’s reunion with Varrick was pretty much perfect. Over the past few episodes, we’ve seen how lost he’s been without her, so it’s completely believable that he’d take her back without a second thought, but Varrick is still Varrick. Like any narcissist, he expects that the status quo, which has worked just fine for him, would also be accepted as the natural order of things by everyone else. Zhu Li finally having had enough of his crap and cluelessness proved otherwise. While she did say some pretty harsh tings when she pretended to join Kuvira, that was all an act. This was the real deal, and I love that she lays everything out for him. Aside from being satisfying to me as a viewer, it’s a great message for girls. Sometimes a guy might let you down, and while there’s nothing wrong or weak with giving him a second chance, never stand for him squandering that second chance by repeating his bad behavior. “If you want me around, you need to start treating me like an equal,” is a very fair standard, especially when his cardinal sin is taking you for granted. 

In addition we got a great moment with Tenzin and his family (sans Rohan, who is too young to be in on something like this) where he acknowledges them and doesn’t pull some kind of father-knows-best crap. Not only does he acknowledge the sovereignty of his wife, placing her needs and decisions above his selfish desire to keep her safe and out of harm’s way, he acknowledges the competence of his children. It’s a very simple scene, not terribly schmaltzy, but it says so much without having to say much at all. 

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And yes, we had a moment with Meelo where his farts finally catch up to him. And while it was cute, I’m really ready for his be the last fart joke in the series. Because I love a soupcon of potty humor as much as the next guy — honestly, probably a bit more — but even I have pretty much had enough. We get it. Farts are funny. Moving on.

There are some great cameos during Prince Wu’s speech. We see the merchants Korra defended from the Triple Threat Triad in the very first episode. We stop in Narook’s Seaweed Noodlery to see Tahno and his bitches. And right in the park, we catch Gommu the hobo (bless you, Gommu) grilling a fish in the same spot where Korra met him all those years ago. As for the speech itself, it managed to really show just how much he’s grown over these past few episodes and that with sufficient advisement and continued effort he really could have what it takes to be a good king. Unfortunately, it really highlights just how utterly useless Mako has been this season.

There have been a few points over the course of this season and really the series as a whole where Mako’s development has been sacrificed either to make someone else look good or to advance the plot. Think about it. As a character, how different is Mako really from who he was at the start of the series? He changed professions and dated Korra, but aside from that, he’s more or less the same exact person. Bolin is still a kooky goofball, but he’s developed new bending abilities as well as a sense of responsibility and discipline, and completely revamped the way in which he approaches his relationships, particularly his romantic pursuits. Tenzin has learned to be more patient and flexible. Asami has come into her own as a businesswoman and begun to mend her relationship with her father. Hell, Jinora has had more of an arc than Mako, and she’s not even one of the core characters. And it’s not that I think Mike and Bryan love Mako any less. I’m just surprised that so little of an effort appears to have been made to either give him a really solid arc or remove him from the series entirely.

But the real stand-out in this episode is Korra herself. When her first plan fails, she comes up with another. When Baatar Jr. calls her bluff, she comes at things from another angle. Starting just with the fact that it is a bluff, that she wouldn’t go into the Avatar State and kick his ass around the room, we care, when see how much she’s changed. At the start of this series, Korra wouldn’t think twice about beating the crap out of someone who was frustrating her, whether it might prove fruitful or not. Here, she can’t bring herself to use violence against some helpless dipshit tied to a chair, regardless of what an ass-face he is. Beyond that, she realizes just how impractical it would be to do so.

She rightfully sees Baatar Jr. as a bargaining chip, and roughing him up only serves to decrease his value. She’s thinking tactically in a way she never would have when she first came to Republic City. So, not only does she decide not to beat his ass, not only does she realize that he’s collateral, she watches the entire conversation he has with his mother, paying attention to what’s around her, in order to figure out which approach to take against Kuvira. You go, girl.

Baatar Jr.’s immediate, polished response to his mother’s question shows just how far into Kuvira’s pocket he is, because that was not the from-the-heart response of a person who came to their philosophy on their own. That’s the kind of memorized pablum of someone who’s been fed a party line so often that it’s all he can taste anymore. Boy, is he in for a rude awakening when he realizes that the woman to whom he’s given his heart and soul, even if she does love him, considers him ultimately expendable. But does she love him?

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From the look of it, she genuinely does, or at least thinks she does, which makes her final act in this episode all the more of a gut-punch. Either she deluded Baatar Jr. into thinking she loved him or she deluded herself. Or even more horrifying, what if she really does love him and is still willing to sacrifice him to achieve her goals? That is some cold-blooded shit, and yet I don’t see all the humanity gone from her yet. She’s clearly deserving of punishment at this point. She’s way beyond “Oops, my bad! I’ll stop. We all good?” She’s squarely in the bad guy category, but one thing I appreciate about Kuvira as a character is that she’s not insane: she’s a narcissist who suffers from delusions of grandeur, but she’s not crazy.

That’s what’s the most chilling thing about it all. Crazy you can write off, it’s practically a get out of morality free card. “Oh, she was just insane,” is an easier explanation for us to deal with than “No, she was all there. She was completely lucid and rational, and she sincerely believed it was her right to have power over everyone else.” For my money, insanity (or claims of insanity) can understate the true depths of a person’s evilness. So, knowing that Kuvira is certainly still rational and not beyond reason (not that she would accept reason) that we have another conversation with her before the end akin to the one Su had with her in “The Coronation,” one where her tactics and the wrongness of them are called out and shoved in her face… just to see what she’d say and do.

We know what she’s already done. She has mounted the spirit cannon on a giant mecha and used it to bass chordify a swath through the city. I man, that thing… holy huge fucking mecha! Between this and my strong suspicion of a Spirit World Hail Mary, it looks like Korra is about to get all Gainax with this shit. Well, now we know where the metal from Zaofu’s domes went. And that pilot pad from which Kuvira controls the giant mecha by metalbending several ball bearings? So cool!

Well, this is it, folks. Next week, we get the final two episodes of Korra, and this saga that we’ve watched unfold for the past two and a half years will come to a close. I do have to be honest. I’m a bit nervous. Will they really be able to tie everything up and provide us with a satisfying conclusion to the season, but to the series and to the animated Avatar-verse as well. It’s a lot of pressure to put on roughly forty-four minutes of screen time, but while I have my doubts, I also have hope. For its one or two flaws, the grand finale of Avatar was pretty damn great. And I trust that these guys will give us something that is at the very least good. If these last two episodes are we’ll as at least as solid as this one, then I think we’re all in very good hands.


4 out of 5