Kuvira Rides to Zhaofu
This week’s episode Enemy At the Gates really kicked into high gear as Kuvira’s army marched on Zhaofu. Baatar Jr. seems especially excited about the idea to take down his former home. Kurvira claims to be seeking a peaceful solution, but her massive army surrounding the city implies otherwise.
As the train nears Zhaofu, Varrick begins doing experiments on the spirit vine and discovers not even his high tech machinery can sustain the magic(which he measures in Varricks and Zhu-lis). After the experiment backfires and wrecks his lab, Varrick decides it’s best to leave some things well enough alone….that is until Kuriva pulls a Darth Vader force choke on his grubby little neck. The exchange between Varrick and Kuvira as he attempts to shut down the experiments was easily one of the highlights of the week. Varrick is a greedy capitalist, but it seems that even he realizes when he’s playing with fire he can’t control. After some violent “persuasion” Varrick decides it’s wiser to ignore the head voices telling him not to continue the experiment.
Bolin received a surprise visit from Kuvira as she plots to use him as a tool to win a peace treaty with Suyin. Bolin continues to be his naive, fun loving self and drinks her Kool-aid of a peaceful solution. She promises Bolin a spot in her inner circle if he can help her prevent a battle at Zhaofu.
After the train arrives at Zhaofu, Kuvira, Bolin, and Baatar Jr. meet with Suyin in an attempt to negotiate a surrender. It’s obvious from the get go that this is all just a formality. This meeting is essentially Family Matters where the stakes are high and nobody can agree. Bolin attempts to bring the family together to find a peaceful solution, but Suyin sees right through Kuvira’s manipulation and claims there will be no surrender.
This was a great exchange that gave us several valuable tidbits of information including the truth behind Kuvira’s “liberated villages” which had essentially become work camps where the villagers were put in slave labor to harvest resources. These extremely short negotiations end with a threatening ultimatum from Kuvira demanding total surrender of the city within 24 hours.
Korra the Peacekeeper
After her training with Toph, Korra is set on finding a peaceful solution to Kuvira’s growing Empire. Despite Meelo’s protest, Korra believes she can reason her old friend out of her violent ideas.
Korra goes to Suyin first and gets the full story before trying to make contact with Kuvira. After Korra left for the South Pole, the Earth Kingdom was in total disarray and a power vacuum was formed. President Raiko and Tenzin came to Suyin to reunite the kingdom. Suyin decided she wanted no part of the earth nation’s issues despite Kuvira’s protest. A few months later, Kuvira decided to leave Zhaofu to take the Earth Kingdom on her own. She took a considerable number of soldiers, Varrick, and Baatar Jr. with no plans to return unless it was on her own terms. Kuvira saw Zhaofu as a beacon of hope and progress and sought to spread the ideas with the world(sound eerily familiar? *Fire Lord* Cough). Suyin believes there is no peaceful solution and even tries to convince Korra to go into the Avatar state to annihilate Kuvira’s entire army.
Korra leaves Suyin in an attempt to talk Kuvira out of invading the city. After she arrives, Kuvira is able to talk Korra down and even convinces her that she only want peace. She uses an impressive amount of persuasion including empathizing with Korra’s guilt of living with hard decisions. I was really surprised by the outcome of the exchange between the two. Korra is attempting to change her headstrong ways and Kuvira is able to sense that and takes advantage of Korra’s open mind and softening heart. This exchange goes to show that Kuvira is extremely clever, cunning, and perhaps the biggest threat Korra has faced yet.
Asami Reconciles with Her Father
A very brief but notable b-plot this week was Asami’s reunion with her long imprisoned father Hiroshi Sato. It looks like Hiroshi has been laying in prison writing his daughter to no avail for over three years. Since the events of the first season when Sato attempted to kill the Avatar and his daughter, he’s had a real change of heart. Prison must’ve been a pretty rough ride; the character was almost unrecognizable at a first glance. Hiroshi delivered some pretty warm lines to win back his daughter’s heart “You are the greatest thing I ever created”, but his intentions are still a bit of a question mark. I’m very curious as to how this story comes back into play, but for now I’ll try and cherish this seemingly redemptive story for one of Book 1’s surviving villains.
The Great Bolin Escape
After the negotiations fall apart, Bolin tries to confront Kuvira and convince her to change her mind. Clearly this is not an option and Kuvira switches into her hostile dictator mode and threatens Bolin with a “re-training camp” if he doesn’t find her tactics reasonable. Bolin decides to wise up a bit and play along. Immediately after leaving Kuvira he goes to Varrick as they both realize that their fearless leader is….well…CRAZY!
Bolin, Varrick, and Zhu-Li sneak away from the camp in giant mech suits, but are followed closely by Baatar Jr. and a couple of foot soldiers. This is about as action packed as the episode gets, and even though it’s a short little skirmish, it doesn’t fail to impress. The robot on robot battle is a lot of fun, especially when Varrick continues to act like a bumbling inventor who can’t actually operate the machines he designed. His dynamic with Zhu-Li continues to be a lot of fun(Do the thing!). Bolin may not be the sharpest rock on the wet stone, but he’s clearly worked on his lava bending over the last three years.
In the end, Varrick is captured which forces Bolin to surrender. Bolin, Varrick, and Zhu-Li are returned to the camp, but in a really surprising move, Zhu-Li ditches Varrick and swears allegiance to Kuvira. I’m not entirely convinced she’s sold out, but either way; things don’t look great for Bolin.
The episode ends when Korra returns to Zhaofu to try to convince Suyin to work out a treaty with Kuvira. Unfortunately it’s too late as Suyin, Wei, and Wing have already left to infiltrate Kuvira’s camp for a surprise attack.
All in All
This was another set up episode, but it really sets us up for an epic battle. It was really interesting to see that this entire conflict was essentially caused by a family disagreement on how to handle the earth kingdom’s issues. Kuvira may not be Suyin’s child, but she was essentially her protege which makes this entire seige on the city all the more personal. Up until this point I’ve seen Kuvira as a power hungry, but well intentioned villain. After seeing how she manipulated Korra, threatened Bolin/Varrick, and verbally assaulted Suyin; it’s becoming very clear that there’s nothing she won’t do to achieve her goals. It makes her less sympathetic, but more complex and I’m really digging the added depth she’s getting each week.
It seems Korra is working very hard to change her ways to become the Avatar the world needs, but it looks like she might be just a bit too trusting. It’s going to be sad to see how she handles the Battle of Zhoafu when she’s got friends on both sides. There’s no way she walks out of this without battle scars from her betrayals.
This week was a great set up episode as Kuvira revealed some of her truer colors, Bolin/Varrick came to their senses, and the Zhaofu prepped for an epic battle. These characters are all in for an incredibly personal battle as their year long friendships are about to be shattered. With Zhoafu being the focus early on in this season, I’m wondering just how far Kuvira’s plans for “Unity” will reach. Republic City better start its back.