Birth of the Empire
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Coronation is the weakest episode of Korra going all the way back to Book 2, but by no means does this mean that it’s a bad episode at all. It’s just comparatively weaker. It’s a place setting episode and perhaps considering the sheer amount of plot they have to get through in only ten episodes, the speed by which everything goes forward is quite understandable. But Prince Wu, despite Sunil Malhotra’s vocal performance, hasn’t bothered to prove himself as someone whom we should really give a damn about. He’s too over the top and naive to be taken seriously, even for empathy.
And as the episode’s centerpiece, the coronation of Prince Wu as the next King of the Earth Empire unfortunately falls flat, despite PRINCE ZUKO’S DAUGHTER, THE NEW FIRE LORD, in attendance. Kuvira announces the new Earth Empire in a thundering address and for some odd reason, no world leader immediately did anything. It’s just Kuvira’s speech that basically announces her as the new dictator and then the scene cuts away. It’s an odd perfunctory moment for Korra, as if the crew just wanted to get that crucial plot point out of the way so they could run forward with the rest of the season. Perhaps the scene could have gone over better if there was a shot of the world leaders’ reactions after her announcement where they would begin to say something and then thought that patience would be the way forward. It’s not treated entirely as the earth-shattering event that it is.
Toph and Korra are great together and it’s fantastic to see that Toph, even as a grandmother, still has all of the spunk and sass that made her the instant fan favorite when she appeared on screen in Book 2 of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Toph is exactly the sort of tough love mentor that Korra needs in her moments of greatest weakness. As Korra tries to explain to Toph the weight of the role of the Avatar on her, Toph cuts her right through. She’s not having any of the “this world needs me because I’m the Avatar” nonsense. “The world doesn’t need you one bit,” she bites scathingly. And as terrible as it sounds, in a way she’s right. Perhaps more so than the world needing the Avatar for its protection, Korra needs the world to be able to fulfill her own destiny. It’s a different way of looking at the central role of the titular character, but in the harshest of ways logical one. When Korra questions why Toph would want to remove herself so far away from reality, Toph has a response ready for that. “I’m more connected to the world than I’ve ever been,” she retorts quickly. It’s an astonishing feat that Toph can see more than so many by sensing life outside of the swamp by the life that lives within it. I’m excited to see where this connects even more strongly with Korra’s arc going forward. As it is, it turns out that there are metal bits of poison that remain with her that have kept her weak and made her the butt of Toph’s jokes. Toph tries to metalbend them out of her, but Korra’s too tense. What will be the ultimate thing that allows her to let go of all the things that are holding her back.
Kuvira commands the episode and even adds a silver lining to that messy coronation scene where she literally crushes the Kyoshi Medal of Freedom, simultaneously sending about a dozen different metaphors and warnings. “Royalty is archaic. Innovation and technology are what’s necessary,” she says at the coronation in what might be the best dialogue out of the sequence. It’s ironic that that was the sort of defining motive for Zaheer and the Red Lotus gang, against whom Kuvira had so admirably fought. “I always get what I want,” she sneers and kudos to Zelda Williams for making that line hold just the right amount of menace. And the most intriguing match to come is set between Su Lin and Kuvira. Su Lin, as it turns out, kept her city of Zaofu safe while the rest of the Earth Kingdom fell into chaos. It’s baffling, yet at the same time it’s understandable. Su’s responsibility was first and foremost to Zaofu and she kept it safe. As Kuvira claims that conflict is the last thing she wants, Su sneers. “You’re just another tyrant,” Su thunders, noting what happens to cities who refuse to join her. “Then you know what’s coming for Zaofu,” Kuvira notes coldly.
Perhaps the best thing about this episode is how impressively the entire crew is pulling together so many story threads from throughout the entire run of the franchise. Toph’s invention of metal bending arrives in terrifying form here. The Red Lotus storyline is still wreaking havoc, three years later. The spirit vines that had erupted in Book 2 come back in the form of a mysterious weapon being developed for what, we can only guess. And nothing really feels like the creators of the show are pulling at threads here in order to genuinely create something and that is an incredibly impressive feat to pull off. As I’ve thought already about a thousand times, I’m really sad that this is the final season. But to be equally honest, I can’t wait for The Legend of Korra to pull it off with aplomb.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“If you want to hug something, go hug a tree.”
+“I see myself in the mirror sometimes and think I’m in trouble before I realize: it’s only me!”
+Boss=Girlfriend, same thing
+“Of all the Avatars I’ve worked with, you’re by far the worst. I know that’s only one other Avatar, but still.”
+“You’re blind compared to me.”
+“My royal broach is a lie!”
+“Enjoy licking the king’s boots…IN YOUR JUNIOR SUITE!”
+Prince Wu: “Carry me?” Mako: “No.”
+“I’m the original Beifong!”
+Bolin, Desmond, and Esca
+Mako’s tough love to Prince Wu is a great parallel to Toph and Korra
Title: The Coronation
Written By: Tim Hedrick
Directed By: Melchior Zwyer
Animated By: Studio Mir
Image Courtesy: Shaanig