The Legend of Korra 4.05: “Enemy at the Gates” Review

The 100% Bolin Guarantee

A Television Review by Akash Singh

NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!

Enemy at the Gates finally sees the Avatar and Kuvira coming face to face, uncomfortably realizing that the two have far more in common than either would care to admit, especially Korra. Bolin’s uncomfortable point from two weeks ago is realized in its uncomfortable reality. Despite as being noted a place-setting episode, what Enemy at the Gates does give the audience is a deeper understanding of the split that occurred between Su and Kuvira that drives the two of them to the crucial juncture where they find themselves. Bolin and Verrick come to the realization that many others before them realized long ago – Kuvira has allowed her desire for power to control everything else about her. The single, astounding sweeping shot of the camera displaying her massive army at the ready is proof enough of that.

Yet Kuvira, at least on the onset, is understanding of the political machinations she set in motion at Prince Wu’s coronation. As she notes, the eyes of the whole world are upon her and if she is to maintain any semblance of orderly rule, she cannot simply use force to capture Zaofu. A diplomatic entrance would allow for greater legitimacy that she needs, dictator or not. She’s confident that Suyin would sign a treaty and avoid the necessity for military action and to pursue this purpose, she sends Bolin as an emissary. That backfires because frankly it’s a move that’s as obvious as a black horse in the middle of a field of lavender, or some other analogy. Opal is furious at Bolin for choosing Kuvira’s side, noting how after they “unite” cities into their empire, the workers there are used as slave labor and dissenters are sent off to “reeducation camps”, which is possibly the most obvious euphemism I’ve ever heard. Kuvira needs to hire a public relations consultant and perhaps a linguist. She might need them. Su as expected says no to surrendering Zaofu to Kuvira. And in a sudden, jarring reversal, Kuvira gives her twenty-four hours to surrender before she resorts to military action. Perhaps it’s in the heat of the moment that she makes such a decision but nevertheless it’s a ridiculously quick reversal on her politically understood strategy of using diplomacy for the sake of legitimacy.

The flashbacks take us to post-Korra’s difficult victory. The world leaders convene to discuss the absolute turmoil the Earth Kingdom has become embroiled in after the chaos the Red Lotus group left behind. Suyin was not interested in militarily subjugating other parts of the Earth Empire and imposing her worldview on others. Kuvira saw it quite differently. If Zaofu was the epitome of progress in the world, why should that progress not be shared with everyone else? It’s intriguing to note that her reasoning for military action echoes the sentiments of Fire Lord Sozin, who was also gung-ho about sharing the Fire Nation’s progress with everyone else. Kuvira nevertheless began to sway others, including Bataar, towards her point of view, betraying Su and stabilizing Ba Sing Se first. For her efforts, Raiko and the others made her the provisional head of the Earth Kingdom, because sure, that was going to end well.

The best part of the episode certainly belonged to Varrick and company. The spirit vine experiment is becoming an inherently dangerous weapon that Varrick is concerned about. It’s a neat moment for a character like Varrick to be more concerned about the realities of what this weapon could do over the amount of money he could make from it. But Kuvira, not interested in his sudden moral awakening, nearly kills him as a warning. Bolin begins to drift and it isn’t far until he is threatened with prisoner camp. Bolin reunites with Varrick, with the two of them realizing that Kuvira’s gone crazy. They escape with the help of the ever-awesome Zhu Li, but they’re quickly found by Bataar and company. Ensues an amazing mecha tank fight where Zhu Li for the very first time openly displays anger in possibly the best facial expression in the history of the series and kicks some serious ass. It’s a showpiece episode for a character who has been for so long kept in the shadows and she makes the best of every single second of it. Bolin gets to use his lava bending skills to great effect but the trio still ends up captured. Zhu Li quickly turns around and betrays the other two for the sake of Kuvira and Varrick is led away to continue his work on the super spirit vine weapon as Bolin is condemned to the reeducation camps. A great reason that the entire sequence works is because we have seen Varrick treat Zhu Li like a disposable object and not always as a human being and on one level we buy that she’s become truly sick of the way her boss has treated her for so long. On another level, does anyone else see “Double Agent” written across her forehead? Either way, I can barely contain my excitement at this turn of events. Why is next Friday so far away?

Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

+“You could stand to lose a few Zhu Lis.”; “I think you’re just weak, sir.”

+“I believe that voice is your conscience, sir.”

+ “Obviously, there’s a lot of personal, painful history here.”

+“I’m not holding my breath.”

+“Who designed these idiot things?”; “You did, sir!”

+ “Guards, do the thing.”

+Asami bonding with her father over Pai-Sho was legitimately sweet. What is up his sleeves, however? Or as he truly reformed?

+Korra acknowledging that the old her would fight, but perhaps fighting wasn’t always the right

+Wu and Wei infiltrating Kuvira’s camps.

Brilliant

9/10

Title: Enemy at the Gates

Written By: Joshua Hamilton

Directed By: Ian Graham

Animated By: Studio Mir

Image Courtesy: IGN

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