A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
“I’m here to distribute resources throughout the empire. This is about equality.”
The Battle of Zaofu seemingly has sealed the fate of the great city. True to her nature, Kuvira never attacks the city with her massive army. If you were expecting that, then this episode might be a disappointment to you. But the battle between Kuvira and Korra is, in my humble opinion, an absolute equivalent to any battle scene in terms of thrill and emotional stakes. Korra’s PTSD wasn’t solved with the poison being bended out of her bloodstream, no matter how it must have looked. Knowing that this is a little before the halfway point of the season (cue tears), there wasn’t much of a chance of Korra winning the fight and Kuvira going down. But to have Dark Korra come back and be the defining reason to her loss was a brilliant twist and a promise from the writers that no, a simple bending is not the cure to the sheer amount of trauma that Korra suffered from. Kuvira’s empire with Zaofu has now been solidified and as Korra, Jinora, and Opal flee on a giant sky bison the giant question remains: how far will Kuvira go?
Kuvira might go down in Avatar history as the most intelligent antagonist in existence. In hindsight, her threatening to attack Zaofu makes a lot more sense. She was never going to directly attack Zaofu by force. Well aware of her public image that’s at stake, she waits patiently for the amazing opening sequence where Suyin and her sons try to attack Kuvira in the dead of night. As expected, the trap springs and they’re taken captive. Now Kuvira has all the impetus she needed in the first place to provide Zaofu with an ultimatum: its leaders must accept its rule. The “or else” is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a calculated, precise strike and perhaps the best part of the entire thing is that not for a single second does Kuvira forget the dichotomy that she has to constantly portray in public. It’s a master class in how to be an effective dictator – yet if Kuvira can actually govern an entire, united empire remains to be seen.
In an episode where Kuvira and Korra duel, the MVP is Varrick, who as it turns out is most productive for about fifteen minutes, starting at 3:45 in the afternoon. Cleverly he grabs onto Bolin to be his replacement assistant. More so than ever before, it’s clearly noticeable that without Zhu Li, Varrick is sort of lost. Every little thing he took so much for granted no longer existed in front of him and it’s clear on his facial expressions that he understands that reality and it truly hurts him. More so than his emotional torture over Zhu Li leaving, Varrick’s absolute brilliance and ingenuity takes center stage here. It’s almost comical how much effort Bataar, Jr. employs to try and understand Varrick’s Spirit Bomb (that’s what I’m calling it until it gets an official name.) Seemingly mad and not really doing anything ingenious, Varrick in a thunderous moment reveals his ingenious duplicity. He was able to understand the burst of energy from earlier on in the season, twisting the technology and creating a ticking time bomb. He uses that weapon As the two are stranded in the train, Varrick accepts his death as Bolin goes bonkers. It’s telling and oddly emotionally cathartic. Thanks to Bolin, the two survive, now stranded in a desert. As far as Bataar, Jr. is concerned, he tells Kuvira that he has an idea of how to work the weapon and Zhu Li is assigned to help him. I have a feeling this is going to go disastrously.
Ah, the battle scene. The best thing about this scene outside of the fighting itself is that the four main combatants battling it out for Zaofu are all female. It’s for some reason difficult to get one distinct, strong female characters these days in so many properties. To have not just one, but four distinct, powerful female characters on a battlefield is tremendous. Fuck yeah, Legend of Korra! It’s a magnificently powerful sight for Kuvira, who once again fully displays her understanding of the power of words. Her magnificent speech to her troops rang with the words of a populist, even if her actions prove to be those of a fascist. It’s a remarkable dichotomy that the writers have displayed so tactfully that not for a single second do you find it contradictory. It makes absolute sense that Kuvira would want to battle Korra one-on-one not just to make herself seem magnanimous in front of her army, but also strong by defeating the Avatar. It’s a thrillingly choreographed fight sequence all around, but it becomes something else entirely when a weakened Korra in desperation turns to the Avatar State. Kuvira begins to get pummeled before she raises her head and Korra sees Dark Korra staring right back at her. She snaps out of the Avatar State, falling to the ground in defeat. A triumphant Kuvira calls her army to rush at Zaofu and it’s a thrilling shot of thousands of soldiers rushing across the plains. But not if Jinora and Opal have something to say about it. Their air bending is so powerful that even the mechs struggle against it (foreshadowing, perhaps?). Quickly Meelo and Ikki arrive to assist Jinora and Opal with Korra’s rescue and the small group flees, leaving a surrendered Zaofu in their wake.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Why is that loudspeaker lady talking when I’m trying to sleep?” Good question, Meelo.
+“Aw man! When I am going to see some action?” Next Friday, Meelo. I’m assuming.
+“Cookie jar empty. No warm towels. Waxy buildup. ZHU LI!!!!!!!!!!”
+The music was top-notch this week as usual
+Zhu Li isn’t as impressed as everyone else at Kuvira’s fighting skills
+Opal’s torn loyalty between her family and Zaofu and the Air Nation
+The mountains landscape outside Zaofu is truly gorgeous
+“Bolin, do the thing!”
+Bataar, Jr. is an asshole
+“Get your hands off of me! You’re crushing my individuality!”
+“You can’t handle all this Meelo!”
+Huan’s hair is pretty great
+“Stunning work, Ikki. It hurts my eyes with its raw emotional raw power.”
+“Ah, pedestrian. I know the outer you, show me the inter Meelo.”
+“You’ll never know how it is to give birth to genius!”
+“You’ve always been a coward.”
+“You’re not relevant anymore.”
+“You’ll be sorry you left me, Zhu Li! When they write the history books, your name will be synonymous with betrayal! People will say, ‘Hey, what happened to that guy?’ ‘Oh, didn’t you hear? He Varrick-ed himself because some girl Zhu Li-ed him!’”
+Varrick: “I’ll see you on the other side, Zhu Li!”
Bolin slaps him and then: “I want you to know that I hate you.”
-The clean energy bomb thing has been done to death, pun intended.
Title: Battle of Zaofu
Written By: Tim Hendrick
Directed By: Melchior Zwyer
Animated By: Studio Mir
Image Courtesy: Advent Seven