He’s An Actor
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Operation Beifong as the title suggests is by and large centered on the Beifong family, with a nice subplot for Korra attached as she reenters the Spirit World in the hopes of securing the help of the spirits in her fight against Kuvira. In the final legs of the series, it’s genuinely nice to see that the creators of the show haven’t forgotten about the characters that populate it and their relationships in favor of large action set pieces (which are sure to come). Lesser series wouldn’t have concerned themselves with addressing a family dynamic out of all things this late in the game, but the creators of Korra have managed to make scenes where Lin confronts Toph about her terrible parenting just as riveting as the fight sequences. And the true reason that this episode knocks it out of the park is the painstaking work the writers have done in weaving these emotional threads throughout the series as a whole. Speaking of fight sequences, those who were hoping for a Toph vs Kuvira showdown at this stage will be disappointed. But making the creative choice of having Suyin be the one who challenges the hell out of Kuvira makes for a dramatic impact, underlying the bitterness between this mother and the woman who had become her adoptive daughter.
The initial escape sequence was fantastic and this show continues to astound with its remarkable ability to find unique prison designs depending on the bending abilities of the prisoners involved. In this case, the Beifong family is confined in a wooden box suspended by ropes throughout the cavern. Sharply our escape team rescues the family, Bataar Sr. adding a bit of hilarity with his fear of heights. At Kuvira’s re-education camp/factory, they discover Kuvira’s sharp laser weapon that somehow keeps on malfunctioning. Toph utilizes her lie detector, noting simply “She’s lying” in relation to Zhu Li. It’s a confirmation of a plot point most fans had ardently surmised already, but were just hoping was accurate. Kuvira wastes no time in discovering Zhu Li’s discovery.“You’re a monster,” she thunders, completely unapologetic about her treachery and accepting her fate like a true badass. I mean, seriously, how do you beat looking a dictator in the eye and bellowing “I regret nothing!” Her resolution is even more impressive when one notes what her fate is – being confined to an empty town that Kuvira is going to blow up with her super weapon, which as you know, is a weapon but only super.
The Beifong family dynamic is absolute gold, with Toph forming the crux of the emotional catharsis. To counter the dour family drama, the creators added in Bolin’s perfection in comedy to balance things out, even adding in a remarkably sweet moment when Bolin ardently defends Zhu Li by noting that she never makes a mistake. It’s a great testament that even the smallest of relationships in this show gets its inevitable call out. Lin’s angst toward Toph is reasonable, as Toph was never the kindest, most nurturing mother and she never bothered to tell Lin who her father was. That Toph would reveal that her father was a man named Kanto that Toph really didn’t care too much about and at Bolin’s request at that is simply too much for Lin to tolerate. Yet Toph also has a point. Nearly at every critical juncture, perfect mothers are pushed down the throat of audiences to the extent that they have become a perfectly acceptable cultural norm. But that seeming reality is exceedingly false. Not every woman is going to be a good mother. Having a womb doesn’t naturally make you a decent parent. Toph wasn’t a good parent, but it’s not for lack of trying. She simply did the best she could as a single mother with who she was as a person. Nor die she compromise with herself and settle down just for her children, that would have been an equivalent injustice. In a society that long has demonized not just single mothers but also women who have expressed sexual freedom, it’s extremely gratifying that Toph had two children with two men whom she didn’t believe were right to settle down with and the world still treats her like a hero. You go, Avatar!
The fights were AMAZING and even that falls short of legitimately trying to convey how damn cool that entire sequence was. The entire Beifong family versus Kuvira and her forces alone provides one of the most frenetic and flawless action sequences in the history of this franchise. Yet even that feels like amateur hour in light of Kuvira vs,. Suyin. It’s a powerhouse confrontation, made all the more emotional with the history of these two women and how close they were. Suyin’s acrobatic style versus Kuvira’s more grounded approach is brilliantly directed by Melchior Zwyer, who’s camera makes all of the frenetic action seem absolutely clear. This is most important when Suyin goes full badass and metal bends herself an armor and a weapon against Kuvira in literally a nanosecond. Alas, Kuvira gets the upper hand but damned if Toph be if she doesn’t step in. “You give metal benders a bad name!” she thunders, eviscerating her opposition and cleaning a pathway for everyone’s escape. As the family stops for a moment, Toph mournfully notes that if Lin wants to hate her forever, that’s quite all right. She admits hat she’s a terrible mother but that she did produce two amazing children. But Lin doesn’t want to part on a bitter note and the three embrace in one of the most touching moments in a series that has done more to present strong, flawed, complex women than any franchise in history.
Korra first appears at a meeting in Republic City, where the Kuvira dilemma still being hotly debated. Prince Wu for once actually has a pretty decent idea. “We should be evacuating the ordinary citizens in case Kuvira attacks Republic City,” he notes, momentarily stunning everybody in the room. Mako congratulates him on being, well, actually intelligent for once but Wu being Wu ruins it by announcing that he made the suggestion of saving innocent lives only to impress Korra. His person of affection, however, is preoccupied with the inevitable confrontation coming their way. Korra enters the spirit world to ask for help in defeating Kuvira, but the spirits themselves are remarkably cold to that suggestion. A great phoenix dragon spirit admonishes Korra for even thinking that the spirits would fight in a human war. What you want is exactly what Kuvira wants, to use spirits as a weapon in a human war,” Spirit Dragon notes quietly. It’s a somber moment, but an accurate one in a sense. Kuvira is using spirits in this war and Korra is searching to do the same. Their methodologies are just wildly different. As it is, this refusal couldn’t have come at a worst time, leaving Korra in a lurch. After all, Kuvira’s forces are arriving at Republic City in a mere two weeks, super weapon in hand.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+The episode opens with the generally awesome music from Jeremy Zuckerman, who cleverly uses the same motifs he had established during Suyin’s original capture attempt of Kuvira.
+Addressing the bison named Juicy and his seeming sickness
+Toph and Opal’s moment of sweetness
+Bolin’s reaction at the appearance of Toph
+Toph at Bolin’s excitement at meeting her: “What, do you have to pee or something?”
+Toph on Bolin: “What’s up with him”; Lin: “He’s an actor.”
+“It’s not his silver tongue, I can assure you.”
+Varrick and Asami are designing flying mech suits. Yeah, you heard that right. FLYING. MECH. SUITS.
+“Every work of art, every song, every city evacuation…”
+“Maybe you have some talent after all.”
+The glare that Lin gave Bolin was absolutely terrifying
+“Nice man, but it didn’t really work out between us.”
+Opal and Bolin awkwardly eating and looking both ways simultaneously
+Bolin on a walkie talkie was hilarious
+“We can’t let Opal be the coolest!”
+“At some point, you got to leave it to the kids.”
Title: Operation Beifong
Written By: Tim Hedrick
Directed By: Melchior Zwyer
Animated By: Studio Mir
Image Courtesy: IGN
Gif. Courtesy: Tumblr (https://33.media.tumblr.com/7041a52c98dc497802a4636af5d97b75/tumblr_ng3wafVJY61rxtm41o1_500.gif)