For that last episode, a couple commenters protested that I wasn’t giving Kuvira enough credit as a villain and after rereading the review, I admit that’s true. I spent a lot of time fixating on her motivational defects without emphasizing just how formidable an opponent she is. But then I thought that was pretty obvious. That she’s a ruthless, cunning mind with enormous resources would already be enough to make her the villain to beat; her metalbending mastery is just icing on the cake.

That couldn’t be clearer in the way she preempts Suyin’s hail Mary plan to take her hostage and faces down Korra in one-on-one battle. Clearly, conventional tactics to overthrow her won’t work, meaning our heroes will have to rise to the challenge if they want to stop her from setting her sights outside the Earth Kingdom, now that its last province has fallen. Believe me, I find the possibilities as dazzling as anybody else, and that’s absolutely due to Kuvira’s strength.

But I also maintain that Kuvira has little room left to grow as a character, no matter how much more powerful she becomes. In terms of sympathy, last episode’s flashback to her idealistic early days may be the end of it. Some might say she still thinks she’s doing the right thing, but I’m not convinced. Unless it’s a PR stunt, Kuvira doesn’t really even mention her values anymore. When Bolin expressed concern with her plans, she didn’t try to turn him around with an impassioned defense of what she was working towards; she attacked his lack of “loyalty to me.” If she’s so confident in the rightness of her values, she wouldn’t feel the need to lie to Opal about Bolin being on board with her when he clearly isn’t. Anyway, it’s pretty hard to deny how far off the edge she’s gone once she’s invaded Zaofu and telling everyone to give her the full fetal-crouch bow or be shipped off to who knows where.

This makes it all the more a shame when Korra’s PTSD hits her at a critical moment, just when she’s got Kuvira on the ropes. But aside from the fact that a victory here would cut the season in half, there are all kinds of signs that the timing isn’t right for Korra to defeat Kuvira just yet. Despite removing any physical obstacles to full recovery along with the last of Zaheer’s poison, Korra has yet to grapple with the psychological causes of her yips. Her bending movements reveal a protagonist whose full fighting strength is still theoretical. No matter the element, she releases it only in a basic stream, with no shape or change that indicates Korra working beyond autopilot.

But Korra’s setback will require time to address, and Kuvira is not the type to let the grass grow under her feet. With the entire Earth Kingdom “united,” all that’s left is for her to consolidate her power, making her that much more difficult to handle the next time our heroes face her. There’s little doubt she’ll eventually weaponize the spirit vines, despite Varrick managing his and Bolin’s escape. Batar rationalizes “it is our responsibility as scientists to pursue it as far as we can, wherever it leads,” adding another layer of amorality on top of Kuvira’s already questionable campaign, but moreover, who knows what consequences this will have on the spirit world?

These are all interesting developments, but the bulk of the episode’s entertainment really comes from Varrick and Bolin doing their shtick together. I’ve always liked them as a pair because Varrick’s outrageous eccentricities helps bring down Bolin’s own ridiculousness, but now that Varrick is working towards more noble goals, their compatibility is greater than ever. It’s not just Varrick stringing Bolin along anymore, a situation in which the joke is always on the hapless earthbender, but the two of them working together to comedically get themselves out of trouble, a routine I can always subscribe to.

-Minhquan Nguyen

Grade

B+

Conclusion

No real surprises here, but a rock-solid showing nonetheless.Some Musings: - You know how Batar reminds me of? Percy Weasley, during his Ministry of Magic clerking days in Harry Potter. What an a-hole.