Although the years have improved things somewhat, I’ve always felt the new Team Avatar was a fighting unit first, group of friends second. There’s never any doubt that Korra, Mako, Bolin, and Asami (mostly) respect and like each other, but despite romantic entanglements and brotherly bonds, they feel more compatible as coworkers than close friends. Their chemistry is pleasant to have, but not indispensable to the show’s appeal.

So when this season opened with the four of them each doing their own thing, it didn’t feel like a drastic departure from how the show tended to operate anyway. You might even say they needed that time apart to fully come into their own. I mean, can you imagine Bolin inspiring Varrick to action the way he does here if he was still the team jester (more on that later)? On the other hand, it wouldn’t have seemed right for Korra to topple Kuvira on her own. Her team has earned the right to share in the final glory, even if they’re not the best of buddies.

But before we can get to that point, we need to actually get Team Avatar back together again. For now, that means getting past the awkwardness between Korra, Mako, and Asami, which (thank heaven) has nothing to do with their past love triangle. Mako is understandably miffed that Korra divulged some big secrets to Asami yet never kept in touch with him, but Asami’s beef with Korra is a tad more forced. When Korra fails to diplomatically articulate her concern about Asami resuming ties with Saito, Asami overreacts and leaps down her throat, snapping, “You don’t get to disappear for three years and act like you know what’s best for me!”

All this drama seems largely manufactured and breaks down pretty quickly anyway, once Prince Wu is kidnapped by several of Kuvira’s agents. As far as teamwork goes, it really is like old times, as Korra says, with her and Mako doling most of the firepower and Asami staying out of the way when she’s not handling transport. But chasing after Wu really does more for Korra than it does for the team, giving her much-needed practice in using her bending to work around problems rather than attack them head-on, which hasn’t quite worked with any of her opponents this season.

More importantly, the presence of Kuvira’s agents in Republic City, brazenly chasing after someone who’s taken asylum there, indicates that she’s already beginning her overreach. Clearly, international boundaries mean nothing to her, which makes a global campaign inevitable. Targeting Wu also means she’s eliminating anyone who might undermine her control of the Earth Kingdom; if nothing else, Wu is a banner for rebels to rally behind, and he does, for better or worse, have a legitimate claim to rule.

Meanwhile, Bolin and Varrick witness firsthand the extent of Kuvira’s tyranny when they encounter some reeducation camp escapees, who reveal that she’s “purging” anyone not of Earth Kingdom origin. That’s clearly a Hitler-esque level of extremism that shows how far gone she really is. If there’s any good news to be had from this, it’s that Varrick and Bolin feel even more guilty pressure to make up for helping Kuvira in the first place. As his makeshift EMP demonstrates, Varrick’s technological genius will be especially crucial to the heroes as Kuvira continues to develop spirit-vine weaponry, which will probably be even more powerful as she harvests the more potent vines from the swamp.

Grade

B

Conclusion

The artificial drama between Team Avatar exposes their lack of chemistry, but it’s good to see them back in action together regardless.Some Musings: - You never know what you have until it’s gone. As Bolin wishes Pabu were around to chew through his and Varrick’s rope trap, Varrick says dreamily, “You know who else has incisors sharp as a knife? Zhu Li…” I would love to know how he came by this special piece of knowledge.- In a tribute to DiMartino’s attention to continuity, after Wu’s kidnapped in the bathroom and subsequently rescued and brought to a safehouse, the prince rushes in, exclaiming, “Now where’s the nearest bathroom? I’ve been holding it all day!”- Korra’s description of Toph: “Cranky, more miserable version of Lin.” Clearly, she meant “crankier.”