[Spoilers ahead! Read at your own risk!] At one point in these episodes (which are really just one big episode), Bataar asks Suyin how Kuvira could do the things she did. Being a good mom, Suyin doesn’t rub salt in her brokenhearted son’s wounds by saying what everybody’s thinking: “Well, she’s a crazy person. She’s got the crazy eyes and she clearly gave you sexually transmitted crazy mouth.” Instead, she says tactfully, “She’s a complicated person.” She’s not, really. Selfish, controlling people rarely are.
That element of control defines Kuvira so much that once her grip on a situation falters, so does she. Her true defeat isn’t when Suyin and Lin disable the spirit cannon, nor when Mako and Bolin take out the colossus’ power, nor even when the whole thing comes crashing down around her. It’s when she tries to take one last shot with the cannon and realizes she can’t make it stop. For the first time, panic enters her voice, the kind that only happens when you realize the situation has gotten bigger than you. Kuvira’s never thought anything was bigger than her. She’s never had to; up to this point, no one, not even the Avatar, has proven to be better than her at anything.
That all changes for the first time when Kuvira finally sees she’s playing with forces she can’t truly control and Korra steps in to handle what she can’t. Important as that humbling moment is, even more important is the heart-to-heart that follows, in which Korra successfully talks down her first villain. It’s a conversation she never had with Amon nor Unalaq, and too late with Zaheer. It might not make much of a practical difference—Kuvira’s pretty much defeated by that point—but it nicely validates Korra’s struggles this season to be a gentler, wiser avatar.
As for everybody else, this episode offers each at least one or two turns in the spotlight, but only a couple get what you’d call a fitting resolution to their personal arcs. Varrick’s growing humanity and Zhu Li’s demand for equality are sealed with a wedding, one that turns their professional partnership into an emotional one as well. Wu makes the unexpected decision to abdicate his claim to the throne and goes even further by working to break up the Earth Kingdom into independent states. Going from badger-mole charmer to political activist is quite a jump, but his experiences this season just manages to sell it.
These are neatly wrapped endings in comparison to Mako and Asami’s, who get fairly strong moments in the episode but who finish their run on Team Avatar without much to show for it. Asami’s storyline is really more her father’s storyline, and while Mako plays a critical and dramatic role in shutting down Kuvira’s colossus, you don’t get a sense of how he’s changed from the start of the series to the end. Both of their tenures on the show have largely been defined by their relationship to Korra (and, briefly, to each other), and the last minutes of the episode leave those relationships purposely ambiguous. Korra is not unreceptive to Mako’s affections, but it’s Asami that she decides to go on retreat with. Hedrick-DiMartino are too prudent to do more than suggest a romantic connection between the two women, not just because it could set part of the internet on fire, but also because Asami and Korra’s total interaction during the show’s lifetime doesn’t quite sell that level of intimacy.
All these character developments are well and good, but honestly, this show’s one pristine feature, one undisputed even from its troubled first season, is its bending action. Sadly, technological forces dominate so much of the battle that bending is occasionally rendered pointless. Our heroes only manage to invade the colossus thanks to Varrick and Asami’s flying mechas and her father’s upgrade of their welding torches to plasma saws. But even purely as annoyances to Kuvira, the bending is awesome and fluidly animated. It’s not an exaggeration to say that things like Bolin’s lava razor wheel, the airbenders’ darting flights, and a team effort at earthbending half a skyscraper onto the colossus are easily as memorable as any moment of drama in the episode.
– I’m guessing, after promising to “do the thing” for the rest of their lives, Varrick and Zhu Li did exactly that in the car ride after the wedding.
– I’m not quite sure why metalbending doesn’t work on platinum. Anyone care to weigh in?
– I’m really quite surprised that no one died in Kuvira’s spirit cannon attack.
It's not a superb finish to a great series, but it's a respectable end to a series that eventually earned it at the end.