K405 Enemy At The Gates
Written By - Joshua Hamilton
Directed By - Ian Graham
Animated By - Studio Mir
After a lot of character focus in recent episodes this episode heavily focuses on the plot, but doesn't forget about the character focus. Varrick and Zhu Li at last stepping forward from their solely comedic roles into something that is interesting and even emotional, emotional is not a word I often associate with Varrick, but we had some good stuff with him in this episode. Bolin also finally came to realise Kuvira's true nature and we have many, many tense character confrontations. There is a lot of stuff to talk about in this episode and in my opinion all of it is very interesting.
Now thinking about where to start I realised I forgot about the Asami parts of this episode while writing my opening paragraph, that alone tells you how many things were going on in this episode. While this section only amounted to 3 scenes in the episode, one of them being one of the shortest in the episode, they worked so well, very effective storytelling in such a short amount of time. Asami of all of the main characters in this show has definitely had the least amount of focus on her own, really her only plot in the whole show has been her dealing with the betrayal of her father back in Book 1. Book 2 did set up a business plot with Varrick, but it disappeared towards the end. What I do like is that it has been set up in Book 2 and 3 that Asami's would have to deal with her father again. In book 2 she mentioned that she could not visit Mako in prison because it brought back bad memories of her father and in Book 3 she mentioned that her father thought her how to play Pai Sho. This shows that while she has been angry at her father and trying her best to forget about him, he was on her mind, and that culminated here when she decided to go and see him. She does this to remove the constant reminder of him, the letters he is sending her from prison, but when she arrives she cannot refuse him saying one more thing to her. What he says brings her to tears and is definitely one of the more emotional scenes we have got in Korra so far, this master inventor saying that his life has been nothing but regrets, but that his daughter is the one thing that made him smile, she was always his greatest creation.
Then we get a short scene of an upset Asami sitting in the park just trying to come to terms with her feelings when she sees a man and his daughter happily playing Pai Sho together. This brings a smile to her face, as much as she has issues with her father she does want that relationship she has not had in 3 and a half years. So she returns to see him again and we get another very emotional scene a little reminiscent of Katara confronting Yon Rha, where she explains that she initially came to see him to hurt him, but when she saw him she felt nothing but sadness. She may never be able to forgive her father, but she is willing to try and they play Pai Sho together. They are very nice scenes, but I do wonder is there more to these than just a father-daughter reunion, are they bringing Hiroshi back and having this reunion so that he will be involved in the story later on, possibly as a counter to the spirit vine weaponry. It would be cool to see father and daughter team up, where they put their great minds together to solve a crisis.
Korra, after having a big role in recent episodes, only had a few scenes in this episode and really only two of them are worth talking about. Fist being her talk with Suyin, where she asks Su to explain what happened with Kuvira and it ends with Su asking Korra to use the Avatar State to take out Kuvira's army and remove Kuvira from power. We see that Korra's huge journey of recovery has changed her outlook on things, so she decides to try and reason with Kuvira rather than jump to a fight. We also see how aggressively Su wants to get rid of Kuvira, which comes back later. The other scene is of course the first big meeting of Korra and Kuvira, it definitely was not how I expected this interaction to go. It is not that Kuvira directly manipulates Korra, but rather that Korra, I think, tries too hard to try and understand Kuvira and learn what Ideal she is taking too far. The key point of this first meeting is that Korra can understand when Kuvira says that she made tough decisions when Korra was away. Korra can understand the position that Kuvira is in, on her own making big decisions that not everyone likes. Overall it makes me interested to see the next meeting between the two.
I continue to enjoy Kuvira as a villain, she is very intelligent to a point. She was all about taking Zaofu correctly and not just going in with force, but when Su flat out refused she lost her composure and went straight to force, in this moment showing Bolin her true self and turning him against her. Then later on in the episode I think we see Kuvira's biggest weakness, she likes hearing people plegde their loyalty to her and compliment her on how powerful she is. Zhu Li is obviously the character who begs and says these things to Kuvira, but for Kuvira to do such a big 180 from saying Zhu Li is a full on traitor to basically making Zhu Li her assistant, shows that this can potentially be a weakness if someone is good enough of an actor. Zhu Li could be a double agent here, just telling Kuvira what she wants to hear to get close to her.
The main thing we get about Kuvira in this episode is that we get the backstory explaining how Kuvira went from Zaofu Captain to Empress Kuvira. It was not as dramatic as I expected, but it completely worked. We see that basically Kuvira is the extreme version of Suyin, taking the ideals that she shares with Su too far. Kuvira disagreed with Suyin's decision to not step in and stabilise Ba Sing Se, I got a huge Fire Lord Sozin vibe from what Kuvira was suggesting, this idea of spreading the prosperity of one place to another. We also see that Suyin is against that very idea, she knows it would only create wars if she were to force her ideals on others, basically exactly how the 100 year war started. I also liked that she took some of the best soldiers and wealthy people, this is a nice explanation for how her army and support grew so much.
We also get a hint at why her Fiancee, Baatar Jr, was so eager to join her. He shouts at his father that he was sick of being stuck in his shadow. Which to me makes sense as Baatar Jr was the only one of Su's kids that did not get a solo focus scene in Book 3, when he was introduced it was just as someone who helps his father with projects. His name actually perfectly shows his issue, his name is Baatar Junior, he feels just like a different version of his father to the point where he doesn't have his own unique name. Him joining Kuvira seems to be his attempt to outdo his father, who helped to build Zaofu ,by building the Earth Empire. Also the mention of Re-Education camps may hint at some brainwashing, but I think there is enough there without brainwashing to explain his turn. There was also a set up that one rivalry this book may be Bolin vs Baatar Jr as they had a fight here.
Bolin also got some needed focus here. This was the episode where he came to realise that what everyone was saying about Kuvira was correct, the second she said she was going to take Zaofu by force was the moment he realised he was in the wrong place. I enjoyed how he gradually came to this conclusion, he wanted to show the Bei Fongs that they were there for good and Opal pointed out that they only bring good initially and slavery soon follows to any town they visit, he brushed this aside and was very annoyed with Opal, but later did question Kuvira about this and she could not answer his questions in a way that kept him on her side. I did enjoy how at the same time that Bolin realised the truth about Kuvira, Varrick did also. Bolin and Varrick as a duo just works so well, that despite the Book 2 betrayal, the two are actually friends, with Bolin acting in a way as Varrick's conscience. When they escape Bolin immediately wants to got to Zaofu to help, but cannot as Baatar Jr arrives starting the fight. I was very impressed with Bolin in this fight, while he was not amazing at using the mech suit, when he switched to bending you could really see how much he has grown as a bender, both Earth and Lava. The way he broke out the Lava Bending and instantly stopped tow of his opponents really showed that he was to be one of the most powerful benders in the world at this point in time, only Varrick being threatened stopped him. Now Bolin is being sent off to a Re-Education camp which we assume involves brainwashing, I really wonder what his role will be in the remainder of the book.
I think for the first time in Korra so far I can say that I really loved Varrick in and episode. It is not that before this episode I disliked him, but because he was such a comedy character with no real serious moments I could never say he was my favourite character, but in this episode we got to see a different side of Varrick, the start of a real emotional character arc. It was refreshing to have scenes with Varrick where it was not just about how odd he was, but instead have focus on the fact that being around Bolin for so long is making him develop a conscience and think about others and that he does really care about Zhu Li and was desperate to save her life and hurt when she betrayed him. The hint at a shipping moment between the two after the explosion was great and really makes you think hard about Zhu Li's betrayal later on, she was so devoted to Varrick and even seemed to like him as more than a great mind, would she really turn on him like this. Like Bolin now that he is still captured and being forced to build spirit vine weapons what will his role be from here on out. I think his time alone will make him think hard about his relationship with Zhu Li, this may be where theses scenes of him talking about his past come, I would love to see him talk about how he came to meet Zhu Li and get her as an assistant and so on. I think what really highlighted the sudden change for the better in Varrick's story was how they used the classic "Do The Thing!" line here, before it was always used as a running gag, but here they have Zhu Li say it to Varrick to have him taken away, a funny line turned perfectly into this powerful line of betrayal. I can see them using this line in more emotional ways as the Varrick and Zhu Li's story comes to an end.
Last thing to talk about is the final scene. Korra returns from meeting with Kuvira to speak with Su and finds out she has gone with Wei and Wing to take out Kuvira. This was such a well done cliffhanger as Su's actions here prove both Korra and Kuvira right. Korra wanted to talk rather than react harshly with action and Kuvira initially came to negotiate and offered a ceasefire until Korra talked with Su again. Su in attacking Kuvira will be the one to start the Battle of Zaofu he world will know that it was Zaofu that attacked first and it gives Kuvira an out of the only problem she had, Zaofu didn't need her help and had her in a position where she had to take them by force and reveal to the world a clear bad side, but now Su has changed the situation completely. Kuvira can cite defence as her reason for taking down the Zofu rebels who tried to assassinate her. I am fascinated with how next episode will go down, primarily to see what Korra does and what Korra sees when she arrives at the fight. Will she arrive and stop Su from making a huge mistake, will she arrive to see Su starting a war or will she arrive and see Kuvira spring a trap on them. So many ways that it can go, I cannot wait for Friday!
Overall another enjoyable episode making this Book 5/5 so far in terms of excellent episodes. While I wished we had gotten a scene with Mako and Wu, what we did get was great. Characters like Varrick and Zhu Li getting interesting stories while the main plot continues to build towards bigger and bigger things. The plot it good and the character stuff is interesting, what more can we ask for in this final season of Korra.