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The Legend of Korra – Kuvira’s Gambit Review

"Kuvira the Kaiju"

The Legend of Korra continued its final season this week with “Kuvira’s Gambit”. It was a marked increase from last week and a good sign for the remaining two episodes. We see a pretty solid twist, some cool action set pieces, and an eyeful of the actual consequences of using a superweapon. Take notes humanity.

Lets break it down.

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Plot

Korra and the others try desperately to prepare a reluctant Republic City for Kuvira’s oncoming invasion, but find themselves lagging behind. When the Kuvira’s forces show up a week early bearing a terrifying new threat, the fight begins to save the city from complete annihilation.

MechaKuvira

In a pretty cool turn of events, it appears Kuvira has built a gigantic mech suit. All in all, it was a pretty good twist! Not only that, but it lead to people actually dying, which is a refreshing change. It’s kind of an unfortunate set back of the “kid-friendly” format. A no-death environment takes the stakes out of everything. Having Kuvira’s superweapon actually kill people automatically classifies it as a real threat. A weapon with real consequences. Although, now that I think about it, Korra has always been better than most when it came to real character death.

The giant Mech itself is pretty imaginative. The way it’s piloted with with metal bending, the way the “cockpit” is setup. It’s definitely one of my favorite things this season. It’s epic in scope, it feels powerful. Definitely the kind of thing you bring out in your big, final season.

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My biggest gripe is that the mech has to be shabby CGI. I get that it’s probably cheaper to do, but it’s a really simple model that just looks cheap. A traditionally animated suit would look much better, but I understand that Nickelodeon is slowly choking the life out of the show. This is just an unfortunate side effect.

Korra’s Plan

So remember when I was excited for Korra to have Zaheer as a mentor? I don’t think that’s going to happen. We have two more episodes and I’m pretty sure they’re going to be spent having Korra’s Krew dismantling the giant mech. Sure, we could see  some awesome shots of a robot wrecking some city, but we’ll have to give up such a cool direction for story. A pity.

Anyway, Korra’s plan is pretty interesting! They have a stealth team quietly steal away Baatar Jr. so that they can attempt to get him to divulge a way to defeat the mech (some unfortunate timing with this and those CIA torture reports). It’s a long shot, it’s desperate. It doesn’t make a ton of sense, but at this point I’ll never come to expect that from Korra.

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The cool part is that Korra tries to use force first  (she lifts him above her head with one hand, by the way. At first I thought it was just a power boost by the Avatar State, but that fades away and she’s still holding him. Does the Avatar have superhuman strength now?), but when that fails, she figures out a pretty clever way to get him to talk. It’s one of the many little glimmers of character development that we’ve been teased with this season. We all know that it won’t go anywhere, but it was cool to watch.

Cracked Kuvira

So, as we all know, now that Kuvira has tried to kill Baatar Jr. he’ll give up the mech-destroying secrets. I want to fault them for having that be something of a cop out. It feels too neat. The issue was raised and solved in an episode, it seems like a cheat.  However, everything made sense in its context. How they got there was solid. I’ll give them that.

It seemed to pain Kuvira to “kill” Baatar Jr., which is cool. She’s been something of a cold, remorseless Stalin stand-in with a singular goal this entire season. Even during flashbacks to her arguments with Su, she comes off as some kind of pro-Earth Bending robot. It felt more like Baatar Jr. was a groupie caught up in rhetoric rather than an actual romantic partner. She didn’t seem to show him any kind of emotion. Which was fine. That’s her character. She rules everyone through a cult of personality, even her future husband.

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However, the prospect of seeing the actual person underneath the armor was interesting. Her little breath at the end sort of hints at that not being the case. She’ll consider it a “sacrifice” for the Earth Empire and leave it at that. However, could you imagine the other way? To see her crack a little bit? To see her devastated at what she had to give up for her dream? She could be something of a person trying to do the best she can instead of an earth bending Imperialist Terminator.

Other Thoughts

The Zhu Li/Varrick reunion was a roller coaster. At first, I thought she was going to explain that, while she didn’t betray him to Kuvira, she still meant all the things she said. It didn’t go that way. I then thought that maybe Varrick came to that conclusion on his own after being apart from her. It didn’t that way. Then, all of a sudden, Zhu Li demands to be a partner despite taking Varrick’s earlier bullshit as usual. A roller coaster indeed. I wonder if Varrick will just come out and apologize to Zhu Li when things look the worst, or if he’ll think Zhu Li is dead and repent then. If we’re lucky, it’ll be something not cliche.

I’m pretty happy that Baatar Jr. wasn’t convinced to cooperate after pleas from his mom. That dynamic is one of the most interesting in the show. It’s almost Shakespearean. Every time it comes up, it’s so engaging. You kind of hate Baatar Jr. for it, but he’s not necessarily evil. It’s pretty cool. I’m looking forward to see where he goes now that Kuvira has betrayed him.

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So, first off, you could start to see the budget cuts in this episode. I mean, outside the gross CGI of the mech. They started to use these still images with ambient sound for big crowd scenes, like the various evacuations. It didn’t ruin it, it was just noticeable. Despite the obstacles, this episode felt a lot better than the others. The combination of a large threat, immediacy of the threat, and the desperation of the characters set up a powerful story engine for the episode. It felt more serious, it was more engaging, it was — if you’ll pardon the overused word — epic. It reminded me of Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s the kind of thing I expect from this franchise.

Rating
9.0
Pros
  • Giant Mech
  • Solid Plot
  • Real Character Death
  • Great Atmosphere
  • Prospect of Human Kuvira
Cons
  • Fart joke! Fantastic!
  • Bad Looking CGI

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