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The Legend of Korra — Enemy at the Gates Review

"Family Issues Are Made Worse with Megalomania "

The Legend of Korra‘s fourth and final season continued with week with “Enemy at the Gates”. It wasn’t too bad an episode, we were mercifully given less time with those kids, but it wasn’t without fault either. It also served to remind us how most things can be improved with Mechs. Words to live by, kids, words to live by.

Let’s get into it:

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Plot

Korra arrives back at Zaofu to find that Kuvira’s entire army has taken position just outside. Expectedly, Kuvira has given Su 24 hours to surrender or the city will be taken by force. As Korra goes to negotiate peace, Bolin and Varrick attempt a daring escape from Kuvira’s totalitarian clutches.

MEANWHILE, Asami visits her dad.

Kuvira the Conqueror

So Kuvira. Look, I know it’s early in the season, but she continues to be a bit of a disappointing. I mean, this is the last season, guys. It should feature the best, most complicated, most intriguing villain yet. However, we’re stuck with Kuvira (at least for now). She’s just evil for evil’s sake. We’ve yet to see anything humanize her, she’s just the big bad military leader.

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This episode we’re treated to her back story and it seems like a wasted chance at giving her some depth, at humanizing her. Sure, she’s supposedly for reuniting “her people” and bringing them out of chaos, which is admirable, but she never does anything organic. She just asks Su to lead the reunification then runs off with a bunch of people when Su refuses. It’s so strange. There’s no overt motivation or inciting incident. She just immediately switches to conquering Empress mode.

I understand what they’re shooting for. Like the other villains this season, Kuvira is after something good — creating order from chaos — but goes about it “out of balance”, creating more bad than good. Sure, that’s an awesome way to make a villain, it’s just that Kuvira herself continues to be a 2 dimensional cardboard character.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You could have the same message and still create a full character. Look at Zaheer from last season, who is, for the most part, Kuvira’s antithesis. He wanted freedom but, like Kuvira, he went at it an unbalanced way, thus creating chaos. Yet he wasn’t a 2 dimensional crazy anti-authoritarian anarchist. He was highly intelligent, well educated, he manipulated people, he played along with a system he didn’t believe in order to achieve his goals. He was complex and he was fun to watch.

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You can do the same for Kuvira. Most leaders in her position are charismatic and incredible people persons. It would be great if we saw something like that. A real cult of personality situation, like a real despot, which would also work better into the show’s theme. Instead Kuvira is cold, monotone, and mostly flat. If it wasn’t for her constant strong arming and intimidation, no one would follow her. We’ve seen a lot of master benders who use power to manipulate people, it’s old hat. Show us a master bender who commands a crowd, who gets people on her side. Zaheer was a good allegory of a revolutionary, but we need a good dictator. We need our Stalin and Hitler allegories not more Terminators.

Asami’s Weird Subplot

So for pretty much all of this season, Asami has had nothing to really do. She’s been in the background, do business things, skirting the advances of Prince Wu. As usual with The Legend of Korra, they just can’t find any place for her to really fit. This takes a really weird turn in this episode as well.

Most of the episode’s action is centered in and around Zaofu. In fact, I’d say pretty much every plot thread in this episode is, save for one. Asami’s. We take a break from the whole crisis in Zaofu to follow Asami as she visits her dad in jail Originally, she says she doesn’t want to have anything to do with him, but after some time in a park she decides to patch things up with him.

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I suppose this’ll be a big deal later in the season. Perhaps Asami’s company can build mechs to fight Kuvira’s. Maybe her dad will help her design some kind of weapon or he’ll reveal a vital clue to the Earth Empire’s defeat. I don’t know. I did find it odd that they chose to introduce this now. I think eventually the show will shift back to Republic City, so why not do it then? Or at the beginning of the season? It just seems weird to take some time out of the story to show these scenes. It sort of messes with the episode’s pacing.

The Search for the New Korra

In this episode, Korra explains how she’ll refrain from wiping out Kuvira’s army because that’s what “the old Korra” would do. Instead she opts to talk with her first. It was a cool little moment of self awareness, but it was played off as barely working. Korra was lead into seeing it Kuvira’s way, after all. Some were pointing out that it shows her nativity, but I think it’s understandable. Korra’s trying to go at it from a neutral position and Kuvira has yet to give her any reason to doubt her intentions. In fact, Korra was saved by her a couple times last season.

I think that the show is striving to show that neither all aggression nor all negotiation is the right way. You need a balance in all things (this season’s name is called Balance. COINCIDENCE?). Korra will have to find balance in her methods in order to defeat Kuvira. I’m pretty excited for it. It’s actual character growth, and one with a goal. In the other seasons, Korra’s personal growth has been “stop being awful”.

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I’m kind of excited to see how they take this. I hope they don’t spend too much time on having Korra be no action and all talk. The reverse was pretty annoying but at least you had some well made fights to watch. I can’t imagine how boring it would be to watch Korra shout at peopling fighting asking them to stop.

Other Thoughts

Bolin was extra special badass this episode. I’m just confused as to why it was so hard form him to defeat the mechs with only his bending. I mean, we saw him wreck two of them with a surge of lava (which, again, they misrepresented the sheer heat of), but in all honestly, he should have been able to destroy the rest. Also, can you now bend while in a mech? Is it the restriction of motion? I’m confused. Also also, maybe I missed it, but did they ever explain why metal benders just can’t bend the mechs? Are they made of some special unbendable alloy? I feel like if you were going to war with a city of people who can control metal, the last thing you’d want is an army of metal suits.

I just realized, where was the White Lotus when Korra went missing? I know Tonraq didn’t know she was missing, but shouldn’t the White Lotus be keeping tabs on her anyway? That’s their whole purpose. If the Avatar can just walk away for 6 months unchecked then they’re not really all that good at their job. It also just took some kids to find her, so she wasn’t too far lost. Sheesh guys. Step it up.

The Spirit Vine Superweapon is going to be a big deal, I can feel it. It’s either going to be a corrupting power or a super weapon that evens the odds against benders. How cool would it be if benders are the ones suddenly at a disadvantage? I mean, yes, Kuvira technically controls it, but she doesn’t understand it. Someone else, Asami maybe, could take control of it. I think it’d be a pretty cool twist.

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Rating
7.0
Pros
  • Mech Fight
  • Korra's Character Work
  • Varrick and Bolin's Escape
Cons
  • Pace-breaking Asami Scenes
  • Repetitive Kuvira Speeches

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