Us Legend of Korra adepts are one spoiled bunch. The writers seem to always be able to read our thoughts and cater to our needs, even if it sometimes takes them a whole season to get to it. The latest example of this is “Enemy at the Gates”. Remember: last time, I was complaining about how I wanted more action. Well, this episode brings us some good old fashioned bending. I hope you’re also ready for some more ideology talk. Politics and battles. If this show had a little bit more dead people, it could be call a kids version of Game of Thrones.
Kuvira’s army is marching on Zaofu and boy, is it a big one. I knew Kuvira was powerful before this episode but nothing is better to convince you of someone’s real power than seeing their army hide every bit of land and sky you can see. I know that and Su Yin knows it as well, which is why when Bataar suggests to call President Raiko, she knows it would be useless.
In Kuvira’s train, Bataar Jr is ready to take the city by force. Kuvira stops him, arguing that now that the eyes of the entire world are on them, they want to be careful. She wants to use Bolin to convince Su Yin to sign their treaty.
On Pepper’s back, Korra and the kids are on their way to Zaofu. Korra wants to get right to business, letting Kuvira -and the rest of the world- know that the Avatar is back. Meelo hopes for some good old fashioned Korra action, but Korra gives a very Aang-like answer: she wants to reason with Kuvira. Meelo is disappointed, to say the least.
Meanwhile, back in Kuvira’s train, Varrick plays classic mad scientist by filming himself while experimenting. I say play because despite his obvious technical and intellectual skills, it’s hilarious to see him refer to any object around him as a “thing” and measure the weight of his samples in Zhu Lis and the amount of power in his machine in his own name. To be fair, though, scientists have been doing that last thing for a while. According to Varrick, the machine he built is a stabilizer of sorts, that should allow people to use the tremendous raw spiritual energy hidden in the spirit vines. Why not, however this doesn’t exactly tell me what Varrick wants to do with that energy. He talks about batteries, reversed polarity, and something he calls the “Varrieffect”, but at this point, his intentions are vague at best. The machine works… for a second. It’s not long before the red light of doom turns on and the machine explodes in Varrick and Zhu Li’s faces, releasing a phenomenal quantity of energy that pierces a hole through the back of the wagon. The world was just not ready for this many Varricks. The change of pressure propels Zhu Li outside. For once, it’s Varrick’s turn to save the lady, although he can’t help but commenting on her number of Zhu Lis. Classy. Zhu Li is touched by Varrick’s somewhat heroic gesture and seems ready to make out with him. A moment that Varrick ruins quicker than a sexy naked man in white socks.
Kuvira and Bataar Jr rush inside the lab, alerted by the explosion. Varrick tells Kuvira that the experiment is too dangerous and it would be better to shut him down. Kuvira doesn’t understand why Varrick, who’s always only cared about his own interests, would want to do that. Varrick then basically explains to her what his character arc is: getting a conscience. Kuvira does not care for that. She directly threatens Varrick’s life, metalbending the collar of his armour to lift him up in the air and leave him hanging outside of the moving train, until he agrees to keep working on the machine.
In Republic City, Asami pays a little visit to her father in prison. She gives him back all the letters he’s written to her over the years, which is not very many when you actually look at the pile. She makes it clear that she never wants to hear from him again. Sato knows it. He however manages to tell his daughter how much he loves her. Asami runs away in tears.
Back on the train, Kuvira has an announcement for Bolin: she wants him to be part of the “inner circle”, to play with the cool kids, which means talking Su Yin into signing the treaty that will make Zaofu a part of the new Earth Empire. Bolin is delighted. He is that character after all. He accepts the mission with glee, only to get the smallest doubt about Kuvira’s intentions when she reveals that they are already near Zaofu and Bolin realizes that the entire army is there with them. Kuvira assures him that the army is merely there to, you know, remind people they have an army. Because you should always bring your entire army anywhere you go, just in case you need to pause in the middle of a political meeting, go to the window and be like “Check out my sweet ass army, bruh!”
Bolin is convinced. That is, until Kuvira, Bataar, and him meet Su Yin and her family, including the hipster twins, and Opal. What follows could have been a really intense conversation, but between Opal being unnecessarily harsh on Bolin, Bataar Jr suddenly exposing his grief against his family, and Bolin standing between Kuvira and Su Yin’s family, it just becomes really awkward for a while. Don’t get me wrong, awkward situations are not a bad thing, but I was expecting this particular bit to be charged and tense, not just kind of uncomfortable to watch. The problem here is one we encountered before in the show: setup and payoff. Kuvira already openly threatened Su Yin, which makes her innocence claims completely unbelievable. Opal has reasons to be mad at Bolin, but the fact is that they never really talked this through. It’s the love triangle situation all over again. As for Bataar, I’m sorry but if he expressed any grief against his parents in the previous season, I don’t remember them. It’s not that I don’t believe it: I very much think that being Su Yin and Bataar’s kid is not all sunshine and rainbows. It’s just that since I barely know Bataar Jr as a character, seeing Kuvira and Su Yin fight over him doesn’t move me at all.
Fortunately, this awkward moment quickly ends when Bolin exposes his idealism to the face of all. He is so sincere about it that I can’t help but feeling sorry for him. Opal doesn’t understand that but her mother certainly does and she is furious at Kuvira and firmly rejects her offer. Kuvira has no choice but to reveal her true intentions in front of Bolin: unless Su Yin signs the treaty, she will take the city by force.
Korra and the kids arrive in Zaofu and meet with Su Yin. In Kuvira’s tent, Bolin has a bit of a realization. He questions Kuvira on their methods as supposed bringers of peace and finally encounters his boss’ dark side. Inside the city, Su Yin remembers the moment when Kuvira changed, three years before, after the fall of the Earth Queen. Raiko and Tenzin then wanted Su Yin to be at the head of the kingdom. Not willing to impose her ideology to a whole nation, Su Yin refused, despite Kuvira pressing her to accept. The rift was clear. Knowing Kuvira, it’s not so much that she believed in Su Yin’s capacity to bring peace to the Earth kingdom as she saw an opportunity to gain more power. As a response, Kuvira offered her services to President Raiko and left Zaofu with Bataar, some of Zaofu’s best fighters, and a few wealthy civilians. In the present, Su Yin begs Korra to destroy Kuvira, to stop her right in her tracks. Korra still wants to try talking to her.
In the lab, Varrick is not feeling well. I wouldn’t feel well either if my boss just tried to kill me for not obeying her. He is so shaken that he thinks he’s hearing voices, when it’s really only Bolin calling him from the ventilation system. Bolin and Varrick exchange a crucial piece of info: Kuvira’s insane. Or, more accurately, she is manipulative, power-hungry, and probably has some deeper issues that we don’t want to get into, but insane will do for the moment.
Bolin and Varrick escape. At the same time, Korra meets with Kuvira. Korra firmly asks Kuvira to back down. Kuvira reminds Korra that they wouldn’t be in this situation if Korra had been there three years ago to pacify the kingdom herself. That is low and it works. Korra eventually accepts to talk to Su Yin and try to come to an agreement.
Bataar Jr discovers that Bolin and Varrick escaped. The two men and Zhu Li stole mecha suits and are headed away from the encampment. Bolin wants to join Su Yin and the others in Zaofu but Varrick has an idea he thinks far superior: getting the hell out of there and warning everybody about the new spiritually-powered weapon Kuvira possesses. To be fair, both ideas are good, and they could probably split up and do both things, but Bataar Jr and two guards, also equipped with mechasuits, attack them before they can even think about it.
Finally, some action! Varrick proves himself useless in combat, forcing Zhu Li to protect him against two mechasuits. Bolin, the only one not in a mechasuit for the fight, is also the only one to shatter the ground and throw giant trees and lava at his enemies. Every time I see this kind of scene, I can’t help but thinking about that really bad Shyamalan adaptation of Avatar The Last Airbender, where five or six earthbenders had to dance for half an hour to throw a simple stone at their opponents. Ha. While Bolin rocks, Varrick ends up in a tree and shoots Zhu Li’s mechasuit in the back with an electromagnetic bolt. They do their best, but Bataar Jr captures Varrick, putting an end to the fight. Varrick throws one last insult at Zhu Li before her and Bolin surrender. Zhu Li is not happy. Something tells me that Varrick will learn to respect her before the end of the season.
In Republic City, Asami meets with her father again. After a whole lot of crying and thinking, she has decided to reestablish some sort of bond with him. Asami Sato is overwhelmed. They start playing Pai Sho while we wonder why Sato’s been reintroduced so suddenly.
Bataar brings Varrick, Bolin, and Zhu Li to Kuvira. Before she can send both her and Bolin away, Zhu Li throws herself at Kuvira’s feet and begs to be pardoned. She rejects Varrick and flatters Kuvira until she gives in and takes her back.
In Zaofu, Korra searches for Su Yin, only to learn that, disappointed by Korra’s reaction, she took the twins and went out of Zaofu with the intention to assassinate Kuvira.
Nice cliffhanger, right? The whole episode was a mixed bag but I globally enjoyed it. I particularly liked seeing that Su Yin is way more similar to Kuvira than she cares to admit and everything falling apart when Korra tried to be a diplomat. Also, I am waiting for Zhu Li to betray Kuvira, take over the world, and force Varrick to marry her.