The real winner of last week’s episode of The Legend of Korra was Zhu Li, making the winner of this week’s episode is fair turn about: Varrick! The absence of his much-needed assistant has made his heart grow three sizes. The other big winner in this episode is Kuvira, which means—you guessed it—that everybody else from Korra to Suyin is a loser. Varrick and Bolin are the only non-losers, and while I’m proud of those two disasters for somehow managing to evade trouble—Varrick, above all else, has a knack for that—I don’t quite know if “winning” sums up Bolin’s rather desperate situation. I think “not losing” just about covers it.
I’m excited to see as much Huan as we got this episode; maybe it’s just me, but I’m tickled pink by Suyin’s goth kid. His art critique of the Air Nomad kids was probably the highlight of the episode for me. That sounds sort of weird, picking something so tiny as my favorite moment, but having him applaud Ikki on her emotional depictions while chastening Meelo for his representationalism? I am not to proud to admit that I cracked up at that. It could have only been improved by making it a meta-commentary on Meelo being a “bit much” earlier this season, but then, that’s just me. The moral of the story is: Huan rules.
Seeing Korra get schooled by Kuvira was painful to watch. For me, it was in part because there was some level at which I wondered if Korra going Avatar State could turn the tide; after all, we’ve seen Aang pull a “lol, nope!” using the Avatar State when he was fighting Yakone. No such luck for Korra, and I think we all saw that coming. Kuvira is at the top of her game, at the pinnacle of her ascent. Like Azula, she’s a prodigy, and if Korra is going to beat her, she’ll need to be in tip top shape. She may have gotten the poison out of her veins, but as we saw, that battle doesn’t seem to be over, yet…
We’ve been talking all season about the nature of Korra’s recovery. Will she be magically healed? How many episodes will it take? Will there be a MacGuffin or Deus Ex Machina or what? Well, it seems like those questions are still up in the air, even after Korra used metalbending to pull the quicksilver poison out of her body after Toph played Yoda to her Skywalker.
Given Korra’s “vision” fighting Kuvira, I think we can safely say that there is still a psychological element still at work. Now the question becomes one of boundaries: is it strictly psychological, or is it spiritual as well? In a world like the Avatarverse, especially after Korra opened the gateway to the Spirit World after Harmonic Convergence, where do you draw the line between mental health and spirituality?
Korra still has a few cards up her sleeve. Asami, Mako, what are they up to? Okay, Asami is starting a journey of forgiveness; I wonder if that will dovetail in with Korra needing to forgive herself? Mako, though, where have you been, buddy? Bolin’s on the loose, he’s a fly in the ointment for Kuvira; I thought for sure we’d see Bolin facing off against his brother, but now? I’m guessing the brothers will re-unite and cause some real problems with the would-be Earth Empire. Lin and Tenzin are still out there, as are Iroh II and Zuko; will we ever be introduced to the new Fire Lord? Questioning minds want to know!
Batar Junior seems to be on the ball, I’m sad to say. That is, he knows enough to pay attention when Varrick is working—but not enough to see where all those extra baffles and the feedback loop he was building were for—and it seems that not even Varrick’s sabotage can stop the Spirit Vine weapon from happening, one way or another. I wondered if that was a red herring, for a moment, when the bomb went off, but nope; the Spirit Vine Deathstar remains on track to play a pivotal role in the end of things to come. Varrick and Papa Sato as assistants to Asami as she reprograms the whole thing? That’s what I’m hoping for, though a “Vaatu ray” still seems plausible as well.
At the end of the day, it boils down to this: Korra is not in balance. Kuvira is not in balance, either, but she’s been operating on borrowed time. The Earth Kingdom was deeply out of whack, and so Kuvira had a lot of things to shake up before they became an issue…but now they are slowly starting to come to a head. This episode seems like an unequivocal Kuvira victory, but I suspect we’re on the fulcrum. Kuvira’s losing control, starting with Bolin and Varrick, and I suspect we’ll see the chaos arriving for her teeter-tottering back and forth ensuing forthwith. She may have won the battle, but she won’t win the war.