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All Your Giant Mecha Dreams Come True! The Legend of Korra, “Kuvira’s Gambit”

That’s…quite an eponymous ploy, hm? This episode of The Legend of Korra is named “Kuvira’s Gambit,” and I frankly was expecting something like the inverse of the Gaang’s invasion of the Fire Nation, or the Rebel’s plan on Endor, or Suyin’s assault on Kuvira in the first place. Make a distraction and let an elite team take out essential targets. I was expecting Kuvira and a crack assault time to ride in on, I don’t know, a heavy paratroop drop, and hit Republic City in the heart.

But no, I had it all wrong: Kuvira’s gambit is a 25 story tall mecha suit. It’s a short jump from last week’s “Operation Beifong”: now that the crew is back together—kit and caboodle—they’ve almost got a chance to prepare…

Ever since I first discovered one of the McKinney Robotech novels in the lost and found in junior high while waiting in the principal’s office—and absconded with it—I’ve had a passing interest in mecha interface systems. Inexplicable systems of pedals and switchs, brain scanners, ZERO systems, the enigmatic and mystic union between humans and protoculture, the Proustian inquiries of gothic machines in Big O, and now metalbending.

Metalbending your Megatron mecha with giant Centipede cueballs? I didn’t see that coming, but it makes a lot of sense. The there is already a union of movement to effect, with bending; abstracting it from movement, to bending effect, and back to movement on a larger scale—a mecha-scale—just makes intuitive sense.

Legend of Korra Kuriva's Gambit

I can’t help but think that you could do the same with waterbending—bubble chambers and waterclocks—or lightning bending electronics, or airbending, like the temple doors in Avatar: the Last Airbender. I thought we weren’t going to see the flying mecha, but they went from blueprint to prototype pretty quickly. We still haven’t gotten one in the air, but I’m much less dubious now, even with the hangar destroyed. See, now I’m wondering about the future of technological and bending advancement; The Legend of Korra has turned me into a futurist for their fictional world: thanks Asami Sato, Varrick, Zhu Li…and I suppose Batar Jr., as it would be remiss to overlook the giant freaking robot.

Legend of Korra Kuriva's Gambit

It’s a good thing our team is on point, because everybody else—except, against all odds, Wu?—is getting on my last nerve. I can appreciate that President Raiko is in a difficult position but he’s just so slimy. He’s the epitome of a politician, and while it is great characterization by Spencer Garrett and the writers, it just leaves me feeling like a cabbage bugslug crawled all over me.

Varrick, you are so close, but why you gotta be like that? A jerk and a dolt? At least Bolin has no sympathy for the moron. Batar Jr.’s all “I’m a big dumb idiot” and that’s to be expected but still, how hard my eyes rolled? So hard. Meelo’s farts, sigh. What can I say, I don’t want to act like I’m Mister Mature or like the show can’t be silly, but the scatalogical humor continues to miss the mark.

Legend of Korra Kuriva's Gambit

It is a nice character piece, this episode. The bit with Kuvira and Batar Jr. at the end is very film noir, right? Hardboiled as heck, if you overlook the strange circumstances. The Legend of Korra may have gotten off on wobbly footing when it comes to romance, with the controversial Mako and Korra relationship, but since then? Telling love stories in the margins is something they’ve always been good at. Zaheer and P’Li had passion and charisma, but Kuvira and Batar’s tragedy springs from betrayal, and that’s hard to top. The anime-cute relationship between Varrick and Zhu Li is vindicated by her standing up for herself; now all that remains to see is if they can pull off the dismount. Lots of emotional story arcs advancing this week!

Legend of Korra Kuriva's Gambit

Nice to see a few breaks go our guys’ way for a change. The Air Nomads are part parkour, park basejumping; they’ve got this urban combat thing down to a science. Once again, the choreography of this show is ridiculous. The plan to jump an airship and grab Batar Jr.? No problemo! Korra’s in charge, and now that people are finally listening to her for a change, they are on a hot streak.

Maybe it’s just ’cause I’m a nerdy guy with thick glasses in love with his wife, but poor dumb Batar Jr. really got me as the patsy this episode. It’s not done to try to exonerate or absolve him, so it works to generate empathy. The very lopsided exchange of “I love you” still stings. Sure, he built the Death Star, and he still just had his heart broken…but by a giant freaking mecha with a superlaser. I can’t stress that enough.

Legend of Korra Kuriva's Gambit

You can see the scars of colonialism all over this episode. The United Republic was a compromise precisely to prevent this sort of thing, but in the words of the season three intro to Babylon Five, it failed. Even with Kuvira shooting a giant laser into Republic City, I still think that “Balance” will end not with Korra bringing defeat, but with Korra bringing peace. It may be an elegant yin-yang sort of peace, or it may be a series of ugly compromises, but I think the theme of the season will win the day.

As for my “Korra re-unifies Vaatu and Raava” hypothesis, the last legs is for a climactic spiritual scene in one of the last two episodes: the purple beam could provide this, in theory—Korra gets hit with it, flash-sideway ensues—but we are running out of time for weird cosmological theories.

Mordicai Knode can’t stop, won’t stop making up cosmological theories. It’s just the way he’s wired; he’s a worldbuilder. He also just doesn’t care about the finer points of distinction between robot and mecha. Find him on Tumblr and Twitter.


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