The Legend of Korra “Kuvira’s Gambit” REVIEW
The title of last week’s Korra, “Kuvira’s Gambit”, could be referring to one of two things. The first being the risk Kuvira took by moving up her invasion of Republic City by an entire week. A bold move for sure, but given the circumstances of Zhu Li’s betrayal and the information she possessed, a logical move in the end. The second gambit is more subtle – personal — it was the willful sacrifice of Baatar Jr., if it also meant getting rid of The Avatar and the Beifongs as well, a cold calculating decision, one showing how far Kuriva has gone down her path. However both of these gambits don’t really show us why Kuvira would risk so much. What makes the old Earth Kingdom territories worth so much?
Throughout the Book, we have heard a lot about Kuvira ’s actions and seen less of them. In the beginning she started out with much promise, a charismatic political leader with a shady side. She was the type of person Bolin could believe in and was even compared to being like Korra at one point. Only we never got to see that Kuvira . We never get to see what is truly inspiring all of her “Great Uniter” rhetoric or what is truly so important to her, she is willing to shoot her giant death ray in the direction of her lover. The best we can assume is, as always, absolute power corrupts. Kuvira ’s shortcomings stick out more, given Book Four’s airing so close to Book Three.
“Kuvira ’s Gambit” shares a lot thematically with “Into The Void”. Both episodes feature two of the antagonist declaring their love for one another, one of the love birds ending up in a tight spot and their significant other having to “let them go.” What Zaheer got in return was the power of flight; more than that, his actions reinforced how committed he was to the teaching of the Red Lotus and Guru Laghima as well. While we don’t know the fate of Korra or Baatar Jr. yet, Kuvira ’s gambit of Baatar Jr. would be more tragic if we had a more clear understanding of her personal motivation and not just political showmanship.
Kuvira isn’t the only one getting some development. Zhu li and Varrick have their long coming reunion. As one would expect, it is touching and also played for laughs. After Zhu-li reveals the truth of her betrayal and the depth of her loyalty to him, Varrick – in the most varrick way – brushes off her confessions as if it was nothing. Zhu Li having none of it, demands respect from him and wants Varrick to know their relationship has changed and he needs to start treating her as an equal. It’s a great moments and one more than earned from Zhu Li. Prince Wu continues to prove when he puts his mind to it, he too can be a decent- moderately – competent person, this time upstaging Mako (which is not that hard, given Mako’s lack of things to do this Book) by preventing panic during the evacuation of Republic City.
While who the real Kuvira may be a little murky, her giant Mecha suit with a spirt canon attached to its arm speaks volumes. We finally learn what Kuvira did with all the metal from Zaofu and how she planned to mobilize her super weapon – make a 25 story Mecha Suit, controlled by metalbending. Kuvira ’s war machine is a great reveal and is a legit threat. The United Forces may be out in full and it is a little disappointing not to see a full scale battle between them and the Earth Empire forces for Republic City, it makes complete sense Raiko would surrender after watching Kuvira fire off two shots. After all, a great super weapon isn’t just measured by its destructive force but also the psychological effect it has on one’s enemies. If one can discourage your foes from fighting with only a few shots, you are in possession of some truly terrifying power.
Hopelessly out gun, Korra comes up with a daring plan to kidnap Baatar Jr. and in a strange twist Tenzin is all about it with no complaints. It’s a quick moment, but shows how much he’s grown to trust Korra, as The Avatar. Perhaps even stranger is how well their mission goes. Korra, Tenzin and Bumi are able to sneak onto Baatar Jr.’s airship and capture him with no problems. Maybe that is not 100% true, as Korra takes a gamble believing Kuriva cares more about Baatar Jr. than she does Republic City. Soon enough, extended Team Avatar discovers during the cliffhanger ending, Kuvira is willing to part with her lover a lot easier than anyone would have expected.
“Kuvira Gambit” has some great character moments and truly suspenseful giant mecha suit action. Kuvira actions here are “not downright bad,” just given antagonists of The Avatar franchise have always bad more thoroughly and complex motivations. Kuvira uniting the Earth Kingdom, with little personally stake, outside of just wanting to be the Ruler for no other reason is comparatively weak next to characters like Zaheer, Amon or Azula. Still, that does not change the fact The Legend of Korra is setting up for a big ending.