Review: The Legend of Korra – Book 4, Episode 11

Sneaky spoiler episode titles.

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Gambit.
noun.

  1. Something done or said in order to gain an advantage or a desired result.
  2. An opening move in chess where a player sacrifices a piece in order to gain an advantageous position.
  3. One of the X-Men (but that is neither here nor there).

Poor Batar. You were doomed before the episode even began. And what a condemning title—relegating him to the role of a pawn in Kuvira’s game, instead of the partner or equal he envisioned. While these two had about the least amount of on-screen chemistry out of any LoK couple (and that is saying something), the guy’s loyalty has never been in question, and this week he proved his dedication to her as a romantic partner as well.

This episode was a bit of a rehash of a recurring theme in LoK and the Avatarverse in general (and while I run the risk of repeating myself there’s really no way I can’t talk about it), which is that the great evil of our world isn’t any one cause or ideal, but rather the willingness to place more importance on those abstract goals than on actual human beings. Characters who still value individual lives and relationships (such as Asami’s father or Varrick) can be reasoned with and even redeemed; characters who don’t simply cannot.

So when Batar chooses personal connections over political goals, in Avatarverse terms, he proves his humanity and the possibility for redemption. That Korra can recognize this is proof of her growth, both as a tactician and a judge of character. She finds the thing that matters most to him (which is both a strength and a weakness, as is so often then case) and uses it to her advantage, appealing to this loyalty and affection and, in some ways, to his selfishness as well.

We’ve seen this again and again throughout the Avatarverse on both sides of the good/bad line—for all that our protagonists are dedicated to their causes, they’ve also never been so dedicated that they’d willingly sacrifice one of them own. Some series might play this as a negative character trait, but that’s not LoK’s way, and here it plays as Batar finally realizing what really matters to him: Not intangible ideas, but a flesh-and-blood person whom he loves.

Kuvira, on the other hand, finally and officially seals her position as one of the few (but very real) dangers in the world, the zealot willing to sacrifice everything for a goal. Call it “unity” or “nationalism” or whatever you wish, but Kuvira has put the idea of a “united Earth Empire” above the actual people of that empire, including those she supposedly cares for. She doesn’t attack Batar gleefully—and indeed, in the final scene, she looks as if the decision did hurt her to some extent—but she does it willingly and with zero hesitation. She’s still a fascinating villain but there’s no question that she is a villain, and any chances for redemption are long gone at this point.

So that leaves us with a massive cliffhanger, the real possibility of character death (although LoK has proven itself pretty unwilling to kill the good guys, so I’m not terribly worried here), and only about 25 minutes to wrap all this up next week [Edit: Oops—for some reason I thought this season was 12 episodes long, but it’s 13, so we’ll have a double-episode finale next week. Thanks to deutschistliebe for pointing that out!]. How they’ll manage that, I have no idea, but Bryke & Co. proved with Book 3 that they can spin a great story in a short amount of time, and with most of the major character arcs already resolved, we can focus on subterfuge, sabotage, and probably some gorgeous action sequences to wrap this sucker up. I’m both excited and sad for it, as I’m nowhere near ready to say goodbye to the Krew, but man, I can’t wait to see how it happens.

This, That, and the Other

  • So THAT’S why Kuvira was ripping the domes off of Zao Fu! To build her giant robot WMD!
  • The Varrick/Zhu Li reunion was everything it needed to be: Touching and funny and perfectly true to their characters. In some ways they work as a mirror-image of our antagonists’ relationship: Kuvira and Batar gradually lost the equality they seemed to have had at the start, while Varrick and Zhu Li have gradually built towards a partnership. It’s great to see Zhu Li openly demanding that power balance, and while Varrick didn’t verbally accept it, there’s really no question that he will.
  • The whole “Republic City is stolen Earth Nation land” argument is a great tie-in and callback to the Avatar comics where we see the city being founded, and shows how much thought has gone in to plotting the political and social history of this world. (And if you aren’t reading the comics, you really should be.)
  • If the Earth Nation decides to go with a constitutional monarchy a la Great Britain, Wu will make an excellent mouthpiece and figurehead. Just… maybe leave the actual policy to some advisers.
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