Legend of Korra Book 4: 'Battle of Zaofu' Review

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"The Battle of Zaofu" takes the tension in the previous episode and amplifies it tenfold.

It establishes Kuvira as a highly skilled fighter, and it shows us the extent of Varrick's lunacy. But we also see sincerity in him--something not shown previously.

"Battle of Zaofu" opens where "Enemy at the Gates" ended; Suyin and her sons are creeping through Kuvira's camp in order to end the conflict ninja-style. Using her bending, Suyin thinks she located her and sneaks into her tent.

But it turns out to be a trap, and Suyin and her sons are quickly imprisoned.

The friendly dynamic between Kuvira and Korra is also broken. And the breaking of the truce shows us that the Avatar isn't ready to let go of her confrontational nature. Korra and Kuvira duel.

If Korra wins, then Kuvira backs away from her conquest of Zaofu. But if Kuvira wins, then the Avatar must stand down and allow her to take the city-- no longer interfering in her business.

The fight is largely one-sided. And Korra still looks rusty. One highlight of this fight is the comparison the writers make between Korra and Aang. Seeing that she couldn't win the fight with simple bending, Korra enters the Avatar state--turning the bout in her favor. She bests Kuvira and prepares to deal the finishing blow.

Unfortunately, it seems she's still affected by her hallucinations; she sees Kuvira as the Avatar state apparition from earlier in the season and loses the will to fight. This is similar to the manner in which Aang fought Ozai.

The Fire Lord was finished and Aang soared triumphantly as he prepared to deal the final blow. But Aang couldn't do it either.

The reasons, however, are completely different; Korra didn't finish Kuvira due to pre-existing dolor, but Aang wouldn't kill Ozai because of his nature as a pacifist. Whether or not this was intended, the writers were trying to draw similarities between Aang and Korra during the past few episodes.

And--at this point--this can serve as a climax to that comparison; Korra and Aang are similar yet still have stark differences.

The fight ends and Kuvira easily conquers the city. Korra, Jinora, Opal, Meelo, and Ikki flee the city atop a flying bison.

The last scene in the main arc of the episode shows the citizens of Zaofu kneeling before Kuvira. The scene gives chilling references to non-fictional history, and it's one of the most powerful moments in the series thus far.

Kuvira started out the season as a controversial yet competent ruler. But now she's just a dictator who rules by fear.

The best part of the episode, however, is Varrick's story.

He and Bolin were captured while trying to desert Kuvira's ranks in "Enemy at the Gates." And their situation looks dire at the beginning of the episode; Varrick--betrayed by Zhu Li--is forced to work on Kuvira's super weapon while Bolin is being taken to reeducation camp.

"Battle of Zaofu" shows us a new side to Varrick. There's a sense of ruggedness behind his facade of sheer lunacy. He requests that Bolin take Zhu Li's place as his assistant, and his captors reluctantly agree.

The dynamic is one of perfect tension when Varrick is working on the weapon. You know that he's up to something, but the other characters in the show are oblivious. It shows us that Varrick is the smartest person in the Avatar universe--the Tony Stark of the series.

Batar--Kuvira's fiancee and the person overseeing Varrick's work--begins to suspect something. But by the time he notices that Varrick wasn't following orders, it is too late.

Varrick rigs the weapon to detonate the entire train, and orders Batar and the rest of Kuvira's underlings to flee--leaving him and Bolin alone.

Once he is separated from the weapon, Batar sees it explode but doesn't realize Bolin and Varrick escaped the train. With two key characters presumed dead, they could serve as the good guys' trump card later in the season.

"Battle of Zaofu" compliments the previous episode while taking a few character arcs in unexpected directions. These changes are well done, however, and they establish new sides to characters that we thought we had figured out.

You can watch "Battle of Zaofu" here.