Legend of Korra Book 4: 'Kuvira's Gambit' Review

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Things keep getting worse for Team Avatar in Balance. In "Kuvira's Gambit," the megalomaniac dictator takes Republic City. This victory, however, is tainted by Korra capturing Bataar, who expressed desire to marry Kuvira at the beginning of the episode.

"Kuvira's Gambit" has great character development, an epic reference to the show's anime roots, and a small victory woven into Team Avatar's biggest defeat.

The episode opens with Kuvira addressing her Earth Empire subjects. She states that she would march on Republic City in two weeks to take back the land that Aang and Zuko stole from the Earth Kingdom after the conclusion of The Last Airbender.

At the beginning of the season, we were unsure about whom to hate more: Kuvira or Wu. But it's clear that Wu is not the lesser of two evils, as there is only one evil among the duo.

Wu's character development in this season has been rushed, but he is becoming an effective member of Team Avatar. He leads the evacuation of Republic City, which goes awry when Mako tries to address its citizens.

Wu, however, shows us that he has been hardened by his adversity with Kuvira. Using the charisma he developed during the season, the people of Republic City fall in line.

Varrick is another character that stood out in "Kuvira's Gambit." Zhu Li revealed that she was a double agent in "Operation Beifong," which prompted Bolin and Suyin to rescue her from being executed. Zhu Li and Varrick reunite, and it would have been similar to Zuko and Iroh's reconciliation at the end of The Last Airbender, but Varrick isn't good with emotional moments.

He starts barking orders at Zhu Li, and the once- obedient assistant sticks up for herself. Varrick is left wondering what he did wrong.

The best moment of the episode, however, is the Big O-like mecha suit that Kuvira pilots with metal bending. It references all of the great aspects of the show's anime roots. Kuvira catches Team Avatar by surprise when she attacks Republic City a week before she announced she would do so. President Raiko has no choice in the matter; he is forced to surrender to Kuvira.

Raiko has always been portrayed as a buffoon in The Legend of Korra, but I felt the magnitude of his decision when he was speaking with General Iroh and Kuvira over the radio. Iroh asked Raiko if they should attack, while Kuvira demanded he surrender.

It's a moment that captures the struggle of a political figure trying to do the right thing.

But Korra refuses to surrender-- launching a covert mission to capture Bataar. The operation succeeds, and it's a small victory in the shadow of much larger defeat. Korra interrogates Bataar--entering the Avatar state and lifting him up with one arm.

Suyin stops Korra and takes a motherly approach. Bataar states that Kuvira is his family and rejects Suyin's maternal kindness.

The scene comes to its climax when Kuvira finds out where Bataar is being held. Korra speaks to her and threatens to take Bataar hostage if she claims Republic City. The Avatar outsmarted the Great Uniter--exploiting her one weakness, which is her affection for her fiancee.

But it seems Kuvira is too awash in megalomania: She turns her giant robot's spirit weapon on Korra's location--firing at both her and Bataar.

This takes Bataar by surprise, and it will likely give the Metal Clan son a reason to betray his fiancee--if he's still alive.

"Kuvira's Gambit" is the Avatar Universe at its best; it has tension, unexpected plot twists, and shows us the full-scale of Kuvira's madness.

If the upcoming finale is anything like "Sozin's Comet," then it will certainly be one for the ages.

You can watch "Kuvira's Gambit" here.