The Legend of Korra: “Enemy at the Gates” Book 4 Chapter 5 Review

Photo Credit:http://recentlyheard.com/2014/10/31/legend-korra-book-4-episode-5-recap-enemy-gates/

I’m sure a lot of fans agreed with Meelo when he said, “What?! No fight! Why did we go through all that trouble to save you if you’re not going to beat someone up?!” No, after four episodes of Korra recovering and finally regaining her strength, the Avatar didn’t go in elements blazing. Instead, she tries to find a diplomatic solution, which not only was a strong character move, but also continued to steadily build tension until a battle that is most definitely coming.

Enemy at the Gates felt like Part 1 of a two-part episode (to be concluded next week with the epic sounding Battle of Zaofu). The two main storylines of the season crossed and tension began to heat to a boil.

The episode starts with Kuvira’s forces closing in on Zaofu, the last Earth Kingdom state not under the Great Uniter’s control. This is our first real look at her army, and it is massive. The sheer scope of her troops lining up in front of the city fondly reminded me of the build-up to the battle of Helm’s Deep in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

But there appears to be one last chance for peace, and it resides in the hands of Bolin. Kuvira uses him to try and get Suyin to peacefully hand over her city. But Beifongs always stand their ground. Suyin consistently refuses to give up, prompting Kuvira to give her a 24-hour ultimatum before she takes Zaofu by force. Finally, Bolin’s loyalty begins to waver.

Meanwhile, Varrick has his own troubles with the ruler of the Earth Empire. His experiments on the spirit vines aren’t going well, but Varrick is beginning to wonder if he even should be tampering with this, given the potential power. After the device blows off the back of the train, with the same noise Vaatu used to shoot spirit energy out of his eye thingy, Kuvira confronts her mad scientist, threatening him until he agrees to continue working on it. It’s clear this new device is meant to represent the nuclear weapons of our world, which falls in line with the progress of technology that The Legend of Korra has been infused with since Book 1. This feels like a natural progression for this world, an unsettling one at that reminding us of our own sins.

Bolin and Varrick come to the same realization, “KUVIRA IS CRAZY!” Now it’s time for them to escape, along with Varrick’s assistant Zhu Li.

Korra’s arrival in Zaofu is a welcome one. You had to love that even with her city on the precipice of obliteration, Suyin expresses concern for the newly recovered Avatar. Suyin is possibly the most down to Earth, pragmatic character on the series. It’s startling to hear her suggest that Korra go into the Avatar state and demolish Kuvira’s army. While this would be an easy solution to the problem, Korra has the Avatar’s legacy to think about her. Whether she likes it or not, Korra is a major political figure in the world, and what message would it send if she just took out an entire army? How would that make her any better than Kuvira?

What makes Korra possibly more heroic than ever before is that she truly wants to find a peaceful solution to this debacle, choosing to try and reason with Kuvira before any fighting happens. Their first meeting of the season was a tense one. But Kuvira’s silver tongue gets the better of Korra, as she relates to the tough decisions she had to make for what she thought was a the greater good. The writers make the most out of their first real chance to sell the similarities between Korra and Kuvira. Korra is sent walking to try and convince Suyin to lay down and give in.

For what was a very talky episode, we did get easily the best action sequences of Book 4 so far. Bolin, Varrick, and Zhu Li escape in mecha tanks, but are met by Suyin’s son Baatar and two more Kuvira supporters on their own mecha tanks. This fight was awesome and unlike many other fights we’ve seen on this series. Sure, Asami fought her father in one in Book 1 and Bumi took out the whole Southern Spirit Portal campsite with one in Book 2, but a three on three battle like this has never occurred.

The best surprise was of course Zhu Li absolutely kicking butt. But the fight wasn’t without bending as Bolin is forced out of his mecha tank and awesomely takes out the two random fighters in one lavabending blow. Unfortunately, Baatar has Varrick, and they are forced to return and face Kuvira’s wrath. But Zhu Li actually pledges her loyalty to the Great Uniter, citing Varrick as a fool. While I’m not convinced she meant everything she said, likely still intending to be Varrick’s protector, all of Zhu Li’s material really worked this episode. That leaves Varrick to continue working on the weapon and Bolin to be sent to a reeducation camp (like, Kuvira is just Hitler at this point).

Away from the Kuvira crisis, this episode also featured an intimate Asami subplot as she began to reconnect with her imprisoned father. Hiroshi certainly has the most jarring character transformation resulting from the three year time jump. He looks so fittingly decrepit. It has always been a hope of mine that Asami’s daddy issues would get resolved before Korra ended, and things look to be on that path. Their final scene playing Pai Sho was really touching.

That said, what reason do the writers have to bring back Hiroshi? There are two clear possibilities. First, he hasn’t been rehabilitated and will end up working with Kuvira. Second, his mind will come to great use when it comes time to shut down Kuvira’s super weapon. If it’s the latter, Hiroshi wouldn’t be Korra‘s first villain-turned-good, following the footsteps of Tarrlok, Eska, Desna, and Varrick. Most of the living villains of past seasons have found themselves on the right path as of late.

The episode ended with Korra racing to find Suyin, whose husband tells Korra that she took her two sons to go assassinate Kuvira. While this was an abrupt ending, it’s clear this is just the beginning of the larger Kuvira conflict.

So while this episode was light on Avatar action, the tension built here was exceptional. This is an episode that will likely improve when we see the end result. Yes, the Asami plot felt a little tacked on and yes, it was slightly disappointing that Korra didn’t bend a single element. But this was a necessary entry to make whatever is coming for this series mean that much more. Enemy at the Gates was anything but filler, it was a primer for the remainder of this excellent series. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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