Turn off your brain and have some fun – “Kuvira’s Gambit” sacrifices logic for spectacle.
Since Book One, Legend of Korra has, on occasion, allowed excitement and emotion to take priority over rationality (more than Avatar: The Last Airbender ever did). Still, the show has never asked its viewers for as much leniency as it does in “Kuvira’s Gambit.” It’s unfortunate because there is a decent story taking place that’s easy to be distracted from because disbelief can only be suspended for so long.
It’s not all bad, though. If you can get past the smaller issues, “Kuvira’s Gambit” is a quality episode. The threat of Kuvira’s military and weaponry is quickly kicked up to high gear and the danger she presents becomes more clear and immediate. No matter what you expected of this season, there is at least one moment in this episode you won’t see coming.
What won’t surprise anyone are the developments of two different relationships between secondary characters, but that may be okay. While the end results were predictable, the scenes themselves are compelling thanks to stellar voice acting and animation work.
There are only a few episodes left in the series, but there’s still time to catch up. Episodes of Legend of Korra: Book Four are released on Nick’s website on Friday mornings, with all of the previous episodes available to view now. The first two seasons are available on Amazon, with Book Three on Vudu.
If you missed last week’s review, check out our take on “Operation Beifong” — or check out all of our Legend of Korra reviews.
Kuvira is drift compatible with herself:
Okay. Listen, just… okay. I know we are watching a show about people that can control different elements and the hero of this world is the latest in a line of reincarnations since a giant turtle island thing said that one person could control all of them. Yes, this universe is already completely outside of the realm of reality. We could deal with flying Zaheer, Unavaatu, Combustion-Man, and even “polar bear dogs”.
But is Kuvira seriously attacking Republic City with a Metal Gear? I mean, sure, it’s not an enormous leap from mecha tanks, but this is getting pretty far from the pre-industrial setting of ATLA. Still, this is happening, and if we’re this close to the end of the series, we may as well sit down and see where it goes.
What happens is pretty intense, actually. In the first scene presenting the machine, Kuvira destroys an outpost filled with Republic soldiers, presumably killing them all. Later on, given that her attack on Republic City came a week earlier than expected, President Raiko is forced to surrender. Even with the assistance of the Fire Nation military, the Air Nation and the Avatar, the dominating force of Kuvira’s Megazord is just too much to fight.
Getting over the problems Kuvira’s Lagann presents (Zhu Li never noticed Bataar Jr working on it? And this thing is what, Kuvira’s back-up plan?), it works with the character. She’s obsessed with the power she can wield with technology and she’s using that power to enforce her fascist takeover of the former Earth Kingdom, which includes Republic City.
The scenes of destruction are also superbly well animated. Not enough to ignore the standard issue Pacific Rim/War of the Worlds sound effect, but it’s a cliché for a reason. But for what it’s worth, the purple blasts, the fire, and the rubble afterwards are all pretty gorgeous to look at.
Unrequited love, with explosions:
Two relationships have pretty major turning points in “Kuvira’s Gambit.” Zhu Li reunites with Varrick while Bataar Jr learns just how much Kuvira cares about him, and both go exactly as you expect.
After Zhu Li “betrayed” Varrick to “help” Bataar Jr work on the spirit vine weapon, she did the best she could to hinder BJ’s progress. Apparently this was all worthless, thanks to the Evangelion, but now that she is reunited with Varrick, she can finally tell him how she feels: he is the most important person in the world to her. And of course Varrick replies with a demand that she get to work as his assistant. All predictable, but when Zhu Li blows up at Varrick, it’s fantastic. We’ve watched her get ordered around and belittled while she has been perfect, so it’s a great moment to see her cut him down.
Later on, after Korra and the airbenders kidnap Bataar Jr, they try to leverage his relationship with Kuvira to get her to stop the attack. We’ve all known Kuvira was cold, so it’s no surprise when she decides to kill Bataar Jr (plus Korra and friends) rather than risk him revealing how to stop her machine. What sells the moment is the tone in Kuvira’s voice and the expression she carries. Normally uncompromising and reserved, she visibly regrets the situation and it may be her most humanizing scene yet, especially when you consider that at this moment, she’s not performing for anyone.
Exciting Little Things:
- Tenzin in an airbender jumpsuit.
- We built up these flying mecha tanks for an episode or two only to see them destroyed in a flash.
- Another Dante Basco (Zuko) cameo as General Iroh.
- Mako’s horrible evacuation announcement and Prince Wu’s surprising recovery.
- Sure, it’s ridiculous, but seeing that giant mecha the first time was incredible.
Bottom line: “Kuvira’s Gambit” is fast and intense, but not enough to hide its blemishes. Still, the stakes just shot up for the rest of the series.
Recommendation: Of course you should watch it. Just accept there is a 25-story walking super-weapon in Korra and enjoy the ride.
There was an error in an earlier version of this review regarding the writer of the episode. It has been removed.[rating=3.5]