Because fans should be critical, too

Quick Thoughts on “Battle of Zaofu”

Wow. I could not have been more wrong about this one. “Battle of Zaofu” (at least, the stuff actually pertaining to the title) is one of the dullest episodes of The Legend of Korra in quite a while. Everything felt so by-the-numbers and perfunctory, to the point that I felt like I was watching the first draft of an episode that still needed a great deal of fine-tuning before being uploaded on the Internet (I almost wrote “aired on television”). The assassination attempt–which is just wrong for multiple reasons–and the fight between Korra and Kuvira were disappointing in equal measures.

Having said that, I was shocked by how much I enjoyed the antics of Bolin and Varrick, a character that can be funny and/or annoying depending on the episode. Turns out the two goofballs have good chemistry together. And it looks like we’ll have more wackiness to come in the next episode now that they’ve made their escape from Kuvira. I’m all for that.

What did you all think of this episode?

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26 responses

  1. Brian

    It was written by Tim Hedrick, so naturally the dialogue was more artificial than a Chris Nolan movie. Admittedly, I did enjoy Bolin and Varrick’s interactions.

    November 7, 2014 at 4:01 pm

  2. Grindal

    This might seem strange but I honestly think Jeremy Zuckerman went missing in this episode, and could have turned what was admittedly a dull action sequence into something a little more suspenseful. I understand they were trying to convey a sort of showboating with Kuvira and a rustiness in Korra, and some of the musical cues do work in heightening this tension during the small breaks between fighting. But when it comes down to it as Kuvira and Korra chuck rocks and other stuff at each other the music doesn’t change and drags the scene down with it.

    It’s a hard thing to visualise a different soundtrack on a scene that already has one, but if you think about what Zuckerman is capable of (I freely admit that his score carries me through the Book 2 finale along with some of the visuals) this Kuvira vs Korra fight could have been far more intense whilst still expressing an uneasiness about something being off with Korra. Here from the outset of the fight we pretty much can tell from the downplayed undertones of the score that this is just going to be Kuvira playing with Korra for a good five minutes.

    Other than that, I felt pretty ambivalent towards this episode. Did that really classify as a ‘Battle of Zaofu’? I still feel the same way as I did after ‘The Calling’ two weeks ago: I still feel like Book 4 hasn’t actually truly started yet and garnered any serious momentum, which was one of the strongest things about Book 3.

    November 7, 2014 at 4:28 pm

  3. Ian

    Wow that was a boring episode! I’m really not sure what is up with this season! Everything is dull, boring, unexciting, and BLUUUUUUUUUNT. Did we really need Jinora to say that Opal agreed to the airbending oath of nonviolence? Thats completely obvious to that culture (though maybe I can forgive it since we did have such a violent view of airbending last season, maybe…) But the next one is unforgivable. So we have Baatar Jr. who is getting upset that his father and brother will not bow to Kuvira, so far so good, I love this stuff because B Jr. obviously wants to feel like he has some power, but he cant make them do anything, the father looks at his son in the eyes, the shame in his eyes are there and the animators do a real good job showing the hurt and sadness Baatar Jr. has caused his family. But then… they had to make the father spell out for the audience that he is disappointed in his son. That is the point where showing not telling would have been perfect and it was until that horrible line was uttered with the least amount of effort from the actor as he could muster.

    Another problem for me was the fight between Korra. At this point, Korra should totally be able to wipe the floor with Kuvira, and the set up was fantastic! We have Korra, Jinora, and Opal all walking up to an entire ARMY, yet I didnt feel like Korra was outmatched at all. It felt right, this was gonna be the time Kuvira in her smugness and power (which has been shown in all her actions and words) would be humbled by the avatar, who was back and ready to kick butt. But instead, Korra fought like an amateur for the sake of the plot. My mom, who also loves the show and watches it with me, walked by the computer and said “Oh common girl, you should not be losing at this point, your the avatar”. Funny thing is that they still could have gotten the same result (korra losing) if they had Korra keep winning but then her avatar state form interrupts like it did in the episode (which was really well done and made sense).

    As far as good, Every single thing Bolin and Varrick did was either hilarious or clever and I’m very very happy with how it turned out. I especially love the “hand” joke and just how hilariously awkward that whole scene was with Varrick trying to get someone who would be his assistant. Also Bolins best line probably in the whole series, ” I just want you to know. I hate you.” I almost died laughing!

    So yeah, very disappointed in this season and episode. What are your guys thoughts?

    November 7, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    • Tox

      My problem with your comment is the same problem I tend to have with everyone on this site. In your critical cynicism, you fail to give the show any credit, i.e. if you caught something then it’s due to obvious and predictable writing and don’t consider maybe you’re missing subtext. (Note I’m sort of conflating your comment with most of the people here.)

      Why Korra lost is really, really obvious. She was getting her ass kicked by random thugs in the port town and by some random earthbender in the ring. She hasn’t gotten fought for years and only hours ago finally was physically healthy, whereas Kuvira (an obvious master even in Season 3 just based on her position as the head of very competent guards) had been battling constantly. I’d say the actual battle was very predictable (though I didn’t expect the re-emergence of the other Korra) but expecting Korra to just kick ass is foolish.

      There’s a lot of interesting subtext here that made the A plot interesting despite an underwhelming battle. For example, the way Kuvira baited Opal and Jinora into intervention by threatening to kill Korra (she obviously wouldn’t dare actually do it; she’s too shrewd diplomatically) in order to further justify taking over Zaofu was a great moment. She’s not morally ambiguous, but Kuvira is shaping up to be a great villain.

      November 7, 2014 at 5:18 pm

      • Clander

        I resent the first part of your comment. People here are very critical but not without reason and I think it’s highly unfair for you to say no one gives the show any leighway. I see a lot of very well thought out and constructive criticism on this site and they absolutely do give credit where it’s due. Being harsh isn’t equivalent to being unfair.

        November 8, 2014 at 2:08 am

      • ” For example, the way Kuvira baited Opal and Jinora into intervention by threatening to kill Korra (she obviously wouldn’t dare actually do it; she’s too shrewd diplomatically) in order to further justify taking over Zaofu was a great moment.”

        You know that’s a great point, but I had just wished that the directors made that slightly more obvious and instead of giving Baatar the pointless dialogue of “I’m so disappointed” how about zooming up on Kuvira’s smirk when she gets blasted by wind or how about a small phrase of victory when she gets hit by the air.

        November 8, 2014 at 2:56 am

      • Ian

        I admit my first comment came from a more cynical perspective than Id like, but you can ask anyone on this site who knows me and my comments that Im very much a fan and in love with most of this show. I will always defend book 1, and book 3 I feel is the best season of Korra and potentially avatar, depending on what Im into at the time.

        But I still dont believe this season is going anywhere yet, but Im in no way going to give up on the show. And besides, even if this season fails (in my opinion) I still think this series was a very well done one, I can tell that the creators knew what they wanted to make, even if I dont feel, in my opinion, it was done well.

        November 8, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      • tox

        @Clander: “People here are very critical but not without reason and I think it’s highly unfair for you to say no one gives the show any leighway.”

        You are right, and the beauty about my generalization is that it doesn’t apply to these criticisms. As always, it’s a mix of what I’m complaining about and what you’re defending. The stuff about the dialogue? Usually spot on. Anything that comes from JMT? Spot on, even if I often disagree with his conclusions. And hey, I myself am not a particularly huge fan of this season either. That said, what does it say if you’re watching Korra get her ass handed to her, and you immediately assume “The plot needs to have Korra suck so now she sucks” even though there’s an obvious in-universe explanation? I’d argue it means you’re watching not with the aim of critiquing it but with the aim of finding flaws. (Or it means you didn’t catch the subtext, but it’s so obvious that I’d hope all of us pseudo-critics here would catch it.)

        @Stanley,

        I agree with you. I don’t think it’s necessary, since Kuvira has already established herself as diplomatically savvy and obviously wouldn’t just kill the Avatar in front of a huge crowd, but I think that’d be a much better manner of characterization than lines like “I am so disappointed” (not that I really have much of an issue with that line, but that’s another matter entirely).

        @Ian,

        Sure. I agree with you that this season has very little momentum heading forward. I just think that the particular criticism of your parent post was rather unfair, and it’s an issue I see a lot on this place (people criticizing parts of the show that are explained if you give the narrative some credit and actually consider why the writers chose to make it happen that particular way).

        November 8, 2014 at 4:55 pm

  4. ChaosJumper

    The Varrick/Bolin thing (since Book 2) was on my list of “Things that should be the focus of Legend of Korra”. Korra with anything (Until she has an actual character) is last. This episode kind of proved that the comedic characters (whether or not they’re antics can be annoying due to unbalanced handling from the writers. “The Spirit of Competition”, anyone?) are always the saving grace to an overall underwhelming character and storyline. Every time they were on screen, everything was just right; perfect chemistry, really spot-on comedic writing and the twist of Varrick actually having a bomb to blow himself up was (although extreme) made me chuckle. I will be redundant here, but it has to be said; make this season focus on every character besides Korra until DiKo actually give her a character that is enjoyable character (or any character to begin with and no; an arch doesn’t instantly imply a real character with features outside of *Enter Chappelle “DAMN, LOOK AT THEM TITTIES” joke here*). It was the comedic equivalent of “The Winner is” or “Beginnings” because there wasn’t a second of boredom with these two!

    Now…back to this. I think I was taken out of the episode at the very beginning when they were trying to capture Kuvira. For one, it doesn’t make sense for to do such a thing. I can see this happen with a few rebellious Zaofu citizens who have an idea of the situation, but not someone who fully recognizes the risks, even if they succeed in doing so. Also, why would anyone try to capture someone IN THEIR OWN ENVIRONMENT WHERE THEY EXPECT IT TO HAPPEN?! It was just-plain-stupid from how I see it, from both a perspective of character and a general writing perspective

    So, I was taken out of the story by the first 5 minutes. Then, we get to see Korra fight against Kuvira. we did see this bit in the previews, and it looked like a moment for Korra to shine, but because of plot (and possible character development) Korra would lose. Simple, but effective, action scene; at least in theory. Even if one were to like Kuvira, she isn’t an Amon, Unalock or Zeheer when it comes to fighting. She may be talented, but this battle shouldn’t be this one sided, even with Korra still having some emotional exhaustion. At best, Kuvira should be using every single earth/metal bending technique in her arsenal to fight against someone who is able to manipulate All Four Elements and is able to turn into a God at will (as well as being a Metal Bender, as seen just a few episodes ago! It does beg the question of why Korra didn’t simply metal bend Kuvira’s armor and at least try to Darth Vader-style choke her, but again plot contrivance. What can you do?).

    If they wanted Korra to lose like this, it would have been smart to have Kuvira keep talking while she’s being thrashed by all the 4 elements. Make her lose balance and trip up with some of her attacks by saying something that would reveal Kuvira is a great manipulater of someone’s emotions. Have the army cheer Kuvira on when she is thrashed to the ground by Korra. A perfect moment for her to say something like “See? They are all rooting for me. Not the Avatar and this repeated nonsense of saving. But me; and the future of the Earth Empire.” SOMETHING to give us some form of intrigue for this fight, at least on a mental level. Influence Korra to join for the cause for equality that would make her reminisce Book One to understand, but have a reason to say “No, that’s bullshit!” Make her angry to go into the Avatar state and boom; the only good part of this fight will become 10X better because the stakes are higher, both characters have an adequate rivalry that can carry this Book to its finale and we have a good 20 minutes of Korra winning physically, but not mentally. A lot of people say that an action show like this will have the problem with the fact that there needs to be action, but I don’t think that should overshadow the fact that sometimes the best action is in the mind of the characters, not just the fist. The solution doesn’t have to be extremely balls-to-the-wall bombastic, but something with class and actual intelligence.

    But again, this is just build up (and justification) for the asskicking Kuvira’s going to get on the final two episodes. It’s kind of why I dislike the villain here; unlike any of the three, there really isn’t a sense of gray~ness or likability with Kuvira. We are never given a reason to like her as a character and just wait for her to go to the Avatar-State Slaughterhouse. Amon at least had a flashback that, while didn’t fully explain all his motives, made him more of a likable character in essence. We don’t need to get started with Zeheer and Unalock…you got me there, I completely forgot Book 2 until Verrick pointed it out. This just feels as though we’re still on the first Chapter of a book that we have read half the way through; too much set up to make for an interesting story, unless the second half is entirely worth all those chapters.

    November 7, 2014 at 6:45 pm

  5. daciio

    I pretty much agree with everything Grindal said.

    Soundtracks are one of the things that I always look forward to when watching a show like this. But the background music in this episode turned a battle that was supposed to be exciting into 5 minutes of (almost) pure boredom.

    The only part that had a decent soundtrack was right at the end, where the air kids rescue Korra and Kuvira announces her victory. Too bad that it was ruined by terrible dialogue.

    By the way, I’m starting to dislike Meelo’s humor in scenes that are meant to be taken seriously.

    November 7, 2014 at 7:50 pm

  6. JMR

    Season 3 had the Beifong sister’s conflict to get us through the mid-season while Zaheer was still assembling his master plan and events were still coming together. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think its not just a good plot line to get us through while the main plot is still gathering steam, but that I think it’s actually quite easily the best aspect of the season.

    Season 4 lacks any sort of engaging subplot to get us through the mid-season doldrums, and so instead we’re forced to watch as the show sets up the main conflict without anything to distract us from just how dull this has been so far. We got a pretty major hint that Korra’s PTSD issues aren’t fully resolved yet, so that may come back and save us, but it’s too late to save this episode as well as its predecessor.

    They also seem to be trying to go for a similar familial conflict with Bataar II and his parents, but as has been pointed out by others, the dialogue surrounding this conflict is so obvious and blunt that it takes any sharpness out of everything else as well. Thanks again, Tim.

    November 7, 2014 at 9:46 pm

  7. tox

    I posted this elsewhere, but I find it really strange that people here make these hypercritical posts while failing to understand very, very obvious subtext. I don’t think anyone who thinks that Korra should have won that fight has ever been injured in athletics. Even after you recover physically, you’re both rusty physically and often not up to the task mentally. Not only has Korra simply not fought in the last 3 years, she also has a mental issue with fighting in general. It’s not just the PTSD that is manifesting itself as the other-Korra, but the complete lack of “neutral jing” in her fighting (that Kuvira embodies perfectly) that shows she’s off mentally.

    The cynicism on this site is absurd. For example, the criticism of Kuvira as simply a villain whom Korra can beat the shit out of in the finale is one read of her character, but ultimately one that doesn’t do justice to how well she represents a certain brand of diplomatically savvy villainy in the context of international context. It is an absolutely stupid decision, but Suyin’s gamble is understandable since her city would be massacred the next day and she’d be in prison (or killed) anyways. Of course this was Kuvira’s gambit, and why she brought her army along with her in the first place. And in her fight with the Avatar, she acts as though she’s going to kill Korra, forcing the impartial airbenders to act against the terms of the fair fight, once again allowing her to undermine criticisms of her actions.

    You may dislike her character, and that’s fine, but I don’t find grounds of “she’s not morally ambiguous enough” a particularly thoughtful basis for the sharp criticisms people present. Not every character needs to be morally ambiguous, especially if as broader ideological symbols, there isn’t really anything ambiguous about his/her philosophy.

    (And don’t get me started on how trite the “Korra has no character” comments are, when it seems every attempt at characterizing her is met with indifference anyways. There’s a difference between pathos and having a character.)

    In a not-so-meta comment: I still think Su’s plan was dumb but I’ll give the writers the benefit of the doubt. The battle wasn’t that interesting (though the ending was), Kuvira was interesting as a villain, and the rest of the conflict was OK. Varrick and Bolin were fantastic, mostly because Varrick is the best character on the show (largely due to his excellent voice actor).

    November 8, 2014 at 1:02 am

    • tox

      the context of international politics*

      That typo looks especially dumb.

      November 8, 2014 at 1:08 am

    • Tox, does your e-mail change every comment? I keep having to manually approve your comments because the blog doesn’t recognize your e-mail. (It’s happened with other folks here, too.) Stick to one e-mail here. If I’m away too long, I can’t approve your comment for another, say, five hours, and no one could have read what you had to say and discuss it with you. Your comments are always interesting.

      I’ve just rewatched “Battle of Zaofu,” and I can say with great certainty that the boredom induced by this episode was not due to Korra’s embarrassing but understandable loss to Kuvira, especially since, as you remind us, she’s not in nearly ideal physical shape to start fighting anyone anytime soon. That’s perfectly clear. In fact, all the “very, very obvious subtext” is clear. How could it not be when the dialogue is so inhumanely blunt that missing the point is all but impossible?

      The message is fine (and, for a children’s show, applauded). The problem is the medium, or rather, DiMartino, Konietzko, and company’s lack of eloquence when it comes to the formal aspects of cinematic storytelling. They have great ideas, but the presentation rarely realizes the full dramatic potential of those ideas. In fact, they couldn’t hope to realize that potential for each idea because–and I never thought I’d consider this a flaw–there are too many ideas. So much that the only feasible way to get all of them out is through the most direct and least inventive methods (e.g. on-the-nose, exposition-heavy dialogue). Too many ideas and too little form (or too much substance and too little style) can be just as disastrous as the opposite scenario, as The Legend of Korra proves.

      It wasn’t always that way, though. Book One, for all its faults, at least found the right balance between its complex ideas and its dramatic presentation. No matter how wrong-headed the idea (and there were many wrong-headed ideas), each was allowed to blossom and develop in interesting ways. For example, Pro-Bending managed to move the plot forward, help develop characters, provide an interesting setting, and provide a likely unintentional social critique (the powers that be somehow found a way to commodify Bending). It’s actually quite brilliant how the inner workings of Pro-Bending help propel and give meaning to parts of the story.

      For example, during Korra’s first attempt at Pro-Bending, she starts off Bending water, but later bends another element (which is not technically against the rules, but puts the other, non-Avatar players as such a disadvantage that the referee only allows Korra to continue playing if she only Bends one element). Now everyone tuning into this Pro-Bending match knows that she’s the Avatar, and since these Pro-Bending games are being broadcast on the radio, Tenzin now knows where Korra is, and more specifically, that she disobeyed him and storms off to find her, leading to more drama. There’s a lot going on here, but it all seems to flow naturally from the characters, their relationships, and their interactions. In other words, Book One works because the characters (even Korra, at times) often feel like they have minds and emotions of their own.

      That’s not the case with the following seasons. The characters became more simplified for the sake of an ever-complicating plot, one with noble themes and commentary, but with none of the dramatic leighway that helped each character emerge as a living, emotional being. Instead, they were reduced to caricatures of their Book One counterparts so that the plot and the ideas could become more and more complicated. The balance between characters and plot, emotion and ideas became lopsided. While individual episodes managed to recover the balance (“Beginnings” and “Long Live the Queen” in particular), the seasons as a whole have been emotionally unengaging. If the characters don’t feel real, then what’s the point in getting emotionally invested in their predicament?

      In “Battle of Zaofu,” the problem is not that Korra lost or even that Kuvira isn’t “morally ambiguous enough.” Taking the Avatar State and Korra’s PTSD out of the equation for a moment, there is no logical reason that Korra should win. That’s clear. What’s not clear is why I should care. I can’t recall a single shot or bit of animation or moment of voice acting where I could feel Korra’s pain and determination. Where’s the dramatic presentation that would make this situation feel like it’s occurring between two living beings threatened by each other’s existence and thus fighting for supremacy (isn’t that essentially the essence of conflict)? Kuvira can be morally ambiguous and still be a believable character.

      DiMartino and Konietzko and company the intellectuals are not the ones on trial here; DiMartino and Konietzko and company the dramatists are. Much of their work, while intellectually potent, fails to engage on an emotional level that would make those underlying ideas worth revisiting. In storytelling, an idea is only as effective as it can be effectively dramatized. The drama of Korra, too often, doesn’t work, rendering the validity of its ideas irrelevant. My capacity to recognize and take away ideas of value from Korra neither makes me eager to watch it again, nor want to recommend it to anyone without the patience or will power to see past the show’s egregious flaws as a story (just about everyone).

      November 8, 2014 at 3:39 am

      • I thInk this season has done a pretty good job on making us care about Korra, by doing what you describe wouldn’t you agree?

        November 8, 2014 at 10:07 am

      • With the exception of this episode, yes.

        November 8, 2014 at 11:31 am

      • I also think the question weather this series is worth it or not will be answered with this final season. If the show does a good job with its main themes and takes its characters to good places in terms of development then I could see it being ultimately redeemed as a series. The flaws will still stand as is but the story as a whole will make the flaws not seem as detrimental.

        November 8, 2014 at 10:14 am

      • I agree. There’s still a chance for redemption here, even if it’s a slim one.

        November 8, 2014 at 11:06 am

      • tox

        @Marshall,

        Sorry about that! Yeah, I honestly just made up some email since I don’t really want the spam (plus my emails are personally identifying). I didn’t realize it’s extra work for you; I’ll try to be consistent with the one that I’ve been using.

        To respond to your post, let me first note that my complaints were towards a very specific brand of comments I’ve noted here, using the two relevant examples from this episode. The subtext of why Korra lost was obvious (from context), but my complaints are explicitly towards the comments that completely miss it and instead use her loss as an example of how arbitrary the plot is. I don’t blame you or anyone else for not being invested in the fight. It’s more this cynical watching of the show that is then being passed off as serious criticism. The criticism of Kuvira’s character not being ambiguous enough is also something I see here quite a bit, maybe not from you but people on this board in general. Yet there’s a lack of actual explanation as to why Kuvira even needs to be morally ambiguous. How isn’t watching a tyrant expand her influence through diplomatic savvy intriguing in its own right?

        Now in relation to the rest of your post, I understand where you’re coming from. There isn’t really much for me to say beyond that, since I agree with many of your points but they simply bother me less than they do you. But my original post wasn’t really intended for your overall criticism, which is certainly very fair.

        November 8, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    • Grindal

      I sympathise with how you feel about the hypercritical nature of some commenters, and whilst they can arguably be justified I think it stems from expectations that are set way too high for the show in general. I don’t understand what people mean when they say Korra has no character. She is naive but determined and struggles to do the right thing despite having more responsibility thrust upon her than she could normally handle, especially if she were not the Avatar. Problems with her ‘character’ bar the first half of Book 2 I believe stem more from the nature of the conflicts she faces rather than a fault in her design.

      In truth I wonder if the cynicism Korra as a show is faced with has anything to do with the fact that we are watching it week by week, one 23 minute episode at a time. I for one never saw a single ATLA episode when it premiered, and although I do not know how many of the commenters watched ATLA when it aired, I often wonder how I would have felt watching Book 3 Fire week by week. Although most episodes were good in the build-up to the invasion and few were excellent (The Awakening, Avatar and the Firelord, The Puppetmaster), some were a step back (The Painted Lady, The Runaway) from the unyielding momentum Book 2 Earth had garnered. It just makes me all the more want to do my absolute best to reserve any final judgement until the entire season has aired. This being accepted though what you then turn to look for in an episode is execution and momentum, both of which are not really that present at the moment.

      Elsewhere, I certainly agree that the subtext of Kuvira being a manipulator was played rather smartly as she was able to seize Zaofu with the whole world watching her whilst technically not breaking any agreements with anyone or instigating an attack for that matter. However, the execution to get there just didn’t sit well with me and as I elaborated on that before I blame half of it on Zuckerman’s score. Also I normally am more forgiving of the dialogue but some of the lines and delivery in this episode were well below par, most disappointingly from Kuvira when she says “you broke the truce, attack”. It just sounds lame an unconvincing. Still though I believe there is good to come in the series before it ends, but we’ll only truly know come the end.

      November 8, 2014 at 8:45 am

  8. Clander

    I pretty much entirely agree with you, Marshall. This episode was dull as rocks.

    I think my biggest issue with this episode was how predictable it was. And that’s saying a lot for me at least because I’m not one to try and figure out the direction of a piece of media before it get’s there.

    The other day I saw a clip of what was going to be in this episode and it was showing Su and her sons about to assasinate Kuvira. In the clip it looked like it was going to be a somewhat intense moment. Of course they wouldn’t succeed but it didn’t seem so obvious in the clip. So to my surprise that’s the very first scene in this episode. That just sucks out any tension they were trying to go for in that moment. From then on it became painfully obvious that this plan would fail horribly and it wasn’t hard to guess how. To be fair I know that this moment isn’t the focus of the episode and it would be extremely odd if they succeeded half way through the season. I’m not even sure what could have been done to fix it or if it’s even necessary to do so. It just feels kind of…wasted.

    The fight scene on the other hand. Holy shit. That was bad. Like really bad. I mean it’s literally just kuvira throwing rocks at Korra and the occasional piece of metal in order to fling her. While Korra just shoots blasts of every element. This exact thing for three different scenes. Rinse and repeat. I also agree with Grindal that the music made it even more painful then it already was. I also want to note that it was extremely obvious that Korra would lose. It was obvious but it made sense. I still think they should have allowed Korra to put up more of a fight.

    Though I did enjoy the scenes with Varrick, as usual. Though it doesn’t help me like Bolin any more to realize that he is dense as fuck. Varrick made it so obvious to him that he wasn’t going to be forced to do anything by anyone but it just goes right over Bolin’s head.

    Also does anyone else notice that the airbending seems to be used almost identically to firebending? I mean they’re just shooting blasts of wind out of their hands just like they do with fire.

    November 8, 2014 at 2:01 am

  9. ish

    To me, this episode was pretty powerful. We just had 5 episodes where the Avatar was suffering from PTSD, and this episode was the time for her to redeem herself.

    But no. Adding insult to injury, Kuvira destroys Korra in a 1v1, humiliating the Avatar and improving her image to supporters. I agree, the music was lacking, but this may have been intended. Korra is still missing a part of herself, as symbolized by the fact that she uses only 3 out of 4 elements. In the same way, the same musical cues that usually play when Korra fights were not present.

    As the for the battle choreography itself, I thought it was very well done. Korra’s attacks are sluggish and one dimensional (done on purpose obviously). Kuvira on the other hand waits and listens, using quick and calculated moves to outsmart her opponent. This to me, was a very accurate representation of the two characters’ mental states at this point in the story. I actually could feel Korra’s pain while she was getting tossed around as onlookers cheered.

    I don’t understand what you mean by “Korra has no character.” Korra’s character arc is the longest, most developed one on the entire show. In seasons 1 and 2, she made hasty decisions due to her brash overconfidence (ex. threatening a judge). As season 3 progressed her decisions became less stupid and more thought out (ex. rebuilding air nation). Finally in season 4, she even declined a fight with a tyrant to talk it out instead. Of course, her persuasion skills aren’t the best, but the fact that she promptly declined Suyin’s suggestion of going into the Avatar state shows how far her character has come.

    Korra’s entire self worth was based on being the Avatar, and each villain in succession has challenged her identity. Amon took away her bending (almost), Unalaq severed any connections to past Avatars, and Zaheer broke her connection to the Avatar state. Basically, Korra is a not an Avatar anymore. Or is she? If Korra could redefine what it means to be an Avatar, I think this entire series would be hugely successful.

    This is going to anger a lot of people (especially on this site), but I truly believe Korra’s character development is as fleshed out as Zuko’s. We are on episode 45/52, which is 86% of the way done LOK. In ATLA, 86% lands us at S3E12, the Western Air Temple. This is nearing the end of Zuko’s development, when he decides to join Team Avatar. In the same way, Korra is nearing the end of her development too. All that remains is fixing her mental state; she needs to come to terms with who she is as an Avatar.

    There are so many more ways Korra’s character is developed through the series, but I might go through them in detail in a later post (if I have time).

    It would have been terrible writing to have all of Korra’s problems solved by simply removing poison from her body; this is why the next few episodes matter A LOT. Korra needs to solve her mental issues in the next 1 or 2 episodes. Otherwise, the plot will progress too slowly and will be rushed in the end, considering there are only 7 episodes left.

    The B plot of this episode was near perfect. Bolin/Varrick has become my new favorite duo, and I can’t wait to see what “super weapon” Kuvira has planned. Of course, this episode was not totally perfect, as there were some lines that were clearly forced. For example, “I love you!” – from Opal to Suyin. But that’s to be expected from any episode.

    November 8, 2014 at 11:02 am

    • Korra has finally been growing on me this season, and I can’t wait to see her overcome her current predicament with Kuvira and her PTSD. Her humiliating defeat by Kuvira was a brutal, but understandable (and perhaps necessary) step in her development. Unfortunately, I found its presentation in this episode to be very boring, much as I find many episodes boring which don’t realize the dramatic potential of their thematic material (I suggested to another commenter that the problem is an overabundance of ideas which, in an attempt to fit in all of them, allowed very few to develop organically). I hope this problem is rectified by the end. The success of Bolin and Varrick’s subplot (finding that perfect balance between the ideas and their dramatic presentation) gives me hope.

      November 8, 2014 at 11:29 am

      • ish

        The lack of episodes is the number 1 thing that hurts this show

        November 8, 2014 at 11:57 am

  10. ChaosJumper

    I feel as though I will have to defend my position here, so I’ll try my best to make it as blunt as possible, seeing that I’m pretty new and well-constructed criticism is not my current forte.

    Let me clear when I say “Korra doesn’t have a character”. It means that she has a great set of archetypes (Stubborn, naïve, physically strong etc.) but nothing to really ground it into a person that I care about, at least as much as the other characters thrown into the wayside even though they shouldn’t (Asami is the best example of this). That doesn’t mean I don’t like the plight she’s going through (Korra Alone is my favorite episode so far this season, just to point it out), but until she is able to have a real personality from these archetypes, it just feels like a predictable Underdog story. They did a great job making us care about Korra, but it hasn’t won me over to fully enthrall myself into her plight since it fells like they’re focusing on the idea of the underdog story, rather than the full implications on Korra to make me care about her in general. It’s most likely just me being nearsighted in watching this episode-by-episode, but I’m just not buying it all. The end will probably change that, but I’m just not buying the conflict for some unforeseen reason.

    Second, the episode simply put me out of the whole plight anyway due to the extreme predictability of the episode. As I said; from the very beginning (due to the stupidity of the characters for the sake of plot), I was uninterested because I knew where it was going to go. I don’t mind predictability, but there needs to be elements that can make it both tolerable and enjoyable at the same time (Kind of like Sixth Sense without seeing dead people; very predictable flick, but still enjoyable because of those small-but-good elements). There wasn’t any of that here and when there were chances (like at the very end with Jr. having to be looked down by his family or Opal being forced into a fight by Kuvira) it was ruined by piss-poor dialogue that was basically telling the audience rather than showing it to us and making us think rather than accept.

    Also, I am just not interested right now when it comes to Kuvira as a villain. There are only small moments that give her promise, and moments that show her as devious and intelligent, but that’s just all I really see. I do not mind the subtext, but there comes a time for a villain to be a villain, no matter how blunt or subtle the character really is. As I pointed out in my last post, it would have been the most effective during the fight scene with her and Korra to show the audience how powerful she really is; not just on the battlefield, but in the minds of her opponent(s). Again: A fantastic hurrah for their leader and her ideals, a constant ridicule of Korra’s plight, actually showing off how power and precise her Earthbending can be (Besides, as other comments have pointed out, “Just throwing Rocks”), making Opal angry during the fight with just a sort of sneer to force her do so (like debris from her earth bending consistently being aimed at Su on purpose). These notable-but-subtle elements would have transformed her from a good political dictator with some good moments of trickery into a calculative, and emotionally manipulative opponent on all sides; able to thrash Korra from the mind, rather than with her earthbending fists. Then, we as an audience member can see at least why the fight can be one-sided and why Kuvira isn’t someone to be messed with on both a political platform or on the battlefield; kind of like an earthbending Azula, in essence.

    That said, I already pointed out that I wouldn’t mind it not ending with Kuvira simply getting her ass kicked by Korra’s Avatar State; it’s just the fight scene in this episode (an all the build up we’ve gotten so far) has made me say “Yeah, she’s going to get beaten up during the last two chapters”. If it doesn’t end that way, I do not mind; however, as JMR pointed out, this is an action/adventure show and it has to end with action and adventure. If they’re smart and are able to get around this, then I’m all for it. But this episode doesn’t make the problem less apparent is all I’m saying.

    Lastly, just reply to me if you disagree with whatever I say. I don’t mind if people say Korra actually has a character, I’m just not really seeing it here. I don’t mind if people like Kuvira, but I simply feel it being more build up than actual moments where I can say “Yeah, she’s a badass”. Don’t worry; I won’t bite.

    November 8, 2014 at 12:06 pm

  11. Italianbaptist

    Can’t wait to read the full analysis. Great discussion in here 🙂

    To throw a monkey wrench into the proceedings, I’ve heard a little but not enough in my opinion about how voice acting can add to or detract from the “realism” of a scene. And this episode I felt gave us the best example of that in a long time (granted I didn’t bother to watch the airbender kids’ episode yet). I praised anne heche for her delivery as Su in book 3 when she talked about her and Lin’s relationship, but when she passionately projects her voice at anyone (zaheer or Kuvira) it sounds so fake and forced. In contrast, I believe zelda did a fantastic job selling Kuvira in this episode. When she starts to get passionate, and lose the confident facade, I definitely feel it. And there seemed to be a sense of reality in her words before and during the fight.

    Also, I liked the fight scene, particularly because I totally dig kuvira’s fighting style 🙂

    November 9, 2014 at 7:11 pm

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