The Legend of Korra: Coronation
October 17, 2014 6:26 AM - Season 4, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Coronation day has arrived for Prince Wu, heir to the Earth Kingdom throne, and all that stands between his and the unfortunate Mako's journey to Ba Sing Se is a ceremony to be held in Republic City. The world leaders gather in attendance, as well the Great Uniter, General Kuvira of the Metal Clan, who Tenzin is beginning to have doubts about. Back in the great swamp of the Earth Kingdom, Korra asks Toph Beifong to train her and help her return to her previous fighting form, something Toph readily agrees to with much relish. Lastly, Varrick shows a surprise interest in spirit vines.

As usual, this episode is available on for free, and for purchase at fine retailers such as iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.

posted by Atreides (32 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am still processing my feels, but mostly I want to know: WHAT IS UP WITH VARRICK AND THE SPIRIT ROOT? How is Kuvira planning on harnessing that? She is the ultimate pragmatist, what possible connection could she have to the spirit world?

Also, Tumblr is going to kvetching all week about the Zuko's daughter-tease. We saw her, but never got her name or heard her speak.

Zhu Li sounds exactly like Daria.

"Desna sleeps in the tub."

What will Wu do? Does he have family to go back to? Traditionally dispossessed nobles found wealthy merchants eager to marry a title. Not sure that works in the Avatar world.

If Toph can "see" her family through the vines, what does she think of what they're up to?

FAKE BA SING SE MALL. That might have been the most brilliant bit. I don't know. It was all good.
posted by emjaybee at 6:58 AM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Two key bits of dialog for me:

1) "The names change, but the streets stay the same"
2) "Kuvira is basically just like Korra."

These charges have truth to them, and they're a decent summary of Korra's fundamental character problems as the Avatar. Gives me hope that they're going to do more than get Korra's "avatar mojo" back, maybe even make her into someone who does more than use force to restore order.

Doing things with Wu and Bolin beyond making them comic punching bags is really nice, too.
posted by weston at 8:17 AM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

There's a metaphor to be had in the Little Ba Sing Se Mall, but I am too full of cold to get there. I hope Republic City Dispatch can, if they're not too distracted by Varrick's work with the spirit vines.

Which I could totally understand because is this a new energy source? A weapon? What what what?

But to save myself from going insane, I will go back to the mall. Where they've even broken up what you can buy by class and tier, and the palace has turned into a buffet. Where you can be king if it's your birthday. Where you can take a photo with a statue of Bosco.

I'm not saying that it feels very familiar, but I do live in the UK.
posted by Katemonkey at 8:22 AM on October 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

New energy source/weapon sure fits with some of the famous totalitarian order states of the 20th century.
posted by weston at 8:32 AM on October 17, 2014

I've started shipping Mako and Wu. I'm not sure if it's because there's something there, or if my brain is just making up stories in order to keep itself from falling asleep every time Mako is on the screen. They would need to actually stop animating him in order to make him any blander.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:01 AM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

So! Korra...still has mercury in her. That she's afraid to get rid of. That is what's making her slow and weak. Props to Toph for a brutal but likely diagnosis. Also, how enjoyable was Toph loving the chance to torment an Avatar again? "Imagine me in my prime! I would have DESTROYED you! HAhahahaha!" I also noticed Toph being adept at dodging non-Earth attacks; because Korra is so weak, or because she sparred enough with Aang to get good at those too?

Is that all the big reveals?
1. Kuvira takes over (not surprising)
2. Korra still has mercury in her (which she will have to get out herself--that sounds really difficult and painful)
3. Spirit-root superweapons are in development (probably)
4. Kuvira is "coming for" Zao Fu

Other plot developments; Mako is no longer in charge of Wu; Bolin is Having Doubts.

Whatever happened to Varrick's magnetic suit? Did that just get turned into a train?
posted by emjaybee at 10:22 AM on October 17, 2014

The root, while probably a superweapon, might also be a mass-surveillance or communications thing, considering how Toph said she was able to keep tabs on everyone using the plants in the swamp.
posted by Small Dollar at 11:20 AM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ugh. Usually I've seen the episode at least twice by this point and I've only got one viewing down. Not even ready for my entirely too long thoughts as usual post.

One thing about the spirit vine, I see it as a self-sustaining power source. When you cut it, it immediately grows back. It will provide the mechs with the power they need to finish the war Kuvira is about to launch on Zhao Fu and anyone else in her way. Another reason I think it's a power source was because in the shots of the Mechs that we've seen, some appear to have capsules like the one holding the spirit vine attached to their backs.

I'm biting at my bit here, as I don't have time to go into more things, but definitely a super sweet episode!
posted by Atreides at 12:32 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

This episode felt kind of "filler"-esque. More chess pieces being moved around on the board. The high points were definitely with Toph as Yoda-like bender/teacher powers. I want more of that, please.

For those who have not watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, I'm wondering what you make of Toph? Do you like her? Hate her? Confused by her? Wondering how well she connects with you because for those of us who watched AtLA we sort of have a history with her and we will always love her.
posted by Fizz at 1:39 PM on October 17, 2014

I have seen this critique in more than one review re "filler" episodes, and I gotta say, I don't get it. We learned critical information in this episode. It switched between dramatic and comedic scenes, and hooked neatly into the next episode with the dispatching of the air-kids. I mean, what am I missing here? It wasn't boring, it was a story, it furthered the plot in an enjoyable way, it answered some mysteries and created new ones.

Is it because some people want every episode to be an epic fight? Because then you should just watch Dragonball Z.

The original AtLA would not stand up to this sort of episode-by-episode nitpicking of "oh it's too slow." In fact I often find the Korra plot a little rushed; I wouldn't mind spending more time with the day-to-day lives of the characters, because I like this world as a place to hang out and think about. I like the little in-jokes and off-the-cuff characters (the tshirt-wearing Kuvira fangirls; the kid having his birthday in the mall). It makes a world feel more real.
posted by emjaybee at 2:39 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

The idea that the spirit vines could be a power source is a little disturbing when you remember Korra's initial attempts at getting rid of them in Republic City and a nearby spirit tells her spirits and vines are the same. They're gonna stuff the cute little spirits into robot fuel cans!
posted by Peccable at 4:13 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

My favorite aspect of this episode is that old!Toph is still very clearly Toph, with a lot more age and experience on her. They nailed that characterization in my opinion; I feel like it'd have been easy to get wrong.

My top bet on the vine is "power source", and by the standard tropes tapping into it would be draining spirit energy from the world. If that is the case, Kuvira is also the type to weaponize that aspect of it as well.

Second guess is that the primary goal is for Kuvira to gain control over some aspect of the spirit realm, but that seems less likely to have Varrick as hyped for it as he is.
posted by NMcCoy at 4:14 PM on October 17, 2014

I have seen this critique in more than one review re "filler" episodes, and I gotta say, I don't get it. We learned critical information in this episode.
Don't get me wrong, I still loved this episode, it was lots of fun. But sometimes there is a lot of exposition and set up and not so much plot movement, and that is how I view episodes that often just "fill" up with talking points and explanations.

There wasn't too much action aside from a Yoda-esque battle in the beginning, after that it was just different political sides discussing current events in that part of the world.
posted by Fizz at 4:30 PM on October 17, 2014

Actually, the Ba Sing Se mall reminds me of Little Italy or Chinatown in NYC. I guess, it'd make sense for it to appear in Republic City since a variety of different people live and work there. The boutiques are accurate on how a lot of small shops operate because instead of big box retailers in normal malls they end up selling odds and ends from clothing brands imported from Asia.

I loved Toph's intro and scenes training w/Korra and her stating she's the original "Bei Fong." Now I want a mini series showing their childhood w/Toph.

Well, Toph has always been very much her own person despite being slightly younger than the main cast. She is one of the strongest Earth/Metal benders in the world and even at her age she can fight well. Her personality is somewhat sarcastic but she isn't being mean for the sake of being mean , you know?

Doesn't Kuvira remind anyone else of Azula? They both have the strong personality and merciless aspect in their actions/beliefs. Yet she is more in control and this is what makes a dangerous opponent to the Avatar.

Mako and Bolin are still fighting again which is alright since well, almost all siblings fight time to time. It does feel OOC for Bolin to insult his brother for being a "glorified butler" when he understands he's actually under orders to be the King's bodyguard.

Did Tenzin really send his children off to search for Korra? This seems rash since well aren't they kids?
posted by chrono_rabbit at 5:34 PM on October 17, 2014

Did Tenzin really send his children off to search for Korra? This seems rash since well aren't they kids?

If we're using this logic, Aang the Last Airbender was probably around the age of 11 or 12 and he basically saved the entire world. Let's not nit-pick with ages, eh.

posted by Fizz at 6:54 PM on October 17, 2014

Also, re: Tenzin's kids, Jinora has definitely proven herself over and over again before we got to the three year gap. I'm willing to bet that Ikki and Meelo have managed to impress Tenzin in the past three years as well. And yeah, his dad saved the world as a 12-13 year old.

And I know it's Bo-Lin, so saying he's naive is an understatement, but DAMN. Bo-Lin, open up your eyes! Mako really needed to tear him a new one. I suspect that is coming, though, but it's going to come from Opal.

And OMG, I just found an enhanced a colored version of Aang's portrait from last week!
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:20 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Jinora is mid-teens now and because the kids were originally three of the four existing air benders (Avatar excluded), they received intensive training as air benders. Jinora was about 12 when she was granted recognition as a master air bender. Maturity-wise, they are still kids, but in terms of protecting themselves and fighting as benders, they're probably some of the best trained air benders alive.

And gawds...finally have a chance to write, granted hours from watching, so I apologize if I skim past something or forget to add something.

The Korra and Toph dynamic was excellent, set off immediately by Korra's attempt to give Toph a hug and the earth pillar instead. The characterization of Toph is incredible, from her movements such as cracking her knuckles to the voice acting by Philece Sampler, who is perfectly imitating the speech patterns of Jesse Flower, who played the younger Toph. I need a bib every time I watch the scenes with her, as I simply glaze over with delight and become a drooling fan zombie.

At least my tinfoil idea of Suyin purposefully leaving metal in Korra was hopefully dashed by this episode by Toph's declaration that Suyin simply wasn't that great a metal bender (or Lin!). It does appear that the writers are going to force Korra to confront her fears of becoming the Avatar again, unconscious or not. What Toph said about her emotionally/mentally not feeling safe, still fearful, directly echoed what Katara had told Korra about her physical body - that it didn't feel safe, yet. So what we have in this situation are the two elder women from ATLA helping Korra heal both body and mind/soul. I dig this aspect that Aang's reincarnation is being helped and restored to Avatar by two of the people who loved him most.

This also cast another glance at the evil doppelganger from our previous episode. The fact that it dragged Korra into a pool of metal/mecury could definitely imply that it's Raava trying to reach out to Korra, to reveal to her that there remains metal in her blocking them from making the Avatar State.

My current fear is that we will be losing Toph too soon. Fanboy wants his fan service to keep going!

Cutting back to Republic City, we have another Asami-less episode, but not one absent strong women. In this case, a woman who has essentially declared herself emperor of the Earth Lands, and by decree, abolished the Earth Kingdon, Kuvira, the Great Uniter.

I was kind of taken back by Tenzin's sudden change with concern to Kuvira. In the premier episode, Tenzin dismisses Kuvira as just doing her job. Then within the matter of a few days, maybe a couple weeks, suddenly has concerns...just as the time comes for her to hand over the reigns. This was a major flag combined with Kuvira's dismissal of Prince Wu, which pretty much screamed that Kuvira was not going to cede her power.

A key thing that leapt out at me was her declaration that she was going to bring prosperity to her people. In our own history, bringing prosperity was uniquely tied to the Japanese Empire of the 20th Century. In the world of the Avatar, however, spreading prosperity through the gospel of one's culture was one of the key arguments given by the Fire Nation for it's expansionist wars. Now the end of the present Avatar show is setting up one more possibly malevolent nation, a threat which began the original Avatar show. An even cooler perspective is that Aang's greatest failure was running away from being the Avatar, which would have required him facing the Fire Nation before it became the threat it did and wipe out the air nomad nation. Here we have Korra, running away from being the Avatar while a nation like the Fire Nation from ATLA is building up in the same manner. Korra is being faced with the question that Aang initially refused to accept, be the Avatar and keep balance in the world. My presumption is that Korra will accept her place as Avatar, not disappear for 100 years, and stop the Earth Lands Empire.

Speaking of reaping what you sow, Suyin was provided a front row seat in seeing her philosophy and beliefs twisted into the rationalization of staging a slow motion coup and the declaration of an empire. It's her own words and acts reflected back at her through a fun house mirror. What Kuvira is building in the Earth Kingdom is not what Suyin built in Zhao Fu, but it was born of Zhao Fu and the Metal Clan. We also had another case of someone refusing to accept a great task requested of them, Suyin refusing to take the Metal Clan and restore order in the Earth Kingdom. What happens? A freakin' techno-fascist dictator! The confrontation between her and Kuvira was splendid, especially when Suyin called Kuvira out for being as much a tyrant as the dictator Kuvira is claiming to replace. This was the first time that someone asked that question in the episode, as it was mirrored by Bolin and Mako later, except Mako didn't have the retort after Bolin argued that Kuvira was better than Wu, at least.

Bolin, poor Bolin, a fellow wrapped up in the good being perpetuated in the shadow of something awful. I appreciated that they had him question Kuvira, instead of completely blindly following her. It does seem that there has been a lot of great things accomplished, such as helping out the slums of Ba Sing Se, but in the shiny gloss of all these good things, Kuvira has become slowly tarnished. In this case, this does reflect a lot of the fascist and dictatorial movements in the 20th Century. The Communists in China succeeded in part because they did improve the life of the peasants of China. The Nazis of Germany took steps and actions to make Germans feel better about themselves in the wake of the global Depression (which knocked the recovery under the Republic out cold). Virtually every revolution. I'm not saying that Kuvira is Hitler or Mao, but she is a woman who set out to perform good things, earnestly, but has been seduced by the power placed in her hands to make things happen. She believes she is the answer, and when you stop asking yourself if what you're doing is wrong, and all you can do is right, that's when you start punishing those who do question your actions. I think the next episode or two will result in Bolin's eyes being opened and Kuvira turning on Bolin when he objects or takes some action against her will.

The wonderful middle area of Kuvira's dictatorship as the alternative to another Earth Kingdom monarchy which cares little about ruling the people is one of the things that makes this show so fantastic. It's the argument between Mako and Bolin in which Mako is left admitting that he doesn't know who should be in charge of the Earth Kingdom. On the Republic City Dispatch, the aspect of dictator was addressed briefly, about temporarily giving individuals power. This is definitely the Roman Republic style, which is best illustrated by Cincinnatus, who was asked to assume dictatorial powers to save the Republic, and when it was done, he retired back to a farm. The slip into dictator as someone unwilling to let go of power came later, such with the reigns of Marius and Sulla (who both basically inspired a young man named Julius Caesar...) Specifically, Sulla was declared dictator and ended up turning the streets of Rome red with blood of those who had supported his political rival.

Sulla was a general of Rome and he also believed his violation of Roman law and the people he had murdered was done for the betterment of the Republic, despite the irony that it only helped bring the end of the Republic about so much sooner. Kuvira, to a very basic degree, appears to be on the same path. She appears to be a bit of a zealot with regard to technology and innovation, and has probably passed the point of no return to realize that what she's doing in the name of good is actually quite evil.

I loved Little Ba Sing Se, complete with its "walls" and the royal palace residence and Bosco the Bear statue (It's Bosco!). Obviously the creators the mall favored the Queen's father, not her. There were so many little things in this episode that made me love it from an animated view, be it the defaced poster of Wu on the wall behind his head, the girls with their t-shirts, the voice shouting, "I have juice all over me!" after Wu threw his cup, to other nearly completely background characters and touches in the various scenes.

The music in this episode continued to rock, so hat's off to Jeremy Zuckerman. I had to grin when he echoed the Chinese operatic music from the Wan episode when Wan is being chased by the brothers in the scene where Mako and Wu were being chased. The music was just dang awesome. Every book, every episode, it seems Zuckerman is raising his game.

I loved the fact that there's obviously this one classy hotel in Republic City where the people with the fame, riches, and power all stay, just as most cities today and in the past possessed. You want to see famous people? Sit in the lobby and watch them cross paths, hence, Bolin and Desna. "Girlfriend? Boss? Same thing..." "He sleeps in the bathub..." "I look in a mirror and think I'm in trouble, but then realize, it's me!"

Spirit Vine power. Yup. Powers the Mechs. Varrick will make it so.

Boo at the cameo of the Firelord and her father Zuko. We need more!

I enjoyed this episode, and it's one of the episodes, if not something that all Korra episodes posses, which I watch and realize it's the longest 20 some minutes in the week. I'm definitely already waiting for next week. Bring it!
posted by Atreides at 8:23 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

I feel like I need to watch this again (admittedly, I was having some life stress at the time). It did seem like a lot of information all at once. Not a bad thing, and necessary -- just a lot of moving everyone to where they need to be.

I like that everything is ... complicated. Kuvira will likely become evil, but I do like that right now, people sort of agree she has a point. (My poor conflicted adorable Bolin.)

I like the "darker" tone the show has taken while still being itself.People have speculated that's why it moved to online only -- it stopped being a kids' show. While A:TLA definitely went to some dark places, it was also about kids. This is a show about grownups -- increasingly so. I love it.
posted by darksong at 9:48 PM on October 17, 2014

If I had grown up in the outer rings of Ba Sing Se, uneducated and hopeless, Kuvira would have been irresistable to me. (although; did she leave the walls down/take the rest of them down? I hope so). She would represent Hope, Future, Potential and I would probably be a devoted follower. At least until some secret police came along and took away a friend or two. And even then I would ask myself; who could replace her? Not the monarchy! Getting to a democracy is going to be a hard path for the Earth Kingdom, assuming that's where the writers think it should go.

Of course, long-term, things tend to fall apart after a dictator dies, so even if Kuvira was triumphant and her nation prospered, eventually things might go to shit again.

I liked how the episode with the smaller kingdom neatly demonstrated the problems of the old regime. Life was probably better in some ways in the countryside than in the city, but at the same time, isolation and a fragmented government left you vulnerable. Kuvira, again, provides a solution of unification and centralization of resources, which makes complete sense, except for the whole dictatorship part. But then, to people used to monarchy/local nobility, it's not going to seem that different.

Since it's a kid's show I imagine the geopolitics won't be explored too deeply, but the plot really does show you how difficult it is to move from monarchy to democracy, how elusive equality is, how seductive power can be (to those wielding it and to their followers). This is not a problem Korra can solve by smashing. She can take out Kuvira, but it would be immoral to just let chaos return.

Suyin appears to be a classic example of the liberal blinded by privilege. Just living in your bubble and dismissing the problems of monarchy doesn't make change. Lin was right; she was still self-centered and had built herself a perfect life. Unfortunately, she didn't use that wealth or power to do anything about the chaos around her. And now it looks like it's going to bite her in the ass.
posted by emjaybee at 6:01 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree to a someone who has lived or grown up in less than fantastic towns or ruled by a nobles it does look like a change for the better. I liked how pragmatic Toph is now even though she did try her best w/deterring crime in the city she understands even now that it'll never be 100% crime-free.

I'm glad they showed up chaotic it is when one govt is switched to another even if it sounds good on paper and how the royal palace got looted and the even the guards quit. Most of the time average people end up doing odd things because the sudden unexpected events occur. It's not just every looter was a secret bandit or thief all along.

I ended up mentioning how I felt they felt too young even though I know they are talented airbenders atm because well, that and the original A:tla felt like a group of pre-teens/teens on traveling quest. Yes, Zuko had his mission at the same time he had Uncle Iroh for guidance. Also, I thought they ordered every other bender to look for Korra already?
posted by chrono_rabbit at 9:50 AM on October 18, 2014

I'm guessing that all the other airbenders are looking for Korra as an extra to their other responsibilities.

Whereas the kids were...taking care of Pabu? Planning adventures with Korra? Growing out their hair? They didn't seem to be doing that much, and with two airbending masters in one place, it seems like a waste of resources.

What I'm hoping is that Ikki is a master sky bison trainer and has Blueberry Spicehead as her bestest sky bison.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:02 AM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

"medal of freedom"
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:52 AM on October 19, 2014

I suppose that perhaps Tenzin might secretly believe that his kids are the best and well equipped air benders for the job, and hence, despite sending everyone to find Korra, its his kids that he really trusts with the mission....or he's really desperate.

A couple other things that I forgot to mention that I loved about the episode. One very simple thing, the tray outside the hotel door in the hallway where Bolin and Mako have their fight. It's a little touch and completely realistic that the animators didn't have to include. Loved it.

Also, Varrick's instruction to Zhu Li to take as many of the hotel soaps as possible.
posted by Atreides at 4:48 PM on October 19, 2014

I totally understand how he feels about the nice free soaps though it's one of my favorite things when I stayed at nicer hotels is the interesting free gifts each time.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 6:56 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love the free gifts, but it's a total pain to get the mattress through security when you fly.
posted by Atreides at 7:11 AM on October 20, 2014

Republic City Dispatch podcast is up.

Clip from next week's episode featuring Traveling Tenzin Kids. Will they get to meet Toph? Because I think she and Meelo have a lot in common.
posted by emjaybee at 7:23 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

If we're using this logic, Aang the Last Airbender was probably around the age of 11 or 12 and he basically saved the entire world.

Fun how that's exactly the line of reasoning of the airbender kids. :)
posted by weston at 6:41 PM on October 20, 2014

I'm still trying to unpack the fact that the transition from authoritarian dictatorship to fascism involves a "medal of freedom." That feels so… deliberate.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:23 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

That article mentions the Korra game, and… I mean, it's not actively bad, but it is a colossal disappointment, especially when I've owned Bayonetta 2 since it came out here in Japan about a month ago.

On the other hand, Korra only costs $15, and the MSRP on Bayonetta is, what, $60? So if you look at it as being 25% of the price, for a game that is about 65% finished, it is a relative bargain
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:44 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been meaning to watch the cut outs and what not, what's your feeling on those with regard to the game?
posted by Atreides at 11:56 AM on October 24, 2014

Cut outs? You mean the cutscenes? So far the game has the excusiest of excuse plots and has all the dramatic tension and intrigue of a chain restaurant place mat.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:17 PM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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