The Legend of Korra: The Battle of Zaofu
November 7, 2014 5:42 AM - Season 4, Episode 6 - Subscribe

With Kuvira's army encamped before the Metal Clan city of Zaofu, the clan's matriarch, Suyin, along with her sons attempt a last ditch effort to take out Kuvira while she sleeps before her army can attack. In a test of how much Korra has actually recovered since the removal of the remaining poison in her system, the Avatar attempts to fight Kuvira in a duel without the use of the Avatar State with painful results. Varrick with his new assistant, Bolin, are forced to continue work on the spirit vine weapon under the watchful eye of Mr. Scientist Bataar, Jr, with explosive results.

The Battle of Zaofu can be watched on the Nick.com website for free and purchased from such internet video retailers as Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and Google Play.
posted by Atreides (30 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I need to watch this again, but I just wanted to say that the end of the duel was fascinating. I hate watching a favorite character get beaten, and so I was cringing, and then she went Avatar State, and then she literally saw herself in Kuvira. Korra stopped the fight herself; she has changed even without the metal in her, she is not the solve-things-by-punching girl she once was. So now what? Back to Republic City?

My theory at the moment is that this is when she gathers the other world leaders and tells them she's not going to punch this problem away for them, they have to come up with a solution that's not Kuvira or Prince Manicure. The obvious way would be to convince (but probably force) Kuvira to agree to a democratic election. Also, freeing the prisoners in the camps needs to be happening immediately.

I guess Bolin and Varrick don't get to show us the inside of the camps after all. Maybe they thought that was too dark? Or that the train-escape was too awesome?

I would also like to point out that Zhu Li currently believes Bataar Jr. is the reason Varrick is dead. And she's working for him. I don't think Junior is going to make it out of this season alive.
posted by emjaybee at 6:34 AM on November 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


"I knew you were weak."

So, we've got a clear callback to Ozai there, and in some ways, Aang's decision not to decide an issue by lethal marshal force. But, oh, Kuvira, you were ready to, if those sharpened blades were any indication.

Still, I don't think that's Kuvira's most villainous moment in the show so far: I'm going to nominate her lying to Opal about Bo Lin instead. There is, I suppose, a marginal demoralization gain to be had at that moment, but it's so insignificant compared to every other advantage Kuvira already has by that time that it can't really be called calculating. Evil behavior on such a petty scale where there's little at stake reveals either an metastasized habit of manipulating people or an enthusiasm for it.

And if the callback is meant to draw a comparison between her and Ozai, I think Kuvira comes off worse, honestly. Sure, Ozai was pretty much a psychopath, but he was pretty up front about his worship of his own power and position: his actions were about him and the nation he saw as an extension of his will. Kuvira, OTOH, pays lip service to values people recognize as positive -- order, safety, unity, respecting peace agreements -- and somehow gets some of the people some of the time to believe that's what this is about instead of her.

(Ozai also was the product of three generations of unbalanced and unchecked expression of fire nation core character. You can see that jello coming out of that mold. It's more surprising to see it come out of the peace and privilege of Zaofu. There's probably a point in there somewhere, not sure the show is making it clearly.)

then she literally saw herself in Kuvira.

Love the way you put this. I think as interesting as the Kuvira/Ozai comparison invited by this episode, the Korra/Aang one is interesting as well. Aang chose not to kill based on a deep commitment to personal values he'd always held (that were possibly innate but also instilled in him via air nomad culture, just as Ozai was arguably a product of his culture) -- and choosing to assert that personal value and by extension his own identity as he realizes his full power and assumes his role in the world is a fitting climax for the show. By contrast, we all know Korra hasn't been that person, and now she's suddenly (literally) seeing with new perspective. This is a new and uncertain step for her in building a new identity, and we're all waiting to see what that is and how she'll assert it.


I also have to say I'm really happy to see wily Varrick back. I was surprised and disappointed when he wasn't more so last episode -- I'd have expected when Kuvira threatened him over the train tracks that he'd have been clever enough to know she can't kill him and get the weapon. On the other hand, he may have been a better judge than me. She does not seem to respond well to any challenge to her authority.

And, Vaatu-inspired purple spirit blasts confirmed. Looks like the show will weigh in on the question of heavy destructive power of nuclear weapons.
posted by weston at 8:14 AM on November 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Why do Kuvira and Baatar Jr. insist on putting their science labs on moving trains? The Earth Empire seriously needs to review their occupational safety codes.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:26 AM on November 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


Haha yes, at least pull onto a siding, guys.
posted by emjaybee at 8:37 AM on November 7, 2014


Maybe there have been two Korras all along, maybe there are more, maybe you're Korra in the Avatar state and don't even realize it.

I like to think that we're all Korra and we're all capable of badassdom!!
posted by Fizz at 8:46 AM on November 7, 2014


Why do Kuvira and Baatar Jr. insist on putting their science labs on moving trains?

See what they did there? They're moving forward -- literally!

Classic Kuvira {/}
posted by weston at 9:09 AM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I love how they used the shorthand of Avatar-State-Spirit-Korra to add all these layers to the Korra and Kuvira fight. How, as you said, emjaybee, that Korra saw herself in Kuvira, and how despite Su yelling for a violent end, that Korra is going to have to find something different, something that she's never done before, because she's always relied on her fists.

Did anyone else find it interesting that, during the entire fight, she didn't seem to use waterbending at all? She keeps on going straight for fire and air, which I think says a lot about her.

I really love how Jeremy Zuckerman brought back one of the best parts of the Book 4 trailer music for the Airbending tornado of awesome. It feels like the cymbals are the Earth Empire metal army, all clashing and clanging mechas, and the drums are the Air Nation, fast and nearly subsonic, a perfect counter to the cymbals.

Zhu Li is going to be trouble for Junior. I can feel it. And it's going to be glorious.

I know people will go "Bolin is a moron, oh my god, how does he survive in the world" because he doesn't believe Varrick will actually build a bomb. But that's just what he does - he wouldn't build a bomb, so why would someone who is smarter than him build one? And that's even more proof that Bolin is awesome and he should be the new Earth President. I'm calling it now, folks.

Now for shallowness. I adore Huan. He is ridiculous and delightful and I love how he's standing up to his big brother. I absolutely adored the painting scene with Ikki and Meelo, and how he praised Ikki's art but panned Meelo's, because he was right - it wasn't about Meelo's inner self, it was that super-inflated ego of a nine-year-old.

(Although we need to have a talk about Meelo's apparent amazing art ability. What.)
posted by Katemonkey at 4:00 PM on November 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


And yay, Bryan posted the paintings.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:18 PM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Random thoughts!

So Kuvira was actually going to kill Korra with the sharp blades, there. I guess she figured, hey, it'll be a least 12 years before the next Avatar (an Earthbender no less) can be a threat, I can get a lot accomplished in that time!

There is nothing worse than a parent saying "I'm so disappointed in you" is there? Though Junior completely deserved it. What a prick. Who knew whiny artist brother would actually have the guts to stand up and say "pfft!" to Kuvira? Also does Ikki have a crush on him? I would.

I was kind of hoping Bolin would lava the floor and get rid of the bomb that way, but that might not work.

Varrick is much better when he's not on top, then you don't feel bad rooting for him. When he's assisting bad guys willingly or exploiting Bolin it's much harder to like the guy.

Man, if I was Opal, it would be hard to obey someone a foot shorter and four years younger.

Korra was sort of forced into that fight by the expectations of those around her (Suyin, Opal, even Jinora). Her heart was never in it. I don't think it had to do with her physical strength nearly as much as her desire to not even fight at all. She's becoming more Aang-like in many respects. She needs some meditation time. Maybe she'll go to the spirit world (or wilds) and find something to organize her ideas around?

When will Handsome Iroh Jr. make his reappearance? And his mom? I need some Zuko family in this thing.
posted by emjaybee at 5:10 PM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Did anyone else find it interesting that, during the entire fight, she didn't seem to use waterbending at all? She keeps on going straight for fire and air, which I think says a lot about her.

Yeah, I noticed that there was no waterbending, but I assumed that was just a consequence of no useful water nearby... Korra seems to be adept with all the elements, but she hasn't really shown a level of mastery of any individual one on the level we saw with characters like Katara, Azula and Toph in ATLA. (I guess she's metalbent now, but metalbending seems a lot more pedestrian than it did in ATLA, even though they've established not everyone can do it... plus, she didn't seem to use it at all during the fight with Kuvira, even though she did a fair bit of conventional earthbending.)

I think they said when the series was first starting up that Korra's affinity for firebending was definitely a reflection of her personality, and they were also playing with the detail they established in ATLA that the avatar is usually weakest in their 'opposite' element to make a statement.

Loving this story arc, though it is a bit hard to see Korra get beaten up over and over again. (Is this the third time that Jinora has saved her?) I think they're aware that the arc of the series, in many ways, has been written around Korra being traumatized in a way that they never did with Aang, which gives me hope they're leading up to a satisfying resolution. Sometimes tough to watch, though.

I really enjoyed the Varrick and Bolin B-plot here. Didn't expect that from Varrick.

Atreides, I'm missing your analysis!
posted by Kosh at 5:13 PM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


This was a really difficult ep to watch for me. I feel like we've seen Korra get beaten over and over and over - her story was always about the girl who went in with the fists first, and now that she's seemingly not that person anymore, she's been essentially helpless against attackers yet keeps being put in situations where she's trying. I don't know where she goes from here. If the other countries/world leaders were going to intervene with the Kuvira situation, they surely don't need Korra to tell them to do it.

It looked like there was going to be a ceremonial execution at the end there.
posted by PussKillian at 8:38 PM on November 7, 2014


Apparently the episode 7 clip is out, but, really, this animated gif is all that matters.
posted by Katemonkey at 6:42 AM on November 8, 2014


Now I really want to see Toph turn up, to show Kuvira how metal bending's done properly.
posted by Ned G at 7:21 AM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Apparently the episode 7 clip is out, but, really, this animated gif is all that matters.

Animal companion reunions mean things are about to get better!
posted by weston at 7:50 AM on November 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Way to ruin the moment, Tenzin." Oh Bumi. But it's not Tenzin's fault, this whole series moves at whiplash speeds, no time for fluff! That clip was like Animal Companion Roundup: Naga, Pabu, Ikki's little sugarglider thing, Meelo's lemur.

Bumi's either lost some weight or those flight suits have Spanx built in.
posted by emjaybee at 8:55 AM on November 8, 2014


Oh, for Pete's sake: I only just now got it. "Boom-Ju" = Bumi Junior. D'oh!

That said, YAY Naga! I also loved Pabu playing with Naga's tail. Naga really isn't much like a bear: she's just a really big fabulous dog.
posted by suelac at 12:40 PM on November 8, 2014


so many feels you guys
it was so hard watching kuvira throw around my girl korra like that

but anyway, some thoughts:

I'm kinda disappointed that Korra didn't accept Jinora and Opal's offer to help. I'm not sure she's quite gotten it through her head that it's okay to accept help when help is offered, and there's no shame in it, even if you are the Avatar.

Korra seemed to be going for direct attacks, while Kuvira's were a lot more subtle, especially at the start. Overall, it seemed like Korra's heart just wasn't in it; brute force isn't going to work anymore, and she's going to have to find a different solution to Kuvira's empire building.

then she literally saw herself in Kuvira.


Just wanted to say that I think that's a brilliant way of putting it.

What, exactly, does Baatar Jr. do for Kuvira that she couldn't get anywhere else? Yes, yes, they're engaged to be married and all, but he appears to be nothing more than a glorified lap dog.* He just seems so impotent compared to Kuvira, his dad, even Varrick. That, combined with Zhu Li thinking he's the reason Varrick is dead, makes me think he's not going to make it to the end of the series.

*Maybe Kuvira likes having glorified lap dogs. Or maybe she likes having something of Suyin's as a lap dog, I dunno.
posted by supermassive at 8:47 AM on November 9, 2014


So I figured out something about why Opal is so angry about Kuvira.

Let's think about Opal. Up until Book 3, she's a nonbender in a metalbending legacy. Her older brother Junior is also a nonbender, but he has at least a good 10 years on her, so it's not like they're going to hang out all that much. Huan's a metalbender, and I bet the twins were at least throwing hunks of dirt around from when they were babies, so Opal's...by herself. She's the only daughter, and she obviously has a good relationship with her mother, but there's still that divide - Mom creates art and buildings and everything, and Opal can only...sit there.

And then Kuvira comes into the family. Kuvira, who can metalbend, who probably comes to live with the Bei Fongs when Opal's a little girl, and Kuvira must've seemed amazing. I bet Opal idolised the hell out of her when she was little.

But then Opal gets older. And she starts to notice things. Like how Mom spends all her time with Kuvira. Like how Mom has plans for Kuvira, for her future, for her career. How Opal has everything she could want, but she can't leave Zaofu, because it's dangerous. She's locked up in her metal cage.

And Kuvira's in the military. And Kuvira's a metal dancer. And Kuvira is her mother's trusted guard. And Kuvira, Kuvira, Kuvira!

And when Kuvira sticks with the family, then it's mostly okay, because Opal has her own life now, but then Kuvira fights against the Bei Fongs, and takes Opal's big brother, and then takes Opal's boyfriend, and Kuvira had everything Opal wanted, and just threw it away.

So Opal isn't just angry about the villagers. She isn't just angry about Zaofu. She's also angry because Kuvira got everything Opal always wanted.
posted by Katemonkey at 12:43 PM on November 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


Egads, my life refused to allow me to sit down at Metafilter for more than the amount of time I had to throw the post up, until now. Thank you everyone for the multiple layers of comment cake to devour and chew through! I have adopted the "Let's put the novel somewhere else and link to it" strategy into play, and I put a link to my more recap/considerations up at the top in the recap section for those who are interested (I wrote it with a little bit of vertigo and headache, so, ah, please excuse anything that really makes no sense or if there's any missing words!).

Emjaybee, let me just complain for not having written that interpretation of Korra seeing herself in Kuvira myself. Succinct and straight to a fascinating point that I've been watching for the season so far, which has been comparing Kuvira to Korra as a stand in for the Avatar. It's a point that's been repeatedly touched upon, even in this episode, but you definitely lobbed the spirit vine bomb bull's eye onto the target. Korra see's herself in her own enemy, competitor, and potential replacement.

I see it as Kuvira fully symbolizing the desires or fears that Korra has been dealing with since she was traumatized by the events of Book 3. Toph complained to Korra that it was Korra who was holding herself back, be it pulling the metal out or not. Perhaps this moment was a relapse for Korra's psyche, when faced with a powerful woman of approximately the same age, who did the job that Korra should have done in saving the Earth Kingdom and then that person telling her to her face, "You're not relevant anymore..." It definitely could have helped resurrect feelings that Korra thought banished.

We really have the hardest problem with understanding the nature of Korra's visions. Are we seeing something summoned by Raava or something entirely fabricated by Korra's damaged mind? Spiritual being?

So Opal isn't just angry about the villagers. She isn't just angry about Zaofu. She's also angry because Kuvira got everything Opal always wanted.

This is definitely a great way to understand Opal's anger, which has been borderline seething to teeth gnashing the entire time.
posted by Atreides at 2:31 PM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I like katemonkey's Opal analysis. I honestly haven't given her much thought; just categorized her as a "Fluttershy" (Korra obviously being the Rainbow Dash of this group) and being glad she wouldn't be a jerk to Bolin.

What, exactly, does Baatar Jr. do for Kuvira that she couldn't get anywhere else? Yes, yes, they're engaged to be married and all, but he appears to be nothing more than a glorified lap dog.* He just seems so impotent compared to Kuvira, his dad, even Varrick.

He is a useful PR tool. "Look, even Suyin's son is on my side!" And he has some science knowledge (just not as much as Varrick) so he was probably useful in building trains and what not. And now he's going to try to keep the spirit vine program going.

His complete submersion in Kuvira's ideology is interesting. Was a nasty breakaway from his family inevitable regardless? Or did Kuvira fan his hatred higher than it would have been? Did she play on his fears of being his father's shadow, or did he have that without her?

There's definitely no romance there; it is purely political. In a darker/more adult show, I would expect Kuvira's true desires to be shown; affairs with other men, or women, who worshipped her.
posted by emjaybee at 5:25 PM on November 9, 2014


He is a useful PR tool. "Look, even Suyin's son is on my side!"

This came to mind pretty much right after I wrote my original comment. Having a Beifong on her side gives her campaign legitimacy.

Was a nasty breakaway from his family inevitable regardless? Or did Kuvira fan his hatred higher than it would have been? Did she play on his fears of being his father's shadow, or did he have that without her?

Probably some combination of all of the above. Junior yelling at his father to bow to Kuvira seemed more than a little childish, and Kuvira herself has been shown to be a skilled manipulator, after all.

There might have been a time three years before when she had some affection for him (maybe not even then -- for all we know, the relationship could have started as a way to piss off Su), but now? Absolutely not. All that matters now is the pursuit of power, and I fully expect her to dispose of him if/when he ceases to be useful or becomes a liability.
posted by supermassive at 7:10 PM on November 9, 2014


Probably some combination of all of the above. Junior yelling at his father to bow to Kuvira seemed more than a little childish, and Kuvira herself has been shown to be a skilled manipulator, after all.

To clarify, I think there was a lot of rage on his part in that scene that I don't think can be fully explained away by Kuvira's manipulations. She probably manipulated him, but there was probably a lot of resentment there to begin with.
posted by supermassive at 7:45 PM on November 9, 2014


Junior hates his parents because he's been living in their shadow all this time. Hell, he's named Junior, and his mother won't stop calling him that.

He never got a chance to rebel, as such. Well, son, you're a non-bender. But that's great, because it means you can work with your father on city-planning projects and never invent or create anything of your own, because Huan's the artist, and you're just the engineer.

So it builds, and builds, and then Varrick comes over, and he's a genius engineer, and that means that Junior gets stuck with the drudge work of building trains while Varrick's playing with magnets, and there's that resentment again, but Kuvira has been in the family since they were both preteens, and she says "You're actually smarter than all of them, you are your own person, and I have plans," and there we go, it all comes out, because she's saving him.

I hope there's redemption for Junior. I doubt there will be.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:23 AM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


From Atreides' recap:
The explosion did more than create the false belief that Varrick and Bolin were dead, however, it wiped out Kuvira’s supply of the spirit vines. There’s only one place left in the material world where spirit vine is available, Republic City. Too bad for Kuvira it’s not conveniently connected to the Earth Kingdom via a railroad line. Er, wait. Yep. We now have our reason for Kuvira to invade Republic City, not less because it was once part of the Earth Kingdom and uniting parts of the Earth Kingdom is kind of a hobby for the Great Uniter. Zaofu under thumb, Kuvira will definitely be turning her eyes to the city that Avatar Aang helped to found.
That seems like a strong possibility, and we've seen enough future footage in trailers that it seems to be where they're going. But the part of me that's hoping for more Toph wonders if the swamp could also be a candidate...
posted by weston at 6:15 PM on November 11, 2014


I'm kinda disappointed that Korra didn't accept Jinora and Opal's offer to help.

There's a bunch of reasons for that. It was a duel, so it was a matter of honour. Korra was likely afraid that Kuvira would just kill them, since she was using deadly force. Finally, Korra still had something to prove, to herself.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:33 AM on November 12, 2014


I'm kinda disappointed that Korra didn't accept Jinora and Opal's offer to help. I'm not sure she's quite gotten it through her head that it's okay to accept help when help is offered, and there's no shame in it, even if you are the Avatar.

I think it was more that they wanted BLOOD. Korra was looking for a peaceful solution.

Anyone know where to look for a concise account of what's been going on behind the scenes with Nickelodeon? I just got caught up with the series this week (had to go to anime haven to watch the second half of season 3) and I'm wondering what's up with Nick's streaming and plans for the franchise. Is this the final season or just the final season with Nickelodeon?
posted by GrapeApiary at 7:18 AM on November 12, 2014


The writers have said more than once that this is the final season/end of story for the Avatar universe. Now that doesn't rule out comics, books, movies or them deciding to come back to it, but there are no plans to take Korra past this season per the interviews I've read. They apparently have non-Avatar-universe projects they want to work on.
posted by emjaybee at 10:45 AM on November 12, 2014


Bummer, but probably better than it getting stale. I thought I had heard this was the final season. I've been thinking that with the connection to her past Avatar selves severed, they might make the line of Avatars truly end with her. Like, Kuvira's right and Avatars are no longer relevant.

Am I crazy in thinking they've foreshadowed this? Someone was telling Korra that she eventually agreed with Unalaq in opening the spirit gates, that she agreed with dude from season 1 about the need for non-benders to get a fair shake, and with Zaheer about the corruption of gov't/royalty.
posted by GrapeApiary at 11:28 AM on November 12, 2014


You're not crazy for going down that line, but I think it's really been used as a means to raise the doubt within Korra as to her place in the modern world. They planted the seeds in her mind back at the end of Season 3 and have played it up both physically, geospatially, and psychologically this season. The important part to take away from it all is the source of who is saying these things. It's Korra's subconscious/conscious fears and then no one who loves and supports Korra. The moment we have someone like Tenzin or Asami say, "Look Korra, we love you, but, well, being the Avatar doesn't really matter anymore." Granted, that would be coached in much more loving words, but it won't happen. Tenzin, for as much as he throws the Air Nomads into a "Avatar Support Force" did so specifically until Korra got back on her feet, not to replace her.

Korra's support network has done nothing but push her back into the Avatar role, even if she's tried to reject that help, but it has continued to do so all through Korra's own doubts. Toph believed in the Avatar and the Air Kids immediately helped Korra have the strength to remove the poison and step back into the world. It's the self-doubt, heavily lain down this season, which is almost as much an enemy to Korra as Kuvira, and her defeat over one of those two things will immediately follow her defeat of the other.

My guess is the series will end with Korra coming to terms with being the Avatar and recognizing that role in the modern era, but it won't be a role of museum relic.
posted by Atreides at 7:28 AM on November 13, 2014


Late to watching but wasn't it totally emphasized that the airbenders have a pact with the various governments not to interfere, and that Opal and Jinora are the equivalent of the Red Cross/UN?

Also, I don't think it was a reflection but actual Avatar state. The Avatar comes form the union with the good uber-spirit, right? And what with the reunion of the spirit world and all the vines throbbing with purple energy, there's been hints that the evil uber-spirit is back in play again. What if it bonded/infected Kuvira so that she is able to go into a similar Avatar-state, although for now it's biding its time.

I definitely think they will have to end the show with some kind of widespread democracy and rights for non-benders, or to have the benders be the final generation.
posted by viggorlijah at 1:21 AM on November 14, 2014


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