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The Legend of Korra – “Enemy At The Gates” – Episode 44 Recap

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Korra returns to Zaofu to help Suyin against Kuvira’s army. Meanwhile Bolin and Varrick realize they’re on the wrong side, so they make an attempt to escape.

Some people do not suffer fools greatly. Varrick and Zhu Li work as a comical duo because of their contrasting differences: Varrick’s over-the-top mad genius archetype is balanced and countered by Zhu Li’s nonreactive coolness. Zhu Li is the ever suffering assistant to Varrick, forced to trail behind him and do his dirty work with nary a complaint. She silently performs her duties willingly that when she does speak, it’s to subtly correct Varrick’s assumptions or chide him with a deadpan remark. “Enemy at the Gates” elaborates upon their supposed symbiotic relationship when Varrick saves Zhu Li from falling to her doom. There is a visibly romantic moment between the two before Varrick ruins it through his usual audacity. There’s no real malice in his tone and Varrick isn’t manipulating Zhu Li (though Book Two boldly points out he is capable of such); he’s just clueless. Zhu Li goes out of her way to keep Varrick alive and loyalty sticks with him out of admiration for his intelligence, but receives no ounce of gratitude in return. When Zhu Li betrays him and Bolin to side with Kuvira, it’s an expected twist after years of resentment.

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However, I can’t help but think this is a secret ploy Zhu Li thought of on the spot, admittedly maybe because I’m biased and want these two crazy kids to stay together. I envision Zhu Li pampering Kuvira’s ego with false loyalty only to pull something amazing in a later episode, but I’ve been too genre savvy for my own good before. The Legend of Korra is just notoriously adamant about its plot twists, but for all I know Zhu Li truly is truly dancing with the devil. It does open an interesting dynamic only hinted prior: for all that Zhu Li puts up with Varrick, it is not her who needs him, it is Varrick who needs her. Notice Varrick actually names a number of his products after both him and her. Notice he’s in tears, begging and screaming when he is separated from Zhu Li. Now he might finally see the errors of his way. Unintended or not, he was an idiot for not giving Zhu Li her due and it’s paying back in the worst ways. I like to think there’s a possibility the two will reunite on better terms; she clearly left a mark in Varrick’s mind.

“Enemy At The Gates” toys with Varrick’s conscience. He puts a stop to the spirit vine superweapon project after disastrous results, realizing some things are not meant to be tampered with. For once, he disregards any profit he could make off with it and struggles with his developing conscience. It’s a disturbing concept for him, but a benevolent step in the right direction. Only Kuvira’s threats is what keeps him going. Bolin must have rubbed off on him; Varrick is slowly starting to care beyond his greed. Time will tell if this will pay off, but I hope it does. Varrick has always been a likable son of a gun in spite of and because of his ambiguous nature, but a character development for this guy is one I look forward to.

If there’s one fool I’m currently suffering from, it’s Bolin. He’s always been a naïve, trusting soul, but I find it hard to believe that it took this long for him to see through Kuvira’s nature.  He just now realizes she’s nuts? Kai claimed in an earlier episode that Bolin has changed, but I’m not seeing that all. He’s still a big goofball and it works against him here. If Bolin had a radical personality switch, that would be one thing, but his ignorance here stretches believability. His best moment occurs during a fight with Baater Jr. and two Kuvira soldiers. It says something of Bolin’s skills that he’s a more dangerous opponent outside of the metal armor than when he was inside it.

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I like Korra’s train of thought. Usually she dives into action the moment she sees violence or a potential attack waiting to happen. Then increasingly over time, she resorted to trying to talk her way out instead of relying on the ol’ fisticuffs first. “Enemy of the Gates” might be the first episode where she is fully aware of this. Korra owes Kuvira for saving her father’s life three years back, and she attempts peace through words. For all of Kuvira’s bravado, she calls a temporary truce until Korra returns with Suyin’s decision.

Suyin might be right about Kuvira though; she demonstrates the full extent of her totalitarian behavior here. Previous episodes gradually built this up, but kept a considerable human quality to her that at least ensured a smidge of doubt on her true nature. There is none here, as we see Kuvira will threaten death if she does not get her way. People who are not loyal to her are sent to reeducation camps while the rest linger in slavery. She believes her rhetoric, but with it comes a power hungry mindset and brutal zero tolerance. Zaofu is content to live in its bubble, but Kuvira will not rest until every corner of the Earth Kingdom is hers. If anything, Kuvira has a decent point about Zaofu’s neutrality. By refusing to step in and aid the Earth Kingdom in the aftermath of Book 3, Suyin doesn’t cast herself in the best light. Her reasons are valid – she refuses to be seen as a conqueror – but Kuvira’s criticisms against this are equally worth discussing. Their paths may be set and the show makes it clear which side we should be rooting for, but it’s good to again see shades of gray with its political and social themes.

Kuvira’s motivations may be old hat, but her personality compares nicely with Korra’s. Both are blunt forces of nature who fight to get what they want. Luckily, Korra has evolved as a character and learned from her mistakes. She refuses to drown in her own hubris and works to improve herself and the world. Kuvira doesn’t want to compromise herself for anyone, and her pride will likely be her undoing.

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Asami has a minor subplot where she visits her father in prison. Hiroshi has been sending letters to his daughter, but she justifiably refuses to read them. Years in the slammer have taken a toll on the old man and Hiroshi is regretful for what he has done. Asami doesn’t forgive him the first time around, but misses the happy memories the two have created in the past. I like that Asami pointedly tells her father forgiveness will not be an easy accomplishment, but she makes an attempt regardless. It’s sweet and all, but largely pointless and forced. It’s a nice little bonus for Asami, but that’s about it.

“Enemy of the Gates” isn’t really an exceptional episode, but it is an excellent character study. Time is ticking though, Korra has to talk with Suyin into a peaceful resolution, but Suyin has other plans. She and her twin sons Wing and Wei plan to deal with Kuvira in secret, no doubt complicating Korra’s situation.