Home Blog The Legend of Korra – “Operation Beifong” – Episode 49 Recap

The Legend of Korra – “Operation Beifong” – Episode 49 Recap


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Bolin helps Opal and Lin save their family.

Now we’re getting somewhere. Lin, Opal, and Bolin decide to take matters into their own hands and rescue the Beifong family from Kuvira. Before the infiltration Toph barges in and joins the team, much to Lin’s dismay.

Toph was an exciting addition to Book 4. True to her character, she was a tough nut to crack. Toph’s edge gave Korra the motivation she needed to remove the last traces of the poison. I assumed Toph’s role ended in “The Calling”; the possibility that Lin wanted to patch up with her mother never crossed my mind. Lin’s core issues were resolved in Book 3 and I figured that was more than enough. I like to consider Toph and Lin’s resolution as a bonus: not necessary to complete Lin’s story, but a little something extra to complete the package.

Toph and Lin are a stubborn pair, unable to express their feelings beyond passive-aggressive insults and blunt honesty. Suyin’s growing maturity from teenage to adulthood has prepared Lin to accept her sibling as a changed person from her criminal days. Toph is a bigger challenge, since she’s largely been the same woman for decades, so Lin decides her mother is a lost cause and plans to cut all ties after the mission. Toph’s reaction is telling because it openly clarifies the relationship between her and her children that Lin and Suyin previously discussed back in Book 3. Toph’s parenting method was a very hands-off approach, as she wanted her children to find their own paths. That leads to Toph easily accepting Lin’s declaration, but she secretly harbors regret about it. Neither mother nor daughter are sentimental enough to just sit down and work out their differences. Fittingly, it takes a dangerous mission and an extensive battle with Kuvira’s army to get the two to finally forgive. I love their exchange at the end: short and to the point with none of that namby-pamby hugging and crying nonsense.

When I first saw this episode, I was disappointed with Toph’s earthbending skills as they didn’t show the enormous, raw force she had during her prime. She does keep up with earthbenders decades younger than her and, at one point, conjures an earthquake powerful enough to down a small army. “Operation Beifong” could have been the episode to show off Toph’s talents after years of hardened experience, but she keeps it small and simple. It took until the ending when Toph declares that her better days are over that I understood why it was that way. Toph didn’t join this mission to save the world, but to free her family. She knows the good old days are behind and that it’s time for the next generation to step up. However chaotic the world is and will be, it is in capable hands. Toph isn’t ignorant of the crisis, but her temporary intervention serves as a reminder that her story is finished. Katara spoke similar words in the first episode, and other appearances from past Avatar characters have also supported that message. That doesn’t stop Toph from getting all the best lines, though. I love the answer she gives Bolin concerning Lin’s father, Kanto. His identity was the subject of heavy speculation from fans, so I can’t imagine the fun the creators had at their expanse when the reveal finally comes and lacks pomp and circumstance. All we get is a name and that’s more than enough.

The Bolin/Opal subplot is passable, but it brings up a nagging issue I have with their relationship. Opal and Bolin’s conflict involved differing political and moral views. She wasn’t happy when he stuck with Kuvira for as long as he did in spite of the latter’s madness. Bolin understands the deep mess he’s in and spent the last few episodes suffering for it.  This is not the same group he joined to help the Earth Kingdom, but is instead a force of unrelenting dictatorship. From that perspective, Bolin going out of his way to save the Beifong family is justly enough for Opal to forgive, but I still can’t help but think it’s a tad shallow. It’s like Bolin merely tagged along with Opal mostly to fix their ailing relationship, not so much because of genuine concern for her family. By comparison, he strongly reacts to Zhu Li’s situation. Bolin is a compassionate guy, so I imagine the writers intended his involvement in the mission to prove he cares for the Beifongs, but I think the effort was a bit clumsy. All things considered it’s handled decently, but it’s also a missed opportunity.

Zhu Li’s unexpected betrayal was an amazing plot twist, but I hoped she was pulling a ruse to secretly sabotage Kuvira’s plans and that’s just what happens when she manages to buy Team Avatar some time. After Bolin and Opal save her, Zhu Li relays a message: Kuvira will strike Republic City in two weeks, super weapon in tow. I’m interested to see her inevitable reunion with Varrick and see if Varrick takes the chance to make amends, now that he’s been through being apart from her for this long.

Korra has a minor but important subplot where she seeks the spirits’ aid against Kuvira. None of them are budging though, citing the fact that the last human who messed with the spirit world nearly brought ten thousand years of darkness. I don’t blame their reluctance, but Book 4’s theme is “Balance.” I think it’s only a matter of time before they join the fight when they realize how much the human world means to them.

Other worthy moments include a scene with Baater Jr. when he spots his sister in the empty town targeted for the super weapon. He panics and nearly stops the testing himself. He may have abandoned his family, but he still cares. This could be a sign that he hasn’t gone completely over the edge like Kuvira has. The metalbending choreography is also exceptional here, with major highlight being the one-on-one duel between Suyin and Kuvira. The battle between the two of them was excellent and long overdue.

“Operation Beifong” effortlessly moves the plot forward, setting the stage for the finale. Book 4 has been stretching its narrative as thinly as it could, but with three episodes left it seems to be gaining momentum now.