Coronation Day: Korra vs. Toph, Round One!   2 comments

Tragically, I wasn’t able to watch The Legend of Korra’s newest episode on Friday. Horror of horrors, situations demanded that I wait until late Sunday night. The good news? I only have five days to wait for the new episode, not all seven like you saps who watched it the day it came out! Don’t worry, though: by the time this posts I’ll be in the same boat as you, with something like three or four days until we can all see it. And then you’ll have not revenge per se, but hopefully a balanced application of justice.

In the off chance that you’ve waited EVEN LONGER to watch this episode, and don’t want me to spoil anything about the episode for you, then I suggest… nay, DEMAND… that you not read on as there will be spoilers aplenty below. And they’ll begin as soon as we drop below the image of all the Spoilers in their native habitat of Gotham. Spoiler Warning!

Spoiler

Thanks for doing your job, Stephanie Brown. Truly one of the greatest members of the Bat Family. Anyway, on to Korra’s spoilers.

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TOPH!

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. The episode didn’t begin with Toph, but the previous episode ended with her, something I didn’t reveal last week (just in case the spoiler warning wasn’t enough… if you didn’t know by now, then you had your chance.) The episode actually begins on Coronation Day in Republic City, with the new Earth-King-To-Be getting ready for the grand festivities. Mako is still dealing with Prince Wu, who’s planning on his coronation getting ever more extravagant by the moment. (Note to self: nice job writing his name down on that text file, John! Sure saved you some trouble when you had to write this review offline without any ability to look it up. Moving on…)

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In addition to a few setting-placing moments from Tenzin and President Raiko, the scene is also a good excuse to show us two excellent comparisons. In the hotel, Mako and Bolin have a side to side reunion where the two get back in touch with each other and say a few things that set the stage for their shifting personal views. It’s nice and subtle, and we can’t have that, so a more obvious comparison scene happens with Prince Wu and Kuvira having a bit of a chat. Kuvira all-but tells the Prince that she’s going to be doing things her way (she even has the clout to downgrade him to a lesser suite so that she can have the nicest room in the hotel). Oh, and Varrick shows up, carrying a huge amount of luggage.

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I want to pause for a moment and point out how Varrick is being used as an excellent source of Villain Decay. In the second season of Avatar, he was a mastermind, a tactical genius and brilliant inventor (or at least someone who knew enough about technology to hire the right brilliant inventors) who could make a profit anywhere, and was willing to bomb his own nation’s cultural center and hire gangsters as a way to gain a controlling interest in Future Industries. He wasn’t evil per se, but he was definitely criminal, and the kind of criminal that could get away with almost anything. Two seasons later, and he’s basically acting as Kuvira’s lackey. Ultimately, nothing has changed about the character, because he’s still the same mad genius that he’s always been. The situation has changed, though, and the real villains of the series are that much more powerful. Most shows don’t pull off villain decay this nicely, so I hope future TV shows take note (sadly, it’s so subtle that it may go entirely unnoticed by some of the people who need to see it the most.) Anyway, on with the review.

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TOPH!

We get a few moments of Toph sparring with Korra, and Korra is losing spectacularly. There are times when Toph doesn’t even move, just letting the earth do the moving for her. Korra is getting more and more frustrated, but Toph is having a blast, apparently. The scene isn’t long, and it doesn’t do very much other than reminding us of Korra and Toph’s situation, and giving us a scenic beat so that we can be okay moving on to the coronation scene. While the part the scene plays is a small one, it’s also vital to the episode’s flow as a whole, I think.

We still don’t have direct confirmation from Toph that the jungle is the same one seen in the first season of The Last Airbender, but the way that Toph talks about the roots going all the way across the world suggests to me that it really is. (And even if it’s not, it’s likely part of a clonal organism that connects different swamps together.)

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The Coronation itself turns into an incredibly small affair. The Earth Kingdom hasn’t done well after the looting, losing most of its ceremonial heirlooms and gold. However, an earring from the Queen was recovered and fashioned into a broach that was used to turn the corronation into a ceremonial pinning.

Prince Wu takes a moment to thank Kuvira for all her work in keeping the Earth Kingdom stable, giving her a medal for her service. She asks if she can have a moment to say a few words. He says, sure, why not?

NOTICE: that single sentence is effectively the moment where he loses control of the political situation. I’m not going to say that what follows politically would be impossible without him having said that, but that one public speech over the radio was the public forum and platform that Kuvira needed to do what we all knew she was going to do from the start of the season.

Kuvira declares the old Earth Kingdom to be gone, and that a new Earth Empire is now going under her control. She says that any opposition, or people coming into the Earth Empire without authorization, will be crushed. She has a handy dandy golden medal of honor around her neck that she can crush as she says this, and after a few moments of stunned silence from the leaders of the world, the audience applauds (or at least, the Earth Kingdom people in the audience applaud.) Bolin nervously plauds along with the rest of Kuvira’s supporters since, well, she’s his boss and all.

Later, Bolin is with Varrick, and we get to see a few more hints about what he’s up to before Kuvira arrives to talk to Bolin. She asks about his feelings on the matter, and gives a pep talk. It’s honestly hard to tell if she’s being sincere about everything she says, or if she’s just saying it because she knows it’s what Bolin needs to hear to keep him on her side. My guess is that she legitimately is sincere, as the best villains are the ones who legitimately believe that they’re in the right, but it’s hard to say. Her mom (Suyin Beifong, leader/founder of Zaofu, Chief Lin Beifong’s sister, and Toph’s second daughter) arrives, and Bolin is asked to leave. Suyin lets Kuvira know that the world leaders have basically decided that they don’t like this whole “I’m declaring the Earth Kingdom gone, and declaring myself ruler of a new Earth Empire in the exact same place, and threatening people who don’t like it with crushing” thing, and Kuvira says that she has the right to for the sake of public interest alone: she’s done more to protect, unite, and civilize the Earth Kingdom than anyone else, and she doesn’t want to sit by and watch some inexperienced ruler like Prince Wu ruin everything. Suyin notes that she’s aware of what happens to the places that don’t accept her rulership, and Kuvira says that she should know what’s in store for Zaofu in that case.

Meanwhile, Mako is with Prince Wu, who’s trying to cope with the biggest day of his life turning into the worst day of his life. Bolin arrives, and the two brothers talk about the situation. Mako points out some of the bad things that Kuvira’s saying (the crushing, for instance), and Bolin effectively recites the words that Kuvira said in the pep talk. It’s just strong rhetoric to let people know that they mean business, right? Bolin compares Kuvira to Korra, leading to the most hilarious expression I’ve ever seen on Mako’s face.

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It’s like the suggestion that Korra and Kuvira have anything in common broke Mako’s brain for a second. In Bolin’s defense, he’s not all wrong: Korra tends to see things that need doing, and then she does them. She also makes some big, world-changing decisions and performs actions that change the world in huge ways, many of which have left people unhappy with her. And, honestly, Korra’s had some really good reasons for doing the things she did, and the results, while mixed, were generally positive. For someone in Bolin’s position, it’s easy to see the comparison.

Incidentally, I love the fact that Mako is the one on the “side” of Prince Wu while Bolin is on the “side” of Kuvira. It would have been so very, very easy to set Mako up as the straight-laced lover of order while Bolin supported the more chaotic status quo. I’m not saying that their individual personalities don’t support the choices they’ve made to get to the sides their on, but in this particular episode it really helps to demonstrate the valid points that both sides of the issue make.

Anyway, their tensions flare, and Bolin storms away. Prince Wu heard the whole thing and invites Mako out for a day on the town to cheer him up, and Mako’s so down in the dumps that he actually accepts.

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Meanwhile, we return to the swamp for a bit, where Toph has about had her fill of Avatar-pummeling for the day. She was grateful for the chance as most of the swamp benders apparently can’t take a punch. Korra complains that she feels like she’s not up to her game yet, and Toph says it’s probably the metal in her system. This information comes as a really big shock to Korra, who thought it was all gone.

Back in Republic City, Prince Wu and Mako are on the verge of cheering up a bit when the prince sees two people walking around with Kuvira shirts. He demands to know where they got them, and runs to the store to demand that they stop selling shirts that support Kuvira. A mob starts, and Mako is barely able to get the Prince to safety. They run through back portions of Republic City for a bit until they emerge in front of a restaurant that looks like the Earth Kingdom’s palace.

At this point, Prince Wu loses it and runs into the palace, pushing his way past people taking a picture of themselves with a statue of Bosco the Bear (I wonder how much you have to pay for the seat closest to the statue…) and forces a kid out of a model of the throne, even though it’s the kid’s birthday.

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Mako gives him a really frank talk then, since Wu is clearly off his rocker. The issue is brought up: if Prince Wu were just a regular person in the Earth Kingdom, would he want someone like himself to become the king? A king has the responsibility to tend to and protect the individuals, after all, but also has the power to ignore that responsibility. Prince Wu has a really nice moment where it’s obvious that he’s suddenly thinking about a lot of the issues of nobility, possibly for the first time ever. A part of me wonders if Prince Wu is going to become the break-out character of the season. I mean, he started at such a low note, as a person that the entire audience is going to absolutely hate… can you imagine how awesome it’ll be if the show gets to the point where we not only want to see him instated as ruler because he’s an alternative to Kuvira, but also because he legitimately becomes a good person?

Anyway, back to Korra and Toph. Toph attempts to remove the poison, but the process becomes too painful for Korra, to the point that it looks to Toph like she’s unwilling to go through the process. She says “if you want the poison out, you’ll have to get it out yourself,” suggesting a possible arc for the season beyond this point.

We get a final look at Kuvira and Varrick as the episode ends. Varrick is running some sort of experiment with the spirit-vines that cover Republic City, and getting into full mad-scientist mode. We don’t know just what he’s planning for them, but Kuvira is very interested in seeing his work continue.

So, that’s the summary of the episode. As far as episodes go, it was a fun one. Currently, it’s my second favorite episode of the season (I don’t know how long I’ll actually be keeping track of that kind of thing.) I don’t know exactly what’s coming up, but I think the season is ramping up nicely.

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2 responses to “Coronation Day: Korra vs. Toph, Round One!

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  1. what do you think is the best sect of bending? and why?

    • “Best” is really hard to define, and I don’t think there really is one that stands out as “better” than the others. If I was to pick a personal favorite, though… sand bending, because I love beaches. Or metal bending, because it’s so fresh. Or plant bending.

      Let’s go plant bending.

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