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‘The Legend of Korra’ Review/Recap: “Operation Beifong”

Joey Sack ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

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Another great episode from The Legend of Korra comes in the form of this week’s episode, “Operation Beifong.” This episode sees not one, not two, but three generations of Beifongs come together to rescue the rest of the Beifong family from the clutches of the Earth Empire. We also see Republic City continue to fortify its defenses, and we see the Avatar call upon the spirits who have come to call the city home to help in the fight against the Great Uniter. The Avatar World is preparing for war as we near the end of the series, so let’s talk about the latest escalation.

A quick side note: to put Avatar fans’ minds at ease, at least for now, this episode breaks from typical Avatar tradition, as it’s the tenth episode of the season and nothing particularly dark or depressing happens. To illustrate this point, a quick look back on the tenth episode of every season of the Avatar franchise is in order. Ready? GO! Book One: Water: Jet is revealed to be willing to kill innocent civilians to get rid of Fire Nation soldiers. Book Two: Earth: Appa is stolen by sandbenders. Book Three: Fire: the Fire Lord isn’t in his palace on the Day of Black Sun. Book One: Air: Republic City falls under Amon’s control, Tenzin’s family is forced to flee Republic City, Korra and her friends are forced into hiding, and Lin has her earthbending removed by Amon. Book Two: Spirits: Korra is forced to open the Northern Portal to the Spirit World, and Jinora’s soul is trapped in the Spirit World. Book Three: Change: Zaheer bends the air out of the Earth Queen’s lungs, killing her and igniting chaos in Ba Sing Se and the Earth Kingdom as a whole. Suffice it to say, the co-creators of Avatar and Korra seem to have a fascination with making the tenth episode of any particular season somewhat dark or depressing, but it seems that they’ve gone against tradition with their final season and with this episode. However, keep in mind that with the clip show we got a couple of weeks ago, everything may have been bumped down a notch, so next week’s episode, right before the finale, may be the dark episode or have that dark moment that this series needs in its final act. Side note over, on to the review …

The main plot of this episode revolves around Lin Beifong (Mindy Sterling), Bolin (P.J. Byrne), and Opal (Alison Stoner), as they work together to save Suyin (Anne Heche) and the rest of her family (minus her treacherous son) from Kuvira’s (Zelda Williams) custody. Toph Beifong (Philece Sampler), Lin and Su’s mother, also joins them, having traveled from her home in the Foggy Swamp to Zaofu to likewise save her family. While investigating where the Beifongs may be held, they learn that that treacherous Beifong previously mentioned, Baatar Jr. (Todd Haberkorn), has built a giant cannon powered by spirit vines, which is being tested at a nearby facility. Slight spoiler alert (though not really, because we’ve seen what these vines can do before): its beam is powerful enough to blast a hole right through a mountain. That’s the kind of power that Kuvira is messing with.

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It’s interesting that the Earth Empire is using spirit vines in a number of ways; as fuel for an energy cannon, and possibly as a bomb as well; it really shows how much research has gone into the development of these weapons and how versatile spirit energy can be when applied in certain ways. “Assisting” Baatar Jr. with the cannon is Zhu Li (Stephanie Sheh), and it seems that every time they try to test it, something goes wrong, and they have to shut it down unless they want the whole thing to explode. Zhu Li really shines in this episode, as her loyalties are tested and revealed A weapon as large and as powerful as this energy cannon is indicative of one thing: Kuvira has big plans for the future of the Earth Empire. No one builds a weapon that big and that powerful just to defend themselves; a cannon that can blast a hole through a mountain hundreds of yards away can only have one purpose: war. There are only three episodes after this one, so it’s quite possible that Kuvira’s army will soon be taking the fight to the United Republic, and they, pardon the expression, bringing out the big guns. Also, being a plot that involves several master metalbenders, this episode features some of the best metalbending action the show has ever seen, in terms of choreography, pacing, and emotional weight behind each move; these fights are glorious to behold.

While the three Beifongs (and Bolin) work to save the rest of their family, the United Forces and the Republic City Police Department have been working to fortify the borders of the United Republic in case the Earth Empire tries to use their spirit energy superweapons on their territory. President Raiko (Spencer Garrett), who tasked Asami (Seychelle Gabriel) and Varrick (John Michael Higgins) with creating weapons to help stop Kuvira, wants them to start making spirit vine weapons to combat the ones being built in the Earth Empire. But, true to his earlier stance, Varrick refuses to work on the technology, believing it too dangerous to be used by anyone, even the United Republic. They offer alternative weapons, but it seems quite likely that they’ll be forced to use spirit energy weapons after all, given Raiko’s insistence on protecting the United Republic and the need to combat the growing power of the Earth Empire. Trying to be the conflict-resolving Avatar that she’s destined to be, Korra (Janet Varney) suggests that she talk to the spirits who live in the Spirit Wilds of Republic City and see if they would be willing to help defend the city from attacks.

However, the spirits are abandoning the Spirit Wilds and returning to the Spirit World, having felt the effects of Kuvira’s forces taking spirit vines from the Foggy Swamp. When Korra travels to the Spirit World to try to convince them to defend the “new world [they] all now share,” the spirits remain adamant that they don’t get involved in human wars. What’s great about these scenes is that we’re finally seeing the spirits incorporated into the Avatar World and its future; last week’s episode was a great way to show what happens when humans and spirits are out of balance, but this episode shows that spirits have little interest in helping any one side of a human conflict, even though they could help. While it seems rather selfish of the spirits to think this way, they may have their safety to think about; negative and aggressive feelings can turn them into dark spirits, but in addition to that, when they’re in the Physical World, it’s possible for them to be killed, just as the Moon Spirit was killed (and later revived) in the first season finale of Avatar. But on the other hand, just as Korra said, they now share the Physical and Spirit Worlds, and it is up to everyone, humans and spirits, to work together to make both worlds better places to live. Perhaps the spirits will see the error in their thought process and come to the aid of the Avatar in her hour of need. We’ll have to wait and see.

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Another brief but interesting standout moment in this episode came from Prince Wu (Sunil Malhotra), who actually proposes a good idea when meeting about how to protect Republic City; he proposes that ordinary citizens be evacuated in case of an attack. It was shocking for the people present in Raiko’s office and it was a welcomed change for the young heir to the Earth Kingdom throne … until he reveals to Mako (David Faustino) that his plan is partially driven by his desire to date Korra (which nobody ships, if we’re being honest with ourselves). With that said, though, it still can serve to reassure fans that Wu may actually have a brain under his ridiculous hair, and that he may have what it takes to be the ruler of the Earth Kingdom.

One thing that seemed a little off and perhaps a bit rushed was the reunion between Toph and Lin, who haven’t seen each other in 20 years. When they first reunite at the beginning of the episode, they both greet each other with a nonchalant “hey chief,” showing that perhaps the problems they had in the past have sort of worked themselves out. But then, kind of out of nowhere, Lin is bitter, like she was when she reunited with Su (Also, again, no spoilers, but this episode finally reveals who Lin’s dad is, and it’s not who you expect). If the show had, at least, one more episode for Lin and Toph to interact, maybe they could flesh out this conflict more (hint, hint, Nickelodeon). With that said, though, it’s understandable that there may be some bad blood between Lin and Toph after 20 years of not seeing each other; Toph herself admits that she wasn’t a great mother.

There was one line from Toph that felt like a direct message from the creators to the fans: Toph is talking about how after she sparred with Korra, her back started to hurt, and she gave the reason for why we didn’t see Katara involved in the War of the Water Tribes back in Book Two: “At some point, you gotta leave it to the kids.” This show may take place in the same world as Avatar, but eventually, all fans must come to accept that the stars of this show are the next generation of heroes, and that the heroes we grew up with are either dead or past their prime, and at that point, they just want to enjoy the rest of their time before they croak. That’s why the creators have a bit of a reason (or excuse, depending on your perspective) not to include characters from Avatar as much as most fans would like: because it’s kind of disenchanting to see a character who kicked so much butt in their youth have a sore back after only a couple of fights. We’ll always have the original show to look back on; let’s leave the fighting in Korra to, well, Korra (and her friends, of course).

“Operation Beifong” is another great episode for The Legend of Korra as we draw ever so closer to the finale. We have three more episodes of Korra: “Kuvira’s Gambit,” “Day of the Colossus,” and “The Last Stand,” the latter two being aired together as the finale. New episodes of The Legend of Korra premiere every Friday on Nick.com and the Nick app. It’s getting down to the wire; prepare to witness Korra do everything in her power to bring balance to the world.

Overall Episode Grade: A-

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