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Character Spotlight: Kuvira, Legend of Korra.
“Oh, for god's sake, Murphy, she's only been in one episode, you can't do a characte - ...”
She has been in, like, three, shut up. Who cares if two of those were cameos. Who cares, italicised reader. Who cares.
A lot of people correctly identified after Kuvira's second cameo (as the captain of Suyin Bei Fong's Metalbender Guard) that she was going to be important, and for good reason: The show went out of its way to give us her name and a good look at her face, and as we heard her speak for the first time, we found out that she was played by Zelda Williams, screen actor, host of Legend of Zelda anniversary concerts, and daughter of the late Robin Williams (although he hadn't been late at the time of recording).
Sure enough, they were right, with the first episode of Book 4 of Legend of Korra being focused more on Kuvira than anybody else. In the three years since the death of the Earth Queen and the poisoning of Korra, Kuvira has set herself about uniting the Earth Kingdom and dealing with bandits, with the aid of inventor Varrick and probably-the-only-lavabender-in-the-world Bolin (friendly weekly reminder that Bolin's lavabending has nothing to do with having a firebender parent, that isn't how bending works).
|Kuvira here in Flawless Badass Mode.|
Fittingly, most of the discussion in fandom since has been about Kuvira, and it's not difficult to see why: She's an interesting character who operates in a shade of (perhaps somewhat dark) grey. On the one hand, there's no denying that she's effectively a warlord, taking advantage of the anarchy to unite the disparate states of the Earth Kingdom under her own banner: We're told outright, too, that the 'contracts' that she presents state leaders with are brutally harsh. Despite her title of Great Uniter, Kuvira is a figure who inspires more fear than awe among the other characters, and it's not difficult to see why.
On the other hand, the other option we're shown isn't great either. Under a splintered state system, we see that many if not all areas of the Earth Kingdom are vulnerable to the constant attacks of bandits – and the state we see Kuvira approach is practically starving because of it. The rest of the world is unable to really help, too: As post-timeskip Airbending superheroes Opal and Kai note, the Air Nomads are stretched so thin they can barely afford to send two Airbenders to assist a state that needs an army. Meanwhile, Prince Wu, the rightful ruler of the Earth Kingdom and Kuvira's only real rival for power, hasn't expressed on whit of understanding or concern for his people, and seems to be completely unaware of how to govern. Or how to remember what his own allergies are.
It's refreshing, because, despite what certain news outlets may tell you, dictatorships do not spring full-formed out of abiding hatred for ~freedom~. They come, more often than not, when a people have been so trodden down that they become easy targets for the kind of groups that would be dictators, because they'll take anything if it gives them the hope of their conditions improving. Also true is that most dictators are not literal flaming eyeballs cackling and rubbing their flaming … eye hands … together. They're human beings who usually believe their goals are absolutely worthwhile and that their methods are sound: They're wrong, and more often than not their goals are absolutely awful, and we shouldn't excuse a person's evil actions just because they lack the insight to see that they're evil, but it's still true.
|If only he weren't married, he'd make a better future husband than her|
actual future husband.
Kuvira has a certain amount of extra pressure on her – well, on her writers, really – because she's not just a villain in Legend of Korra, she's the final villain. The show doesn't have the best track record of making its interesting villains remain interesting, with Amon and Zaheer both collapsing into a puddle of 'implacable badass benders' just before the end of their respective runs, Unalaq being obviously pure evil from the moment he appeared, and Vaatu being literally an evil doom kite of chaos and death. The original series wasn't much better: Ozai was pretty much just a cackling evil overlord, after all.
So I'm looking forward to seeing more of Kuvira. She has the potential to be an excellent villain – possibly the best one of the Avatar franchise yet – and, for a plus, she's our first Earthbending main villain, Ghazan being more of a supporting villain (even if she does seem to exclusively Metalbend: For god's sake, Kuvira, you're surrounded by rock, stop tossing metal at people), after what seemed like an eternity of Only Firebender Villains and a slightly shorter eternity of Only Waterbender Villains.
|Looking a little evil there, bro.|
Also, she's engaged! Many happy returns, Kuvira. You could do better, you are out of your partner of choice's league, but I'm sure he has an excellent personality. Frankly, I'm alarmed that no Kuvira/Bolin fics have started popping up, now that he's eighteen or nineteen and they're spending a lot of time together.