- This article is about the episode of The Legend of Korra. For the eponymous battle, see Fall of Zaofu.
|"I will fight the Avatar one-on-one. Korra, if you win, then you can do whatever you want with Zaofu. But after I beat you, I want you out of my business for good."|
|— Kuvira to Korra.|
"The Battle of Zaofu" is the sixth episode of Book Four: Balance of The Legend of Korra and the 45th of the overall series. It was released online on Nick.com and through the Nick app on November 7, 2014, and aired on Nicktoons on December 5, 2014.
Suyin's attempt to assassinate Kuvira under the cover of darkness fails, and she and her twin sons are taken prisoner; over the Zaofu public address system, Kuvira announces Suyin's actions to Zaofu, and demands the surrender of its remaining leaders. Korra, Jinora, and Opal walk out to confront Kuvira, standing with her entire army at her back; after a brief standoff, Korra realizes there is no other option than to fight, and Kuvira proposes a one-on-one duel between them. Kuvira holds the upper hand until Korra enters the Avatar State, momentarily turning the tide of the duel; her Avatar apparition once again appears before her, however, rendering Korra unable to finish the fight and enabling Kuvira to defeat her. Only when the metalbender is seconds from killing Korra do Opal and Jinora intervene and save the Avatar; they flee Zaofu, leaving Suyin, Wei, and Wing in Kuvira's custody. After her forces invade Zaofu, Baatar and Huan are arrested after refusing to bow to Kuvira. Meanwhile, Bolin and Varrick are forced to continue working on weaponizing the spirit vine energy. Varrick converts the stasis tube he is working on into a bomb, completely destroying his research and covering his and Bolin's escape. However, Baatar Jr., having closely observed Varrick's work, decides to attempt to replicate the project, with Zhu Li as his assistant.
In the middle of the night outside Kuvira's camp, a guard making his way around the perimeter is ambushed and bound by Suyin. She and the twins pull themselves up on a tree branch, surveying the camp. Wing asks his mother whether assassinating Kuvira is a good idea; Suyin answers that most of the army's soldiers are there against their will, and that taking out Kuvira will remove their reason to fight. As they enter the camp, skillfully dodging patrolling mecha suits and searchlights, Suyin uses seismic sense to confirm that Kuvira is indeed asleep in her tent; they burrow into the tent from underneath, only to discover Zhu Li sleeping in Kuvira's bed; the tent falls away around them, revealing that they have walked into a trap. Kuvira steps forward, tells Suyin that she has always been a coward, and orders her troops to take them prisoner.
In Zaofu, Jinora and Opal argue over whether Korra should stop or help Suyin; Korra objects to both ideas, saying that they have no idea where Suyin is, and that charging into Kuvira's camp will only make things worse. They are interrupted by Kuvira, who speaks through the Zaofu speaker system. She announces to the city what Suyin has done, and gives the remaining leaders of Zaofu one final chance to offer the unconditional surrender of the city at dawn. Opal urges Korra again to do something, declaring that they must attack Kuvira's camp and free her mother and brothers. Jinora sternly reminds her of the oath of nonaggression she took upon becoming an airbender, but Opal disregards it, desperate to save her family. Korra agrees with Jinora, pointing out that it was Suyin who attacked Kuvira, who was merely defending herself from an ambush. Hearing this, Opal snaps at the Avatar, declaring that Kuvira plans to attack Zaofu, and expresses incredulity at Korra's refusal to fight back. Meelo and Ikki join them, awoken by Kuvira's message. Korra decides to face Kuvira in the morning, and to take Opal and Jinora with her. She asks Meelo and Ikki to stay with Baatar and Huan in Zaofu, and tasks Baatar and Huan in turn with escorting them back to Tenzin in case the meeting goes poorly.
In Kuvira's train, Varrick and Bolin are imprisoned together, the former of which is having a nightmare; muttering about a life devoid of luxury and assistants, Varrick jumps awake in terror, screaming Zhu Li's name. As he takes in his surroundings, however, he sits up and dejectedly realizes that his assistant really is gone. Baatar Jr. and two metalbending soldiers enter the room, having come to coerce him to continue his work on the spirit vine project. Varrick reminisces pleasantly that Zhu Li always greeted him in the morning with a hot cup of tea; as a guard grabs him roughly, Baatar Jr. tells him that he will get his tea when he starts working. Varrick responds to this by pointing out that he is only productive for fifteen minutes every day ("usually in the afternoon around 3:45"), a comment which leads Baatar Jr. to have Varrick slammed against the wall and told to show how the device works. The noise wakes Bolin, who asks what is happening and is told by Baatar Jr. to go back to sleep: he will need to save his energy, Baatar Jr. claims, for his time in the reeducation camp. Varrick complains that he cannot work without an assistant, declaring himself to be helpless without Zhu Li. When Baatar Jr. assigns one of the guards to be his assistant, however, he spooks the guard by recounting the uncontrollable blast of energy created by the experiment the last time it was run, pointing out that the man may lose his hands. At the terrified guard's suggestion, Baatar Jr. acquiesces, appointing Bolin to assist Varrick. The earthbender's unhappiness with this new development goes unheard by the dispassionate guards, who grab Bolin and forcefully drag him off of the cell.
Back at Zaofu, Korra, Opal and Jinora approach Kuvira, who stands before her army. Suyin, Wing and Wei, imprisoned in metal cases and displayed for the representatives of Zaofu to see, are also with her. Opal demands their immediate release, but Kuvira refuses, reminding her that they tried to take her out during their truce. Upon hearing this, Wei furiously snapped at the Earth Empire leader, saying that threatening Zaofu was not the peaceful, but his subsequent objections are ignored by Kuvira. Opal asks about Bolin, and Kuvira lies to her, saying that he is working on an important project, and is in agreement with her. She gives them one last opportunity to turn over Zaofu, and Korra refuses, saying that Kuvira has given her no choice but to fight. Jinora is worried that Korra is not ready, but she assures the airbender that she has a lot of built-up rage. Opal warns Korra not to mess around and to use the Avatar State immediately, but she states that she only wants to use it as a last resort. As the fight starts, Kuvira evades Korra's attacks and quickly manages to land some blows of her own, battering the Avatar as her soldiers roar in approval.
Varrick, as instructed, continues his work on the spirit vine project, closely supervised by Baatar Jr., though Varrick deems Bolin a lesser assistant than Zhu Li, since he needs to have what "the thing" is explained to him. When Baatar Jr. curiously ordered Varrick to walk him through every step of the project, the eccentric inventor pushes the second-in-command back, and starts telling that he envisioned the spirit vine energy as a potential source of clean, unlimited energy, rather than a weapon of mass destruction. Bolin readily agrees with this assessment and requests they make that instead, but Baatar Jr. denounces the notion, noting that it is their responsibility, as scientists, to push the boundaries of the possible once a discovery is made. Varrick mocks him, inferring that he could not "discover a wolfbat if it was building a nest in [his] butt", much to Bolin's amusement. Baatar Jr. labels the inventor "pathetic", and states that wolfbats do not build nests; Varrick mocks Baatar Jr.'s correction of him, and tells Baatar Jr. that he will "never know how it feels to give birth to genius only to have it kidnapped and raised by fools", but is cut short by Baatar Jr. threatening to order the guards to roughly force him to continue his work.
At Zaofu, the duel begins to turn against Korra, who gradually loses more and more ground to a confident, taunting Kuvira.
Back at the train, after an argument with Bolin, Varrick fires up the machine; when it begins to emit a beeping noise, Baatar Jr. inquires about its origin, and Varrick reveals that he has turned the spirit vine machine into a bomb, which will blow up anyone and everything within range when it detonates. Baatar Jr. attempts to arrest Varrick, but backs off when the latter, pulling a remote detonator out of his pocket, tells them he will blow up the train himself if anyone removes him from the bomb.
At Suyin's urging, Korra finally allows herself to go into the Avatar State, and the tide of the battle changes instantly. Preparing to finish the duel, Korra hurls Kuvira to the ground and raises herself in the air on an air spout, lifting a giant boulder above her. When Kuvira lifts her face to look at Korra, however, the Avatar does not see Kuvira's face; to her horror, she sees the vision of herself in the Avatar State. Shocked, Korra exits the Avatar State and falls to the ground. Kuvira mocks her weakness, traps her in an earth prison, and prepares six sharpened metal bands from her uniform to kill her. Jinora and Opal intervene, blasting her away before she can execute her attack; once she recovers, Kuvira screams for her troops to attack, as the two airbenders have broken the terms of the agreement. The airbenders create a tornado to hold the charging army back, and Jinora uses her spiritual projection to call for Meelo and Ikki, who, at that moment, are with Huan, who has them painting self-portraits. Huan approves of Ikki's childlike, colorful painting, and reprimands Meelo for his extremely lifelike self-portrait. Jinora's spirit appears in the room and asks them for help, Meelo kicks down his easel in excitement.
Heeding Varrick's threats, Baatar Jr. evacuates all the cars in front of the lab. When Baatar Jr., as a parting shot, infers that Varrick is insane, he brushes it off, saying that they knew he was crazy when they hired him. Bolin unhooks the cars, and the rest of the train slowly pulls away from them. The lavabender lets out a relieved laugh, and compliments Varrick on his deeply convincing act, adding that even he believed Varrick was truly intending to blow them up. He subsequently asks the inventor how to disarm the bomb, to which Varrick responds that he is not lying; the bomb really is on the verge of detonating, and he cannot stop it. Terrified, Bolin frantically looks for some way to disarm the explosive. When that fails, he finds a way out, spotting a hatch leading out through the floor of the train. He walks up to Varrick, who is poetically coming to terms with his imminent death, glares at the inventor, slaps him in the face, and tells him he hates him. He proceeds to grab ahold of Varrick and jump out through the hatch, sinking them deep into the ground through the concrete between the tracks with earthbending mere moments before the train explodes with devastating force. Having witnessed the massive purple blast himself, Baatar Jr. is shocked to realize that Varrick was not bluffing. He declares the inventor to be "crazier than a sewer pipe elephant rat" and orders his men to return the train to Zaofu. Having survived the blast, Varrick and Bolin tumble through the side of the deep crater left by the bomb's detonation, coughing and gasping for air. Varrick starts to laugh, ecstatic that Bolin finally "did the thing", and kisses him on the forehead. Bolin simply glares at him, wondering aloud how Zhu Li was able to work for Varrick at all.
Kuvira's mecha suits, struggling against the strong headwind created by Opal and Jinora, manage to break through it. Meelo and Ikki's arrive on Pepper, and after Opal and Jinora lift Korra onto the bison, they take off. Although Opal wants to try to free her mother and brothers, she is held back by Jinora and Ikki; Suyin yells after Opal, assuring her that they will be fine. Tearfully, Opal promises that she will come back for them. Kuvira watches Pepper fly away and claims her victory over the city of Zaofu.
Inside, Kuvira gathers the citizens of Zaofu and declares that she will deal with them as full citizens of the Earth Empire, so long as they bow to her. If not, they will be considered traitors, like Suyin and the twins. The entire city bows, save for Baatar and Huan alone, who are the only citizens of Zaofu to refuse to acknowledge Kuvira as the rightful leader and even refuse to bow, much to the chagrin of Baatar Jr. Infuriated by his family's refusal to bow, Baatar Jr. confronts his father and demands him to bow to his rightful leader. A calm Baatar refuses; before he and Huan are taken away on the orders of Baatar Jr., Baatar simply tells him that he is disappointed in his son.
Later, in Suyin's garden, Baatar Jr. informs Kuvira of the deaths of Varrick and Bolin, as he is certain there is no way they could have survived the explosion. He also tells her he believes he can replicate Varrick's work with the spirit vines, but only with the help of an assistant. Turning to Zhu Li, Kuvira asks her if she would like to help Baatar Jr. build the "most powerful weapon the world has ever seen". Zhu Li answers that it would be her honor to do so, and Kuvira orders the dismantling of the domes of Zaofu.
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- Main article: Transcript:The Battle of Zaofu
- Main article: Transcript:The Battle of Zaofu (commentary)
- Main article: Writing in the World of Avatar
- Varrick recalls the time he was broken out of his prison cell by UnaVaatu in "Light in the Dark".
- While playing with a piece of meteorite, Kuvira metalbends it into the shapes Suyin and Korra bent during the Avatar's metalbending lessons in "Old Wounds".
- Suyin is capable of using seismic sense.
- Despite having removed the mercury in her body, Korra still experiences hallucinations of herself in the Avatar State.
- Varrick took an interest in spirit vines, intending to use them as a source of clean energy, after seeing them unleashed into Republic City by UnaVaatu.
- It was revealed that Baatar Jr. hired Varrick.
- During their battle, Kuvira attaches a piece of metal around Korra left wrist and right ankle to twist her around. However, as Korra falls to the ground, the strips are gone without having been removed. This happens every time when this move is used.
- After Korra is knocked down by a rock to the stomach, she sends a fire stream at Kuvira with her left hand, the flames trailing behind it. When the shot moves to a back view of Korra, however, the flames are on her right side.
- When the train car containing Bolin and Varrick blows up, the main portion of the train containing Baatar Jr. and the other Earth Empire soldiers appears to be going toward the explosion and the broken tracks, instead of leaving from them.
- The banners adorning Zaofu following its fall to the Earth Empire read "May Kuvira live for ten thousand years" ( ), a phrase often said in reference to the Emperor in ancient China.
- Varrick stating that Zhu Li's name would become synonymous with "betrayal" is similar to how the names of Ephialtes, Quisling, and Judas became synonymous with "traitor" in many languages and cultures.
- This is the second time seismic sense is used while wearing footwear, the first was in "The Terror Within" by Lin.
- This is Ikki's and Huan's last speaking roles in the series.