I've been watching Korra Book 4 and I have found myself with a new favorite character, Kuvira! oh snap...she has successfully bumped Lin and Asami down to spots 3 and 4 on my list (Korra will always be #1 ). I feel the nerdly need to write down all my Kuvira-related thoughts and feels before the season gets much farther.
I REALLY hope they develop her character a lot in these last few episodes but I'm starting to think it may not happen. I would like the series to finally have a developed, sympathetic villain along the lines of Zuko and Azula from ATLA. So far Zaheer has been the best in that regard, but I still felt like they only scratched the surface with him. Unfortunately they seem to be trying so hard to convince us how EVIL she is that I'm not sure they CAN make her sympathetic anymore. One reason I think ATLA was overall a better show is that the character development was the top priority, and it drove the plot, whereas in LOK the characters have to serve the plot as it has been established. But I digress.
So what makes Kuvira so awesome? Why do I think she has the potential to the best villain and one of the best characters in the series? (She already IS in my opinion, but we will have to see if Bryke has decided to show us, or whether we will have to be content to read between the lines until the end of time).
1. We know a bit about Kuvira before she became what she is
We know that Kuvira was once a good person. She is the only villain in the show we meet before she becomes villainous. Going back even farther, she has a long history with some of the show's important characters, namely, Suyin Beifong and her family. Su took her in as a protégé at a young age, and thus I think we can safely assume that she came from a less than ideal background, possibly one of poverty and a lack of parental care. But as Su says "I saw myself in her." Despite the young Kuvira's circumstances, Su must have seen that the she had skill, intelligence, passion, and the drive to accomplish great things. Kuvira was very successful under Su's guidance. It's obvious that the values of the family she lived with had a great influence on her. The reason she starts her (well intentioned) campaign as the Great Uniter is because of the things Su taught her. Even after she has been twisted in her quest for power, we can still see the remnants of the strong moral compass that she once followed.
2. She has deep relationships with some of the show's other characters
Kuvira grew up with Suyin's family, almost as one of them. Indeed, Su says that Kuvira was like a daughter, and we can probably assume that she had sibling-like relationships with Su's children. The bond between her and the Beifongs (is that a correct way to refer to them?) is only matched in strength by the loathing they feel towards each other after her betrayal. The cherry on top is that she has also persuaded Suyin's eldest, Bataar Jr., to leave his family and join her. I'm of the opinion that she doesn't love Jr. but is using him, as a prominent member of the Earth Kingdom, to legitimize her claim to power. She initially must have found his support invaluable when convincing others to join her on her campaign to stabilize Ba Sing Se. Later, as her lust for power grew, she probably saw the need to further solidify her position and developed a deeper relationship with him. He's a rather weak character, and I think it would be easy for her to deceive and use him. It's hard to know exactly how he feels about her, but I think his feelings are at least somewhat more genuine. He may have had a crush on her when they were growing up together, and was probably attracted to her strength. Now I think he is infatuated with her just as she is infatuated with power.
The other relationship of note that she has is with Korra. I will discuss that later on.
3. Kuvira has skill, intelligence, passion, and the drive to accomplish great things
"Enemy at the Gates" and "The Battle of Zaofu" are the two episodes that best showcase how capable Kuvira is. Her skills as a leader are undeniable. It is obvious in her success at uniting the Earth Kingdom, although her means are highly questionable. We see the complete control she has over every situation she puts herself in. This is even manifested in a physical way. She surrounds herself in metal, from the furnishings on her train to the uniforms of her soldiers, and therefore can use her bending to manipulate everything in her environment.
She demonstrates this control in the situation with Zaofu. First she manipulates the negotiations so that it makes Suyin appear to be in the wrong. Then there's her match with Korra. One might think that she is taking a big risk challenging the Avatar to one-on-one combat, and maybe she is. But it's a calculated risk. I think she is confident she can beat Korra, and she has so much to gain from winning. She will have the assurance that her biggest threat isn't a threat at all. She will win loyalty from her supporters by showing that she truly believes in her cause. She will show the world the power of her abilities. She knows there's a chance she could lose, but if that's the case then Korra will defeat her eventually anyways; why put it off?
In the fight itself Kuvira once again has total control over the situation. She knows how dangerous her opponent is and makes it her top priority to avoid Korra's attacks, only striking when she has a clear opening. She plays it so smart, putting forth only the exertion she must and taunting Korra, who gets more emotionally and physically worn out as the match progresses.
At the end of the fight I think we see Kuvira slip, just a tiny bit. She clearly thought she stood a chance against the Avatar State, but Korra nearly defeats her in only a few strikes. Her hair falls out of its neat bun (hair in Avatar world is important!) and after Korra is disabled by a hallucination, she stands up looking uncharacteristically deranged. It's not a game anymore. She prepares to execute the Avatar, something I don't think she originally planned on doing. Luckily the rest of the bob squad saves Korra, though not the city. As her troops rush toward Zaofu, Kuvira cheers in triumph. I have to wonder is this slight loss of composure is a foreshadowing of what her ultimate demise will be like.
4. She brings out sides of other characters we have never seen before
Let me explain...no, there is too much. Let me sum up: Korra's diplomacy, Suyin's ruthlessness, Varrick's morality, Zhu Li's treachery (ohoho but who will she ultimately betray???), Bolin's maturity, Opal's , Bataar Jr.'s jerkwadness, Zaheer's remorse, Raiko's hostility, the Fire Nation's pacifism...eh I've probably missed some but you get the idea.
4. She serves as a character foil for Korra
It's no secret that Kuvira and Korra are meant to share many similarities. So why would I use the term "foil", which means a character set up to contrast with another? I think that Kuvira represents Korra's best qualities, at a time when Korra is at an all-time low. Again, this is shown in a very visual sense in "The Battle of Zaofu".
Korra is a superior martial artist and a powerful bender. She defeats her opponents through the sheer force behind her attacks. Her style is mostly force-on-force, she doesn't change it up much, there's not always much subtlety or tricks up her sleeve. It's no wonder Kuvira isn't worried about her using the four elements, because she tends to use them all in the same manner (recall her definition of being an airbending master: "PUNCH PUNCH PUNCH!"). Usually she makes this style work. Unfortunately this time around she's not only out of fighting shape, she's WAY to desperate to prove herself, and her performance suffers terribly because of it.
Kuvira on the other hand is full of the same confidence (bordering on cockiness) that we remember from the old Korra. Someone brought up the fact that she fights with the styles of the four elements, standing her ground, striking, evading, or turning Korra's force against her; whatever is called for at the moment.
Fighting prowess aside there's the fact that Korra has been absent from world affairs trying to heal while Kuvira has been working hard getting stuff done, trying to restore balance (at least it started that way) to her country in turmoil. Korra becomes all too conscious of this when she talks to the Great Uniter outside Zaofu (not to mention the fact that Tenzin keeps unintentionally rubbing her feelings of irrelevance in her face).
I also think that the contrasting parallels between the two ladies may hint at how the season is going to end (though there hasn't really been any evidence of my theory yet and the season is almost done so I'm not sure...). If Korra is making a personal journey from her darkest point to her greatest potential as the Avatar, then perhaps Kuvira will undergo a similar change in reverse. I think we may see Kuvira descend farther and farther into her own personal monster as she tries to overthrow Korra and Republic City (oopsspoilerthat'stotallyhappening) but at some point she is going to snap. As much as I love Kuvira I kinda want to see Korra DESTROY her...and in that process Kuvira will lose her carefully guarded control. She will snap, and suddenly see herself for what she has become. Korra will offer her a chance at redemption, but ultimately she won't be able to accept it. Between her realization of her own evil, and her unwillingness to let go of it, she will implode, and essentially bring about her own demise. ATLEASTIHOPEITHAPPENSLIKETHISHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
Ok now I'm crying but I gotta go to bed and wait for OPERATION BEIFONG tomorrow. Tell me what you think of all this!