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Enemy at the Gates

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Iroh and Earth Kingdom children Admit mistakes when they occur and seek to restore honor.

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"Enemy at the Gates" is the fifth episode of Book Four: Balance of The Legend of Korra and the 44th of the overall series. It was released online on and through the Nick app on October 31, 2014, and aired on Nicktoons Network on December 5, 2014.


Kuvira marches her entire army upon Zaofu in an attempt to coerce Suyin into surrendering the metal city to the Earth Empire, without having to take it by force. Suyin refuses, however, despite repeated warnings from both Kuvira and Korra, who went to Zaofu with Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo. Meanwhile, Varrick starts to get troubled by his conscience and refuses to further develop the spirit vine technology. When Kuvira threatens to kill him, however, he continues his work to weaponize the spirit energy. After a confrontation with the Beifong clan, Bolin questions Kuvira's methods and he ultimately decides to betray her, joining forces with Varrick and Zhu Li in an attempt to escape. Their attempt is foiled by Baatar Jr., however, and while Zhu Li pledges her loyalty to Kuvira, Bolin is sent to a re-education camp and Varrick is forced to continue his experiments. Korra tries to talk to Kuvira, though she is only given the chance to talk Suyin into surrendering Zaofu. When she returns to talk to the matriarch, she learns from Baatar that Suyin and the twins have sneaked out to face Kuvira directly.


Kuvira's complete army

Kuvira moves her entire army to the gates of Zaofu.

Near Zaofu, the military of the Earth Empire is making its approach to the city. The airships, mecha suits, and regular tanks all move in impeccable formations, and despite the early hour, one of the guards spots the army at the far side of the canyon stretching in front of the metal city. He radios for help and Suyin, Baatar, Wei, and Wing get on a train to the front of the city. Baatar proposes contacting President Raiko to receive assistance from the United Forces, but Suyin dismisses the statement, saying that nobody can help them since Kuvira has already arrived with her entire army.

On Kuvira's train, Baatar Jr. expresses his excitement over finally uniting the Earth Empire. Kuvira reminds him that although they are nearly done, Zaofu is going to be one of the harder cities to conquer. They cannot take it by force, since the whole world is watching them, so they must find a diplomatic solution. This will fall onto Bolin, one of the few people aboard Kuvira's train Suyin actually trusts.

Somewhere over the Earth Kingdom, Jinora has set Pepper on a course for Zaofu, but questions the Avatar's idea, saying that Tenzin wanted Korra back in Republic City. Korra dismisses the argument, saying that Kuvira and the entire world needs to know she is back in action. Meelo is very excited, saying it will be awesome to see Korra fight again, but she has to disappoint him and says Kuvira had saved her dad and she would try to reason with her.

Spirit vine energy blast

A massive blast of spirit energy destroys the back of Kuvira's train when Varrick's experiment overloads.

On board Kuvira's train, Varrick and Zhu Li are filming their experiment. Varrick explains to the camera that the machine was Spirit Vine Experiment 3-02. Zhu Li brings him a glass tube with a fragment of spirit vine within. Varrick continues saying that in the capsule was a preserved spirit vine sample and with that form of pure energy could transfer energy from the vine into a battery using electrical currents, reverse magnetic polarity, and a phenomenon he liked to call the Varri-effect. He returns to his machine and watches as the sample of vine crackles with energy, Varrick is happy and says it was working, but suddenly, the light bulbs break and the two partners fall down. Varrick orders Zhu Li to shut it down while he is approaching to the camera. Zhu Li tries to pull the lever, but the battery explodes and releases a blast of pure energy through the back wall of the train, which is shakes the last wagons. Varrick and Zhu Li are thrown backward toward the gaping hole in the train. Zhu Li screams as she tumbles through the hole. She dangles over the tracks and asks Varrick for help. He tries to pull her, but he is unable to at first, telling her she was heavy. Zhu Li says him to pull harder and Varrick manages to pull her back to the train and Zhu Li, off balance, falls onto Varrick. They look at each other and Zhu Li softly tells Varrick he had saved her, but Varrick answers he had saved her because he could not clean the place up by himself and orders her to grab a broom, drawing an angry look from his assistant.

Kuvira threatens Varrick

Kuvira threatens to kill Varrick by dropping him on the tracks if he refuses to continue working on weaponizing the spirit vine energy.

The two of them are interrupted by Kuvira and Baatar Jr., who ask them what had happened and if they were attacked. Varrick informs them they had "spirit-vined". He announces to them that he is ceasing work on the project and turns off the machines. Kuvira tells him not to do it and asks him if he knew what they could do with that kind of power. Varrick tells her he knew and that was the reason they had to put an end to it, because it could fall into the wrong hands. Baatar Jr. asks him since when he did that matter to him. Varrick answers he has changed. He explains that usually when he is looking at a project, he thinks of only the money he could make, though recently, he had been having strange feelings inside. He was concerned with others and there was a nagging voice in his head constantly telling him what was right from wrong. Zhu Li explains it was his conscience, but Kuvira tells him she was the other voice in his head and he would continue with that project, but Varrick answers negatively. Kuvira metalbends the metal plates, which make up the shoulders of his outfit, around his neck and floats him out of the train through the hole and tells him there was a voice in her head telling her to drop him on the tracks and asks him if she should listen. Varrick, begging for his life, says that his voices were liars and he would work on the project. Kuvira smiles and pulls him back inside the train, tumbling him to the floor. She and Baatar Jr. leave, while Zhu Li rushes to Varrick's side and they both stare angrily after their superiors.

Hiroshi and Asami

Hearing her father admit he is proud of her and deem her his greatest achievement, Asami is overcome with tears.

Meanwhile, in Republic City, Asami visits her father in prison. He is brought in by a guard and sits down across from his daughter, who has a small stack of unopened letters in front of her. She slides them back to her father, telling him she wants him to stop contacting her. Even though Hiroshi is saddened by this, he agrees, if Asami would hear him out. He sincerely apologizes to Asami and says that she is the only thing that still makes him smile. As Asami tears up, she stands up and leaves.

Back in Kuvira's camp, Bolin is brought before Kuvira and Baatar Jr.. The Great Uniter tells him he is now a part of her "inner circle" and that he should help her persuade Suyin to give up Zaofu. Bolin is convinced he can do that and Kuvira shows him they have arrived. She bends the armored plates on the outside of the train up, showing the entire army camped just outside Zaofu. Bolin inquires whether this will not send the wrong message, but Kuvira counters by saying that the army is only there to project strength, while he is there to present peace.

Suyin opposes Kuvira

Suyin assures Kuvira that Zaofu will never accept her at its leader.

When they enter Suyin's office, they see the Beifong clan waiting for them and none of them are pleased to see Kuvira, Baatar Jr., and Bolin, who is happy to see his girlfriend, but she rejects his affection, saying that he has chosen his side. Bolin tries to ease the tense atmosphere a little, but it does not work. Suyin turns her attention to Kuvira, stating that she will not give up Zaofu, regardless of the army camped outside her walls. Kuvira tries to convince her the army is not here to threaten her, but to show her what she and Baatar Jr. have accomplished. Baatar Sr. tries to reason with his son that he belongs in Zaofu, but the younger counters by saying he does not want to live in his father's shadow. Suyin is convinced Kuvira brainwashed her eldest son, but Kuvira laughs this away. Bolin tries again to lighten up the mood, but it falls flat again. Opal angrily states that while the people may have been happy with Kuvira and her army at first, they are forced into slave labor the moment the bulk of the army leaves, and dissenters are sent away. Refusing to believe this, Bolin declares her to be wrong and expresses his full confidence that Kuvira and the army are making the Earth Empire a better place. Suyin interjects by berating Kuvira for how low it is of her to try and bring Bolin there and orders her to leave. The army commander is not pleased with this and gives Suyin a twenty-four hour ultimatum to surrender the city lest she takes it by force, much to Bolin's shock.

Meanwhile, Pepper has nearly reached Zaofu and Meelo announces to the group they have arrived, but so has Kuvira's army. Korra worriedly says she hopes they are not too late. She and the three airbenders rush to Suyin's office, where the matriarch of the Metal Clan hugs Korra, relieved to see her again. The Avatar comes to the point quickly and asks what she can do to help.

Back in Kuvira's camp, Bolin asks Kuvira whether she was bluffing about attacking Zaofu. She blankly responds that if people do not cooperate, other ways must be used to convince them. Not satisfied with the answer, Bolin asks how many times those "other ways" have been used, only for Kuvira to state that he has to learn some hard truths now that he is part of the inner circle. When he suggests to leave Zaofu alone, as that would effectively reunite the entire Earth Empire, Kuvira grows impatient with him and dismisses the idea, questioning his loyalty instead, and even considers sending him to a reeducation camp. Panicking, Bolin quickly reaffirms his loyalty, though Kuvira remains skeptical.

Kuvira attempting to convince Suyin

Kuvira tries to persuade Suyin to help stabilize the Earth Kingdom and share Zaofu's progressive ways.

Inside Zaofu, Korra asks what made Suyin and Kuvira, her protégé, fall out like this. Suyin recounts how she took Kuvira in when she was only eight, nourishing her talents. Kuvira rocketed through the ranks, in no small part due to her intelligence and leadership, and how she reminded Suyin of herself. She tells Korra how three years prior, she had a meeting with Tenzin and Raiko, during which Kuvira was also present, and the two men wanted her to stabilize the Earth Kingdom. The world leaders trust her and the Beifong name still carries weight in the Earth Kingdom, so Suyin is the perfect candidate. The matriarch says she is not interested, but Kuvira urges her to think it over. She argues that Zaofu is a beacon of progress and this would give them the opportunity to share that with the rest of the Earth Kingdom. Suyin declines again, saying that they would only be seen as conquerors. She considers the matter closed, but Kuvira most certainly does not. She readies four airships, taking with her the security force of the Metal Clan, Varrick, Baatar Jr. and some of Zaofu's richest citizens. She tells Suyin she will stabilize Ba Sing Se herself and that Suyin can do nothing to stop her. The matriarch warns her that if Kuvira leaves, she will never be welcome in Zaofu again. Kuvira waves this off, saying that when she will return, it will be on her own terms. Suyin tells Korra how Kuvira quickly stabilized Ba Sing Se and that this prompted the other world leaders to make Kuvira the provisional head of the Earth Kingdom. Suyin knew that when she refused to step down after Wu's coronation, it would only be a matter of time before she would try to conquer Zaofu. Korra says she wants to fix the situation and Suyin tells her she can, by laying waste to Kuvira's army. Korra is reluctant to do this and says she can reason with Kuvira, but Suyin is adamant she cannot.

Back in Republic City, Asami has gone to the park, where she spots a father playing Pai Sho with his daughter, reminding her of how she once did that with Hiroshi.

Meanwhile, Varrick is freaking out in Kuvira's train, when Bolin comes to see him through a hatch in the roof. Varrick thinks he is going crazy again, but Zhu Li points to the hatch and Varrick realizes it is only Bolin. The men grab each other by the shoulders and exclaim that Kuvira is crazy. Varrick tells Bolin about how she forces him to build a superweapon and Bolin tells Varrick how she threatens villages. They agree they have to get away from Kuvira and her army.

Kuvira and Korra

Kuvira convinces Korra to go back to Zaofu and try to convince Suyin to give up the city.

Baatar Jr. and Korra approach Kuvira, who is surprised to see the Avatar again. Korra asks the Great Uniter to leave Zaofu in peace, but she declines, now that she has nearly united the Earth Kingdom. She says she knows Korra is talking to her as a favor to Suyin and that she regrets the tough decisions she had to make in order to bring stability to her nation. Korra agrees and says she knows what it is like to have people mad at her for her decisions. Kuvira offers Korra a truce, giving her an opportunity to talk to Suyin again to try to persuade her to giving up peacefully.

Baatar Jr. walks up to Varrick's cart and asks the guards posted outside if they know where Bolin is. They inform him the lavabender has been there to see Varrick, but they sent him away. Baatar Jr. grows suspicious and orders them to open the door. He finds the cart empty, but the ceiling hatch open.

Mecha suit battle

Zhu Li and Bolin lock into battle with Baatar Jr. and two other mecha suit pilots, while Varrick scampers to safety.

Outside the camp, but not far from it, Bolin, Varrick, and Zhu Li have each commandeered a mecha suit and are making their way uphill. Bolin stops to think of the best route they can take back into Zaofu. Varrick objects, saying that they need to get back to the United Republic and warn them about the spirit-vine superweapon. Bolin wants to have a moment to think about it, but is zapped down by Baatar Jr., who is also piloting a mecha suit, along with two other suits. Varrick panics, but Zhu Li keeps a cool head and holds off the other two suits quite ably while Bolin takes on Baatar Jr. The lavabender is quickly forced to flee his suit and has to continue the fight with earthbending. Varrick also flees his suit and tries to climb up a hill, chased by one of the suits. Zhu Li comes to his aid, but struggles to hold off two opponents, until Bolin creates a gully of lava, which Zhu Li narrowly dodges, trapping her opponents. However, Baatar Jr. manages to capture Varrick and threatens to crush his head if they do not give up. The businessman blames Zhu Li, much to her chagrin.

Back in the prison, Hiroshi is brought in again, where Asami already sits at the table they sat at earlier. She explains to him how she wanted to hurt him, so that he would know how he hurt her. She continues by saying that she does not know if she can forgive him, but at least she should try. Asami pulls a small Pai Sho board from her bag, asking her father if he would like to play a game with her like they used to. Hiroshi smiles and says that nothing would make him happier.

Zhu Li confronting Varrick

Having pledged her allegiance to Kuvira, Zhu Li confronts Varrick about his lack of respect for her.

Back in Kuvira's camp, Bolin, Varrick and Zhu Li are brought before the Great Uniter herself. She orders Bolin and Zhu Li to be sent to a reeducation camp to the most severe dissenters and Varrick to continue his research under "close, armed supervision". Zhu Li falls to her knees and begs Kuvira to take her back, but Kuvira refuses at first and asks Zhu Li why she would. Zhu Li explains that she stuck with him through everything because Varrick has a brilliant mind, though not as brilliant as Kuvira's. She pledges her loyalty to her again and Kuvira remarks to Bolin and Varrick they could learn something from Zhu Li. Varrick begs her to rethink her actions, saying that they have history. Zhu Li only says that he has never appreciated her and orders the guards to "do the thing", upon which they drag Varrick out of the tent.

Back in Zaofu, Baatar Sr. is anxiously pacing back and forth, when Korra runs up to him, saying that she needs to talk to Suyin immediately. He tells her that his wife took Wing and Wei and that they are going to sneak into Kuvira's camp and "put an end to this". This news gets Korra very worried.


Written by:

Directed by:


Also starring:

Production notes


Main article: Transcript:Enemy at the Gates

Series continuity

  • Suyin's flashback shows how she denied the offer to take provisional power over the Earth Kingdom, which was referenced in "The Coronation".
  • The energy extracted from the spirit vines produces a purple energy beam akin to Vaatu's, even with the same sound effect.
  • Zhu Li brings up in disgust the time when she scrubbed Varrick's calloused foot with pumice stone in "The Terror Within".

Character revelations

  • Varrick designed the modernized mecha suits.
  • Zhu Li's unwavering loyalty to Varrick was out of respect for his brilliant mind.
  • During his time in prison, Hiroshi Sato has come to regret the actions he undertook with the Equalists.
  • Suyin took Kuvira in when the latter was eight years old.
  • Baatar Jr. joined Kuvira and left Zaofu because he did not want to live in his father's shadow.


  • Kuvira's map of conquered Earth Kingdom states shows the southernmost land of the United Republic under her control as an Earth Kingdom state.
  • When Kuvira is threatening Suyin to take Zaofu by force, the line on her belt vanishes.
  • When Kuvira's group enters Suyin's office, Wei and Wing are wearing identical belt buckles, while later in the scene, Wei is wearing his normal round belt buckle.


  • Kuvira's desire to share Zaofu's advancements with the Earth Kingdom mirrors Fire Lord Sozin's desire to share the Fire Nation's wealth with the world in "The Avatar and the Fire Lord", though Kuvira's actions were initially backed up by the world leaders.
  • This is the first episode in which Bolin did appear, but Mako did not.
  • A scene of Kuvira using metalbending to perform target practice was cut from the final storyboard.[1]


  1. Bryan Konietzko on the Blu-ray commentary for "Enemy at the Gates"

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