After having her butt handed to her, Korra has a lot of personal work to do before she can confront Kuvira again. But when trouble comes to Republic City, Korra has to improve her spiritual state quickly—and turns to a surprising source to do it.
Hey! Napoleon Dynamite is back! It turns out that Jon Heder's character, Ryu, joined the Air Nation after all, but instead of going off on missions, he's leading tourists through Republic City to photograph its Angkor Wat-like vines. His mother is convinced, however, that Ryu himself is the real attraction.
Her proud mama moment is interrupted by a wandering Spirit vine. The vines are pissed that Kuvira is out there harvesting and they're lashing out at the humans around them. They snag the entire tour and place them in pods—and do the same thing to Jinora when she tries to track the group down.
Meanwhile, the heads of state are discussing what to do about Kuvira. Prince Wu is eager but utterly impractical. I really do hope that, at the end of all this, Wu comes to the conclusion that he's not fit to rule and instead supports a democracy. And hey, at least he's spitballing, which is more than I can say for the Fire Lord.
Tenzin, meanwhile, is still committed to Air Nation pacifism—even as one of his acolytes, Opal, plans to sneak into Zaofu herself. He's also being particularly paternalistic (rather than merely paternal) with Korra. He doesn't invite her to the meeting of the heads of state (even though he invited Wu), fearing she needs more time to recover.
And then after Korra is thwarted in her attempt to enter the Spirit World by a vision of Zaheer, Tenzin refuses to let Korra see Zaheer. Instead, he suggests calling Tonraq to lead an expedition into the Spirit World.
Tenzin is a good and loving father figure, but he doesn't always know what Korra needs. Granted, he may be distracted by the brewing war.
But first, it's reunion time with Bolin and Varrick! I love that we see Korra, Mako, and Opal's reactions to Bolin showing up in Republic City in a single frame. Korra is delighted after not seeing her friend for three years. Mako is stunned. Opal is both peeved and perplexed. But Korra and Bolin both get in a "We suck and we have to redeem ourselves" conversation before Korra goes to see Zaheer.
Korra thinks that seeing Zaheer in chains will resolve her emotional pain—just like she thought going home would do it, getting back in the action would do it, removing her poison would do it. But it turns out that Zaheer has something more valuable to offer Korra than the satisfaction of his imprisonment.
In fact, Zaheer has something that Korra desperately needs, something Tenzin has been unable to give her: faith in her own strength. Zaheer's quest to kill Korra was never personal. He may have been trying to end the Avatar cycle, but that was a means to an end. Korra may have come away from their encounter deeply scarred, but Zaheer came away deeply impressed with her ability to survive. It also helps that Kuvira represents the worst of what Zaheer fought against and that Korra holds him responsible for the power vacuum that enabled Kuvira's rise.
Zaheer doesn't coddle her like Katara or try to protect her from pain like Tenzin or try to knock her back into shape like Toph. Korra needed things from all of these people: tenderness, time to heal, the reignition of the fire in her belly. But Zaheer provides the missing piece: he forces her to confront what actually happened her, to relive her near-death and recognize that she—incredibly—survived. It's only when she is able to make that pain part of her and stop pushing it aside that she is finally able to fully connect with Raava, enter the Spirit World, and rescue Jinora and the others. She finally recognizes that she may be scarred, but she isn't ruined.
And it looks like teams are starting to form in Republic City. For practical reasons—and our amusement—President Raiko pairs Varrick with Asami to cook up countermeasures for Kuvira's Spirit weapon. Asami accepts it as a necessary evil, but not quietly.
Bolin, meanwhile, tries to work his way back into Opal's good graces, which is proving tricky given his role in the fall of Zaofu and the imprisonment of Opal's family. But when Opal tells him that the one way he can win her back is to join her quest to Zaofu with Lin, Bolin's jaw sets. He's ready to be the hero we know he can be.