Operation Beifong is a go! As The Legend of Korra rattles toward its final confrontation, the Beifong family launches a rescue mission that puts them in the heart of Kuvira's camp—and lets them witness the test of her superweapon.
When Lin, Opal, and Bolin arrive on the outskirts of Zaofu, they're in for a surprise: Toph is there to greet them. She's been largely content to sit out the fight, but she's not going to let Kuvira imprison her family. Opal has a typically warm reaction to seeing her grandmother, while Bolin fanboys all over Toph (and I can't say I blame him). Lin's reaction, however, is much more restrained. She and Toph don't have a terribly fuzzy relationship.
But of course, there's more than the imprisonment of Su and her family to deal with. Baatar Jr. and Zhu Li have finished construction on their massive Spirit Ray, and Kuvira wants to test it out on Zaofu. However, Zhu Li has been quietly attempting to sabotage the device so that it will back up and explode. Baatar Jr. may not be Varrick, but he's a competent engineer and he quickly spots the problems Zhu Li created.
While spying on Kuvira and her crew, Toph points out that Zhu Li is lying about doing everything she can to keep the machine in working order, and Bolin is delighted. Zhu Li didn't betray Varrick (although she had every right to); she's just a whole lot more clever about her defection from Kuvira.
First things first, though. Toph and Lin detect a heavily guarded underground chamber and deduce that that's where Su and company are being held. They find them in a suspended wooden prison, and develop a very orderly, very Lin plan for rescuing the family. They're able to rescue the boys easily, but there's one hitch their plan: Baatar Sr. is a major wuss. Lin ends up rescuing him by force, and his screaming alerts the guards. But all that means is that Su and Lin have to be their usual awesome selves as they make their final escape.
Of course, it wouldn't be a "Lin encounters an estranged member of her family" episode without some familial angst. Toph is still, after all these years, very much Toph: she's tough and flippant and not quick with the tender words. So when Bolin asks about Lin's dad, Toph just tosses off the answer like it's nothing, even though it's a secret she's kept from her own daughter for decades.
Also, I rather like that the identity of Lin's dad is "some guy." A lot has happened in the world of Avatar while we weren't watching, and if any character was going to go off and do their own thing and get it on with people not from their childhood adventures, it was Toph.
But Toph truly does love her children. Even if she is careless with Lin's feelings, Lin is able to wound Toph with just a few words. And, when her children really need it, Toph's there to rescue them.
After Zhu Li is revealed as a traitor, Kuvira has her tied up in Zaofu (some commenters are saying we're no longer in Zaofu at this point but in a nearby city) so that she'll be destroyed with the city. Bolin, who feels a genuine kinship with Zhu Li (especially after he briefly was Zhu Li), insists on rescuing her and Opal goes after him. And Su and Lin decide that this is their best chance to put a stop to Kuvira's Spirit Ray.
Here's where we see the first wrinkle in the Kuvira-Baatar Jr. relationship. I give Baatar Jr. a hard time, but I think that, deep down, he does care for his family. Imprisoning the Beifongs was a show of power and a way to get them out of his hair, but he craves his parents' approval and, when Opal's life is in danger, he tries to put a stop to the Spirit Ray test.
While Opal and Bolin rescue Zhu Li, Lin, Su, and the boys attack the Spirit Ray. They don't stop the test, but they do knock the weapon so it fires off course. It doesn't destroy the city, but does put a freaking hole in a mountain. Yes, the Spirit Ray is capable of remarkable and swift destruction.
Also, can we talk about how great the Su-Kuvira fight is? We're sort of seeing mother against daughter here, but their styles are so different. Su is a relentless improvisor, quickly using anything at hand, while Kuvira is prepared and methodical with that blade and whip at the ready.
The Beifongs are quickly overpowered, but fortunately Toph steps in to save the day. And since battle is catharsis for the Beifongs, everyone hugs and makes up.
Here's where Toph steps out, though, and even offers an explanation for why Katara didn't participate in the Water Tribe civil war: they're just not in fighting form anymore. I know a lot of people have been hoping for a badass Toph-Katara-Zuko team-up, but it doesn't look like that's in the cards.
Meanwhile, in Republic City, war preparations are on. I hope we get a chance to see Varrick and Asami's flying mech suits, even if President Raiko isn't impressed. He's ready to start a Spirit Weapon arms race, while Varrick and Korra both refuse to harvest the Spirit Vines. In fact, the only person who does impress Raiko at the moment is Prince Wu, who suggests evacuating the citizens. Mako's pretty pleased with the apparent change in Wu, too, at least until Wu confesses that he only proposed the evacuation to impress Korra.
Korra won't see the Spirit Vines harvested, but she does think that the Spirits might help Republic City since many of them have made it their home. But whenever she tries to talk to a Republic City Spirit, the Spirit vanishes. Fortunately, Korra can once again reach the Spirit World, where she beseeches the Spirits to help her.
It's a small moment for Korra, but it's another example of how far she's come over the course of the series. Her plea to the Spirits isn't angry; in fact, it's very reasonable. If the Spirits want to live in the human realm, they should be interested and involved in human matters. It might have worked if Kuvira and Unalaq hadn't abused Spirit power in such recent memory. A phoenix-dragony Spirit approaches Korra and refuses to help her on behalf of the Spirits.
But Team Avatar will have to figure out some way to defend Republic City, because Zhu Li reveals that Kuvira will attack in just two weeks. The final confrontation is on its way.