|“||I'd like to make an announcement to the world: the Earth Kingdom is no more. And from here on out, this man has no authority. I have created a new Earth Empire, and I will continue to lead it into the future myself, bringing about a new era of prosperity for my people. And let me assure my fellow leaders of one thing: anyone who crosses our borders or stands in our way will be crushed!||„|
|~ Kuvira's warning at Wu's coronation.|
|“||Don't pretend you know what it felt like. The Avatar is adored by millions. I was cast aside by my own parents like I was nothing to them. How could I just stand by and watch the same thing happen to my nation when it needed someone to guide it?||„|
|~ Kuvira breaking down in front of Korra, explaining why she defied Suyin & usurped power in the Earth Kingdom.|
Empress Kuvira a.k.a The Great Uniter, is the main antagonist of Book 4 of The Legend of Korra, and the final antagonist of the series. She originally served as a captain of the Metal Clan guard in Zaofu before furthering her own agenda by trying to restore order to the Earth Kingdom, which was left in disarray after the assassination of Earth Queen Hou-Ting at the hands of Zaheer three years prior. She was the empress of the Earth Empire and now a prisoner of war.
The Metal Clan
Kuvira began her life in the Metal Clan when Suyin took her under her wing as a child, and raised her like a daughter. She became the captain of the Metal Clan's city guard, as well as a dancer in Suyin Beifong's dance troupe. She was present when the Metal Clan welcomed Team Avatar to Zaofu and participated in the attack against Zaheer and his associates after their failed attempt to kidnap Avatar Korra. Kuvira and the city guards searched the city for them but to no avail, and all took part in being questioned by Aiwei, the city's truth-seer. When Aiwei's treachery was exposed, Suyin ordered Kuvira to search the city for him, but was lead to a dead end.
Stopping the Red Lotus
When Suyin received word of the Air Nation being held hostage by the Red Lotus, the Metal Clan traveled to the Northern Air Temple in a rescue attempt, while Kuvira went with Tonraq, Lin and Suyin to ensure the Red Lotus did not back down on their deal. When Mako alerted Lin they were double crossed, they proceeded to rescue Korra, but several were blown off the mountain by P'Li's combustion attack. When Tonraq fell, Kuvira rescued him and bandaged his wounds, formally introducing herself to him. When they learned where the airbenders were being held, Kuvira requested to accompany them on the rescue mission, but was ordered by Suyin to stay with the injured, an order Kuvira accepted.
During the three-year timeskip between Book 3 and Book 4, the world leaders turned to Suyin to restore order to the Earth Kingdom, but she declined on the grounds that she did not want to impose her ideals on the nation. Kuvira, however, quickly seized the opportunity, forming a rift between herself and Suyin. Kuvira then left Zaofu along with Baatar Jr., Suyin's eldest son.
Both Kuvira and Baatar Jr. went on a mission to unite the Earth Kingdom through military might (and along the way, the two became engaged). They traveled by train getting state leaders to agree to deals that, in exchange for pledging loyalty to her, they would be under Kuvira's protection. She also purged her new nation of all dissenters and citizens of foreign origins, throwing both groups into prison camps.
In the present day, Kuvira, now accompanied by Bolin, Varrick, and Zhu Li, was informed that nearly 90% of the Earth Kingdom's states had pledged their loyalty to her, though Kuvira was unsatisfied, stating she would not be pleased until they were all united. Upon being stopped by a trap laid by bandits, Kuvira single-handedly took them down, and offered them a deal to either join her army or risk being chained to the train rail for the next train to arrive. The bandits eagerly pledged their loyalty to Kuvira. When arriving in the state of Yi, Opal was not pleased to see Kuvira or her brother Baatar Jr., or to hear that the two were engaged, and mentioned that Suyin found their actions to be traitorous. She met with the governor of Yi, offering a treaty that would place Yi under her protection, but the governor called her a manipulator and accused her of only being interested in Yi's reputable supply of ore. Kuvira warned him that by not signing her treaty, he risked the starvation of his people and defeat at the hands of the bandits. Despite the governor's refusal to sign, Kuvira left the contract with Kai, stating she would wait by the border for one more day to give him a chance to reconsider. After bandits stole what little supplies were meant to go to Yi, the governor reluctantly signed the treaty and pledged his loyalty to her, placing Yi under Kuvira's protection.
The Earth EmpireShe forced President Raiko to pardon Varrick for his crimes and allow him back into Republic City, where she and her allies attended Prince Wu's coronation. Before the coronation, she falsely promised to step down as the Earth Kingdom's new leader. During Wu's inaugural speech, she took over and announced her plans for the Earth Empire, saying that leadership should not be decided by birthright and that any who stand in her way would be crushed, metalbending the Kyoshi medal of freedom given to her by Wu for emphasis. This earned her massive support from the crowd, except for all the world leaders. When Bolin found himself questioning Kuvira's words, she reassured him that "being crushed" was "simply a rhetoric meaning that she meant business".
The world leaders chose Suyin as their spokesperson, sending her to go speak with Kuvira on their behalf. Kuvira admonished her for not stepping up and fixing the Earth Kingdom, while Suyin retorted with the fact that she didn't want the power. Kuvira threatened Suyin, saying that she knew what would happen to Zaofu if she did not join her. Meanwhile, she had Varrick collect spirit vines from around Republic City to construct a new technology, stating it was now his number one priority.
With Zaofu as the last remaining territory that had not yet been united with the rest of the Earth Empire, she gathered her army and marched on her former home. However, with the other world leaders watching her closely, she wanted to make the attempt to negotiate with Suyin using her trust in Bolin. Meanwhile, Varrick was experimenting with the spirit vines to create a superweapon, but the energy from the vine caused an explosion, and the engineer resolved to put a stop to the project. Kuvira responded by threatening to kill him, to which he agreed to continue the research. Bolin attempted to convince Suyin that Kuvira only wanted the best for the world, but Opal brought up that Kuvira throws dissenters into prison camps. Suyin makes it clear that she will not hand over Zaofu, and Kuvira gives her a day's warning before she takes the city by force.
During this time, Korra arrived in Zaofu and attempted to reason with Kuvira, informing her that her methods were wrong. Kuvira responded by telling her how hard the decisions she had to make were, and Korra admitted that she knew the feeling, resolving to talk things over with Suyin once more before an official siege began.
Soon after, Bolin posed a lot of questions to Kuvira regarding her methods, to which she responded by threatening him. Bolin joined Varrick and Zhu Li in deserting the army, but Baatar Jr. caught up to the trio and arrested them. Kuvira sentenced all three of them to a correctional facility, but at this point, Zhu Li turned on Varrick and pledged her loyalty to the warlord. Kuvira decided to give her one more chance, but left the other two deserters to their punishment.
Later that night, Suyin and her twin sons attempted to sneak into Kuvira's camp to assassinate her, but they were discovered when they unwittingly attacked Zhu Li while she was asleep. Kuvira knew she would try a sneak attack and held them hostage, informing the Zaofu citizens that Suyin violated the negotiation. The next morning, Korra attempted to negotiate peacefully with Kuvira one last time, but she instead proposed a duel, stating that the victor could do as they wished with Zaofu.
The warlord proved to be more than a match for the Avatar, until she entered the Avatar State, leaving her opponent dazed. Just as she was about to land the finishing blow on Kuvira, she began hallucinating Anti-Korra in Kuvira's place, and collapsed. Kuvira restrained her, but just as she was about to kill her, Opal and Jinora, who were observing the battle, interfered. The warlord sent her army to attack Zaofu, and even after Jinora called her siblings for reinforcement, they could not win, and were forced to escape with Korra in tow.
After the battle, Kuvira declared herself victorious, becoming the new ruler of Zaofu. She announced to the citizens that anyone who did not bow before her would be imprisoned along with Suyin and her sons. The only ones who refused were Baatar and Huan, who were immediately arrested. Meanwhile, Baatar Jr. had witnessed the apparent deaths of Bolin and Varrick, as well as the destruction of the spirit vine machinery, but he was certain that he could resume the research with the help of Zhu Li. Kuvira agreed to this, and ordered the dismantling of Zaofu's domes.
Constructing A New Weapon
Some time later, she traveled with Baatar Jr. and others from the Earth Empire military to the Foggy Swamp after discovering that the roots of the Banyan Grove Tree could produce an even more powerful superweapon, and she ordered them to harvest the vines until there was nothing left. Meanwhile, her actions had consequences in Republic City when the Spirit Wilds turned hostile and began imprisoning the populace in the Spirit World, which Kuvira may or may not have been aware of at the time.
She planned to test her superweapon by destroying a nearby abandoned town, but during the testing, Baatar Jr. kept noticing that parts of the machinery were either damaged or missing. Without her knowing, Zhu Li was intentionally sabotaging the weapon, and when she was discovered, Kuvira ordered the guards to chain her in the abandoned town so she would be killed in the blast. During the second test of the weapon that was intended to kill Zhu Li, she discovered too late that the Beifongs had escaped their prison, and they successfully changed the trajectory of the blast so the town would remain unharmed. A battle ensued, and Kuvira dueled and was victorious against Suyin, leaving the Beifongs surrounded until Toph toppled the entire battalion. The Beifongs escaped with Zhu Li in tow, and she informed them that Kuvira planned to attack Republic City in two weeks.
Attacking Republic City
Kuvira then sought to correct the "grave injustice" than Aang and Zuko had committed by retaking Republic City for the Earth Empire. After her speech, Baatar Jr. confessed his love for her, and she told him they could finally marry and rule their empire together after taking the city, embracing him. Having suspected Zhu Li escaped with the information about her attack, Kuvira commenced the invasion a week earlier than planned. Unknown to even her own soldiers, she had constructed a giant mecha, where she would place her superweapon. She used it to destroy a guard post and almost shot down Team Avatar when they went to cut the rail lines, which they thought she needed in order to transport her weapon to the city.
When she arrived in the city, she demonstrated her weapon's power by destroying a few structures, forcing Raiko to surrender. However, unknown to both parties, Korra and Iroh planned to capture Baatar Jr., who was supposed to discuss the terms of surrender with the president. Once he had been captured, Korra told him that he would never see Kuvira again if she didn't leave Republic City alone, and agreed to let her have the Earth Empire. Baatar contacted Kuvira with the same information and proposed that they settle down in Zaofu, and after confessing her love to him, she locked on to Baatar's location and fired her cannon, destroying the mechs that Varrick and Asami had been constructing.
Though Team Avatar was supposedly crushed by the blast, Bolin's earthbending saved them. A number of tactics were used to bring down the giant mecha suit, including lavabending the suit's legs and trapping it within an electromagnetic pulse blast, but all failed. The one that works is two hummingbird suits (piloted by Varrick and Zhu Li in one and Asami and her father Hiroshi Sato in the other) drilling a hole inside the suit with plasma saws designed by Hiroshi during the Equalist revolution. Though the plan worked and Team Avatar managed to get inside the hole, it cost Hiroshi his life, ejecting his daughter from the hummingbird suit before he himself was crushed by the giant metal hand of the mecha suit.
Kuvira, now beginning to lose control of the situation, orders the suit to be put on lockdown to find the intruders. When she finds her spirit energy weapon to be useless on the suit, she uses the sole functioning arm of the giant suit to rip off the arm and throw it aside with Lin and Suyin still inside. Korra blasts her way in to the control room and battles Kuvira once more, now more evenly matched. However, during their battle, Mako's lightning attacks cause a massive explosion, splitting the suit in half. Korra and Kuvira fall out from their half, and it seems as though the fight is over. However, Kuvira, not ready to give up, attacks Korra when she is distracted, but rather than fight her, she runs off into the Spirit Wilds. She continues to run from Korra until she finds her spirit energy cannon hanging from the vines, and uses it in a last attempt to destroy Korra. But she finds herself unable to turn the weapon off once it goes berserk and wreaks havoc on the city. She is about to be destroyed by her own weapon until Korra protects her from the blast. The collision between Korra's bending and the cannon's blast causes a massive explosion which destroys the wilds but creates a new spirit portal, in which Korra and Kuvira find themselves after the chaos dies down.
Defeat and Surrender
Kuvira, unable to cope with her failure, breaks down in front of Korra, refuting Korra's attempts to connect with her and reiterating how Su turned her back on her and Korra disappeared for years, leaving Kuvira with the mindset that she absolutely had to do something to restore balance to the Earth Kingdom. Korra's words, however, seem to affect Kuvira, as she returns to the physical world with Korra and orders all remaining Earth Empire soldiers to stand down. Kuvira, admitting Korra's power was something she could never compete with, surrenders herself to the authories and apologizes to Su for the pain she caused her and her family. She is then taken away to be tried for her crimes.
- Kuvira is voiced by Zelda Williams, daughter of the late Robin Williams.
- Kuvira is the first (and only) main Legend of Korra villain to be female.
- Kuvira is the first (and only) main antagonist of Legend of Korra to be introduced in the preceding book and the second in the franchise after Azula. In the previous book, she was an ally.
- She is the second main antagonist after Zaheer to live at the end of the season.
- Kuvira's plans to reannex the United Republic of Nations is similar to that of Hou-Ting, and both stated reasons were that Aang and Zuko had stolen their land.
- She has a similar personality with Ozai and later majority Azula's as the series progresses through the rest of Book Four. However unlike Ozai, she redeemed herself from her mistakes by surrendering and all she really wanted was not to be alone, similar that how Azula really feels when her mother didn't pay attention to her.
- In some ways, Kuvria is the polar opposite of Korra as Unalaq is to Tenzin in both physical build and personal worldviews.