The Legend of Korra introduced us to several villains who had different motivations for becoming the anti-hero. Every one of them has a different philosophy, and Korra has to confront their principles as much as the threat they pose. The Metalbender Kuvira was the dictator who led to the rise of totalitarianism on the Earth’s empire. She was the villain in the final season and proved to be a tough challenge to Korra. In Ruins of the Empire, Kuvira looks back at the atrocities that she has committed and atones for her crimes. However, that raises an important ethical question, does she deserve a chance to redeem herself? Isn’t Zaheer a better anti-hero, who is more deserving of the opportunity?
Initially, when Kuvira was first introduced, she was portrayed as an ally. However, this changed radically in the time skip of three years. When the Earth Queen was assassinated, there was a power vacuum in the Earth Kingdom, which gave bandits an opportunity to ravage the land. After the refusal of Suyin Beifong, it was Kuvira who was given the leadership of the Earth Kingdom. She filled the power vacuum, but Suyin’s biggest deepest fears were realized, and Kuvira ended having too much power and influence at her disposal. She then refused to give it up and became Earth’s empire dictator.
Kuvira went on to do harrowing things like torturing and imprisoning every dissident in reeducation camps. She even held resources of disparate provinces of the territory to force them into joining her and showcased the power at her disposal by marching her mighty military across the country. She increased the production of doomsday weapons, which gave humankind the destructive powers to put every species in danger of extinction. If one meditates over this, it becomes apparent that she is not the person that deserves to be redeemed. But the comic does try to do just that regardless of all these factors.
Ruins of the Empire initially makes it clear that Kuvira does not regret her actions. While it is true that she was not aware of some of the atrocities done in her name. But even for the things she was responsible for, she presented a utilitarian argument, making the case that it was greater good for which she did everything. However, childhood trauma left deep wounds that might have been responsible for her becoming a robust parent-like influence on the country.
When she has to work with the Avatar team to save the Earth empire, she got to know the admonishments of the Beifong’s which changed her. By the end, she finally accepted her mistakes and was put under house arrest when she finally started making amends for the wrongs she had done. However, she did not deserve the opportunity to redeem herself.
Kuvira’s action had horrifying consequences on a global scale. Her reign of terror was full of human rights violations, torture, and assassinations. She even got to the point when she almost killed the man she was supposed to marry. Even if the Legend of Korra wanted to give her a shot at redemption, she would need to spend years meditating on the unjustifiable wrongs that she had committed. There are villains on Korra and in the original franchise that addressed their crimes and redeemed themselves. However, The Legend of Korra was unjust to some of these characters who deserved a chance at redemption instead of Kuvira.
After Kuvira had come to power, following Earth Queen’s assassination, Zaheer was sent to prison for three years as a member of the Red Lotus. The anarchist Airbender had shown regret for his actions when he realized that a dictator has consolidated power because of his action, whose ideals were contrary to his own. When Korra visited him, he tried to make up for his past by helping her with the spiritual healing essential to move on in life. Zaheer’s redemption made sense since he was able to form an emotional connection to the viewers, and it did appear that he had meditated long on his actions. Unfortunately, he was not given the opportunity like Kuvira.
Zaheer has now lost all his loved ones, including his close friends. He had nowhere to go and was chained in prison for his crimes. Even though his action was unjustifiable, he did have a somewhat convincing philosophy to back up everything he did. He was right in blaming the monarchs for hundreds of years of genocide and violence. However, the way in which he responded to everything was questionable; he should have thought of other ways to right centuries of wrongs.
In comparison, Kuvira was motivated by much more selfish reasons that seemed unforgivable. There was no deep-rooted desire to make the world a better place, but instead, she wanted to take control of the Earth’s empire. Therefore, it would have made more sense if Zaheer was given the shot at redemption instead of Kuvira, who did not deserve it. Her redemption appears to be morally questionable, while Zaheer already appears to be a much stronger candidate after meditating for years on his past actions.