Everyone seemed to react pretty negatively to the fact that Korra has poison still inside her, so here’s my defense of it and why it’s not what people are making it out to be:
1. The hallucinations are still real
The poison is a neutral party, it doesn’t know what scares Korra and what doesn’t. The poison is facilitating her illusions but it’s not creating them. Korra invented Vaatu, Unalaq, and Amon just as she’s inventing Miss Dark Avatar Korra. Further, her flashbacks during Toph’s attempt at removing the poison prove that this is still an emotional and mental struggle more than a physical one. But having something force it to the surface is the only way Korra would admit something’s wrong, she has a physical hurtle to jump (as we knew she did at the end of last season) but it will take mental and emotional training and preparedness to jump it.
2. The poison is not the point, it’s how she reacts
Korra has poison in her body, but the point is not that not all of it came out but that she’s purposely keeping it in. She resists Toph’s attempts to remove it out of fear of what removal of the poison will mean. She has an excuse to sit an do nothing with the handicap still in her body. And it’s the fear of being vulnerable once more that’s keeping her from allowing herself to heal. Last episode mentioned that much of Korra’s struggle was in her head, and that remains true, it’s her mindset keeping the poison in her, not the poison itself, as I said it’s completely neutral it will obey Korra’s wants (the hallucinations are scary because she’s making them scary, it’s staying in her body because she’s making it do so).
3. Korra can grow, but must remain who she is
I mentioned Korra would not face this if it was not forced in front of her face, which is exactly what happened. Korra needs something to blame, something she can punch (notice that Korra engaged in fighting to battle the hallucination because she needed something to fight). To that end we need to give her a physical enemy, but she must learn to deal with it correctly, she’s learned now punching won’t work, resisting the poison won’t work. She has to get over what’s going on in her head to deal with her physical enemy. She can’t mediate this away like Aang might have been able to (I honestly think people try to use him as a default for what the Avatar’s supposed to be and how they’re meant to act), she has to defeat this in a way that serves her character, to give her a completely Spiritual solution to her problem would be a disservice to her character.
4. Book 4: Balance
A lot of people are looking at this as a solely physical issue and getting worked up about that. This, as I have said, will require exercise of the mind and emotions to remove the physical enemy. Korra’s inventing the hallucinations, the metal is simple facilitating them, Korra’s resisting the metal removal the metal is not. This is a balance of inner growth and outer growth and that’s what our Book is all about.
Just think about this line for a second. So we don’t know very much about Kuvira’s motives, and, from what we’ve seen of her and other characters’ reactions to her, she’s something like a dictator who’s on a power trip after uniting the Earth Kingdom, kind of like Unalaq was in Season 2.
But when you try comparing Kuvira to Korra, everything changes.
For Kuvira to be anything like Korra, she has to have good intentions at the very least. She has to genuinely believe in her cause, in bringing peace by uniting the entire Earth Kingdom under one capable leader, rather than a useless figurehead with his power handed to him because of his blood.
If we’re to follow this logic, then Kuvira genuinely believes that she is doing the right thing. She believes that she is actually helping people, and everything she does, good and bad, is for the sake of the world.
Which, honestly, isn’t all that different from Season 1 and early Season 2 Korra, who had the best of intentions but still did very morally questionable things. The difference is that Kuvira is older and a lot more jaded than Korra was at that time, and she has a much higher approval rating among the masses than Korra ever did. If it had been Korra in Kuvira’s place, then you can bet that Tenzin, Lin, and Su would have made a genuine effort to reason with her, to gently nudge her in the right direction without heaping too much of the blame onto her.
I don’t think Kuvira will degenerate into your standard power-hungry villain — that would just be a repeat of Unalaq’s story. The best evidence for this I can think of is her interactions with Bolin. Other characters, like Varrick, have tried to manipulate Bolin for their own ulterior motives, but I don’t really get that vibe from Kuvira. It’s not the same feeling as Amon trying to rally the masses to his cause in the first season, and it’s not the same feeling as Unalaq trying to manipulate Korra to do his bidding in the second season. It’s not even the same feeling as Zaheer trying to convert Korra to his philosophy, and we all know how firmly rooted he was in his philosophy.
Something about Kuvira feels genuine and altruistic — and that’s what sets her apart from the likes of Amon, Unalaq, and Zaheer.
“What’s fun about Toph is that’s she a totally different kind of mentor figure as opposed to Katara or Zuko who are, you know, they’re a little bit more of the traditional kind of mentor. They’re patient, understanding, kind, and Toph is totally the opposite of that. It’s fun. She does help Korra get better. Not all of the way better, but helps her on her journey for sure. But she does it in a very Toph-like fashion.”—