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Zhu Li, do the thing.
~ Varrick
Yep, I like to think I'm always there to stand up for the little guy. Especially if that little guy can help this guy become a bigger guy.
~ Varrick buying Future Industries
I know, it's not like me, right? Usually I look at a project like this and think, "Wow! "I could make a ton of money off this!" But recently, I've been having these strange feelings ... inside. It's like I'm ... concerned with others. And there's this nagging voice in my head constantly telling me what's right from wrong!
~ Varrick explains his newfounded morality.

Varrick is a supporting antagonist in The Legend of Korra Book 2 and later an anti-hero/supporting protagonist in Books 3 and 4. Initially introduced as a helpful ally to Team Avatar, Varrick was revealed to have orchestrated the Water Nation Civil War and instigated multiple terrorist attacks in Republic City in order to make a profit from those conflicts.

After escaping prison, Varrick joined the Metal Clan and switched his efforts into modernizing Zaofu. He then joined Kuvira's Earth Empire but defected after learning that she planned to weaponize his spirit vine technology and returned to Republic City to help Team Avatar defeat Kuvira.

Personality

On the outside, Varrick is presented as an eccentric and slightly scaterbrained individidual but also pleseant and friendly. He's rather pompous and and self-centered but always willing to help friends on the surface. In reality, he's a manipulative greedy businessman who uses his charms and friendly attitude to gain others' trust, then backstabb them to further his own goals. He's very selfish, only caring about his own self gain and disregarding the harm his actions cause in the name of making more profit. He was even willing to trigger an international conflict involving his own people then instigate terrorist attacks in Republic City while making it seem like the Northern Water Tribe was responsible.

Being a corrupt capitalist, Varrick is quick to determine when a shady conspirancy is going on, as he knew the trial against Tonraq was rigged then was quick to figure out Aiwei was the one behind the attack on Zaofu and had planted fake evidence to incriminate an innocent guard, a trick Varrick himself had used to get Mako arrested before. Varrick however is also pragmatic, he predicted that he would eventually get caught and sent to prison so he preemptively had a special fancy cell built for himself just in case.

After escaping from prison and moving to Zaofu, he slowly showed some signs of improving by using his cunning intellect to modernize Zaofu rather than make profit for himself, though he remained dissmissive whenever everyone called him out on his previous crimes. He was also open to support Kuvira when she volunteered to stabilize the Earth Kingdom when the queen died and the nation fell into chaos.

By the time Kuvira took over the Earth Kingdom and turned it into a dictatorship, Varrick's sense of morale significantly improved. He refused to continue the spirit vine research after witnessing first hand the colateral damage the technology could cause and attempted to desert Kuvira when he learned she wanted to weaponize his invention which Varrick only wanted to use as an energy source. Varrick was even willing to commit suicide by detonating the spirit vine reactor to prevent anyone from completing the research, he then helped Team Avatar stop Kuvira's spirit cannon upon returning to Republic City. Varrick also scolded president Raiko for demanding the use of spirit vine cannons on his mech suits, insisting that the technology should never be used even if it was to defend Republic City.

Varrick is never seen without his assistant Zhu Li, she even stayed with Varrick when he was arrested. While Varrick and Zhu Li's relationship initially seemed to be strictly profesional, the two slowly began developing feelings for each other. After Kuvira was defeated Varrick married Zhu Li having fully redeemed himself for his past wrong doings.

History

Business with Future Industries

Varrick first appears as a man with whom Asami attempts to start a partnership with in the hope that it will save Future Industries, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. When Asami goes to meet him with Bolin, Varrick seems to take an immediate liking to the latter, and the two soon become fast friends. However, when Unalaq and his forces take over the Southern Water Tribe, Varrick shows a less innocent side of himself when he begins strongly pushing for armed resistance to the North's occupation. When the tensions boil over into all out conflict, Varrick flees to Republic City along with Korra and her friends. Once there, he convinces Korra to get the president of Republic City on their side. When this doesn't work, Varrick suggests that Korra should go behind his back while simultaneously working with Asami to ship Mecha-Tanks to the beleaguered South. He also decides to dress Bolin up as the star of blatant propaganda films in the hopes of boosting morale for the war.

Orchestrating a War

Varrick's villainous nature is revealed in the episode "The Sting" where Mako realizes that the explosives used to bomb both the Southern Water Tribe Cultural Center (an act that worsens the tensions between the two Water Tribes) and also Varrick's own shipments to the South are of his own company's design. Unfortunately, by the time Mako realizes this Varrick's actions have already left Future Industries and Asami in financial ruin, allowing Varrick to buy a controlling share and "save" Asami's company while simultaneously putting her in his pocket. When Mako confronts him about this and refuses to be intimidated by Varrick's threats, the scheming businessman has Mako framed for his own crimes.

Despite his best efforts though, Varrick is later exposed after Bolin foils his attempt to kidnap Republic City's president and blame it on the Northern Water Tribe so as to get Republic City into the war. Following his imprisonment in a specially made prison cell, Varrick claims that he regrets his past actions and to make amends gives Asami her Future Industries vehicles back, along with the war-ship he had stored them on (which he named after his assistant).  

When the Dark Avatar goes on a rampage through Republic City, Varrick's jail cell is destroyed in the process, allowing him and his assistant to escape.

Life in the Earth Kingdom

After Harmonic Convergence, Team Avatar travelled to the metal city of Zaofu, where they found Varrick, along with Zhu Li. Varrick is old friends with Suyin Beifong (the leader of Zaofu), and she appointed him as head of the technology department. While Bolin was glad to see him again, Asami Sato and Lin Beifong were not.

When Team Avatar investigated Zaheer's attempted abduction of Korra in Zaofu, Varrick suggested that the accused guard was only a scapegoat and someone planted in the evidence his house, similar to what he did with Mako. Varrick's suspicions were confirmed when it is revealed that Aiwei planted the evidence.

Kuvira's Army

Three years after the defeat of the Order of the Red Lotus, Varrick left the Metal Clan to join Kuvira on her mission to unite (and conquer) the Earth Kingdom, and dealt with the technological duties. After Kuvira forced President Raiko to pardon Varrick and allow him back into Republic City, he attended Prince Wu's coronation, and supported his commander's speech. During his stay in the city, he collected numerous spirit vines for the construction of new technology.

While experimenting with the spirit vines, the energy from the vine almost destroyed the machine and killed Varrick, and he realized that such a weapon would be dangerous if placed in the wrong hands. Although he knew how much money he could make with the project, he resolved to put a stop to it. Kuvira responded by tightening the metal around his neck and threatening to kill him, and he agreed to continue his research, albeit under close watch from Kuvira's soldiers.

Deserting Kuvira

After Bolin is threatened by Kuvira himself, he helped Varrick and Zhu Li escape from her train, and the three of them sneak out of the camp set up just outside Zaofu in mecha tank suits while Varrick proposes that they warn other people about the power of Kuvira's potential superweapon. Soon after, Baatar Jr. and two more soldiers find the trio, and at the end of the ensuing battle, Baatar places them under arrest, and Kuvira sentences them to be sent to a prison camp. It was at this point that Varrick's loyal assistant betrayed him and pledged herself to Kuvira's cause, leaving him and Bolin to be imprisoned.

While imprisoned, Baatar Jr. ordered Varrick to resume the spirit vine research, and he was able to convince him to make Bolin his new assistant. He noted that he originally planned to make the vines into a form of clean energy as opposed to a weapon of mass destruction. Baatar Jr. told Varrick to walk him through the construction of the weapon, but soon after, Varrick set off a timer that would detonate the reactor in five minutes' time, destroying the research and killing everyone on board so that Kuvira couldn't get her hands on that amount of destructive power. When Baatar Jr. and his soldiers had exited the train cart, Varrick told Bolin to disconnect their own car from the rest of the train. They narrowly escape the resulting explosion, leading Baatar Jr. to suspect that they had indeed been killed in the blast. They escaped through an underground tunnel, and Varrick thanked Bolin for "doing the thing".

They began their journey to Republic City on foot. Varrick spent most of the time riding on Bolin's back and lamenting the betrayal of Zhu Li. Varrick regretted giving Kuvira the superweapon technology and wished to atone by warning the world of her plans. They soon fell for a hunting trap and were discovered by some of Kuvira's escaped war prisoners, who recognized their Earth Empire soldier outfits and planned to use them as hostages to make their way past a border checkpoint. After convincing the escapees that they had defected, Varrick and Bolin teamed up with them and resolved to escape the Earth Empire.

After they succeeded in getting past the checkpoint, one of the soldiers recognized Varrick and Bolin as traitors and a battle ensued. Varrick was forced to retreat, and found a generator inside the guard's office, where he built an electromagnetic pulse device, disabling the mechas so he, Bolin and the escapees could flee. Their escape successful, Varrick reluctantly boarded their small boat and headed north towards Republic City.

Countering Kuvira's Attack And Marriage

When Varrick finally returned to Republic City, he told the assembled world leaders about Kuvira's superweapon. Shortly after, Raiko officially pardoned him for his crimes, but only to enlist his (along with Asami's) help in a preemptive strike on Kuvira. Asami threatened him not to double-cross her again as she agreed to be partners with him once more.

Together, he and Asami constructed hummingbird mechs capable of flight in any direction. Later, as he was constructing the mechs, Zhu Li returned to Republic City, where she apologized and confessed romantic feelings for Varrick. He remained totally oblivious to her true feelings, but accepted her apology and told her to man the assembly line. This caused Zhu Li to grow angry with him and demand that she be treated as an equal.

After the hummingbird mech factory was destroyed by Kuvira, Varrick thought the benders were going to have to face Kuvira on their own until Asami revealed that she still had two prototypes in her office. As he was disabling the mechs with a giant electromagnetic pulse, he told Zhu Li a story about an ostrich-horse that he took for granted, which was intended to lead into a marriage proposal. He was interrupted as the mechs were approaching, and disabled all except the Colossus itself. When Hiroshi installed plasma saws onto the hummingbird mechs to infiltrate the Colossus, Varrick finally proposed to Zhu Li, and they sealed their engagement with a kiss. They had little success infiltrating the Colossus and were forced to flee before they were crushed, staying out of the fight for the remainder of the battle.

After Kuvira's defeat, Varrick and Zhu Li were wed by Bolin at Air Temple Island.

Trivia

  • He was based on Howard Hughs, though the personality traits he takes from the real-life businessman are shown to be mostly an act.
  • It is rumored in-universe that he has been known to dabble in the Black Market to make a profit, but these rumors are unconfirmed. Given what he has been confirmed to be guilty of already, it is feasible.
  • Varrick is the only villain in The Legend of Korra to fully redeem himself and befriend team Avatar.

Navigation

           Avatar The Last Airbender logoVillains

Fire Nation
Fire Lord Ozai | Fire Lord Azulon | Fire Lord Sozin | Zuko | Azula | Ty Lee | Mai | Zhao | Ukano | Combustion Man | Yon Rha | Warden | Bujing | Mung

Earth Kingdom
Hou-Ting | Jet | Chin the Conqueror | General Fong | Xin Fu | Gow | Long Feng | Dai Li Sergeant

Water Tribe
Hama | Tahno | Tarrlok | Noatak | Yakone | Varrick | Zhu Li | Unalaq | Eska | Judge Hotah | Gilak | Thod | Thod's disciples

Equalists
Amon | Lieutenant | Hiroshi Sato

Red Lotus
Zaheer | Ghazan | Ming-Hua | P'Li | Aiwei

Earth Empire
Kuvira | Baatar Jr.

Spirits
Vaatu | Dark Spirits | Wan Shi Tong | Koh | Kemurikage | Old Iron

Other Groups
Dai Li | Rough Rhinos | Southern Raiders | Yuyan Archers | New Ozai Society | Triple Threat Triad | Royal Procession

Individuals
June | Lightning Bolt Zolt | Shady Shin | Tokuga | Wonyong Keum

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