The bizarre Book 3 schedule continues, with Nick choosing to air 2 episodes per week for the rest of the season’s run. Even stranger is their decision to pair even-odd episodes, with the series creators saying episode 4 was actually meant to be paired with 3 (and 5 with 6). That being said, these episodes were so good that I’m not going to complain.
And just what made these episodes so good? Hit the jump for my summary and thoughts!
Episode 3.04: In Harm’s Way & Episode 3.05: The Metal Clan
The episodes open with our new villains Zaheer, Ghazan, and Ming-Hua freeing their fourth team member, P’Li, in an action-packed showdown with Zuko, Tonraq, Eska and Desna. The fight choreography is breathtaking, with every character having a unique role to play. Studio Mir’s excellent animation gives the characters weight and style, their movements so dynamic that I struggled to find a good screen capture before eventually giving up. Everything is always in motion, yet never contrived or difficult to follow.
Korra, meanwhile, is about to be thrown out of Ba Sing Se by the Earth Queen, but Asami buys them one extra night by pretending their airship has engine troubles. The group decides that night will be their one opportunity to free the Queen’s army of captured airbenders.
First, they need to figure out where the airbenders are being held. Jinora taps into the same spirit projection form she used to aid Korra at the end of Book 2 and, after a few false starts, manages to locate Kai; the airbenders are under the Earth Queen’s palace. As the group finalizes their plans to free them, they receive a surprise visit from Chief Lin Beifong. Korra learns that the recently escaped Zaheer and his buddies tried to kidnap her when she was a child. She won’t be intimidated, however, and says she isn’t leaving until the airbenders have been located. Lin reluctantly agrees to to help them, hoping to speed up the process.
Splitting into groups, Korra and co. rescue the airbenders; their plan ends in a dramatic stand-off versus the Dai Li. Luckily, the Dai Li have given the airbenders excellent instruction, and the airbenders use their newfound skills to hold off their attackers until everyone is safely aboard the airships. The rescued airbenders are eager to follow Tenzin to the Northern Air Temple, where they will train as Air Nomads.
Leaving the airbenders behind, Team Avatar heads out with Lin to seek out the remaining airbenders scattered around the Earth Kingdom. Lin, who’s worried about the four dangerous escapees, is extremely tense, and she gets even grumpier when Korra decides their next stop will be Zaofu.
It turns out that Zaofu is a metal city, home to the world’s elite metalbenders — led by Suyin Beifong, Lin’s half-sister. Lin openly resents Suyin for reasons that aren’t clear just yet. Suyin’s daughter, Opal, is a sweet airbender who seems to have a thing for Bolin. Also present in Zaofu is Book 2’s enterprising maybe-villain, Varrick, who is heading up Suyin’s technology division.
Meanwhile, Zaheer, sporting a newly-shaved head, appears at Air Temple Island for some airbending training. His clumsy attempts to determine the Avatar’s whereabouts tip off Kya, who attacks. The two engage in combat, but Zaheer manages to elude both her and two White Lotus guards; he escapes on a glider.
Book 3 has only continued to get better and better! A few aspects of these episodes, in particular, stood out:
- The action sequences are phenomenal. Every fight sequence has been dynamic and brilliantly paced. The storyboarding team and animators have outdone themselves. The multi-character fights, as I mentioned earlier, are well-balanced, engaging every character and showing off their unique style. Also impressive is the use of the environment, both in terms of character movement (especially where Ming-Hua is concerned) and in terms of element bending.
- A bit more information on Jinora’s spirit projection form. I’ve seen a few folks gripe about the lack of specifics around Jinora’s spirit form, but I like that it’s a bit mysterious and mystical, even to her. Her description of it as some advanced airbending and some spirit stuff was satisfying to me; I don’t think I want much more explanation than that, especially in a world where bending itself is mysterious to begin with. (Please, let’s not start shoehorning in midi-chlorian counts…)
- Everyone has something to do. Even when they aren’t in combat, every character has had some role to play so far. Unlike Book 2, which seemed to pull in characters without knowing what to do with them, Book 3 is keeping its massive cast occupied. It will be interesting to see how all these characters and threads weave together as the season continues.
- Korra’s ultra-sheltered childhood has been explained. In Book 2, I was furious to learn that Tonraq and Tenzin had forced Korra into the White Lotus compound as a child. Maybe that was still a poor decision (the level of the threat remains to be seen), but it’s interesting to learn they had a real motive: to protect her from other would-be kidnappers. I’m intrigued to learn just what Zaheer and co. were planning to accomplish by kidnapping her.
- Toph is alive! I actually squealed aloud when it was revealed that Toph had left to travel the world. (Not one of my more dignified moments.) I would love to see her return. Even better would be a reunion with Zuko and Katara. A fangirl can dream…
Episodes 3.06 & 3.07 will air on Friday, July 18th.
What are your thoughts? Enjoying the season so far? Any theories on what Zaheer’s gang is up to? Sound off in the comments below!