Book 3 finished off on such an emotional rollercoaster that it has taken me a few days to figure out what to say about it. Even now that some time has passed, I’m still at a loss for words. My recap and thoughts can be found after the jump…
These two episodes are so action-heavy, and so much of the beauty of them is conveyed by those actions, that my recap really can’t do them justice, but here’s a brief summary of the events before I get into my thoughts.
Episode 3.12: Enter the Void
The airbenders are still being held hostage by the Red Lotus, and Korra decides that handing herself over to Zaheer is the only way to resolve it.
Her family and friends agree to trust her judgement – but they won’t let her go alone. Using radios, she keeps in touch with Mako, Bolin and Asami, who will determine that the airbenders are indeed safe, while Lin, Suyin, Tonraq and the metalbenders act as Korra’s backup. Just as the deal is about to go through, they discover that Zaheer tricked them; the captured airbenders are nothing but water bent into shape by Ming Hua.
A series of fights ensue, during which P’Li is brutally killed by Suyin, Bolin discovers he can lavabend, and, most surprising of all, Zaheer masters the extremely rare airbending skill of flight.
He escapes with Korra, and she awakens in a crystal chamber, all four limbs chained. Zaheer reveals he intends to end the Avatar Cycle by poisoning her.
Episode 3.13: Venom of the Red Lotus
Zaheer explains that as Korra dies, her body will force the Avatar State in order to save her, and that’s when the Red Lotus will kill her. They infect her with the poison (which appears to be mercury, or a similar metallic substance), and she begins to flicker in and out of the Avatar State, trying to fight it.
She begins to hallucinate, seeing her captors morph into Amon, Unalaq and Vaatu, all telling her that the time of the Avatar is over.
Jinora is using her spirit form to spy on them. Seeing that Korra is in trouble, she decides the airbenders need to get out without Korra’s help. They work together with Lin, Suyin, Tonraq and the rest of Team Avatar to escape.
Eventually, Korra can’t fight the poison anymore, and she goes into the Avatar State. While Korra’s Avatar State has previously been controlled, this is a wild and feral version, far more powerful than Zaheer anticipated.
As Korra takes off after Zaheer, Mako and Bolin fight Ming Hua and Ghazan. Mako electrocutes Ming Hua. After an intense battle, Ghazan decides he’d rather die than go back to prison, and brings down the mountain. Mako and Bolin narrowly escape.
Korra continues to battle Zaheer. At first, she is a seemingly unstoppable force, but soon it becomes apparent that the poison is too much for her.
Just as it looks as if Zaheer will win, Jinora coordinates the airbenders in a tornado attack that suctions Zaheer to the ground (with Korra assisting by metalbending a chain anchor around his foot). With nowhere left to run, Zaheer is captured.
Korra succumbs to the poison, but Suyin uses metalbending to remove it from her body, saving her life.
Two weeks later, Korra is still weak from the poison, and noticeably depressed. The episode ends with Tenzin thanking her for opening the portals, enabling the airbender nation to exist once again, and Jinora is formally given the title of Airbending Master. In the final shot, a single tear run’s down Korra’s cheek.
As I mentioned before, it’s difficult to articulate how deeply this episode touched me. Everything was impressive, from the animation to the choreography to the music to the emotional notes. This entire finale — really, the entire season — did so many things right that I feel like any nitpicks I have aren’t worth mentioning. This season is what we’ve been waiting for since the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
A few comments of note:
- I cannot emphasize this enough: the animation was head and shoulders above anything shown in this series so far.
- Jinora’s story arc was fantastic. After episode 11, I was concerned that she had been pushed aside in favour of Kai, but in this episode, she grew into a true leader. When she was officially named an Airbending Master, she looked so much like her grandfather that I’m sure every Avatar: The Last Airbender fan in the audience teared up a little.
- Ending on Korra’s emotional low note was a brave narrative decision. Korra went through a traumatic ordeal, not just physically; emotionally, she came face to face with all the battles she has fought since Book One. The hallucination scene drove home the fact that all four major villains have believed the Avatar is an outdated concept (arguable five, if we include Tarrlok’s willingness to shut her away from the world). Between that and her dismal approval ratings, the Avatar doesn’t seem to have a place in the modern world. How will this impact Korra’s self-worth in Book Four?
- When it came to strong relationships, this season delivered. We saw Mako and Bolin constantly having each others’ backs, Korra and Asami being bosom buddies, Suyin and Lin having the first sister-sister conflict in the entire run of the property, Korra and her father fighting side by side… Even the villains had a mature, touching relationship (Zaheer and P’Li.) While it felt like Book Two and, to a lesser extent, Book One set everyone at each others’ throats, this season showed and explored many types of love. This type of camaraderie was a key component of Avatar: The Last Airbender, something The Legend of Korra always seemed to lack, so it’s wonderful that this season is finally tugging at our heartstrings.
- No love triangles! Thank you, creative team. Korra had bigger things to worry about this season. …Though maybe I’m reading too much into things, but that exchange between Korra and Asami near the end of the episode was surprisingly intense. I’m assuming the scene was meant to show how strong their friendship has become, but I must admit, a part of me felt as if it was left open for romance.
- This season got dark. From the Earth Queen’s suffocation to P’Li’s exploding head to Korra’s depressed state, the creative team didn’t pull any punches. I wonder if part of the decision to switch the show to digital-only was due to the darker themes?
Overall, this season was one of my favourite seasons of any TV show, ever.
What were your thoughts on the season? Any thoughts on what Book 4 might have in store? Sound off in the comments below!