Legend of Korra: Book Three Finale Review: Korra Rolls On

Mike Hoffman | 25 Aug 2014 06:00
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korra crazy eyes  - legend of korra book three finale

Episode 13: "Venom of the Red Lotus"

"When I get out of here, none of you will survive!"

Korra's proclamation at the beginning for the Book Three finale serves as an example of just how different she truly is from the previous Avatar, Aang. This season, Korra has proven more calm, patient, and considerate than throughout the earlier arcs. Don't get me wrong, I've loved Korra throughout the series, but seeing her grow wiser and not giving into her impulsiveness has been rewarding. What's more, this entire season has revisited elements of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but in this episode, a lot of that is turned on its head. Even with the airbenders returning, it appears that the most powerful of them is Zaheer, the season's primary antagonist. And Korra has lost the calm demeanor she has built, even breathing fire at the Red Lotus while chained up, a moment very reminiscent of Azula at the end of ATLA.

Also during this season, Zaheer has hidden what he intends to do with the Avatar, but the reveal isn't quite as earthshattering as it was built up to be. He wants to kill Korra, using a special poison to force her into the Avatar State (for those unaware, basically Super Saiyan Avatar). Dying in the Avatar State would end the line of Avatars -- no more reincarnating. Red Lotus metalbenders force the poison into Korra through her exposed arms and legs, and it looks painful. Zaheer quotes Shakespeare (even though there is no Shakespeare in this world), and states that by ending the Avatar line, a new world will begin without nations or borders. A world of "true freedom".

While in the chains, Korra resists falling into the Avatar State, and the show gives way to some seriously anime-style shots. Soon, the poison forces Korra to hallucinate, seeing the Red Lotus members turn into past antagonists Amon, Unalaq, and Vaatu, who all remind Korra that the world needs no Avatar and declare she is powerless to resist.

asami attacking red lotus member  - legend of korra book three finale

Team Avatar shows up, led by Kai, and proceeds into the caves to rescue the captured airbenders and Korra. After reuniting with the airbenders, Lin orders everyone to evacuate the tunnels while Mako, Bolin, and Tonraq go to help Korra.

No longer able to resist, Korra enters the Avatar State fully and easily deflects the attacks from Ghazan and Ming-Hua. She breaks free from her restraints and pursues Zaheer, a length of chain wrapped around one arm. Tonraq follows while Mako and Bolin face off with Ming-Hua and Ghazan one last time. Bolin is able to lavabend against Ghazan now, but it is Mako who dispatches his foe first, shocking Ming-Hua by using lightning on the water she is standing it. Of course, we have to ask why he didn't do that many episodes ago, but before we can think on that for too long he jumps in to help Bolin. Ghazan, refusing to be imprisoned again, brings down the entire cave, presumably killing himself and burying Ming-Hua, but Mako and Bolin escape.

Outside the cave, Zaheer and Korra engage in a battle incredibly similar to that between Fire Lord Ozai and Aang at the end of Avatar. The environment is similar, and even the moves they perform reflect those of the battle from decades earlier. Only now, Korra propels herself with fire blasts similar to Ozai (think Iron Man), and Zaheer is the bald airbending master. Flying about the rock pillars, it's difficult to not recall DBZ fight scenes as well.

Still, the poison overwhelms Korra and she falls. Zaheer takes advantage of her weakened state and attempts to suffocate her as he did the Earth Queen, airbending the air from her lungs. On the ground, Jinora has led the other airbenders to create an enormous vortex, which pulls at Zaheer and Korra. As they are sucked in, Zaheer attempts to fly away, but Korra uses the chain from earlier to grab at his leg and slam him back to the ground, before she herself falls to the poison.

Zaheer is immediately trapped in a stone prison, compliments of Lin and Suyin's earthbending, yet he still mocks everyone, stating that Korra will still succumb to the poison. Jinora announces that the poison is metal-based, and Suyin bends it out of the unconscious Avatar. Zaheer tries to cry out that the revolution is still going to happen, but Bolin shoves a sock in his mouth.

jinora airbender tattoos - legend of korra book three finale

Two weeks later, everyone has gathered at Air Temple Island for a special celebration. Asami helps Korra prepare her hair and outfit, but Korra barely reacts. Due to the battle and the poison, Korra is in a wheelchair and appears severely unwell and depressed. Asami reminds her that it will take time to recover and that she is there for her, for anything. Outside, Korra sees her parents and her mentors, Tenzin, Lin, and Zuko (yes, I'm counting him), as well as President Raiko. Only the company of Tenzin's children, Ikki and Meelo, brings a smile to her face. After she leaves, Raiko and Zuko discuss how badly the world needs the Avatar right now and Tenzin contemplates their concerns.

In the temple, Tenzin ask a hooded Jinora to step forward and he delivers a speech promising to return the Air Nation to its nomadic roots and to protect the world while Korra recovers. The airbenders then anoint Jinora as a new airbending master. She removes her hood and cloak to reveal her tattoos, reserved for masters, and she looks exactly like Aang. The moment is beautiful and is hugely uplifting after everything our heroes have been through, which is why it is so heartbreaking when the camera cuts to Korra. She is nearly expressionless, save for her frown, and she has bags under her eyes. Even in an incredibly important and positive moment, Korra can't keep herself from crying, and it is obvious these are not tears of joy.

It's a powerful moment to close the season on. Our once energetic, impulsive, proud hero is in a wheelchair, obviously depressed, and possibly completely broken. There are plenty of conversations going on between fans about why Korra is in this state, but it would seem the physical toll of the poison and the fight itself has worn her down just as much as the emotional toll of her many conflicts.

korra crying in wheelchair - legend of korra book three finale

Korra has spent nearly her entire life training to live as the Avatar and fulfilling that role over the past eighteen months. But also in that time she has encountered foes who constantly question her ability or the need for an Avatar. Seeing Amon, Unalaq, and Vaatu under the effects of the poison surely had a serious impact on her emotional state as well. Perhaps, after all of this, Korra has started to question her entire identity and her place in the world. She is also the first Avatar, besides the actual first Avatar, to not have the ability to turn to the past Avatars for consultation. She is truly alone in this. Then, during Jinora's ceremony, Tenzn announces that the Air Nation is capable of handling everything while Korra is unable, and maybe she believes that now she is unnecessary.

These are heavy issues to deal with, especially for a cartoon on Nickelodeon about kids that control the elements. This season has pushed into more mature territory than past seasons of Korra and Avatar, especially with the deaths of the Earth Queen and P'Li. The theme of anarchy was explored more thoughtfully by Zaheer than most cartoon villains, and if the series intends to explore depression in Book Four, it would make for some intense "kid's" television. Also, spending the next season asking whether the world needs an Avatar might also set up an ending for this series and the world of Avatar at the end of the fourth season.

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