Korra finally learns Zaheer’s backstory. Time for exposition!
Last week, The Legend of Korra moved to digital only, and if you could navigate Nick’s website and then get the video player to function, then you could see the ninth episode of Book Three, “The Stakeout”. Series co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino stepped in to write this episode, presumably because a lot of exposition happens. We’re approaching the end of the season, so it’s time to get the backstory out of the way and put our heroes into a dark place before the conclusion. The history of Zaheer is interesting, but underwhelming. His motivations and goals are simply explained to the viewer, telling rather than showing, and it’s a little disappointing. Seemingly separate elements from that have been established throughout the season are starting to come together, but so far this entire season has been build-up with a series of small pay-offs. Hopefully these last four episodes can deliver, otherwise Book Three might end up being completely forgettable.
The Legend of Korra is available on Nick.com, with new episodes posted Fridays at 12 pm, EST, with previous episodes from Book Three now available to stream. Book One and Book Two are available to stream on Amazon. Book One is free with Prime.
Spoilers through “The Stakeout” below.
Team Avatar (Korra, Mako, Bolin, and Asami) are hunting down Aiwei, a metalbender that betrayed them in the previous episode. Aiwei is somehow allied with Zaheer, the airbending leader of a gang of very unique benders, P’Li, Ming-Hua, and Ghazan. Zaheer gained his ability to airbend after Korra left open the portals between the mortal and spirit worlds, which has caused a lot of problems. While there are new airbenders to rebuild the airbender nation, the Earth Queen is trying to conscript them into a military and has put a bounty on Korra and her friends for freeing her airbenders.
Thanks to Korra’s polar bear dog, Naga, the team tracks Aiwei to the Misty Palms Oasis, the dry desert village from Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is now heavily populated by spirits. Mako and Bolin find Aiwei in the town while Korra and Asami learn that he is meeting Zaheer at Xai Bau’s Grove, a location they can’t find on the map. The team sets up a stakeout, watching for Aiwei to leave for his meeting. To pass the time, Bolin and Asami play Pai Sho, the game Uncle Iroh loved so much in The Last Airbender. First, they disagree about how the game should be played, but Asami fans will be happy to know that Bolin gets wrecked repeatedly.
Korra has never been the patient type, and as the sun is setting she finally storms into Aiwei’s room, only to find him meditating. Suddenly it clicks with her: Aiwei and Zaheer are meeting in the spirit world, something only possible since Korra left the portal between worlds open. She sits right there and takes herself into the spirit world and confronts the two of them. Remember the Fog of Lost Souls from last season, the place in the spirit world that drives people insane by forcing them to face their worst memories? Zaheer tosses Aiwei in there before inviting Korra to sit down and talk. Exposition time.
Zaheer is a member of The Red Lotus, a splinter group of The White Lotus, that awesome group of old people of which Iroh was a member. Dissatisfied with serving the Avatar, the Red Lotus split off, and later Zaheer and Korra’s uncle, Unalaq, worked together on a plan to release the dark spirit Vaatu, which Unalaq did last season (and was promptly shut down by Korra). Zaheer’s goal is to rid the world of nations and leaders, and he rightly points to the “moronic president” of the United Republic of Nations and the “tyrannical” Earth Queen. He even points out that Korra has already worked partway to this goal by leaving the portal between the spirit and mortal world open. Of course, Korra is a little uncomfortable with his “destroy the world to rebuild it” plan. Korra isn’t exactly an anarchist, and asks Zaheer to use his considerable skills for good. Zaheer states his respect for Korra and her wisdom, but ominously states that Red Lotus should have her physical body captured by now.
Before Zahaeer stated getting talkative with Korra, he managed to inform the Red Lotus that Korra’s physical body was in Misty Palm. Ming-Hua and Ghazan attack Team Avatar to capture Korra’s body. Asami takes Korra on Naga while Mako and Bolin hold off the Red Lotus, but they can’t match Ghazan’s lavabending or Ming-Hua’s unique waterbending. It’s still fantastic watching these new benders, especially Ming-Hua. The way she uses water in place of her missing arms makes any fight scene exciting to watch. Of course, they are captured, as are Korra and Asami. When Korra awakens, she is bound like she’s Hannibal Lecter, straightjacket, mouth-guard and all, and Asami informs her they were captured by the Earth Queen’s forces, not the Red Lotus.
With Korra captured by the Earth Kingdom and the Red Lotus on their way to Ba Sing Se to take her, it looks like our storylines are finally starting to come together. Honestly, I would be more than pleased to watch the Red Lotus (so glad we have a name for them now) completely destroy the Earth Queen’s forces. They might both be the enemy, but at least Zaheer isn’t nearly as frustrating as the Earth Kingdom and its past political leaders have been. This is also our second episode in a row without any of Tenzin and his airbenders in training, so we might be building up to a rescue on their behalf. Not to mention the possible return of Toph Beifong. Maybe we’ll see a reunion between her and Fire Lord Zuko before the end of the season. That actually might be too much fanservice, but I want it anyway.