So you want a big, two-part, smash ’em up finale? The Legend of Korra delivers and still leaves enough room for a bittersweet not-with-a-bang-but-with-a-whimper capstone. I’m left thoughtful in the wake of everything that happens; in a lot of ways, this feels like the spiritual sequel to the end of Book Two in Avatar: the Last Airbender, and the preponderance of crystal and gurus makes me think that’s quite intentional. As the same time, these episodes intensely channel the series finale of “Sozin’s Comet,” but with the clever conceit of a role reversal. Here the nimble, evasive airbender is the villain, and the one soaring around on jets of flame is the Avatar.
Book Three of The Legend of Korra has been great, not just in comparison to the first two seasons but on its own, and it concludes here. It’ll all end in tears, but what kind of tears?
All I pick up from the radio recap are the words “injured in battle” and that settles it for me. Tenzin is alive. My first guess is that he’ll be paralyzed, the airbending master having to learn his life in a wheelchair, which we’ve seen Teo already laying the ground work for. My guess is close, as you no doubt have seen by now— Korra’s in a wheelchair, at least— but no cigar. All of Aang and Katara’s kids are beat up pretty badly as it turns out, but they made it out alive. I was on the edge of my seat through both episodes, because it could be anyone next, and if it wasn’t Tenzin, who will it be? Surprisingly the answer to that is...no one? Or at least, none of the “good guys.” Zaheer’s loved ones don’t fare so well.
I feel like I did pretty well with predictions this season, having restrained myself from going too far overboard, and a large part of that is because of conversations in the comments section at the bottom of these post; thanks everyone! We’ve built a great community here, and we’ve gotten little things like Bolin lavabending and Zaheer flying right, as well as big picture observations, like the how Zaheer seems like another facet of the same gemstone Amon and Unalaq and Vaatu were all cut from. Poisoned, Korra sees just that, though see how that points to my tendency to over think things? I thought the “Venom of the Red Lotus” was going to be metaphorical. Nope. Evil mercury. Literal poison.
I’m so glad we get to see Jinora shine. I’m not surprised— I’m very glad the show has devoted so much attention to her— but I am very happy with how it all came off. Astral projection, check. Telling everyone useful facts, like that the poison was metallic, check. I was expecting that. Derring-do and shenanigans, check. But again, I was expecting that, though I thought Kai would be involved; I think having him bring the other characters and call them out on ignoring him was a more elegant story. What I didn’t see coming was all of the airbenders working together while she conducts them, to create a massive tornado— shades of Echopraxia— or for the Air Nomads to decide to roam the Earth like Caine from Kung Fu. (Can I say “Earth”?)
We don’t get Zaheer’s backstory. I’m okay with that, honestly, but I still have questions. I mean, I really like this school of storytelling, where you leave negative space and let the audience fill it in. Where you show that characters have unseen depths even if the story doesn’t get to explore them. Bolin’s comments about mutual unrequited love, seeing P’Li being rescued from a “warlord,” leave us to our headcanons, fine, be that way. Or maybe Kuvira, who came out of nowhere and suddenly got a name, will be a big feature of Book Four, and will continue the Red Lotus’ plot. Or I’m just being paranoid. Who can say at this point. I mean, I’m sure we’ll see her again, and I’d guess we might get another Red Lotus episode, but so far each season has been largely self contained, in terms of plot, if not consequences and worldbuilding.
In a lot of ways, this story felt to me like it embodied a lot of the—ugh, I’ll say it—the changes in bending. Lightningbending, lavabending (“You’re a lavabender!” “I know, I just found out!” made me pause the episode to take a break for laughter), metalbending, platinum you can’t metal bend, the rediscovery of flight... we’ve been seeing a bending arms race. Is it more like how the Cold War drove space innovation, or is it more like how Batman’s presence is alleged to have upped the ante for crime in Gotham? Is that one of the things Korra is struggling with? And it’s more than just an escalation in bending “technology.” Look at the body count. Aang converted his first season villain, Zuko, and they even managed to subdue Azula and Ozai without killing them. The Legend of Korra, however, is a blood bath.
Does the world need the Avatar? I imagine that’s the question at the crux of Korra’s melancholy. Every villain in this series has been someone striking at the Avatar because of what she means as a symbol, as a singularly powerful bender, and as a spiritual being. Does she cause more problems than she fixes? For me, Tenzin answers that question, when he points to Korra’s actions during Harmonic Convergence. She was more than just reactive, did more than just “save” a city; she allowed spirits into the world and started a chain reaction that has led to the return of the Air Nomads. I think Korra, as usual, needs to learn the same thing, but the hard way.
Then again, she could just be hurt; television tropes aside, if she’s injured enough to need a wheel chair, there are plausible physiological reasons she might feel sad or depressed. I learned recently just how much surgery, even minor surgery, can mess you up. Or she could be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, heck they could be genuine tears of joy for Jinora, any number of things—but I personally think an existential crisis is the most likely. I hope it isn’t a bummer for too long; I almost wanted Korra to joke about how her difficulties in entering the Avatar State in the first place helped keep her safe from the Red Lotus. Korra keeps having this revelation, that she’s important and unique because she’s Korra as much as because she’s the Avatar. I just feel like we’ve been down this road before.
Mordicai Knode knows we have one more Book to go. He says “Balance,” and he still predicts she’ll merge with Raava and Vaatu. He finds talking in the third person confusing; find him on Twitter or Tumblr.