Apologies for how late this is going up. A bit of unexpected travel in combination with Nickelodeon airing three(!) episodes in one night had me falling way behind.
The Legend of Korra is back for its third season, fittingly titled “Change”. The first season was conceived as a one-off, mini-series type short run. This is evident in the way the season wraps up in a neat little bow with there being almost no consequences from the events that occurred in that season. That season was all about Korra understanding her role as the Avatar and taking responsibility. That season also showed the way the world had changed since Aang and his friends had changed the world. The show was later expanded for three additional seasons. Season two expanded the world of Korra further and gave us our first major looks outside of Republic City. It also retread some of the character work done by the first season and struggled at times with what it was trying to accomplish. Team Korra was separated for large chunks of the season and Korra seemed to almost regress at certain points. Despite these lows Book 2 had some tremendous highs, particularly the wonderful two part “Beginnings” that detailed the story of Wan, the first Avatar. The events of Book 2 also resulted in leaving the series in a supremely interesting place with Korra deciding to bring the spirit and human worlds together again. With that foundation in place Book 3 seems primed to launch Korra into an even greater adventure than ever before.
Episode 1 “A Breath of Fresh Air”
Book 3 wastes no time introducing some of that titular change with our first scene demonstrating the biggest change and the early driving force in the story: new airbenders! Bumi is the first new airbender we see and although it will certainly lead to an interesting new family dynamic it’s kind of a shame to “lose” a non-bender as important as Bumi. The Aang family dynamic was already pretty interesting as it was and led to some great material last season between Aang’s children. On the other hand this could mean that Bumi will be around for a while as he trains and learns about airbending from Tenzin. As we check in with Mako, now living in the Republic City Police Station, we learn that Bumi isn’t the only new airbender. I like the way show is handling these people suddenly gaining powers. It’s giving me an X-Men vibe that I’m really digging. It’s a great way to get Korra and the rest of the team out into the world and into areas that have yet to be explored on the show.
I was worried after the opening scenes that we were in for another season of watching Korra battle Republic City politics and public perception, although I enjoyed Korra reminding President Raiko that she literally stopped the end of the world. With this season-opener taking place just two weeks after the end of Book 2, you’d think President Raiko would be a little more thankful. However, you could argue that Korra caused many of the problems experienced by Republic City so it’s understandable when President Raiko gets all J.Jonah Jameson on Korra, declares her a public menace, and kicks her out of Republic City. Watching Korra try to deal with the vines and the new airbender is a nice way of showcasing the massive amount of change that has happened but her leaving the city is the next step in her journey. Tenzin says in the middle of the episode that Korra can’t spend her time solving every small problem that occurs in Republic City and he’s right. As the Avatar, Korra needs to address larger issues in this world than the vine in President Raiko’s office. There’s a culture that was lost for hundreds of years that can now be rebuilt. The very fact that these airbenders are popping up spontaneously indicates that the world was unbalanced and is desperately trying to right itself.
The last major development in this episode is the introduction of Zaheer who I was immediately on board with as the new villain of the series. Kudos to the whole team for crafting such a badass sequence for our introduction to Zaheer.This guy was apparently so dangerous even as a non-bender that he was locked up in a special remote prison by the White Lotus. He is clearly a smart and capable villain if he was able to gain that much skill as an airbender in such a small amount of time. A strong villain with a grudge against the Avatar and a world spanning adventure recalls the original Avatar: The Last Airbender series and can only mean good things for The Legend of Korra.
- Welcome to our Legend of Korra coverage here at The Young Folks! It’s shaping up to be a really fun and interesting season. Look for these reviews/recaps/thoughts to be up Saturday afternoons gong forward.
- Good to have Studio Mir back to animate this entire season, just look at how many different facial expressions Mako goes through while talking to Korra and Asami.
- Loving the evolution of Korra and Asami’s relationship. The driving scene was a wonderful little moment of bonding over their previous romantic entanglements
Episode 2 “Rebirth”
“Rebirth” kicks off the real adventure and as this series has shown us over and over again nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Korra and Tenzin may be fired up about rebuilding the air nation but that doesn’t mean all the new airbenders are on board. The new airbenders all have lives that they’ve already established and families. They aren’t too keen on giving everything up to join a group of monks. Korra and Tenzin try every tactic they can think of only to get rejected over and over again until their last stop of the episode. With Bolin and Bumi pushing to add some “razzle-dazzle” to their recruitment efforts the gang puts on a fun little airbending performance and discover Kai, a young kid who seems eager to join up. Despite the music accompanying his sob story about the death of his parents something about Kai’s story immediately seemed a little off. It isn’t long before we discover the truth: Kai is an orphan, but he’s also a thief and a hustler.
With Korra and Asami’s budding friendship signaling the end of the classic love triangle, the show has shifted the character pairings around and put Mako and Bolin back together. It’s a really fun development that immediately pays off in the great sequence of Bolin doing his best old lady impression to convince Mako to join them. Mako and Bolin were introduced as brothers but have been kept apart for various reasons. There was a short-lived love triangle between the brothers and Korra in Book 1 and Book 2 had them at odds over Mako’s investigation into Varrik’s shady business practices. Book 3 seems to be positioning them back on the same side and it looks like we’re going to learn more about their background. Bolin mentions their father being a native of Ba Sing Se and with the gang headed there the show will have plenty of opportunity to dive into Mako and Bolin’s history. The introduction of Kai seems like another way for the show to explore Mako and Bolin’s relationship. The parallels between the brothers’ early lives and Kai’s life up to this point are obvious and Mako even gives Kai the classic “I know you because I was you” line and he clearly doesn’t trust the kid. Bolin on the other hand jumps at the chance to become Kai’s big brother. We’ve seen Bolin struggle with feeling like he lives in Mako’s shadow and it makes sense that he would be excited about the possibility to be a mentor to Kai.
The last big thread of the episode brings into focus what Zaheer’s plan is now that he’s broken out of prison. It seems like Zaheer wasn’t the only prisoner being kept in a special prison. Zaheer takes advantage of his new White Lotus outfit and busts out two more dangerous criminals. Ghazan and Ming-Hua are both kept in Magneto style prisons so that they can’t use their bending skill to escape. Zaheer provides Ghazan with a few stones and it’s all that he needs to quickly break out of his cell. It’s even easier to free Ming-Hua when all she needs is a small amount of water to wreak havoc on the people guarding her. The most exciting thing about this plotline is the continued evolution of the different styles of bending. One of the more interesting prospects of The Legend of Korra has been the way different forms of bending had emerged since the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Toph’s discovery of metalbending and even lightningbending became commonplace in Republic City and now we get to see two new and frankly, super cool styles of earthbending and waterbending. Ghazan seems to be able to heat up the stones given to him and is essentially bending lava. Ming-Hua makes up for her lack of arms by bending water onto her body and creating two water tentacles that seem way more useful than regular arms. These breakouts, as well as Korra’s fight, are showcasing the inventive and impressive fight choreography we’ve come to expect from this show and I’m very happy to have it back on my television screen.
- I enjoyed show’s version of the slacker son living in his mother’s basement. His back and forth with Korra made me laugh way more than it should have.
- I’m a sucker for any comedic material that involves Bolin and his grandma impression slayed me. Also love the return of his fake mustache.
- I didn’t touch one the biggest geek out moment of the episode: Old Man Zuko! He’s doing his best Avatar Roku impression by rocking a sick beard and riding a huge dragon around like it’s no big deal. I love it.
- And to continue my X-Men-Korra connection that’s Senator Robert Kelley(Bruce Davison) himself providing the voice of Zuko.
- Another voice acting note: the amazing Grey DeLisle, Airbender’s Azula, returns in this episode to voice Ming-Hua.
Episode 3 “The Earth Queen”
The final episode of this mega premiere deals with the walled city of Ba Sing Se and with the Earth Queen and boy is she not a nice lady. Korra and the team arrive in Ba Sing Se looking for more airbenders to join their cause. It’s immediately clear that things have also changed in Ba Sing Se. As team Korra flies over the city in Asami’s airship we see the three different rings that make up the city. It seems the years have not been kind to the lower ring. The streets dirty, the houses run down, and the people are both. Things are better in the middle ring and upon reaching the upper ring it’s clear where all the wealth in the city is located. Within seconds of meeting the Earth Queen it’s clear that she is going to be difficult to work with. The Earth Queen’s father was more of a figure head and was completely unaware of what was really going on in his city. The Earth Queen seems to have much more in common with Long Feng, her father’s evil advisor, utilizing the Dai Li almost exactly as he did all those years before. The X-Men parallels continue with the Earth Queen abducting the new airbenders and forcing them into her private army. That isn’t the only shady business going on in the earth kingdom. Korra and Asami easily fight off a group of bandits that certainly look the part, but the encounter leaves Korra, and us viewers, with the impression that what they Queen may consider tax collecting might just be good old fashioned extortion.
The Legend of Korra has never shied away from taking on more mature themes than its predecessor. Book 1’s central conflict between benders and non-benders deal with some heavy social themes and it seems like Ba Sing Se isn’t all that different from Republic City. The divide in social classes here is more akin to the type we’ve seen in our world throughout history. The wealthiest individuals have separated themselves from the poor and put them as far away as possible. Our window into the lower ring is provided by Mako and Bolin who end up stranded there after chasing Kai. Without money and, more importantly, a passport they can’t even board the train they just exited from. The show continues to explore Mako and Bolin’s past as Aladdin-like street urchins by having them meet their extended family in the lower ring. It’s funny that their cousin seems initially offended by the two city kids and assumes they’ve had a comfortable life because of Bolin’s involvement in the movers and because of the minor success of the Fire Ferrets. This assumption is quickly shattered by the news that Bolin and Mako spent the majority of their lives as orphans. With pretty much all the team now aware of the Queen’s duplicitous nature it’s only a matter of time before we see some action in Ba Sing Se.
- Meanwhile the threat that the team doesn’t know about continues to grow. Zuko arrives in the North Pole to check on another secret prisoner: Zaheer’s aforementioned girlfriend P’Li, a firebender with combustive abilities.
- Nice to see Korra’s family again. Eska and Desna are as joyful as ever and apparently Tonraq knows Zuko. Small world.
- A brief moment of levity as Zuko recalls hiring Sparky Sparky Boom Man to kill Aang. Eska: “I tried to kill Korra after she ruined my wedding. It happens.”
- Next week? I bet P’Li doesn’t stay in that cell for long.