As alluded to at the end of my season 2 look, Korra was removed from Nickelodeon and put onto the web for streaming. Though I cannot remember an exact day or episode, I do recall that it was at the start of this season. This is strange and doesn’t truly effect the series other than maybe one scene they probably couldn’t have aired.
It’s removal from the network is a bothersome topic for much later, either my look at season four or an my post watch editorial, but it is not the most interesting thing about this season. Instead this season decides to shake everything up, and feels like a full embrace of what the team wanted to do, but had to work to achieve.
Getting ahead of myself again, this season takes place only a few weeks after Korra bear Unalaq and opened the portals to balance the spirit and human worlds. This decision has come with a lot of push back by Republic City and it’s citizens as they want a normal life back, and Korra tries and fails to help. Everything comes to a head when new Airbenders start appearing all over the world. Korra, exiled from Republic City due to her disposition of causing more probalmes then she solves, goes with Tenzin and the rest of Team Avatar to help rebuild the Air Nation. This will be harder than first thought as a dangerous criminal, Zaheer, also awakened to his Airbending and plans to use it to free his band of criminals called the Red Lotus and write the world in their image. That includes kill the Avatar.
This season feels like what Korra, the show and character to an extent, was what the show wanted to be all long. All while using the previous season as a building block to tell a story they really wanted to tell. There is very little padding or unclear narrative. An example would be how much time is spent with Bolin or Jinora setting up their arcs when most of the time was not necessary and used more to extend the story. Same with the excised boring relationship drama. There is some lip-service paid to it, but it is mostly dropped, except for comedy. Whether that part, the lack of mentioning past relationships at all, makes sense can be argued, but it’s exclusion doesn’t make the show worse. In fact it is by far the most cohesive season. It’s themes are explored in multiple ways and the villains feel like proper foils even if they have less of a point than Amon or Unalaq.
Zaheer is only an interesting villain insofar as he contrasts Korra in every possible way. A naturally spiritual person who seemed to be able to adapt to his Airbending powers quickly and sees him seek total disorder as a way to unlock humanities true balance. He’s a complete foil the Korra and much closer to a “Dark Avatar” than Unalaq was. In fact, Zaheer’s whole Red Lotus team feels like they are supposed to be analogous to the past team. They have a skilled water bender, an earth bender who uses a new type of bending, and a fire bender with a close relationship to the air bender. Sure, Aang and Zuko were in no way romantic (except in all my fan fics. God, it sucks using these as both jokes and extenuating points to express free thought cause now no one knows if I’m joking), but did have a deep friendship and respect that defined them. They also have names the show wants to ram into our heads, but I forgot.
Zaheer’s anarchistic beliefs work only on a thematic level. I won’t go over how it’s okay to have a character, especially a villain, have the wrong idea and no “point,” but I guess I just did. His idea of letting nature run its course and being loyal to only one’s self is blatantly wrong. The fact it’s a group who holds that belief is proof enough, but he stands in opposition to Korra’s challenge of trying to find a balance in the disorder of a post-convergence world. Though that is not really solved, the importance of leaders, leadership, and what constitutes a good leader are all thrown into question through in-text/character examples. The Earth Queen, Su (who we’ll get to later), Tenzin and Jinora, and even bit characters like an airship captain are all examples of the importance of leadership and where they can go astray. That’s also part of the whole setup with Korra’s argument with the President of Republic City. His gut reaction to look good for his people helped spur all of this on. It’s clear what happened in that scenario was wrong, but was caused more by societal pressures on the government than the government existing.
With Amon and Unalaq they were both wrong on many fronts of their ideals. Though we do find out Unalaq was a member of the Red Lotus and wanted her even as far back as childhood, which was why she was held in a protective area most of her life (that makes sense, but then Tonraq and Tenzin should have said they did it cause terrorists were trying to abuduct her and not just sulk about being restrictive, but I digress). In both cases they were wrong. I cannot decide if Zaheer’s ideals are just wrong, if they’re presented wrong, or if their is a piece missing. A whole part of Zaheer is the will to remove all earthly possessions in order to fly. He achieves this once his girlfriend dies, so it would seem clear that he would want everyone to be free of earthly possessions like him. He wants them to have total freedom, which is kind of the same thing, but this also values individuality which makes him having a group a thematic problem, but not a story one because he also adds friends into his individualist ideals (I wonder if that includes the Steven Blum guard. I only mention him cause Amon comes back in a hallucinogenic sequence and then cut to a guard who uses a similar voice to speak. So weird).
The villains are not all that makes up this season. In addition some new characters are introduced. One is Su, Lin’s sister and Toph’s second daughter. She is the leader of a Metal-Bending city that is cool looking, but are also sealed at night which seems weird. Almost fascistic, but I’m getting ahead of myself. She and Lin have a tense history of when Su was a much freer spirit, a lost child trying to find herself and the stress it caused Lin and Toph. It is interesting she is a half-sister. I like the idea that Toph did not marry her first love. Feels subtly mature, and I can imagine she isn’t the easiest person to live with. Along with her comes her family who are all quirky in specific ways. The only standout is Opal who is in love with Bolin, and is a new air bender.
That takes us to the air benders. Which, even though they are all different people, like Kai and Otaku, function as a group. The idea of balancing the world spiritually also corrected the imbalance of benders is great and makes sense. Korra also working to recruit and train some of the members pays off her training in season one. However it also gives Jinora a chance to become a master by taking over training and leading the group when Tenzin goes down during the end of the season. It does go further, though. Above, I said Kai functions with the group, but that’s also not true. He’s also part of that theme of being part of something and having guidance from a leader is important as he goes from street rat to hero, helping save the air benders at the end. Outside of him the rest are just a group that has to learn and grow into their newly given powers and accept the responsibility with it.
This season shows the return of Zuko. Though it’s harder to see him as him because Zuko only gets one scene to really be himself, and is relegated to sounding board and exposition. His learning of Iroh’s existence in the spirit world is good, but doesn’t get a chance to linger long enough
Outside of Jinora and Lin, no one on Team Avatar changes too much. Mako is just kind of awkward, which gives him some character. That and being a studious cop (ACAB, sorry bud), but that’s really it. Asami continues to be more of an emotional sounding board and rock for the group, but is relegated to the background, except when they remember she can fight. Korra is still the headstrong, direct person she has always been. She has learned to be more empathic, which helps when she sacrifices herself to save the Air Nation. I’m not sure if that’s her being headstrong and direct again. She knew something bad was bound to happen if Zaheer took her, but leaving her totally drained as a result is incredibly interesting. Despite restoring to messing with the Avatar State, again, leaving her crippled is much more complicated than just killing her. It gives her places to grow.
The exception to all of that is Bolin. What Bolin goes through is my only video essay idea, that being how to properly setup a twist. Bolin, in this season has been struggling with learning metal bending. He tries and fails constantly only to figure out he can lava-bend. Considering he’s been fitting an opponent who can do it, it doesn’t come out of nowhere, and he makes a big sacrifice. After stopping lava he says how he just learned, meaning he was ready to die in order to help save Mako and Tenzin. That’s big stuff, and a great, built-up reveal.
The lava-bending is evidence of how this season really plays with, and expands, the fights in the series. This season has, by far, the best and most intricate fight scenes by far. That comes from the new bending and revising bending like octopus arms, and combustion-bending, but also figuring out ways to make air bending far more acrobatic. This leads to so many fights wher everyone has to move, counter, and react quickly. No combat scenario stays the same for too long. The balance constantly shifts. The standout is when Tenzin fights Zaheer with Kya and Bumi holding their own again the other Red Lotus members. The constant shifts in power and viceral hits matched with relatively low stakes (yes it’s for the Air Nation, but it’s not on a big scale) makes the ending so hard. The same can be said when Korra fights Zaheer with her dad when she is chained up. That has the team playing with more inventive moves and strategies that keep the fight constantly engaging. It’s all good stuff.
This is the only season to setup for the next. It’s not clear that’s what’s being done, but it sets up the next threat. This is also the first season to have the villain not die at the end. That, along the Air Nation being a group of worldly peace keepers, and Korra being crippled leaves it in a far more complicated place than before. Unfortunately it still didn’t solve the inciting incident of spirit/human cohabitation means and what can be done. It’s just left to sit there, making it feel all less interesting and giving the story less places to go.
I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!
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