Last Friday was the season finale for Book Three of The Legend of Korra. By most accounts, this season was a clear improvement after the last season in terms of both action and character development—and I heartily agree.
(So, um, spoilers below…)
In this two-part episode (“Enter the Void” and “Venom of the Red Lotus”), we get to see the culmination of the two major story arcs: the return of airbenders and the Red Lotus threat against Korra’s life. When Korra surrenders herself to the Red Lotus to ensure the safety of the airbenders, she and the rest of Team Avatar end up in a constant match against the four bender extremists. The fight against Zaheer comes as great cost—for both Zaheer and Korra, which the show spelled out very poignantly. The final scene of the season is bittersweet, as Korra has suffered a terrible injury, but her job of keeping balance in the world is given over to the reborn culture of the Air Nomads, led by Tenzin, Bumi, and the newly elevated Jinora.
While the animation in both Last Airbender and Legend of Korra has always been good, I really was blown away (no pun intended) at the beauty of the animation in the fights between Korra and Zaheer. Watching two powerful benders clashing through the skies near the Northern Air Temple was quite a thrill, especially sweeping landscape shots and the fact that two people are straight-up flying as they fight.
That being said, this finale isn’t a nice one for Korra, even when you compare it to the loss of her bending at Amon’s hands in the first season. It’s amazing how often she gets knocked out, chained up, beaten up, and straight-up poisoned. Even in the finale’s close-out, she’s still recovering from her injuries and crying quietly—although it did make for a quiet and heartwarming moment between her and Asami, and their friendship has been one of the best parts of this season. Korra has suffered, but she suffers with purpose and it helps that she has great friends to support her when she needs it the most, whether it’s Team Avatar or Jinora and her fellow airbenders.
While Zaheer’s downfall was expected—and the sudden deaths of his comrades was jarring—I must admit that I didn’t see Bolin’s time to shine coming. The show had pulled a bait and switch, making us think he lacked confidence in his ability to become a metalbender like Korra did, only for him to suddenly pull off lavabending and then use it against Ghazan, the lavabender on the Red Lotus’s side. Of course, there’s a fan theory going round about Bolin and Mako’s mixed parentage of earthbenders and firebenders, so I’m inclined to support this view as it paints Bolin in less of a deus ex machina corner.
Ultimately, this finale was a great cap to a great season. I really felt that there was a sense of growth for both the show and for Korra in particular. She’s proven herself as a capable Avatar, and despite the heavy toll, she did succeed in helping restore the Air Nomads to the world. I can barely wait for Book Four and see what new adventures are in store for her.
The Legend of Korra is available for viewing on Nickelodeon.
Bibliography: The Legend of Korra Book Three: Change. Created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Ki Hyun Ryu, Colin Heck, and Ian Graham. Written by Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, Tim Hedrick, and Joshua Hamilton. Produced by Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, Joaquim Dos Santos, and Tim Yoon. Ginormous Madman, Studio Mir, Nickelodeon Animation Studio, and Studio Pierrot. Nickelodeon (channel). Original broadcast date: April 14, 2012 to August 22, 2012.