Big news, Korra fans! Book Four is just around the corner! Friday, October 3rd! We’re still digesting Book Three. Are they ready? Is Korra going to be OK? Do you want to listen to us discuss the last season and all our thoughts about the show? You do! Read on!
Legend of Korra‘s third season, Book Three: Change, was an exciting time for fans. The controversial move after episode 8 from airing on Nickelodeon to digital platforms only left viewers scrambling to track down episodes in the middle of a promising season. I have no idea why ratings were down, because I love the idea of air benders coming back to the world.
I love the idea of an evil air bender. That’s amazing.
So, why did people stop tuning in? Did season two’s ultimate battle for good vs. evil jump the proverbial shark? It does seem like Korra couldn’t possibly face anything more exciting… But isn’t dealing with the humans in grey moral territory more interesting than black and white, good or bad, yin or yang?
I think Book Three deals with a fascinating aspect of challenges for the avatar: chaos and the natural role that violence plays as a part of change. The heads of governments are corrupt. Someone has to do something about it. The Red Lotus members, anarchists, believe that the best thing for the common folk is to give power back to them by making everything equal, stateless. It’s a legitimate political philosophy. In their mind, part of achieving this equality is to eliminate the avatar. If that’s not the recipe for a super duper Korra stew, I don’t know what it is!
The whole season, overall, gets an excellent score from me. I give it 8/10. But the last few episodes couldn’t hold it together completely. They were full of weak plot holes and poor writing, sad news for Korra fans trying to root for a show that might get cancelled entirely. For me, the problems began with Zaheer facing Tenzin.
There is no way, without more explanations of his methods or power, that newly minted air bender Zaheer could stand against or defeat Tenzin in solo combat. It’s important for the story that Zaheer be the big bad, the season antagonist. He must be this strong. OK, so show me how. Convince me. He’s got some ancient air bending amulets, maybe he gets a bunch of them together and they imbue him with mad bending energy or something. I don’t know. There needs to be more, otherwise the only air bending master in the entire world falls without explanation to someone maybe the equal of his children. It’s so crazy and sad and amazing when Zaheer’s lover dies and he gets stronger because of it. Maybe that could have been expanded? It’s all there guys, it’s just not being used to elevate the final moments of the season from pretty good to hella awesome.
The finale, two episodes titled “Enter the Void” and “Venom of the Red Lotus”, was a beautiful idea tainted by a few silly plot holes. Korra learns to metal bend but no one ever brings up that platinum isn’t bendable? If you want to over think the whole idea of metal bending, check out this debate that uses the properties of metals to discuss the concept. So, all of a sudden she’s trapped by conveniently unbendable metal while Zaheer tries to force her into the Avatar state and kill her. Weak sauce, guys. Also, the lava bender? It’s fine while he’s there controlling it, but why is that much lava cascading down around them? It should cool off so fast! Because science! I mean, even in the logic of the show… Just… Bah!
Of course, Korra escapes and chases Zaheer down. I like that she doesn’t have to kill him but I still think that the ending would have been stronger if the nations had been able to unite together. With the new air benders, you’d think the message of the show would also be about bringing everyone together to fight corruption. Instead of the anarchists goal of removing the state, what about a force that polices beyond the state? I felt like the political philosophy of the season wasn’t dealt with. Instead, in a brave move, they left Korra in a wheelchair and her spirit broken. It meant the season felt unfinished to me, unsatisfying. But, OK. That’s my shit to deal with.
Book Three: Change is probably the best season of Legend of Korra so far. The rebirth and rebuilding of the air nation was a very welcome idea: after all, it was floating in the air, what with the “hey, even with Aang having kids, there’s only been, like, five of these guys around for the past 175 years or so.” I loved that it was kickstarted by the opening of the portals. The natural balance restored itself, as it does, but it doesn’t mean that the human world found balance again. The origin of the imbalance, in this world, is rooted way deeper than that, in the natural ability of people to constantly seek power over each other. This season was in direct continuity with what had begun in Book One and the second part of Book Two. It was all about the Avatar and its role in the ever-changing human society.
A lot of different people have been after the Avatar for a while. The season 2 antagonist, despite turning out to be a good thematic choice, was a little bit weak. The antagonist for this season, however, has no problem being compared to Aman and even surpassing him in many ways. Where Aman revealed himself to just be insane at the end of season 1, Zaheer and the Red Lotus are actual terrorists. Sure, Aman’s power to remove benders’ abilities was impressive and scary but it was the Red Lotus’ ruthlessness that got me. They were organized, clever, and absolutely focused on their goal. They never hesitated to kill. The Red Lotus was just plain bad news and it was awesome to see Korra fight them and get so close to being defeated so many times. The best fights, in stories, are those where the protagonist either loses, or gets so close to it and suffers so much that the victory leaves a bitter taste in his or her mouth. Book Three had that.
It was not perfect, of course. Among some complex characters and interesting storylines, were the usual weaknesses that we’ve seen before, notably some plot conveniences and a tendency to tell instead of showing, the shallowness of characters that should be better written than they are, and some really, really weird shifts in tone. Those are probably the result of the show trying to stay kid friendly to an extent but they are really off-putting. This especially showed in the finale.
Just to be clear, I’m going to say it right off the bat: I really liked “Enter The Void” and “Venom of the Red Lotus”, for reasons that I will detail after. So let’s take care of the annoying things about it first.
My main problem with the finale was that it kind of went into power creep. How is Zaheer all of a sudden better than the Avatar in the Avatar state? I know that the poison is supposed to affect her but does that also explain why Zaheer is able to fly and not Korra? If some obscure monk that we never even heard of achieved it, you’d think the Avatar, the most powerful bender of all, would be able to figure it out. Plus, I’m sorry but claiming after the end of the season that Zaheer was “already a martial arts expert” is not going to explain how he got so good so fast. Don’t tell me. Show me.
Also, the jokes all fell flat. They just didn’t work, man.
That said, the rest was really good. The fight scenes were gorgeous. I loved that the new airbenders finally came together to bring down Zaheer. I loved that once again, it was centered on Korra and her struggle as someone that everybody in the world is trying to bring down. The last five minutes of “Venom Of The Red Lotus” were, to me, the most beautiful of the series. The ceremony introducing Jinora as a Master made me tear up but seeing Korra in her wheelchair, crying, not even trying to be hopeful for the future anymore, gave me the chills. They broke Korra, man. They broke Korra.
I am so looking forward to season 4. Meanwhile, I give a good 8/10 to this one.