“The Legend of Korra” (Book 3: Change) – TV Review

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By: Dan Tomasik

Review of the first 3 episodes…

Since the events of Harmonic Convergence in the finale of Book 2, the world is undergoing some serious changes. Spirits are now free to travel in the Human World, and giant vines created as fallout from Korra’s epic showdown last season have invaded Republic City.

As the world struggles to adjust to these new changes, Korra is working overtime in her Avatar duties. Her popularity is at an all-time low, but she’s putting all her focus into resolving every problem she can. As if things weren’t problematic enough, a startling new development is breaking out all over the world; people suddenly discovering the ability to airbend, among them Uncle Bumi.

Meanwhile, a mysterious new threat looms on the horizon, one which promises to wipe out the Order of the White Lotus, forever.

A Breath of Fresh Air:

Not quite as exciting as the season 2 opening, season 3 nonetheless shows promise. From “Water”, to “Earth”, to “Fire” in the first series, LoK has taken us through “Air”, “Spirits”, and now into “Change”. An interesting thematic focus, it’s far less predictable than past seasons. “Change” can be anything, or everything. The possibilities are limitless for what might happen. For the first time, we will have no idea of where this is all going.

Since the midseason events of Book 2, Korra has finally evolved out of her rebellious teenage tomboy phase. For the most part, anyway. She still doesn’t take disrespect well, but she’s finally letting go of her stubbornness and opening her mind to all possibilities. All traces of annoying have vanished. Past conflicts and dramas are being let out into the open and it’s doing wonders for her character. Finally, she can truly begin moving forward.

Also, we have a new threat in the form of Zaheer, locked away inside a dungeon that’s almost Hannibal Lecter-esque. He’s…. hard to pin down. The character doesn’t feel like one of those deep, slow-speaking, masterminds like Ozai or Amon, but neither is he a ambitious madman or monster like Azula or Zhao. He’s not even sinisterly ambiguous in the way Unalaq was. What motivates him and what he’s after is a mystery. What’s scary is that he was apparently already extremely dangerous prior to becoming a bender. Now he has awakened an skill specifically designed for disrupting, upsetting, adapting, and escaping. Not a good sign.

Rebirth:

Road Trip time! Or rather, Air Trip time! Team Avatar travels the world seeking to recruit the new airbenders that have been popping up in order to rebuild the Air Nation!Exciting possibilities, except most of the people they meet take to this news the same way…. Well, the way anyone would take to “Congratulations, we’re going to take you far away from everything and everyone you know to live a humble and pious life as a monk! No family, no possessions, no meat, no hair, and we’re going to cover you in tattoos!” Not very well. There’s a reason airbenders are generally raised from birth; it’s not a lifestyle most people voluntarily choose. Rebuilding a lost culture of hermits is clearly going to be a tricky endeavor.

The group finally gets lucky by using some of the entertainment tricks Bolin picked up during his time as a Mover Star. However, their new pupil Kai has a shady past and seems only interested in exploiting his newfound powers for himself. It’s gonna take something big to turn this kid around, and it seems unlikely anyone in the group will be able to bring it. Bolin’s too gullible, Mako too busy to give the kid proper attention, Bumi too childish, Asami too clueless to what this kid’s been through, the airbender kids too young, Korra too occupied with a hundred other things, and Tenzin, well it took Tenzin 2 years to break through to Korra and she wasn’t trying to steal everything in four nations.

Elsewhere, Zaheer is freeing his comrades from similar maximum security prisons. We have a guy who can heat rocks into bendable magma and a woman who (in an insane display of awesomness) uses waterbending whips to replace her missing arms. These guys. Are going to be. So awesome.

Last but not least, we finally get to see Zuko! Even after 70 years, his scar remains his defining feature. He sounds different (sadly not voiced again by Dante Basco), but it’s clear he’s still the same character we remember. Oh, and he has a dragon.

The Earth Queen:

Capping off the series open is “The Earth Queen”, an episode with several elements very reminiscent of the first series. Visiting Ba Sing Se, noting the clearly defined social structure that separates people into elite, average, and poor. All that’s missing is Ju Dee’s brainwashed grin. The reigning Earth Queen is about as different from her father (the Earth King from the first series) as two people can be. Whereas he was fair and considerate (if naive), Hou-Ting is spoiled, demanding, materialistic, and selfish. She almost feels too shallow to be a major character. Most times when a character like this was encountered, someone blasted them with some form of bending by the end of the episode.

Another blast from the past comes with Zuko’s journey to the North Pole to check on the last member of Zaheer’s criminal squad, a woman able to create explosions from her mind just like Combustion Man. Every Avatar fan remembers Combustion Man. Three appearances, ten dozen explosions, guy never said a word but acted like a juggernaut. Zuko muses about his regrettable dealings with the mute assassin with Desna and Eska, who are apparently now in charge of the North Pole. To a degree it makes logical sense, to another, a very scary thought. Those two ruling? That’s nightmare fodder. Eska (Aubrey Plaza) brings down the house the way only she can.

Zuko: (musing) Ironically, I hired a guy with a similar ability to kill the Avatar myself once.

*awkward silence*

Zuko: (covering) Didn’t work.

Eska: (deadpan) Don’t feel bad. I tried to kill Korra after she ruined my wedding. it happens.

Zuko declares he’s going to stop the escaped prisoners himself. Who’d have thought such an epic showdown would come so soon in the season? July 11th needs to hurry up and arrive!

Another interesting development comes from the introduction of Mako and Bolin’s family. They do in fact have one. Actually, a fairly big one. One of the biggest unanswered questions in so many stories is how characters can be orphaned with absolutely no relatives or family. Everyone comes from somewhere. The parents who are taken from or abandon their children are sons & daughters of others, probably with brothers & sisters who, in turn, have kids and other relatives. It’s almost impossible to be truly without any relatives, which the show addresses very nicely here.

Last on our trip down memory lane is a dark throwback to the days of the Dai Li running Ba Sing Se. Kai finds himself in a position not unlike Jet’s, but for a different purpose. Ba Sing Se, “City of Walls and Secrets” indeed. In summary for this episode; the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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