By Josh Axelrod
Well that was dark. “Korra” has been known to depict death before, most notably when Tarrlok blew up the boat he and Amon were escaping on in Book One. But watching Zaheer suffocate the Earth Queen to death in a way only an airbender can was downright terrifying. I thought he might just lock her up, or if he killed her it would be offscreen. But they showed the life draining out of her. No wonder they won’t air this show on Nickelodeon anymore.
The action took place in two places this week: the desert that Korra and Asami found themselves stranded in, and Ba Sing Se with the Red Lotus staging a coup. The latter is by far the most important storyline, so we’ll save that for last.
Last episode ended with Asami and Korra being taken captive by Earth Queen forces. This was clearly designed to give Asami a chance to shine, as her engineering skills were put to excellent use this week. From recognizing shoddy Cabbage Corp. workmanship to building a sand sled out of scrap metal, it was nice to see Asami in her element. She’s sort of been an afterthought ever since breaking up with Mako in Book One, so it was nice to see the show remind us why she’s a useful member of Team Avatar.
It was also interesting to see Korra win over the earthbending crew that captured her. Admittedly, they didn’t have any other choice but to trust her to lead them out of the desert once their airship crashed. And she did save them from being eaten by a sand shark. But when they finally got to Ba Sing Se, it was clear the captain and his crew were squarely on Team Avatar. Good for them, because they came back to some big changes.
When the Red Lotus first approached the Earth Queen, it was to convince her to turn Korra over to them (and as a gesture of good faith, to give Mako and Bolin to her as gifts). And the Earth Queen, to her credit, was actually open to their idea. In fact, the plan became to hand over Korra to them once she arrived in Ba Sing Se.
Of course, then she had to go and challenge the Red Lotus, which never going to end anything but badly for her. The Earth Queen clearly thought she was invincible, not realizing that her title alone couldn’t protect her forever. She paid the ultimate price for her arrogance. It’s a reminder that though Zaheer’s goals seem almost rational because of his calm demeanor, he’s still an “ends justify the means” kind of guy.
With the Earth Queen dispatched, Zaheer sent a radio broadcast that essentially freed all of Ba Sing Se from class hierarchies. The physical manifestation of this idea was Ghazan using some expert lavabending to destroy the wall that separated the inner and outer rings. Now it’s time to see if the Red Lotus’s version of freedom is actually conducive to a functioning society. My guess is no.
While all this was happening, Bolin was doing everything in his power to metalbend some prison bars, and disappointing every prisoner in Ba Sing Se when he couldn’t do it. It’s interesting that show hasn’t given Bolin his moment of triumph yet. I imagine they’re going to have to let him metalbend at some point, but maybe he just wasn’t meant to manipulate metal. Not everyone is as cool as Toph.
Speaking of Toph, it was really cool to see Lin, Tonraq and Zuko (plus his insanely cool red dragon) together in Ba Sing Se, ready to focus all their efforts on taking down the Red Lotus. Mako and Bolin will probably join them soon with a message from Zaheer, probably about why Korra needs to join their cause. Now all we need is Tenzin and his army of airbenders to join the fun.
Last note: Ghazan and Ming-Hua are now currently the only villains on TV I’m shipping. If Zaheer and P’Li get to be together, why can’t the other two? Villains are allowed a shred of happiness before the good guys take them down, right? #TeamGha-Hua.