By Josh Axelrod
Cartoons aren’t supposed to be this good. They aren’t supposed to be able to elicit such visceral reactions from adults. And yet, the two-part “Legend of Korra” Book Three finale took me on a rollercoaster of emotions while sporting some of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen, live action or otherwise.
We began with Team Avatar trying to figure out a plan of attack for rescuing the captured airbenders without giving up Korra to Zaheer. They settled on an idea that more or less involved using Korra as bait. Clearly they didn’t plan on Zaheer using platinum shackles (apparently you can’t metalbend out of platinum?), because that made getting her out of such a dangerous situation much more difficult.
Before that showdown, we were shown a small but pivotal scene between Zaheer and P’Li where they re-expressed their love for each other. Apparently Zaheer had saved her from becoming some warlord’s puppet years and years ago. We knew they were an item, but that certainly added some authenticity to the relationship. And made what happened to P’Li even more impactful.
What happened to her you ask? Well, she came pretty close to decimating Su’s metalbending guard. I was still operating under the assumption that Su might have been working with the Red Lotus, especially when Lin was one blast away from getting wiped out by P’Li’s combustion bending. But after Su put that metal mask on P’Li right as she was charging up a shot, which caused her HEAD TO EXPLODE, I officially trust Su.
The look on Zaheer’s face as he realized his love was dead was almost heartbreaking. Of course, after almost killing Tonraq and knocking Korra out, my sympathy levels for him were at an all-time low. Before we could get an epic showdown between him and the metalbending sisters, Zaheer, officially free of all earthly attachments, jumped off a cliff and FLEW AWAY WITH KORRA. Yes, he mastered Guru Laghima’s flight technique. Ru-roh.
While all that was happening, Bolin, Asami, Mako and Tenzin were trying to escape a crumbling air temple that was overflowing with lava, courtesy of Ghazan. This allowed Bolin to shine, as his earthbending skills were the only chance they had to find safety. Of course, Bolin’s biggest accomplishment was learning how to lava bend at the best possible time. His metalbending arc was a great bit of misdirection, which made the moment he first bent lava even more impactful.
With a little help from Kai and Lefty, everyone escaped the temple unharmed. Kai was also able to lead Team Avatar to the cave where Zaheer was holding Korra. Finally, Zaheer revealed his plan all along: To kill Korra in the Avatar state, thus ending the Avatar cycle for good. To do this, he injected Korra with a type of metal poison, which forced her body to put her in the Avatar state to keep her alive.
Bad idea. He basically created an unstoppable wrecking ball hell bent on ending Zaheer’s life. Korra still believed that Zaheer had killed her father, so the chances of her showing Zaheer any mercy were minimal. This resulted in an aerial duel in a canyon reminiscent of Aang’s fight with the Fire Lord in “The Last Airbender.” The only difference here was that Korra had much more help.
Freeing the airbenders was pretty easy, but it took some effort for Mako and Bolin to take down Ghazan and Ming Hua. Why Mako didn’t break out his lightning bending earlier is beyond me, but, as anyone who’s ever played a Pokemon game can tell you, electricity beats water every time. Ghazan, realizing he was outnumbered and outmatched, just decided to take down the whole cave. Since we never explicitly saw Ghazan and Ming Hua die, something tells me we might see them again in Book Four.
Right as it looked like Korra was about to take Zaheer out, the poison began to take effect. Zaheer then tried to kill Korra using the same technique he used to kill The Earth Queen. Luckily Jinora, who has been way more useful than anyone could’ve guessed she’d be in Book One, got the airbenders to conjure a FREAKING TORNADO, which grounded Zaheer for good. Su metal bent the poison out of Korra, and all was right in the world again.
Well, not quite. An epilogue revealed that Korra was still feeling the effects of the poison weeks after her showdown with Zaheer. She was confined to a wheelchair and looked tired and depressed. She and Asami had a nice moment, but you could just tell that Korra was far from 100 percent. Who knows if she’ll ever fully recover.
The final scene revealed that Tenzin was finally ready to make Jinora an official airbending master. It was long overdue, and their hug during the ceremony was a beautiful father-daughter moment. It looks like the airbenders are going to become air nomads, roaming the kingdoms trying to help out wherever they can (looks like the Earth Kingdom might need the most aid). That final shot of Korra shedding a single tear, knowing that Jinora and the air nomads will be acting as surrogate avatars, showed some genuine growth in Korra. She’s now officially a wise, grizzled avatar.
Book Three, overall, was amazing. Taken as a whole, it rivals anything that “The Last Airbender” ever did in terms of action, visuals and emotional. Book Four can’t come soon enough.