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The Legend of Korra – Season 3 Finale Review

"They Actually Pulled it Off"

The Legend of Korra‘s third season ended this week with two episodes, “Enter the Void” and “Venom of the Red Lotus”. I’ll save it for the review, but man, what a way to go out.

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Plot

In “Enter the Void”, Korra plans to hand herself over to Zaheer, but plans to double-cross him. However, when things go south, all of Korra’s Krew find themselves in the fight of their lives.

In “Venom of the Red Lotus” a captured, poisoned Korra fights for her life as her friends mount a rescue effort. When things looks bleakest, one of the best fight scenes in the series is unleashed on us. More on that later.

Did… did Korra learn something?

The second season of Korra had her almost right back to where she was in the first season. It was frustrating. It made it feel like the first season failed to accomplish anything. However, over the course of the finale it started to dawn on me. I think Korra has actually had some character development over this season.

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First off, she and Mako started out as friends… and it has stayed that way. They didn’t slide back into an obligatory love triangle. It breaks formula, it’s different. It shows that the characters are progressing via events of the story, not just because the plot needs it. It’s natural.

Second, Korra didn’t just try to force her own way on the situation as she had done numerous times in the previous seasons. She relented and was ready to give herself up to Zaheer if that saved people. Sure, she’s always had a bit of a messiah complex since the beginning, but at least now she’s willing to sacrifice herself because it’s the right thing to do, not because “I’m the Avatar!”.

And it’s not just Korra. Tenzin has learned to accept his daughter’s role in the new Airbender nation, Lin and Su have begun to patch up their relationship (Su wasn’t even secretly evil! Yet), and Kai stopped his thieving ways to take up a leadership role. That’s only a few. This series has been sorely lacking in character development, which is especially sad because Airbender had such great examples of that, so it’s good to see it making a come back.

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Looking Back at Zaheer

Zaheer is definitely my favorite villain of the series. Maybe even one of my favorites for the entire franchise. So far, each villain in Korra has been some kind of Dark Father Figure (a little literal in the second season). A powerful man who seeks to control Korra in order to have her fulfill his own personal goals.

However, Zaheer flies — ha — in the face of all that. He wants to relinquish all control everywhere. He seeks only anarchy and chaos. Not only that but he’s a deeply philosophical, highly educated villain. He’s extremely skilled, sure, but he’s not inherently powerful and definitely doesn’t hold a high position. It’s a breath of fresh air.

In addition, Zaheer is wonderfully complex. Now I’ve heard many people talk about his complexity in terms of how “he’s not just evil, he believes what he’s doing is right!” That’s not what I’m talking about. That’s not really even complexity, that’s just how most well written villains work.

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I think his complexity lies in his contradictions. He’s an educated man, well versed in poetry and history, yet he’s incredibly fanatical. He’s a self proclaimed fan of the Airbender culture but forgoes their peaceful doctrines to kill and destroy anyone and anything in his way.

I hope this is a sign for things to come. If we’re doing a new villain each season, as it seems we are, then they’d had each be a villain worth following. Couple the brand new character development with complex villains like Zaheer and you have the makings of a show that could meet Avatar: The Last Airbender‘s quality.

This finale was not messing around

Wow, you guys. They really kept up the heavy undertones they abruptly inserted last episode. This finale is not messing around. Not only to they show Korra being slowly poisoned, but also her writhing in agony as she fights against her own demise.

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Plus! Plus! You have P’li losing her head thanks to quick thinking by Su. You have Ghazan killing himself to escape returning to prison, and Mako electrocuting Ming-Hua to (death?) with his lightening. Add to that Korra’s condition at the end of the season (more on that later) this was a finale colored many shades of grim.

I’ll take lavabending over metal bending for Bolin

I’m glad Bolin never became a metal bender. I guess he had to bend something special because the theme was ‘believing in yourself’, but it’s good that they just didn’t make him super powerful just because he’s a main character. I’ll take lavabending. Sure, it’s a bit convenient that he learned the way he did, but it’s not too far fetched I guess. I mean, what other chance would he have to discover he could bend lava if not moments before being killed by it.

Some Small Negatives

Overall, I think it a solid finale to the season. I just had a few small gripes that didn’t necessarily detract from the finale itself, but I did wish were different.

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First off, why can’t they say ‘kill’. In these two episodes they used both ‘dispatch’ and ‘destroy’ as euphemisms for killing the Avatar. I mean, I get that it’s a content rating thing, and it’s not really the writer’s choice. However, is ‘kill’ that much worse than destroy? I think most kids would know that they mean the same thing, why make your show seem less authentic by sugar coating it? Showing people suffocate on screen is fine, but saying ‘kill’ is over the line? Okay censorship boards.

I wish Korra’s dad had died. Yes, there was some emotional payoff later when they were reunited, but it seems like there was a lack of… I don’t know, weight? I felt the Red Lotus was much more threatening than the series’ other villains, but the consequences of this final fight felt a little light. The bad guys pretty much cleaned themselves up and the good guys got out in mostly one piece. It would have added some needed gravitas to the finale fight if Zaheer had really killed her father.

One of the best endings of the series

So the last fight between Zaheer and Korra is one of the best in the series. Maybe one of the best in the franchise. It’s epic scale is much bigger than usual Avatar fights and it was especially brutal. Plus, there’s the added tension of Korra fighting the poison that adds a deeper dimension to it. It was amazing to watch.

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After that we’re then led into on hell of a bittersweet ending. Korra has survived her poisoning, but is left weak and wheelchair bound. Jinora is now a fully fledged airbending master, finally getting her tattoos. The Airbenders are setting out to keep the world in balance while Korra recuperates. Then, ourĀ last image of the season is of a tear running down a broken Korra’s cheek. Man.

This is a great setup, one that we should have seen at the end of season one. Since the beginning of this series Korra has defined her entire existence as The Avatar. Now, with her greatly weakened and out of commission, she’ll have to figure out who she is inside. How will she define herself? Who will she become? It’s going to be interesting.

I’m excited for the next season. They got me. It’s more than I could have said for last season at least. This season was a bumpy road, but they really pulled it off in the end. Individually I’d give “Enter the Void” an 8 and “Venom of the Red Lotus” an 8.5. So together, I’d give the finale:

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Rating
8.3
Pros
  • Amazing Final Fight
  • Dark Undertones
  • Interesting Set Ups
  • Satisfying Payoffs
Cons
  • Light consequences
  • Plot Continences

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Comments

  • Jonathan

    Hands down, BEST Season of Avatar/Korra yet!

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