With only two more episodes of Book 3 left, The Legend of Korra is speeding to a thrilling conclusion. “Long Live the Queen” has it all: murder, intrigue, gigantic sand-shark creatures. Everything is leading to up to a final confrontation between Zaheer and Korra, and some of the ramifications seem too big to clear up by the end of the season.
“Long Live the Queen” follows the Red Lotus and Korra as they deal with the Earth Queen and her forces in their own respective ways. The Red Lotus initially comes to Ba Sing Se to offer Mako, Bolin, and information concerning the Queen’s “missing” airbenders in exchange for Korra. It soon becomes clear, however, that Korra won’t be arriving in Ba Sing Se as planned. In order to lure her to the capital, Zaheer apparently murders the Earth Queen in cold blood.
Korra is always pushing standards and practices boundaries, and the death of the Earth Queen is no exception. The look on her face as Zaheer literally sucks the life out of her is disturbing. While her point of death isn’t shown, there’s no doubt as to what happens. From then on, everyone refers to her as having been “taken down” or “defeated”. It’s a weird double standard in which the they can show someone being choked (or blown up, if you recall the Noatak/Tarrlok murder-suicide) on screen, but they can’t say the words “dead” or “killed”. Nevertheless, it’s probably not a stretch to assume that this is one of the reasons the show doesn’t air on TV anymore.
Zaheer’s murder of the Earth Queen is the first time airbending is shown in a negative light. Every type of bending has a dark side to it, and it’s often been said in series discussions that airbending could be incredibly dangerous if used for ill. Had Zaheer not been looking to make a statement with the Earth Queen’s death, he could have made it look like she died of natural causes and no one would know otherwise.
While Zaheer causes chaos in Ba Sing Se, Korra and Asami finds themselves stranded in the desert after a clumsy escape attempt. Their troubles only get worse when they and the Ba Sing Se airship crew realize that there’s a gigantic sand shark stalking them. It destroys their airship after they spend hours repairing it, leaving them no choice but to throw together a sand sailer and get back to the Misty Palms Oasis as fast as possible.
The sand shark chase scene is thrilling and fun, and it’s great to see another example of the Avatar world’s terrifying fauna. These big “Avatar versus Nature” action sequences (the Unagi and the Serpent of Serpent’s Pass come to mind) are an infrequent occurrence in the less episodic Korra, and it’s exciting to see them face a creature they can’t escape from even on land.
Mako and Bolin spend most of the episode locked in a cell, but there is some focus on Bolin’s attempts at metalbending. His continued failure is both comical and sad, but I hope he has a big metalbending moment soon. Bolin often comes off as one-note comic relief, and he deserves more serious achievements.
Back at the Oasis, Korra and Asami part ways with their would-be kidnappers and meet up with Tonraq, Lin (who stumbles upon their previously abandoned jeeps and Naga), and Lord Zuko. There they reveal to Korra that Ba Sing Se has descended into total chaos following the death of the Earth Queen, and that Zaheer is behind it.
A showdown is imminent, but an anarchist movement seems like a problem that can’t be fixed in two episodes. I almost hope that the Red Lotus survive to see another season, as they’re definitely my favorite villains of the series so far. P’Li, in particular, hasn’t really gotten to truly shine. I also feel that Tenzin and the airbenders (especially Kai and Opal) have been out of the picture for too long, and I’m interested in seeing how they play into the finale.
Images are copyright of Nickelodeon.