The Legend of Korra has reached it’s finale, with “Ultimatum” setting up the final conflict. It’s become clear that everyone’s lives are in real peril, and the Red Lotus is perhaps the most dangerous adversary since Fire Lord Ozai. It’s going to take all hands on deck to bring them down.
“Ultimatum” follows Mako and Bolin as they escape the ransacked Ba Sing Se and set out to find Korra. Along the way, they rescue their family, including their obstinate grandmother. Ba Sing Se is in total chaos, with the class divides crumbling into dust as people from every section of the city loot the castle. It’s unsettling to watch, and I can’t help but wonder how the city will recover from it. Without someone to look to, the city could completely fall. The total anarchy is a reminder of why Zaheer is so frightening. He has valid ideas about revolution, but he doesn’t care about the consequences. He doesn’t take responsibility for what he started. He’s a perfect foil for Korra, who is looked to as a leader whether she wants to be or not. I suspect it will take her involvement to usher real change into Ba Sing Se.
Mako and Bolin reunite with Korra and tell her that Zaheer is on his way to kill the airbenders at the Northern Air Temple unless she surrenders. The team scrambles to find a radio signal strong enough to contact the temple and warn Tenzin. Their search takes them back to Zaofu, where they meet with Suyin and attempt to put together some kind of plan.
Korra travels to the spirit world to try and talk Zaheer down, but finds Iroh instead. I love that Iroh lives on as Korra’s defacto spirit guide. Without the assistance of her past lives, Korra needs advice on how to handle the situation from someone who understands the Avatar mindset, and both Iroh recommends Zuko as the perfect candidate. Iroh’s acknowledgement of Aang and Zuko’s lifelong friendship warms my heart, as does Zuko’s apparent concern for his daughter (whom I hope we get to see one day).
Korra and co. finally manage to get a hold of Tenzin, but it’s too late. The Red Lotus arrive and round up the airbenders to use as leverage. Things quickly escalate into an epically proportioned battle, in which Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi stay behind to find the Red Lotus while the others attempt to escape. It’s a devastating sequence. No one really succeeds, especially with P’li’s explosions constantly hindering their progress. The lowest point comes when Tenzin is mercilessly beaten by Zaheer, Ming Hua and Gazan. I doubt Tenzin will actually be killed, but it’s heartbreaking to watch regardless.
The defeat of the Northern Air Temple is a low point in the conflict between Team Avatar and the Red Lotus, and it feels like the most serious blow to the protagonists in a long time. The stakes feel much higher than in previous seasons of Korra, due to their potentially global scale. The Red Lotus isn’t just a threat to Republic City, or the Southern Water Tribe. They’re a threat to the entire world, and to a newly restored race of people. If left unchecked, the conflict could reach 100 Year War proportions.
The showdown between Korra and The Red Lotus is sure to be epic, but I can’t help but feel like the season feels kind of rushed. The story is a lot more balanced this time around, but I wish we could explore the Red Lotus and their agenda a little more. I also feel like we haven’t really gotten to know Opal and Kai very well. I suppose some things will have to be left for Book 4.
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