The Legend of Korra wraps up its best season yet with a gripping, bittersweet finale that neither shies away from consequences, nor rushes an ending to it’s intricate plot. It’s stunningly animated and emotionally heavy, just as an Avatar finale should be.
“Enter the Void” and “Venom of the Red Lotus” are technically two separate episodes, but they act cohesively as one story. The episodes follow Korra’s attempts to take down the Red Lotus, and while she ultimately succeeds, it’s not without hardship.
Korra, in an attempt to rescue the captive airbenders, gives herself up to Zaheer. It turns out to be a trap, and a battle ensues between the Red Lotus and Team Avatar. The fight sequences on the side of the mountain are gorgeous, and there’s an appropriate sense of danger and urgency to everyone’s respective battles. The Red Lotus members are perhaps the most dangerous foes Korra and Team Avatar have ever encountered, and its obvious that they’re fighting for their lives.
Mako, Bolin, and Asami rescue Tenzin from the Northern Air Temple, though they run into trouble in the form of Ghazan’s molten lava along the way. Just as it seems like they’re going to be engulfed, Bolin pulls out his eleventh hour power and stops the lava with his bending. Props to those who predicted that Bolin would be a lavabender. I think it suits him more than metalbending anyway.
P’Li, the most powerful (and tallest, and coolest) of Zaheer’s companions, meets her end in the only way a combustion bender can. She blows herself up. Lin and Suyin reforge their sisterly bond by pulling a tag team move on P’Li, ending with Su wrapping a piece of her armor around her head just as she’s about to bend. The result is explosive, and reminiscent of Combustion Man from The Last Airbender. I really love P’Li, and I’m sad to see her go. But, her death is unavoidable, and at least she gets to go out in a totally spectacular way.
P’Li’s death devastates Zaheer, who then achieves “true enlightenment” with the last of his earthly attachments gone. He develops the ancient airbending ability to fly (he’s a leaf on the wind, I guess), and makes off with Korra while everyone looks on in shock.
Zaheer’s development mirrors Aang’s, in that they both let their feelings for their loved ones go in order to reach a higher state of existence. Aang, however, eventually comes to reject that principle, and achieves his own form of enlightenment through love and compassion. Zaheer’s inability to understand that form of thinking is what dooms his mission to fail. Anarchy and apathy do not equal enlightenment.
Korra is taken by Zaheer and poisoned with a bizarre, metallic venom. The idea is to force her into the Avatar state and then kill her, eliminating the Avatar from the world entirely. As Korra struggles to remain conscious, she hallucinates all of the previous villains mocking her for her failures. It’s clearly a huge insecurity for her, one that is never actually solved during the episode. Korra isn’t as spiritually strong as Aang, and that makes her feel weak and unneeded.
Jinora witnesses Korra’s poisoning in her astral projection state, and concocts an escape plan with the other airbenders. Just as things look like they’re about to go south, the rest of Team Avatar show up to help them out. Jinora and Kai reunite, as do Tenzin and his family. With one group of people out of immediate danger, they attempt to figure out a way to help Korra.
The Red Lotus’ plan to kill Korra goes awry when her Avatar state proves too powerful for them. What comes next is a truly epic battle between Korra and Zaheer, as Mako and Bolin battle Ghazan and Ming Hua on the ground. All of the fight sequences are gorgeously and dynamically animated, with Korra’s relentless pursuit of Zaheer providing some of the most breathtaking images. Despite getting beat by both Zaheer and the terrain around her, Korra continues to come at him until her body collapses from the poison’s long term influence.
Mako and Bolin both successfully manage to defeat their opponents. Mako graphically electrocutes Ming Hua with lightening when she leads them into an underground grotto, then goes to help Bolin as he engages in a lavabending match with Ghazan. Both members of the Red Lotus end up evidently dying, so I doubt we’ll ever see them again.
Just as all seems lost for Korra, she receives help from Jinora and the other airbenders. Their gigantic wind tunnel is proof of how far they’ve come since they gained their powers, and I’m so glad to see Jinora take charge. She’s become a true airbending master.
Zaheer is captured, and Korra is rescued by Suyin, who metalbends the poison out of her. What could’ve been a rushed and poorly thought out conclusion actually feels like a small step to true balance. Nothing is truly resolved by the Red Lotus’ disbandment beyond the immediate threat. The Earth Kingdom is still in disarray, the Northern Air Temple is utterly destroyed, and as we see in the final moments, Korra is wheelchair-bound (permanently or temporarily?) and depressed. Her place in the world is unclear now. As Tenzin joyfully inducts a bald and tattooed Jinora into the ranks of the Airbending Masters, Korra seems to come to realization that she’s not really needed anymore. That there are other, better heroes in the world than her.
It’s a bittersweet ending to the season, and hopefully Korra’s spirits will be lifted in the next one. She’s been as hard on herself as Aang was on himself, and I think she needs to learn that she’s only one person. The Avatar is the symbol of hope and balance, but the Avatar has never been able to do it alone. Luckily, Korra’s friends all make it through alive. Asami, especially, acts as Korra’s support system, looking after her while she recuperates. Their friendship works for me so much better than either of their relationships with Mako. I hope we see more of their relationship in the next season.
Lots of things are going to be left for next season. We still don’t really know much about Opal or Kai (though he at least gets to help with the rescue), and at the time of the ending, Ba Sing Se is apparently still total chaos. Tenzin’s promise to lead the Air Nomads on a world traveling crusade for peace is definitely a hook for Book 4, so I imagine we’ll see the resolution of the anarchist movement then.
This season of Korra as a whole feels like a return to Avatar form, and I hope next season will keep up the good work. I’ll see you then, in Republic City.
Images are copyright of Nickelodeon.