The Legend of Korra Book 3 Finale Review: All You Can Do

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Aug 22, 2014

The Legend of Korra S03E12 and S03E13: "Enter the Void" and "Venom of the Red Lotus"

The overall thrust of these final two installments of Book 3 confirms for me that the writers really wanted to produce a lighter, less overtly political season of The Legend of Korra. It was heavy on the WHIZ-BANG-POW aspects, low on the concerns for global change—maybe the collapse of Ba Sing Se will be a central part of Book 4?—and essentially amounted to, "If we kill the hero, there'll be no one to stand in our way!" villainy, complete with a poorly conceived deathtrap. (Did Zaheer really think that some chains were going to hold an Avatar who was in the Avatar State? What a dolt.) With Book 3, Korra went whole-hog in becoming a fun Saturday morning cartoon romp.

My invocation of Saturday-morning cartoons shouldn't be taken dismissively, as I enjoyed the finale a great deal. Certainly, it was better than Book 2's underwhelming and oddly dull conclusion, and it wasn't devoid of Korra's overarching interest in how its title character fits into the world—this time as the protector of an artificial (and corrupt) world order—but that "bigger-picture" outlook remained quiet for much of the finale before roaring to life in the closing minutes. 

So Book 3 was fun, fun in a way that Korra's never really been before. Tonal clashes, such as the one we saw in Book 2 when the show's humor ran up against Unalaq's seriousness, never really surfaced. Sure, sometimes the more comedic elements undercut dramatic moments, like the cut to Pabu and Naga playing with Mako's scarf in the finale, but given that Zaheer's goals remained a mystery to us until Episode 9, it was almost as if the show was telling us, "Yes, Zaheer's a bad dude, but don't stress out about it. Everything will end up (mostly) okay, so just enjoy the ride."

And it turned out to be a pretty good ride. These two episodes were probably the best-looking and most exciting installments Korra's done since Book 1—aside from "Beginnings" Parts 1 and 2 from Book 2, of course. Korra chasing a flying Zaheer through a canyon was a particular standout, as it served up a long take that must've likewise taken a while to animate, and the time and care put into it showed. Korra, like Last Airbender before it, continues to find new ways to depict violent acts while staying within Nickelodeon's Standards & Practices guidelines—you know, like having P'Li BLOW OFF HER OWN HEAD after Su metalbended a piece of armor around it, with the shot cutting away quickly enough that we all knew what happened but didn't actually see it happen. It was also pretty nice how lavabending turned out to be interesting to watch once Bolin discovered he could do it as well. Previously, it had just been an easy way for Zaheer and the gang to get away, harass, and trap everyone else, and so it allowed Ghazan to come off as a little over-powered. Bolin provided a nice and much-needed check to that.

Bolin actually proved to be the stealth star of Book 3, as much of the character assassination that'd been leveled against him in Book 2 was undone. Last season, Bolin was made out to be really dumb and pretty cowardly, as opposed to being a competent but insecure goofball, which is what he was in Book 1 and returned to being in Book 3. His humor was always on point, and he benefited from the season's "Change" subtitle more than most, finding a new confidence in his relationship with Opal and in his lavabending ability. It was very nice to see the character back in form, and also being developed a bit in the process.

Let's talk a bit more about change as I wrap this up. Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino recently appeared on the Nerdist podcast and one of the things they discussed was that Korra wants to be the Avatar, in contrast to Aang, who had trouble accepting the role. And so, each season, they've created antagonists who threaten that identity. Amon took away bending, one of the key components of being the Avatar. Unalaq and Vaatu tried to eliminate Raava and the light. Zaheer wanted the Avatar gone entirely, as the Avatar protects order, and order is in direct opposition to the Red Lotus's political and philosophical goals. Each antagonist threatened Korra's place in the world, a world that increasingly isn't totally interested in the Avatar as a world presence.

So each season so far has really been about the potential for drastic change, ending with either no change (Book 1) or major change that doesn't like a huge concern (Book 2). Book 3 ended with Korra in a wheelchair, and everyone talking about how she needs time to heal. President Raiko was even wondering how she could possibly be the Avatar from a wheelchair, which is probably a question that Korra herself is asking. It's a situation not unlike the one Korra found herself in at the end of Book 1, before the show quickly hand-waved away the question of how the Avatar can be the Avatar without bending (how the Avatar can be the Avatar without access to the past lives seems like less of a concern). 

I'm intrigued by the resulting story options, even as I suspect some folks will see these circumstances as further justification for their position that Korra's just a whiny, self-pitying brat. Tenzin has declared the airbenders to be de-facto Avatars while she recovers in the "wandering the world and solving problems" sort of way, something Korra herself has struggled to achieve in ways that don't involve her beating people up. It's all too easy for Korra to fall into the trap of thinking she's been replaced and thus has no value as the Avatar, something that, as I said above, the show has been grappling with since its inception.

I want to see this issue addressed. I want it to be the driving force behind Korra becoming the Avatar she wants herself to be, to help her step out of her perception of Aang's shadow as well as her own insecurities. Book 4 will be the last for Korra and The Legend of Korra. It's time for both her and the show to do this.


– How in the world did Jinora know that the Red Lotus poison was metal? Perhaps I missed it, but I don't think anyone said as much, at any point. Just like in the Book 2 finale, Jinora was the vessel for the show writing itself out of a weird corner with very little in the way of explanation. But, hey, she's an airbending master now! I'm excited about that.

– Su's not a Red Lotus member...OR IS SHE JUST BIDING HER TIME, WAITING TO FILL THE POWER VACUUM LEFT BEHIND BY ZAHEER?! I'm going to cling to this theory until the bitter end.

– So the answer to, "Why doesn't Mako just lightningbend?" appears to be, "He only lightningbends near really large pools of water while balancing between stalagmites, or when he's generating electricity for Republic City."

– A very minor thing, but it may've been my favorite thing about these pair of episodes, and it was the height difference between P'Li and Zaheer and how Zaheer needed to crane his head up a touch to kiss her. Details like that matter a lot.

– It's worth listening to that Nerdist podcast, unless you're one of those folks who routinely espouses the opinion that Korra is a crummy Avatar/character compared to Aang, as Konietzko and DiMartino aren't all that interested in your perspective. Of note, however, is the fact that the rushed released of Book 3 had nothing to do with the pirated episodes and everything to do with Nickelodeon only having a narrow window in which to air the show; it was either squeeze it in this summer or else hold it until sometime in 2015, which basically just makes Nickelodeon sound sort of awful at planning things. As for the network's decision to shift the show to online-only status, it seems that Konietzko and DiMartinob either can't or simply won't discuss the reasons why.

– Best episodes of the season: "The Earth Queen," "The Stakeout," "Long Live the Queen," "Enter the Void," and "Venom of the Red Lotus." 

What did you think of the finale and Book 3 as a whole?

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  • ElRob Aug 29, 2014

    Just got caught up, making me very late to the party, but I really liked this season as a whole, the show came out ahead in spite of the weird scheduling which I will add my own pet theory: perhaps Nickelodeon got gun-shy over airing the episode "Long Live the Queen", which pretty unambiguously showed the onscreen (and somewhat horrifying) death of the Earth Queen by asphyxiation?

    I'm so glad there will be a fourth season, I think we can look forward to a changed, more reluctant Korra, one who has been repeatedly pushed to the edge both mentally and physically and may well take some coaxing to return to "active duty". Meanwhile, I've always felt that Jinora had the makings of a more important character, perhaps it will be time for her to step forward more while the older generation like Beifong and Tenzin take a step back.

  • PolarisCarver Aug 26, 2014

    Saturday morning cartoons? I don't know about that, I thought that was pretty dark. Maybe we haven't seen the same cartoons, but personally I'd have trouble finding something that matches Korra in character depth, attention to detail, and a plot that doesn't take younger viewers for idiots.
    Also Zaheer being able to "let go" after P'li died and mastering the ability to fly reminded me a lot of Ang's lessons with the guru in AtlA, when he thought he had to let go of Katara to master the Avatar state. I love that the show is consistent in its mythology and philosophy.

    Are there really still people out there complaining about Korra being a horrible character? In general, but especially in those last two episodes, I kept thinking what a great heroine she was. She's flawed, yes (she wouldn't be interesting if she wasn't), but she's grown a lot since S1 and she's one of my favourite female characters on TV right now. This show has generally been good to its female characters this season (Jinora and Asami obviously, the Bei Fong sisters, but also P'li who got enough characterization to be a likable villain, and there'll always be a place in my heart for the tentacle woman who is just awesome).

  • navigator70 Aug 26, 2014

    loved it but hated Korra beeing all weak - she picted up her power in the end but sill couldent win over zaheer

  • marcusj1973 Aug 25, 2014

    "The overall thrust of these final two installments of Book 3 confirms for me that the writers really wanted to produce a lighter, less overtly political season of The Legend of Korra...With Book 3, Korra went whole-hog in becoming a fun Saturday morning cartoon romp."

    Okay, I'll admit, it's been a while since I've gotten out of bed in time and coherent enough to sit down and watch some Saturday morning cartoons. But I'm certain that one of the reasons I stopped was because of the superficial garbage that was being passed off as weekend watching.

    In the big picture, Book 3 was much like a James Bond film. And while I know Bond can be considered pretty "fluffy", in comparison to most toons (and certainly anything in the Nickelodeon lineup), fluffy is awfully deep when put up against Spongebob, Fairly Odd Parents and Power Rangers.

    Sure, it was bad guys trying to take out the good guy, but WHY? They'd already toppled the Earth Queen and were looking to take out the heads of all the kingdoms and their corresponding governments so that anarchy (see will of the people) could prevail instead of living in a world with highly corrupt leaders who were only serving the best interest of themselves and the upper crust of society be it through back room deals or waging war...any of this sound familiar? Somebody can correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm not sure Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius ever had that much to say about the world we live in.

  • elizabethfengland Aug 25, 2014

    "How in the world did Jinora know that the Red Lotus poison was metal?"

    Remember, Jinora saw the poison they were going to administer to Korra. It had that metallic look to it and I am sure with all her knowledge she new what it was.

  • BilltheCat Aug 25, 2014

    That and the benders administering it were in earth kingdom gear, so naturally, earth benders.

  • ClaudiaCruzTe Aug 30, 2014

    It was actually said that it was platinum when Zaheer was laying out his evil plan.

  • filmstu2005 Aug 25, 2014

    I think the real question is...what respectable parent allows their daughter to shave her head and get permanent arrow tattoos printed on her scalp and down her arms? WHAT? Worst. Parenting. Ever.


  • MajLorne Aug 26, 2014

    Wouldn't blame the parents. Jinora seemed pretty set on wanting those tattoos. Now shaving her whole head was drastic as she could have just shaved the center like the female air avatar had when ang was speaking to her.

  • ClaudiaCruzTe Aug 30, 2014

    I think they get shaved, to get the tattoos, but the women (and some men) let their hair grow back. That's why we see the female air avatar with tattoos and hair.

  • Bagatelle Aug 26, 2014

    It's irony.

  • filmstu2005 Aug 25, 2014

    This was a very beautiful episode. I know its a cartoon but I found myself tearing up at the end when Jinora was annointed as an Airbending master, and she stood up, looking so much like the honorable Aang...Beautiful story, and the animation was breathtaking, especially during the battle, competing with the likes of some blockbuster films. Reminded me of Man of Steel, but more poetic

  • kagomenoneechan Aug 24, 2014

    That was a massive final, on par with Sozin's Comet in many ways, even surpasses it in animation and inventive fighting mechanics.
    It's bad the writers were more interested in making Zaheer's group sympathetic characters rather than giving them proper motivation. I still loved the group, they were great and I buy that they meant everything they said. But the chaos philosophy is a complicated world view that was mostly just an excuse for The Red Lotus to be villainous villains.
    Zaheer's still alive so Korra will probably have a soul searching discussion with him next season and ask why he was doing this so we can get more development for them.
    Anyway this season was great, a lot of minuses but overall it works and was a joyous experience. I'm hopeful for the Avatar universe again.

  • Knightshade03 Aug 24, 2014

    Two major things I hope happen in Book 4 are I really, really, REALLY hope whatever it was that caused the leak SNAFU in the first place gets fixed. This was a good season and deserved more than being pushed to online only status. Second, I REALLY like to see Korra go into the Avatar State more often. If she weren't forced, she wouldn't have done it this season. And I'm sorry, when Mako told her the air benders weren't there, she should have gone into the Avatar state right then and there. True it wouldn't have made for the ending we had but it would have been more realistic. Yeah, the foibles of TV, sometimes things have to happen for the sake of time. It just seems, no one - including Korra - "remembers" she's the Avatar until it's convenient. Until then she's just some nuisances who can bend 4 elements.

  • filmstu2005 Aug 25, 2014

    She couldnt go into the Avatar state after the events of Book 2. She lost her connection to her past lives which make up the Avatar state as a result of what Tarloq did to her.

  • Knightshade03 Aug 25, 2014

    Forgot about that. But given that, then doesn't it stand to reason - guessing here - that even under extreme duress, including dieing, she still shouldn't be able to go into the avatar state? But now that she has, is there some way for here to get the connection back?

  • elizabethfengland Aug 25, 2014

    Do you believe the wheelchair is a permente thing?

  • elizabethfengland Aug 25, 2014

    I am sure if there is a will there is a way. I mean there was only one other person that would levitate and fly. I am hopeful that she can regain her connection. However, I am more worried with her wheelchair state. Is it a physical recovery that will be made in months or has the poison affected the ability to use her body and bend?
    Also, when she was crying at a point of celebration. She certainly wasn't happy. Was it her missing her bending? Was it her knowing that she will never bend again? Her feeling that she can no longer be the Avatar? Perhaps it was because Jinora looks so much like Aang and she will never have that connection again? What do you think?

  • levinaclair Sep 24, 2014

    I think she was seeing Jinora, a new leader, and thinking of herself mostly helpless in a wheelchair, and realising how easily she could be replaced as a world leader.

  • Knightshade03 Aug 25, 2014

    I think her crying came more from her being in the wheelchair than anything else. I'm sure she'll bend again but she has to wondering what kind of Avatar can she be from a wheelchair. Hopefully, this will all make for a great book 4.

  • filmstu2005 Aug 25, 2014

    I think I'm wrong now. I really have no idea Lol.

  • JoshVillemure Aug 25, 2014

    Actually Korra could still use the Avatar State, she does it in the first episode of the season (book) to "remove" the vines that were plaguing Republic City.
    Her not using the avatar state was something that bugged me as well, but maybe it was only under "extreme" circumstances when she needed the power did she really ever use it. I mean there is a risk, something Zaheer tried to exploit, that if she were to die in the Avatar state the avatar cycle would end. Maybe she was fearful of Zaheer and therefore never wanted to use it unless she absolutely felt she needed to.

  • Jay_SunFire Aug 24, 2014

    why would kuvira save Korras dad if shes red lotus,
    come on people.

  • BilltheCat Aug 25, 2014

    Why introduce her, and even name her, in the season finale, unless she has a larger role to play?

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