The Legend of Korra "The Ultimatum" Review: Are We There Yet?

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Aug 15, 2014

The Legend of Korra S03E11: "The Ultimatum"

Oh, "The Ultimatum." You had the totally unenviable position of being the episode that precedes the two-part finale, which means you ended up spending two of your three acts with characters making declaratory statements about what they were going to do and what they needed to do, and, egads, it wasn't very interesting. At least the third act had plenty of action to end on a strong—if disheartening—note.

It was a narrative necessity, of course. Despite Korra being willing to play fast and loose with Zaheer's movements around the world earlier in the season, Mako and Bolin couldn't just magically appear at the Misty Palms Oasis and explain how they hijacked an airship, rescued their family, and then tracked down Korra in a long stream of exposition. That would've been lazy writing, and I can better abide an episode that basically amounts to a "Hurry up and wait" type of situation for the audience than an episode that takes narrative shortcuts.

At least there were decent moments peppered throughout all the "We need to get out of the city!" "I'm going to help arm the airship!" "I'm going to go to the spirit world!" "I'm going to take a nap!" bits of dialogue, and most of them were funny. Mako and Bolin's struggles to pilot the airship were amusing, with plenty of banter to go around plus a nice visual emphasis, as Mako's normally perfectly coiffed hair was in serious disarray after landing but also almost crashing at Misty Palms. Grandma Yin's reactions to things—from Bolin's heartfelt reunion with Pabu to her confusion regarding the identity of the Avatar to wondering why Mako can't date a nice girl—also helped to keep the majority of the episode from feeling too staid.

Grandma Yin was also the center of the moment I wish the show had lingered on a bit more, but ended up dismissing with Bolin hoisting the old woman over her shoulder. Zaheer may've opened the floodgates for Ba Sing Se to change, but he did so without any concern for the possible repercussions, including the loss of life and homes that some families may've passed down for generations. Yin's refusal to leave was played as a little dotty—especially given the danger surrounding her family—but there was a kernel of emotion to it, one that for all of Zaheer's talk of giving people freedom, he might not being willing accept as legitimate. Instead, he views it more as the result of Yin being immersed in a corrupt ideology and internalizing its supposed virtues to her own detriment.

I'm sad that Zuko won't be around for the final battle, but I'm glad that he and Korra finally had a scene together in which they actually engaged in conversation and not just, "Oh, hello there!" like in last week's episode. Korra may not have access to her past selves, but she does have access to those who knew Aang, and they can guide her in a similar, albeit not the same, fashion. Hopefully in Book 4 we'll get more of Zuko acting as an advisor to Korra.

As long as it doesn't come at the cost of Tenzin, of course. While I doubt the show would kill off Tenzin—I WOULD BE SO SAD; TENZIN IS MY FAVORITE—it was tough to watch Ghazan, Ming Hau, and Zaheer take turns striking him with their elemental abilities. I was glad for the pan behind that wall. I was also glad, however, that Zaheer finally faced something of a challenge as he Tenzin fought. It remains a criticism for me that Zaheer has been such a natural airbender, so watching him run and then end up on the ropes against Tenzin before P'Li intervened was a much needed power-balance correction. Plus, I like it when the show lets Tenzin loose. All the forms of bending look different—something I've always loved about the show—but I always enjoy watching airbending combat. It feels more distinct from the other forms.

The action in general was pretty good this week overall, something I've sort of struggled with for most of Book 3. Spectacles like Ming Hau's multi-tentacled attack or Bumi's comparatively unorthodox tactics—biting and hair-pulling—provided some variety, even if it was clear that Kya and Bumi were in over their heads against the waterbender and the lavabender. Between that and Tenzin's airbending, it was definitely one of the stronger action episodes, a good sign as we head into the finale next week.


– "I don't see any 'Up' buttons! I see levers and switches and ooh! There it is!"

Greg Baldwin is a fine actor, but man oh man, his Iroh will never take root. Mako just owned that role.

– How are we feeling about Su being in the Red Lotus still? I feel like it could go either way now, with the Metal Clan's security force being the group's trump card, but I won't be surprised if I'm wrong, either.

What did you think of "The Ultimatum"?

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  • princesssazzy Aug 20, 2014

    I just cried a little for Tenzin. Really don't want him to die, but that'd be a major bold move for the show...

  • Ian281099 Aug 19, 2014

    Wow, these last three episodes have been fantastic. That three-way battle at the end was just brutal, I can't way for the finale.

  • Arska Aug 17, 2014

    A great episode! I particularly agree with you about Zaheer's duel with Tenzin. It was pleasing to see the writers "nerf" Zaheer a bit by placing him against a air bending master. Without his posse, Zaheer wouldn't have stood a chance and it's pleasing to see.

  • Bettyboop85 Aug 16, 2014

    This was a great episode. The writers somehow managed to cram in a lot of information in less than 30 minutes. My only criticism would be that Kya got her ass kicked yet again. Her mother is one of the most powerful water-benders alive, so why is it that she loses every battle? Yes she is facing off against another world class water-bender, but she should be able to win, or at the very least match her blow for blow.

  • BilltheCat Aug 18, 2014

    That was my thought.

  • tiesto Aug 16, 2014

    if bumi was an airbending master then i think the fight would of gone differently. bumi is a newbie so it would of been impossible for them two to win.

  • beeMikeB Aug 16, 2014

    * Probably the most interesting part of the episode is the way Lord Zuko says he needs to protect his daughter. I'm still hoping that Azula is alive and well and it'd be interesting if somehow Azula is Fire Lord and Lord Zuko is simply telling the world that she's his daughter.

    Second to that is Lord Zuko's bafflement that Uncle Iroh is in the spirit world. I'm not sure why Zuko wouldn't know about Iroh's connection to the spirit world.

    And it's interesting that Iroh was wearing Earth Kingdom garb instead of Fire Nation garb.

    * The politics of Zaheer's wanting the world to be free was lessened to a great extent by the chaos that is shown in Ba Sing Se. Why wouldn't the Republic City army and police be there trying to restore order?

    Of course, Zuko has no interest in their no longer being hereditary monarchies and immediately wants to go back to the Fire Nation.

    And we see that Tenzin currently essentially owns some huge castles.

    * What could Zuko have been mentoring Aang in? How to be a whiny brat who's jealous of his sibling?

  • roweantarts Aug 20, 2014

    "* The politics of Zaheer's wanting the world to be free was lessened to a great extent by the chaos that is shown in Ba Sing Se. Why wouldn't the Republic City army and police be there trying to restore order?"

    Because the Earth Kingdom isn't in the territory of the United Republic, and we've seen before that President Reico is cautious to send his armies into other territories. I suppose there's also the fact that it would take time for them to arrive, even by airship. Ba Sing Se caught fire within maybe an hour of the Earth Queen being toppled

  • serenachinglow Aug 17, 2014

    I won't be hard on Zuko and I totally understand that he can give great advice to Aang.. Zuko is a strategist differently from Sokka.. Besides, he knows politics better than Sokka does, he was the crown prince and a fire Lord.. I am sure there are some perks and advantages he can offer to Team Avatar, like the episode of the Sun Warrior, the Boiling Rock.. these two episodes showed how resourceful Zuko was to Aang.. no doubt he did a great job being the avatar's mentor and friend.

  • danield222 Aug 16, 2014

    If Tenzin dies, we riot.

  • proudz Aug 16, 2014

    Actually my favorite scene was the one where Korra tells Zuko his uncle is still alive in the spirit world. Zuko´s reaktion to that was extremely emotional. It kinda sucks that we don´t get to see more on that. It would´ve been great to see those two have a chat!

  • Jay_SunFire Aug 16, 2014

    man cant wait for next week i think they killed Tenzin although i hope not. all the airbenders should have fought if you ask me they definitely could have taken that airship out.

  • damnfo0l Aug 16, 2014

    I don't think I have ever been so worried about a character living as I am about Tenzin right now.

    Roll on next week I am pregnant with anticipation!!

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