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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.



LEAVES ON THE WIND

– "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"?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 12/19/2014

Season 3 : Episode 13

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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...
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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.
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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.
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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.

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That was my thought.
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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.
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* 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?
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"* 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
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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.
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If Tenzin dies, we riot.
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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!
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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.
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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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By far the best episode in TLoK, after the death of the Earth Queen (we were all rejoicing).. even though the method is excruciating to watch, watching Tenzin gt beaten by the Red Lotus is so overwhelming.. I wish is not the end for him yet.. Also i am doubting the theory of Sue being the Red Lotus.. I just desperately can't wait for the two-part finale..!!! TEAM AVATAR TO THE RESCUE!!
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Korra will get there just in time and go avatar state on the Red Lotus. I'm hoping that Mako will remember that he can lightning bend so he can lend an assist.
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Does anyone else think that they downplayed the abilities of the those not in the red lotus during the temple attack. First of all I would have thought that a whole bunch of air-benders could have a strong enough wind disruption to give the airship a proper shaking if not crush it out of the sky entirely. Thereby removing the red lotus air support.

Second you would think that a retired military general would have some skills to subdue an enemy in close combat. I was assuming that Bumi was going to do some sort of jujitsu skill move when he grabbed Ghazan. But I guess they don't have that type of martial arts in their world and it was not common knowledge to them that if you cut-off the air to the brain you will pass out.

I know that Bumi has always been the wacky uncle but why cant he be like Airo, wacky most of time but kicks ass when it counts. (By the way it is awesome that he is in the episode to share his nugget of wisdom)
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I'm now completely sick of the Red Lotus being the best benders in the world for no reason. It's also starting to feel like the whole Zaheer story will be rushed and unsubstantial. I wish his master plan had begun earlier in the season, now we'll have little chance to see how Zaheer rationalises all the destruction he's causing. Also did anyone else take issue that Mako and Bolin only saved their family? How many more lives could they have saved in that airship? Still it was a pretty good episode, I actually hope that Tenzin is killed off, it feels like the right time.
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Mako isn't as soft hearted as Bolin and is practical to a fault, and as someone has said before if Tenzin dies, we riot.
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i will be devastated if he is killed off.. it is just so sad.. the only airbending master.. die without fully establishing the air nations.. all for the sake of climax and excitement.. sorry.. too overwhelming
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When Zaheer told Korra about his plan a couple episodes ago he said the 4 of the Red Lotus were supposed to be her elemental teachers as a child. Zaheer would have been the one to teach her airbending, so it makes sense that even though he isn't an airbender, he was probably studying the philosophy and movements for years in advance. That's why he's so good now.
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That does make sense. Just a bit coincidental that when their world started imbuing air-bending abilities he also got one.
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this is a perfectly valid argument for why hes a natural that ive never considered. it for some reason glazed past me when he said the red lotus had teachers that he had to have been talking about himself for air, since there were no other air benders. it explains a lot. though either way it was very satisfying watching him get it handed to him by a real air master. i was waiting all season for that balance correction.
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I believe The Red Lotus will kill Tenzin at some point, or at leat try to. He's the leader of the new Air Nation but also represents its old ways, being Ang's son and such. The Red Lotus is aiming to overthrow old political systems and Tenzin is the closest you can get to that for the airbenders. (Spanish speaker here so don't be too harsh on my english).
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Yeah! I agree. Though it is a bit childish of me to be hoping that he will survive the season.
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Everyone is hoping that!
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I agree I too have been a little annoyed with Zaheer's natural airbending ability. He's only had his airbending a couple weeks and he is already almost as good as Tenzin. I am glad in the fight between those two that Tenzin basically kicked Zaheer's butt until Zaheer's gang intervened. I still feel like Kya should have put up a better fight between Ming Hau because she has always struck me as a very strong waterbender but you can't always get what you want :) This season is WAAAAAAY better than last season and I am looking forward to the two part finale. Should be awesome!
P.S. I love Zuko and Korra's moment as well as her and Iroh's moment. It felt very naturally. Sometimes they kind of force a throwback to TLA but these two actually fit.
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I still would love to somehow get a scene between Katara and Zuko before the end of the show, don't know how they would make it happen, but I want it.
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I don't believe there going to kill Tenzin, but man he was getting beat up at the end, so it'll be interesting to see if he is even in fighting shape in the finale. I agree with you, this episode was filled with set up, and the first two acts of this episode was not that exciting, besides a few funny lines, but that third act, man that may have been some of my favorite scenes of Korra yet. I mean the action was just brilliant, he may have lost in the end, but Tenzin was not only holding his own against Zaheer, but I'd say he was winning. Everything at the air temple was awesome, and I think I will watch that whole sequence several times leading up to the finale, because I loved it. No one actually thought Kai was dead did they? Oh, and did Kai just pick his bison for life, because seeing him ride a baby bison was too cute. Looking forward to the finale, and I really hope they end this season strong, because personally I've liked it so much more than any other season of Korra. As long as it's not as disastrous as the book 2 finale I think I'll be pleased.
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Although a setup episode I still think this was better than last week. Pretty friggin' sweet bending action and animation in the end (Ming Hau's stuff in particular).
However, can someone please explain to me how Zuko being in the last two episodes wasn't cheap character recycling? Yes, it was a nice touch that he took Aang's place to counsel Korra, but firstly that's all he did (besides showing off his dragon) and secondly him randomly finding Korra in an oasis just didn't make any sense last week and it doesn't now that he'll be leaving. I don't get it.

Hopefully we'll see Korra do some good old-fashioned ass-whooping next time. P'Li's got it coming.
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I agree on Zuko. A lot of this season just felt like "let's give as many references to the original series". It's not bad but they are really overdoing it.

Also, Zuko is the firelord's father now - so doesn't *he* have an army he can send to help Korra? Seems like stopping Zaheer at the air temple would be in his best interest as well. Yet all he decides is just to go back and talk to his daughter - even though this world has radios now.

I would be disappointed if they don't at least mention something by the end of the season.
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I really hope they don' kill Tenzin. It seems like he's always fighting to save his family's life and ensure the Air nation, endlessly. Poor guy.

Zuko's scenes have been pretty underwhelming. ... I just expected him to get cooler/longer lines.

I hate that Kya isn't a stronger fighter. He mother is the best waterbender in the world, the fact that she can't even hold her own just makes her look lazy in her water bending. Katara could have won that fight, as a kid.

Also I don't like how they just outright started attacking the airbenders, aren't they hostages being used to force Korra to give herself over? If so, then why are they willing to kill the hostages? I hope she goes full avatar mode and mops the floor with them all.
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Ming Hua has to use waterbending for everything in life, it's only natural that she'd be better at it than almost anyone else. (What other water-bender could create a glass-cutter?)

P'li didn't outright attack the airbenders, she tried to stop them from leaving with her attacks, attempted to ground Kai (resulting in him falling to his supposed death, yes, but...), and then scared off the Bison.

If I'm right, and book 4 goes into the fire nation, I suspect we'll get more Zuko being badass
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When Kya and Bumi were hanging on for their lives and she shot at them... what do you call that? Honestly, it didn't seem like she was going out of her way to try to kill them, but it also seemed like she didn't care if she did as well.

We've seen Katara use the multiple water limbs too like a total badass when fighting in the third book. Idk I was just expecting more from Kya... that's all, a personal disappointment.

I think the bending overall in LOK isn't anywhere near as grand as it was presented in ATLA. They just sort of punch bend, verses the long graceful movements of bending we saw in the previous show. I think the power behind the bending then was much greater too. I remember Zuko's fire taking up most of the screen, huge waves of water being used by both Aang and Katara, and man I really miss them using swords.

I guess I'm just nostalgic for the old show.
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A lot of times, my nostalgia trumps reality.

Check Avatar again. Korra's fights are usually better, though I have to hand it to the Zuko vs Azula fight. I re-watch that time and time again and it never fails to amaze me.
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I think Kya and Bumi were considered too dangerous to be hostages.
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The best water-bender? I don't know about that. Did you see the white lotus water bender during Sozien's comet he was pretty good. But I must admit Katara is also good. She did bested Zuko's sister.
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I disagree about young Katara winning againt "water-form-arms". Her water-bending is crazy good.

They didn't want to kill the hostages. They wanted to stop them from leaving.
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but...but..but she doesn't even have any arms! how is that even fair?

i know, i know. Toph was blind and was still the best earthbender thus far...sigh.
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I'd like to see Topgh against Lava-Man. Should be very entertaining.
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I'm wondering: Anyone else having a strange feeling about how surprised Zuko reacted to hear that Iroh is living in the Spirit World? ( I mean you gotta think that Aang would have mentioned it to him at some point?)
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It was a good episode, this season definitely raise the bar.

At the end i almost do ipad-bending!... and that panel was indeed distressing.. i have to save Tenzin!... somebody... please!.. do something!. xD
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The structure of the episode was very fine to watch. A better episode than last week. From a burning city, to the desert and so on. The humor was good an at the right times. And indeed it is good to see that Mako's hair isn't always perfect.

Although I liked it to see Iron again the animation is disappointing. Perhaps because he was in my opinion better drawn in TLA. But as always Iron didn't disappoint me when it comes to good advice. And had a reason for Zuko to came back into the picture with good storyline.

The action was to my taste, bright and daring. Whether playing smarter by letting go in order to fight another day. But I was also glad that they didn't go on with Tenzins torture (can I putted it like that?).

The problem with the ending is that there are so many storylines, that it is almost impossible to give them the attention as they deserving. The group as Korra has not yet departed from the Metal City, Bumi and Kaya lie on a road, the other airbenders leaving the temple, Kai rescued by a Bison and then of course Tenzin. I do not think he is going to be killed. Not yet. It would not be logical because he is an excellent bait to lure Korra.
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I should not have read this at work before watching the episode. I can't wait now! Even if nick.com comes up choppy for me. Noooooo!
Kya loading is probably meant to balance out all the guys sucking this season. Can't wait to see Tenzin though.
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Something tells me Tenzin isn't making it out of this fight. :(

Although, they just killed off the Earth Queen. Getting rid of Tenzin would be...overkill? (Pun intended.)
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I don't get why people are so rush to assume Tenzin is dead or will be dead?

A major part of this season was Tenzin's need to *change* his ways and allow the newly formed Air Nation to be modernized and get out of his old set ways.

Killing him would be to miss the point.
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I get it Tenzin wanted to save his children and others,but I think Jinora would be better choice than Bumi to help them fight Red Lotus. I also didn't like,how she was "helpless" and Kai took over. Again I get it,she was meant to protect others,etc.

I always loved Tenzin,but now I love him even more and love the fact,how badass he was in that fight. Little bummed,how easily Kya was defeated.

Bolin was awsome,when he saw Zuko :D Zuko's daugther is Firelord? I bet we will see this at some point in show's future.
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It opened with an Inception horn blast

That alone meant **** was going down

And I think Zaheer knew exactly how it was gonna play out in Ba Sing Se, he just didn't care ('the natural order is disorder')
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Wow anyone else feel like Tenzin bit it towards the end?
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Tenzin getting pummeled was hard to watch. Something I didn't realize until this week was that Zaheer killing the Earth Queen - especially the calm, DGAF way that he did it - means that anyone could be next. They raised the stakes more than I think this show has ever done and I'm excited, though scared, to see how this season is going to end.
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I believe I'm not the only one who wanted to intervene in that last fight and help Tenzin at any cost.
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Btw, the look on Zuko's face when he heard of his uncle... touching. I can swear I saw the young Zuko on that moment.
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Good review though I felt this was as good as a penultimate episode could possibly get! I love that these characters are having real discussions, going back and forth instead of getting at each other's throats. One major improvement over Book 2 is that the characters are becoming extremely likeable.
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I agree. The previous season is a bit fast phase so it is too focused on the events rather characters. I actually think the Last air-bender movie has this problem.
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