Review: The Legend of Korra – Book 3, Episode 10

I’m pretty sure that forcing us to wait a week for more Korra is now officially in violation of our eighth amendment rights. Cruel and unusual punishment indeed, Bryke.

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So I think it’s fairly obvious why Nick decided to make LoK online exclusive. There is simply no way this week’s breathtaking twist could have aired under a Y7 rating. The series has been pushing its way out of “kid-friendly” and into YA territory for a long time now (definitely since the S01 finale), and I think we officially shattered that barrier this week. Which is fantastic for American animation as a whole, of course (it’s rare to find an animated U.S. series that isn’t for kids and isn’t a comedy), but also fantastic for the world of LoK, because damn, this episode really laid the groundwork for a fantastic Third Act.

I’ve spent a lot of time in these reviews discussing themes and story, and I think there’s a lot we could talk about regarding the nature of revolutions, as this week’s “liberation” of Ba Sing Se was a decidedly conflicted moment. On the one hand, it’s incredibly satisfying to see the Earth Queen dethroned and those walls (and the social stratification they represented) finally come down. On the other hand, it was accomplished through cold-blooded murder by a man whose “new order” is no order, and by the end of the episode the city had predictably dissolved into violent chaos.

The relatively smooth and surprisingly successful American Revolution is such a huge part of our cultural milieu that it’s sometimes easy to forget that most revolutions fail, badly, and the ones that succeed generally do so because there are at least a few people with blueprints and tools, ready to build new structures out of the ones that have been torn down.

Zaheer may believe that the natural order is disorder, but humanity has never really lived that way; as demonstrated in Zaofu, even the smallest unit of society (the family) develops a hierarchy, either by popular choice or personal force (and often by both). Without someone to rebuild from the rubble, Ba Sing Se is all but guaranteed to fall back into tyranny, whether that’s through mob rule or powerful individual(s) stepping in to fill the power vacuum left by the Earth Queen’s demise.

All of which is just an extended preamble for what I really wanted to talk about: Team Korra and the challenges facing the Avatar. Korra and Asami’s escape from prison and trek through the desert brought home a point the series has been building to for a while: Korra is a lot like Zaheer, in that she is much better at destroying things than at creating them. This has been true since the first Book, of course; the difference now is that Korra seems to be more aware of these faults and failings, which leads to two major developments in her character.

First, she actually apologizes when she breaks stuff (I counted three “I’m sorry”s this week). And second – and much more importantly – she’s willing to delegate, allowing those around her with the proper skills and experience to handle the tasks she herself cannot do. We saw this to some extent last week when she let Mako lead the hunt against Aiwei, and this week we see it with Asami, who takes center stage when she first repairs the airship and then builds a sand-sailer out of the wreckage.

Asami is one of those builders that are so important for revolutions, a person who can take broken pieces and reassemble them into something functional. She’s a vitally important person for a “wrecking ball” like Korra to have at her side, and it speaks to both Korra’s self-awareness and her growing strength as a leader that she knows this and defers to Asami in these moments.

Whether intentionally or unconsciously, Korra seems to have surrounded herself with “builders,” in fact, as I’d argue that Lin, Mako, and Bolin are all people who restore order either through force or persuasion. Recognizing and acknowledging one’s weaknesses is the first true step to wisdom, and while I suspect it will be Korra’s job to take out Zaheer, I also suspect it will be her friends and allies who step up and help salvage a future from the wreckage of Ba Sing Se. Neither job will be easy, to be sure, but the past few episodes have shown that our team just might be up to the task.

This, That, and the Other

  • Favorite Moment: Bolin chatting with Ghazan and Ming-Hua about what they did in prison to keep from getting bored. It was a wonderfully humanizing moment for our Big Bads, and proof that Bolin’s real strength isn’t his earthbending, but his ability to sympathize and make friends with just about everybody. 
  • Holy hell, sandsharks are freaking terrifying, you guys. Not Koh The Face Stealer Terrifying, mind you, but still, pretty freaking terrifying. 
  • Team Bryke do such a wonderful job of imbuing One-Off Side Characters (such as the airship crew and the old prisoner) with personality and life. You get the feeling each character has an entire backstory written down somewhere, and that richness makes you care about them even though you’ve only just met them. 
  • So remember how last week I was complaining about Grandpa Zuko’s absence? Well, someone must have heard me, because our dragon-riding rockstar is back. Of course, now I’m worried he’s going to die in the upcoming throwdown, so… *chews fingernails anxiously* 
  • I try to be all calm and rational in my reviews, but don’t think for an instant that means I’m not flipping out like a wild fangirl while I’m watching the show. I swear, half my notes this week were in all caps, and I distinctly remember shouting “No, damn you, you do NOT get to end!” when the credits started to roll. 
  • And speaking of all-caps fangirling, THIS SHOW IS SO GOOD, YOU GUYS, IT’S SO FREAKING GOOD, WE NEED TO TELL ALL OUR FRIENDS AND THE ENTIRE WORLD HOW FREAKING GOOD THIS SHOW IS.
    *Ah-hem*
    I sort of thought this might happen (it took A:tLA the better part of 26 episodes before it really hit its stride, too), but I never expected the leveling up of story and character to be quite this dramatic. Seriously, what is it about the Earth Kingdom that brings out the best in the Avatarverse?
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