The Legend of Korra: “Enter the Void” & “Venom of the Red Lotus” REVIEW
“Let go your earthly tether. Enter the void. Empty and become wind. Empty and become wind”
Book Three of The Legend of Korra, was not only the best season of Korra, but of the whole Avatar franchise. This Book brought Korra to new heights of animation and storytelling. It’s a shame the kerfuffle that was Nickelodeon’s mismanagement of the broadcasting and promotion of the season. Even last week, there were fans on twitter still confused on where and when to watch of remainder of the season. This is a terrible shame, given how amazing Book Three has been. This is the type of television networks love to brag about, to tout out during award season, to boast about the quality of their lineup. This season, the show runners showed they were not afraid to grow with their maturing audience. They had faith their fans could roll with the increasing darker and mature narrative and it paid off.
The two part season finale “Enter the Void” and “The Poison of The Red Lotus” are nothing short of an emotional hurricane. With The Red Lotus now in control of the Northern Air Temple, Korra is left contemplating Zaheer’s ultimatum. This isn’t something Korra rushes into and even after discussing many possible options with Team Avatar, she sees no safe way to rescue the new Air Nation without giving herself up to Zaheer. Suyin is not buying it and the team devises a plan that does not involve losing the Avatar. There are a few light moments in-between: Bolin ridiculous bird call and a cut away gag featuring Pabu, Naga and Grandma Yin are too funny.
Before going into battle, Korra has an emotional goodbye with her father and Mako finally accepts everything is going to be all right between him and Korra. It’s not just our heroes, P’li and Zaheer share a very intimate moments, recalling their past and restating their love for one another. Zaheer may be a man who wants to throw the world into chaos, but be damned if he’s not going to treat his lady right.
This season has made it clear characters can die at any moment, with the stakes so high, this makes Korra’s exchange with The Red Lotus so tense and ripe for things to go awry – and they do! Bolin, Mako and Assumi may have Tenzin, but once Ming-Hua’s water poppets melt away, their rouse is revealed. Zaheer was never planning to release the Airbenders. The resulting fights are spectacular. Ghazan’s lavabennding the entire Northern Air Temple out the face of the mountain, P’li holding off the Metal Chan and Zaheer in a brutal brawl with Tonraq fighting alongside his daughter, who is bound in platinum chains are outstanding sequences to watch. All the directors and animators need to be saluted for their work this Book, who continued to find new and more impressive ways for characters to show off their bending skill. Korra holding off Zaheer even while chained up is a sight to see and P’li’s combustion blast always gives way for tense moments.
“Enter The Void” manages to push the story forwards with many “Oh Shit” moments but also offers closer to many of the Book Three sub plots. Bolin, who spent the majority of the Book trying to metalbend, discovers he’s really a badass lavabender. The Beifong sisters make up, with Lin willing to sacrifice herself so Suyin can get an opening to take out P’li. Su makes the most of it, by encasing P’li’s head in metal armor right as she’s combustionbending. Kai gets his redemption, in the form of approval from Mako, but perhaps most shocking – Zaheer unlocks the ability to fly!
Once P’li is no more, Zaheer no longer has an “earthly tether” and is able to “enter the void.” It’s brilliantly disgusting and in line with Avatar lore. Remember Aang too had to let go of personally attachments when learning to use the Avatar state back in “The Crossroads of Destiny.” However, Zaheer’s cold rational is partly what makes him a compelling antagonist. It’s a safe bet to assume the audience reaction is similar to that of Ghazan and Ming-Hua, not knowing whether to be impressed or freaked out by these events.
Korra captured, Zaheer reveals his end game for The Red Lotus – they want to end the Avatar cycle. This leads way to “The venom of the Red Lotus” undoubtedly, physically and emotionally, the most brutal episode of The Legend of Korra. Using a metallic based poison, Zaheer hopes to force Korra into the Avatar state then kill her, thus ending the Avatar cycle and bringing the world back to how it was before Wan. Jinora is able to learn of the Red Lotus’ plan, but is still unable to do anything to stop it before The Red Lotus forcibly bends the poison into Korra’s body. Through will power alone, Korra is able to fight off the Avatar state for a time being. She imagines seeing past foes and we can interpret these are a manifestation of her worst fear – her not being needed as the Avatar.
This does not last long. Compelled by the belief her father is dead and the toxins in her body, Korra gives way to the power that is the Avatar state, breaking free from her chains. Zaheer tries to escape, but Korra is in hot pursuit, while Bolin and Mako take on Ghazan and Ming-Hua for a more even round two. The Bending Brothers, have an easier time taking out their foes. Mako whips out his lightningbending, surely frying Ming-Hua to death, while Bolin can finally fight Ghazan on even ground. Once Mako joins Bolin, Ghazan decides to end his own life, instead of heading back to prison.
The fight between Korra and Zaheer is absolutely breathtaking, an aerial battle that surpasses Aang’s legendary showdown with Ozai in the original Last Airbender finale. The camera work is amazing, especially the extended tracking shot of Korra and Zaheer clashing in the sky. Korra is pure rage, ripping apart mountains sides with the raw power of the Avatar, while Zaheer is perhaps only aided in the fight by the poison doing unseen damages to her body. This is the ultimate factor, as Korra’s body could not take the strain of trying to fight Zaheer and the poison at the same time. Thankfully, Jinora comes up with a plan to bring Zaheer down to Earth and the new Air Nation is a huge part of his defeat. Zaheer captured, Suyin is able to remove the poison from Korra in a process that looks all too painful. Zaheer may be grounded again; however, Ba sing Se is still in chaos and the threat of The Red Lotus remains.
The final minutes of the episode are gut-wrenching. Korra has always been a physically strong and intimidating character, so to see her bound to a wheelchair is truly saddening and hard to watch. But it’s not just physical damage. More than Aang, over the course of her tenure as Avatar, Korra has been in some rough spots, but never as she come this close to death before. Korra’s not well and many around her know this. While her closest companions understand she needs time to heal, others feel the world needs the Avatar to “appear” strong more than ever.
Tenzin, showing an understanding of both of these issues, reveals during Jinora’s ceremony granting her the title of Airbending Master the Air nation will return to their nomadic roots, but this time they will act as protectors of the peace in the Avatar’s absence.
Book Three of Legend of Korra is an amazing achievement and everyone involved with the production of this season should be proud of the work they have done. The final scenes of this Book are so bittersweet and ironically are slightly representative of the wonderful confusing mess that was Change. Accented by Jeremy Zuckerman’s magnificent score. As the music swells, Jinora’s new tattoos are revealed, the room filled with excitement and joy, but as the camera zooms in on Korra, the hopefulness of score instantly comes to a stop, Korra is broken, unable to embrace any of the happiness. A single tear falls down her cheek before the music comes to an abrupt stop and the credits begin to roll. It a haunting shot and leaves audience wondering is Korra going to be ok?
With production of Book 4 well under way, we won’t have to wait long to find out.