The Legend of Korra: “In Harm’s Way” & “The Metal Clan” REVIEW
Since the beginning, the Avatar franchise has never been one to sugarcoat things. Some problems can’t be broken down in terms of good or evil. Both The Last Air Bender and The Legend of Korra are wonderfully complex and that’s part of the reason by they are loved by viewers of all ages. This week’s duo of episodes tackles tricky political situations and the dramatics of family.
The first episode, “In Harm’s way”, begins and ends with a prison break. One by a group of heroes, one by villains. It is important to remember both are illegal and there will be consequences, but its in the nuances as to why we view these two events completely differently. The first is done by Zaheer and his Gang. It’s a great sequence and we get a chance to see how dangerous this group of benders really is, having no problems taking on Tonraq, Eska, Desna and Lord Zuko during their assault on the secret White Lotus prison to free their last member P’Li. While we still do not understand the full extent of Zaheer’s plans outside of wanting to kill the Avatar. We do learn some of his history. Zaheer and friends tried to kidnap Korra 13 years ago. It was only through the combined efforts of the previous Team Avatar did his plan failed. However, now that he’s a bender, Zaheer feels more righteous than ever. Zaheer is the reason Korra lived a sheltered life growing up and part of the reason why her father and Tenzin were so reluctant to initially let her travel to Republic City way back in Book One.
It is because of this, Lin sets out to find Korra, warn her about Zaheer’s escape and bring her back to Republic City, where Lin feels she can protect her better. Korra says no, vowing to complete her promise to help Tenzin find new Air benders. Plus there are the issues of Kai missing and the Earth Queen building an Air Bender army that need to be taken care of. As bad as that might sound, Bumi points out, the Queen is well within her legal right to “conscript” her citizens into Military service, meaning Korra and team will be in the wrong for any action taken against her. Bumi himself was drafted into the United Forces, so this isn’t a new concept for the world of Avatar. It may seem as if Ba Sing Se is always doing something shady, but one can never truly call the actions taken by its leaders now or in the past “evil.” The Queen may be extorting the lower ring, but as with Long Feng, she is doing what she feels is best to protect The Earth Kingdom.
How Team Avatar finds the Queen’s secret holding facility of Air Benders is thanks to Jinora and her spiritual projection ability. Tenzin’s oldest first performed this back in the Book Two finale; however, it was never really explained what exactly she was doing or the mechanics of her powers. Many fans were confused by this and for good reason. Revealed in the Book Two commentary for the episode, co-creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino admitted they themselves don’t really know what Jinora is doing or the rules of her new powers. They kind of threw in there during the revision process. While Jinora herself here tries to gives an explanation here, it still comes off as the show runners saying “we still don’t really know how this works, but we’re going to roll with it.”
The second prison break mirrors the first, showing how effective Team Avatar is when they are all working together. Once again, Melchior Zwyer does a great job directing the action. Bolin, Mako, Kai and Jinora fighting Dai Li in the cramped corridors of the prison features some great shots and bending action, while Korra and the newly freed Air Benders creating a wall of wind to hold off the Earth Queen is simply damn impressive to watch.
Korra may have the Air Benders she was looking for, but one has to wonder if the Earth Queen will make good on her threat to declare war on the Avatar. Given her issue back in Republic City, one can bet President Raiko will not be happy about this.
The second episode, “The Metal Clan”, picks up not long after Korra’s group separates from Tenzin. In Book Two, we learned Aang, maybe wasn’t the best of parent when it came to his non-Air bending children. In “The Metal Clan” we get an extended look at Toph’s family. It is here we are introduced to Suyin, voiced by Anne Heche, Lin’s younger half-sister. Toph was always the free spirit in the original Avatar series and it looks that she continued that way well into adulthood. Su very open about the fact she and Lin have two different fathers or that neither sister knew their father, but that didn’t stop Toph from giving the girls all the freedom their mother never had plus more. Still, there was a fallout and the two haven’t seen each other in thirty years. Su founded the metal city of Zaofu and started a family, four sons and a daughter, Opal – the Air Bender.
Lin has always been one of the best characters on the show and Team Avatar’s time in Zaofu adds more layers to her being. Lin is having no part of this “adventure” and is not trying to reconnect with her sister. Lin never really put up with the gang’s antics but she’s shorter tempered and is ready to snap with every conversation here. There is more to her anger towards Su than she or her sister are letting on. Lin knows she’s lashing out against everyone, but for whatever reason, she can’t stop herself from doing so.
Opal on the other hand, is the least interesting part of the mix. It’s not that she’s a bad character, but compared to the rest of Su’s children, she’s kind of bland. All her beats being the sweet, kind of awkward daughter, who’s now an Air Bender, smitten with Bolin and just wants to know her estranged aunt, but is hurt when said aunt won’t open up to her, are kind of predictable. Still, it’s nice that Korra gets to meet another girl her age. As she pointed out in the season opener, she’s lacking in the female friends department. Also, Varrick (along with Zhu Li) is back and his lines are as great as ever!
Back in Republic City, Zaheer continues his search for the Avatar, by infiltrating Air Temple Island. Unlike the rest of the new benders there, Zaheer shows great skill and understanding of his new abilities. Because of this, his cover is blown once Kya recognizes him. It’s a short, but action packed fight. Zaheer manages to get the upper hand and escape, but not before Kya shows off some slick water bending moves. I also appreciate the small touch of her calling for support, while still chasing after Zaheer. In most shows, its something a character wouldn’t do. Zaheer is extremely dangerous and Kya understand this. Her asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but more sounding an alarm.
It’s crazy to think that after two weeks we are already roughly half ways through the season. Still Book Three has been damn impressive so far. Fans that felt put off by Book Two’s long build or Korra‘s general lack of globetrotting compared to The Last Air Bender will have plenty to love here.