The Legend of Korra: “Long Live The Queen” REVIEW
Nothing makes an antagonist more compelling than when one cannot fundamentally disagree with their motivations. They cause us to look deep inside ourselves and question our own morality. The Earth Queen, Hou ting, by no means was a good person. On and off screen, she used her power to amass wealth, oppress the lower rings, conscript her citizens into military service and most of Ba Sing Se and the Earth Kingdom have fallen into poverty because of it. So the question is not “should she be removed from power,” but “how does this terrible leader get removed from power?” Zaheer has his own answer. For weeks, we have been witness to The Red Lotus’ bending prowess, their unstoppable search for the Avatar and learned the ideologies that empower them and this week we saw how far they are willing to go for those beliefs.
Shocking may be an understatement, as Zaheer makes good on his promise by assassinating The Earth Queen in a rather violent, brutal manner – air bending asphyxiation. Zaheer literally takes her breath away in one of the most impactful scenes in the entire Avatar franchise. Not enough that Zaheer says he does not recognize “Queens,” we see the level of contempt he has and reminded how dangerous this man can be. However, there is something about Henry Rollings’ performance that does not effectively capture the gravitas of the actions on screen. It’s not that he’s bad, far from it. His performance as Zaheer has been deliberately stiff causing it to miss that extra umph one expects from a central antagonist.
The death of The Earth Queens sets in motion a violent uprising in Ba Sing Se. Its citizens have been oppressed for years, the Queen has made this land ripe for revolt and that’s what happens when Zaheer sends Ghazan to bring down the walls separating the wealthy from the poor. Zaheer is a man of the people, loyal to no nation. It is in his ideologies that make him so threatening, because he causes you to challenge your perspective; especially when it comes to Air Nomad philosophy and the true purpose of the White Lotus.
On the other side of the desert, Korra and Asumi are busy escaping their Earth Kingdom Forces capturers. While being transported, Assumi uses her wit and engineering knowledge to enable their breakout. Book 3 has been great for these two, as every time they pair up fans are treated to some great action. The breakout does not go as planned, with the airship crashing into a sand dune. The Earth Queen’s issues with Korra have put her service men in a curious position. Yes they have to follow their orders, but at the same time, most of the crew doesn’t want to fight with The Avatar or be stranded in the desert for long.
Korra and Assumi have always been great independently, but pairing up more often has seemingly made them unstoppable; more so that Mako is not in the picture. Assumi uses her charms and knowledge to get them out of situations, while Korra is there to back them up when some bending muscle is needed for the more creative ventures. The Earth Kingdom Forces decide the more reasonable option of working with Korra. Just as Asumi gets the airship in order, a giant sand shark-piranha eats it, leaving them stranded again. A slight setback, Assumi puts together a sand-sailer and the group escapes back to the Misty Palm Oasis. In what has to be one of the funniest unspoken scenes, Korra and Assumi are reunited with Lin, who was chilling in the back of a saloon with Tonraq, and Fire lord Zuko. There is no time for reprieve, as they learn the Queen’s and Ba Sing Se’s fate.
Ironically, Korra thought that Mako and Bolin would help her and Assumi escape The Earth Kingdom Forces. Not only did that not happen (which the girls freeing themselves) but the brothers would not escape from Zaheer’s grasp. Zaheer used the boy’s bounty as a way to gain favor with the Queen before assassinating her, but before even that, Bolin with busy making nice with Ghazan and Ming-Hua, while tied up in the back of Zaheer’s van. One can’t really blame Bolin, Ghazan’s lavabending is impressive, often a show stopper every time he brings it out and Ming-Hue was pretty open about her time in prison; still, this exchange hammers home how likable these antagonists really are and why many will see them as liberators later.
Mako is not impressed though, constantly trying to come up with a plan to get out of their predicament. Once placed in jail, with what we can only guess are other political prisoners, Mako tries desperately to get his brother to metal bend their way to freedom. Even with the support of all the other random prisoners, Bolin is unable too. Perhaps still lacking belief in himself and the proper motivation. That motivation being Opal and or her life being in some form of mortal danger (that last part is speculation by me and mostly everyone else who watches this show.) With Ba Sing Se in revolt and still locked in prison, the brothers are left to the mercy of Zaheer, who promises to release them, only because he has a message to give to the Avatar.
The stakes continue to get higher on The Legend of Korra. Assassinations and revolutions are only the latest in a show that loves to challenge viewers by sitting comfortably in moral grey areas. The coming confrontation between The Red Lotus and Team Avatar and their allies is going be one they cannot solve with their fists alone. If you had trouble understanding why Nickelodeon didn’t know what to do with this show, the last two episodes should be evident enough. Korra is reaching for a higher storytelling standard than simple good versus evil binaries.