The Legend of Korra: “Ultimatum” REVIEW
By the end of The Empire Strikes Back, it appeared our heroes were done for. The Rebel forces’ were in retreat, Cloud City was now controlled by the Empire, Solo frozen in carbonite and Luke’s father cut his hand off. By the end of “Ultimatum” Korra and allies are in no better position. Team Avatar is separated, Ba Sing Se is in chaos and The Red Lotus assault on the Northern Air temple is absolute. However, In Empire and with “Ultimatum”, a shed of hope remains.
Book Three has been some of the best work the team has done with The Legend of Korra, from its animation to story. There have been more moral greys, political ramifications and brutal action than anything they have done in the past. It’s easy to see show co-creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, along with the rest of the staff, have faith the audience would roll with the increasingly more mature show, especially with “Long Live The Queen” and now “Ultimatum” providing truly shocking and frightful moments. It’s easy to understand how Nickelodeon could have trouble incorporating Korra into its lineup. But damn, television needs shows like Legend of Korra. The vast majority of American animation is filled with crude humor or comedic shorts. Shows that challenge viewers’ expectations and push the boundaries of animation are few and far apart.
Clearly, there is no love lost for the late Queen and the majority of the citizen of Ba Sing Se. The city has given way to chaos, with wide scale looting and uncontrolled fires burning throughout. Everyone from palace guards to normal citizens rush to help one another grab anything they can carry, doesn’t matter if it’s bolted down or not. Amidst the madness, Mako and Bolin are wondering how to escape Ba Sing Se and warn Korra about Zaheer’s next move. The brothers come across an airship currently being ripped apart by citizens. Mako’s attempt to commandeer the ship with his police status goes unnoticed; however, Bolin is able to remove the looters with promises of better treasure in the palace. The brothers have the ship but the looters have done a number to it, including ripping out the radio.
Before leaving the city, the brothers make a stop to rescue their recently discovered family. Their grandmother is refusing to leave her home, even as the city burns around them. What happens next is truly a wonderful scene, with Bolin making an impassioned speech about home being where family is and their grandmother being as stubborn as possible, but in the most adorable old person way ever, as the rest of the family watches as the building slowly catches on fire. Bolin takes the initiative and forcibly removes grandma before the building collapses. Their family safely onboard the airship, the brothers fly off to find Korra. The search appears daunting, but retracing Korra’s last known position, the brothers are able to find her crash site and follow her tracks back to the Misty Palm Oasis.
Since his introduction, some fans have criticized (often times fairly and unfairly) Mako as being a generic pretty boy love interest. While I’ll argue that is not a fair assessment of his character, Book Three has given Mako critics much to enjoy. Throughout the Book, many great comedic moments have come at his expense, which continue once the brothers reunite with Korra and Assumi. Mako is still not sure how to act around the girls, even in a moment of pure joy and excitement. Even funnier, the brother’s family does not know about Team Avatar’s group dynamic or history. so Pabu and Naga are just random scary animals to them. However, the crown jewel, Grandma meeting Korra and Assumi and instantly asking Mako “why he’s not dating any nice girls like these two?”
Reunited, Mako and Bolin deliver Zaheer’s message to Korra – either she surrenders herself to The Red Lotus or he’s going to destroy the new Air Nation. It’s hard to tell how much of this is bluff, given Zaheer’s past comments condemning the previous Airbennder genocide, but with his actions against the Earth Queen, we know he’s willing to end life to advance his goals. With no long wave radio to contact Tenzin, Korra tries to find Zaheer in the spirit world, instead running into Iroh, who shares with her his sagely wisdom to speak to Zuko. The old Fire Lord is as helpful as his uncle said, reminding Korra the avatar’s job is to the whole world not just one nation. The team heads to Zaofu to use the radio there, but by then their warning is too late, the Red Lotus had arrived.
The next seven minutes feature some of the tensest action seen all season. Konietzko and DiMartino have previously stated they always wanted to feature an Airbennder as a villain. We get to see why – Tenzin vs Zaheer. The son of Aang won’t simply sit down and let the new Air Nation become hostages. With his siblings at his side, Tenzin fights the Red Lotus so the others can escape. For the first time, Zaheer has met his match. Tenzin is a true Airbennding master and puts the Red Lotus leader on the defensive. Bumi and Kya, are not having as easy a time, with Ghazan and Ming-Hua giving them a tough fight. Even with most of the Red Lotus busy, the Airbennders are still trapped by P’li occupying the skies. Kai tries his best to distract her, so the group can escape. However, nothing goes as planned. Bumi and Kya are soundly defeated, sent hurling over the mountain side and Kai is shot out the air. Tenzin on the verge of striking Zaheer with a devastating blow is prevented by the Red Lotus’ overwhelming odds.
Even as The Red Lotus continues to attack and his defense breaks down, Tenzin does not give up. He makes his stand, vowing “as long as there is breath in my body” to never give up, given a Zaheer’s track record a bold thing to say. Tenzin’s fate is left unanswered as the Red Lotus resume their brutal assault, as the camera pans away.
Like the last scene in The Empire Strikes Back, where Luke, Leia, C-3PO and R2-D2 watch as Lando and Chewbacca fly off in search of Han in the Falcon, “Ultimatum” ends with the element of hope. Kai is alive! Saved if only by chance, the scamp is awakened by one of baby Sky-bison he discovered a few episodes back. Wasting no time, he mounts the bison and flies off into the sunset. While the possible loss of Tenzin could be one of the biggest blows, there is still hope Team Avatar can recover from this defeat.