My favorite part was seeing Aang's kids in action!
[7.6/10] I was all ready to call this a table-setting episode, and in fairness, much of it is.
The first act is basically just the story of how Mako and Bolin meet up with Korra. There’s some interesting details to that. I love that Bolin listens patiently to his grandmother’s protestations that she’s not leaving her house, and eventually just throws her over his shoulder and takes her out of the burning building (along with the rest of his family). I also appreciate the detail that his grandmother takes a picture of the queen with her, again, something that makes the world feel more lived in. And getting scenes of people looting Ba Sing Se adds consequences to Zaheer’s actions, and there’s some humor to be wrung from Mako lamenting that people are so ready to be thieves while Bolin declares “let’s steal this airship!”
But most of it is an excuse to get the brothers from Point A to Point B, with a fairly convenient means for them doing so to boot. I’m not really complaining -- some piece-moving needs to happen on a show like this -- but it’s one of those places where you can see the seams.
The same goes for the middle act, which is mostly a “what should I do?” reflection for Korra. Typically, I love these sorts of scenes. The calm before the storm and indecision and self-questioning are catnip for me for these “chosen one” stories. But something about the execution here felt perfunctory. Sure, it’s nice to see Iroh again, but him popping up as a spiritual guide once more is becoming a crutch.
At the same time, while there’s a thrill in seeing Kora and Zuko interact (and learn that Zuko has a daughter who’s the Fire Lord!) his presence and advice-giving also feels convenient. I like the idea of him filling the role of the past-Avatars and giving Korra advice. He accurately relays Aang’s philosophy of having a special kinship with the air nomads but also wanting to be an Avatar for all people. But something about the whole interaction still feels like an admirable attempt at giving character depth, but also some wheel-spinning before the major fireworks start.
That said, the third act is filled to the brim with (nigh-literal) fireworks. The skirmish between Tenzin’s crew vs. Zaheer and company is one of the best animated, paced, and edited battles the Avatar-verse has ever produced. For one thing, it gives us what I believe is the first true airbender vs. airbender match up we’ve ever seen. But more than that, it jumps from fight to fight, holding the tension of each of them, whether that’s Kya struggling to survive Minghua’s assualt or Bumi improvising (and biting) his way through a fight with Ghazan, or the Kai and the other airbenders ducking and diving attacks from P’li.
It’s the old Star Wars trick of giving you multiple action sequences and jumping between them to maintain the excitement. It works here, not only because each sub-battle is cool and unique on its own terms, but because it tells a larger story of our heroes being overwhelmed. The thing that stands out in Zaheer’s assault is how much better the bad guys are, how convincing they are as attackers who leave our heroes scrambling and overmatched. For a show where the good guys seem to always make it out relatively unscathed, I actually worried that the show would kill off someone big here (and Tenzin’s “as long as I’m still breathing” makes me think we’re headed to a Potter-esque mentor moment), which is a sign of how TLoK has really heightened the sense of conflict here.
Overall, while much of the episode feels like marking time and getting all the players in place for the grand finale, the third act is a virtuoso bit of action from the show, that provides one of the most compelling set pieces in the entire Avatar-verse.
How does Zaheer who literally just got his power can beat Tanzin who is a master & has been air bending his whole life? This is little far fetched & bad writing.
Korra must willigly give herself over to save the air nation. Resembles Christ going to the cross.