Joey Sack ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The latest episode in The Legend of Korra, “Long Live the Queen,” sees Team Avatar split into two captive groups, with both parties on their way to Ba Sing Se; Korra and Asami are in the custody of the Earth Queen’s forces, while Mako and Bolin are hostages of the Red Lotus. There are several aspects that make this episode one of the best this season. Let’s see: Korra and Asami working as a team with Asami having subtle moments to shine? Check. Funny and serious moments with Mako and Bolin where Mako tries to build his little brother’s self-confidence? Check. An awesome fight between the Red Lotus and the Dai Li? Check. One of the darkest moments in the entire Avatar franchise? Check, check, and definitely check.
The episode starts with Korra and Asami being taken by airship to be delivered to the Earth Queen, though they soon find themselves stranded in the Si Wong Desert with a damaged airship and a mysterious moving creature circling them beneath the sand. While that’s going on, the Red Lotus, with Mako and Bolin in tow, head to meet with the Earth Queen with their own agenda. After learning what the Red Lotus wants in the previous episode, you know that something is going to happen in Ba Sing Se, but you don’t know what.
To see Asami and Korra work together to solve their problems is great to see, and their subplot shows how essential to Team Avatar Asami really is. Sure, she can’t bend, but her quick thinking and technical know-how are what keep Korra from being taken to the Earth Queen, and she comes up with two plans to get everyone out of the desert. While it’s not much, it’s enough to keep this daughter of a diabolical genius from being just another member of the team.
Mako and Bolin’s subplot is both humorous and serious, because while they are in a jail cell in Ba Sing Se, Bolin is there, so there are bound to be some funny moments. Mako knows that they need to get out of their cell so they can save Korra from the Red Lotus, and tries to convince Bolin that he has it within himself to finally metalbend. The scenes with the two bending brothers are brief, but they still add to the plot in some ways.
But the main focus of this episode is the Red Lotus, who offer to tell the Earth Queen the location of “her” airbenders in exchange for custody of the Avatar. Zaheer continues to be a really interesting character to watch. The way that he is able to go from a kind, charismatic and sage-like man to a brutal, unforgiving anarchist really keeps viewers on their toes; they know that if someone makes one wrong move around him, this philosophical warrior just might go berserk. But at the same time, he can be kind to the people he wants or needs help from, telling his fellow Red Lotus member Ming-Hua not to hurt a man who finds himself in her water tentacles (“we’re here to help people like him, not hurt them”). It’s also great to see this new airbender continue to develop his airbending skills; whenever he uses airbending, it’s a real treat, because we’re seeing someone use airbending in a particularly aggressive manner. As a general rule, airbending is the most peaceful of the four elemental bending arts, so to see someone use it as aggressively and to such great effect as Zaheer is an exciting thing to behold.
That being said, however, the other members of the Red Lotus are not as fleshed out as they could be; P’Li, the combustion bender and Zaheer’s girlfriend, has a bit of a personality, though not much. Ghazan, the lavabender, has a couple of impressive bending moments and even some funny lines, as does Ming-Hua, the armless waterbender. But these three members of the Red Lotus feel more like henchmen than fully developed villains. With the original series, even the new villains for each season were often very developed characters: you understood why Zhao was the way he was, and you felt badly for Mai, Ty Lee, and even Azula, to a certain degree. But with the Red Lotus, the only one you feel a real connection with is Zaheer, because, even with his twisted idea of balance, he is very philosophical and shrouded in quite a bit of mystery, even though you know more about him now than you did when the season began. While it’s not necessary to learn more about the other members of the Red Lotus, it would be nice, so you could feel like this was a group that worked off of each other and were actual friends, and not just members of a secret society who work together out of necessity.
One thing that’s worth bringing up is the number of episodes remaining in this season: three. If the creators and writers are following the same set-up as the first two seasons, then the story arcs with the Red Lotus and the new Air Nation are going to be resolved in just three episodes (two if you count the two-part season finale as one episode). However, this might not be the case, since the team behind this show knows how many episodes they have of this show left. There are several ways that, at the moment, this season could end: First, the story is resolved too quickly, leaving fans disappointed in the wasted potential of these villains and new characters. Second, the story is resolved, but only partially, leaving threads from this season left over in the next and final season. Third, the story isn’t resolved at the end of this season, and fans wait with baited breath for the conclusion. Since this season takes place mostly in the Earth Kingdom and Ba Sing Se, one can’t help but draw parallels to Book Two: Earth of Avatar; that season ended with our heroes defeated and with the bad guys on the verge of absolute victory.
Could this season end in a similar way? Given how great this season’s story has been, it wouldn’t be surprising if they wanted to keep it going. Maybe they could make the entire Red Lotus the main villains of the next season, with Zaheer and his team being dealt with this season, which would fit into the claim that each season would have its own villain and story. If the Red Lotus could have members as prominent as a truth seer in Zaofu and the recently deceased Chief of the Water Tribes, it stands to reason that they have members in every walk of life and in every corner of the World; it would be quite easy to make the final season be about a war between the Red Lotus and the White Lotus and to set it up in such a way that would increase the hype for the final season considerably.
“Long Live the Queen” is yet another great episode for The Legend of Korra, and might go down in history as one of the darkest in the entire Avatar franchise. The Red Lotus means business, and fans will be waiting with anticipation to find out how much business they mean in next week’s episode “The Ultimatum,” as well as the two-part Book Three finale on August 22nd, “Enter the Void” and “Venom of the Red Lotus.”
Overall Episode Grade: A-/A