Jul 19

Cartoon Review – Avatar The Legend of Korra Book 3: Episodes 4 & 5

The reports are in, Korra still not sucking. In other news, the Metal Clan really like their metal.

After a week’s break to celebrate America’s day of explosions and alien’s nearly destroying the planet, Korra is back for another two episodes of season 3. Otherwise known as “pleasedontsuck pleasedontsuck pleasedontsuck!” In our last outing spirits were invading Republic City from last season, so Korra bugged out of there to find new airbenders in the Earth Kingdom. They then meet a thief boy airbender named Kai, otherwise known as ‘the annoying little shit’ and they find out the Earth Queen has been taking airbenders in secret to use as her own private army. In the land of interesting subplots a mysterious prisoner of the White Lotus has also gained airbending and uses it to escape and free his other captive friends, with the last one being guarded by former Firelord Zuko, Korra’s father, and two of the badguys from last season that inexplicably still run the Northern Water Tribe. Oh and Mako and Bolin had a subplot, but no one cares about them because they’re horrible characters.

Now let’s get on with Pleasedontsuck episodes 4 and 5.

Episode 4 opens with the villains, who I’ll now just call the Red Lotus for simplicity and so I don’t have to look up their names all the time, breaking out their final member. A firebender who can shoot fire from her mind, and is also the airbender leader’s girlfriend. Meanwhile Korra and Kompany look for the airbender prisoners. When they find them Lin joins in to free them after telling them the Red Lotus has escaped. The airbenders decide to join Tenzin for air-training at the Air Temple, while Korra and Kompany go off to find more airbenders.

This was a really tight episode with lots of great action from both the break out of the Red Lotus to the break out from the Earth Prison. I especially like the way the Red Lotus has been presented so far. Extremely competent and fearsome warriors, but they all have some individual personality that makes them interesting to watch. I dear say a lot more interesting than our protagonists at times. Like when the airbender and his girlfriend are making out when they’re getting away, and the earthbender’s sat there going “do you have to do that now?”

On the flip side I don’t really care for the budding romance between Kai and Jinora, because it is both unneeded and forced in there. They’re the only two kids the same age, so of course there’s romantic tension. But that’s this series’ crutch and they really need to stop with it.

One thing I did really like was Bumi pointing out that conscription is legal in the Earth Kingdom. So the Queen has every legal right to conscript her airbending subjects into her army. Though an interesting legal and ethical issue, I’m fairly certain how she was conscripting them and also their treatment in their “training” was probably not legal. So hopefully this will come back up again, with Korra and the new Air Nation being taken to task by the Earth Nation. Though with the way the Earth Queen has been portrayed as transparently evil I’m not expecting any interesting legal vs. moral storylines.

On to episode 5. Korra and Kompany travel to the Metal Clan, an Earth City made of metal and populated mostly by metalbenders. Where they meet Lin’s sister and family. While the airbender of the Red Lotus tries to infiltrate the airbenders in Republic City and find out the Avatar’s location. Oh and Varrick, the villain from the stupid subplot form Book 2, shows up in the Metal Clan.

While the summary may be a little short just like episode 3, this time actual interesting things are done in the episode. Episode 3 was about Ba-Sing-Se, how the ruler was poorly treating it, a boring subplot about Mako and Bolin, and just feeling like a retread of better episodes from Last Airbender. Here we’re introduced to a brand new city and culture. We explore that and get some more character exploration of Lin and her family. Things we didn’t get in episode 3.

Lin really hates her family, and would rather be anywhere else than near them. There’s bad blood between her and her sister, Su, and even after thirty years Lin’s still holding a grudge. I like that it’s not an easy fix, there’s no happy families here. It’s also great to hear their mother, Toph, wasn’t the best parent. She had them from different fathers, and neither of them has ever known their father. Though I’m guessing fandom will hate another Last Airbender character wasn’t perfect at everything ever, like they hated finding out Aang wasn’t a perfect father last season. While I’m surprised they managed to get away with not only a single mother, but kids with two different fathers who never knew them. Though I’m guessing it’s easier to get away with that given the character isn’t in a recurring role and not likely to appear in the show much, if at all.

The metal city was really beautiful to see and it’s nice that this show has gotten to showcase alternate cultures again. That’s definitely a highlight of this franchise. We get some fantastic designs of how people who can manipulate metal might live. However the episode was somewhat soured by the return of Varrick. Maybe not that he showed up again, but the way the cast treated him annoyed me, like an uncle who they really didn’t want to be around. Not the guy who tried to start a war between nations, framed one of them for acts of terrorism, manipulated another’s company to fail so he could take over it, and nearly kidnapped the president. Nor did Lin, the chief of police of Republic City, try to arrest and take the escaped criminal from that city back there for trial. That just seemed like a wrongheaded way to play his return. Though given this show’s habit of forgetting the previous season it’s not entirely out of left field.

There was one other thing that happened. Opal, the airbender they were looking for and also Su’s daughter, Bolin has a thing for her. Because having a romantic interest was the one thing that could really spruce Bolin’s character up and make him interesting to watch. Not like this is his forth one in this show or anything. This is one of the problems with Mako and Bolin as characters, there’s no real effort put in to make them good characters. So what happens is that they just redo the same stuff rather than trying to grow them and make them into something worth watching.

What’s worse is that romantic entanglements are this show’s bane. They keep throwing them in there for no real reason and it ends up dragging the characters down. Their relationship stuff isn’t that interesting to watch and it quickly becomes the main focus of the character. Season 1 dragged a lot in the beginning because of too much focus on the poorly done love triangle. Season 3 so far has done well by avoiding most of it, save for these two episodes that had three separate romantic entanglements. The writers are not good at romance and need to stop, focus on the characters first and let the romance happen naturally.

Overall these two episodes were great and back on track instead of being dragged down by episode 3, like I feared. So far so good, it’s a bit of a slow burn but they’re, mostly, managing it well. I’m guessing in the next few episodes the Red Lotus will make its move on the Avatar gang. I’d like to see some good family drama between Lin and Su, and not have it revealed Su is secretly evil and the metal city is too good to be true.