This review contains spoilers.
1.1, 1.2, 1.3 A Breath Of Fresh Air, Rebirth, The Earth Queen
The third season of Legend Of Korra does not hold back in its first three episodes. Life has changed since the Harmonic Convergence and the show wastes no time in throwing us right into the middle of the biggest change of all: namely, that random people all over the world have suddenly gained the ability to airbend, including Bumi.
Tenzin mentions this during the episode, but to reiterate it here: I wish desperately that Aang had lived to see this. Granted, I do not ultimately believe that this turn of events could’ve taken place had he still been alive; faced with the same choice as Korra, Aang would’ve almost certainly chose differently than she did, and the outcome would’ve been entirely different. It’s incredibly sad that only Korra would’ve made the choices that allowed events come to pass that Aang so desperately wanted to see.
This leads Korra and Tenzin to round up Team Avatar and fly around the world trying to recruit the new airbenders to go to the air temples and learn their history and culture. I can’t blame them for it, because of course this is wonderful news for those who want to honour their “spiritual” heritage, but they forget one very important thing that I’m so glad one of the new airbenders points out to them: these people may be airbenders, but they’re not air nomads. The two groups definitely overlap, which is why it’s understandable that Korra and Tenzin would make such a leap, but think of it this way: not all members of the fire nation are firebenders, and since there is intermarrying between the elemental groups (like Aang and Katara or Bolin and Mako’s parents), residency/citizenship doesn’t rely solely on element of birth, either. The point is: the culture of the air nomads might be something that some of the new airbenders might readily take on by choice, but it’s not something that is inherently theirs by default.
They do manage to recruit one new airbender, a young child named Kai who they quickly discover is wanted by the police for being a thief. But by that point, Bolin is already referring to Kai as his “little brother” and Korra sees similarities between him and his “adoptive brothers.” Unfortunately, she turns out to be pretty wrong about him: he continues to steal despite no longer needing to (and I think that is what ultimately differentiates him from Mako and Bolin in my mind: although the crime of stealing is the same either way, Mako and Bolin stole in order to survive whereas Kai keeps doing it even once his needs have been provided for; ultimately, he just comes across as a little kleptomaniac instead of a sad orphan).
Team Avatar heads to Ba Sing Se to recruit more airbenders and, if this episodes have one weakness, I’d say it’s this: as exciting as it was to head back to a familiar city, it’s just as disappointing to find a storyline that is strongly reminiscent of the original show. We have an incompetent ruler who concerns themselves with shallow things and the Dai Li being corrupt and shady as all get out, as opposed to when Aang came to Ba Sing Se and found… well, exactly that, basically. Right down to people being secretly taken and held captive. Obviously it’s not exactly the same as the last time (seems like less mind control so far, but we’ll see), but it’s close enough that I have to give it a bit of a side-eye because it feels like treading the same path as before.
It does, however, give Bolin and Mako a chance to meet their family, which is huge and loving and I’m not going to lie to you: a very huge part of me wants them to stay there, at least for awhile. Family is clearly important to them, given not only their loyalty to each other but also how readily Bolin claimed Kai as his “brother.” The two of them deserve to know where they come from and it’s really nice to see them amongst so many people who are delighted to welcome them home.
And finally, we’re introduced to the presumed Big Bad of the season, a prisoner named Zaheer who gained airbending through the Harmonic Convergence. He uses his newfound powers to break himself out of prison and then set about freeing his old pals from their respective high security prisons so that they can destroy the White Lotus and the Avatar. So just how bad are these guys? Well, they all have secret high-security prisons designed just to keep them from bending their way to freedom and when they start breaking out, Fire Lord Zuko (!!) himself hops on his dragon and flies to the northern water tribe to stand guard.
Aside from my one little complaint, these were three really good episodes of Legend Of Korra. The pace was brisk, but not rushed, and the idea of late-onset airbending is interesting and opens up a lot of new doors. Last season really let me down and I made no secret of that, but this season is shaping up to be really great. I can’t wait for the next episode.