*Cue sexy sax music to set the scene*
Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. Probably because I can’t see through your monitor. Unless we’re camming or cybersexi… er… very platonically Skyping. But that’s irrelevant.
Welcome to the first of hopefully very, very, very, inordinately very many opinion pieces by yours truly, Sharmake Abdi Bouraleh (S.A. Bouraleh)! This piece has been tentatively been named Sharmake’s Shakedown, because god-damn, it’s hard to find something that sounds phonetically similar and is snazzy and catchy.
I’m your host, Sharmake, and I’ll be your guide through my treacherous and wicked mind. This is the place for the mad man (that would be me) trying to explain to you that your assumption of a mad man having a method doesn’t apply… instead, madness is my method. Journey into the mad man’s mind, and recognize that chaos and imagination go hand in hand while we ogle OTPs, feel them feels, and cry as we have our faves killed in a manner that will keep us up for weeks, all the while writing slash and femmeslash fics to fill the voids in our withered husks of hearts.
Or maybe I’m just projecting and that’s all me.
Anyhoos, I appealed to the higher powers here at PopWrapped, and after supplying them with virginal sacrifices, blood libations, and a wonky goat or three, they’ve answered my prayers: I get to write an
opinionpiece (heavy emphasis on “opinion”) on The Legend of Korra’s Book 3. As such, if you haven’t watched the episodes or aren’t caught up yet,
BE WARNED: SPOILERS ABOUND!
Now, let’s get to the nitty gritty, eh?
Where to begin, where to begin? I want to start off by saying I think President Raiko is an ungrateful little shit and a magnificent portrayal of a politician. Friendly reminder that he was nicer earlier and I’m pretty sure Bolin saved his life. Despite this, he suddenly seems to have taken a face-heel turn and is now a baddie. I understand he's under pressure from the community to do something about the spirits and vines and stuff covering the buildings, but what did he expect Korra to do about it? She has been trying her hardest, and that’s all that could be expected of her. Raiko was essentially that back-seat driver everyone dislikes who offers tips and criticisms, but never does the driving or work themselves. Shut it, Raiko. We don’t need your sass. #ByeFelicia
Airbenders started popping out of the woodworks, including Tenzin and Kya's older brother and former commander of the Second Divison of the United Forces, Bumi. At first I was like, “Eh. This can’t be good.” But now, I’m pleasantly surprised — Bryke (the creators, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino; can you believe I spelt their names correctly without Googling it? I’m proud of myself) did well. Where they outdid themselves, however, was with the villains… or preferably, antagonists, because they’re not full-fledged villains, with enough characterization and appeal that you are torn between wanting to support them and supporting Korra’s Krew.
The bright idea appears to the Krew that they should recruit the new airbenders and reform the Air Nation. However, most of the people they come across basically tell them, "Lol no. #ByeFelicia" and it breaks Tenzin's heart. Despite this, they soldier on, looking for any willing to come along with them and learn how to be an airbender and Air Nomad at the Northern Air Temple.
This season’s antagonists, the Red Lotus as they’re later revealed to be called (though my friends and I prefer to call them the “Fearsome Foursome”, henceforth which they shall be referred to exclusively) are separated, scattered across the globe, guarded in tailor-made prisons that act as the antithesis to their bending abilities: Zaheer, the leader and sole non-bender is kept on a desolate mountain top, with guards rotating every two or so weeks (same for the other three); Ghazan, an earth and lava-bender (yes, lava) is kept in a wooden cage on a boat in the middle of an ocean, nothing but blue water for presumably hundreds of thousands of miles (I don’t know how to geography, ignore that point).
Ming-Hua, the armless water-bender (inherently fucking badass, and my personal favourite… her arms are made of water) is kept in a dormant volcano, the heat preventing her from being able to manipulate water from water droplets/vapour in the air like Hama/Katara from the Legend of Korra’s predecessor series, Avatar: The Last Airbender. And the other female member of the group, P’Li (or as my friends and I call her, Sparky Sparky Boom Woman) is a fire bender who, as her nickname suggests, has a tattoo on her forehead that allows her to fire-bend much like Sparky Sparky Boom Man from ATLA.
I like the dynamics already. In a group of four, it’s usually three males and one female, but with the Fearsome Foursome, it’s split right down the middle — Zaheer and Ghazan (males) and Ming-Hua and P’Li (females). It’s already doing a good job of equality between them, but it goes even further to be inclusive. Ming-Hua, as stated, is at a disadvantage due to her lack of upper limbs. Despite being armless, she not only to be up to par with her teammates, but in my opinion, potentially even superior. Honestly, Ming-Hua does everything.
Zaheer is freed after he, and the other 3 characters, are empowered with the newfound ability to air-bend, as an after effect of Korra’s merging their world with the Spirit World at the end of Book 2. Due to his being imprisoned on a mountain, and no provisions in place for him due to his being a (previous) non-bender, Zaheer is able to take out the guards as they're switching off after their two-week shift and escape.
He immediately heads to free Ghazan, giving him some rocks to lava bend cuts into the wooden lattices of his cage. That was pretty awesome, since Ghazan is the first lava-bender we've seen since, 1.) that unnamed fire-bending Avatar who managed to bend the lava in a volcano who presumably did it first, 2.) Avatar Kyoshi, the earth-bending Avatar who used the technique to split her island of Kyoshi from the mainland and 3.) Avatar Roku, the Avatar preceding Avatar Aang, who used it to divert lava flow when trying to save his homeland from a volcanic eruption. Note that this technique has been used solely by Avatars (as far as we know) until Ghazan. Already that should be a great big tip-off that this guy is powerful as fuck.
Great at birthday parties, slicing cakes, breaking pinatas...and sometimes bones.
Together, they head towards the volcano where the armless Ming-Hua is kept prisoner, and after taking out a few guards, they toss her a barrel full of water and crack it open, leading Ming-Hua to utilize it as prostheses and proceed to break out of her cage, swing around like an acrobat, whoop ass, toss guards over into the volcano, and look fabulous -- in that order. She exchanges banter with Ghazan and Zaheer, saying, "I never thought I'd be so happy to see your ugly mugs again." To which Ghazan replies, "Great to see you too, Ming-Hua." And thus, the ship was launched: Ghahua? Mingzan? I don't care, it set sail at that moment. They then discuss plans to break out "that girlfriend of [Zaheer's]", P'Li (aka Sparky Sparky Boom Woman), who is being held somewhere in the "icy bliss" of the Northern Water Tribe.
Meanwhile, our favourite creepy twins Eska and Desna, now rulers of the Northern Water Tribe due to their father Unalaq's death, are visited by the one, the only, Zuko! Yes, it's true, Zuko has finally made his appearance and he's got a fucking dragon with him. A DRAGON. How amazeballs is that?! Anyways, he learned of the escape of three members of the Fearsome Foursome, and has set course for the Northern Water Tribe in order to intercept and stop them. They are informed of a secret underground prison that hosts P'Li deep beneath their land (Eska and Desna expressed annoyance at their being unaware of a secret prison they could've thrown people that annoyed them into... who doesn't love these two?), and they accompany Zuko and Korra's father Tonraq to the cell somewhere in the frozen tundra.
Finally, the Krew meet an airbender willing to go with them, an orphan named Kai. After some corralling and plot, he joins them but Mako (whom I've enjoyed watching squirm at his awkwardness as he stews in his own consequences) warns him that he'll keep an eye on him, since he knows what he's capable of, which is due to him having a similar past.
Blah blah blah, more plot, and we find out that the ruler of the Earth Kingdom, according to Tenzin, "can be...demanding." Thanks to Kai being a little shit, Mako and Bolin are sent/trapped in the Lower Ring of Ba Sing Se (I honestly love saying that city's name) and by a mere co-ink-i-dink, meet their father's family. This cleverly sets up exposition by way of revealing the airbenders are being taken by the Earth Queen (Long may She reign) and conscripted to her secret regiment.
Korra meets the demanding Earth Queen Hou-Ting (Long May She Reign), who is her father and predecessor Earth King Kuei's complete opposite. Where Earth King Kuei was weak-willed, easily-controlled by Grand Secretariat Long Feng, powerless to the Dai Li and a lover of animals (he even had a pet bear named Bosco), the Earth Queen (Long May She Reign) is strong-willed, dominates her Grand Secretariat Gun, has complete control over the Dai Li, and hates animals as she is allergic. It's even implied that she ate her father's pet bear Bosco.
So Hou-Ting basically runs shit and everyone and their mama's hate her (with the sole exception of Mako and Bolin's grandmother, Yin, who is devoted to her Queen, Long May She Reign). She demands Korra retrieve her tax payments that are being held up by the bandits roaming her cities, and only then will she help Korra look for airbenders. Korra does so, with Asami's help, but ultimately the Earth Queen (Long May She Reign) cheats her and claims the Dai Li searched the entire city of Ba Sing Se and could not find any airbenders. She insisted Korra's Krew leave immediately, but Korra saw through her shit and said she wouldn't leave until she found the airbenders.
Blah blah blah, even more plot, and Kai continues to use his airbending to steal from rich people in Ba Sing Se's upper ring, only to be caught by the Dai Li for his abilities and conscripted into the army.
Zaheer, Ghazan and Ming-Hua gate-crash the Northern Water Tribe and take on Zuko, Eska and Desna, and Tonraq (who sort of just... sits there). Zaheer and Ghazan hold their own while Ming-Hua busts P'Li out of prison and scales the icy walls by turning the tips of her watery tentacle arms into some sort of scythes to pick at the ice. P'Li then fucks up Zuko's dragon's shit when it fires at her and she takes it down. They then escape in a vehicle driven by Ghazan while P'Li and Zaheer make out, much to Ghazan and Ming-Hua's annoyance (they're so sassy).
Later on, Zaheer shaves of all his hair, infiltrates the Air Temple Island, blends in with the new airbenders and his near-creepy obsession with Air Nomad culture pays off. However, he's sniffed out by Kya who deduces him to be Zaheer in a spectacular fashion, and proceeds to open a can of whoop-ass on him. Whereas Kya manages to get the better of Zaheer many times, ultimately, it takes just a couple of airbending blows to put her down for good and escape. I have several gripes about that scene, as explained here, but that was an amazing scene overall and I fucking loved it. I've been wanting Kya to fight for the longest time, and I love how clever she was about it too.
Lin Mother-Fucking Beifong (yes, that's her middle name) arrives in Ba Sing Se and warns Korra of the danger. With her and Jinora's help (who has since been able to control her astral projection spirit maneuver witchcraft thingy), Korra and the others locate the airbenders who are not hidden beneath Lake Laogai again (I love the name 'Lake Laogai' too!), but beneath the Earth Queen's (Long May She Reign) palace. The airbenders liberated, the Earth Queen (Long May She Reign) swears to bear down on Korra with the entire force of her kingdom. Hou-Ting don't play. Regardless, they escape and the plot switches its focus to Lin Beifong.
Finally, we get more exposition and character development with Lin Mother-Fucking Beifong. She's been a fan-favourite of mine since she first showed up and didn't take any crap, even from the Avatar, and now we get to know more about her. They go to Zaofu, a city constructed entirely out of metal, filled with metal-benders, and run by the matriarch of the Clan, Suyin Mother-Fucking Beifong, younger half-sister to Lin and other daughter of Toph; Suyin offers to teach Korra and Bolin how to metal bend, and while Korra successfully became the first metal-bending Avatar, Bolin is unable to do so as of yet.
Lin's got past drama with her sister, and is very bitter over it. It's also revealed that Suyin used to be an arrogant little shit who hung out with gangs in her youth, Lin wanted to become a cop to follow in her mother's footsteps, and when Suyin ran with the wrong crowd and Lin tried to apprehend her, they fought and a metal cable that Suyin repelled was snapped and sent flying back to Lin's face, ultimately causing the scar we've been wondering about forever. Suyin wants to mend bridges, but Lin isn't having it. It turns out Suyin's daughter Opal has developed airbending powers, and so the Krew checks it out.
Lin's grudge with Suyin leads Lin to overexert herself and feel sick, attempting acupuncture therapy recommended by Aiwei, Suyin's advisor and confidante. This triggers flashbacks that reveal Lin's history with Suyin and Toph, reveals the origin of her scar, and ultimately inspires Lin to settle old matters and fight with Suyin, both utilizing earth and metal. It's pretty awesome. Finally, after getting it all out of her system, she seems to warm up to the idea of making up with Suyin, even going so far as to be unusually chipper in the morning.
I literally gasped when Suyin said that bit about it being "no wonder" Tenzin broke up with Lin. That was some cold, hard ether, girl. No wonder you're a metal-bender who built an entire city out of that shit.
The Fearsome Foursome also show up in the middle of the night, having been tipped off by another member of the Red Lotus, Suyin's closest friend, assistant, and "truth seer" (utilizing the same earthbending technique Toph did to tell whether or not one was telling a lie) Aiwei. What ensues is a batshit crazy, amazeballs, "what the actual fuck did I even freaking watch" battle between the Fearsome Foursome and the Krew + Lin and Suyin. Seriously: if you haven't watched it, do so now.
They have Korra, but with Bolin's incapacitating Sparky Sparky Boom Woman's ability with a blow to the forehead (a call-back to the same thing happening in ATLA), Suyin and Lin are able to drop down and rescue Korra. The Fearsome Foursome are forced to retreat. Unaware that it was Aiwei who revealed the information, they interrogate everyone until ultimately it's revealed to be him and he flees from Zaofu, with Suyin tricking Lin into letting Korra, Asami, Mako and Bolin track him down.
Korra's Krew track down Aiwei to the Misty Palms Oasis, and they figure out that Zaheer is meeting Aiwei in Xai Bau's Grove in the Spirit World. Deeming him useless now, Zaheer throws Aiwei's soul into the Fog of Lost Souls, condemning him to an eternity of ignorance. Korra confronts him, he reveals his plan and explains the Red Lotus' purpose as an off-shoot of the White Lotus, while actually stalling to allow Ming-Hua and Ghazan time to kidnap her body. When they arrive, Ming-Hua and Ghazan roflstomp Mako and Bolin, and Ming-Hua holds both boys hostage while telling Ghazan to fetch Korra and Asami. Before he can reach them, however, the Earth Queen's (Long May She Reign) forces apprehend the girls.
Zaheer and crew decide to cut a deal with the Earth Queen (Long May She Reign), and on the way there, Bolin fraternizes with the enemy, revealing that Ming-Hua and Ghazan may have a thing for each other. He's a shipper on deck, and I have to agree with Bolin, they're cute together. I also love how Ming-Hua and Ghazan have no problem just amicably chatting with Bolin while the boys are their captives. It really serves to humanize them and show they're not just straight-out villains, but people with goals and the dedication to get them done. It was one of the nicer moments of Season 3.
The Fearsome Foursome plan to exchange Mako and Bolin for Korra, since the Earth Queen (Long May She Reign) cannot feasibly hold onto the Avatar without copious amounts of international pressure from her fellow leaders of the nations. When it's revealed that the ship with Korra on it has crashed and she doesn't have them anymore, Zaheer becomes remarkably less friendly, leading to the Earth Queen (Long May She Reign) demanding they be thrown in jail. However, the Fearsome Foursome easily defeat the Dai-Li (which pissed me off; aren't these supposed to be elite warriors with skills handed down and refined from those who were trained by Avatar Kyoshi herself?!), and Zaheer gives a TL;DR to the Earth Queen (Long May She Reign) before revealing the long-awaited and speculated subset of airbending: bending the fucking air out of someone's lungs and using it to create a vacuum to suffocate them to death. I choose to believe, however, that the Earth Queen (may She rest in peace) chose to spare Zaheer from her obviously incredibly deadly ability of sassbending. He's lucky he got off with a warning.
You just know she was talking shit: "Oh, is that the best you can do? What kind of weak-ass ability is that? Collapse my lungs or something already, shit. Weak-ass."
Looting occurs, Ba Sing Se falls into ruins, and then Zaheer basically goes (and I swear, these were his exact words), "You know what? Fuck this shit. Chasing the Avatar all over the god-damned world? Ain't nobody got time for dat. Let that heffa come to me, ya heard?!" And thus he and the rest of the Fearsome Foursome went to the Northern Air Temple to wreck some face. As he told Mako and Bolin [whom they had earlier handed over to the Earth Queen (may She rest in peace), who tossed them in the jail that Zaheer himself freed them from after "taking down" Hou-Ting (it's hilarious the lengths Nickelodeon will go to in order to avoid saying 'death' or 'died' or 'kill'/'killed', given the content of the show), he wants Korra to either give herself up to them or he'll genocide all the new airbenders.
Korra in the meantime visits the Spirit World to confront Zaheer, but instead runs into Iroh, and after she angsts about not being able to talk to her past lives for guidance, he advises her to go talk to Zuko for counsel, since he knew Aang as best as anyone. Zuko, who is about to board his dragon to take him to the Fire Nation to protect his daughter, the current Fire Lord, from Zaheer the crew tells her that Aang would probably give himself up if it meant protecting his dream. But he also cautioned her that Aang also cared for everyone and belonged to all nations, not just his interests. She thanks him, agreeing with Iroh that Zuko was helpful, and Zuko is stunned that Iroh is still about, even if not in their world.
Good old Z-Dawg keeps his word. He and the rest of the Fearsome Foursome go straight to the Northern Air Temple and straight-fuck shit up. Within minutes of getting there, they have the island under their control, and have rounded up everyone on the island. However, Tenzin essentially says, "Fuck you, I doesn't afraid of anything" and sends Zaheer, Ming-Hua and Ghazan flying with a huge air blast; P'Li stayed on the airship to act as a sniper with her consistently terrible aim. He instructs everyone to flee to the bison, while asking for Kya and Bumi's help in fending off the Fearsome Threesome in front of them.
Ming-Hua's just raring to whoop some airbender ass. Give her a reason. Go on, I dare you.
And I swear, when I saw them get into their poses about to fight, I made a mess in my pants and had to go changed them. Because holy fuck. I loved that it was waterbender vs. waterbender (Kya vs. Ming-Hua), airbender vs. airbender (Tenzin vs. Zaheer) and airbender vs. earthbender (Bumi vs. Ghazan). The match-ups were perfect. Beyond perfect. They went above and beyonce (because Beyonce is always relevant). Just take a look at this golden shit:
The fights were everything. Everything. I cannot emphasize that enough. Ev. Er. Y. Thing. Beyond flawless. However, sadly, Kya held her own for a long time and was even over-powering Ming-Hua, but when Ming-Hua busted out the six-armed-tentacles-with-endless-offshoots-that-enhanced-mobility-offensive-capabilities-and-range, it kinda took a turn for the worst. Bumi never really stood a chance as a novice airbender against a god-damned lavabender, so he and Kya were ultimately defeated and shucked off a cliff, letting go lest P'Li (who seemed to be fucking everywhere with that same grimace-y glare on her face) shot them to smithereens.
Tenzin, though. Tenzin was beyond everything. He was whooping Zaheer's ass, fodderizing (aka reducing him to absolute fodder) that little smug brat. I was rooting for Tenzin so hard. He didn't take the Fearsome Foursome's threats, incapacitated them for a bit, and then had an amazing battle with the help of his siblings until they were taken out by Ming-Hua and Ghazan's combined might. Tenzin was having no trouble with Zaheer's punk ass, but when Ming-Hua and Ghazan stepped in, he was beginning to get overwhelmed. Even then, this god-tier airbender was still managing to fend them off until P'Li stepped in with her long-range sniping forehead booming. As the scene scrolled behind a wall with the Fearsome Threesome ganging up on Tenzin, one can't help but wonder if the implication was reality: was Tenzin going to be killed?
Also, right before getting his ass whooped, Tenzin said, "As long as I'm breathing, it's not over." Why did that seem like a spectacular set-up for Z-Money to respond with something snappy like, "Well, if you insist" or "Let's see if I can do something about that" before airbending the breath out of him like he did to the Earth Queen (may She rest in peace)?
That's essentially all the relevant bits of Season 3 of The Legend of Korra thus far. But I've got a few more things to say.
I once stated, "Tell me how Ming-Hua is carrying the team and she doesn’t even have any arms." What I mean by that is exactly this: without Ming-Hua, the Fearsome Foursome wouldn’t haven gotten half as far as they have.
“Whatever do you mean, Sharmake?!” you scream, outraged. "P’Li and Ghazan and Zaheer are way more important than Ming-Hua! They’re all equally important! Why are you wanking Ming-Hua?!”
I’ll tell you why. Because Ming-Hua does almost everything. Who freed Sparky Sparky Boom Woman? Ming-Hua. Who drove the car? Ming-Hua. Who threatened the delivery guy into smuggling them out of Republic City? Ming-Hua. Who beat Mako and Bolin? Ming-Hua. Who convinced the reporter to work the radio? Ming-Hua. They would be literally nowhere without her.
I have to admit, I was laughing so hard when I saw Ming-Hua driving with her serious face on, nonchalant about how her arms were water tentacles that looked so out of place. The entire series raises more questions:
- Who taught Ming-Hua to drive? Presumably she's been an amputee (or was she born armless?) long before she was imprisoned for 13 years. Wouldn't she have been too young to drive?
- Did she drive the guards to and from the convenience mart before locking herself back up?
- Why is P'Li's aim so shit?
- Did the Earth Queen Hou-Ting (may She rest in peace) truly eat Bosco? It's heavily implied, since she paid bounty hunters to bring her poached baby bison meat to eat.
- Is Gun happy now?
- Is Tenzin dead?
- If so, how will Katara react? Kya? Bumi? Lin?
- Zuko's daughter is the Fire Lord, but what is her name?
- Who is the father of her son/Zuko's grandson, Iroh II?
- Zuko said he needs to go to the Fire Nation to protect his daughter, the current Fire Lord. Does this imply that his daughter is a non-bender like her fellow leader and former Earth Queen of the Earth Kingdom (may She rest in peace), Hou-Ting? Or is Zuko just being paternal and wishing to help protect his daughter regardless of her capability to defend herself?
- Will Bolin ever learn to metal bend?
- Suyin used to run with gangs in her youth, was vocally critical of the Earth Queen and her regime, and was close to Aiwei, as well as sending Korra and Krew straight to him in order to capture him. Could it be that she's part of the Red Lotus as some think?
- Will we see Suyin and Lin fight in tandem again?
- Has Bosco been avenged?
- Is Azula still alive? Do we hear anything about her from Zuko or maybe even an appearance?
- Is this article too long? (Yes.)
Recap:Things I Liked:
- Ming-Hua being incredibly badass.
- Kya having a couple awesome fight scenes.
- The Earth Queen Hou-Ting/her not being a push-over/facing her death with dignity, even if she was scared.
- Tenzin telling the Fearsome Foursome to fuck off.
- The Fearsome Foursome's separate prisons tailored to their exact opposite elemental affiliation.
- Ming-Hua and Ghazan being humanized by their conversation with Bolin, both being snarky/sassy, and the unspoken (implied) romance between them.
- Jinora becoming spiritually-skilled and very powerful.
- Suyin being an awesome character/metal-bender and matriarch of Zaofu.
- Seeing Toph in flashbacks and there being implications that she's still alive.
- Lin and Suyin fighting and Lin having a backstory/her scar being explained.
- Zuko. Just Zuko.
- The possibility of seeing Zuko's daughter as Fire Lord.
- All the fucking awesome fight scenes.
- Zaheer being a skilled airbender.
- Dai-Li being useless. No wonder Avatar Kyoshi is ashamed.
- Earth Queen's death. I had been hoping that the leaders of the Four Nations + Republic City President would all recognize the Red Lotus as a threat and put aside their differences in political ideologies and goals in order to come together, unify, and solidify themselves against the Red Lotus a la how the Kages in Naruto did against Tobi/Madara/Kabuto. That shit would've been golden, especially because I would've loved to see a meeting that included powerhouses such as Tenzin, Earth Queen Hou-Ting (May She rest in peace), the mysterious female Fire Lord/Zuko's daughter, Eska and Desna of the Northern Water Tribe, Tonraq of the Southern Water Tribe, and President Raiko. Tell me that wouldn't have been incredibly interesting to watch.
- Kya losing to Zaheer, despite his being a novice airbender and her growing up with an airbender (and thus presumably, hopefully knowing how to deal with them in a fight).
- The lengths Nickelodeon went to in order to avoid saying the dreaded 'd' or 'k' words, despite 1.) showing a murder-suicide of Noatok (Amon)/Tarrlok, and 2.) showing the very graphic death of Queen Hou-Ting.
- No closure with Azula, my favourite from the original series.
- My bb Tahno not even alluded to, nor referenced, nor closure on whether or not he got his bending back.
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