Legend of Korra: Book 3, Episode 11, “The Ultimatum.”

Worse cliff hanger ending, EVER. By ever, I mean it did a fantastic job of killing me with the idea of having to wait for the resolution next week.

I found the organization of the episode kind of off, compared to other episodes, in that instead of interweaving the events of the episode such A story on, then B story, then A story, it really was Episode Part 1 and Episode Part 2, complete with an ominous ending to Part 1, “It’s too late, they’re here…” At which point, we get a new episode entirely about the fight at the Northern Air Temple. To a degree, I actually found that jarring, but with regard to the content of the episode, I don’t think you could have done it any other way without lessening the pulse pounding excitement (and fear) of the battle between Tenzin, Kya and Bumi versus the Red Lotus.

The shots of Ba Sing Se falling apart were beautiful in their tragedy, as it seems the Queen was the tyrannical linchpin that kept the city’s society in place. When the soldier threw his hands up and joined the looting, it showcased that fragile nature of the system that had rotted away (perhaps well established by the return of the Dai Li and the use of secret, interior tunnels and rooms beneath the city – literally, it was rotting from the inside out). I would have loved to have seen a scene or two of the residents of the Upper Ring running for their lives or to retain their possessions – my theory is that those departing airships may have well been some of those folk.

Speculatively speaking, Ba Sing Se’s chaos will have to be addressed in some form in the season finale, even if to setup a problem that perhaps the Metal Clan/aka Suyin will help step in and repair/fix/rebuild.

When the airship landed at the Misty Palms Oasis, nearly crushing Zuko’s dragon, I imagined a conversation between Mako and Bolin, “Where should we land? There, how about next to the DRAGON?” Bolin’s quip about landing was a nice touch. For much of this segment of the episode, it seemed Granny Lin (Lin, right?) served to help lift some entertainment out of the show having to shift gears in preparation of getting everyone everywhere they needed to be for the finale. “Radio won’t work – must go to Zhao Fu!” Not really interesting. “We can’t reach the Northern Air Temple on the radio!” Again, still kind of not very exciting. Yet, nearly every transition we had Granny punching the moment with some kind of amusing statement, “I’ll take a nap!” “Why aren’t you dating nice girls like these?” “You have large muscles for a girl…”

Zuko remains kind of muted for the most part, somewhat disappointingly. He kind of just stands there when Mako and Bolin arrive, reacts hardly at all to Bolin’s fanboy freak out (great stuffs), and then we see him saddling ol’ Dragon Bessie ready to go. To be fair, I’d assume he has some kind of living legend status, so perhaps he’s used to fanboys (or girls) fawning over him. Likewise, he’s at least in his 80’s, he’s an old man now…but probably the best moment was his reaction to learning that Korra had spoken with Iroh. WHEN IS HE GOING TO GO TO THE SPIRIT PORTAL TO SEE HIM? Ahem. I suppose it’s a case of too many actors on stage, but I feel that he hasn’t been as animated/interesting as he could have been – something that the elevator scene was essentially the opposite of.

Korra’s visit to the Spirit World and encounter with Iroh was fun, though, interesting that they would have him serve again as a spirit guide for Korra at a critical moment. It was great that they acknowledged that Korra no longer had the ability to fall back on previous avatars – is Iroh (and other spirits?) going to become new sources for Korra to rely upon for advice? And teapots…do they just randomly show up in the spirit world? I never turn down a moment with Iroh, even a non-Mako voiced Iroh, so it was still a pleasing diversion. I have to believe that since Zuko came up in the conversation with Iroh and Iroh came up in conversation with Zuko, they’re sitting us up with the eventual meeting.

The battle at the Northern Air Temple. One thing that kept popping up in my mind when Tenzin fought Zaheer (the fight we’ve all been waiting for) was that one man taught himself to air bend / the other was trained by a solid link to the air nation of the past – Tenzin learned from a master who had been taught by master monks. This is the son of Aang! Tenzin appeared to have the edge, forcing Zaheer on the defensive over and over, using techniques and forms that Zaheer hadn’t previously used in any of his earlier fights. It was awesome. In a straight up fight, it appeared the Zaheer would have ultimately lost his battle with Tenzin. The only other fight between the two that I’m hoping to see is the battle of philosophies, a debate concerning what the air nomad guru, the apparent inspiration for Zaheer, really meant in her words. A number of people have guessed that Tenzin will die this season, I don’t think that’s going to happen, if only because the show hasn’t setup his death. Wait, you say, we last saw him surrounded by the Red Lotus, being pummeled, possibly to death and he defiantly states, “It’s not over until I stop breathing.” Guess who stopped breathing last episode? I do think it’s obvious they aren’t going to kill Tenzin off screen, but they’re going to beat him to an inch of his life. If he’s beaten to an inch of his life, he will be too hurt to fight any further and thus, will be more of a bystander in the ultimate show down. If he does die, then it’ll be the moment Korra rushes to his side – he won’t die without her nearby. Will Zaheer pull the Earth Queen trick on Tenzin, using him as the first air bender to die for refusing to surrender? That’s my bet, money’s down, otherwise Tenzin lives, albeit beat to heck.

It’s a statement to Tenzin’s belief in Bumi’s fighting experience that he asks Bumi to help fight the Red Lotus, when all the other air benders of similar training were sent away. It seemed really that poor Bumi was more about staying alive than actually fighting, at least, until he got a good bite in. Kya, awesome as ever, and her move snapping the ice blade and flinging it back at Ming-Hua was slick (in more ways than one – ha ha, eh, sorry). At least they put up a fight longer than Mako or Bolin.

Kai. Well, he’s definitely won me over, and he’s kind of setup to be a neo-Aang. He’s a little older, but there’s a lot of Aang’s boldness and appearance of a young air bender fighting against larger odds that struck me. (Granted – I’m re-watching ATLA at the moment). It seems the secret to surviving in the world of Avatar is to fall into impenetrable clouds – You will always survive. I did wonder if Jinora was going to have a chance to “avenge” Kai’s apparent demise by some kind of awesome spirit rallying call or some kind of spiritual attack of sorts – but not yet, at least.

Despite the way the episode was structured, I definitely enjoyed it. We have the Metal Clan security prepping to join Team Avatar’s counter-attack, and if Zhao Fu is any sign, this addition to Team Avatar should provide the overwhelming force of talent and numbers needed to bring down the Red Lotus – which seems too easy. The stakes remain high with the air benders under the control of the Red Lotus and Ba Sing Se in chaos. All that’s left is to wait and watch.

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