The Avatar is back, once again! Following the nuclear war that was the finale of “Book Two”, the citizens of Republic City must brace themselves for another challenge to the balance of the world, one that only the Avatar can stop. A conflict of such cataclysmic proportions will inevitably leave some aftershocks for any series, and “The Legend of Korra” sees more than a few spring up, but by far the most important one, like what we saw in “Book Two”, leads to another first for the series – the return of the Airbenders!
Janet Varney returns again to voice our teenaged heroine Korra, with the regular cast of the series joining her too. J.K. Simmons is back as the voice of her Airbending guru Tenzin, with Maria Bamford again voicing his wife Pema and Kiernan Shipka, Darcy Rose Byrnes, and Logan Wells return as his Airbending children Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo. David Faustino and P.J. Byrnes are back as Korra’s Fire and Earthbending friends Mako and Bolin, along with Seychelle Gabriel (completing the new Team Avatar) as the voice of Asami Sato, and the wacky, not-quite-a-bad-guy tycoon Varrick, also returns, voiced by John Michael Higgins.
Republic City Police Chief Lin Beifong is once again voiced by Mindy Sterling, but this time, we find out more about the daughter of the first Metalbender when her estranged sister, Suyin, arrives, voiced by Anne Heche. The Fire Lord Zuko makes an appearance early on, voiced by Bruce Davison, and, as we’ve come to expect from the series, the new season adds a plethora of new characters, including the new Airbenders Kai and Opal, voiced by Skylar Bringmann and Alyson Stoner. They become the love interests of Jinora and Bolin, the Earth Kingdom soldier Kuvira, voiced by Zelda Williams (who will take on greater significance in “Book Four”), and the season’s treacherous villain who believes he’s the hero Zaheer, is voiced by Henry Rollins.
In the weeks after the Harmonic Convergence, Republic City is still repairing itself from the damage done, and adjusting to the spirit vines that now cover the entire city. The entire world is now also adapting to living with the new spirit population after Avatar Korra’s decision to keep the portal to the Spirit World open in order to better fulfill her role as the conduit between man and spirits.
Soon, the people of Republic City discover a new, even more startling side effect of the Harmonic Convergence when Airbenders spontaneously begin appearing across the globe. For years, it’s been believed that Korra, her Airbending master Tenzin and his three children, Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo were the world’s only living Airbenders, but the rumor is confirmed when Tenzin’s brother Bumi starts Airbending despite being born without bending abilities. Seeing this as an opportunity to resurrect the long-dormant Air Nomads, Tenzin sets about recruiting as many new Airbenders as he can find to train them in their newfound abilities. Unfortunately, one of the new Airbenders is the ruthless anarchist, Zaheer, who uses his Airbending skills to escape from prison with his comrades Ming-Hua, P’Li, and Ghazan, determined to achieve their goal of establishing a new world order, one without the Four Nations, or the Avatar.
Like the previous season, “Book Three” is keen to keep fans on their toes by throwing something new at them. As the title of the previous series implied, it seemed that we’d see very few Airbenders, to include the Avatar, on the show, at best. The people of Republic City aren’t quite ready to swallow the pill of a new generation of Airbenders, either, leading to one of the funniest scenes of the season when Tenzin has dozens of doors slammed in his face while trying to recruit them! With the Four Nations now populated with countless new Airbenders, the bending action takes a different approach to what the series has done in the past. To put it simply, for the first time, the show can finally pit one Airbender against another, and it doesn’t disappoint -to see two Airbenders face off, is to see two people literally throwing miniature hurricanes at one another!
Although the theme of the season is focused on the new population of Airbenders in the world, don’t think that the show neglects the other elements. Waterbending gets some of its best treatment in the series to date in the form of Zaheer’s henchwoman Ming-Hua, an amputee who replaces her missing arms with limbs composed entirely of water, and the innovation of “Book Three” doesn’t end there.
One of the greatest features of the bending arts in “Avatar” was the way that the show was able to introduce sub-systems within the various styles, which led to Toph’s discovery of Metalbending and Katara’s uneasy encounter with the dark art of Bloodbending. Although both have already had a strong presence in the show,
Metalbending approaches its zenith in “Book Three” when Team Avatar ventures to the city of Zaofu to find the new Airbender Opal, (the daughter of the city’s ruler Suyin Beifong) who just happens to be the estranged sister of Lin Beifong. The two sisters had a bad falling out years before when Lin was starting out on the Republic City Police Force, under the command of their mother (Toph, no less) who appears in a flashback voiced by Kate Higgins. What better way to solve a decades-long sibling rivalry than with a good old fashioned Metalbending duel? Amidst Lin and Suyin’s bickering, Korra also manages to become the world’s first Metalbending Avatar, but that’s just one of the sub-styles of Earthbending that the season fully exploits. Bolin has a harder time mastering this variant of his native element, but the show takes his art to another extreme. While we learned through Toph, that metal is simply purified Earth, Bolin manages to master his element in its molten form, Lavabending (as for wood, we can only assume that it represents the middle point between both extremes that no Earthbender has mastered yet).
Nevertheless, Air is very much the focal point of the season, and having a new population of Airbenders in the world, allows the creators to show the element as far more destructive than ever before. Things always get more and more intense in the last three or four episodes of every season, and “Book Three” is no exception. Tenzin’s single-handed battle against Zaheer and his cohorts in “The Ultimatum” is shockingly brutal in its Airbending action, but as always, the season saves the best for last with Korra’s battle with Zaheer in the final episode, “Venom of the Red Lotus”. While “Book Two” ended with a Godzilla-like Battle of the Avatars, the final fight of Book Three looks as if the creators saw the battle of Superman and General Zod in “Man of Steel” and said, “Let’s do that with the bending arts!” The result is truly a sight to behold…
“Book Three” continues the series’ tradition of adding something new with each season – more Airbenders, more variations of the bending arts, and increasingly impactful action sequences. The third season is probably the most violent “The Legend of Korra” or its predecessor have ever gotten, and it does that with a focus on the last element anyone would expect. On top of all of that, let’s be completely honest – Ming-Hua’s liquid arms are two of the coolest things you’ll ever witness!
The time has come at last for the final season, “Book Four: Balance” – be sure to join us for this epic conclusion of “The Legend of Korra”…
- The character Ming-Hua is voiced by Grey DeLisle, who also provided the voice of Azula, the Firebending villainess of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”. She also provides the voice of the young Lin Beifong.
- The production of “Book Three” occurred while “Book Two” was in post-production and “Book Four” was in pre-production, which saw the show’s crew working on approximately 30 episodes at once!
- The video game based on the show, released in October 2014 takes place between the events of “Book Two” and “Book Three”.