Korra undertakes a desperate plan to save the Airbenders.
With time and options nearly spent, Korra devises a last minute plan to save the Airbenders and simultaneously keep her out of the Red Lotus’ hands. One wrong move could mean the loss of Tenzin, his family, and his people. Zaheer and his cronies are smart enough to keep Tenzin around as leverage though, and Korra has no choice but to give herself up. Unfortunately, no one prepared for Zaheer’s deception: the Red Lotus faked the Airbenderhostages (the group was imprisoned elsewhere), meaning Korra walked into the lion’s den free of charge. What follows is madness.
The best thing about Bolin’s subplot is the amount of anticipation built up for its culmination throughout Book 3. He’s dying to learn metalbending, but can’t muster the skill to utilize it. He tries, only to lament in failure. A couple of episodes places Bolin in an uncompromising position; he has to attempt metalbending for the sake of others, yet the results always subvert expectation and he’s back to square one. I think this was a great way to hype us up. There are moments when you think this is the scene when Bolin will finally metalbend, only for the wool to then be pulled over our eyes. It’s easy to root for Bolin knowing that the payoff will be worth it when he does learn.
Leave it to Korra to pull another twist. Ultimately Bolin doesn’t save Mako and Tenzin with Metalbending, he stops the mass of magma by lavabending. This is even better than I could have imagined! I didn’t expect this at all, but it’s no less satisfying. Suyin was right: he does have the talent to be more than what he seems, but it’s with a power other than metalbending. And what a power it is! Lavabending is probably one of the deadliest types of bending and now one of the protagonists possesses it! I can’t wait to see more of this in Book 4. Bolin had a slightly messy story arc in Book 2, but his journey is pitch perfect here.
“Enter the Void” revealed that Zaheer hasn’t achieved full enlightenment, given that he’s “tethered” to the earth. Similar to how the guru told Aang to let go of the one person he loves the most (Katara) in order to fully achieve the Avatar State, it is Zaheer’s budding romance with P’Li that prevents him from reaching his limit. Unlike Aang who eventually found another way, Zaheer is pushed into ascension when P’hl dies a very gruesome death. This is enough for Zaheer to detach himself completely from the world and achieve the supposedly impossible: he flies. Now he never has to touch the earth ever again, he is an expression of ultimate freedom.
There’s a major problem with this scene though. P’Li’s death is supposed to be gut-wrenching and Zaheer’s pain is very real, but I wasn’t as emotionally invested in this as I could have been. Both “Enter the Void” and “Venom of the Red Lotus” does a thorough job showing the Red Lotus gang losing the battle. They’ve fought and struggled plenty of times during Book 3; you can tell they’re largely on their own against the whole world. This is a unique situation where it isn’t the heroes against an imposing opposing force, it’s the antagonists. I felt a bond amongst the four and the show occasionally depicts their friendship and loyalty. One pivotal moment in “Enter the Void” has Zaheer and P’Li share their undying love for each other in an effort to set up the tragedy later. It’s very lovely, but I would have felt more if they had emphasized their humanizing qualities. It’s there, but in miniscule amounts. The majority of their appearances are all about their mission. I wished we had more time to get to know their story and why they’re so passionate about anarchy. We get tiny pieces of P’Li’s past which hint at her motivation, but never the rest. Why couldn’t we had the four talking about things that didn’t always pertain to their goals, like friends do? I know the central conflict will always be seen from the heroes’ point of view, but with things this way we miss out on vital character development that ultimately could have endeared us to Zaheer’s team and give us an excuse to pity them at their lowest point – perhaps even to sympathize with them.
There are three minor moments that merit analyzing. The first involves Korra’s father, Tonraq. I noticed he’s receptive to his daughter and her decision to turn herself over. He’s still worried and he fights to the bitter end to ensure Zaheer doesn’t take Korra, but he’s no longer sheltering her. He understands her role as the Avatar and the sacrifices she has to constantly make. Instead of keeping her grounded, Tonraq attempts to find a balance where a method can be found that ultimately doesn’t sacrifice his daughter and anticipates the worst.
Another moment comes during the end when Tenzin eyes the ruined Air Temple. This is the same temple that Aang so fervently defended when he felt others had taken it over and defaced his culture by transforming it into a mechanical nightmare. He later approved because these people understood and embraced the Air Nomad philosophy, albeit in their own way. It’s a constant hot button issue for Aang and the episode vividly explored the passion he has for his people. One can’t imagine Tenzin that doesn’t feel the same. He used it to kick off a new Airbending society and the place obviously has a great, symbolic presence for him. To have it literally crumble into nothing and for Tenzin to lose another part of an already endangered culture is a devastating blow.
Finally, there’s an interesting conversation between Tonraq and the Metalbending soldier Kuvira. As she’s wrapping up Tonraq’s arm, the camera points directly to her face as if to indicate some significance to her character. Keep in mind she only appeared in a couple of episodes as an unimportant background character, so why the sudden camera reveal? Personally, I think it’s foreshadowing and she’ll end up playing some kind of role in Book 4.
The action here is phenomenal. Every moment is fast-paced and painstakingly well animated. Korra fighting Zaheer while her limbs are chained is an innovative display of skill. Ghazan’s lavabending is at his most aggressive, plentiful and capable of toppling an entire structure. This is what gives Bolin the chance to display an immense amount of Earthbending before he gains lavabending, compensating for a lack of his bending in action in Book 2.
Not one scene is wasted in this episode. There’s no pointless padding; everything culminates with Zaheer’s successful capture of the Avatar. Korra wakes up to find herself in a cave, chained in midair with the Red Lotus attempting to poison her. I’m amazed the show is still capable of raising the bar. While it lacks the personal downfall Korra briefly felt when she lost her bending back in Book 1 or the epic showdown in Book 2, the consistency of Book 3 makes the journey leading up to this event worthwhile. It spite of its smaller scope of this season its final cliffhanger is just as effective as the others, if not more so.