The Red Lotus encounters the Earth Queen. Meanwhile, Korra and Asami are stranded in a desert.
A minor complaint about the Red Lotus is the lack of distinctive personality amongst the three traveling with Zaheer. Ghazan, Ming-Hua, and P’Li all showed promising signs of friendship and romance. There is genuine affection when P’Li reunites with her lover, while another scene had Ming-Hua lightly tease her fellow comrades. But after that, they all quickly fell into one indistinguishable lump. While “Long Live the Queen” doesn’t fix the issue, it does attempt to give the team a bit of humanity. Bolin strikes a conversation with Ghazan and Ming-Hua and they in turn act friendly and amicable.
“Long Live the Queen” shows Zaheer at his finest. He effortlessly bargains with the Earth Queen for Korra in exchange for the Airbenders’ location, terms the Queen finds acceptable. The deal doesn’t last the day when Zaheer readily kills the Queen a lot quicker than he anticipated. Either way, it’s a situation that works in his favor.
I am constantly amazed at whatThe Legend of Korra is allowed to get away with. Bloodbending’s first introduction merely had the user manipulate others like fantastical human puppets. Never in our wildest dreams did we ever think we’d see a canonical character attempt to kill another with Bloodbending. The results are as traumatic as you would expect. For years, we speculated if Airbenders could suck air out of a human being, but figured this was too dark for a kid’s show. But Zaheer uses an airbending technique to kill the Queen, and it is brutal.
Zaheer is an Airbender through and through, demonstrating serene grace. He has a patience and calm demeanor that never relents with frustration. Yet he specifically twists the Air Nomads’ philosophy to suit his own personal ideology, justifying actions that actual Air Nomads wouldn’t dare administrate. It allows him to be frightfully rational in his approach, despite his end goals. Immediately after the Queen’s murder he refuses to let Ming-Hua kill a simple radio announcer, saying he’s the kind of people the Red Lotus is trying to help. He has his limits because he truly believes in his cause. There is something terrifying about a villain who’s biggest personality trait is his persistent politeness.
With the Queen dead Zaheer delivers the rule of Ba Sing Se to its people, dismantling the walls that divided the different classes. We got a good glimpse of the lower class back in the “The Earth Queen”, witnessing an area filled with underprivileged people who had to struggle with what they got due to the Queen’s negligence. When the walls crumble, they are the first to riot. I can’t imagine the work Korra has cut out for her once she returns to Ba Sing Se.
Asami’s had a good track record on Book 3 so far, but “Long Live the Queen” may be her defining moment. She cleverly tricks one of the crew in order to free herself and Korra. When they’re stuck in the desert, it is Asami’s engineering skills that lead them to safety from a giant sand shark. Asami’s often left at a disadvantage since most of Team Avatar’s opponents tend to be Benders, but the challenges here suit her field of expertise.
What I also liked about this episode is the treatment of the ship’s crew. They’re not staged as incompetent nobodies serving under their ruler. When push comes to shove, they side with Korra and Asami because they realize the situation they’re in. Throughout the episode, they remain pragmatic and open to suggestion. When they reach civilization, the crew thanks Korra and ends things on good terms. We’re likely never going to see these people again, but I’m glad attempts were made to sympathize with a bunch of mooks. In any other show, they would always be cheap fodder for heroes to knock heads with.
“Long Live the Queen” finally gets the ball rolling, and I expect that its events have begun the climax for Book 3.