As we barrel toward the season finale, The Legend of Korra shows off how all of its characters have grown over the course of the season. The Red Lotus may be far more powerful than any one of our protagonists, but in this episode, we see how our heroes may ultimately defeat Zaheer's gang.
Last week was a very Asami and Korra-heavy episode, but this week a lot of our characters got a chance to shine. With Ba Sing Se in chaos, Bolin and Mako manage to steal an airship and get their Earth Kingdom family out of dodge.
Granny has to be taken by force, but once she is in a safe place, she wastes no time being generally adorable. This mostly takes the form of accidentally and awkwardly reminding Mako of his romantic past. I love you, Granny.
Zaheer has grown weary of chasing Korra and decides to take his gang to the Northern Air Temple, figuring that Korra will rush there to defend the Airbenders. Korra, to her credit, has a risky, longshot idea worthy of the Avatar: she goes into the Spirit World to see if she can capture Zaheer while he's meditating. But instead of Zaheer, she finds Iroh.
Korra and Iroh's conversation highlights Korra's peculiar place in the Avatar cycle. Since she can't contact any of her past lives, she has to make connections with living people. If she wants to know what kind of advice Aang would have for her, she can't ask him directly; she has to consult people who knew Aang while he was alive.
What's nice about Zuko acting as a sort of living medium between the dead Aang and the living Korra is that he reframes Korra's question through his own experience. Korra shouldn't defend the Air Nation because they are near and dear to Aang's heart; she should protect them because they are people in trouble who are in need of their Avatar. Korra emerged from last season wiser and more mature, but sometimes she needs to be reminded what it means to be the Avatar. While people like Lin are well meaning in their desire to hide her away, it's Korra's job to act as protector.
And, while it makes sense that Zuko would return to the Fire Nation to protect his daughter, I'm sad to see him go. I wanted to see that dragon in action a bit more.
Fortunately, she won't be alone. The Air Nation isn't very strong in terms of martial power, but it has become a much more unified front under Tenzin's tutelage. Tenzin is, in many ways, the perfect person to father the fledgling nation. Aang wasn't a strong father figure, but Tenzin is, and it's gratifying to see him sitting in front of his new nation of Airbenders, not cowering, but calmly and confidently addressing Zaheer. And I dig that Zaheer, for all his violence-creating philosophy, is respectful and not cruel.
It's also nice to see that, even if the characters at the Northern Air Temple aren't nearly a match for the Red Lotus, they aren't being undermined by uncertainty or petty disagreements. The Aang family is stronger than ever in the face of a more powerful enemy.
And it turns out that Kai's roguishness translates well to heroic acts. He manages to slip away even under P'Li's combusting third eye and flies off for help.
The roster of help is a strong one. In addition to our core team of Korra, Asami, Bolin, and Mako, we've got Tonraq and the powerhouse pair that is Lin and Su. (Could we also please get Varrick's electromagnet suit? I need to see that again.) It's going to take a lot of people to bring down the Red Lotus, but at least we've spent the season building our team up to the height of their confidence in each other and their own abilities.