This is the freaking best season of Legend of Korra.
I've been trying to pinpoint exactly what makes this season so great, but for now I'll just stick with my thoughts on this latest episode.
Stakeout, Episode 9
1. The SpiritsWe finally, FINALLY get to see some casual interaction with the spirits this episode.
This had been the only disappointment in Change for me. Up to now, the only spirit concentration has been in Republic City and the Air Temple. There was no evidence of these pesky new neighbors in Ba Sing Se or Zaofu. I was beginning to worry that the spirits weren't actually inhabiting the whole of the physical realm, just these select spots which, let's face it, wouldn't be quite as earth-shattering.
'Stakeout' gave us a taste of what this new world-of-two-worlds is like, with random spirits floating about their business. My favorite was seeing the barkeeper shooing spirits out of his establishment with a broom. "Only human customers!"
You've got the spirits who are merely pests, the ones trying to help that are treated as pests (really, Asami? I knew they were going to be important), and then ones like the angry hedgehog back in Republic City.
I can't wait to see how this relationship between humans and spirits progress. I have a hope that a specific spirit or just spirits in general will become key to the storyline. Worldbuilding with this new development is great, but when will we see some serious differences now that the worlds are combined?
I'll be patient, though, and this season's storyline is so interesting it's easy to be.
2. Zaheer and the Red LotusZaheer and his Red Lotus clan may be my favorite villain yet of the Avatar franchise. (Except for Zuko who, yes, I do technically count as a villain the first two seasons, even though everyone knew he'd turn into a good guy. Because he didn't. Forever. And it broke my heart. Which is totally why I love it so much.)
What I love is how close to good Zaheer is. The origin of the Red Lotus as a counterbalance to the failings of the White Lotus is such an intriguing story! In answering Korra's questions, he makes some very good points. The basis for his beliefs is sound reasoning, even if the execution of those beliefs isn't. Plus, it's all based on the words of an airbending guru. And airbenders are never the bad guys, right?
Zaheer is by far the most compelling villain yet. He's like a misguided Iroh with Long Feng's silver tongue, Aang's airbending guru-ness, Jeong-Jeong's intolerance for fools. It would be so easy for Korra to be sucked into his seductive reasoning, even if she disagrees with his methods, and that's what makes the watching so incredibly riveting.
In the past, most of the other villains have been acutely aware that they are villains.
Ozai -though his platform for the Hundred Year War was to bring the perfection and civilized culture of the Fire Nation to the rest of the world- was a power hungry maniac when it came down to it.
Ammon may have believed in his platform of equality, but he was a lying snake who ran when things started to go south. He openly terrorized people.
Unalaq may have considered his goal of opening the Spirit World portals pure, but he wound up joining with the spirit of chaos and became a Dark Avatar. Before that, he got his brother banished to steal his birthright.
See? All villainous and nefarious.
But Zaheer is different. He believes he's good. He doesn't even think he's doing anything wrong for the right reasons, everything he's doing is in the right.
I've learned as a writer that the best kind of villain is one who doesn't know he's a villain, and Zaheer has this in spades, especially with his airbending as the supposed proof he's on the right path.
Plus, he's using the open portals between the Spirit and the real worlds to their fullest, and I love that.
3. The EndingIn discussing the show with some friends, we all had some concerns that any confrontation between Team Avatar and the Red Lotus would end unrealistically. Seeing how the four Red Lotus members defeated Zuko, Tonraq, Eska, Desna, and Zuko's dragon (still flipping out about the REAL LIVE DRAGON, fyi) without breaking a sweat, we knew they would have to prove a huge challenge to Korra and her friends. It's nice to see that Team Avatar isn't endowed with some kind of unbeatable gene. The confrontations between the two groups have been kept very realistic, considering all the skill sets. It does make me curious how Korra will wind up defeating them. Or if.
*dun dun DUN*
So seeing Mako and Bolin defeated by 'Water Arms' and 'Lava Guy' was a relief and a welcome plot complication. I can hear the announcer's voice now: "Team Avatar is in dire straights! Mako and Bolin have been captured by the Red Lotus while Asami and Korra await the justice of the Earth Queen! What else could possibly go wrong?!"
Personally, I feel a little insulted on Asami's part. Korra is locked up in chains, a straightjacket, a face mask, and an immobile frame, while Asami is only suspended by her wrists. I mean, I get it. Korra is the Avatar and an awesome fighter, while Asami is a non-bender. But you remember my girl can fight, right?
For this reason I at least want to see Asami try to take out anyone who approaches their cell with some well-placed kicks. That would teach them not to underestimate her.
There was so much of my lovable Bolin in this episode -from his undercover identity to the incognito yellow rain ponchos to the Pai Sho tournament with Asami- how can it not be a favorite? I laughed more in this episode than any other, I think.
I loved, loved, LOVED Bolin's rough and tumble fans. I laughed so hard! And I thought the timing was perfect, the creators having just endured another bout of Comic-Con.
The short scene with Lin just reaffirms how much I lover her character.
Where will it go from here?
I'm not sure, and I love the unpredictability of this season so far. After discussing with a friend, I hope there's a confrontation between the Red Lotus and the Earth Queen's Dai Li coming soon. And yeah, we hope the Red Lotus win. ;)