OK, so there’s been something that’s been bothering me about Zaheer this whole time, and this episode here tells me I wasn’t entirely wrong about what I was seeing all this time.
For the most part, you could cut this episode into two halves and been fine as it seems to tell two separate and distinct stories. In the first, Mako and Bolin need to get out of Ba Sing Se as the place starts to riot since, you know, no one is in charge anymore and the dead Earth Queen didn’t mind living off the people’s wealth. That sort of thing is bound to cause a lot of underlying tensions.
The best way out of the city is with an airship, and the brothers do manage to get one. Bolin tries to fly it, but he’s not very good at it. Mako does better because apparently dating Asami means knowing a thing or two about how to work one of those things, and that likewise means picking up the rest of the extended family in the poor section before their whole block goes up in flames. That is a little trickier because Grandma won’t leave until Mako just picks her up and carries her. From there, the airship flies off to the village where Korra and the others are holing up and Mako delivers the message: Zaheer is going to attack the wipe out the new Air Nation if Korra doesn’t surrender to him.
Genocide seems to be a bit outside of what Zaheer would normally want to do, so he may be bluffing, but he’s not really a kidder. Plus, sending a warning ahead to Tenzin doesn’t get very far when the Red Lotus is already there. That’s some bad news at face value: most of the new airbenders aren’t exactly masters of the art just yet. Some nonbending poachers? Sure! A quartet of benders who’ve been smacking everyone around without breaking a sweat? That’s a problem.
Now, it’s not like Korra just sat there when she got the news. She decided to see if she could find Zaheer in the spirit world since, well, Korra can’t talk to her past lives for help right now. Instead, she finds old Iroh, and he makes an interesting suggestion: if she can’t ask her past lives, ask one of Aang’s oldest and closest confidants before he heads back to the Fire Nation to protect his daughter, the current Fire Lord. That means going to Zuko for advice, and if Zuko’s been a rather low key character now that he’s finally showed up, he’s still getting more screentime than old Katara has.
I am beginning to think Aang’s ghost has had more to do than Katara…
But I said there was something that has been bugging me for a while now, and this episode goes a long way towards answering it: how the heck did Zaheer get so good at airbending when he’s only just gotten the skill and no one really trained him in anything like that?
The short answer is he actually isn’t a master. Most of the time, arguably, he’s done as well as he had because he was using a skill a lot of other benders don’t have experience fighting because, well, there really haven’t been too many airbenders of late. But when he, Ming-Hua, and Ghazan attack the Air Temple while P’Li takes shots from their own stolen airship, someone is gonna have to cover for the new airbenders and give them a chance to escape.
That would be Tenzin, with an assist from Kya and Bumi.
Bumi? Seriously? OK…
Now, Kya and Bumi fare poorly against Ming-Hua and Ghazan, and Kai has to act as a distraction for P’Li while Jinora tries to lead everyone else to the air bisons to escape, but that means Tenzin faces off with Zaheer.
And though Tenzin never quite wins and Zaheer gets a few good moves in…it sure does look like Tenzin, the guy who presumably has been airbending his entire life, may actually be doing much, much better against Zaheer. The only reason Tenzin ultimately goes down is because his siblings fall off the mountain (they land hard but will probably be OK), and that means the other members of the Red Lotus can gang up on Tenzin and knock the poor guy out.
Plus, all the other airbenders are captured save Kai.
You know, these folks have been presented less as evil than as idealistic, but I really want Korra to clean their clocks right about now.