In the eighth episode of the third season of The Legend of Korra, Zaheer attempts to abduct Korra. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Legend of Korra.
There has not been a major misstep this entire season, y’all. Holy shit, “The Terror Within” delivers on the promise of its title with a thrilling and creepy episode that advances the season’s arc while still shrouding Zaheer and his group’s motivations. But this episode complicates matters by revealing that Zaheer was somehow able to recruit another person to his crusade. How? And more importantly: WHY? What is so important to him about Korra that he could convince another person to betray a lifetime of trust in order to get access to the Avatar?
We still don’t know, and I appreciate that this doesn’t feel frustrating. I’m not a big fan of fictional series dangling the carrot for too long (hello, LOST), and I don’t think that’s happening here. I think the fact that Zaheer’s goal is hidden from us heightens the tension and terror. By not knowing what Zaheer wants, we are left in a state of existential fear. Sure, he’s kidnapping Korra, but for what purpose? What’s the next step? Death? Experimentation? Exploitation? WHO FUCKING KNOWS?
Thus, the abduction attempt feels a lot more urgent and scary to me because all I have to rely on is my imagination. These four criminals are clearly determined to capture Korra, and I’d almost offer that they’re desperate to get her. On top of that, there’s another aspect written into “The Terror Within” that makes this such a suspenseful episode. The writers brilliantly use Zaofu’s security against itself. How many times have we heard Suyin tell us that Zaofu is the safest city in the world? Truthfully, it is. The problem ended up being human nature, not the construction of the city. So it became instantly intense when the city sealed itself for the night and then, seconds later, we see Zaheer and his gang sneaking around Zaofu, looking for Korra. How did they get in? We ask the same question when they disappear in a matter of seconds after the fight ends. HOW??? WHAT SECRETS DO YOU HAVE?
But let’s just talk about the abduction attempt because GOOD FUCKING LORD. Look, I don’t want to devalue these characters’ fighting ability. Lin, Suyin, Bolin, and Mako are powerful benders, and yet? I constantly felt like Team Zaheer were stronger fighters. Part of that is because they bend in ways most people haven’t seen. LAVA BENDING, Y’ALL. I still can’t wrap my mind around Ming-Hua’s bending either. United, these four benders are a formidable enemy, and that makes me incredibly nervous. If it weren’t for Pabu, they absolutely would have gotten out of Zaofu with Korra. But even when Bolin and Mako begin attacking them, joined later by the Beifong sisters and the rest of the troops, I still didn’t feel like they’d be able to stop Zaheer. Maybe delay them? I had faith that Bolin would be able to strike P’Li, but could he do it in time? LOOK, I WAS VERY NERVOUS WATCHING THE FIRST HALF OF THIS EPISODE, OKAY?
And then, as quickly as they came, Team Zaheer slinks away and disappears, leaving a scorched plot of Earth and Korra behind them. It might have been a failure on their part, but it certainly frightened Team Avatar. It also destroyed the sense of security within Zaofu, which leads to the transition of the story here in “The Terror Within.” The title initially refers to Zaheer, but then becomes an uncomfortable question: Who betrayed everyone and helped Team Zaheer?
I think I figured this out right before Mako did, and somehow, that didn’t deflate from the actual reveal. Hong Li was simply way too obvious of a suspect, first of all. But that suspicion eroded upon any sort of strenuous examination because it was too convenient. How did someone so young strike up an allegiance with someone who had been in prison for most of his life? Yet even as I ask that question, I have to turn my own disbelief towards Aiwei. We know he was responsible for the betrayal, but why? Why give up everything he’d worked for? Hell, it’s not just the betrayal that stings; his exit strategy involved A MURDER ATTEMPT on anyone who followed him on his escape route!!! He destroyed any evidence that may have implicated him, too, suggesting that there must be some deeper conspiracy at work beyond the four members of Team Zaheer. What the hell is waiting for Korra, y’all???
I really thought that this episode would end with Korra being escorted back to Republic City, which was kind of disappointing. Aiwei has the answers!!! Why aren’t they going after him? AND THEN SUYIN GIVES KORRA THE GO-AHEAD TO PURSUE AIWEI WITHOUT LIN AND I CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS. Oh my god, I am so terribly eager to find out what the fuck is going here, y’all. I’m thrilled by this season, and I think this is The Legend of Korra at its strongest.
The video for “The Terror Within” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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