Mark Watches ‘The Legend of Korra’: S03E13 – Venom of the Red Lotus

In the thirteenth episode of the third season of The Legend of Korra, I am broken. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Legend of Korra.

Trigger Warning: For consent and nonconsensual drugging, depression.

I’m happy that the potential I saw in Korra’s choice – to sacrifice herself – mattered enough to the writers that they stuck to the premise they introduced. This is a deeply upsetting episode of television (even when it’s joyous!), but it’s all the better because of the choices made here. As I said in an earlier review, Korra continues to learn how to be the Avatar within the context of her world, and I think the decision to put her own well-being at risk in order to save the airbenders was noble and mature.

It’s also incredibly heartbreaking.

I don’t know that I could ever re-watch this episode because it was so hard to witness Korra’s suffering throughout all of this. Having a metallic drug forced into her skin just to trigger her Avatar state was bad enough, but seeing the result of that? That was a bit too much for me, but I could tell that it was meant to be upsetting. Korra wasn’t just fighting her body here, though that’s an aspect of the action here. She was also fighting apathy, which is how I read that sequence where she hallucinated Amon, Unalaq, and Vaatu as one of confidence and worth. I saw the poison as polluting her mind as well as her body, and it made the sequence all the more emotionally destructive to me.

Even when Korra broke free of her chains and began to viciously fight back against her captors, I didn’t exactly feel victorious. All I knew about Zaheer’s poison was that it triggered the Avatar state in Korra. But what else? Were there longlasting affects? Was there an antidote? How else would it affect her? Those questions haunted me as she fought back against Zaheer, especially after one of her attacks was halted by her body becoming weaker due to the poison.

And of course, this is not the only thing I have to worry about in this episode. There’s the whole subplot with Ghazar and Bolin, duking it out with lava, and then there’s Jinora and Kai’s attempts to save Korra, and then there’s also Mako fighting with Ming-Hua, and it astounds me how much happens in just one single episode. Despite that P’Li died in “Enter the Void,” though, I still felt like everyone might survive. I mean, both Kai and Tonraq were revealed to have survived their fates, so maybe everyone else would.

But Ming-Hua’s death was nearly as disturbing as P’Li’s, so I do wonder if this is something season 4 will explore. Mako killed someone, y’all! I don’t think that’s an easy thing for a person to do, and Ming-Hua died violently here. I do realize that this all contributes to the intensity of season three, so I suppose it’s entirely possible that we’ll never hear anything more about this. The antagonists needed to be taken out to provide closure, so it makes sense that they’d all die. That includes Ghazan, who sacrifices his own life because he’d rather die than ever go back to prison again. (Which fits the motif of a desire for freedom, not matter the cost.) What sort of ending would spare their lives?

Which is precisely why I was so surprised that Zaheer survived this finale. Despite being defeated and taken into custody, he doesn’t actually die. I am interested to see how this development will be addressed in season 4, though not just because Zaheer isn’t dead. Over season 3, the training of the airbenders under Tenzin and Jinora led to the climactic battle we see here in “Venom of the Red Lotus,” so it was rewarding to watch the result of that. Jinora’s creativity and leadership helped save Korra’s life when she most needed it. That’s an amazing accomplishment all on its own, you know?

At the same time, this played off my expectations for who would stop Zaheer. We’re meant to believe that any major confrontation with Zaheer would feature Korra, but the poison that he forced into her affected her more than I anticipated. That’s still the case weeks after the fight, and it makes me wonder how long these affects will last. Is Korra permanently disabled? How about her depression? It seemed obvious to me that her confrontation with Zaheer and the subsequent poisoning took a lot out of her, but that ends up being an understatement once we see how bad it really is.

Like I’ve said a million times, I appreciate that the choices the writers have made this season stuck and that we’re seeing the ramifications of the characters’ actions. Korra made a sacrifice that was significant, meaningful, and heartbreaking, and when it is contrasted with the joy of Jinora’s airbending mastery, it’s UTTERLY DEVASTATING. And I didn’t get the sense that Korra was resentful of Jinora; I imagine that Korra was thrilled that Jinora was the first airbending master in over a hundred years. But Tenzin’s speech about Korra’s service and her sacrifice was just another reminder of what Korra gave up. Is she even able to bend anymore? What about her Avatar State? She’s already lost access to the past Avatars in the Spirit World, and Zaheer made things worse for her. How can Korra find justice in the world if she can’t even get better?

That hurt to watch. It was also one of the best episodes of the entire series, and I can’t wait to see season 4. I’m currently in Europe (as of when this is posted, not when it was written) on tour, and I will do my best to get some of these done on the road. I’m prioritizing my Patreon subscribers and my Fifty Shades readings first, though, since many of those people have had to wait much longer than y’all for new videos. Thanks for your understanding and patience!

The video for “Venom of the Red Lotus” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

Please help book/finalize the Mark Does Stuff European Tour!
– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S., Canada, Europe, the U.K., and Ireland. Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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