K304 – In Harm’s Way Episode Review

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The first of two episode reviews coming your way.

K304 In Harm’s Way

 K304Review

Written By: Joshua Hamilton
Directed By: Melchoir Zwyer
Animated By: Studio Mir

So with this episode we get the second part to K303 The Earth Queen.  I think it does a very good job at having a good conclusion to what was set up in the previous episode, but also leaving things open for an exciting return to Ba Sing Se or when the Earth Queen decides to strike back against Korra. Of the two episodes that aired on Friday this one definitely had a lot more action, with the stunning opening fight scene and then the breakout plan later on in the episode, but it managed to maintain a good balance and have good character moments in between these great fight scenes. It is definitely interesting that episode 3 and 4 of Book 3 make up a 2 parter just like episode 3 and 4 of Book 2 also do with Civil Wars. On the whole this one works a bit better than last Book, just because it was very connected to the plot of the Book right now while the Civil War was kind of a sideplot in Book 2. It is very much helped here that these 2 episodes have an obvious comparison to 2 episodes of ATLA that work so well together, 214 The City Of Walls and Secrets and 217 Lake Laogai. Both sets of two cover a Ba Sing Se conspiracy focused story, but in different ways. This one as I mentioned above leaves more open and does not quite have the intensity being an earlier episode, but it still manages to do so much.

I will start with the opening scene as it is the only scene involving that group of characters. This is what the build up in the last episode was for, we did not get the breakout of P’Li in the last episode, but what that did was leave you expecting a huge confrontation between two powerful groups of characters rather than just having the Red Lotus (Zaheer’s gang) appear and break her out with no real challenge. What a fight this was, a really hot way to open up the episode, there was an aggression and desperation from Zuko, Tonraq, Eska and Desna in the fight, they did not want P’Li to be released. With the later reveal that Zuko, Sokka, Tenzin and Tonraq locked up the group 13 years ago, it adds an extra layer to the fight, Tonraq has a personal grudge with Zaheer as he is the leader of the group who tried to kidnap his daughter, Zuko seemed to pair off with Ghazan so maybe he captured him. This fight makes me so excited to possibly see the original fight where the group was captured, because of the 4 who initially captured them only Sokka is no longer with us, was he killed during this conflict, is that why everyone who knows the group is so on edge at the thought of this group being out?

The present day fight was amazing for so many reasons, it really showcased how powerful Ming-Hua is as she easily beat Eska and Desna who are amazing waterbenders especially working together, then the way she so easily broke P’Li out further shows this. Then once P’Li enters the battle it is over as a contest, her combustion power just easily overpowers everyone including Zuko’s Dragon, Druk, not to mention her normal firebending was strong enough to block his fire breath. Zaheer and Ghazan played more of a background role in the fight, but they did beat their opponents, with Zaheer now with Airbending taking out Tonraq and Ghazan overpowering an elderly Zuko. They can do nothing as these super-villains simply escape. With P’Li and Zaheer sharing a kiss for the first time in 13 years. Still a lot of questions about this group to be answered, why is Zaheer the leader when he initially had no bending and how did he and P’Li get together. We do not have much characterisation for her yet, but they do seem quite opposite, he is super calm and almost emotionless while P’Li seems a bit sadistic and out to kill. I will say that I while I love the idea of this group they are very overrated as of now as characters, I have seen so much criticism of Opal as a character in the next episode, because she is bland/generic and boring, but at least we have some character focus on her,we know what she wants and a bit about her. Out of this group of 4 the only one we know anything of note about is Zaheer, the other 3 are right now just people with amazing powers and an unknown motive. They are more exciting, but exciting =/= amazing characters. As a group they are great and they are so interesting as a unit, but right now there is not much to them individually other than them being criminals with unique bending. For sure we will get an episode that explains them more, but I think we need that sooner rather than later. I just feel like the fandom at times only respects characters who are epic and exciting and are unable to appreciate a more simple character. Toph would be a great example of this she tops many favourite character polls, but has far and away the least character development of Team Avatar the only main character with an open plot by the end (her relationship with her parents), she is an amazing earthbender and is a good character all things considering, but it seems that she gets a lot of praise mainly for being awesome without the depth of others and having unfinished stories, which is fine, but creates an unusual meter for judging characters in our fandom, where Opal who is actually a very unique character in that she at a base level is simply a very nice girl with a few places to develop is criticised as generic, despite being unique as a normal character in a show full of very extreme and fascinating characters and this group of villains is seen as the second coming of the cabbage merchant for mainly having cool powers, but little character so far.

The last reference in the episode of the villains is when Tenzin and Lin explain to Korra why the group was locked up. When she was first discovered by the OWL as the Avatar when she was 4, the group attempted to kidnap her, but they were stopped. This explains fully why Tenzin and Tonraq kept Korra secluded for her whole life up until the start of the series, which is great continuity, but also creates a weird dynamic looking back at Book 2. The early Book 2 episodes were all about Korra proving to her elders that she does not need to be protected like when she was a child, she is a fully realised Avatar and should be told the truth always. This was a big moment of development for her, Tonraq and Tenzin, they were no longer keeping things from her, but this episode tells us that they kept something even bigger from her. I wanted Korra to act at least slightly annoyed at not being told this last book, I liked her mature reaction of just accepting it, but I wished she would have called out Tenzin for keeping this from her when her whole development with Tenzin last book was about Tenzin learning to trust her with everything.

After the opening scene with Zuko and co, the whole rest of the episode solely focuses on breaking the airbenders out. It makes for a great format of the episode, hot opening to get the big fight out of the way so we can focus on the big plot of the episode until the end. The brothers say goodbye to their family and return to the upper ring to tell everyone about what the Queen is doing with the airbenders. I like that this was a key aspect to the episode, the group in the upper ring would not have known what to do if the brothers had not found out about the Dai Li in the lower ring. It was a nice emotional goodbye with the brother’s family, I do hope we get to see more of them whenever we return to Ba Sing Se, I would love to know how many of their family members are earthbenders if any.

The Earth Queen herself I found to be much more interesting in this episode compared to the previous one. I was a bit confused at how she was being portrayed, part played for comedy with her ridiculous demands and part cruel borderline villainous Queen. That dual role remains here, but I have a better idea of who she is now. She had more comedy moments with the multiple animal allergy scenes, showing us that she is never going to be a physical threat to the group all of her power is in the position she has and who she can command, this is shown perfectly when she confronts Korra during the escape attempt. This scene is the best one featuring the Queen, because it is this scene where you get to see her true colours, she is a villain in this book, she is abusing her powers as the Queen and needs to be taken off the throne. The next episode has Suyin talking about how the role of a Queen is outdated with Republic City having a president and her own city just having her as the matriarch who is the leader, but not in such a formal capacity. I am super interested in where she goes this Book, she has declared war on Korra effectively, but with Korra basically a nomad for this book where will the queen actually attack and will the plot with the queen ever cross with the Red Lotus.

This plot also brings up the issue of where do the Earth Queen’s powers end. Bumi and the Queen note that she has the right to conscript any citizen of her kingdom into her army, but does this apply to minors as all of the recruits were and when does conscription become kidnapping. It is not like Kai was just walked up to and told he had to join the army, he was just grabbed on the street like everyone else. This is an abuse of her power and combined with her extorting her citizens and her greed she is not the leader the the struggling Earth Kingdom needs.

Especially when we get to see how the airbenders are being treated and trained, you can see that this cannot possibly be legal. I again request some form of explanation for why the Dai Li are even here given what happened in ATLA, but all I need is them to say that the Queen reformed them when she took power. I liked the contrast between how airbending should be trained and how the Dai Li were training the airbenders, airbending is all about freedom and creativity while the Dai Li have them captured against their will and are forcing them to all do the same move and do it full force against their fellow recruits when airbending is about fighting only for defence. These scenes are where Kai came into his own as a character.

Being in such a bad situation where he simply cannot be that cocky thief character he seems to revert to we got to see his base ideals come out, he cares about those around him and defends those weaker than him, he has no time for bullies like his Dai Li trainer nemesis in this episode. I love where his character is going and this episode does wonders for him. He sticks up for his sparring partner who is very timid, but ends up getting picked on for helping him by the trainer. It is a dark concept that the Dai Li are forcing these kids to become soldiers and are actively hurting them if they get out of line, moments like the trainer throwing more and more earth disks at Kai just for helping his friends are very disturbing moments.

Then another side of his character we get some very cute scenes between him and Jinora. Lots of blushing going on in this episode between these two and even a hug and kiss on the cheek. I love the moment where Korra now very mature about relationship stuff suggests Jinora use her connection with Kai to find him with her spirit projection ability and Tenzin is completely unaware of any “connection”. Even at the end Kai returning the favour and saving Jinora from his nemesis was very good. Finally he apologises to Mako and Bolin for running away, stealing from them and leaving them on the train, it was very sincere and I think it will mark a big change in his character, before he seemed to just use the group to find a way to go it alone, now he knows these people care about him and that he owes them so much. I doubt it will be a full 180 turn, as I still expect him to joke around a bit and be a little bit thief-like, but more a part of the group.

The last thing to really mention is the action packed end to the episode.  It is surprisingly brief all things considering, the airbenders are found basically straight away as is Kai. What I loved about the end was the amazing fight scene with Mako and Bolin against the Dai Li in the corridor, seeing such compact bending and fighting to adapt to the small corridor was really cool, the brother’s pro bending clearly paying off here. Then the airbenders joining up to hold back the Dai Li with a huge torrent of Air and the frantic escape scenes, it was just boom, boom, boom, stuff happening one after the other.

All leading to the end scene with Tenzin and the Airbenders, this is such an emotional scene as them joining him to train is his dream for his nation coming true when he never thought it would be possible just weeks ago. As the tears form in his eyes, they form in ours. Then the fact that he offered them a choice, to join him or not was great a complete contrast to them being forced to be part of the Queen’s army. They all agree and we see a future for the air nomads at last. A great optimistic way to end a very dramatic and action-packed episode.

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By:

My name is Morgan Bannon, I am a 22 Year old Male from Ireland and I am the Site Super Moderator. I have watched and been a fan of Avatar since it premiered. I am also a news post writer for the site and host the site's podcast, The Avatar Online Podcast. My strength as an Avatar fan would be just a good knowledge of Avatar Canon and characters.

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Comments - 4 Posts

  1. Avatar Wan Said: Comment by Avatar Wan on July 14, 2014 at 7:38 pm | Permalink
     

    What is the red lotus? I’ve never heard of that.

    Reply

    Airspeed Prime Reply:

    It seems to be the official name for Zaheer’s gang. The code for the Nickelodeon website names a video about the group “Red Lotus” plus added with the Book 3 imagery from the trailers of the red lotus shape it makes sense.

    Reply

    F.L.Z Reply:

    But why red?I mean if they are referring that the gang are the opposite of the white lotus then why not black?I mean the opposite of white is black not red.

    Reply

    Troy Reply:

    Maybe because they used those colors for Vaatu and Raava and don’t want want to be treading the same tracks.

 

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