Korra Episode Review – K309 The Stakeout


The first digital only episode of Korra, how was it?

K309 The Stakeout


Written By: Mike DiMartino
Directed By: Ian Graham
Animated By: Studio Mir

This is an episode I have been waiting for for a while now. Ultimately the root of this episode is that we finally get the revelation of what Zaheer’s goals are, the first mention and explanation of The Red Lotus. It is this prolonged scene between Korra and Zaheer that really makes this episode, that said the rest of the episode is also very good. Some great detective work and character interaction between the members of Team Avatar with some great humour and action throughout. This was the episode that really made me go “I love where this Book is going”, I have enjoyed the early search for airbenders stuff, but the lack of info on our villains was always on my mind, now their goals bring so much to the book. We have an idea of where things are going and that makes for great speculation, which we have not had that much of this book so far.

I will start with the smallest section of the episode that being the one Su and Lin scene. A lot of fan speculation after the last episode was about if Suyin is evil or not, this episode did not really give us an answer either way. She seemed to play revealing she helped Korra off a funny and matter of fact, like she was teasing Lin rather than anything more than that. I feel like she would have kept it to herself and kept Lin guessing for longer if she was working with Zaheer. Instead we assume Lin immediately left to go and find Korra. On the other hand if we remember back to K305 The Metal Clan, Su talked at the dinner table about how the idea of a queen is outdated, which is exactly what Zaheer explains as the Red Lotus philosophy, taking down the idea of governments. This does not straight away mean she is a red lotus member, it just shows that she has a similar philosophy. We know Aiwei is close friend and he is a member and potentially Zaheer was part of the circus that Su was at (SDCC Circus photo) so there is an explanation for why she feels that way without it just being that she is a member. I like that it is a mystery, they are not drawing massive attention to it in the show, but it is a big question in the minds of most fans.

The main thing this episode will be remembered for is the Zaheer and Korra talk. Their first big confrontation, it definitely did not go how I expected it. I in no way expected it to happen in the spirit world and then I did not expect Zaheer to be so willing and open to just tell Korra everything she wanted, sure ultimately it was him telling her the truth to stall her so she could be captured in the physical world, but he did tell her things he would not tell anyone for 13 years of being in prison.  It was such a fascinating conversation, he is our main villain, but what he said did not anger Korra to make her want to take him down more, instead what he said made her think, she did not agree with him fully, but she saw his side and the point. In a way this is the best type of villain, and that has been a success of all of the Korra villains so far. Amon made her think about how she used her bending and the dynamic between benders and non benders and Unalaq made her think about her spirituality and if some of the decisions made by past Avatars are correct. The Red Lotus base philosophy is the same as the Avatar and the White Lotus, Balance, but achieved through different methods. They want balance by taking down nation divides, taking out world leaders and bringing their idea of the natural order back to the world, Chaos. They originally wanted to kidnap Korra when she was 4 to raise, train and each her in their ways so she would easily free Vaatu and bring Chaos to the world. It does make Korra and also everyone in the audience think about if that would work, we know of the many problems with the world leaders. Raiko more intent on saving his job than trying to help everyone and the Earth Queen power mad, Zaheer has a clear point here, the world has an issue with the world leaders, but he wants to take them out and not have any leaders.

What I really appreciate in this conversation is that now that we are in Book 3 Korra is mature enough to understand his points, but also argue her own. She agrees that she does not like how the leaders have done things, but that taking them out and bringing chaos to the world is not the right way to bring balance to the world. She has no answer on how to bring balance herself, but she knows this is not the way. Add to this the reveal that Unalaq was a member of the Red Lotus and planned the kidnap attempt on Korra 13 years ago and you have amazing connections back to Book 2 Spirits. It makes him so much more of a villain, that he planned to kidnap his own niece and take her from her parents all to raise her so she would not question releasing the embodiment of chaos and evil of the world. I did appreciate that Zaheer said that Unalaq doing what he did in Book 2 was not what they had planned, that was Unalaq betraying the red lotus and going out for himself, the dark Avatar was never part of the plan. It again makes you wonder how things would have played out, what would Korra be like if she was trained by the Red Lotus, she would have built in ideals, while the way she was actually raised meant she did not really form many of her own world ideals and instead we experience her form these ideals as we go through Korra the show. It really makes me wonder how she will deal with the world leaders by the end of this book, she has issues with them, but knows that to some extent world leaders are needed, but how does she find a balance of a solution. It will be a true test of how much Korra has grown.

Final thing to mention here is just the spirit powers that the red lotus seem to have. Zaheer can easily teleport to basically anywhere in the spirit world, and ability we have never really seen before. Then Zaheer was able to while in the spirit world get out a few words in the physical world to tell his friends to capture Korra, again a new skill. Even just Aiwei and Zaheer being able to meditate and enter the spirit world at will, an ability we have only seen used by avatars and we assume Iroh could use. I assume to some extent it is because the spirit portals are open and the two worlds are easier to go between. Even going back to the Unalaq reveal, did he learn dark and light spiritbending from the red lotus?

The Stakeout section of the episode is fun because we again get Team Avatar interacting as a group on their own, unfortunately again they are separated in the same episode they form again (108 When Extremes Meet). What we do get is very fun, you can really tell that these 4 characters are close friends and have a good group dynamic, they have all grown together. Mako and Korra is the easiest way to show this, Korra immediately wants to burst down Aiwei’s door, that is exactly her style, Mako straight away presents a more logical plan. In the past Korra would have just gone ahead with her plan and burst down the door, here she just agrees that Mako’s plan makes more sense and goes along with it, by the end she does go through with her plan, but only once the time is running out with the sundown deadline, she accepts Mako is the best planner in the group, but can take the initiative when she needs to. The roles of each character in the group are clear, Korra is the leader and face of the group, Mako is the strategist/planner, Bolin brings some needed humour to the group and really keeps them together as a people person while Asami is the more technical member, great with machinery and able to drive/pilot nearly anything. A really balanced group.

Mako and Korra are more serious in this episode doing the staking out, while Bolin and Asami are the light hearted ones here playing Pai Sho to pass the time. The Pai Sho scenes went on for a surprising amount of time, but I think they mean much more than just some random Pai Sho talk. The idea that you need to know your enemy to defeat them I think will come back towards the end of the book, Korra now knows the Red Lotus and Zaheer, now she may have an idea of how to beat them. In terms of the actual game of Pai Sho this episode gave us our best glimpse of how to actually play the game, we get no full on rules, but we now know the opening set up and how a turn plays out, any big Pai Sho fans will probably be annoyed that even in universe there are no standardised rules, which is played up for a great funny scene with Korra and Bolin.

The brothers get the big fight scene in the episode. Mako and Bolin face off against Ming-Hua and Ghazan respectively. It very much felt like a round 1, I think we will see a rematch at some point in the next few episodes. Mako and Ming-Hua was a fairly even, but her amazing skills allowed her to eventually get the better of Mako. I can see a clear evolution from here, Mako did not use lightning during this fight and Lightning would be the perfect way to take on Ming-Hua as water conducts electricity and because of her lack of arms it means her waterbending is always attached to her body somehow and thus weak to lightning. Bolin vs Ghazan was completely one sided, with Bolin’s earthbending only fueling Ghazan’s lavabending. The evolution I can see here is what has been set up for Bolin, him finally getting metalbending, Ghazan doesn’t appear to be able to metalbend and we know his Lavabending cannot melt metal (at least easily) so it would give Bolin a chance. Or as Bolin suggested near the end of the fight the brothers could switch opponents.

Final point for this episode is just how it leaves things off at the end. The Red Lotus have Mako and Bolin captive, The Earth Queen have Asami and Korra captive, The Red Lotus only want Korra who is held by the Earth Queen, the red lotus are anti world leaders, meaning they will be against the Earth Queen. So I can see so much potential for these two villains clashing and possibly leaving time for Team Avatar to escape and reunite. There is going to quite the PAI SHOWDOWN in Ba Sing Se coming up and I for one cannot wait to see where things go.

It is important to remember that we still have to see Opal arrive at the Northern Air Temple, see what Zuko has done since P’Li escaped and see what Lin is doing now that she knows Korra and co have left Zaofu. So while this episode set up a lot of stuff, there is also a lot of stuff going on that this episode did not touch on.

Overall amazing episode, definitely one of the best this book. Its biggest success is that it has put Book 3 in a great position, everything is winding up towards the finale. I still maintain that it is a flaw with this book that 3 of our 4 villains have basically no character and are just people with cool bending skills. P’Li, Ghazan and Ming-Hua badly need character development so we know who they are, even using their unique bending can add to their characters. A backstory of Ming-Hua discovering she can waterbend and that it can allow her arms of some kind, would be great. P’li discovering she is a combustion bender and getting that unique tattoo, it is a rare skill so she must have gone on some kind of journey to develop that skill. Then Ghazan being a lavabender again a unique skill, there must be a story there. Not to mention how they all came to join the Red Lotus.

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Comments - 6 Posts

  1. Jon Said: Comment by Jon on August 4, 2014 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    What I like about the Red Lotus is that their motivations aren’t completely evil. People can agree with Zaheer without feeling horrible about themselves. I compare this to X-Men. Zaheer being the Magneto equivalent in this case. I find myself agreeing with a lot of stuff that he tells Korra in this episode, and I also agree with Korra. I love it when the heroes and villains can be either or depending on someone’s point of view. You couldn’t get that with Fire Lord Ozai, but Zaheer brings wonderful points to the table that question the world and how it functions. I bet I’m not the only one who would want Korra to take out the Earth Queen. Maybe not full out kill her, but, like, put her behind bars for the rest of her life like Long Fang. And they can impeach President Idiot (I forgot his name/don’t care what his name is). Aang didn’t have to kill Ozai to bring peace, so it is possible for Korra to get rid of those two (the president and queen) and keep them alive.


  2. F.L.Z Said: Comment by F.L.Z on August 5, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure that if it’s the same with Fire lord or not.But maybe we get to see fire nation cause of this and maybe Mako and Bolin will find their mother’s family. 😛


  3. Denis Said: Comment by Denis on August 7, 2014 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Why doesn’t Korra just use the Avatar state to free herself and escape?
    And I’m really mad at Mako not using lightning since the Book 1?? In this episode lightning would be the perfect option for taking down Ming-Hua.


    Droc Plug Reply:

    Korra no longer has the Avatar State as the the whole cycle has been reset. She has no past Avatars to call upon. And yes it sucks that mako hasn’t been using his lightning.


    Airspeed Prime Reply:

    Korra still has the Avatar State it is just not as powerful as it once was.
    Remember Wan had the Avatar State too which is how he defeated Vaatu.


    YangChen Reply:

    Even though there are no past lives, raava can still help her



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