The Legend of Korra: “The Earth Queen” Book 3 Chapter 3 Review

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“Long may she reign.”

For the rare fan of Legend of Korra that may not be familiar with its predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender, this episode probably took you by surprise with the startling characterization of the city of Ba Sing Se and its ruler. But for us Airbender fans, Ba Sing Se has long been synonymous with corruption.

When Avatar Aang and his own Team Avatar arrived in the city in Book 2 of Airbender, it turned out that the Earth King was hardly controlling the city. Instead, Princess Azula of the Fire Nation had the city in the palm of her hand by running the dangerous elite force known as the Dai Li.

Well the Dai Li are back, but appear to be firmly at the side of the ruler of the Earth Kingdom, Queen Hou-Ting. What she’s done to Ba Sing Se is pretty terrifying. As Team Avatar arrives on the airship, they take note of the layers of the city. The outer-most ring is the slums, with the city progressively getting nicer as they reach the center. This monarchy appears to be ruling a classist society.

Upon first meeting, the queen complains to Korra about citizens refusing to pay their taxes, which eventually leads Korra and Asami on a fetch-quest to get the queen’s money so that, in return, she could point them to some airbenders.

On this “mission”, the pair are attacked by a motorcycle gang. The ensuing battle is a ton of fun, with Korra and Asami continuing to be an incredibly rewarding pairing. It’s great to see Asami holding her own in battle too. That flip over the oncoming bike where she electrocutes the back rider and steals his spear had me cheering.

As the bikers ride off, their leader yells back that the people of the city deserve that money. Korra has a feeling that it’s true and now I’m hoping for another retaking of Ba Sing Se. With the spirit portals open, maybe Iroh can rejoin the fight for his city. Wishful thinking, I know.

Meanwhile, Team Avatar’s newest recruit, Kai, runs off to go on a kleptomania induced adventure in the city. He tricks Mako and Bolin to getting on a train to the slums, which led to some great moments. The brothers rarely get a storyline all to themselves these days. They just happen to run into their uncle, their father being born and raised in Ba Sing Se. He takes them to the rest of their family, including their grandmother. They share some stories about their father and Mako gives his grandmother his father’s scarf. It’s all very nice.

But the whole thing leads to one unsettling moment where their grandmother shows an undying approval of the Earth Queen. This woman has lived her whole life in the slums of Ba Sing Se. What hold does this corrupt queen have over her?

The only scenes outside the walls of the city showed Zuko and Tonraq arriving at the Northern Water Tribe to check on a prisoner. In a fun twist, the new chiefs of the North are Desna and Eska, easily the two best new characters from Book 2. Zuko describes the prisoner as a firebender with a unique bending ability marked by the “eye” on her forehead. He and Eska then share a brilliant moment where they tell of times they tried to kill the Avatar.

Zuko: “Ironically, I hired a guy with a similar ability to kill the Avatar myself once.”

*long pause*

Zuko: “Didn’t work…”

Eska: “Don’t feel bad, I tried to kill Korra after she ruined my wedding. It happens.”

We meet the prisoner only briefly, where she essentially threatens them and puts together that Zaheer is on his way. Looks like we still have one more prison break to go.

The episode closed with Kai pickpocketing a random citizen. But he makes a fatal error. By letting Dai Li agents witness his airbending, he gets captured and thrown into a cell with a bunch of other airbenders. It appears her majesty is building an airbending army. But for what purpose?

The Earth Queen set a lot of things in motion, most of which took place in the Earth capital. The layers of Book 3 are getting thicker as another villain is introduced, Mako and Bolin’s family enters the picture, and the corruption of the city is put front and center. The time spent in this city in The Last Airbender were the best group of episodes of that series. If Korra stays on track, the same could happen here. Welcome back to Ba Sing Se. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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