“The Ultimatum” (which can be seen here), may have started out as filler and comedy, but it ended in dramatic fashion that sets up the final two episodes of the season.
We picked up almost literally where we left off. Mako and Bolin were free (thanks to Zaheer) and now had to find Korra to deliver a message. Problem? She’s in the desert, and they’re in the now rioting capital of the Earth Kingdom!
Though it may not have been the most important part of the episode, Bolin and Mako’s escape from Ba Sing Se was actually very well done. First off, it showed just how bad things had gotten since Zaheer killed The Earth Queen and “set the people free”. In a word? It’s bad. Watching the fires spread from street to street, having people rob, pillage, and cause havoc really makes you step back and think, “how could Zaheer possibly think this is the natural order?”
Sadly, we didn’t get that answer. But oh well. The second thing the escapes showed was Bolin and Mako rescuing their family. I was curious before if we would see them again. And having them back was a nice touch. The grandma was again hilarious, refusing to leave her home, forcing Bolin to forcibly remove her from the premises.
With an airship (did I mention that they stole one?), and their family safe, all roads led to the desert and hopefully to Korra. The search proved to be another nice touch, even though again it wasn’t the most important part. Having the family serve as lookouts, finding the trail of the sandsail from last episode, and then the reunion at Misty Palms Oasis was all very nice…
But let’s get to the good stuff! Mako delivered the ultimatum, and boy was it grim. Zaheer, tired of chasing Korra, decided to go to the Northern Air Temple. If Korra doesn’t surrender herself to him, he will wipe out the entire group of Airbenders.
With urgency they tried to reach the Northern Air Temple, but no luck was to be had. Korra decided to go to the Spirit World to try and confront Zaheer, but in another interesting twist she met Iroh instead. It’s always nice to see Iroh, and he proved to be not only the Iroh we remember, but a true friend to Korra. Reminding her that though Aang had the Avatar State, he also had friends. Few more important than Zuko…who just happened to be nearby…
Their chat was no doubt pure bliss for TLA fans. As he recalled being Aang’s counsel for a long time. He shot straight and reminded her that though Aang’s dream was the rebirth of the Air Nation, he also knew his responsibility to the world. Stating, “No one more than Aang understood, that when the world is in turmoil, it needs its Avatar.”
Oh, and that look when Korra nonchalantly told her about meeting Iroh in the Spirit World? Priceless. And if you think about it, why wouldn’t he have that reaction? Iroh was the father figure he so desperately needed. I wonder if this may lead to a reunion…
After a hilarious exchange between Meelo and Bolin (“Did I tell you we found a herd of baby bison?” “No, you did?”), Korra delivered the warning…only to be too little too late.
Zaheer and crew took the Northern Air Temple by force, rounding up everyone in true hostage fashion. It’s here that we see the two sides of Zaheer. On one hand, he wants Korra (though we still don’t know why!!!), but on the other, it’s clear he doesn’t want to hurt them. After all, why hurt the nation that taught him so much?
This led however to one of the coolest moments in Legend of Korra history. As Tenzin proclaimed he would not stand by and let Zaheer use them as leverage against Korra. Exploding with power he blasted Zaheer, Ghazan and Ming-Hua straight into the wall, giving them all a moment to try and escape.
What transpired next were fight scenes that topple anything done this season, even the epic standoff in “The Enemy Within”. Zaheer vs. Tenzin, Kya vs. Ming-Hua, and Bumi vs. Ghazan. It’s on.
Though we’ve seen numerous fights over the years (and seasons), it’s important to note that this is the first true Airbender vs. Airbender battle we’ve ever had. And boy did it not disappoint. Both Tenzin and Zaheer gave it their all. Yet, as it should be, Tenzin dominated most of the fight. Why is this important? Well, though Zaheer is clearly gifted, Tenzin was trained by Aang for many years, and has probably trained rigorously since then. He’s the pinnacle of what an Airbending master should be. Heck, he even used the horizontal air blast we saw Aang use in the first Korra entrance. That’s what you call boss!
Don’t get me wrong, Zaheer put up a fight. But if this was Mortal Kombat or another fighting game, Tenzin would’ve won.
Kya and Ming-Hua (not to be outdone) also had an epic battle. Here though, not only did we see two powerful Waterbenders go at it, but we saw two different Waterbending styles clash. That’s important for variety sake as well as character sake. The art and animation of Ming-Hua’s “arms” was most impressive. Especially when they multiplied, and when they turned to ice. Kya was no slouch though and delivered several powerful shots of her own.
Bumi! Oh Bumi, how you entertain us so. On the surface, this may seem like a grave mismatch. But leave it to Bumi to make it a fair fight, at least for a while. Easily the least experienced bending wise, Bumi used instinct, resourcefulness, and almost childlike (ok, very childlike) tactics to gain the upperhand. You rock Bumi.
In the end though, it was all for not. As one by one they began to fall. First Kya, then Bumi, and then sadly, Tenzin. Though to further show his bossness, he continued to fight and land hits right up until the end. Even delivering an epic (and possibly foreshadowing) line, “For as long as I have breath, I will not stop”. Careful what you wish for Tenzin.
Before I wrap up, I think it’s important to highlight another character standout. Kai. Kai showed true bravery in distracting P’Li long enough to try and get the others to safety. He’s come a long way from the thief we originally met. The kids got guts, and knowingly risked his life to save everyone else. Like the others though, it was for naught, but he’s still out there as find out. He’ll be back!
In the end, “The Ultimatum” delivered both setup, stakes, surprises, and epic showdowns. However, this was not a perfect episode. With only two episodes left you have to wonder what’s going to happen, not just short term, but long term. Will this end in a cliffhanger? Or will we receive massive exposition about the Red Lotus and Zaheer’s plans?
Also, while the family was nice to see, the comedy of the grandmother quickly wore thin. Especially when she met Korra and Asami…awkward…
However, for delivering some pretty epic moments, and showing characters being more than what we knew them as, “The Ultimatum” gets my approval as a spectacular episode.