[This is a review of The Legend of Korra season 3 premiere. There will be SPOILERS.] 

Amid the controversial whispers of why The Legend of Korra season 3 (Book 3: Change) premiered ahead of schedule, one might wonder if the quality of the series would suffer for it? Fortunately, team avatar has never looked better in this spectacular three-part premiere.

It’s still too early to say how the show’s ratings will be affected, with such a short window for the network to promote the new season, but for fans (this reviewer included) seeking answers from last year’s thrilling finale, this is a blessing we didn’t see coming. With nearly 90-minutes of content to feast our eyes upon, it’s now time to start asking new questions about what awaits our heroes in this new era of change.

The first episode, titled ‘A Breath of Fresh Air,’ sets our players in motion as we’re introduced to a Republic City two weeks after the great battle between Korra and Vaatu/Unalaq. It was a joy to watch Korra use her air-glider to get around the city (Aang would have been proud).

Advancements in technology have always been a focus during Korra’s stay in the metropolis, and unlike her predecessor, she has to worry about poll numbers and talking to the press every time she tries to help people. Tenzin’s pep-talk is emotionally stirring, as the wise airbender informs Korra that her role is not that of a politician, but as a savior who is supposed to bring balance to the world.

According to Tenzin, that balance has shown up in the form of new airbenders scattered across the Earth Kingdom. Korra’s banishment from the city could not have come at a better time, as many of you have been looking forward to exploring the various kingdoms again. Republic City was a brilliant creation by creators/executive producers Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino; bringing to life a sprawling city set in a roaring twenties jazz-age atmosphere provided a backdrop for some great adventures.

With that being said, Tenzin’s words hit home, as the Avatar is not just the protector of one city. It’s time for her to meet the rest of the world.

At the end of the first episode, we are introduced to a new villain named Zaheer (Henry Rollins). Harmonic Convergence has given this dangerous criminal the ability to airbend. What’s interesting is how much control Zaheer has over his new gifts.

The miscreant claims that “instinct is a lie,” or an excuse not to discover one’s true potential. Is our new antagonist more focused and disciplined than the other individuals who have just learned of their new power? Well, whatever the case may be, Zaheer is one intimidating dude, and his three companions appear to be equally ferocious as their leader.

The last two chapters of this stellar premiere, titled ‘Rebirth’ and ‘The Earth Queen,’ showcase why The Legend of Korra is king when it comes to action set-pieces.

One of Zaheer’s companions, a woman named Ming-Hua, has what is one of the more spectacular character introductions in recent memory, by using waterbending to give herself arms. Who else could properly give voice to this deadly beauty than Azula herself, Ms. Grey DeLisle? Her melodic yet menacing tone is perfect for this new villain, who will undoubtedly give team avatar a run for their money. Since this premiere is the gift that keeps on giving, Ming-Hua was not the only interesting character to grace us with their presence.

Even more than Aang, Zuko was the character from Avatar: The Last Airbender whose arc drastically changed the most from season to season. From exiled dark prince of the Fire Nation to the bringer of peace alongside the original team avatar, Zuko was the wildcard no one knew quite what to expect from.

Even as an old man, the brooding Lord shows little emotion, other than an urgency to stop these criminals who want to destroy the Avatar and the Order of the White Lotus. Hopefully, we will learn more about what has happened to Zuko over the last several decades. Has our weary hero found peace, or is he still haunted by the demons of his family’s past?

With all of the tension in air, The Legend of Korra still finds plenty of time for moments of levity. Mako and Bolin have a heartwarming reunion with their uncle, cousins, and grandmother in Ba Sing Se. The two young men have been orphans for most of their lives, so going through old family photos and swapping stories with loved ones was a pleasure to watch. Perhaps they will uncover more truths about their past as the season progresses?

Even Kai (Skyler Brigmann), who Bolin has quickly adopted as his new brother, seems like he’ll fit in well with team avatar as the first member of the new order of airbenders. Unfortunately, Kai’s mischief gets him into more trouble than he could imagine, as he will now be forced to join the Earth Queen’s secret airbending army. Will his new family save him before the inevitable brainwashing begins?

If the first three episodes are any indication, then we’re in for one exciting season of team avatar adventures. As always, we’d love to see what theories you come up with regard to what might transpire over the next several episodes.

What were some of your favorite moments from the premiere? For us, it was great to see Asami and Korra come together in an exciting battle with the Earth Kingdom bandits. The whole “will they or won’t they” motif concerning Mako was getting tiresome last season, so it’s nice to see two strong female characters just kicking some butts as friends.

The Legend of Korra seems to favor one or two major villains per season, as opposed to having one singluar objective, like Aang had with Fire Lord Ozai. Do you prefer this new formula, or would you like to see Korra have a more singular goal? Either way, keep watching to see what thrilling spectacles await in the weeks to come.

The Legend of Korra continues with ‘In Harm’s Way’ on Friday, July 11th @8pm on Nickelodeon.