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Villain Overview

It's true that when Wan fused with Raava, he tipped the scales in her favor. But this time I'll be here to level the playing field. When Harmonic Convergence comes, I will fuse with Vaatu and together we will become the new Avatar. A Dark Avatar. Your era is over.
~ Unalaq's plan for "spiritual balance"/power.
With you out of the way, I will be the one true Avatar! (...) No!
~ The Dark Avatar preparing to destroy Korra and his last words before being destroyed by Korra.

Unalaq is one of the four main antagonists of the animated television series The Legend of Korra (alongside Amon, Zaheer and Kuvira), the sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender, serving as one of two main antagonists (alongside Vaatu) of Book 2: Spirits, one of the two posthumous overarching antagonists (alongside Vaatu) of Book 3: Change and a posthumous antagonist of Book 4: Balance.

He is the Chief of the Northern Water Tribe and the right hand of Vaatu. A militant religious zealot, Unalaq was so obsessed with the spirits that he devoted his life to studying them, and seemed to prefer them over humans, even his own family. Since the world had experienced ten thousand years of Raava's influence, Unalaq fused with Vaatu, the spirit of chaos and darkness, to balance the scales with ten thousand years of Dark Avatars. Unalaq successfully changed the world forever by ushering in a new spiritual age, but was the only Dark Avatar.

Though he initially seemed to be a gentle and wise individual who offers to train his niece in the ways of the Spirits and their world, his deadly and ruthless side was revealed when it is learned that he was only using Korra to release the powerful dark spirit. Unalaq's motivation for this was to forcibly restore spiritual balance in the world, which he had been planning to do for decades. Unalaq's will to achieve this end was so great that he was willing to stop at nothing. Unalaq's actions directly or indirectly resulted in his brother's banishment, Korra's attempted kidnapping and brainwashing as a child, Korra being locked away in the south for over a decade, a civil war between the water tribes, severing the Avatar's connection to their past lives and infesting Republic City with spirit vines that would plague the city for years to come. Unalaq's actions also had positive impacts, however, as they led to humans and spirits coexisting, Korra becoming a spiritual Avatar and the return of new airbenders to the world for the first time in almost two hundred years.

He was voiced by Adrian LaTourelle.

Personality

Highly cold, stern, and intimidating, Unalaq seems to be a psychopath or sociopath as he rarely shows any type of emotion or warmth at all and does not seem to take pleasure in much of anything. Unalaq's whole personality seems to revolve around his deep spirituality and he is typically reserved, unassuming, serious and dull. Varrick even once mocked Unalaq's dry personality by proclaiming him to be "diabolical but incredibly boring and unpopular". Unalaq was treacherous and remorseless, with no compassion towards anyone. Unalaq also seems to be a misanthrope, since he does not seem to be close to or care for any other human, even his own children. Despite this, Unalaq perfectly understood human nature and was especially cunning and manipulative, able to skillfully deceive numerous people multiple times by lacing elements of truth into his lies.

Unalaq was willing to double-cross his own family to serve his own ends, and did not care when his own son, Desna, was severely injured by his waterbending; even flat-out saying that opening the spirit portal was "more important" than his family's well-being. Despite this, both of his children were by his side almost to the very end, only turning on their father when they realized he has gone too far. Desna at one point even proclaimed that his father is the wisest man alive, and he trusted his judgment. Unalaq was also perfectly willing to endanger the lives of everyone in the northern tribe in the process of getting his brother banished, as, in his mind, the ends justified the means. Unalaq also sold out his allies in the Red Lotus to save himself, and let them rot for over a decade in separate prisons (one of which Unalaq had constructed). With his plans coming close to fruition, Unalaq abandoned his composure and adopted a more malicious demeanor. He started to outwardly take visible delight in the suffering of those who attempted to stop him from doing what he believed needed to be done. Unalaq also threatened to destroy Jinora's soul with spiritbending if Korra did not open the northern portal, and threw Jinora's spirit into the Fog of Lost Souls even after Korra agreed to his demands.

Despite his indifference to other people, Unalaq was an obsessive and pious fundamentalist when it came to the spirits and the traditions associated with them. Unalaq devoted his entire life to studying the spirits and even developed a form of specialized bending that was tailored specifically to a spirit's dark energies, or a human's soul. Before the portals were opened, he frequently meditated into the spirit world, where he forged a strong affinity with numerous spirits, including Wan Shi Tong and, of course, Vaatu. Wan Shi Tong referred to Unalaq as "a true friend of the spirits" when Jinora objected to Unalaq's plan, although considering how easily fooled Wan Shi Tong is, it would mostly be Unalaq being very manipulative.

Korra had a deep hatred for her uncle after he betrayed her, and was convinced he only wanted to release Vaatu to gain more power, and that his carelessness would result in the world being destroyed. And while she was mostly right on him being deep down a selfish power-hungry maniac who wants to be a god that rules the world and enslave all life to his will in his new world that he recreates upon the destruction of the old, even Korra realizes that many of Unalaq's teachings was right and really, Unalaq was still the only one fixing an issue no one seemed to notice and realized, for all of Unalaq's selfishness and power-hungry desires, he was still going to unite humans and spirits under his rule and they will coexist in his new world and that the Avatar should not be the bridge between the the human and spirit worlds, and that they should be joined together and coexist.

Powers and Abilities

Powers

  • Waterbending: Unalaq was an incredibly powerful waterbending master, being able to engage in combat using only a minimal amount of water. When deprived of other sources of water, Unalaq was able to effectively utilize a water skin in battle. His move set ranged from strong torrents, and water spouts. His water attacks were strong enough to shatter boulders and earth shields summoned by earthbenders.
    • Cryokinesis: Unalaq's move set consisted of unleashing multiple ice projectiles in rapid succession.
  • Spiritbending: Unalaq could utilize a specialized form of healing infused with spiritual energy and knowledge, which involves converting the energy within spirits. This ability allowed him to effectively calm angry spirits, to the extent where he was able to stop multiple dark spirits at once from destroying the Northern Water Tribe. Conversely, he could utilize spiritbending to create imbalance inside a spirit, by channeling negative energy. When performed on a human spirit, Unalaq claimed that this technique had the potential to destroy the subject's soul.

Dark Avatar Powers

  • Nigh-Omnipotence: After fusing with Vaatu, Unalaq became the Avatar's dark counterpart and the human embodiment of darkness, disorder and chaos. Because of this merger, Unalaq became significantly more powerful, being able to use his own version of the Avatar State, with orange-glowing eyes instead of white. After Unalaq destroyed Raava, he ascended into a new, giant humanoid version of Vaatu. He gained incredible size and strength in this new form, being capable of ripping out the statue of Aang Memorial Island with great ease and resisting the attacks of the United Forces fleet without struggle. He still had access to his waterbending, in addition to several of Vaatu's powers, such as his energy beam and vine control.
    • Enhanced Waterbending: Because of his deep spirituality, he took quick control of the Dark Avatar State, which helped him augment his waterbending and be on par with the Avatar; he was capable of unleashing much stronger water whips, creating ice fissures, and highly destructive tidal waves.
    • Tendril Projection: In addition to his enhanced bending, he displayed the ability to project Vaatu's tendrils from his mouth, which he used to extract Raava out of Korra.
    • Chlorokinesis: He also gained Vaatu's ability to spontaneously generate and manipulate vines and various types of plant life.

Abilities

  • Master combatant: Unalaq was a highly agile and capable fighter, able to hold his own against younger, athletic benders such as Mako and Bolin.
  • Genius intellect: Unalaq is vastly intelligent, a genius mastermind whose intellectualism extends primarily to his skills in deception, leadership, and spirituality.
    • Master tactician: Unalaq is a fearsome strategist, orchestrating a barbarian onslaught without any of it being tied back to him, and orchestrating a trial for Tonraq to get him out of his way and keep Korra on his side, which only backfired because of Hotah's cowardice.
    • Master deceiver: Somewhat ironically despite his misanthropy, Unalaq is able to expertly deceive people by lacing elements of truth into his lies.
    • Expert leader: Unalaq effectively led the Northern Water Tribe for two decades, establishing people such as Hotah in places of power to ensure his will was done efficiently.
    • Expert shaman: Unalaq was able to make use of his great knowledge of the Spirit World to gain an advantage over his foes. A notable example was using the spirit portal to cross worlds, thus retaining his physical body and consequently his bending in the Spirit World. Thanks to his allegiance to Vaatu, he was granted control over dark spirits, which he used as his vanguard against his enemies.
  • Indomitable willpower: Unalaq has tremendous perseverance and strength of will, which makes him an extremely formidable enemy for anyone to have, as a man who absolutely refuses to ever give ground and succumb to seemingly overwhelming odds.

Trivia

  • Unalaq is the only villain that has been killed directly by Avatar Korra.
  • Every major Legend of Korra villain is an allegory for a political ideology. Unalaq clearly represents theocracy, a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god. Some individuals would even proclaim themselves as gods and use that as a ruling point. In Unalaq's case, he wanted to rule the world by becoming the new Avatar.
  • Unalaq wants to freeze the earth in Varrick's movers. This foreshadows his true plans of plunging the world into 10,000 years of darkness.
  • Unalaq's appearance looks similar to Tarrlok or Yakone after his plastic surgery.
  • A fan theory suggests Unalaq is not that bad, as Vaatu might be manipulating Unalaq into helping him, much like he did to Wan ten millennia ago, by encountering him in a trip to the Spirit World, where Vaatu begs him to free him as he has been "wrongfully" imprisoned for ten thousand years. However, when he neglected Desna in his injured state and yelled at Eska, his blatant lack of morals became blatantly obvious to virtually everyone.
  • Unalaq can also be considered a foil to Iroh. Both are uncles of a main protagonist, served as wise mentors of a main protagonist, are powerful benders and have a deep connection with the spirits. Iroh used waterbending moves to redirect lighting, and Unalaq used waterbending to balance a spirit's dark energy. However, that is where the similarities end. Unlike Iroh, Unalaq attempted to force humanity to respect the spirits and honor the traditions associated with them. Also, Iroh was also a good man who wanted to end conflicts and bring peace to the world, while Unalaq was a wicked man who wanted to bring chaos to the world, as he thought it was the natural order. In addition, Iroh was also a member of the Order of the White Lotus, while Unalaq was in league with the Red Lotus.
  • Unalaq indirectly caused the events of the first season to happen after his attempt to kidnap Korra resulted in her being sheltered in the south for her entire life, only escaping and fleeing to Republic City to learn airbending from Tenzin. When she finally went to the city, she fell into conflict with the Equalists, and Amon took her bending. Unalaq was directly behind the events of the second season, as well as season 3 when he caused many including Zaheer to gain airbending, which he used to break the rest of the Red Lotus out of their prisons. Zaheer ended up killing the Earth Queen, which led to Kuvira gaining power (in addition to the spirit vines almost killing numerous main characters including Jinora, and also, the spirit vines also being used by Kuvira to create her superweapon, the dramatic horcrux of the season), thus Unalaq indirectly caused the events of the fourth season.

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