|“||It's the dawning of a new age. The end of the White Lotus and soon, the end of the Avatar.||„|
|~ Zaheer breaking out of his prison.|
|“||You think freedom is something that you can give or take on a whim, but to your people, freedom is just as essential as air, and without it, there is no life. There is only... darkness.||„|
|~ Zaheer's most famous quote, as he kills Earth Queen|
|“||When we dispatch you in the Avatar State, the cycle will end. So we lucky few, this band of brothers and sisters in anarchy, are witnessing the beginning of an era of true freedom. Together, we will forge a world without kings and queens, without borders or nations, where Man's only allegiance is to himself and those he loves. We will return to the true balance of natural order. And though you will never again be reborn, your name will echo throughout history: Korra, the last Avatar.||„|
Zaheer is one of the four main antagonists of the animated television series The Legend of Korra (alongside Amon, Unalaq, and Kuvira), the sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. He serves as the main antagonist of Book 3: Change and a minor anti-hero/the overarching antagonist in Book 4: Balance. He is the third major threat faced by Avatar Korra.
He is a rebellious anarchist who believes strongly in the foundation of a new world order, without the White Lotus, the Avatar, or any governments or their leaders. After the Harmonic Convergence, he acquired the ability to airbend and used his newfound skills to escape imprisonment and attack Avatar Korra.
He was voiced by Henry Rollins.
Much like Korra's other nemeses, Zaheer was a complicated and selfless man who endeavored to bring the world into balance and was willing to work as hard and sacrifice as much as the Avatar herself to accomplish world peace.
However, as Toph Beifong indeed cited, his own imbalance prevented him from bringing balance to others, and his ideologies led him to do reckless and unwise things in his quest. His view of the natural order of things was delusional and it made him cruel, arrogant, vicious, and fanatical. He has a deep passion for philosophy, mostly around the theme of freedom, though often mixed up with delusional ideas that chaos is the natural order of things. He often twists and convolutes Guru Laghima's philosophy into anarchistic ideas for his Red Lotus organization.
He is very cold blooded when it comes to taking a life, being willing to kill without hesitation so long as it appears to be necessary. Indeed, even his affinity for Air Nomad culture and becoming an airbender did not prevent him from threatening the lives of the new airbenders in order to force Korra to surrender herself, and he displayed duplicity in going back on his word to release them in exchange for her surrender so that he'd still have them as leverage.
Despite his zealous and barbaric nature, Zaheer is not without honor, wisdom, or compassion. He cared deeply about his girlfriend, P'Li, and only by accepting what was following her death could he unlock the power of flight. Even if his actions threw the Earth Kingdom into chaos, he believed that the Earth Kingdom belonged to the people and not to tyrants, like Hou-Ting. When Korra came to him to overcome her fear of him, he agreed to help, feeling guilt over the fact that his actions had given Kuvira the opportunity to take power.
Powers and Abilities
Recently, after the Harmonic Convergence, he found out he could airbend. Despite him just recently learning of his new ability, Zaheer is shown to be a fast learner as he can create large and powerful gusts of wind and knock people off balance. He's even capable of sucking the air out of a person, causing them to suffocate to death. He is also proficient at meditation and is able to discern Korra's location with ease. After the death of P'Li, Zaheer was free from all earthly tethers and gains the same abilities as Guru Laghima, the ability to fly without the need of his glider staff or even bending. He can fly like he was lighter than air.
- Airbending: After the Harmonic Convergence, he found out he could airbend. Despite only having airbending abilities for a short time and being self-taught, Zaheer displays high proficiency in the art and shown to be a fast learner as he created large air currents capable of knocking people off balance, as well as increasing his agility, to evade attacks, enabling him to take on multiple benders at a time. He defeat Kya, a master waterbender, while fending off White Lotus sentries. Although he is not as powerful as a full-fledged master like Tenzin, he was proficient enough in combat to more or less hold his own against the more experienced airbender, though he needed the assistance of his companions to defeat the master. He is also capable of using a glider, both in combat and as a means of transportation despite having no training in using one. He can take on multiple opponents at once and, since he is not a pacifist like most airbenders, he also uses his airbending in a more offensive and even lethal manner, such as pulling the air out of Hou-Ting's lungs and suffocating her.
- Flight: During a battle to prevent the rescue of Korra from the Red Lotus, Zaheer developed the ability of flight through the teachings of Guru Laghima, becoming the first known airbender in four thousand years to do so. After the death of P'Li, Zaheer was free from all earthly tethers and gains the same abilities as Guru Laghima, the ability to fly without the need of his glider staff or even bending. He can fly like he was lighter than air. Zaheer demonstrated that the power of flight enabled him to make fast and agile at incredible speeds and make airbending attacks while airborne. Although a powerful technique, his flight abilities are hindered by additional weight and the currents of the wind, as shown when he began to fall after Korra froze one of his feet and when he could not escape the pull of an airbender-created tornado.
- Master combatant: Even prior to obtaining airbending, Zaheer was already remarkably agile and acrobatic. He was a master of several forms of martial arts and had extensive combat experience. He was deemed dangerous enough to be detained in an isolated prison similar to his bending cohorts and had to turn his back to the cell doors with his hands behind his head while receiving food. He took down small armies of soldiers, as well as being a master of disguise and deceiver.
- Peak-human intelligence: Zaheer is also well-versed in Air Nomad philosophy and history, mainly teachings of the legendary airbender, Guru Laghima, whom he holds in high regard. Through meditation, Zaheer was capable of entering the Spirit World and freely teleport himself and others to various places in that realm. His extensive practice and training in meditation gives him the ability to communicate with his physical body while his soul is still in the Spirit World and discern Korra's location with ease. He is shown to be a master in stealth, manipulation, leadership, tactics/strategy, warfare, and psychological warfare. Zaheer is a masterful strategist/tactician, who is able to take down a small army of soldiers, as well as being a master of disguise and deceiver. He is also proficient in the art of public speaking, capable of swaying the public opinion to support his goals, as he demonstrated in his speech to the people of Ba Sing Se.
- Master tactician: Zaheer is a masterful strategist, who is able to take down a small army of soldiers, as well as being a master of disguise and deceiver.
|“||Zaheer: "Instinct is a lie, told by a fearful body, hoping to be wrong."
White Lotus sentry: What's that supposed to mean?
Zaheer: It means that when you base your expectations only on what you see, you blind yourself to the possibilities of a new reality.
|“||You know, being locked away for so many years, I was beginning to lose hope. But when I awoke with airbending, I knew I would be the one to destroy the old world and plant seeds for a new world to flourish.||„|
|~ Zaheer to Korra.|
|“||Zaheer: The idea of having nations and governments is as foolish as keeping the human and spirit realms separate. You've had to deal with a moronic president and a tyrannical queen. Don't you think the world would be better off if leaders like them were eliminated?
Korra: No. I mean, I don't really agree with what they've done, but taking out world leaders isn't the answer.
Zaheer: It wasn't too long ago that the airbenders were nearly all wiped out. Thanks to the Fire Lord's desire for world dominance. True freedom can only be achieved when oppressive governments are torn down.
Korra: But that won't bring balance. It would throw the world into chaos!
Zaheer: Exactly. The natural order is disorder.
|~ Zaheer explaining to Korra his anarchistic ideas|
|“||Let go of your earthly tether. Enter the void. Empty and become wind.||„|
|~ Zaheer. unlocking Guru Laghima's unique ability to fly without using bending.|
Zaheer is a fan favorite and frequently places first among the best Legend of Korra villains and even polls high among villains from the entire Avatar franchise. IGN referred to Zaheer as "one of the most intimidating and formidable villains yet on the show". In an interview with Polygon, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko stated that Zaheer was one of their favorite villains that they had ever created, with Konietzko saying: "I think he knows what he is doing is awful and he doesn’t necessarily enjoy it, but whatever happened in his mysterious past was painful enough that he has accepted that as necessary."
- Zaheer is one of the few known villainous airbenders.
- He is the first main antagonist of Korra to live at the end of the book, the second being Kuvira. Coincidentally, both debuted in Season 3.
- Zaheer is also the only known Red Lotus member to still be alive.
- Every major Legend of Korra villain is an allegory for a political ideology. Zaheer clearly represents anarchism, which is a belief in the abolition of all government and the organization of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without recourse to force or compulsion. However, some of these people would resort to using oppressive tactics that go against their goals to gain the upper hand over their enemies, much like how Zaheer kidnapped and threatened to destroy the new Air Nation unless Korra surrendered to him.
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