|"You did what you thought was best for the world, and now things have changed. Change can be good or bad, depending on your point of view."|
|— Tenzin to Korra.|
"A Breath of Fresh Air" is the first episode of Book Three: Change of The Legend of Korra and the 27th of the overall series. It aired on Nickelodeon along with "Rebirth" and "The Earth Queen" on June 27, 2014.
After the events of Harmonic Convergence, Korra has her hands full with trying to remove all the spirit vines that have overgrown Republic City. Her lack of success strains her relationship with President Raiko and brings down her approval rate among the city's populace. When airbenders are suddenly popping up across the world and causing more trouble for the city, President Raiko demands Korra to leave the city, which she takes as an opportunity to travel the world to find the new airbenders. Meanwhile, a dangerous criminal uses his newfound airbending abilities to escape.
On Air Temple Island, Bumi chases Bum-Ju, who refuses to wear a sweater he knitted for the spirit. While chasing Bum-Ju, Bumi ends up falling off a cliff but saves himself at the last minute with an inexplicable display of airbending, much to his surprise.
Korra, Tenzin, and Jinora travel through a vine forest that has developed in Republic City. Korra attempts to destroy the vines with firebending to no avail, frustrating her. With no choice, Korra flies away from Tenzin and Jinora on her glider, arriving moments later at a press conference being held by President Raiko at City Hall, where he is being peppered with questions about his approval ratings and the vine infestation pestering the city. The moment she touches down, the assembled reporters bombard her with questions about how she handled the Unalaq Crisis and intents to deal with the vines and spirits uprooting the city life. As she pleads for their patience, considering Harmonic Convergence only transpired a few weeks prior, Raiko promptly seizes the opportunity to deflect the blame for the vine problem onto her. Angered by the accusation, Korra shoots back angrily that she saved the world, something that his administration was woefully unable to do. Before the conflict between the two can derail, Lin Beifong separates them and ends the conference; a peeved Raiko returns to his office while the press dissipates. As Korra muses to herself that the situation was a disaster, Asami walks up to her, trying to console the deeply disappointed Avatar by pointing out that they will work something out. Korra brushes her off, sulking over the fact that she only holds an 8% approval rating among the city's population. Although Asami assures her that the city's people are simply frustrated, she agrees with them, reasoning that she, as the Avatar, should be able to fix their situation.
On Air Temple Island, Bumi excitedly tries to explain his newfound airbending abilities to his family but finds himself unable to demonstrate any actual airbending to them. During dinner, his continuous attempt to airbend result to nothing, until Meelo throws a plate at him unexpectedly. In reflex, Bumi creates a dome of air around the plate, much to Tenzin's amazement and everyone's surprise.
At the police headquarters, Mako receives a call from an alarmed shopkeeper, who claims that his brother, Daw, accidentally ransacked the store after displaying what appeared to be airbending. Mako is skeptical of his statement, stating there are only five airbenders in the world. Upon arriving at the store, Mako orders Daw to come out of the back room, but in doing so, Daw accidentally sends a strong gust of wind that knocks the door off its hinges and onto Mako, stunning him. Panicked, he apologizes to Mako before running out of the store.
At Air Temple Island, Bumi continues to try to airbend but again finds himself unable to do so at will. Watching him, Tenzin and Korra muse that being in the Spirit World during Harmonic Convergence could be the cause of Bumi's new ability, while Ikki suggests that her uncle may just me a late bloomer. Kya adds to the conversation by noting that she had recently felt a change in her brother's aura, much to Bumi's annoyance, as that was the first she mentioned of it. Before the conversation can continue, Lin and Mako arrive and inform everyone that they have received reports of another airbender in the city. Korra offers Mako her help, but he refuses, leaving Asami and Korra with an awkward salute.
Asami teaches Korra to drive a Satomobile, although visibly alarmed by Korra's inability to control the clutch. The two begin to discuss Mako's weird behavior and reveal that they were aware of his infidelity during their respective relationships. Korra expresses joy and relief that the two of them managed to remain friends despite the circumstances, as she has never had a female friend with which to confide. Suddenly, the two come across a large vine in the middle of the road, which happens to be occupied by a hedgehog-like spirit. Reiterating that she has no problems with spirits, Korra urges the spirit to get rid of the vines, to which he responds that there is no difference between the two. This gives Korra the idea to pacify the vines using Unalaq's spiritbending technique.
Tenzin expresses his joy over the possibility of new airbenders and is approached by his children, who ask him whether or not the new airbenders would become part of their family. He states that all airbenders are, in essence, a part of their family, and he becomes emotional at the thought of rebuilding the Air Nation. He tells his children that the process will require their leadership and guidance in order to teach the new recruits the ways of the Air Nomads, to which his children respond that they will be there to help.
Near a canal, Korra attempts to use the Avatar State and spiritbending to pacify the vines. Although it seems to work initially, the vines reform and multiply, taking down a nearby apartment building. Korra urges the residents to leave and saves a young boy before a tower collapses on top of him using airbending before using earthbending to gently lower the tower to the ground.
Back at Air Temple Island, Tenzin approaches a meditating Korra, who was fruitlessly attempting to contact her past lives. Tenzin tells Korra that her decision has only brought about change, which can be good or bad, and expresses his joy over the prospect of rebuilding his nation. Suddenly, Bolin rushes in and informs the two that the rogue airbender, Daw, has been spotted on the top of Kyoshi Bridge.
After arriving on site, Korra finds that the Metalbending Police Force had halted traffic and is closing on a frightened Daw, who is unintentionally using airbending to fend the officers away. Avatar Korra flies to him and convinces Daw to allow Tenzin to help him hone his bending. He relents, agreeing to come down with her, but he slips on the narrow steel beam and falls. Korra dives after him with her airbender staff and catches him, bringing him safely down to the ground. She introduces him to Tenzin, who expresses his delight over meeting a new airbender. When Raiko arrives, Korra tells him that every denizen of Republic City will have to learn to live with the changes the Spirit Wilds have made to the city, as both the vines and the spirits are there to stay. Irritated, Raiko retaliates by demanding that Korra leaves the city, stating she has caused nothing but trouble since she arrived. Angrily complying with the order, she approaches Tenzin and promises to help find the new airbenders and rebuild the Air Nation.
At a prison located atop a mountain somewhere, White Lotus sentries bring food to Zaheer. He asks if they have ever heard of Guru Laghima, an Air Nomad who lived at the Northern Air Temple and unlocked the secret of weightlessness, allowing himself to become untethered from the earth and live the last forty years of his life without touching the ground. Mocking the tale, dismissing it as an "old airbender children's story", the guard captain asks if he plans to escape using that technique. Zaheer announces that like all great children's tales, there is truth within the myth, reciting a poem of Laghima's: "Instinct is a lie, told by a fearful body hoping to be wrong." When the captain asks what it means, Zaheer explains that it means that if one were to base their expectations only on what they could see, they would blind themselves to the possibilities of the new. He backs up the saying by airbending the captain against the door of his cell, enabling him to hold the shocked captain down, using him as a shield against the other sentries. Upon being asked how he did that, Zaheer states that nature is constantly changing like the wind. Stealing the captain's keys, he throws the captain into the back of the cell, stunning him in the process. Zaheer comes out of his cell as a sentry firebends at Zaheer, who dodges it and throws the firebender in the cell, as the fight continues, Zaheer throws in another firebender in the cell, as the earthbender and firebender tries to aim their attacks at Zaheer, the prisoner dodges them and throws both of them into the cell, resulting in a bonus attack. He locks up the cell and warns them to ration their food, as the next shift change is not for three weeks. Before he leaves, he declares the dawn of a new age, one that will see the end of the Order of the White Lotus and the Avatar.
- Written by:
- Directed by:
- Janet Varney - Korra
- David Faustino - Mako
- P. J. Byrne - Bolin
- J. K. Simmons - Tenzin
- Henry Rollins - Zaheer
- Seychelle Gabriel - Asami
- Jeff Bennett - Radio broadcaster
- Dee Bradley Baker:
- Lisa Edelstein - Kya
- Richard Riehle - Bumi
- Mindy Sterling - Beifong
- Logan Wells - Meelo
- Darcy Rose Byrnes - Ikki
- Kiernan Shipka - Jinora
- Also starring:
- Main article: Transcript:A Breath of Fresh Air
- Main article: Transcript:A Breath of Fresh Air (commentary)
- Korra grabbing Raiko by the chin mirrors how she approached Saikhan in "When Extremes Meet" after Mako, Bolin, and Asami were arrested.
- Bumi stopping the plate thrown by Meelo with airbending is similar to how Aang stopped a chicken leg thrown by King Bumi in "The King of Omashu".
- Jinora informs Meelo that the Air Nomads did not have a formal military, something which Aang first mentioned in "The Headband".
- Korra reminds Asami that she is not very good at driving, something she first mentioned in "Turning the Tides".
- Asami reveals to Korra the time she kissed Mako while the Avatar was away in "The Sting".
- In turn, Korra reveals to Asami when she kissed Mako behind her back during "The Spirit of Competition", though Asami was already made aware of the kiss in "Out of the Past".
- Zaheer using airbending to make his way down a mountain top is similar to how Aang did so in "The Southern Air Temple".
- Bumi is an airbender.
- Mako has been living at the police station.
- While Bumi is trying to airbend during dinner and first states that the napkin moved, there are two white balls of rice on his plate and two other food items that appear to be sushi. In the shot from Korra's back, however, there are three balls of rice on his plate and the sushi is gone.
- When Korra bows after purifying the spirit vines, her right fist is colored blue like her wristbands. When she turns to face the reporters, her fist is colored normally again.
- When a metalbending officer bends to open a fence gate for President Raiko, his bodyguards are wearing their black attire, but after Raiko walks away from Korra, his bodyguards are wearing their normal blue attire.
- When Zaheer tells the incarcerated White Lotus captain to ration the bowl of rice, since the next shift change is three weeks away, the captain appears fearful, though he should not have been, considering one of the other guards is a metalbender and could have bent the doors open as soon as he woke up.
- Korra's staff is almost identical in appearance to the airbender staff Aang received from the mechanist.
- The conclusion for the episode's original premise ended after Korra's second attempt at getting rid of the spirit vines. Realizing the episode needed more story content, the writers moved the sequence of Korra dealing with the vines to the second act, and added the storyline with Daw to provide a more personal resolution.
- The gag where a driver passes by Korra and Asami's idling Satomobile was added in the storyboard phase by Hyun Joo Song as a basic drawing. Studio Mir further developed Song's board by adding 3D and perspective distortion effects to the driver and his vehicle in the final animation.