|"You think what Avatar Wan did was good? Driving almost all the spirits from this world? The Avatar hasn't brought balance, only chaos. You call yourself the bridge between the two worlds, but there shouldn't be a bridge; we should live together as one."|
|— Unalaq to Korra.|
Unalaq was a waterbending master, the chief of the Northern and Southern Water Tribes, a former member of the Red Lotus, and the first and only Dark Avatar. He was the younger brother of Tonraq, husband of Malina, with whom he fathered Desna and Eska, and uncle of Avatar Korra. A particularly spiritual man, he briefly served as Korra's spiritual mentor until her discovery of his involvement in her father's banishment, at which point he was absolved as her teacher and shunned. Unbeknownst to anyone, Unalaq was working to release Vaatu from incarceration in the Spirit World, and succeeded in this task before fusing with Vaatu to become the Dark Avatar. To this end, Unalaq nearly destroyed Republic City before being defeated and killed by his niece. Even though his attempt to destroy the Avatar and usher the world into an era of darkness was consequently thwarted, Unalaq succeeded in reuniting humans and spirits and thus changing the world forever.
Unalaq was born to the chief of the Water Tribes, and he was the second in line to become chief after his brother Tonraq. Growing up, he dedicated his life to studying the spirits and their ways. Eventually, he joined the Red Lotus, which had similar goals to his own. After learning about Raava and Vaatu, Unalaq concluded that Avatar Wan made a mistake by closing the spirit portals, believing humans and spirits should coexist in the same reality. With a mind toward correcting this perceived imbalance, Unalaq aspired to usurp his brother's birthright and seize control of the spirit portals at the North and South Poles. To this end, he devised a plan to remove Tonraq from the succession so that Unalaq himself would be next in line to the throne.
In 151 AG, Unalaq hired a band of barbarians to invade the Northern Water Tribe capital. Unalaq warned his brother, a general in the Northern military, of the threat, and watched Tonraq drive off the invaders. Tonraq pursued the barbarians to a forest sacred to the spirits, where Unalaq had told them to hide, knowing that the headstrong Tonraq would attack their encampment anyway, despite being on sacred ground. The forest was laid waste by Tonraq's forces and, in retaliation, vengeful spirits attacked the city, though Unalaq managed to calm them down and guide them back to their forest. Because Tonraq's recklessness had endangered the city, his father banished him from the North, thus making Unalaq next in line to become chief. At some point, Unalaq married a woman named Malina and in 155 AG, fathered a pair of twins named Desna and Eska.
As leader of the Water Tribe, Unalaq gained territorial control over the closed spirit portals, which put him in a unique position to secure the entrances and carry out his eventual goal of releasing Vaatu and fusing with him to become a Dark Avatar and lead humans and spirits alike into a new era. However, the ambition he held of becoming the Dark Avatar was in direct conflict with the anarchist beliefs and goals of the Red Lotus, though it would not be until many years later that they learned of his plan to form an alliance with Vaatu.
When Unalaq discovered that his own niece, Korra, was the reincarnated Avatar, he believed that he could use her to help him open the spirit portals and traveled to the South under the pretext of requesting Tonraq's permission to train Korra spiritually, but his brother declined his offers. After his attempts to persuade Tonraq failed, Unalaq devised a plan to kidnap her with the Red Lotus' help. He enlisted Zaheer, Ghazan, Ming-Hua, and P'Li to take part in the mission. However, on the day of the attempted kidnapping in 158 AG, Unalaq did not participate. Instead, Unalaq betrayed the Red Lotus and cooperated with Fire Lord Zuko to construct a top-secret prison in the western tundra of the North Pole, specially designed to use the intense cold to negate P'Li's firebending abilities. Unalaq would wait until Korra's powers matured before attempting to use her again.
Becoming Korra's teacher
In 171 AG, Unalaq and his children arrived at the Southern Water Tribe for the Glacier Spirits Festival. They were greeted by many people, including Tonraq and his family. He greeted his niece heartily, though his manner hardened upon greeting Tonraq, prompting the same response from his brother.
Immediately afterward, Unalaq took a walk with Korra, his brother, and Tenzin throughout the festival grounds, all the while commenting that the spirituality the South once had was dissolving. After Tonraq dismissed him, stating only some traditions changed and that it was not the end of the world, Unalaq countered by emphasizing that some traditions had purpose, as evidenced by the fact that ships in the South were being attacked by angry spirits due to this change. Surprised by Korra's unawareness of the situation, Unalaq offered to become her spiritual mentor, but was swiftly cut off by Tonraq, who declared Tenzin was all that Korra needed.
That evening, Unalaq attended a banquet thrown in his honor, though when Korra commented on how wonderful it was, the chief drifted off, reminiscing about how the current feast paled by far in comparison to how things used to be. He told his niece that when the festival was founded, it was a time for tribal chiefs to communicate with the spirits as they glowed and danced in the sky. When Korra admitted she had never seen that, he once again offered to become her spiritual mentor, but Tonraq again declined for her. Frustrated, Unalaq revealed that every Avatar before Korra had traveled the world to learn, but she was denied that opportunity by her father and Tenzin's decision to keep her secluded at the Southern Water Tribe compound.
Unalaq made a speech in which he declared that although he was honored to be able to speak to them all at the festival, he was saddened to see that the once highly spiritual event had evolved into a cheap carnival. He announced that the North could no longer stand by and watch the South slip further into spiritual decay. He hoped to change the course the Southern Water Tribe was taking, and as such, put a stop to the attacks of the spirits.
That night, a dark spirit attacked the area where Korra and several of her friends were sleeping. After Korra, Mako, Bolin, Tonraq, and Tenzin failed to defeat or calm the spirit, Unalaq interfered and performed a complex waterbending maneuver that instantly calmed the spirit down, basking it in golden light, and eventually caused the entity to disappear peacefully. He emphasized the importance of spirituality to the young Avatar, and offered to teach her again. When Tenzin stated that he planned to journey to all the air temples with Korra, Unalaq promptly dismissed the idea as useless, as he believed only he could provide Korra with the training she needed to become a complete Avatar. Korra realized the truth in his words, and accepted his offer.
Opening the spirit portal
Unalaq planned to start Korra's spiritual training at the spiritual center of the Southern Water Tribe, the South Pole. As they prepared to leave, Tonraq insisted on coming, since their travels would lead them directly into the Everstorm. Unalaq protested against his brother's offer, believing him to be a distraction. He stated that it was the nonspiritual attitude of men like Tonraq that had put the Spirit World out of balance, causing the spirits to attack. Tonraq defied Unalaq's protests, daring him to stop him in any way he could. However, before the conflict could evolve, it was defused by an arriving Bolin. Korra allowed her father to take part in Unalaq's journey, so long as he would not interfere with her training.
As they made their way toward the Everstorm and the South Pole, Unalaq explained to Korra that he intended for her to open a dormant spirit portal. He clarified that there was no such thing as an "evil spirit", just spirits that were out of balance, a balance that could be restored by opening the portal prior to the end of the winter solstice.
Noticing they were being followed by dark spirits, the party sought out a cave where they would camp overnight. When he was asked why spirits were attacking sailors in the South Sea, Unalaq pinned the blame on his brother, forcing him to confess that he had destroyed a sacred spirit forest at the North Pole twenty years prior, bringing forth the wrath of the spirits.
When the group set off again, Unalaq overheard his brother attempting to convince Korra that he may have ulterior motives. He interjected, using the lack of southern lights to prove his claims. He explained that the Hundred Year War had thrown the South out of balance, and even though the Northern Water Tribe had helped the South rebuild physically, it had yet to be restored spiritually, which left the spirits to rampage in the Everstorm.
As they arrived at the place where the Everstorm raged, the group was ambushed by dark spirits. Yet again, everyone's efforts proved to be futile save for Unalaq's, who saved Korra from being devoured by an angry spirit with his spiritbending. After the attack, Unalaq overruled Tonraq's decision to go back, stating that they could not afford to lose another year to open the portal; it had to happen during the winter solstice that night. The arising conflict ended when Korra interfered and sent her father home.
Upon reaching the frozen spirit forest in the heart of the South Pole, Unalaq instructed Korra to venture in alone and unlock the portal. He encouraged her to have faith in herself as he had confidence in her, and to let her past lives guide her through the dark.
As Korra reappeared after having opened the portal, Unalaq congratulated her upon having taken the first step to restore balance to the South, as well as the whole world. When the group returned to the Southern Water Tribe, they found the Northern Water Tribe naval force docking in the ports outside the city. Unalaq explained that opening the portal was just the first step to get the South back on the righteous path, and more work needed to be done before the two tribes were truly reunited again.
Occupation of the South
As the Northern troops started occupying the South and setting up blockades, Unalaq told Korra that he planned for her to open the spirit portal at the North Pole. Though the Avatar reminded him that the solstice had ended, Unalaq reasoned that opening the Southern portal had strengthened her energies, which would enable her to accomplish her task. By opening both portals, both spirit and man could pass from one Water Tribe to the other at will.
Korra later visited Unalaq, explaining that many Southerners were opposed to the occupation and threatening civil war. Unalaq lamented that if that were to happen, the other nations would have to pick a side while the dark spirits fed off the energy of the conflict, resulting in a war between man and spirit. However, he told Korra that as the Avatar, she had to remain neutral and find a solution to this crisis. Korra started to agree with Tenzin's assessment that she was not ready to be the Avatar, but Unalaq insisted that he had faith in her potential.
As night fell, Korra returned to the palace to discover Unalaq being kidnapped by a group of Southerners. She was able to capture the Southerners and rescue her uncle. Unalaq ordered the rebels as well as their leader, Varrick, to be locked away, but Korra persuaded him to let the rebels stand trial first.
The next morning, Unalaq arrived to arrest Tonraq and Senna for allegedly conspiring to assassinate him. Promising Korra to give her parents a fair trial, he assigned a man he claimed to be most honorable judge of the Water Tribe, Hotah, to handle the trial. As the trial came to an end, Hotah found Senna innocent but sentenced Tonraq and the others to death. Unalaq, however, convinced Hotah to change the sentence to life imprisonment. Not approving of her innocent father being taken away, Korra later confronted Hotah, who revealed that the entire trial was a sham orchestrated by Unalaq to again remove Tonraq from the equation and keep Korra loyal to him. As Korra attempted to free her father, she was intercepted by Unalaq, who had sent his brother and the other prisoners on a ship bound for the north. Confronting Unalaq about his selfish and underhanded deeds, Korra renounced him as her teacher and demanded that he recall the prison ship and withdraw his forces, reminding him that he still needed her to open the Northern spirit portal. However, Unalaq confessed that he did not, revealing he had only exploited her into thinking that, causing the Avatar to attack him out of sheer anger and fury. After a brief struggle in which he was able to hold his own, he was eventually overpowered by his niece's airbending. As he was flung to the end of the corridor, Team Avatar rushed off to save Tonraq.
Later, Unalaq was informed by a commander of his troops that Tonraq and the rebels were camped out on a hill outside of the town. However, the Chief dismissed the potential threat his brother posed as being irrelevant, concerning himself mainly with the protection of the Southern spirit portal, requesting more troops to be sent that way. As the commander left, Desna and Eska entered Unalaq's chamber, and he instructed his children to find the Avatar, admitting that he had lied before about no longer requiring the Avatar's services, as he still needed her to open the Northern spirit portal. After Eska professed delight at chasing after Korra, Unalaq informed her that he needed Korra captured alive, to which Eska reluctantly agreed.
Attempting to open the Northern spirit portal
Days later, Unalaq ventured into the Spirit World through the portal at the South Pole, and upon emerging, he found his children waiting for him. Remaining silent about what he had been doing in the Spirit World, he asked them about the Avatar's whereabouts. After the twins replied that they had Korra within their grasp, but lost her after she was attacked by a dark spirit, concluding her to have died, Unalaq chastised them for failing in their mission, despite Desna's claim that the dark spirits were out of control.
Later, as Unalaq's frustration continued to grow, he lashed out at his children for failing him, stating that it had been his mistake to trust them in the first place. However, believing there to be a way to open the Northern spirit portal from the inside, Unalaq needed his children to help him and led them into the Spirit World. As they traveled toward the closed portal, Unalaq informed his children that, by entering the Spirit World though the portal, they had retained their bending ability, and together with them, he hoped that their combined power would be enough to breach the portal. However, their assault resulted in a clash of energies, which struck Desna down. Completely focused on opening the portal, Unalaq ordered his daughter to leave her brother and to keep bending, stating Desna's need for a healer to be of secondary importance. Although his children left him, Unalaq did not give up and tried drilling through the spiritual barrier, although without success.
Unalaq traveled back to the Tree of Time in which Vaatu was trapped, and apologized for his failure, as he believed the Avatar to be dead and was unable to open the Northern portal without her. He was surprised when the spirit of darkness informed him that he had not yet failed, as Korra was still alive. When Unalaq announced that he would find his niece, Vaatu deemed the action unnecessary as she would find him soon. Not long after that announcement, he was approached by Wan Shi Tong, whom he had previously befriended, and informed of Jinora's presence in the spirit library. Unalaq went with the owl spirit back to the library, where he confronted the young airbender. He expressed his disbelief that Tenzin would send his daughter with Korra into the Spirit World in place of himself, and told Jinora to not believe everything she read about Vaatu, forcefully taking her with him to the imprisoned spirit.
At the Tree of Time, Unalaq used Jinora to blackmail Korra into opening the Northern spirit portal; with his spiritbending, he threatened to destroy Jinora's soul if his niece would not cooperate. When Korra relented, Unalaq released Jinora and placed her in the care of a dark Furry-Foot, while they all followed Korra to the closed spirit portal.
After his niece had opened the remaining portal, Unalaq attacked her with waterbending. When Korra was subdued with the assistance of several guardian spirits, he began to perform his spiritbending upon his niece, encircling her with water with the intent of destroying her soul. As her body was almost entirely covered by a purple glow, Unalaq prepared to make his final move, but was thwarted when a large dragon bird spirit swatted him aside and took off with Korra.
Squashing the rebellion
Unalaq later returned to the physical world, bringing dark spirits to aid his troops in repelling a rebel attack on the capital city. He personally engaged Tonraq, ultimately defeating and capturing his brother.
Desna and Eska later met their father at the encampment surrounding the Southern portal, asking the reason for their continued occupation. Unalaq stated that he anticipated that that Korra would come and attempt to close the portal. His prediction was soon proven right, as Team Avatar led an assault on the encampment, but everyone, excluding Bumi, was captured. Upon addressing his captives, Korra asked why he would help Vaatu when he would destroy everything. Unalaq refuted her claim, revealing that he intended to fuse with Vaatu to become the "Dark" Avatar, just as Avatar Wan did with Raava. Tonraq pleaded his brother to reconsider, reminding him that despite his connection with spirits, he was still just a man. Tonraq tried to discourage the Water Tribe chief from willingly throwing his humanity away, but Unalaq ignored him, stating that he would be fully aligned with his spiritual power upon merging with Vaatu.
Unalaq returned to the Spirit World, where he awaited Harmonic Convergence. However, Team Avatar managed to escape and followed him into the Spirit World. Mako and Bolin fought against Unalaq as Korra attempted to close the portal, but was too late. Harmonic Convergence began and the spiritual energies enabled Vaatu to break free of his prison. From there Unalaq attempted to merge with Vaatu. However, Korra immediately attacked them both, managing to send Vaatu away from Unalaq before sending Unalaq himself out of the Spirit World through the Southern spirit portal and ordering Bolin and Mako to keep him out as long as possible as she engaged Vaatu.
After Mako and Bolin exited the Spirit World, Unalaq began attacking the two with ice shards so he could get through. The two desperately defended the portal from Unalaq's vicious attacks. He stopped for a while in order retrieve assistance from his children, who defeated the brothers easily. Unalaq re-entered the Spirit World just in time to witness Korra attempt to lock Vaatu back in the Tree of Time. Unalaq immediately attacked her, stopping her from completing the process, thus allowing Vaatu to be freed once more. The two entered a brief battle that resulted in Korra being defeated. Mako and Bolin managed to recover and re-entered the Spirit World and, seeing Korra on the ground, attempted to help but were stopped and locked in ice by Desna and Eska. The four watched as Vaatu and Unalaq merged before touching the energy beam from the Northern spirit portal. The two permanently fused, becoming the first Dark Avatar. With Vaatu's essence, Unalaq subsequently battled against Korra, all the way back to the physical world, ultimately managing to rip Raava out of his niece. He proceeded to pummel Raava with waterbending, ultimately destroying her and severing Korra's connection with her past lives. Reveling his new power, the Dark Avatar subsequently transformed into a massive dark spirit and used the spirit lights to travel to Republic City and lay waste to it.
After Korra utilized the energy from the Tree of Time, her spirit transformed into a massive being of light, which departed into the material world to fight Unalaq. During the battle, Jinora's spirit manifested and released a blinding light, which entered his body and illuminated Raava's small presence within him. Korra's spirit subdued the Dark Avatar and ripped the light source out of his chest, recreating Raava. Korra's spirit subsequently spiritbent Unalaq and Vaatu, vanquishing both of them.
Despite his defeat, Unalaq's actions had changed the world forever. Severing Korra's connection to all her past lives was permanent, leaving the Avatar without the experiences, skills, and guidance the past lives had usually provided in crucial times before. By luring Korra into opening the spirit portals and thereby causing Harmonic Convergence, he was also indirectly responsible for a shift in the world's energy that caused the reemergence of airbending and the rebirth of the Air Nation.
While having been enemies, Korra was ultimately convinced that Unalaq had been right about Avatar Wan's closure of the spirit portals being a mistake. Therefore, she renounced the Avatar's role as a bridge between the two worlds and left the spirit portals open, enabling spirits to roam the mortal world and making Unalaq's dream of a world where spirits and humans coexisted a reality. The Spirit Wilds the Dark Avatar created during his siege on Republic City changed the face of the city, since no one was able to remove them; despite initial conflict between the spirits and the citizens, the vines and the spirits became a tourist attraction by 174 AG.
Unalaq's insistence on believing that the Avatar was no longer needed had a considerable impact on Korra. When she was administered a poison by the Red Lotus that would make her enter the Avatar State, Unalaq appeared to her in one of her hallucinations. Unalaq's face replaced that of Ghazan's and he told her that the time of the Avatar was over, urging her to give up and enter the Avatar State. He later appeared to her again in a swamp-induced hallucination, in which Vaatu was extracting Raava out of her.
Unalaq was later used by Varrick in his story of Bolin, Hero of the World, in which he was described as "the diabolical but incredibly boring and unpopular sorcerer from the North". He teamed up with Amon, Vaatu, and Zaheer to take out their common nemesis, Bolin. He listened in on a conference call between the other three members of the team and made his presence known when Amon was about to say that he wished the chief to be excluded from their plans. He told his companions that Bolin could be found with "all the beautiful ladies". He sarcastically laughed away his partners' attempts to ditch him and tried to continue plotting their "evil plan" to take down Bolin, though was promptly hung up on by the others. Unalaq was said to be shot at by Juji's lasers, though they missed him and freed Vaatu instead. Described as always having been an "annoyingly, clingy person", Unalaq merged with the spirit and formed UnaVaatu. In their giant forms, UnaVaatu and Bolin were reported to fight on par and barrage each other with laser beams while stomping around Republic City. Although UnaVaatu nearly managed to corrupt Bolin's soul with spiritbending, he was defeated by the combined power of Bolin and the queen of the fairies and turned into magic dust to be scattered across the sky to give birth to the stars.
Unalaq possessed an extremely strong connection with the spirits and the Spirit World itself. He was a firm believer in the traditions of the Water Tribe and a true fundamentalist when it came to honoring the spirits. Due to his connection with the Spirit World, he always believed himself to be better suited to rule both the Northern and Southern Water Tribes than his older brother; this ultimately made him self-righteous and callous in his approach, as evidenced when he removed his brother from succession, willingly putting the entire Northern Tribe in danger in the process. He also considered Avatar Wan to be foolish for sealing the spirit portals and separating humans from spirits, believing that the two groups should live side by side.
Beneath Unalaq's well-intended and benevolent demeanor was a sociopathic, treacherous, and remorseless person who forsook compassion in order to realize his goals. His belief in the Avatar's failed duty, coupled with his own spiritual affinity, led him to fuse with Vaatu and take on the role of the Avatar himself, showing willingness to use any means to achieve his goals. This extended to betraying his comrades in the Red Lotus, his brother, and his niece, and even endangering his children. He proved himself to be an especially cunning and manipulative man, able to skillfully deceive people by lacing elements of truth into his lies.
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 others, which he demonstrated when he gloated and smirked upon subduing both Jinora and Korra in the Spirit World.
Unalaq was a highly 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, water spouts, and unleashing multiple ice daggers in rapid succession. His water attacks were strong enough to shatter boulders and earth shields summoned by earthbenders.
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.
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. 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.
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. He also gained Vaatu's ability to spontaneously generate and manipulate vines and various types of plant life.
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.
Unalaq was a highly agile and capable fighter, able to hold his own against younger, athletic benders such as Mako and Bolin.
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.
- Unalaq was the only known individual capable of spiritbending until Korra's mastery of the technique.
- Unalaq was the second known head of state to usurp power over their older brother, the first being Ozai.
- Unalaq was the fifth villainous parent to disregard his children's well-being in the process of advancing his own ambitions, after Ozai, Liling, Yakone, and Hiroshi Sato.
- Unalaq was the only major enemy to be a blood relative of the Avatar.
- Unalaq was the only known major enemy of the Avatar to die directly at their hands.
- Unalaq was also the fourth person to die on-screen in The Legend of Korra. The others, in chronological order, were Amon, Tarrlok, Wan, Hou-Ting, P'Li, Ming-Hua, Ghazan, and Hiroshi Sato.
- Unalaq was the third known individual in the Avatar universe to die at the hands of a family member, the others being Azulon and Amon.
|Chief of the Northern and Southern Water Tribes|
Unknown – 171 AG
| Succeeded by|
Desna and Eska (Northern Water Tribe)
Tonraq (Southern Water Tribe)
|Avatar's spiritual mentor|
| Succeeded by|