The Legend of Korra is back! Rejoice Avatar fans! Book 2 is here and so is my weekly review. I’ll be posting one of these every Sunday to discuss that week’s episode. As this is a review, it’ll include what was awesome, what was less awesome as well as my prediction going forward. Seeing as I can’t help myself and will probably pick each episode apart, you can expect SPOILERS TO BE IN THESE REVIEWS for the episodes in question as well as any that came before it. So now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk Korra!
This week’s 2-episode premiere for Book 2 started off strong and left us asking a LOT of question by its end. The change of scenery is perhaps the most noticeable difference, as we are finally escaping the bound of Republic City to explore the wider world that we grew to love in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Although we’ve only scene the Southern Water Tribe and the Southern Air Temple so far, it’s a safe bet the upcoming forays into both the past and the Spirit World will prove to be some of the most amazing locations this series has ever given us.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of each episode though, lets take a second to talk about some of our new cast members.
Tonraq, Korra’s father, is shaping up to be a far more interesting character this season compared to his couple of lines in Book 1. With two big reveals about him made in the first two episodes, I think it’s safe to say that his role in future episodes will be important. Besides, even if it isn’t, it’s honestly just good to see a character (Korra) with not only living parents, but active ones in her life.
Unalaq, Korra’s Uncle, certainly has the air of a villain about him… With his stringent belief that he is the only one who needs to teach Korra and his zealous mission to restore the Southern Water Tribes spiritual side, this guy may end up being one of Korra’s biggest foes. Perhaps not physically, but ideologically and spiritually.
Desna & Eska, Korra’s cousins, are perhaps two of the oddest character we’ve ever seen in the Avatar universe. With their Mai-esque dispositions and strange do-things-together-without-talking twin thing, they are certainly going to be interesting to watch! Bolin’s crush on Eska, as well as Audrey Plaza’s fantastically dead-pan voice work for her, are shaping up to be one of the most hilarious/odd relationships we’ve ever seen.
Bumi & Kya, Tenzin’s brother and sister, are quite the interesting pair. It’s great to finally meet Aang’s other two children and to have them contrast with Tenzin (the one child we’ve had a whole season to get to know) so greatly is an interesting dynamic. It’s also great to see that the creators of the show didn’t just cop-out and make all of Aang’s children super awesome benders. Bumi can’t bend a thing, but that doesn’t stop him (nor should it!) from getting the job done. Another interesting thing about their relationship with Tenzin is that they seem to have picked/pick on him a great deal. Because of Book 1 we’ve come to know that Tenzin is quite a wise man, so it should be interesting to see how this season plays out and if that relationship between these siblings changes as the stakes get higher.
And last but not least we have Varrick, easily one of the quirkiest characters ever seen. His rich and detached from reality point of view is exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from the richest man in the world. What makes it so interesting though is that the world of Avatar has never really been in a position to HAVE a richest man in the world before; what with the separate nations of the past and the 100 year war that followed. Industrialization is still relatively new, and it’s nice to see that people like Varrick (crazy, eccentric business men) are out there pushing technology forward behind the scenes.
Man, what a first episode! It manages to sneak in quite a bit of information into despite its 24 minute run time. Republic City has disbanded its counsel and now has a President and Bei Fong has apparently been reinstated onto the police force. What’s more, we were all apparently lied to when they told us (and Korra) in Book 1 that it was Aang that set up the secluded training grounds to teach Korra as she grew up. It would appear this was simply something the White Lotus/Tenzin/Tonlaq came up with on their own. Korra is understandably angry about this, and seems to be battling with the idea of leaving Tenzin even before the episode starts.
Catching up with Asami, Bolin and Mako was also a nice touch, even if Mako and Bolin’s lives in Republic City aren’t really going to factor into anything going forward this season. Asami on the other hand, with her ties to modernization and industry, may very well have a bigger role to play going forward in the wider world of Avatar. I’d also like to tip my hat to the writers for not only tossing Mako a horrible one-liner, but then addressing it later with a conversation between him and Korra. Witty one-liners are the kind of thing that everyone wishes they said, but no one actually does. So it was nice to see that Mako’s was the result of much preparation on his part.
Now let’s get to the heart of this episode, the spirits. While this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen spirits in the Avatar universe, these have certainly been the most active and visually stunning. A big round of applause should go to the animators for making these things move the way they do, like a mixture of smoke, water and lightning; it’s truly a beautiful thing to see in motion. That being said, I’m not sure I buy all this “the spirits are mad because the South loves carnivals” stuff that Unalaq is spewing. You’d think if industrialization was the problem that the spirits might have stepped in a little sooner, or perhaps stepped in stop the fire nation from almost wiping the Southern Water Tribe out during the great war, as that would have put a big dent on their ability to revere the spirits just the same.
I’d also like to go on the record as saying that Mako makes a better boyfriend than he does love interest. He really showed his worth in this episode by trying to support Korra in any way he could, despite having absolutely no idea how to do it. Korra was in a situation with no good answers, and no truly “right” sides; so for her to turn to Mako for help was a bit much. Mako stuck things out though, and has proved to me that he actually is solid boyfriend material. It would have been nice to see him commit like this with Asami back in Book 1, but perhaps that’s kinda the point. Perhaps him and Asami really weren’t meant for each other.
While I can’t say I think the choice to ditch Tenzin for Unalaq was a good one on Korra’s part, as Tenzin has proven to be right time and time again, I can’t say that I blame her. Korra is a very “in the moment” type of person, and it totally makes sense for her to want to stop dark spirits NOW instead of touring around the world and fixing it later. Korra made have connected with her spiritual side in Book 1, but that doesn’t mean she’s mastered the patience that needs to come with it. She’s still very much the same girl we met in the first episode, despite all that she’s learned. After all, people don’t just change in a day.
The Southern Lights
This episode also brought it’s own share of doozies in the form of Korra’s father apparently being banished from the Northern Water Tribe when he was younger. For those of you keeping track at home, that means that (banishment aside) Korra is/would have been a princess just like Yue from Avatar. This also means that Korra isn’t just a Southern Water Tribe girl, but technically a princess born of both tribes, a fact that may or may not come up as this season move forward.
Also, another fun fact, we’ve seen the Northern Lights before during Book 1; in the episode “Skeletons in the Closet” when Amon and Tarrlok are training with their father. It’s a small touch, but it does go to help keep the show as a whole nice and consistent.
Obviously though, the big topic of conversation for this episode is the Ever-storm and Tenzin’s trip to the Southern Air Temple.
Korra and the Gaangs journey through the Ever-storm to reach this spirit portal gave us some of the best and gorgeous looking combat we’ve seen in this show so far; once again the spirits steal the show with their fantastic movements and energy. These battles also gave us some humorous moments with Bolin, Eska & Desna as well, as did the ghost stories around the campfire.
Korra’s evetual trek into the frozen forest and battle with the dark snake spirits though, left me asking a lot of questions. One the one hand, Korra is a children show and they can’t have people dying left and right. But that certainly didn’t stop the spirits from throwing people around of dragging them into the depths of the ocean in the last episode, so why was it that the spirits just stole a bunch of stuff and tried to restrain Korra in this episode? It’s hard to say why the spirits do what they do (they are spirits after all), but I suspect there is actually something else going on with these dark spirits. After all, the Aurora Borealis wasn’t the only “southern lights” we saw in this episode…
While Korra might be the main character of the show, I couldn’t help but be more intrigued in this episode with what was going on with Tenzin and his family; Jinora most of all. Jinora seems to be tapping into some spiritual connection that even Tenzin is missing out on, and I can only hope that her role in the season continues to expand going forward. The Gaang could use a few more members, and while Jinora may be young, she’s certainly more mature than most of the other characters in the show.
This episode saw Korra opening the portal to the spirit world, making up (and out) with Mako and saving the day once again. Only… maybe not. As it would appear that her uncle has some plans for the Southern Water Tribe that he didn’t feel he needed to share. Keep in mind, the Northern and Southern Water Tribes are on opposite sides of the world. All those ships that Unalaq brought? Yeah, they didn’t just “show up”. This move has been planned for some time now, and now that Korra has pushed away Tenzin and his family it’s up to her and the Gaang to try and salvage this on their own. At least for now.
If I had one criticism about these first two episodes though, it would be the voice acting; with Tonraq and Bumi being the two offenders. Bumi is hilarious and full of energy, but for some reason I’m just not feeling it yet. And Tonraq, well, he seemed to be dead-panning it at times more so than Eska. His flash-back story was solid, so he clearly has it down. It just sounded to me like he just didn’t have a feel for the character yet, and I hope that as the season move forward we see and improvement on both fronts.
Perhaps one of the funnest things about watching a show every week is seeing where the character go and guessing what they’ll do next. Which is exactly what you’ll find in this section here, my predictions for Book 2 going forward.
- The spirits don’t care that much about cotton candy. I suspect that the imbalance causing this recent surge in dark spirits has more to do with Unalaq’s plan to “unite” the Water tribes (or some other factor) than it does anything else. There is supposed to be 1 Earth Kingdom, 1 Fire Kingdom, 4 Air Temples and 2 Water Tribes. Unalaq’s plan may very well be throwing off this balance.
- Korra was supposed to open that spirit portal. You know how sometime the hero saves the day only to find out they’ve actually just did something to help the “Big Bads” ultimate plan? Yeah, I suspect that this was one of those situations. This brings me to…
- That statue Jinora saw? That’s our new “Big Bad”. Now I’m willing to admit that I’m jumping the gun a bit here, and that the statue could very well be Wan (the first Avatar), but I find it oddly suspicious that we’ve heard nothing about the main antagonist for Book 2 so far. Indeed, I suspect that Book 2 may actually be a springboard for introducing the antagonist for the next 2 seasons. My theory right now is that, like the spirits, there is dark and light within the Avatar as well; and that this statue represents a “Dark Avatar” from ages ago. I suspect he was imprisoned for his actions, cut off from the line of Avatars (which was a fate that could have befallen Aang) and that Korra opening the spirit portal in the South may have put a plan into motion to free him.
Obviously, I can’t wait to be wrong! Being surprised is the best part of watching a show every week! What about you guys though? What are your predictions? Likewise, what did you think of our first two episodes of Book 2? The good? The bad? Sound off in the comments!