Legend of Korra: Beginnings, Parts 1+2

Legend of Korra
2 x 7: Beginnings, Part 1
2 x 8: Beginnings, Part 2

Full episodes available at Nick.com.

Episode Summary (from the Avatar Wiki): Korra learns about the origins of the first Avatar and realizes what she must do to restore balance to the physical and spirit worlds.

My Thoughts: I’m depressed by how much I enjoyed these two episodes in which none of the main cast appear at all, except for a few glimpses of Korra. On the other hand, I did enjoy them, and that’s a big step up from last week.

I’ve been told that these episodes disregarded some previously-established canon regarding the origin of bending and the Avatar, which could certainly be frustrating. I haven’t finished watching TLA yet, though, so this wasn’t an issue for me.

I was a little nervous about the first few minutes, in which Wan’s food-stealing escapades looked like it had been lifted almost scene for scene from Disney’s Aladdin, but then we started getting into the larger worldbuilding, the lion-turtles, the spirits living in the human world, Wan stealing fire from the lion-turtle…yeah, it hooked me.

I liked that Wan was flawed and screwed up sometimes, but that he was trying to do the right thing. He was very human but also sympathetic in a way this season has been lacking. I appreciated that he didn’t have a simple moment of revelation, but that his journey was an ongoing thing, involving multiple mistakes and longer-term growth. Watching him learn to use the forest’s tricks against his human pursuers was particularly fun.

I’m still thinking about the revelation that the Avatar is the blending of human and the spirit Raava. It makes sense, and it fits, though after all of Raava’s insistence that spending too long in Wan’s body would kill him, I’m not sure exactly how it works. Or maybe I missed something there. The whole thing made me think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the first slayer being part demon. Let’s just say I like the Korra version better.

And the bending! I hadn’t realized how much I’ve missed the more graceful, fluid style of bending we saw from Wan.

Aye-Aye and the rest of the spirits were a lot of fun too. And Wan’s relationship with Aye-Aye and with Raava, that’s the kind of thing I’ve wanted to see all season. Complex, conflicted relationships. Likable characters.

These were the first two episodes this season that were animated by Studio Mir, the folks who did season one. I hadn’t been aware of this until after the episode. It sounds like Studio Mir will be doing episodes 10-14 as well. Based on what I saw in these episodes, I’m very happy to hear they’re doing more.

Frustrations: I find myself wondering why we couldn’t have gotten this episode earlier. Tell us that the Harmonic Convergence is coming, and give us that looming deadline to worry about instead of leading us through the meandering storyline we’ve had so far. They did it with TLA and Sozin’s Comet, right? Grr…

Korra’s whole amnesia bit seemed pointless. She could have conveniently washed up on fire sage island without having to have her memories reset. Heck, she could have had an Avatar experience while in the belly of the spirit. (Are they going to explain why the dark spirit conveniently spat her out, or how she ended up at the island?)

Finally, it would have been nice to see some female characters.

Overall Rating: I liked it a lot. It wasn’t perfect, but my expectations had dropped after last week, and this was a pleasant surprise. They crammed an entire show’s worth of story into an hour, and it didn’t feel rushed. I’m quite happy, but nervous for what will come next.

Predictions: I want to see Aye-Aye again. Presumably Unalaq has something to do with the dark spirit Vaatu. The obvious explanation is that he’s working to free Vaatu. A more interesting possibility would be that he’s either working to find a way to destroy — no, to enslave Vaatu. We know Unalaq can spirit-bend. I wonder if he’s hoping to tame and use Vaatu the way Wan joined with Raava. I really hope that Korra will focus on getting the gang back together and prepping for the big convergence throw-down. Beyond that … I think it depends on how many risks the writers are willing to take. They could fundamentally change the nature of their world, depending on what they do with Vaatu and Raava. Ultimately though, I don’t think that’s likely. I’m just happy to be looking forward to what comes next.