Legend of Korra: Book Two
Legend of Korra
2 x 1: Rebel Spirit
2 x 2: The Southern Lights
Full episodes available at Nick.com.
Episode Summary (from the Avatar Wiki): Team Avatar and Tenzin’s family travel to the Southern Water Tribe to attend the Glacial Spirits Festival. While there, Korra’s uncle, Unalaq, attempts to persuade Korra to let him advise her about the spirits, but both Korra’s father and Tenzin assert that she needs to focus on her airbending. However, during the festival, Korra discovers that it was her father and Tenzin rather than Aang who kept her locked away, and after a Dark Spirit attacks, Korra breaks off her studies under Tenzin and takes up Unalaq as her instructor. Korra and Unalaq travel to the deeper parts of the South Pole to open the mystical portal between the spirit world and the physical world in order to release the long-gone southern lights into the sky.
My Initial Thoughts: Legend of Korra is back! Never make us wait fifteen months again!
Nice of the show to give us a bit of a refresher on who everyone is and what they’ve been up to, but where’s Lin Beifong? Mako mentions her, but I was sad to miss my favorite metalbender. Then again, there was a lot to catch us up on. Asami’s appearance felt a bit rushed as well. I almost wish they’d started with Team Avatar and caught us up on Asami in a future episode, when they could devote more time and attention to her character.
I appreciate that we jump right into the conflict and imbalance of the spirit world, and that these are antagonists Korra doesn’t understand, let alone know how to control. The backstory suggests the imbalance is the fault of Korra’s father, but the show also seems to be working really hard to make Unalaq appear shifty. A between-the-lines reading could suggest that Unalaq is the one who set his brother up, first summoning the spirits to attack the Northern Water Tribe, then sending them away again once his brother had been shamed. We see hints of Unalaq’s envy, and the appearance of his army at the end of episode two certainly makes him look like a bad guy, not to mention the rather slimy overtones as he manipulates Korra to turn her against Tonraq and Tenzin.
I hope that’s not where they’re going. It seems too obvious, and I want more complexity with my show. The conflict between Tonraq and Unalaq is deep and old. I’d love to see them forced to work together over the course of the season.
I’m not sure yet what to think about Eska and her brother, Unalaq’s Spock-like twin children. I think Bolin’s attempt to woo Eska could be a lot of fun, but it could also go off the rails. The bit where she used waterbending to separate Bolin from Korra was both amusing and cringeworthy. I think I’m going to withhold judgment until I see a few more episodes.
Meanwhile, back at an air temple, Tenzin’s daughter Jinora is communing with the statue of Aang, and is drawn to the very old and crumbling statue of an avatar she doesn’t recognize, a statue that lights up when Korra opens the spirit portal. Interesting…
We also get a bit of grumpy Korra. While it was frustrating to see her snapping at everyone, I also think it helps emphasize that “spirit” really isn’t her thing.
Thoughts From the Eight-Year-Old: “I liked it! Some of the bad spirits scared me. But it made up for it when they were turning the bad spirits good. I don’t like it when good guys turn bad, but I do like it when bad guys turn good, and there hasn’t been anything lately that has bad guys turn good. I really liked when Korra went into the Avatar State and made it so now there are southern lights, and not just northern lights. I saw the preview, and I think that I might know how the first avatar became the first avatar. The only way that I’ve come up with is that four people would come, one for each of the elements, and they’d use all the elements of bending and come together to become like a shiny gold ball in the sky that’s called the spirit ball, and it would choose one of them to become the Avatar.”
Overall Rating: Not bad, but not the greatest episodes I’ve seen, either. It felt a little like we had to stop and get our bearings again, and I’m hopeful that things will tighten up now with future episodes. I like the setup with the spirits, and the contrast with last season’s conflict. Mostly I’m just happy the show is back!
Predictions: The obvious conflict is between Tonraq and Unalaq, and through them, the Southern Water Tribe vs. the Northern. I don’t suspect we’ll see outright fighting right away, but it’s probably coming unless a bigger threat comes along. A bigger threat presumably tied to the spirits.
I’ve heard Korra will be communing with the first Avatar this season. I haven’t gone looking for spoilers, so I don’t know if the statue Jinora found was of the first Avatar. It would be sweet to see Korra have to go up against some kind of Fallen Avatar, a dark character whose her equal in power, with a connection to the spirits… Probably not, but I’d happily watch it.
And I hope we get a bit more humor and lightness. There were a few good moments, and the brief shot of Meelo sprawled across the bottom of the bed made me smile with recognition. But I want to see more of those moments, more of Asami (who I’m assuming will be brought into the conflict eventually), and bring back Lin Beifong!
September 16, 2013 @ 10:24 am
The conflict between Tonraq and Unalaq raises the spectre of Iroh and Ozai, for me. They even say that Tonraq was the older brother and first in line to be chief of the northern tribe.
I’m hoping that, rather than a straightup “Unalaq is the villain” thing, we’ll see Unalaq realize that oh, hell, messing with the spirits to make a power play was the worst idea ever, and he’d better work with his brother, Tenzin, and team Avatar to clean up the mess. That might be a little too close to what they did last season with Tarrlok though. (And come to think of it, this isn’t the first time Korra’s decided to ignore Tenzin and run off to work with a shifty waterbender).
The episode definitely could have used some more Lin Bei Fong, that’s for sure. But then, what episode couldn’t?
September 16, 2013 @ 10:35 am
Also I’m a teeny bit disappointed that Korra is apparently closely related to water tribe royalty. I liked her introduction as a child in the first episode, where she was from what appeared to be an average family (her mother was sweeping up, no servants, small house).
I don’t know why that matters to me.
Jim C. Hines
September 16, 2013 @ 3:06 pm
I actually had a similar reaction. I didn’t remember if we had seen that before and I’d forgotten, or if it was simply never pointed out in the first book.
I think it’s in part because it falls into the Trope of Specialness. It’s one thing to show that anyone can become the Avatar. It’s another when she’s daughter of a chief. I prefer the former suggestion. Especially when combined with the themes of season one.
September 16, 2013 @ 3:57 pm
Not sure where this season is going. In mannerisms Unalaq actually reminded me of Tarloc from Book 1, even before he brings in his army at the end of the second episode. Haven’t we already learned that conquering a country in order to “share prosperity/ideas/put them on the right path” isn’t such a good idea and leads to just straight-up tyranny (thanks Fire Nation for teaching us THAT wonderful lesson)? What bothered me most about that moment is that Korra doesn’t look horrified to see her homeland being invaded. She just looks…doubtful.
Ugh, since when did Korra turn into Anakin Skywalker? “He’s holding me back! I know I’m ready for more advanced stuff and he won’t let me! He’s always telling me I’m not ready!” I hope she isn’t a whiny, bratty teenager for the entire season. That will get old real fast. Although Korra being full-on Anakin Skywalker and being corrupted by the Dark could be an interesting plot twist. I don’t think they’re going to do that, but an Evil Avatar actually would provide some good drama.
I think Tonraq might not have been the Chief of the Southern Water Tribe when Korra was identified as the Avatar. He may have been elected chief at some point subsequently since I doubt he would have just taken over the Southern Tribe after being cast out of the North. I wonder if Unalaq is jealous that even though his brother didn’t become Chief of the Northern Water tribe (whether he set him up or not, I suppose we’ll find out), he still managed to mark his place in history by being the father the next Avatar.
Those creepy twins! What’s up with them? They’re like aliens in human bodies. I hope they start acting more like human beings at some point over the season and not visitors from another planet who have no idea how human interaction works. Either that they turn out to be spirits that Unalaq has trapped in human form and that’s why they act that way.
Lots of questions. Can’t wait for next week!
September 16, 2013 @ 7:15 pm
Aubrey Plaza, who plays April Ludgate on Parks & Rec, voiced Eska, the female twin. I just plain could not get past that, because she speaks in the same monotone for this part as she does for April. The whole time I was just like “why is April Ludgate talking over that character with parody dialogue?”
The Nick website says that Unalaq is “Chief of the Northern and Southern Water Tribes.” I wonder how that happened. If chieftancy was hereditary in the South as it appears to be in the North, then the rightful chief would be Hakoda’s closest descendant–since he was still chief up through at least the end of the war. Assuming Sokka had no children, that’d be Katara. Or, if the chief has to be male, her eldest son Bumi.
Since Katara married Aang, the only way they could have consolidated leadership through marriage is if Sokka married into the northern royal family and fathered Tonraq and Unalaq, which seems unlikely (and would make Tenzin and Korra’s father first cousins, which you’d think they’d have mentioned).
Alternatively, Hakoda could have (re-)married into the Northern chief’s family. But that still presents the ‘why did no one mention that Korra and Tenzin are cousins?’ problem.
So either chieftancy is not hereditary in the south, or something weird happened at the end of the war that involved Hakoda getting deposed (or Sokka getting deposed/abdicating at the time of Hakoda’s death).
I really want to see Katara step up on Unalaq at some point this season. Because if she wanted to be chief, who’d step up on her? Nobody smart, that’s who.
September 16, 2013 @ 11:17 pm
I dearly wish that Korra could be a more likeable character. At least Mako gets it – it’s not a matter of “sides” – but the older people around her keep reinforcing her black-and-white thinking. She needs an Uncle Iroh, badly.