Legend of Korra: Civil Wars, Part I
Legend of Korra
2 x 3: Civil Wars, Part I
Full episodes available at Nick.com.
Episode Summary (from the Avatar Wiki): Korra tries to remain neutral as tensions flare between the Northern and Southern Water Tribes.
My Thoughts: I loved the familial theme in this episode. After seeing Tenzin take the brunt of his siblings’ teasing last week (to Katara’s obvious distress), it was good to see the sibling relationships developed more. In group dynamic terms, we’re getting into the storming phase of development. All three of them have pain the others don’t understand, and it will take time to get past that. But they’re all good people, and you see that in their interactions, even when they’re hurting each other.
I’m sad to hear about Aang’s shortcomings as a father. Though it’s not unrealistic. He was the Avatar as well as the last airbender until Tenzin was born. Being a father is hard enough without those two extra planet-sized responsibilities weighing you down. Yeah … completely realistic and well thought out by the writers, but sad to see the scars his kids are still dealing with.
You also had Korra working through her argument with her parents and coming together with them at the end, which was nice. I’m glad to see us moving past that split. I’m also glad she made up with them before Unalaq came to arrest them. Arresting her parents would have served as external motivation to push Korra back onto her parents’ side; I think it works better seeing that come from within.
And then you have Bolin who’s unable to cut off his messed-up relationship with Eska. I’m sorry, but this just isn’t working for me. In a show that’s demonstrated the ability to explore complicated, messy, genuine relationships, Bolin and Eska’s antics feel like a blend of television commercial cliche and possessive/nasty/controlling relationship dynamics played for laughs. I expect better than this.
I got so into the family dynamics that I paid less attention to the actual plot. Let’s see, Ikki has disappeared somewhere, the Southern Water Tribe is unhappy about the “war of northern aggression,” and quirky businessman dude wants a revolution to protect his rotting fish. Something about a spirit portal that they’ll use for a teleporter from the north to south pole. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that plan. Oh, and Korra captures some rebels using waterbending and some sweet rope-work that reminded me of metalbending.
Speaking of which, once again there’s a noticeable and unforgivable lack of Lin Beifong. We also lost Asami from this episode, despite her business partner getting a scene. What’s up with that?
Thoughts from the Eight-Year-Old: I liked it, except how at the end the leader of the northern tribe thought that Korra’s mom and dad were assassins. They weren’t the bad guys! I thought it was funny when Bumi wanted to hunt the shark-squid, even though there wasn’t really a shark-squid.
Overall Rating: I was very glad to see more humor and moments of lightness in this episode, much of which came from Tenzin and his siblings. This felt like a better episode than the first two, though I’d love to swap out Bolin and Eska for a few more hints at the larger plotline and conflicts. I’m more interested in learning about the spirits and what’s going on there.
Predictions: Unalaq has pretty much guaranteed the conflict between north and south is going to escalate, and he’s turned the Avatar against him. Well done, dude. We know Korra opened up the southern spirit gate, but she hasn’t really done anything to address the problem of the spirits being out of balance or angry, has she? So I imagine we’ll see a lot more spirit-based threats soon. And I’m guessing that one way or another, Korra’s going to have to go through that spirit gate. Possibly to rescue Ikki?
September 23, 2013 @ 10:29 am
Is anyone else getting a serious Palpatine vibe off Unalaq? We were doing a bit of ‘count the Anakin lines’ (ffs she actually said “he’s holding me back”). So I’m glad Unalaq wasn’t smart enough to hide his true face from Korra until later in the game.
Was it Ikki we saw finding the old statue in the previous episode? I had it in my head that that was Jinora, but if it was Ikki, that’s a pretty sure sign she’s off in the spirit world.
I am not pleased with the reduced prominence of female characters in Korra’s life this season. Eska is a bad stereotype, and hardly a fair exchange for Lin and Asami. Even over at the air temple, Jinora, Kaya, and Pema barely say five words to each other. Tenzin, Bumi, and Milo dominate the conversation while they’re all together, and we don’t see Pema and Jinora after that.
I’m glad Korra’s mom featured more in this ep. I do wonder where Katara is while Unalaq is marching on the south. You’d think she’d have a thing or two to say about it, and she’d be a force Unalaq would have to reckon with politically.
Bumi really isn’t working for me, right now. I’m okay with him being comic relief in front of the kids, but when they’re off looking for a missing child in the dark, he’s still being unrealistically juvenile. I’d like to see a bit more Iroh-esque finesse out of him in terms of knowing when it’s time to behave like a grown man. The small appearance he had in the first season made him look like an actually-capable warrior who just happened to be more high-spirited than his brother. I’ll buy a bigtime general still contending with an inferiority complex, but if we compare his behavior to, say, Zuko’s around the same issues, the world breaks. Personality differences aside, Zuko, at fourteen, handles his daddy issues with a lot more grace than Bumi, who’s a grown man and a general.
September 23, 2013 @ 11:24 am
“In group dynamic terms, we’re getting into the storming phase of development.”
Okay, Writer Brain desperately needed to know what this meant. Enter Google and Wikipedia. And I’ve just learned something that will be extremely beneficial in my own writing. Thanks, Jim!
Also: I love hear your, and your son’s, thoughts on Korra. I agree with your assessment of Bolin’s relationship troubles. It’s really falling flat for me. But otherwise, I’m enjoying the break from the romance angle (aside from Korra and Mako’s continuing development), and the larger focus on familial relationships this season.
September 23, 2013 @ 11:25 am
Also… No Lin. *sadface*
Jim C. Hines
September 23, 2013 @ 1:09 pm
The familial storylines have been my favorite part so far.
Korra and Mako … I don’t know. The relationship makes sense given their age and the stress Korra’s under, but it’s not quite working for me yet. I’m hoping that will change as the season progresses.
Jim C. Hines
September 23, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
Yes! The whole “He’s holding me back” bit was such an Anakin moment. It made my jaw clench.
I believe it was Jinora who found the statue, but Ikki who disappeared. That threw me off too, as I thought those two things were connected at first. Maybe they still are, I don’t know.
Overall, I’m just not having the same level of character-love that I’ve felt in the past. The examples you list all seemed to have more depth and complexity to them than most of what we’re getting now :-/
September 23, 2013 @ 2:03 pm
I like that they’re showing normal relationship communication. Mako is willing to say “I don’t know if you want advice or sympathy.” A lot of couples struggle with that, and talking it through is a nice, emotionally-mature way to try to be supportive.
That said, they just don’t seem to have a whole lot of chemistry? Mako was the broody one last season. Now Korra is broody and Mako’s just kinda…there.
September 23, 2013 @ 4:21 pm
I think their relationship has taken 3rd place (maybe 4th), as far as the story goes. It’s certainly not a focal point (given how much it was last season, this is appropriate), but at the same time, the scenes are more of an aside. Largely, just a concerned neutral party for Korra to vent her frustrations at. Maybe Mako’s calm will rub off on Korra this season…or maybe not. 🙂
September 23, 2013 @ 10:52 pm
It will be hard to say what I want to say without spoilers for the Last Airbender and future Korra eps, but I’ll try. I love how they are handling Katara. How she was sitting at the big fancy festival dinner holding her 4th grandchild and looking at the interaction of her children and not quite liking it, then sending them off on a vacation together so they can work out their issues with one another. I see what you’re doing there Katara, and kudos.
September 23, 2013 @ 11:20 pm
Clearly she needs to send them all on a lifechanging field trip with Iroh.
September 23, 2013 @ 11:50 pm
I always thought Mako was a bit underdeveloped as a character. Although I also liked him having the open communications with Korra this season.
Am I the only one who ships an eventual Bolin/Asami pairing?
September 23, 2013 @ 11:57 pm
I was also disappointed that Aang wasn’t a great father. It’s believable but sad. Of course it also bums me out that he died so young. I get it makes for better story now, but I always want super mega happy endings for my favorite characters. Honestly, I’m also surprised Katara put up with Aang being a subpar dad.
I also REALLY want to know what happened to Sokka. Did he not get married? No kids? No cousins for Aang/Katar’s three? 🙁
At the moment I’m disappointed with Unalaq’s characterization. I really hope it’s not going where I think it’s going (Unalaq manipulating the spirits to take power) and that the writers are going to surprise us with something really cool. I keep wondering if the creepy twins are going to be significant and have deep ties to the spirit realm somehow. The way Yue in S1 of TLA was living on borrowed time from the spirit realm. I also think it’s interesting that Unalaq’s wife is noticeably absent. Maybe his whole obsession with the spirit realm is so he can talk to his dead wife again?
I’m excited to see where the season is going, but I hope the expanded episode count doesn’t dilute the usual excellence of the writing.
September 24, 2013 @ 8:45 am
I wonder about Katara putting up with that, too.
Jim C. Hines
September 24, 2013 @ 1:04 pm
I could get behind Bolin + Asami!
Jim C. Hines
September 24, 2013 @ 1:06 pm
Agreed on pretty much everything.
I found myself wondering about the twins last night. If you assume they’re human, they’re disturbing and one-dimensional and annoying. But if they’re not–if they’re spirits–that could explain SO MUCH of what’s going on, from their weird behavior to Unalaq’s annoying villainy and more…
September 25, 2013 @ 10:01 pm
I also JUST remembered, but didn’t Korra mention something about them smelling weird? I really, really want that to be a clue and not a throwaway joke.
September 27, 2013 @ 12:18 am
I love the show but Korra seems kind of dumb in this season. Remember when Aang stopped the war by telling them that the feud was over a game. Korra would never think of that she would just beet up everyone and yell I am the avatar!!! Its not that I don’t like her she just needs to open up more and try to think threw things more.
My main theory is that the uncle thinks he is balancing and calming the sprits but really he is pushing over to the light side to far. Think about a yin yang symbol he is make them all white and has been doing that in the north. Inversely in the south the sprits are getting darker. Mean while the opposite happens with the people the north has fasting and boring ceremonies and his kids take pleasure from Bumis pain this seems darker than the southern peoples festival with rides and lights and happiness. My last bit of evidence is when Korra tries to calm the sprit it turned white with black shading but when creeper uncle does it they turn pure gold glowy light she must of been about to balance it and he pushed it all the way to light. Also if he is making them all light the dark has to go some were mainly in him I think. cant wait to see what happens and to see if the whole balance and light and dark keeps on as a theme.