Legend of Korra
2 x 10: A New Spiritual Age
Episode Summary (from the Avatar Wiki): After successfully arriving in the Spirit World, Korra and Jinora get separated. Jinora ends up at Wan Shi Tong’s Library, where she is captured by Unalaq. Korra finds herself in a dark forest as a four-year-old, where she encounters Iroh’s spirit. With the help of the former Fire Nation general, she helps a lost dragon bird spirit, who in turn helps her to find the spirit portals. There, she is forced by her uncle to open the northern portal, lest he destroy Jinora’s soul.
The Good: Iroh!!! Spirit Iroh, but still! Even without having seen all of book three of Avatar: TLA, and thus not knowing what ultimately happened to him, it was most excellent to see him again.
“My teapot!” -Young Korra, recognizing the teapot the original Avatar used to carry Raava.
Jinora is a spiritual badass. What I’d really like to see is Korra fighting Vaatu while Jinora and her dragonfly bunnies kick Unalaq’s butt.
The ending: “Korra, what happened to my little girl?” Korra’s reaction as she tries to hold it together. It was an emotional punch that felt earned, unlike much of what we’ve seen so far this season.
Several people have pointed out the influence of Alice in Wonderland, from the dragonfly-bunny spirit Furry Foot (the white rabbit) to Korra shrinking to a younger age to the tea party. Which I suppose would make Iroh the Mad Hatter? Hm … not sure that piece holds, but it was a nifty blending of influences.
The animation was lovely as well.
The Bad: Bumi … several people have commented on the one-dimensionality of his character, and while I think we’ve seen hints of depth, his part in this episode was flat and a bit painful. There are ways to use humor to ease pain and fear; Bumi was just being an insensitive twit. Sigh.
Did Korra really lose her temper and try to bend at the meerkat spirits? Have you learned nothing, Avatar?
The ending, with Unalaq capturing Jinora and holding her hostage to force Korra to open the second spirit portal, felt … a little too predictable. It worked, and it was effective in moving the plot along, but I guess I wanted something more interesting and unexpected.
Wan Shi Tong trusts Unalaq. Why? I get that the spirit has some ill-will toward the Avatar after Team Aang broke their vow about not using knowledge from the library for violent ends. But what has Unalaq done to earn his trust? He’s “darkening” spirits right in front of Wan Shi Tong, and certainly seems plenty violent, which I thought the spirit wasn’t into. I’ve seen a suggestion that perhaps Wan Shi Tong is the twins’ mother, which would tie in with our thoughts about the twins being not quite human. But I’m dubious. Wan Shi Tong seems to have been firmly established as a he, and while I think it would be an awesome revelation, I doubt the show is willing to genderbend like that. (Though, with him being a spirit, I can’t think of any reason why not!)
The I’m Not Sure Yet: Korra taking on the form of her four-year-old self in the spirit world. It was cute, and it made it easier to accept her raw, unguarded emotions: fear, anger, hope, happiness, etc. It let her be vulnerable, and I think it was that vulnerability that helped her to learn and grow. In that regard, having her symbolically return to being a child worked well, and presented her as shedding the cynicism and anger that keep getting in her way.
At the same time, I wish she could have met Iroh and learned these lessons as her teenaged self. I might be overthinking it, but it felt like they almost had to reboot her character from age four in order to get her to the place she needed to be. It felt like a cheat. I wanted to see older-Korra struggle and learn and grow.
Other Thoughts: The next episode is supposed to focus on Bolin et al. back in the city. I’m … not exactly looking forward to this. I really hope they surprise me with something good, though. But, much like the spirits, the storylines aren’t in balance. Korra is off battling for the fate of the spiritual and mortal worlds. The rest of “Team” Avatar is dealing with a civil war that’s been off-screen and barely mentioned for a while now, and a war profiteer. Vaarick’s slimy, but it’s not on the same scale.
There’s been a pretty simplistic approach to good and evil, light and dark. So what’s Wan Shi Tong? He doesn’t look like a dark spirit. But he’s not exactly all sweetness and light. The whole light vs. dark thing isn’t really good vs. evil. It feels more like freedom vs. mindless rage. Or free will vs. enslavement to Vaatu, or infection by his power? I’m not sure exactly, but I wish the show would spend a little more time on what exactly is happening to the “dark” spirits.
Finally, I’ve been watching more episodes of Avatar, and I’m struck at the contrast when it comes to that sense of team and family. I think that was one of the core strengths of the original series, and Legend of Korra just doesn’t have it 🙁