Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Legend of Korra: The Southern Lights Review

So after a probing part one, where was the season two premiere of Korra to take us? Of course, with tension already high, the journey to the South Pole was not going to be smooth. Sure Bolin, Maco, and Korra’s very weird cousins provided some laughs, but it’s obvious from the get go that the emotion bubbling to the surface was threatening to boil over. Korra’s father has little to no respect/care for the spirits. He’s a practical man, someone who works only with what he sees, and later we learn the cost of this line of thought. It would also help to explain not only Korra’s strong will, but her struggle with connecting with the spirits.
It is too late to call shotgun?
As Unalaq leads the group, spirits attack stealing all the camping gear and leaving most of the equipment useless. Forced to take shelter in a cave, it’s at this point where the animosity between Unalaq and his brother, Korra’s dad Tonraq, is revealed. Years ago the young General Tonraq, chasing a group of bandits out of the Northern Water Tribe, angered the spirits. In the end, it was Unalaq who saved the tribe, and Tonraq was banished. With Tonraq exiled to the Southern Water Tribe, Unalaq ascended to the throne. With all this revealed, a very upset Korra decides it’s time her father makes like Tenzin and leaves.
Angered spirits attach the Northern Water Tribe.
With all this information hitting her, Korra has every right to be upset. Her role in the world is to be the bridge between the spirit world and mankind. The fact that her father angered spirits in his youth should have been brought to her attention. If there is anything we've learnt about spirits from Aang it’s that they don’t forget their interactions with humans (see Koh the face Steeler and Wan Shi Tong). Both those spirits had poor interactions with humans and both didn't care too much for Aang’s role as the Avatar. They still held him accountable for mankind’s actions, and the fact that Korra’s dad angered them by destroying a holy site would cause some animosity between the spirits and the young Avatar.
As Oscar Wilde once said: 'Children begin by loving their parents, after some time they judge them, rarely if ever, do they forgive them.' Sorry Tonraq.
Meanwhile, a deflated Tenzin is taking his family, including his siblings Bumi and Kya, on a tour of the air temples. However, it seems that Jinora gets a chance to have her moment in the sun. Jinora has always seemed better in tune with not only air-bending but also the spiritual side of the air nomad life compared to her siblings. While in the temple room full of Avatar statues, mesmerized by Aang’s statue, she seems to have a connection with the spirit world. It’s a very brief moment, but it speaks to a larger arc for the character. We know from the original series that General Iroh, after the death of his son, somehow managed to connect with the spirit world. Could Jinora, at such a young age, be connecting with it too?
Books? Where you're going, you won't need books.
Back to Korra, we arrive at the source of spiritual turmoil at the South Pole, and Korra, alone, enters a frozen forest to calm the spirits. With some difficulties, including a spirit snake monster restraining her, Korra releases the forest and restores balance, for now, to the Southern Water Tribe. I say for now because we see at the end an ‘invasion’ force of the Northern army entering the Southern Tribe, and this aggressive act by Unalaq cannot bode well for both Water Tribes. But before I end, I want to touch on what I believe to be the most important part of the episode. While Korra is freeing the frozen forest, Jiniro is awoken, and seemingly drawn to the statue room where she ends up at a very old statue that begins to light up. It seems to be the statue of the first Avatar Wan.
Falcon Punch!
When I first heard of Wan, I assumed that it would be Korra who connects and learns from him. But after this episode, I get the impression that not only is Wan going to teach Jinora a thing of two about the spirits, but she is the one who will be teaching Korra all she learns from the first Avatar. I could be wrong, but Korra herself has stated how the Avatar used to travel and learn from different masters. Maybe Tenzin isn't the right teacher for her. He’s a good steadying hand, but Jinora seems to be at a whole different level that even Tenzin might not comprehend, and with Korra’s time with Unalaq seemingly coming to an end, it’s possible that Jinora will teach the Avatar all she needs to know.
Spirits continue their onslaught on Korra.
This was another great episode. The animation was beautifully fluid, the music and sound effects spot on, and it opened the door perfectly for the second season. There are plenty of questions asked, and hopefully we’ll get some answers, but for now I eagerly await the next episode. And with the next two episodes called ‘Civil Wars’, I guess we are going to see just how far Unalaq and Korra’s journey goes. And how long till Avatar Wan enters the picture and just how far is Jinora’s development going to go? A great season opener. I only wish this were a Netflix show so I don’t have to wait for more!

Review of part 1 here. My first ever (and poorly written) Korra review here. Some reflections on Korra season 1 here. And finally, some fun guess work about season 1 that turned out to be wrong here.

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