Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Legend of Korra, Beginnings Parts 1 & 2 Review.

When I sat down to watch this episode of Korra, I was a little worried about it. Origin stories, after the fact, are always a little difficult to do well, and now we are getting the origin story of the Avatar. Was this guy going to be a brave warrior who learnt to bend all the elements at once? Was he a king, a spiritual leader, a learned man? The answer, none of the above. He was just some Joe Schmo who was going to tell Korra his journey so that it may help her.
A young Wan largely unaware of the outside world.
For the first part of this episode, I did not like Wan. Sure he was the down on his luck street kid like Aladdin, but unlike Aladdin, he didn’t come off as a brave street smart kid who looked out for the innocent and helpless. He lied and stole and cheated, and by the time he was banished I didn’t feel too sorry for the young Avatar in the making. Hailing from the pseudo Fire Nation on the back of the Lion Turtle, Wan gains the element of fire, and chooses to keep it instead of gifting it back. However, this all leads to his banishment, and it’s from this point out, with Wan free of the shackles of his village, his story really comes to life.
Fire Lion Turtle gifting the element of Fire.
First thing first. Spirits, living along side with human, was awesome. Their designs were really interesting to look at, and I got the impression that each one had distinct personalities to go with their odd shapes. Their general dislike of humans was an interesting choice for them. After all, it was the human’s world first, and the spirits came into the world and forced the humans to live on the back of Lion Turtles. It’s not really surprising that the humans did not like these invading spirits, and the fact that they live in distrust of one another kept an undercurrent of tension throughout the episode that manifested into fighting and death on more than one occasion.

No spirit stood out more than Aye-Aye. He was just pure fun to watch. His opinion of humans was so low, it was comical to see him interact with then as if he was dealing with an unwanted ugly pet. Jason Marsden (his voice actor) did such a great job bringing this charming character to life. Aye-Aye came off as intelligent, wise, kind to spirits, but overtly arrogant and hateful of humans. But as Wan tore down Aye-Aye’s distrust, wanting to live along with the spirits and learn from them, Aye-Aye went from mean bully to reluctant teacher. He had an interesting journey, and is integral in the development of the Avatar. I would like to know what fate befell the big eared spirit.
The charming Aye-Aye.
With Wan spending two years learning from the spirits, I expected him to achieve a level of knowledge and spirituality that would allow him to solve great problems and end calamities. However, the first thing he did once on his own again was unleash ultimate evil. It was such a rookie mistake I was surprised he fell for Vaatu’s trick. Why he was never told of Vaatu the spirit of chaos and darkness or Raava the spirit of peace and light is a glaring omission on Aye-Aye’s behalf, but the fact that Wan couldn’t determine a sinister looking being based purely on looks alone shows just how little Wan had developed in his two years of banishment. It was worrying.
Raava and Vaatu locked in eternal battle.
With Wan’s unleashing of evil, he finally had a goal. To right his wrongs, Wan chose to find the other Lion Turtle cities and gain the elements from then. The first stop was the Air Nomads, and it was wonderful to see that they weren’t as distrustful of the spirits as those on the Fire Turtle. Spirits lived with them in peace and harmony, and it spoke volumes about the nature of the various humans in this world, and what their descendants would become. It seems that the people of Fire are predestined to be violent, seeking fights, whereas the Air Nomads were a gentle people who were already a very well developed culture at this point. Sadly we didn’t get to see too much of the Water Turtle of Earth Turtle villages, but it would have been very interesting to see what they were like too.

The fact that in order to gain the elements, humans had to go to the Lion Turtles and be gifted the power was not what I was expecting. I always assumed that the humans of this world had this power naturally, but it seems that there was a point in the planet’s history when no human could bend any element, and the world may have been better off. It reminded me of Prometheus’ story of ancient Greek mythology. The Lion Turtles, who genuinely love the humans, had good intentions, but in gifting the elements gave the humans a powerful tool to cause more harm than good to one another, and no appreciation for that power.

Before the final fight with Vaatu, Wan tried to prevent a battle between the spirits and fellow outcasts from his villiage, but once again failed. Vaatu’s influence was too great, and the spirits lead by Aye-Aye slaughtered the humans, and Wan was left with the knowledge that he had been the cause of it all. It’s like he can do nothing right. Teaming up with Raava, Wan took on Vaatu in the spirit realm, and one of the best duels in the Avatar universe took place. The bending of this era was so elemental. Great cloud gusts that made up air, fire and water looked primordial, and earth was big, blocky, and not done with the finesse that Toph would bend. However, despite his training, Wan was not making any ground against Vaatu.
Wan staring down Vaatu.
Vaatu was powerful, and in a world full of distrust and hate he was in his prime. Thus Wan and Raava became one, and for the first time, the Avatar came into being. Avatar Wan’s power was great. I got the impression that even he was unaware of its full extent, but once he got a grasp of the basics, he overwhelmed Vaatu and locked him up. Wan then makes the executive decision to close the spirit portals and declare that he will dedicate his life to bring about peace to the world. After this, I have no doubt that Unalaq is not the big baddie, and that Vaatu is pulling all the strings. It also highlights how much of Wan’s work Korra had undone this season thus far, but with her memories back, and the knowledge of Wan’s life, Korra has some powerful tools at her disposal.
Raava moments before binding with Wan forever.
In the end, Wan didn’t solve some great calamity. He didn’t bring about peace to the world. He died old, broken, and all alone on a battle field, apologizing to Raava for his failures, lamenting the choices he’s made. It was sad to watch. Almost difficult. But from his life, we got Korra, Aang, and the always great Kyoshi. So he may not have had an easy, carefree life, and he may have caused more problems than he solved, but Avatar Wan had a good soul, and it was a sad ending to a man of good intentions.
Wan's dying breath.
This episode was beautiful to watch. It was like watching a painting come to life. The music was really well done, complementing the ancient vibe of this episode. As Korra goes on break into November, there is still so much left unanswered, and I can’t wait for its return. This was a truly great episode, easily the best in the entire Avatar series. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree, this episode really brings it all together and sets the stage for many more Avatar stories to come. Can't wait...