Friday, November 22, 2013

The Legend of Korra: Darkness Falls & Light in the Dark Review

Finally, the Vaatu has come back, to civilization. Man what an episode. I’ve had a week now to sit on my thoughts and figure out how much I valued this two part finale, and whether or not it lived up to the season or exceeded it. This episode was by far the best balanced this season has offered, and brought everything together nicely.

Let’s start with Mako/Bolin Vs. Unalaq/Desna/Eska. What a mismatch. Don’t get me wrong, Mako and Bolin are both accomplished fighters, but Desna/Eska alone have already proven this season that they can hold their own against Korra, and Unalaq has been so emboldened by his recent victories, there was no way Mako/Bolin had a shot at this one. Poor kids, maybe they will have a more important role in the seasons to come other than cannon fodder.

Let’s move to the spirit world, where Tenzin/Bumi/Kya are on the mission to save Jinora. This allowed us to get a deeper insight into this daunting yet charming world. Once again we are introduced to a spirit that has little to no love for humans, but she ended up inadvertently helping our trio. Put into a spirit ‘prison’ Tenzin is confronted with a lot of the complaints that I’ve personally leveled against him since season 1. Tenzin is not centered, not in control of his feelings, not as spiritual as he would like, and does live within his father’s shadow. It’s something that has been apparent since season 1, and something that has always bothered me. What makes all these insecurities meaningful now, is that fact that they led up to the moment where Tenzin must overcome the fog of doubt within in order to save those that he loves. And whether he was able to able to accomplish this with the help of his father, or by himself is immaterial, because Tenzin has grown, and it was necessary if the characters was to ever be depended upon again. Once finally cleared of all that held him down, Tenzin was able to save his family. On a side note, it was great to see a mad Zhao the Moon Killer, and surprising to see just how many humans were trapped in the fog of madness.

Now for the main match, Korra/Raava Vs. Unalaq/Vaatu. I expected this to be a difficult fight. Fighting evil always is, and Korra has had a long journey this season. But when Unalaq and Vaatu fused to become the Dark Avatar, I did not expect them to be as powerful as they were (after all, they were limited to only one form of bending). However, Unalaq fought Korra to a standstill. As seen previously, Yakone brought Aang to his knees, but Aang was able to Avatar State out of that situation. Here, Korra was up against someone who could match her almost power for power, and no Avatar in the known history of this universe has ever had to fight against something as powerful as a Dark Avatar. Korra had no reference point for this. She was truly on her own.

So Vaatu extracted Raava from Korra. Then Vaatu, in a very ultimate evil move, extinguished the light of Raava, seemingly destroying Korra’s connection to her past lives, and left to plunge the world into 10,000 years of darkness. When Amon blocked Korra’s ability to bend earth/water/fire, Korra was really shaken, but she still had air ending, and she still (at the time unknown) had Raava. Now everything she has ever known about herself was taken from her. She gave it her all, lost, and was stripped bare of everything she thought it meant to be Korra. Thankfully, a rejuvenated Tenzin was able to guide her thoughts and help her realize that there is more to her than Raava. It’s a very human problem, trying to reinvent oneself once everything you have ever known fails you, but she lived up to the task in a very Korra way, by becoming a giant blue mecha spirit thingy. With Korra off to fight Vaatu, Jinora off to find the light for Korra, Tenzin, Kya, Mako, Desna, Eska and Bolin are left to protect Korra’s body from an army of dark spirits.

Have you ever been in one of those situations where you are so painfully overwhelmed, that nothing but doubt governs your mind despite the fact that you still have to keep fighting, and no matter how hard you fight you end up losing? I have, and just when I was at my limit, a helping hand came along to ease the burden. That was the role Jinora played in this fight. She was the dark horse, the grand unknown, and ultimately the most important person the Avatar needed in order to ensure victory for peace around the world. Jinora has had an exceptional season, guiding Korra and Tenzin, and if we are to ever see these characters all grown up, I get the feeling that Jinora will be one of the greatest, if not the greatest spiritual leaders this world has ever seen. I’m glad that ultimately victory hinged on a human, and not the Avatar or some spirit.

With Vaatu defeated, Unalaq’s body destroyed, it was time for some housekeeping. Korra may no longer have the connection to her past lives anymore (at least for now), but I’m not so sure if that’s a bad thing. Korra has always been a free spirit, someone unafraid of making big decisions and dealing with the consequences head on, so I feel that now she is free of these shackles, she will do just fine. Korra is the new Avatar Wan for the next 10,000 years of Avatar, and sure, I’m going to miss Aang, a lot, and I can’t even imagine this show without a little Kyoshi, but like Unalaq said, the world is entering a new age, and who better than Korra to lead them through it.

More notes; the always great Varrick sprung outta jail in absolute style; Korra and Mako are thankfully no longer an item (but Asami too has to get over him); Bolin, despite his best(?) efforts could not win Eska back; and Korra chose not to close the spirit portals, allowing the spirits into the human world freely, reversing Wan’s legacy. I’ve said before that I’m not convinced that Wan was a very good Avatar, and I don’t know if what Korra has done is the right thing, but she has shattered the glass ceiling that separated humans and spirits, and now her role in the brave new world will be instrumental in shaping it for the next 10,000 years.

This season was not as smooth as season 1, but the story it told was easily more important than everything that has come before it. I’m going to hold judgment over the entire season until I watch it again, but this two part finale was really a joy to watch. It was animated beautifully, complimented by a great sound track. It wrapped up a very bold season that undoes many things that this show has set up since debuting in 2005. The rest of Korra is going to be defined by this season, for better or for worse, and if the show continues past Korra, the rest of the series will be held to what happened in Book 2: Spirits, at least until the next big reset. So now we have to wait till the next season, Book 3: Change, in 2014, but until then, I’ll be going back and watching this season, and going back to the beginning of Avatar and re-watching Aang’s adventures once again, because why not.

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