Friday, November 8, 2013

The Legend of Korra: A New Spiritual Age Review

I wrote a review for last week’s episode of Korra, and as I reread after writing it, it came off as so mean spirited that I chose not to publish it; after all, if you have nothing good to say, why say anything at all? However, before I get into this week’s review, here is the most important sentences of what I had wrote; “Once again, like I’ve said in many of my previous reviews, Tenzin proves how much of a poor teacher he is, especially when compared to someone like old General Iroh, who was measured, smart, confident, and above all loving. Tenzin just comes off as a spoiled brat.” I did not like that episode! This week’s, on the other hand, more than made up for it.
The only important thing from last week is the Unalaq and Vaatu are in cahoots.
With Korra and Jinora now in the spirit world, the show finally picks off where Avatar Wan left us. Watching the two kids (yes, I know Korra is 17, and yes, that means she, and possibly you, are still a kid) explore the spirit world for the first time was interesting. Aang was so connected to his spiritual side all this came easy to him. His troubles were with confronting adversary head on, something Korra has no issue with, and something that proved to be her undoing in the spirit world, as seen when she gets overwhelmed by all the spirits.
Jinora taking Korra on a journey.
In the show previously, from The Last Air Bender up to The Legend of Korra, it has always been apparent that spirits are extremely powerful beings. We have seen them crush armies, steal faces, swallow up libraries, while humans have been constantly at their mercy. This still holds true in this episode, but they have one glaring weakness; they are hugely dependent upon the moods of people, and more so with the Avatar. As soon as Korra goes on the defensive against a bunch of confronting spirits, Korra did what comes naturally, takes a stand and try to force them away from her. This proved to be wrong, instantly turning them ‘evil’, and that’s when I realized that quite possibly humans might be worse for spirits than spirits are for humans. But who’s to know for sure, spirits did force humans to live on the backs of the Lion Turtles!

From here, the two are separated. Jinora, much like Aang, is quite confident and happy with the spirits, finding a companion quickly thus moving her adventure along. Korra however, reverts back to a childlike state, feeling overwhelmed, scared, unsure, and sad. It’s in this moment where she needs the guidance of someone wise, measured, smart, and competent. Enter a character I did not realize I had been missing for so long; the one true General Iroh.
Oh how I have missed you good sir.
I almost cried when I saw Iroh again. Maybe it was because of the great characters his original voice actor Mako portrayed, or because after Toph, Iroh was the best character on the old show, but watching him come into frame made me very nostalgic for the old show, and reminded me of how much I miss the old Gaang, and how much more I actually prefer them (sacrilege)! It’s not because Korra is doing her best impression Harry Potter during The Order of the Phoenix , or that I just don’t like Mako, or that I find Bolin to be increasingly one note, or that I don’t know why Asami still has a thing for Mako, but it’s exactly all of that actually. I found the Gaang more interesting.

Iroh, in his brief 10 to 15 minutes of show time, helped Korra more with his advice that Tenzin has been able to help Korra since the first season. And I love that fact that once he was done with the material world (translation – died!) he transcended into the spirit world to live with them. Of course, none of this is surprising if you know the good General’s history, and it was so good to finally have a steadying hand guide the Avatar, she’s been in desperate need of someone competent for quite a while now. With Iroh guiding her, Korra was able to find strength from within, and help a bunch of spirits too in the process.

Jinor, on the other hand, put her trust in the wrong spirit. Wan Shi Tong was an arrogant, mean spirit, who I always personally blamed for the theft of Appa, because blaming Toph is unfair, and blaming Sokka is like being annoyed at a baby for being cute. So when he reared his ugly face on screen, I knew we were in for trouble. Sure he was going to side with Unalaq (I mean he has a sinister sounding voice), and sure Jinora was going to get caught, how else was Korra going to be forced to open the last spirit portal, but I hope this doesn’t cause Jinora to distrust spirits. She is light years ahead of anyone else we have been introduced to this series in terms of spirituality, and she has the potential to be one of the greatest Air benders because of this connection. I’m sure this experience will inform her moving forward, but I doubt that it will have a lasting negative affect (that is if she survives!).
A face even a mother couldn't love!
So with Jinora trapped, Korra forced to open the spirit portal and almost caught herself, and harmonic convergence only days away, this episode helped move the plot along far more competently that last week’s effort. We now have purpose. Tenzin needs to get Jinora back. Korra needs to stop Unalaq and Vaatu, and Mako (uhg) needs to something something Varrick. This season has been interesting thus far. When it’s all said and done, I am very much looking forward to going back and re-watching it from beginning to end. Whereas each episode from the first season could stand alone with characters making tough, yet smart decisions, this season has thus far come off as a little messy and questionable at times. But like season 4 of Arrested Development, it’s very possible that it all comes together in the end to prove just how smart it was all along. Time will tell. This episode was great, both the animation and music brought this episode alive organically, like ‘leaves from the vine, falling so slow’.

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