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The Legend of Korra: Season 2 Premiere Review: “The Southern Lights”
I’m glad the premiere was two episodes, and that’s not just the fan in me speaking. While it was fun to get back in to the world of Avatar (what is their world called, anyway?), episode one was too flighty to actually do much in terms of spinning the threads of a season’s story. Episode two, “The Southern Lights”, gave us a clean-cut goal and an excellent episode: go to the South Pole and do some bridge-y business between the physical and spiritual world. Easy as pie.
[Though it should scarce bear mentioning, spoilers reside ahead. Ye hast been warned.]
I still disagree with almost every choice that Korra has made in her entire life and firing Tenzin is ranking high up on the list. From the first, I didn’t trust Unalaq and Tenzin has Aang’s genes running throughout his body. That makes him infinitely more qualified than some fanatical, Water Tribe chump! In the exchanges between Korra and her uncle, it’s easy to see why she made her decision and it’s infuriatingly childish: she was bored of training and just wanted to learn some new way of fighting. The instant she went with Unalaq, I demanded to see the moment when Korra realized that her uncle is a much worse choice than Tenzin could ever be. I wouldn’t have to wait very long it seemed.
The trek to the South Pole (and the very game-y named “Everstorm” that surrounds it) got me excited. The thought of travel always riles me up, and it hit that wanderlust itch I didn’t even know I had.
It’s at about this point that I got really tired of Korra and her antics. As if by clairvoyant alleviation, we are taken to Tenzin and his family to experience the Southern Air Temples. It’s a refreshing change from the all-encompassing angst that exudes from Korra like a miasma. Though, it was a little embarrassing to see how irrelevant the Air Nomads “groupies” thought Bumi and Kya were. And all this talking about Aang’s children makes me wonder what happened with Sokka. I assume he and Suki got along together but we don’t see any mention of Tenzin, Bumi, and Kya’s cousins. Yet. I always liked Sokka and I don’t want him forgotten.
Back to the Korra’s mini-adventure, we learn some surprising history on Tonraq. It was easy to ignore some of the more obvious discrepancy because he was never really brought up in the show before but it still added to the reveal that….(*dramatic pause and music*) Tonraq was banished from the Northern Water Tribe even though he was on track to become chief. Evidently he want on a rampage in a hallowed forest in the north while routing bandits and drove the native spirits bonkers. He was saddled with the blame for the spirits’ careering rampage through the Northern Water Tribe city and was summarily kicked out. At this reveal, Korra gets uppity once again and my opinion of her drops. Once again. It’s even more obnoxious because I’m pretty sure Korra would have done the same thing and probably not for as noble a reason. Either way, Tonraq was such a good noodle that he managed to rise to chief-dom in the South, despite being a stranger. So good on him.
I’m liking the direction of this season. They are travelling more and we’re getting a bigger look at the world. Even places we’ve never seen in The Last Airbender.
There was a strange bit in the room of statues in the Southern Air Temple between Jinora and a statue of her grammpy, Aang. There was an intimation of something happening but I didn’t catch it. [extra points for the sailor that can explain that point to me!]
I have to keep saying it: Season 2 is farking beautiful. The Everstorm is possibly the coolest thing I’ve seen in the Avatar universe. And no, that snow pun was unintended. Or puntended….okay, no.
Also, when Korra was fighting goopy, black ink snakes, I realized what was one more thing that was chafing me: the spirits’ design. Everything in the Last Airbender had a much softer, ink-art design reminiscent of early Japanese art and that translated to their portrayal of the spirits. These spirts that we’re seeing right now are so less distinct because they’ve reneged on that other design. I actually liked it better before. It gives each spirit less of a definition and more just defines “dark spirits” as a whole, as an entire entity. I guess it’s alright for now, since we haven’t met any named or particularly important spirits as of yet. But I hope the trend doesn’t continue.
Seeing Eska get jealous at Bolin hugging Korra after she unblocked the Southern Water Tribe’s spiritual “clogged toilet” was amusing (though the fact that the sentiment was mirrored across both twins is something that I will have to get used to). But the thought arose “why wasn’t the Avatar state her second, if not 1st, option for getting through whatever was holding her up in the center of the Everstorm?”. She knew it was an entirely spiritual issue, didn’t she; why would trying to smash it with her bending work? It seems really indicative of Korra’s main problem: she doesn’t have the barest inkling of how to connect with her spiritual side. She just hits things. She only went with Unalaq because she thought she was going to find a new way to fight.
Lastly, I was farking right. You can never trust thin, sharp-jawed Water Benders! The very martial moving-in of Northern Water Tribe soldiers speaks more of armed occupation than a gentle guidance to a more spiritual life. Could we be seeing the start of civil war plot on top of the spiritual conflicts that Korra will be facing?
Bonus realization: this is the second time that lights in the south have brought an invasion of ships to the Southern Water Tribe. I’d be slightly disappointed if the creators didn’t plan this “coincidence” out but, for safety’s sake, the Southern Water Tribe should just…stop using lights for a couple of centuries or something.
The premiere was well served by doing an hour-long, two episode reveal. It allowed for something to actually be completed rather than introducing a new element then leaving for a week. It was well presented. There is NOTHING (reasonable) to complain about!