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The Legend of Korra: “Civil War Pt. 1” – Warring Families[Though it should scarce bear mentioning, spoilers reside ahead. Ye hast been warned.] This week is all about pretexts and how they are used to show families fighting. On the “Vacation Tenzin” front: Ikki, Tenzin’s second daughter, has gone missing and his siblings, Kya and Bumi, volunteer to help him search. What starts as a fruitless search quickly turns into a series of short but emotionally-charged arguments between Aang’s children. It really brought up some of the issues a family of different types of benders can run into. Whereas Tenzin remembered an idyllic childhood with their father, Kya and Bumi have no recollection of it saying that Tenzin was always favored by Aang because he was the only other Airbender. The same sentiment extended to people that didn’t know Kya and Bumi, as shown in the last episode where the Air Nomad groupies ignored and patronized them in equal measures because they weren’t airbenders.
The entire “civil war” amongst Bumi, Kya, and Tenzin very quickly became dirty laundry day and the blame train started roaring along at full steam. During the course of their squabbles, we learn that Kya had been the equivalent of a vagrant hippy until Aang died, at which point, she came back to take care of Katara. Bumi wasn’t above taking jabs at Tenzin’s fresh wound of Korra replacing him. Oh, and evidently Bumi is the oldest of the three. I had assumed Kya was the oldest due to her hair color and that Bumi was the youngest. I guess Tenzin was right about that. But that small fact makes Bumi’s grievances more real; he is the oldest child but likely was overshadowed by his bending sibling, the youngest even being the second airbender to exist in a century.
The issues they have are multi-faceted and rather complicated, too complicated for the relatively small time they were given to work with. There’s a lot of angst between all of Aang’s kids right now which is kind of sad considering they are all well past the moody adolescent stages of their lives. I’m just hoping that they get to meet with Katara and sort all of this out soon. All of this is a little bit of a hole in my personal fantasy of Aang and Katara living happily ever after. Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi are basically working their way through problems most celebrities’ children face: how to define yourself in the wake of your parents’ success. Tenzin, as the only airbender among Aang’s children, had the burden on passing on the entire tradition of the Air Nomads. Imagine that. If Tenzin didn’t have a child that could airbend, whether or not it was directly his fault, he would be known as the last of the airbenders. As the person who couldn’t continue the lineage. They all, in their own perceived ways, had big shoes to fill and they are dealing with it now.
When they couldn’t stand each other’s company for a moment longer, Tenzin sent Bumi and Kya away and continued to search for Ikki alone. It was an unsatisfying conclusion but as this episode is evidently “part 1”, I can only hope we don’t have to wait too long to get a resolution for this particular problem.
On the “Unalaq is invading the South” side of things, well that’s what is happening. Although Korra is still blinded by Unalaq’s talk of correcting the imbalances in the spirit world and all that hammy nonsense, the rest of the Southern Water Tribe is getting cagey about the Northern soldiers very aggressive occupation. Matters aren’t helped much when the soldiers are willing to get physical with children just because they got pelted with snowballs.
The leaders of the Southern Water tribe, spearheaded by Varrick, have all had enough and quietly resolve to rebel. The issue with that being, as the Avatar and the keeper of peace, Korra has to avoid taking sides while also seeking an end to the conflict. And, as Korra so eloquently put it, she has more experience with starting fights than she does with ending them. It doesn’t help that Korra is still taking advice from her uncle, Unalaq. While he is right that the Avatar must be neutral in all conflicts (what with him/her being a member of all four nations), I feel like Unalaq is only telling Korra to stay out of the fight because he is sure she would join on the side of the Southern Water tribe.
Just about everything Unalaq is saying rings false to my ears, every step is just too conveniently close to the last. For example, Unalaq wants to remove Korra from the South to perform the same spiritual operation up in the Northern Water tribe. But the solstice that Korra needed to adhere to last time? Unnecessary, because the North is so much more spiritual than the South. Every time Unalaq opens his mouth, I grimace in distaste and wait to see what new cannon fodder he will give me to hate him more. It seems so obvious to me that he is simply telling Korra what she wants to hear.
That’s why I was glad when he was almost kidnapped by some extreme rebels. Unfortunately Korra, after hearing about the plan from her mother, made a beeline to the building where Unalaq was staying just in time to confront and defeat the rebels. The cries of “traitor” that the Southern rebels threw at Korra echoed what a young Southern waterbender girl said when Korra tried to keep the peace earlier. For a brief, shining moment, I felt sorry for Korra.
Throughout the entire episode, pretty much everyone was acting rather childish which was the one thing that I did not want carried over from the season two premiere. However, it made the act of Korra making up with her parents a bit more poignant. It was such a tender moment that I’m not surprised that it had to be ruined by Unalaq’s cowpoo charges. And, if you want the Avatar to remain neutral in a conflict, does it make much sense to indict her parents with phony charges that both you and she know to be false? I don’t know, maybe I’m just being silly. But, for someone that is being portrayed as a smooth manipulator, Unalaq played that move about as deftly as a blind Cyclops using a boulder to plug a small crack in the sidewalk.
On the lighter side of things, Bolin’s distress at having to break up with Eska is an amusing diversion. Whenever Bolin even hints that he might want to break up with the twins — and it is “the twins” because I don’t think it’s possible to interact with only one of them — Eska threatens to freeze him. It’s funny and yet straddles the line of domestic abuse; my feelings are all tangled up on that one. According to Also, Bolin is rather adept at making stone stairs. If (or when, as it seems) the pro-bending thing finally falls through, he has promising prospects as a butler.
I’m also starting to love Varrick. He is easily as crazy as Bumi (earthbender, not Aang-child) was but it’s a different kind of crazy. I think the term is “crazy-stupid”; he isn’t a ditz but he has an absent-minded disregard for property that makes him borderline hilarious. He actually reminds me a bit of Sokka after he drank that cactus water in the destert. It was a bit of shame that Varrick kept shattering all those plates and tossing all those cookies. I kind of wanted one. Or ten.
“Civil War” is part one of a multi-part arc, so it’s important to judge this episode as the starting point for something bigger. And I think it managed the part wonderfully. It even got me to like Korra again for the first time in quite a while. Although some of the plot advancement felt the teensiest bit forced, it has easily become my favorite episode so far.