Oh Korra, poor, poor, foolish Korra. Or I should say naïve Korra; either way, she certainly isn’t the Sokka of the bunch. I guess Asami is the brains of this operation. (Though did you see Korra fight this episode? Wowie-zowie; she’s a badass.) While I still think the season will resolve with Unalaq being proven to have been “right” about the spirit stuff and Tonraq “right” about politics, with Korra uniting the two tribes by mediating between the brothers, it sure hasn’t happened. We get Korra siding unilaterally with Unalaq, and in fact “tattling” to Unalaq about people unhappy with…being invaded. Which…you know, getting invaded is a pretty good reason to be unhappy and start planning a resistance, if you ask me.
Listen, it is entirely possible that the Dark Spirits are not spirits out of balance, but are in fact Spirits who are trying (clumsily) to fight Unalaq, to prevent him from catastrophically tearing down the borders between the Spirit World and the Mortal World. I mean, we walk in on him brooding on a shadowed throne, after all.
You know, Werewolf: The Forsaken is an RPG, where you play a werewolf, that leans heavily on shamanic traditions. Two of the antagonists in the game present a similar dilemma; the Beshilu—rat spirits—and Azlu—spider spirits—who also interact with the veil between the Spirit and the Real. The rat spirits want to gnaw through the barrier, while the spider spirits want to weave an impenetrable wall. A happy medium—see what I did there, medium?—is what is needed.
Frankly, I find Varrick’s turn as a freedom fighter to be…well, actually pretty plausible, profit motive and all. I mean, his rotting fish problem isn’t all that different from a bunch of guys who don’t want to pay import tariffs for tea. Is he a corrupt lobbyist or is he the Ben Franklin of the Southern Water Tribe? I guess that remains to be seen; whatever it is, Bolin and Asami are obviously going to be caught up in it. Like I said, I think Unalaq is probably sincere an probably genuinely wants to unite the Water Tribe via the Spirit Portal but…that doesn’t mean his methods are just or that the South isn’t right to resist occupation and, well, you know which road they say is lined with good intentions….
“This storyline makes me uncomfortable,” was how my wife described Bolin and Eska, and I’m starting to agree with her. Originally played for laughs, things have rather rapidly taken the turn into “emotionally abusive,” depending on your reading of the situation. It isn’t too late for the show to twist it into something more complex, but now it has a sort of “ha ha, dangerous relationship!” element to it that I find distasteful. The fact that Eska is an aristocrat of a regime that is currently occupying another country just makes the power dynamic that much worse.
Now, it could be that this is The Legend of Korra trying to show how bad it is to be invaded, as military forces occupying a nation is a pretty standard trope…well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Googling “comfort women” or “Recreation and Amusement Association” gives us a taste of how incredibly dark it gets in reality, and while this is an all-ages show, we know that Avatar: The Last Airbender used Lake Laogai to talk about “mature” issues like torture and concentration camps. I'm probably over thinking it—Bolin and Eska may very well be a “light” romantic b-plot—but the possibility remains that Bolin’s fear of Eska may not be Bolin being a wimp about breaking up with his girlfriend, but emblematic of something deeper. Don’t discount your friends and family when they try to talk to you about their domestic issues, don’t brush them off, is what I’m saying; there may very well be something bad going on.
…and of course there is…Eska’s laugh….
Again, the gem of the story are Aang and Katara’s family; Tenzin, Bumi, Kya in particular, off to look for a missing Ikki, driven off by Jinora and Meelo teaming up to tease her. Tenzin is also teased by his siblings, and teases them back, and fault lines start showing. Bumi, the non-bender, is teased by his bending sister and brother, and it is easy to guess that even as adults that is a sore spot, especially given the political tensions of the world these days.
The parallels between Ikki and Tenzin become pretty unsubtle once the conversation turns and Bumi and Kya start teasing Tenzin. It has a different tone then the “Vacation Tenzin” jokes because there is something there. See, Aang’s family trips were…well, just Tenzin. Kya and Bumi felt abandoned by their father, and for my money that is a really interesting choice for the story to make. Aang as a less-than-perfect father is humanizing; we the viewers have beatified Aang and so have the people of the Avatar-verse...but Aang wasn’t perfect; he had struggles and failures too, in case you forgot. Just like Korra.
I’m guessing we’ll get a more nuanced picture of those childhood events; Kya and Bumi are coming from a place of hurt, Tenzin from a place of nostalgia, but I would bet that the truth is a little of column A, a little of column B…and a heaping helping of column C. Maybe we’ll get it from Katara, maybe we’ll get it through flashbacks, or Jinora bonding with Grandpa Aang in the spirit world, maybe we’ll get it through the three siblings talking it out, but we’ll see it.
I know I’ve been very “wait and see!” about this season, but I’m interested to see how the events set up in The Legend of Korra do end up wrapping up; right now we’re in the part of the story where we see Chekhov’s Gun; it won’t be till later that they pull the trigger…