Oct 21 2013 2:00pm

The Legend of Korra Introduces the First Avatar in “Beginnings”

If you had asked me if I thought The Legend of Korra or Avatar: the Last Airbender needed an origin story for the Avatar, I would have said no…but now that we’ve gotten one, I’m really into it. Telling the story of “the first Avatar” is intrinsically risky, as it threatens to undermine the structure of the whole story, but Wan’s tale is the story of a trickster turned hero. Wan is the Monkey King, complete with flying cloud; he is Prometheus the stealer of fire, he is Pandora, whose impulsive act threatens the world. I’m a big fan of the subversive mythology we see; the Avatar isn’t the ur-king—that’d be the oppressive Chous—he is instead the rebel. Besides, I’m just in general a backer of the Monomyth. You descend into the spirit world, Wan! The fact that he skips the most boring step, the refusal of the call, is an added bonus.

This has got to be one of the most Miyazaki-like episodes, hasn’t it? From the big strokes of mankind versus spirits, to the tiny little details, like Wan putting Raava in a tea kettle. Also in terms of dang this was pretty; the lush and saturated artwork of the episode was really stunning. Or as my notes say here “art = sweeeeeet.” (When Vaatu turns spirits dark, they look sort of like…the Oogie Boogie blacklight scene from Nightmare Before Christmas.) A while back I read Legend of the Five Rings: Imperial Histories, a role-playing game book that posits a number of alternate quasi-Japanese settings, including an almost pre-Edenic time where spirits and humans and demigods lived together. This reminded me of that, as well; it had the ambiance of an Aesop fable while having the narrative complexity you’d expect from a first person story. It isn’t just the rough hewn strokes of legend; it really does feel like Korra’s memories, the Avatar’s past.

So here is a thing about me. You can’t just say “oh, there are probably a dozen lion-turtle cities” and then turn around and only show me four. Fire, air, water and earth but…what about the others? Some repeats of those four? Other bending arts, now lost? A “new world” on the other hemisphere of the globe? Spelljammer? Okay, I am probably reading into it, but a mythology episode begs cosmological questions, like: what about the stories of the first benders, of Oma and Shu, learning from badger-moles? Is the dragon we see tutoring Wan meant to be the root of the Sun Warrior’s legends? (Frankly, I just enjoyed the fanservice in having the dragon dance show up again.) How much cultural distortion has occurred over the past thousand years? After all, no legend can stay the same for that long.

A few miscellaneous questions I’ve still got kicking around—or general observations, or what have you—continue to ferment in the back of my mind. Like, hey, did we just see what the solar system of the planet the Avatar cycle happens on? That kind of background worldbuilding really wets my whistle for more. The big strokes of Wan’s story, like dragon-turtle cities, are all obvious “heck yeah!” awesome moments, but the small moments of wonder, that is what I’m a sucker for. I remember hearing an anecdote about Tolkien when I was in elementary school, that he’d figured out the cycles of the moon in order to have the Fellowship see the proper moons at the proper time; that seemingly insignificant details that are in fact hints of an underlying machinery of consistency in storytelling are the underpinnings of verisimilitude, if you ask me.

The biggest unanswered question, the obvious dangling thread, is: what is the deal with spirit possession? We see it physically deforming Yao and the man that the aye-aye spirit jumps inside of. One part of me just says that it is to show that there are dire consequences for when humans and spirits merge, to foreshadow the ramifications of Raava and Wan merging together—but another part of me just thinks it is very curious. First, we see all the chimeric creatures of the Avatar-verse, and I wonder if an even earlier mingling of spirits was behind that. Second, it makes me aware that a profoundly different world could spool out of this story. It is entirely possible that rather than just “reset” the world by saving the day, Korra will start a new world, that she might…I don’t know, merge with Vaatu, balancing the spirits in her, and allowing the portals to remain open, and incarnate spirits to become common again. (I mean, Wan’s statue at the Air Temple has both Raava and Vaatu’s markings, when it lights up, doesn’t it?)

How about Wan’s final battle? He dies—complete with Doctor Who regeneration sparkles—amidst those giant stone coins, which as folks on Tumblr noticed, look to be pretty much the same place as where Zuko goes off to in his lone wanderings. See, little background elements, that is what ties a world together. The big things, like the not-too-subtle yin and yang art direction, are great, but I want to know…how do the black and white fish at the Northern Water Tribe link to Vaatu and Raava? Why is there a Little Prince-style baobab as the only notable feature in the Spirit World between the two gates? Or, when is the next convergence? Astrology has always been important to these stories; the sun, the moon, the comet—what other surprises do the stars hold? Was it just my imagination, or did it look like Vaatu was bound to the moon when Wan was imprisoning him?

I was really excited that this episode didn’t fool around, didn’t waste time. Amnesiac Korra, here, meet a fire witch and then get dipped into a crystal cave’s lake, obviously. Here, talk to Aang real quick, Roku, Kiyoshi—Kiyoshi, you are the best—and then boom, Wan. No “go find the MacGuffin” or “but who am I?” wheel-spinning. Just an economy of storytelling. Wan starts right off with his Aladdin-esque street-rat shenanigans, and Steven Yeun does a great job. We meet Mula, giving the first Avatar a suitably weird animal companion in a cat-deer (complete with more shades of Miyazaki; or at least, it made me think of the elk from Princess Mononoke). We don’t have the answers we need to solve the riddle of the season—why would dark spirits be fighting the Avatar when she tries to open the portal, if Raava is behind everything? Raava should want to open the portals!—but we have a lot more to go on.

Mordicai Knode sort of wants the spirits to come back to the rest of the episodes can have the great abstracted art style of “Beginnings.” He also wonders: did Raava & Vaatu remind anyone else of the game Journey? Find Mordicai on Tumblr and Twitter.

Mordicai Knode
1. mordicai
Avatar Wan, Imma let you finish, but Avatar Kiyoshi is one of the best Avatar's ever!
David Goldfarb
2. David_Goldfarb
As to "when is the next convergence", didn't we get told at the end of the episode that it's coming up in just a few weeks?
Sean Fagan
3. sef
What happened to learning to air-bend from the sky bison? Or earth-bend from the badgermoles?
4. herewiss13
In re: badger moles and sky bison:

It's been 10, 000 years. I can see some historical inaccuracies creeping into the narrative. Plus, the lion turtles gave the _ability_ to bend, but the _techniques_ of bending are something else entirely.

I loved how, when given the power of air, Wan basically kept using fire techniques to do air blasts as if nothing had changed.
Brian Carlson
5. images8dream
@3: We saw Wan learning how to increase his bending power from the dragon; so presumably people learned to bend better from the bison and badger moles. This episode was made of awesome: the art, the music, the quick paced story that still had depth. I loved the choice to really make the distant past feel distant.
Mordicai Knode
6. mordicai
2. David_Goldfarb

Oh did we? I mean, I would have assumed, but I must have missed it!

3. sef

Yeah, that is what I mean by mentioning Oma & Shu; they supposedly learned from badgermoles. Of course, that could be a legend-- Zeus doesn't really cause lightning-- or there could be more to the story than we've seen. I will accept Wan's version as canon, though, since it is his memories-- though as a Wolfe fan I am always suspicious of memories & the reliablility of narrators...


4. herewiss13 you say, the ability to bend comes from spirit bending; the skill of bending comes from the patron animals.

OR Wan's story says the lionturtles stopped giving people bending; maybe they had to re-learn it from the various critters?
Brian MacDonald
7. bmacdonald
That's something I thought could have been made more explicit in the episode -- the Lion Turtles granted the ability to use an element, through energybending, but being able to actually bend an element properly is different from just being able to use it. I think it would have been better if the fire villagers had been limited in what they could do...carry the fire for light, or start a campfire for protection and warmth, but not fire off blasts like benders can do. The proto-Air Nomads could be shown to be more spiritually attuned, spending time practicing the gifts from their Lion Turtle, and learning from the Sky Bison.
8. Dirtycelt
The legends behind learning bending from dragons, air bison, badger-moles, aren't negated by the lion-turtles granting bending abilities. I imagine that the descendants of those granted elemental powers had to learn how to use or maybe master them from those animals. Now...I want to know how those animals gained bending in the first place. Are they part spirit? Did the lion-turtles gift them the power of the elements? This is my favorite episode of the season....
Alejandro Melchor
9. Al-X
Methinks Unalaq is taking advise from the imprisoned Vatu: He wants the gates open, where Wan had closed them to restore balance to the world, and THIS close to the convergence? I smell shenanigans.

So thinks are no longer simply political. Aang saved the world from a tyrannical madman, now Korra gets to face a threat from the Dawn of Time(TM)... what's going to be left for Books 3 and 4???
Christopher Bennett
10. ChristopherLBennett
@7 & 8: I agree. There's a difference between being given an ability and being taught how to use it. Remember, after Wan trained with the dragons, the Chous remarked that he could use fire in a way they'd never seen before, like it was an extension of his own body. So while the lion-turtle gave people the power to generate fire, Wan was the first human who learned to bend fire, to turn that elemental power into a martial art with discipline and control.
Chris Meadows
11. Robotech_Master
I don't necessarily see it as contradictory. If anything, it adds to the richness and verisimilitude of the world. I mean, just look at our world. How many different, mutually contradictory legends do we have, some dating back thousands of years, about how the Magic Sky Person/People and/or completely natural processes created our universe?

But even apart from that, I thought the episode made it pretty clear, with people tossing around fire with no art, then Wan training with the dragon, then the huntsman being astounded at how much better Wan can use fire than they can. There's a difference between raw talent and trained skill. Toph already had the innate ability to bend when she learned from the badger moles.

And it's been thousands of years. How many times might bending have been "lost" and rediscovered in various parts of the world over that period? Presumably Oma and Shu descended from people who'd gotten the earthbending gift from a turtle but knowledge of it had been lost, and being around the badger moles just awakened the talent lying dormant within them.
Mordicai Knode
12. mordicai
10. ChristopherLBennett

Yeah, that is a pretty consistant reading with the text.
Scott Silver
13. hihosilver28
Alright, that was an epic episode. And we have Studio Mir back for these two! The difference in the quality of the art is obvious, and makes me realize again what a phenomenal job they did with Book 1.

Quick the hell did Unalaq know about Vatu being imprisoned when the Avatar didn't know about it? (A question I'm sure will be answered later, but still...)

I'm still unsure that the pacing of this season will hold up on rewatch, especially compared to the first season, but I'm intrigued to see how this will play out in the endgame.
Christopher Bennett
14. ChristopherLBennett
@13: Well, Korra may not have known about it, but the past Avatars presumably did. I assume that Wan's life story is something that every Avatar goes back to experience at some point in his or her life. So this could've been known and written down at some point in the past.

Also, Unalaq has been to the spirit world. He may have found Vaatu there, or been contacted by him.
Mordicai Knode
15. mordicai
14. ChristopherLBennett

Do you think so? I don't think every Avatar has to remember Wan; only the ones that lived during the Conjunction, maybe, or who had a specific reason. Aang could talk to Yangchen but he really only did if he needed too, he mostly talked to Roku. Still, if we get enough comics, I'm sure the cross-over potential-- & an excuse to being Wan back-- would be fun little opportunity...

13. hihosilver28

I am really curious to see how the pacing holds up when it is all said & done; I wonder if they'll seem almost like mini-series or mega-movies; like one long arc each? Beats me.

I finished season one of Attack on Titan the other day!

11. Robotech_Master

Denying the existance of a protoculture, isn't that just like a Robotech Master?
16. DarthRachel
These episodes were boss for all those reasons you listed. I am more invested in Wan than I ever was in Korra. I don't know exactly how I feel about that. The only way to get me to care about Korra was to link her to Wan's end game? ie - I ONLY care about Korra bc of Wan and not the other way around.

i think the chance of a reset, new world cycle is pretty high. the wheel turns etc etc.

And yes I thought about Journey too!
Christopher Bennett
17. ChristopherLBennett
@15: We only saw less than a year of Aang's life story -- three years counting the recent comics. He was the Avatar for another half-century beyond that, and would've had plenty of time to commune with his various past lives. I'd think that it would be wise for every Avatar to learn how the Avatar Cycle began -- to discover, in a literal sense, who they really were.

Maybe I'm influenced by Deep Space Nine's Trill and the zhian'tara ritual, where each new host of a Trill symbiont has the opportunity to "meet" all the previous hosts and get to know them as individuals. It makes sense to me that Avatars would also take the opportunity to get to know their earlier selves, and it's logical that they'd want to know about the very first one.
Cain Latrani
18. CainS.Latrani
Well, I'm going to admit that I may have been wrong. In light of this amazing episode, I'm wondering now if Unalaq isn't evil after all.

Some things bother me, though. Namely, Korra's insistance all season that the Southern Water Tribe is about to be wiped out. Aside from blockading the harbor and having some troops patrolling about, we've not acually seen Unalaq do anything that nefarious.

Honestly, he hasn't done anything at all, except arrest some people who tried to off him. Not exactly villian material there.

Still, knowing now about Vatu, I wonder what he's actually up to. Opening the spirit gates isn't the same as freeing Vatu from his prison.

Ah. I'm not sure what's going on now.

That was an incredible, beautiful, and moving episode though. I would really love to see more of the world from back then. Just amazing.
19. Paige M.
What I really want to know is who the woman in charge of the sanctuary where Korra was healed is. It *looks* like Azula -- both in face shape and hair style. Also, in the first shot in which she appears, the angle and motion shot in which she's shown reminds me of how Azula used to be shown (if angle and motion shot can be identifiers of characters). It's around 0:53-58 in the video.

Has she found peace and become a healer?
Scott Silver
20. hihosilver28
HAHAHAHA! I knew it! Glad you decided to push through Trost and finish out the series. My wife and I loved it. So, what convinced you to push through the darker aspects of the show and finish it? Also, what did you think of the first season overall?

On a different note, I really, really, REALLY hope that Studio Mir does the rest of the seasons of Korra. The dichotomy between the previous episodes and this one is glaring.
Christopher Bennett
21. ChristopherLBennett
@18: Unalaq also arrested two people who didn't try to off him: Tonraq and Senna. And he bribed the judge into giving the verdict he wanted, all in order to manipulate Korra.

Besides, he has clearly occupied the South, and it's understandable that the Southerners would fear losing their cultural autonomy and identity. Assimilation of one's culture can be seen as destruction.

And no, opening the spirit gates doesn't free Vaatu, but it allows access to the place where Vaatu is imprisoned -- and if he's freed in the spirit world, it will give him passage back to the physical world.

@19: The character you're referring to is called the Shaman, and she's voiced by Barbara Goodson (aka the voice of Rita Repulsa from Power Rangers and Mother Talzin of the Night Sisters in Star Wars: The Clone Wars). I suppose that doesn't necessarily rule out her being Azula, since the other A:TLA characters were recast as adults, but I don't see that much resemblance.
Cain Latrani
22. CainS.Latrani

Fair points, though I think the use of Korra's parents was purely a maneuver on Unalaq's part. I'm not convinced he would have done them any real harm. After all, he did have her Mom released.

I will give you that the occupation does create a certin threat to the culture of the Southerners. However, that is not the same as being wiped out. Korra's attitude towards it made it seem as if a full scale war was already happening with civilians being killed daily.

The reality of it is somewhat different. While the Southern tribe may have developed a different culture, Unalaq has a point that they are still in essence the same tribe. Sure, his methods are questionable, but does that make his goals questionable? After all, he is a politician.

Likewise, I'm not certain opening the gates would lead to Vatu being freed. Possibly, but after all these years, how powerful is he, is he the real source of the Dark Spirits, or is there more going on than we know yet?

I could, and possibly am, wrong about this, but I find the eagerness of the writers to paint Unalaq with the broad strokes of villiany so early questionable.

Even Amon, despite his deceptions, had a point, and wasn't necessarily a villian, or evil. I'm wondering where they are going with Unalaq, and if he will be the same, or if they are up to something different.

Forgive me, but avid speculation is a bad habit of mind.
Christopher Bennett
23. ChristopherLBennett
@22: The war was beginning when Korra left the South. We haven't seen it, but we've heard about it, and we know weapons are being shipped there.

And no, I'm not saying that "opening the gates would lead to Vaatu being freed." I'm saying that, if you wanted to free Vaatu, opening the gates would be one of the steps you'd need to take. It wouldn't do much good to free him if you hadn't opened the gates first.
Cain Latrani
24. CainS.Latrani
Well, not exactly being shipped. All of Asami's shipment were hijacked by Varrick's people. Beyond bankrupting her, I'm not sure yet what his goal is there.

I'm going to disagree with you about freeing Vatu. Letting lose a spirit capable of twisting all spirits to darkness in a world inhabited solely by spirits seems like a pretty smart first step. An entire army waiting to unleash, as soon as the gate opens.

Which didn't happen. Why I'm not sure. I would think there would have been a lot more showing up afterwards.
Chris Meadows
25. Robotech_Master
Barbara Goodson voiced Sera in Robotech, also.

I interviewed her a few years back on my podcast, Space Station Liberty.
Christopher Bennett
26. ChristopherLBennett
@24: Varrick seems to be a war profiteer. He's engineered this conflict so he could profit from it, and he manipulated Asami into signing over Future Industries to him so that he could be the one profiting from their manufacture of munitions. At least, that's how it seems to me.
Jonah Feldman
27. relogical
I haven't been completely on-board with this season, and I had problems with the previous one, but the thing that gives me the most hope is the focus on Korra's attempts to find the proper Avatar-like solution to a conflict she has a personal stake in. It's the ultimate paradox of the 'warrior for peace' archetype, and they're confronting it head-on.

We've seen Unaloq manipulating Korra onto his side in the name of keeping the peace and the Avatar remaining neutral. That's a really scathing self-critique of that perspective of neutrality and balance. Then at Varrick's behest Korra tries to bring in Republic City and then the Fire Nation to end the conflict. The show reveals that Varrick is engineering the escalation of the war for his own purposes, so that also fails as a way for the Avatar to end the war.

So how does the Avatar make peace? In this episode we have multiple times where Wan interposes himself between two opposing sides using his own force. He splits Raava and Vatu. Then he gets between the spirits and his firebending friends. Then we have that stylized scene that's the top image of this post, the Avatar fighting two armies with the force of the four elements. The Avatar's neutrality isn't resigned to standing by or choosing the 'right' side; it means fighting all takers until there's peace.

And that's a role the character of Korra is well-suited to. She's never going to be a peaceful Air Nomad. But she can wreck Unaloq's and Varrick's armies and force them to the negotiating table. Most stories about violent conflict don't justify the heroes solving their problems through violence. Some stories just declare that violence is categorically a bad solution. It's a surprisingly unexplored perspective to accept that responsible use of violence can resolve conflict, and work out a story-appropriate justification to mitigate the apparent hypocrisy of that idea.
Cain Latrani
28. CainS.Latrani
Okay, enough about Unalaq. I'll learn soon enough if I'm right or wrong about him.

This episode raised a very curious question for me. By now, some of you guys have noticed I question the weirdest things, and this fits in.

At the Wen's time, he was able to speak with Ravva. She was still a distinct personality within him.

Was he the only Avatar able to do that? Do you think she has become so intertwined with the human spirit of the Avatar now that she is not a seperate entity? Or maybe, she's asleep?

More importantly, could the process be duplicated with Vatu to create a Dark Avatar?

I know, I know. I wonder the weirdest things.
Chris Meadows
29. Robotech_Master
Now I have a great idea for an Avatar: TLA fanfic I'll probably never write. "The True Story of Oma and Shu." In which the titular characters grow up in their respective cities to stories of great grandparents who are able to move mountains, a talent that has been lost with the thinning of the bloodline...but then discover the ability to bounce pebbles around about on par with what Katara can do to water at the start of Season 1. With no living masters to teach them, they go out into the wilderness between their villages to practice...and one day run into each other.

Recognizing each other as members of the village theirs is at war with, they get into a "bending duel"...which largely involves tossing pebbles at each other. It is broken up when they're surrounded by angry badger moles summoned by the disturbance. As they close in, growling, one of the two humans starts singing (and perhaps playing a lute...perhaps Oma or Shu has some musical talent) and the other joins in, harmonizing.

Charmed by the music, the badger moles don't harm them. But in arriving, they've displayed the ability to bend earth...and, drawn together by their shared near-death experience, Oma and Shu follow them, and discover they can learn earthbending by following their example.

And the rest of the story plays out much as the legend did from the show.
30. Cybersnark
@19. Oh, man, I never even made that connection (despite noticing that she would be the same age as the gAang). I did notice that she was never directly named, which makes me think there's a reveal coming up.

And the art in this ep wasn't just stylized; at times it looked like ukiyo-e art, which is the perfect place to go to for the context. Seriously, if the animators don't win some kind of award for this, there'll be a riot if I have to throw it myself.

Also, note that when Korra was leaving, she passed by an isolated, conical island --possibly the same lion-turtle that taught Aang how to spiritbend, and maybe even one of the Ancients. . .
31. Arashikage
@28: Pure speculation, obviously, but Korra was set on a mission to find Raava and now that she has found her maybe that will reawaken her... just in time for the convergence. Maybe now is the only time she needed to be awakened since we don't know how often convergences take place (and the spirits battled for 10,000 lifetimes).

These two episodes were better than the last one and a half seasons combined. I loved the sketchy art style and muted palette, and even the somewhat loose, old-school animation style.
Cain Latrani
32. CainS.Latrani
@30. Cybersnark

I noticed that island myself. Thought it odd. Foreshadowing, maybe?

@31. Arashikage

I'm good at random speculation, but it feels like things are building to something even bigger.
33. mirana
I definitely think the old lady is Azula. Same hair style (though exaggerated), same eye color, same face shape...and promo'd the episode as "A mysterious old woman heals Korra..." "Mysterious?" What's mysterious about a random elder at a Fire Temple? Nothing, unless there's more to it. It's Azula and we're supposed to be shocked she turned into a nice old lady instead of crazypants.
Jonas Schmiddunser
34. Jineapple
Great episodes, I hope this means that the rest of the season will really pick up now and this wasn't just good because it was without Korra...

So, what exactly is the state of Vaatu?
10000 years ago, Wan imprisoned him and sealed both portals, along with the ghosts in them.
First question: What about the spirits we've seen in AtlA? How did they get into the physical world with the portals sealed? Maybe with the weakening of the barrier that happens with every solstice?

Now, we've seen dark spirits in the physical world as well. Is Vaatu's prison weakening? Was the northern portal already open?

We haven't seen that many dark spirits yet though, so Vaatu can't really be free.

My guess as to what happened is this:

Unalaq opened the northern spirit portal (We've seen him walking through it) some time ago. Vaatu is still trapped, but either his prison is weakening or he's growing stronger, either way he has some power beyond his prison, so he can influence spirits and send them into the physical world. Vaatu also got Unalaq to talk Korra into opening the southern portal. He doesn't actually need her for that, but it was preparation for her to open Vaatu's prison (Which didn't really work out that well, she doesn't trust him at all now), which Unalaq can't do

As to what happens, the current plan (reseal the portals) will not just work like that, obviously. I like the idea that Korra will have to accept Vaatu into her body as well as Raava, to form a balance again.

I noticed the island as well, maybe Korra will need Energybending to face Vaatu?
Mordicai Knode
35. mordicai
16. DarthRachel

My own theory about cycle three was-- how about the next Avatar is part of the "Apollo" program, using his or her bending to go to the moon? More "tech" bending; but then, maybe the whole thing will crack open like a pinata, a spirit-filled pinata!

As to Korra, she's an adolescent. Teenagers are the worse; this is like being trapped in Order of the Phoenix. Help! Hellllllp!

18. CainS.Latrani
21. ChristopherLBennett

Well, nothing nefarious besides conquering a people by force & turning their justice system into a series of show trials in order to remove inconvienant political opponants. Korra is right to wait for the other shoe to drop. When you get invaded & your leadership is rounded up & vanished, you don't need to wait to go "well, I'm pretty suspicious of their intentions..."

Though I still think there are kinks in Unalaq's story to unwind.

19. Paige M.
21. ChristopherLBennett

Azula is an obvious thought but then, there are also plenty of old women in the Fire Nation. I was thinking Azula would end up under perpetual house arrest...but maybe she found peace of a sort, after all.

20. hihosilver28

I still can't quite unilaterally recommend it-- it is a very weird show, like for instance a very...right-wing Japanese politics show? Like, Eren's rants are so "we feel emasculated because we can't have imperial ambitions, & why, just because we teamed up with the Nazis to take over the world that one time? I always see military politics in anime, though, so don't mind me-- Macross' "woah, war is sweet, wait, when you kill a bad guy in war, a person died, oh no!" moral started it off. & it does the whole "pause the action while a character takes five minutes to monologue about overcoming their personal weaknesses. Just so...anime. What I'm trying to say is I like it, but I don't think it transcends the genre.

25. Robotech_Master

Link clicked!
Mordicai Knode
36. mordicai
33. mirana

I mean, I'm pretty shocked if it's the case, so it worked!
Chris Nelly
37. Aeryl
Unalaq's already stated he needs Korra to open the Northern Portal. It's possible he's lying, but he told that to Eska and Desna, I just don't see the point.

The spirits can come through into our world, but not in physical form,(unless there is an astrological convergence, like a solstice) just as we can go to the spirit world, but only in spirit form, which was why Wan could bend in the confrontation with Vatu, he was there physically.

It seems obvious to me that the Moon and Water spirits remained behind when Wan closed the portal, which is why they retain their spirit powers(I mean, we all SAW the moon DIE, so the powers are there). My question is what exactly are the Dark Spirits doing. By the logic of the show they shouldn't have spirit powers because they shouldn't be "physical" but they have attacked and caused damage, so something is empowering them. Unalaq?

Another possibility is that the Spirit Oasis provides a backdoor to enter physically. Or that the spirits, since we can go to their world incorporally, can do the same, but as spirits can also possess physical creatures? That could be interesting, the creature that attacked Korra as she was en route to the Fire Nation was a Spirit Ridden Unagi?

My guess is that Vatu will be freed come the next covergence, regardless. He's manipulating Unalaq to open the portals so he can come into our world. Or perhaps, since the confrontation is preordained for the confluence, as it's closed in, cracks have begun to appear, allowing spirits to physically enter our world, since Raava is "imprisoned" within the physically body of the Avatar in the physical world, if the portals weren't opened the confrontation couldn't happen?

Most interesting t0 me, is this new information seems to indicate that Unalaq's pretense, the South's alleged loss of spirituality, was a red herring. I felt it had some basis(kinda like how Amon had a point), knowing how the war decimated their culture and that their proximity to Republic City brought in technology, the supposed bane of spirituality. But it now seems more likely that the spirits weren't upset because of that, but were instead being instigated by Vatu.

Thoughts about a Dark Avatar are interesting, but I think it's more likely that Raava will be separated from the Avatar, Raava and Vatu* will be brought into balance, but it will bring an end to the Avatar cycle.

*RaaVa-Vatu? That's a spirit that's been divided into it's two parts, IMO.

The animation was incredible. I loved all the little qualities that kept it apart from the regular animation, like how the bending looked.
Christopher Bennett
38. ChristopherLBennett
@34: We saw Unalaq come out of the Southern spirit portal, not the Northern one. He and the twins are based in the South as they oversee the occupation. And he apparently needs Korra to open the Northern portal.

@37: The panda-like forest spirit Hei Bai in A:TLA episode 7, "The Spirit World," was definitely physically present, given all the damage it did. And Wan Shi Tong, the owl spirit from "The Library," was physically present as well, as were his foxlike Knowledge Seeker spirits. We were told that he brought his library from the spirit world to the physical world. And there's the Painted Lady, the spirit of the Jang Hui river.

Apparently there are other portals to the Spirit World besides the polar ones. The comic The Search reveals one called Forgetful Valley, a forest in the Fire Nation.
Mordicai Knode
39. mordicai
38. ChristopherLBennett

Right but at the core, Wan Shi Tong's secret library & Hei Bai's incredible wrath are both extraordinary circumstances, in which that gulf is breached, but the exceptional nature of it sort of proves the point.
40. Tesh
@27 Peace as enforced by the Avatar literally making war almost impossible reminds me rather forcefully of a parent separating squabbling siblings. It's definitely one way to *make* peace, or at least, open the door for a lasting peace. I dearly hope they at least explore that option. The "let's hold hands and hugs all around" hippie solution to war can work sometimes, but it's not always viable.
Chris Nelly
41. Aeryl
@38, Hei Bei is why I included astrological phenomenom in exceptions to the "Spirits can't be corporeal" rule the show has established. I even specifically mentioned the solstice.

I think it's more likely that Wan Shi Tong, and his foxes, like the Moon and Ocean spirits, remained in the physical world when the portals were closed, than they were brought out of the spirit world post closing. Or, Wan Shi Tong has possessed a great owl's form, like I posited above for how the current spate of Dark Spirits is wreaking so much damage.
David Moran
42. DavidMoran
I really really enjoyed these episodes, maybe because they felt more properly of a piece with Aang's emotional character than Korra's. While I still love Legend of Korra, one thing I've struggled with is Korra's seeming lack of mission, the nebulous margins of her character and the murkiness of the stakes, the elaborate shrug of the message that seems to often say "well, grownup life is kinda boring and complicated". A Trade Federation Blockade of Naboo wouldn't seem out of place.

But man, these episodes were great. It was one of the first times I really felt something was on the line in Korra.
Christopher Bennett
43. ChristopherLBennett
@41: See my above reference to Forgetful Valley. Since the comics are canonical, it is an established fact that the polar portals are not the only passages to the Spirit World. Therefore, it is not necessary to assume that any spirit in the physical world remained there when the polar portals are closed.
Cain Latrani
44. CainS.Latrani
I know I keep going back to this, but things that have been said on the show make the occupation of the South seem to be not quite like everyone else is seeing it.

For starters, Unalaq said, and others agreed, that he is the offical Chief of the Water Tribe, both North and South. Kind of hard to invade your own people. If anything, he's instituted martial law, which isn't the same as an invasion.

Specifically because of the Dark Spirits, the incrase in troops is not the same thing as an invasion. It wasn't ever stated if Unalaq had taught others how to calm them, but it seems a reasonable assumption that he would have.

In that light, the troops are obviously there for the protection of his citizens.

Sure, the Southerners don't like it, but then again, nobody likes a sudden increase of soldiers patrolling the streets. Considering what happened during the Glacier Lights Festival, though, having troops around the city doesn't seem like that bad of an idea, especially when you take into account the ship we saw get attacked at the start of the season.

There's alost the matter of Unalaq straight up denying that the bending he did to calm the spirits was a fighting technique. He corrected Korra on that a couple of times. He doesn't see it as a way to fight them.

When you look at events from the perspective of a King, Unalaq hasn't actually done anything wrong. We never saw him disband the Souths government, because he already runs the government. He just relocated to the South for the duration of the problems with the Dark Spirits, since they were all cropping up in the south.

On the other hand, the war, if you can even call it that, seems more like a revolutionary war than a civil war. The South wants independance, rather than the ouster of an invading force.

I'm not convinced as yet that Unalaq is league with Vatu. From his side of things, he's not doing anything wrong. That I can tell, he hasn't, either.

Yes, I remember what the judge told Korra. If I had the Avatar shoving my head in a polar bear dog's mouth, I'd tell her whatever it took to send her elsewhere, too. Not to mention, the entire thing put her firmly in Varrick's corner, and makes me wonder if he bribed the judge, since he was so eager to hand out bribes earlier in the episode.

That aside, even if Unalaq did set his brother up, the fact remains that if he hadn't, Korra would never have been born, so perhaps it was something he was either meant to do, or even advised to do.

I'm curious to see what will happen next. With Korra closing off the southern portal, I'm sure we're going to get to the bottom of Unalaq's motives, be they good or bad, soon enough.
Mordicai Knode
45. mordicai
I will note that somone recently said on Tumblr that one thing remains true: everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked...
Chris Meadows
46. Robotech_Master
The real "invasion" of the South happened at the beginning of S2 of the old Avatar, when the Northern Tribe sent people down to rebuild. It's worth noting that the Southern Tribe began when a bunch of dissatisfied Northerners left to create their own civilization, and it seemed that disaffected Northerners still viewed the South as a place to go as late as after Aang vanished, given that Gran-Gran fled Paku's marriage proposal by going there. There certainly wasn't any indication in the old show that they considered the North their rightful rulers!

I wonder just how it happened. I can't see Paku requiring the South to give up its sovereignty as a condition of aid—not if he was going to get Gran-Gran to marry him willingly this time! It must have happened during the decades that followed. Ah, there's so much history that will probably never be told…
Cain Latrani
47. CainS.Latrani
Unalaq also mentioned the North helping the South rebuild. I would imagine somewhere in the time, the two tribes quietly reunited.

Unless I missed the show mentioning the South having a Chief of their own. I don't recall him if they did.
Christopher Bennett
48. ChristopherLBennett
@44: Yes, politically, the two tribes are united and Unalaq rules both. But culturally, they're very distinct entities with separate identities. Many civil wars in history, including the American one, have happened because a subculture within the state saw itself as culturally distinct and feared assimilation. Just because a group of people are politically defined as part of a single state, that doesn't necessarily reflect a real cultural unity. They can try to live together as part of a single nation, but if a subculture feels unduly oppressed by the dominant culture, they would naturally resist, and seek either fair treatment or independence.
Cain Latrani
49. CainS.Latrani

Agreed. The South may be engaging in a revolution against the North, but until we actually see anything more than some soldiers asking unruly crowds to disperse and return to their homes, I'm having a hard time seeing this as an oppressive regime.
Chris Meadows
50. Robotech_Master
@49: Well, there's also all the South's shipping traffic being blockaded, choking off the commerce that is the lifeblood of any country. And the arresting and sentencing on trumped-up charges of people who weren't even involved.

(Seriously, Unalaq really should have known better. He already had Korra eating out of his hand. Why did he want to go and do something that would only piss her off?)
Cain Latrani
51. CainS.Latrani
I'm not sure what the blockade was even about. For the most part, it only stopped Varrick, but all things considered, any loss to him wasn't that great a loss. Beyond that, I'm not sure why Unalaq even bothered.

Unless her was trying to stop shipping due to Dark Spirit activity. We did see a cargo ship get taken down at the start of the season. He may hae been trying to protect people in a backwards way.

I think the main reason he had Korra's dad arrested and sent away was fear the south would unify against him. Politically, with the discontent already present, it was the option he had to take.

Past that, he and his brother clearly don't get along. However, if he really does believe Tonraq to be the cause of the Dark Spirits, getting him out was also a tactical move.

Korra was accepting of it until she saw her mom crying and learned Unalaq may have set her dad up back when. Considering her own problems with her dad, Unalaq probably gambled that she wouldn't make a fuss about it.

A lot of Unalaq's behavior can easily be chalked up to the attitude of someone who, feeling he was born to rule, isn't accustomed to being questioned, especially by the citizens.
Christopher Bennett
52. ChristopherLBennett
@51: How does that justify any of it, though? He employed trickery and deceit to usurp Tonraq's rightful claim to the throne and get him exiled, colluding with raiders who no doubt killed many people in their attack and their subsequent battle in the spirit forest. His whole claim to leadership is based on that crime. Clearly he's not a benevolent leader making hard choices for the greater good -- he's just power-hungry and manipulating people and events to get what he wants. I've suspected all along that he's stirring up the spirits to give himself a pretext to occupy the South and impose his fundamentalist values on them. And framing Tonraq for the attempt on his life was just an excuse to get his rival out of the way.
53. Nessa
A lot of Unalaq's behavior can easily be chalked up to the attitude of someone who, feeling he was born to rule, isn't accustomed to being questioned, especially by the citizens.
Isn't this kind of the problem, though? How is it okay for someone to think that they can use any unethical means possible to get their way with everything? Unalaq was brought up to rule, but it seems like his parents didn't do a very good job of teaching him that a real ruler should rule fairly. He shouldn't try to con the Southerners into accepting him as their leader. And maybe he should try to understand their way of life before rejecting it outright as unacceptable. The fact that he doesn't even consider that he may be wrong shows that he is a textbook example of a bad ruler, and shouldn't have been given the reins in the first place.

Originally, the Southern Water Tribe was okay with the Northerners being their "official" rulers so long as they stayed in the North Pole where they belonged. That way, the Southerners could celebrate their own culture without the Northerners butting in to tell them how things "should" be done all the time. Now Unalaq has brought troops to the South to force them to change their culture, essentially. The curfews, the blockades, and the fake trials show that the Southern way of life is clearly being threatened. Even if he doesn't plan on "attacking" the Southerners head on, the idea that the Northerners think they can change a culture leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.
Chris Nelly
54. Aeryl
Unalaq voluntarily went to the spirit world once Korra opened the portal.

He has knowledge about the spirits that no one else.

As Christopher Bennett points out, the portals at the poles aren't the only way through. But then why are the poles so important? AND important to whom?

Wan's memory showed that the energy flowing through the poles played a factor in their confrontation. Perhaps this will be the first convergence since Wan closed the portals. I still feel that the pole portals MUST be opened for their confrontation to occur. Now maybe Vatu plans to use them to flood the world with Dark Spirits in the weeks prior to feed his Dark Power with chaos and destruction.

If Unalaq's in league with that, that makes him flat out evil(in addition to the terrible things he's done). But I could possibly accept a "for the greater good" scenario, if by not opening the portals, it's ensured Raava loses.

As we already know, he KNOWS a lot about the Spirits. Maybe he knows Wan's story, maybe he knows about the convergence. If so, then everything he's done, from banishing Korra's dad to trying to gain influence with Korra, can all be traced back to that. He banishes his brother so he can rule, be in place to do what needs to be done is 20 something years. He tries to get close to Korra so he can tell her what's coming. He needs the portals opened to Raava and Vatu can meet.

And also, note in Wan's memory, that one pole was light energy and one was dark. What if the Dark Spirits are coming through the southern portal, not because of the spiritual malaise of the people, but it's location. That also explains why it's so dire to get her to open the Northern portal. If she doesn't, how can Raavu, with Korra, fight Vatu without that energy? Unalaq could have felt they had to open the Southern Portal first, because that's where Korra was, but now that could backfire.

Even if that is his motivation, he's given Korra every reason not to trust him. I guess that means it's all on Jinora to get this figured out first.
Cain Latrani
55. CainS.Latrani
@52. ChristopherLBennett

If that was what really happened. Are we to take the word of one clearly corrupt judge, when the Avatar had his head shoved in a polar bear dog's mouth?

Seems like there's more to the story, considering Korra never would have born had Unalaq not done it.
Chris Nelly
56. Aeryl
As far as the dozen lion turtle cities, I think there were only four and he pulled that out his ass. The four nations came from somewhere, right?
Cain Latrani
57. CainS.Latrani
@53. Nessa

I'm not saying he should feel that way. Unalaq has a lot to learn about trusting others, and being honest. However, his actions, to date, are not so easily chalked up as evil.

My point was that he may be morally gray, but it's not so simple a matter to determine what his true goals are, or where his loyalties actually lie.
Chris Nelly
58. Aeryl
Seems like there's more to the story, considering Korra never would have born had Unalaq not done it.

Regardless of the outcome, this does not excuse his actions.
Cain Latrani
59. CainS.Latrani
@54. Aeryl

True, he's given Korra every reason to despise him. However, Korra isn't the best judge of character. Her reactionary attitude certainly isn't helping her see clearly, or think clearly.

That aside, Unalaq's reaction to being told the Avatar was dead is hard to write off. If he were working for Vatu, you'd think that would be good news, unless there's some reason Vatu needs both pole portals open.

It seems more likely, at the moment, that the portals need to be opened for the convergance for some spiritual reason. Since the Avatar closed them, the Avatar has to open them, and Unalaq, in his overbearing manner, is trying to protect the world.

So far, nothing he has done makes sense in terms of him being evil, or even a villian.
Chris Meadows
60. Robotech_Master
Really, we're making guesses based on seeing the very beginning and the very end of a story here. Reading the first chapter and the last chapter of a novel and trying to guess what came between. We've seen the distant past and the just-now, but I'm curious about the last 80 years or so.

Korra really doesn't know anything about what she needs to know to do her job, as far as the spirits go. She hasn't been communing with her recent past lives at all except for that little bit at the end of S1 and the previous four telling her to reconnect with her Avatar nature at the beginning of this one. And she's heard the story of the beginning of the Avatar, but apparently hasn't been told anything about the recent past.

If what Unalaq says about the portal having been stuck closed and the everstorm raging around for a century is true, why didn't Aang do anything about this? He's as spiritual as they come, and his wife is from the Southern Water Tribe. He had to be aware of it.

Given that the next episode is called "The Guide," I have hopes that one of Korra's past lives (maybe even Wan himself; seems he would be a bit underused just to show up in two episodes and go away, and he's the one with the most direct experience with these particular spirits) will appear to her and make with some explaining.
Cain Latrani
61. CainS.Latrani
@58. Aeryl

Oh, I'm not trying to excuse his actions. I'm trying to understand them.

There are those who take drastic actions, do things that are easily viewed as evil, for the best of reasons.

I am curious if Unalaq is a far more deep and complex character than we have been lead to believe.
Cain Latrani
62. CainS.Latrani
@60. Robotech_Master

I've been wondering why Aang didn't do something about it as well, if it was that bad. It must have something to do with the harmonic convergence.

I figure that with Korra having closed the portal again, we're about to find out a great deal about Unalaq, his goals, and what's really going on.

I'll be very disappointed if Unalaq is a cardboard villian.

Though, I'm wondering if The Guide is going to end up being Raava.
Chris Meadows
63. Robotech_Master
Just wanted to bring up another thing that interests me. The shaman, whether she's Azula or not, uses fire in a healing (or at least diagnostic) way. Water, its diametric opposite, is the element that had previously been associated with healing. (And, indeed, when it is actually time to heal Korra, they drop her in a pond. :)

But then, as the dragons revealed, fire is also the element of life, so I expect it would also be useful for diagnosing spiritual maladies, in the way that flames can burn different colors in the presence of different elements.
Mordicai Knode
64. mordicai
63. Robotech_Master

& as we've seen with the proliferation of lightning bending, new techniques have proliferated...& perhaps discovered?

56. Aeryl

I read a comic that joked about the other lionturtles teaching psychic, ghost, grass...all the Pokemon types, in other words.
65. Nessa
I was under the impression that the other lion turtles were just variations on the first four. There are different styles of bending for each of the elements. Also the Earth Kingdom is pretty huge, so I'm guessing that there was probably more than one lion turtle who could grant the power of earth (the one we saw seemed like it was covered in sand; it could have given rise to the sand-benders we saw in Aang's series).
@Cain S.Latrani: I do think there's probably a reason he thinks he's on the "good" side. But intentions aren't everything, especially when his actions do so much harm to others. I can understand why the Southern Water Tribe were angry when he decided to try and discipline them by force. I find it less understandable that Unalaq thinks the best course to help the Avatar is to cheat and lie to her and everyone around her.
Mordicai Knode
66. mordicai
65. Nessa

For my part, it isn't that I think Unalaq is Good. Or even that I think Unalaq is Not Bad. I just think Unalaq is Complicated. The other option is that he really is as black & white a villain as he's been painted-- & I mean, Avatar had Zhao, those guys do exist-- I just still think reconcilliation will be the theme. Between north & south, brother & brother, dark & light, Vaatu & Raava.
67. bitsyboo
I think it's a bad sign for the series that this was my favorite episode so far and it didn't have the main characters in it. Korra's whining, Bolin's "comical" subplot, and no-one-listens-to-Mako... getting sick of it.
Mordicai Knode
68. mordicai
67. bitsyboo

Frankly, I'm busy basking in the afterglow of it still; that was a pretty great hour of fiction.
Jennifer B
69. JennB
Best episode of Korra, hands down. It's too bad that they had to leave the present world and characters completely behind to make the magic happen. I hope a little can seep over into the present storyline.

re @44
Korra may not have been born without Unalaq framing her father and having him banished, but the Avatar would have been born into the Water Tribe upon Aang's death anyways.
Chris Nelly
70. Aeryl
Since my DVR and IMDb inform me that the next episode of Korra airs NEXT Friday, here's an interview with executive producers Bryan Konietzko and Joaquim Dos Santos, and Bolin voice actor PJ Byrne.
71. DeanEx
Was it just me, or did anyone else notice that the tree that Vatu was imprisoned in looks alot like the cave the Aang find Koh at the end of Book 1: Water, or is it just wishful thinking on my behalf?
Christopher Bennett
72. ChristopherLBennett
@71: So far, every "This character is going to turn out to be Koh" theory I've ever heard has been wrong, so I prefer to remain skeptical.
Mordicai Knode
73. mordicai
72. ChristopherLBennett

Guilty! Guilty as charged. But I mean...

71. DeanEx

...that thought totally crossed my mind as well.
Cain Latrani
74. CainS.Latrani
@69. JennB

Yes, but it would not have been Korra. There may be something specific about her we don't know yet.

Spitballing theory here, but the last Water Tribe Avatar was a go with the flow type who ended up having his girlfriends face stolen by the often mentioned Koh.

Perhaps Korra was a necessary Avatar for reasons we don't know yet. Something to do with the convergence that requires an Avatar willing to push harder than an average Water Tribe person would.

Speaking of Koh, I haven't ruled out his hand at play yet. While I would be surprised to see him crop up, it remains a possibility.
Cain Latrani
75. CainS.Latrani
@70. Aeryl

Ah, thank you. I always had a feeling that was what was going on. Nice to have it backed up.

Bolin for the win!

Hey, that should be his catchphrase.
Chris Nelly
76. Aeryl
@74, I think it's no coincidence that Aang's outlook was particularly well suited to solving his conflict, I expect no less for Korra.
Mordicai Knode
77. mordicai
76. Aeryl

I actually wonder about that; I think Aang actually cheated fate, cheated the purpose of the universe, by making an enlightened act. The Avatar is meant to restore balance, & the past Avatars were right; a sword could have accomplished it, Ozai could have been killed by the Avatar, justly & for good reason. Aang short circuited that by taking the higher road.
Chris Nelly
78. Aeryl
He did cheat fate, but fate OBVIOUSLY wanted to be cheated, or else why would the Raava(as we now know that the Avatar spirit is a seperate entity from the Avatar person) intervene to keep Aang in suspended animation for 100 years? Because the situation could only be resolved through Aang's pacifistic solution.

So why did the Avatar spirit then reside itself in the hot headed young daughter of the banished chief of the Northern Water Tribe? Because she was going to be essential in resolving the Raava/Vatu conflict.
Christopher Bennett
79. ChristopherLBennett
@78: I think the Avatar spirit is not just Raava, but the merger of Raava and Wan. Remember, when the Harmonic Convergence happened and they touched the portal, Raava said they were now joined forever; and when Wan died, Raava said that she would be with him through all his future lives. So it's his spirit that's being reincarnated in each new Avatar, but it's fused with her spirit, which provides the ability to control all four elements and enter the Avatar State. They've probably blended so completely as to be a single entity now.
Mordicai Knode
80. mordicai
79. ChristopherLBennett

My prediction is that this isn't the case but that it will be the case; I think we might get a Big Story out of this, where Korra accepts Vaatu into herself to balance the Avatar, & that will allow her to re-open the spirit portals & to Miyazaki up the Avatar universe.
Chris Nelly
81. Aeryl
I lean the other way. I think Korra's story ends with the permanent seperation of the spirit and physical worlds, and brings about the end of bending and the Avatar cycle.
Chris Nelly
82. Aeryl
Oops. Dupe.
Mordicai Knode
83. mordicai
81. Aeryl

I disagree for a couple of production reasons: why kill the cash cow? Besides, they've got Books after this to go through. I doubt "no more Avatar" or "no more Bending" are on the table, as those are IP identifying charactaristics...but so are spirits, so to me more spirits seems more likely.

Or a return to status quo but while that is probably the most likely it is the least interesting or brave.
Cain Latrani
84. CainS.Latrani
@83. mordicai

I'm going to agree. I doubt they will eliminate the entire point of the show in the second season, much less kill any future franchise possibilities.

While I doubt that Korra will end up with Vatu as part of her the way Raava is, I'm not ruling out him joining with another human to create a Dark Avatar.

Okay, that's just the sort of thing I'd pull. They probably have a better plan, like shoving Vatu back in his prison for another 10,000 years.

But still, think of it, a Dark Avatar, the force of imbalance in the world!

Talk about future story ideas.

At least till the reboot turns the Avatar into an emo space Jesus, anyway.
Mordicai Knode
85. mordicai
84. CainS.Latrani

I think a "dark Avatar" is possible but a little too "good & evil" & Western, personally.
Cain Latrani
86. CainS.Latrani
@85. mordicai

Possibly. It would kind of fit with the way the world is changing, the rise of the industrial age, the unchecked commercialism, and the themes set forth last season of inequality between benders and non benders.

Though, the more I think of it, the less likely it seems. With what they've already done, they probably have something better in mind than I expect.
Chris Nelly
87. Aeryl
@81, Well that's a whole new quest now, isn't it? The quest to restore bending? You could do several books about that!

I don't think THIS book will end that way, but I could see the series of Korra ending this way. Especially if Bryke feels they are done with this world, that would be a definitive way of ending it.

But since the first book talked about but never REALLY addressed the inherent unfairness of a world with bending, I really hope they don't just leave that out there.

My original thought to address the issues raised in Book One, was that we were going to learn that EVERYONE not an element bender was a spirit bender, which would give the "non-benders" the chance to take the bending away from oppressive benders, in the best tradition of this world, THROUGH COMBAT. I though that was a neat way to bring resolution.

Since there hasn't been resolution to that plot, as a matter of fact it looks like the Equalists just went home apparently, well lets just say, I'll be very disappointed if it never returns to the story.
Cain Latrani
88. CainS.Latrani
@87. Aeryl

I don't think it's so much that they went home as they are simply regrouping. After all, their leader, the icon they rallied around, turned out to be a bender as well. That's the sort of thing that would devestate a movement, but not stop it.

So, while they may be quiet for now, I'm sure they will be back. Not in the same form, but back all the same. Perhaps as a political movement, or a social equality group, trying to change the world without violence this time. Perhaps as terrorists. Hard to say just yet.

That the show even addressed the fundamental inequality of it's own world is fascinating, especially since we didn't really see it in the original series. The Earth King wasn't a bender, but was still a ruler.

The new era, the industrial age that is booming, changed everything as surely as the Fire Nation's attack. The rise of gangs of benders oppressing non benders, the celebration of benders as sports heroes, and even the subtle changes to the ruling council of Republic City all helped breed a discontent that wasn't there before.

We saw in the flashbacks that Sokka was on the council in the past, giving voice not just to the Water Tribe, but non benders. The quite shift that took place between then and now fed the resentment as much as anything.

It isn't something that will be fixed just by electing a non bender President, and I doubt the show is done tackling these issues. Most likely, the Equalists will return as political group, and future books will deal with a reversal that sees the benders becoming the second class citizens.
Christopher Bennett
89. ChristopherLBennett
@85: Actually I felt the whole Raava-vs.-Vaatu thing was itself too much in a Western good-and-evil vein. In the yin-and-yang (taijitu) philosophy, the dark isn't pure evil; it's as necessary as the light, and an imbalance in either direction is a bad thing. So painting Vaatu in this Western way as a force of intrinsic chaos and destruction that turns spirits evil was disappointing to me. I mean, Unalaq said outright in the season opener that dark spirits aren't evil, just upset at the imbalance in the world. The revelation about Vaatu seems to refute that and oversimplify/over-Westernize matters.
Mordicai Knode
90. mordicai
89. ChristopherLBennett

...which is why I expect the book end to that two parter to be the finale, where the acceptance of the dark & chaos balances out Raava, who represents the use of force to keep order, right?
Cain Latrani
91. CainS.Latrani
@89. ChristopherLBennett

I've been wondering about that myself. Vatu isn't so much evil, as necessary. Chaos unchecked is bad, as is good unchecked. Following that reasoning, Vatu cannot be destroyed, so much as contined. At the end of Wen's story, both Raava and Vatu are basically contined.

We can theorize that with the convergance upon them, Vatu is growing powerful again. However, it wasn't just the coming convergence that made him stronger, it was running around unchecked. Last we saw, he was pretty well checked. Being imprisoned tends to be a good check.

I'll be a little disappointed if it turns out that Vatu is to blame for evrything, when there are so many other good reasons for the spirits to be angry.

Somewhere, off camera, there are massive mining operations taking place, deforestation, industrial pollution, and more. All the things that go with a rise of industrialization.

That seems like a pretty good reason for the spirts to be angry, and since the Avatar and by extension, Raava helped accelerate that problem, would not Vatu have a right to impose a litte chaos on a world over run with humans showing no respect for the natural order?

In all fairness, wasn't that what he was trying to do to begin with? Keep enough chaos in the world to prevent what has come to pass?

Devils advocate here, but Vatu isn't evil. He's just keeping the world from becoming a static place where humanity ravages the natural for consumerism.
Christopher Bennett
92. ChristopherLBennett
@91: Yeah, but Raava said that Vaatu left unchecked would destroy the world -- and the implication is that Raava left similarly unchecked would be good for the world. That's what feels Western to me -- the notion that one side of the dichotomy is intrinsically better than the other.

Okay, maybe Raava represents order and Vaatu chaos, but if there are dire consquences to too much chaos, there should also be dire consequences to too much order -- stagnation, a loss of dynamism, excessive authoritarianism, something. Too much Raava should be as bad as too much Vaatu. But the episode gave no suggestion of this. It just treated Raava as the spirit we should root for and Vaatu as the one we should hiss.
Cain Latrani
93. CainS.Latrani
@92. ChristopherLBennett

True, is was presented in a bit of a lopsided fashion, but since we were seeing events through Wan's eyes, it should be expected a little.

Too much good, or order if we are going to use chaos, would be terrible. Loss of spontaneity, creativity, and a generally static, unchanging world would be the result. Humanity would cease to progress and authoritarianism would end up being the rule.

I'm sure Wan didn't really think of it that way, or see that, but order without chaos is just as destructive, which Raava seemed to know, hence her initial desire to return to the status quo.

Once that was no longer possible, I think it became more about Wan's view of good and bad than Raava's. Much as he accused the Chu's of hoarding food, but we never really got the whole story there, meaning we only have his viewpoint to go on.

Considering the state of the world at that time, it's possible that the food hording was done for the betterment of the city as a whole, insuring the city would survive a time of famine. Certainly there were some who were hungry, but when we look at the modern age, we still find hunger, even when there is a literal abundance. Just seeing two or three people being hungry does not equate opression on the part of the Chu's.

It was Wan's viewpoint that told us that's what it was. Just as it was his viewpoint that told us Vatu was evil, while Raava was good. Some of which comes from his intial belief that Vatu was the victim in the struggle, only to learn he had been deceived, thus making Vatu bad in his mind.

Chaos will always seek to usurp, while order will always seek to dominate chaos. Their relationship was played in a fairly believable fashion, at least in terms of them being spirits of such grand ideas. Wan's viewpoint is what colors it, which it should, since he was the one relating the story.
Mordicai Knode
94. mordicai
92. ChristopherLBennett

Or say, Raava unchecked might for instance close off the portals to the spirit world, threatening the balance between Spirit & Mortal, putting two worlds at risk of destruction, & only opening it can mend what was broken?
Christopher Bennett
95. ChristopherLBennett
@94: Yeah, but why would that take 10,000 years?

Although I guess you could say that Raava hasn't been unchecked because she's been bonded with a human spirit for that whole time, and humans have their own mix of light and dark, yin and yang. I'm reminded of how the Avatar State threatened to run out of Aang's control early on until he learned how to master it -- and the Avatar State looks a lot like how Wan looked when Raava entered his body. Maybe part of the Avatar's job is to keep the Raava-spirit within -- i.e. the Avatar State -- under control, to keep it tamed and regulated so that it can't get too much freedom to act.

So... yeah... given that Korra has had access to the Avatar State for six months as of the start of Book 2, and given that she's been using it profligately and recklessly, embracing the power rather than limiting and managing it... maybe it's not a coincidence that the spiritual imbalance started to crop up shortly thereafter. Maybe that's Vaatu fighting back against Raava's current lack of restraint, pushing to restore the balance in a more forceful way now that the Avatar isn't managing to do it.
Mordicai Knode
96. mordicai
95. ChristopherLBennett

Or the "style" of the threat may be reflected; unchecked aggression for Vaatu, & an unchecked passive stranglehold? Slowly boiling the frog, so to speak?
98. Marlon cov. A
Ying and yang are the water and moon spirits. Raava and Vaatu are the light and dark spirits. Just letting you know there is no link between them. The spirits at the noth have an impact on the water benders. Raava and Vaatu don't have an impact on any element. If I'm wrong please say so. I'm open for true answers.
Mordicai Knode
99. mordicai
98. Marlon cov. A

Yes, this is true that the Ocean koi was named Yin & the Moon spirit was named Yang...but "Yin & Yang" is a much bigger concept than just the name of two fictional spirits in Avatar: the Last Airbender. It is a big real world concept, & yes, the Moon & Ocean mirror it, but so too do Raava & Vaatu; quite explicitly forming a quite literal Taijitu, the Yin-Yang symbol.
Christopher Bennett
100. ChristopherLBennett
@99: That's right. The whole shape of the Spirit World environment containing the portals was in the form of a taijitu, with the portals as the dots.

The yin and yang represent the balance of opposites, the Eastern philosophical concept that everything has light and dark aspects and that the goal in life is to achieve a balance between opposing forces. This is a recurring theme throughout the Avatar franchise, and Raava and Vaatu are a rather literal representation of the balance of opposites -- although the show kind of filtered them through a more Western, Manichaean way of thinking by painting Raava as good and Vaatu as evil and having the goal be for one to soundly defeat the other rather than restoring a balance between them.
James Sneddon
101. Starlon99
Having recently finished the Wheel of Time series, Sealing Vatuu away like that, away from the touch of man, reminded me of the Dark One's imprisonment. Both locked away, yet still influencing the world. Also, Wan's method of sealage (using every available magic) brought back images of the DO's re-imprisonment.
Now I'm imagining Randland with a bunch of Benders rolling around, several White Towers (one for each element) with the Dragon being the Avatar. Bedtime for this dude.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment