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Korra’s Back! The Legend of Korra: “Rebel Spirit” and “The Southern Lights”

There are some feelings that can only be described in acronyms that have been run through the hard decay of slang. “ZOMG” expresses how I feel about the start of the new season of The Legend of Korra. I’ve missed doing these Korra discussion posts almost as much as I’ve missed watching the show! The new season, “Book Two: Spirits” started off with a bang, with an explosion of Dark Spirits and religious tensions in the Water Tribe, with a host of new characters and new directions for the story—and I’m eager to follow the yellow brick road to see where it goes. We got to see two episodes, “Rebel Spirit” and “Southern Lights,” in the hour long premiere, and the dominoes have already started to topple.

So I’ve been thinking about Korra a lot since last summer, and I’ve decided to just ignore the haters. You know how many episodes The Legend of Korra had in the first season? Twelve. Yet people keep trying to judge it by the yardstick of the full three seasons—sixty-one episodes—of Avatar: the Last Airbender. That isn’t fair; a far better comparison would be to the first dozen Last Airbender episodes, which is to say we’d just have gotten past “The Great Divide.” We would have just gotten Zuko’s backstory, but not seen his behavior change, because “The Blue Spirit” hasn’t aired yet. We wouldn’t have seen romance start to bloom, because “The Fortuneteller” or “The Cave of Two Lovers” haven’t happened.

You think Korra’s stubborn tendency towards aggression is a character flaw? How about that time Aang stole the letter from Katara and Sokka’s long lost father? Well, that would still be in the future, in “Bato of the Water Tribe.” What I’m saying is, people need to take a chill pill. Especially people hating on Korra and Mako as a couple; let’s see what happens? I didn’t watch Avatar: the Last Airbender till after it had aired, so I missed the wars between the “Zutara” and “Kataang” ’shippers, but let’s not have a redux of that. Just sit back and enjoy the show. Let’s give them a chance to convince us…or not. Anyhow, that’s my philosophy. But enough of that, let’s talk about the two new episodes!

First off, let’s talk about big political arc, let’s talk about Unalaq and Tonraq. Here is my prediction for the season: Unalaq is not wrong. Or to put it another way, Unalaq is not Amon or Tarrlok. I don’t think Unalaq is secretly summoning the Dark Spirits in order to inflate his influence; I think he appears so sinister to disguise the fact that he has a point. That said, rolling into the South with a fleet of warships definitely points to him not being “good.” Like everything in the world of Avatar, it is organic, a mixed bag of virtues and vices, flaws and strengths. My long-term guess? Unalaq’s spiritual side is stronger than his real world side, and Tonraq’s real world side is stronger than his spiritual side; Korra will have to bring the brothers into balance to save them and the Water Tribe, to prevent them from being Tarrlok and Noatak.

Okay, I’ve waited long enough; I wanna squee about the characters. First off, Katara and Aang’s kids, eeeee, they are the best. Tenzin was probably my favorite character from the first season, and to see him whipping out that goofy map of his boring dad vacation is like, my favorite. Then to see him interact with goofy big brother Bumi and sly big sister Kya? Really great; they are a pleasure whenever they are on screen. and did I say Tenzin was my favorite? I misspoke; Jinora is my actual favorite. The bookish fantasy nerd, who could’ve guessed; seeing her sleepwalk up to (presumably) the First Avatar’s statue in the Air Temple gave me goose bumps; I’m eager for her to have an expanded role and I’m still hoping that—much like Toph invented “advanced earthbending” in the form of metalbending, and firebending has lightning while waterbending has blood- and plant-bending—Jinora will invent a new kind of advanced airbending. Also, the Air Acolytes falling all over themselves for the airbenders? Cracking up about it still.

Desna and Eska are, of course, the new darlings, and not just because they give ’shippers all kinds of new combinations to throw into the mix. Aubrey Plaza! When that was announced I definitely had a picture in my head of how Eska would roll, when the show came back, and now that we’ve seen it, I’m not disappointed. The verdict is still out on Desna, but I sort of expect the twins to be split up, to choose opposite sides in the coming conflict; sibling rivalry seems to be a theme for The Legend of Korra—well, for the whole Avatar setting, what with Zuko and Azula, Sokka and Katara—and this seems like another future hot spot to me. Mai is one of my favorite characters from the last series, and I would like to see Eska expand into a similar position, or a bigger one, though I also wonder if Bolin and Asami might become a “thing.”

Speaking of Asami and Bolin, I find Korra to be increasingly Ghibli-esque. The tensions between a modernizing world and a strange spirit world, I mean. How Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away can you get? In fact, you’ve got Korra to do the Mononoke storyline and Jinora to do the Spirited Away one! And Varrick seems to me to be one of the Miyazaki clowns, like Jigo from Princess Mononoke or Donald Curtis from Porco Rosso—characters that have a buffoonish side but aren’t simply one dimensional. I’ve got my eye on him. Not to mention that I find the references to Sallie Gardner at a Gallop and Le Coucher de la Mariée to be really interesting; I wonder if we’ll meet a counterpart to The Mechanist in the form of a Legend of Korra-fied Georges Méliès.

I’m really excited The Legend of Korra is back. What was one thing we were hoping for? A chance to see more of the world, how it has changed since the last series? Well, we’ve seen the Southern Water Tribe, we’ve seen the Everstorm, we’ve seen people and troops from the Northern Water Tribe, we’ve seen the refurbished Southern Air Temple…I’m really excited to see what else the show has in store, both in the mortal world and the spirit world. I know last season I guessed that Koh the Face Stealer was behind everything, and I was wrong, so in that same “fat chance” vein, I’ll make a prediction: Korra will bring Koh back “into balance,” making him less of a Dark Spirit. I’m probably just whistling in the dark, here, but I might as well take a swing at it. My backup theory is that Wan Shi Tong is the final antagonist, that he’s gone Dark since his library sunk. Just wild guesses; what are yours?

Mordicai Knode was super happy to see the cosplayers show up again but his favorite line from both episodes was Bumi saying “Mom already invited me!” to Tenzin. Find more Mordicai on Twitter and Tumblr.


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