So we left two The Legend of Korra storylines unfinished with “Civil Wars: Part One”: Korra’s parents about to be arrested and Tenzin’s daughter Ikki missing. When we pick back up with Korra…she’s letting her parents be arrested? Really Korra, you are still messing around with Unalaq on his terms? “Alright,” I say with a slump of my shoulders, “at least this means this is the last episode where she falls for it.” And it was. Thank heavens. As someone pointed out, Korra does have a “type,” doesn’t she? Mentoring Sinister Water Tribe guys, she is always a sucker for them. They are her kryptonite.
So Korra goes to the trumped up trial, watches Unalaq farcically plead for clemency, and she…okay, at last she’s starting to put her foot down. Gosh, enough is enough already! At last it is enough—she’s confronted by Unalaq’s not-inconsiderable list of lies, and finally now that there is action, Korra knows what to do. Knowing what to do, who to trust, that is her struggle. So Unalaq sure seems pretty wicked, huh? I’m still not convinced that the season won’t end in reconciliation between Unalaq and Tonraq, but it does suddenly appear far less grey and a lot more black and white. Oh hey, is it just me—it probably isn’t me, I’m probably late to this party, given the known proclivities of Tumblr—or do their names sort of sound like “Loki” and “Thor”? Una-LOK? THOR-raq? Huh? HUH?
The missing Ikki storyline jumps ahead to Tenzin finding his missing daughter, with thankfully no forced fanfare. Oh no, something all together better: a tea party with sky bison calves! Juniper Lightningbug, Blueberry Spicehead, Princess Rainbow, Twinkle Starchild, a full My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic panoply. As predicted, Ikki and Tenzin bond over sibling torment and use their perspective as outsiders to point out some of the virtues of each other’s pair of brother and sister. Meanwhile Bumi’s ruminating with his father’s statues; if Tenzin got his father’s airbending and Kya got her mother’s waterbending, Bumi apparently inherited both parents’ tendency to want to try to save the world. I like that.
I wouldn’t quite go so far as to say that the theme of this episode was “true colors” but I would say instead that it is like peeling a layer off an onion. Yep, Unalaq certainly got painted with the villain brush, but I’m still not convinced his character development will stop there. Similarly, we see Varrick’s intentions towards the revolution are sincere—at least so far. Putting him in the stuffed platypus bear is a bit of inspired physical comedy; the “style” of humor on The Legend of Korra has included low humor like farts and puns, surprise humor like the more Looney Tunes facial expressions, but Taxidermy Varrick feels very Old Timey Gaang style funny. ’course, I sort of think Varrick’s parallel is to the original Bumi, anyway.
We also see that Eska is…well, saying she is sincere in her affections is immaterial and putting the cart before the horse, at this point. Bolin tries to break up with her, in a spectacularly unsuccessful fashion; he doesn’t stand up for himself, but he’s pretty clearly being bullied by Eska, down to literal tears—again, played for laughs—but I’m still heartily icked out. Their story can be fixed, or “saved,” or she could become a straight up bad guy, but it can’t stay like it is. I hear people compare Eska to Mai and I can’t tell you how wrong that is. For one thing, Mai is presented as a villain and then gets character growth and development; and for another, her relationship with Zuko is clearly consensual and non-coercive. No, “Boleska” isn’t Zuko and Mai. If anything it is Ty Lee and Azula. So when we see her in pursuit, mascara running, is it any wonder that her water jets evoke Azula’s blue fire?
Actually, speaking of the original Avatar: the Last Airbender series, this story has really mirrored the first arc of that series; the Northern Water Tribe ships pull in just like the imperial Fire Nation, and this aerial engagement and escape reminded me of the sky bison fueled escape from the south that Aang, Sokka and Katara made. I liked a lot about this episode—the background art on the frozen water fountain and the pentagonal prison were really gorgeous—and I am glad we’re seeing momentum. After the first three episodes, it felt like it was all build up; now things are getting in gear. No Dark Spirits this episode, which I thought was an interesting lacuna.
My prediction was that Tonraq was going to make a break for the North, try to start an insurrection there, assert his claim as chief, split Unalaq’s attention but I can’t tell if the end of this episode left room for that. What do you think is the show’s next move?