I started talking about “The Sting” by plunging ahead with spoilers, but I can’t bring myself to do that here. Even picking the right visual to go at the top of this post is something that needs to have some thought put into it. If you’ve seen the episode, I’m sure you know what I mean…or rather, who I mean. I didn’t watch this episode live, and someone else’s excitement spoiled me, so I want to dance around it until we get under the cut.
While I dance though, I’m making a “eee ee eee!” noise of nervous glee. Korra and Jinora go off into the Spirit World, The Legend of Korra continues to get “more Miyazaki,” and some old friends, like Wan Shi Tong, show up. As well as some others. So, are you ready to step into the fairytales of the Four Nations?
Okay, whew, now that we’ve safely thrown up all the warnings and disclaimers, oh my gosh Uncle Iroh. Eee ee eee! I wasn’t expecting that! Greg Baldwin did a great job picking up where Mako left off in Avatar: the Last Airbender—RIP Mako—so it is nice to hear him again, and even nicer to see everyone’s favorite avuncular war hero. (If you are confused by that sentence, you should be aware that Mako, the firebending occasional romantic interest from Korra is named after the voice actor who portrayed Uncle Iroh in Airbender, who passed way in 2006.) So we get Uncle Iroh and as usual, he’s created a little Zen Garden of Eden around himself, in the midst of the proverbial typhoon, complete with Raava’s tea kettle. Iroh went full Kenobi; abandoning the flesh to ascend into the Spirit World. I wonder if he get to see Lu Ten? I’d really like it if we could outro on the Spirit World watching Iroh play Pai Sho with his son.
Iroh’s not the only blast from the past: oh my gosh Baby Korra! Listen, “I’m the Avatar, you gotta deal with it!” remains probably the greatest line of the series; possibly both series. Since we’re talking about voice actors, did you know the voice of young Korra is Cora Baker, Dee Bradley Baker’s (Appa, Momo, et al) daughter? Nepotism has its downsides and all that, but I have a big soft spot for these kinds of team-ups despite myself—see also Olivia and Martin Olson, the daughter/dad team-up of Marceline and Hunson Abadeer from Adventure Time. The best part about young Korra, though, is textual. It means the moral of the journey is what we’ve been saying all season: grow up.
Alright, before I go any further: in “Beginnings” we saw the solar system of the Avatar universe, which answers some major cosmological questions, like “is this a spherical world in orbit around a sun?” Don’t look at me like that, it is a world where hermetic elements are real, and where people have the ability to supernaturally manipulate them, I’m not taking anything for granted. This week, we have Jinora educating Wan Shi Tong about the radio—that’s my homegirl Jinora, teaching the spirits some science—and she establishes the existence of the electromagnetic spectrum. Maybe I’m over thinking it, but I wonder how that ties into, you know, atomic theory. Is the world of Avatar really just a scientific world, with the spirit-born powers of bending deriving from a dualistic other plane? Am I over-thinking this? Quite probably.
So the dragon-bird—it is difficult not to think of it as a phoenix—is that a thing now? What I mean is, well; the Avatar typically, or at least sometimes, has an animal spirit guide. Appa and Fang are the two we’ve seen; I’ve sort of been expecting Naga to fill the same role, but what if Naga is more like Momo, more like a pet, with this dragon-bird…ah, I don’t know. My first thought was that it was going to be Wan Shi Tong’s chick; remember the frightening aspect he took to chase the Gaang? Which, really Jinora? You thought Wan Shi Tong would be on your side, even though your grandfather made him so angry he retreated from the mortal world? I guess Aang or Tenzin must have left that part out of the story. Anyhow, because The Internet is The Internet, people are already ‘shipping Unalaq and Wan Shi Tong. There should be a rule about that…
Taking the dragon-bird up Mount Doom is a good piece of storytelling; Korra has been hot headed and lashing out, she’s been in a dark place, but she’s not twisted by her anger, she’s venting it. Showing her innocent side, and showing her focus in standing up for herself while remaining calm, staying centered, turning the Ghostbusters oni-dogs into foo dogs, all that jazz. While we are talking about spirits…it seems to me like there is a difference between monsters, like Koh or some of the other creepy crawlies we see this episode, and “dark spirits,” with that liquid black light coloration and transparency. Seems more like “Vaatu spirits,” though given the big umbrella that Vaatu and Raava seem to represent, that might be splitting hairs.
There are plenty of little bits to be gleeful about in this episode. The weird Pinocchio or Jonah scene, the giant dragonfly-bunny, the dark dragonfly bunny, Katara and Aang’s kids—I’ve said before how much I like seeing Aang and Korra share a lot of the same body language, and that holds true for Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi too—Jinora nerding out at the library, prairie dog spirits…I optimistically think the show has gotten its feet under it. No more “wait and see,” because now we’re at “see.” As for the plot, I don’t really have a lot to say. Nobody thought it would be that easy, and as predicted, the lack of bending gave Korra a major disadvantage. Sure, she could go through a Spirit Portal, and maybe she will, but I think Korra’s going to “win” this one by getting the Spirits on her side. For the record? I still think Vaatu will be freed, and that Korra will merge with him, as well as Raava.