I’ve thought about it and first things first let me lay out the answer: I’m only going to talk about “Night of a Thousand Stars” and “Harmonic Convergence” in this post. Yes, the other episodes were posted online, but I want everybody to be able to follow along, even though I personally am an online viewer. Are the other readers of this blog? Speak up! How do you get your Korra?
That aside, there is plenty to talk about in these two episodes! And lots to like. This is a big arc, but if you ask me it doesn’t let you down, even as the stakes get higher and higher. Maybe you disagree; but for me, there is nothing in the two episodes we got fair and square this week that I didn’t like. We’ll have plenty of time to talk about the last two episodes later.
Bolin time! All season long they’ve been building up to this. Or maybe “building down” is the word, as Bolin has been a buffoon, has been trusting the wrong people and been used as a pawn…but today is the day that changes. Get it together, Bolin. It is nice to see the stadium, but once it becomes a stage for Bolin’s showdown, you know he’s got, quite literally, the home court advantage. Nuktuk shows us Pabu’s “Juji,” a snow raccoon with laser eyes, but the real eye catcher is Bolin’s fight sequence, which is athletic and inventive, and has The Announcer freaking out in the stands.
Meanwhile, outside of the technology-packed streets of Republic City—there really is a powerful sense of “place” in The Legend of Korra—Tonraq and his crack team of snowboarding rebels are on the assault. They’ve got the strength to defeat the Northern troops, but not the dark spirits. The inevitable Tonraq versus Unalaq ends badly for Tonraq; sometimes the need for justice isn’t enough; sometimes the tyrant wins. Later on, in “Harmonic Convergence,” we see the same holds true for Team Avatar, when what appears to be a fairly successful plan of assault is spoiled by the dark spirits.
Then again, sometimes the scoundrel loses; Varrick winds up behind bars, and no thanks to the varricake-eating cops—totally different than doughnuts—Mako is freed. Just in time for the love triangle to get started up all over again. You know, Bolin said something that made my sympathize with Asami a little bit more—she thinks Mako is just like her dad, another person she was wrong to trust—but this whole “end of the world, amnesia, abandonment, break-up, friends with benefits” situation Mako is trapped in isn’t as easy to get out of as you’d think. There aren’t clear transgressions here, so unlike last season, the tangle is more compelling. (But still not that compelling…)
Bumi time! The comedic side characters get a chance to make good in these episodes. Bumi playing a flute is a not-that-subtle but not-that-clumsy Chekhov’s Gun, and it plays out nicely. All of his “with three mice, some figs and a candle…” stories seem a little bit more plausible after he rampages through the bunker in a haunted mecha. What a world we live in where we’re watching stories about possessed mecha! With Naga and Pabu at the climax, it is a fun scene that yeah, like Sokka, shows you can still be light-hearted and make meaningful advances in the story. Tell a few jokes but set up the next scene along the way while getting stuff done.
So yes, Anti-Avatar is the plan. That’s what we learn. Big, bad, not morally grey at all Unalaq. It is a big, goofy, awkward plan. I sort of think that is what The Legend of Korra is. Avatar: The Last Airbender was like magic day at summer camp, that one piece of childhood unadulterated by the troubles of the outside world. The Legend of Korra is the gawky teenager, the adolescent figuring out who kisses who, and learning to grow up already and start doing what needs to be done. Korra seems ready to do it. Tenzin seems ready to do it. Team Avatar seems ready to do it.
…and Vaatu breaks loose. Everyone has been driven here by anger, no one is feeling their zen. We’ve seen how the Spirit World reacts to emotions—from the Avatar especially—so it isn’t a surprise to me. The Tree of Time is like the tree from Dagobah; what’s in there is what you take with you. Of course, this is the Avatar universe. You knew it had to get as bad as it could get. You knew they had to fail and build a new, better plan…and fail again. Right now, honestly? My biggest concern is that Jinora might become the new moon, so to speak. You know, sacrifice herself for the good of the cosmos? I sure as heck hope not, though.