About Last Night: The Legend of Korra “Rebel Spirit”/”The Southern Lights”

During the second season of The Legend of Korra, Mike Mazzacane and I teamed up together to provide weekly recaps of the season for Screened.  These posts contain my half of each entry.

So that you all know where I stand: I was very late to Avatar: The Last Airbender (only watched it for the first time back in February) but I loved it, Book 2 is one of my favourite seasons of television ever, was not a fan of how the Ozai fight ended but I reversed course upon such a thing being an integral part of The Legend Of Korra’s first season (that I finished a few weeks back, stupid UK air dates), which I also loved whenever the dreadful shipping wasn’t happening, Bolin and Lin Beifong are The Best and I thought the finale was excellent even with Makorra becoming an official thing.

Now that that’s all sorted, what did I think of the Book 2 premiere?  It was pretty good.  Messy, to such a degree that I’m still not sure who are our regulars for this season and who just popped up to give their stories closure, but entertaining.  Much like the first season premiere, actually, I preferred half hour one to half hour two but I’m still intrigued by where the season is going to go, this time.

If there was common thread uniting these two episodes, it was that of Korra burning bridges with her former fathers (figuratively, in Tenzin’s case) in a way that’s fast, impulsive and may be hard to repair.  She needs a change and one too many negative revelations regarding said father (figure)s in too short a time leads to her coldly rejecting Tenzin and Tonraq (her father) in a way that actually feels natural because Korra has always been overly impulsive and quick to shut down anyone who tries to make decisions for her.  Tenzin’s goodbye, in particular, stung badly and that’s pretty much down to Janet Varney and JK Simmons’ excellent voice work with Simmons, particularly, nailing that feeling of betrayal from a man who’s clearly come to regard Korra as family.

Korra the show, meanwhile, took great pains to try and make Unalaq appear as a kind, reassuring and wise man who would make a great new mentor for Korra and, I’ll admit, that I was slightly won over.  However, due to myself being a jaded 18 year old who has watched far too much TV over the years, I always had a feeling that he would end up turning out to be evil in some way, shape or form.  And, lo and behold, at the end of chapter 2 he’s an extremist who plans to use military force to get the Southern Water Tribe to embrace spirituality.  Whilst I admit to being a tad disappointed at this revelation, I have a feeling that such a move will only go about making things worse for our heroes and better for our, as yet, undefined villains, so I am willing to go along with it.

The Legend of KorraSomething I am less willing to go along with, however, is Korra and Mako’s relationship which, surprise, is still pretty frickin’ terrible.  Mako is still a fine character whenever he’s not being forced to interact with Korra (his teasing of Bolin is one of this premiere’s biggest laughs), but this show still cannot write Korra and Mako together doing shipping stuff in a way that’s not ridiculously cliché and doesn’t make either of them come off as terrible people to one another.  In an over-bearing attempt at course-correction, this time Korra is the one who’s actually being the jerk in the situation and Mako is now the dogged nice guy who just can’t seem to get women, man(!)  It’s about as stupid as it sounds and it adds nothing to the show.  One of the reasons why I was willing to accept those two becoming an official item was due to my faith that maybe they’d be written better when the sexual tension was cleared and they could just be a couple (like Chuck and Sarah from mid-S3 onwards in Chuck), but so far that’s disappointingly far from the case.  Here’s hoping for a fast improvement.

Outside of the Korra/Mako relationship and the current lack of a clear direction regarding where the season is heading (which I’d be less critical over if we didn’t only have 14 episodes), this was still a fun premiere.  Bolin continues to be The Best and his new relationship with Eska is already yielding comedic goldmines (give praise to Aubrey Plaza, the Daria Morgendorffer of the 21st century, for nailing every single line she gets), the action sequences continue to look absolutely spectacular thanks to Korra’s unique art-style and the absurdly high quality animation (which looks fantastic even in standard definition) and the show is still refuses to talk down to the target audience or dumb down its darker moments (Korra’s journey into the Everstorm is a genuinely frightening moment) whilst still knowing exactly how to balance it with a killer joke or comedy sequence.

All of the new characters have already managed to make an impression, though not all good.  As mentioned, Eska and her identical twin brother Desna are laugh riots and Unalaq is just kindly and trusting enough to make the reveal of his true motives be a genuine disappointment.  I’m not yet sold on Kya and (much like his original series counterpart, who I never liked) Bumi, partially because I’m still not sure why they’re here or how they’re going to tie back in to everything (Tenzin and co. are off in their own entirely separate story by chapter 2).  I mention my dislike of those two because Varrick, the businessman Asami and Bolin meet in chapter 1, is much the same as them but with a key difference: he’s actually genuinely funny and I like him.

Re-reading this I seem to be overly critical on the season premiere.  I really did like these two Korra episodes, but I think the back half of last season spoiled me because I’m just waiting for all hell to break loose.  That seems selfish of me, I’ll admit, especially in regards to this thing known as ‘pacing’ but I’m a selfish kind of guy.  Ah, well, a ‘pretty good’ episode of Korra is still better than pretty much any of this season’s new network shows are looking and I’m looking forward to seeing where we end up when this is all over.  It’s good to have Korra back.

Callum Petch lost his leg like he lost his way.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch).

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