The Season that Really Likes to Knock Korra Off-Balance

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Legend of Korra has been taking off nicely this season, with an interesting potential direction set up for Korra’s character journey. I’m having just as much fun watching as I was when I talked about the opening for the season. Inserting the Civil War arch in the midst of the dilemma with the spirits makes for a nice juxtaposition, and I’m curious to see how these two plots feed into each other.

Korra underreacting about the invasion of her people took me aback at first, but I’ll accept it because she has been pretty secluded for her whole life. She doesn’t know anything about the world, or about people, because she’s never been given the chance to learn before. And idealistic ideas that could never work in reality (such as the chief of one tribe suddenly declaring his tribe merged with another, with him as the de facto leader because he understands what needs to be done to save them) look a lot better to someone without the context to understand the problems with those ideas. I’ve seen people do this and be convinced they were right, so I buy it.

Mako was the weakest character from the first season, so I thought it was probably a good thing he was sidelined for the beginning of season 2. Then the latest episode, “Peacekeepers”, came along, giving him something more to do. It was a good story for him, putting him between a rock and a hard place in a no-win situation.

As a note, I personally think Korra should have been mad more at Bolin for letting Mako in on her plans with respect to the conflict between the water tribes. There was a reason she didn’t tell Mako about her plans herself.

Korra is as impulsive as ever in this episode–moreso, since she’s stopped trying to be neutral. Keeping the peace back when there was no clear bad guy wasn’t the most natural thing for her. Her mentor and her father were at odds, along with the two water tribes, and she was very much trying to fill her role as a responsible Avatar. Without the worldly experience she needed to do so. That was definitely outside of her comfort zone, and with the emergence of a clear enemy, she seems to be back in it. It was surprising how quickly and how zealously she jumped onto the Southern Tribe’s bandwagon this episode. But then again, her parents’ lives are on the line. And she’s much more in her element on one side of a conflict instead of standing in the middle.

The ending to this episode is fantastic. It reminds us what this season is really about–the spirits. Korra had just gotten back into her rhythm, and the show makes sure to knock her back out of it. And even better, this scene shows that Korra really did need Unalaq as a mentor. He might be an invader and a clear villain, but he’s still the one who understands the spiritual needs of the water tribes. And isn’t that a wonderful thing to highlight? Because being the bad guy doesn’t automatically make him wrong about everything. Even though he set his brother up, Tonraq still failed by his own merits (or failings, if you prefer). Unalaq’s douche move doesn’t invalidate that Tonraq didn’t understand the spiritual needs of his people. It would be awesome if that bit of complexity comes into play.

I like that this season is pushing Korra away from the types of situations and solutions that are most natural to her. She really does have a lot to learn, and with her personality, I don’t imagine it will be easy on her. The first season was about giving her a taste of real danger and teaching her that being the Avatar is about having a responsibility–it wasn’t just going to come to her easily and her path wasn’t always going to be clear. The second season seems to be trying to teach her that violence isn’t always the answer, and sometimes she has to be a mediator. I hope they try to teach her that she can ask for help, and doesn’t need to stand alone to fulfill her role at some point in the series, too.

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