TV Review: The Legend of Korra S2E9

“The Guide”

So here we are, come off of an amazingly great episode of Legend of Korra. Can the momentum and quality hold? Turns out, no. No it can’t, but I think I might have to reassess how I’m viewing this season.

I say I might have to reassess because of how the season continues to be structured. In Book 1, there were many subplots involving a huge cast of characters; however, because the two creators wrote every episode and the same guys directed every episode, it was clear how each subplot built up and supported the main A story. I don’t mean to say that Brian Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino are hands off this season: showrunners have final say on everything in the series. What I mean to say is that with those guys writing every aspect of the series and not handing off episodes to staff writers, the season felt like an extended, interconnected novel. This season does not feel like that.

There seem to be two main groups: Korra/Tenzin and co. and Mako/Bolin/Asami. After the first episode or two, their stories have barely intersected at all. In fact, I think it’s been several episodes since those groups have even been in the same place. And that’s not a terrible thing, but it takes away so many opportunities for character growth through internal and external conflict. One of the best ways to deepen a character is to bounce him or her off of his or her close friends and relatives, because there’s already a connection between them. It’s easier for the character to loosen up. Without even the remotest chance for that kind of interaction, we risk stagnation.

Fortunately, this episode seeks to solve that problem: we finally have some movement towards the Spirit World, which means that Korra may be able to move forward in her experience as the Avatar and as a person. Hopefully her time in the Spirit World will change her for the better, or at least make her a little easier to be around. Of course, this week ended with Korra and Jinora in the Spirit World, and most of the episode (or at least most of Korra’s part of the episode) was Tenzin desperately trying to get into the Spirit World himself. Actually, there wasn’t all that much to Korra’s plot this week, save for the everyone catching a glimpse of Korra’s newfound spirit calming abilities. (But seriously, how did she learn that? Did she just watch Unalaq and pick it up based on his movements alone? I didn’t know it could work like that. Even though Aang learned the forms for water, fire, and earth, he still had to practice in order to perfect them.)

And that’s okay, because frankly, I like the other plot better anyway. There’s something very concrete about the Mako/Bolin/Asami storyline of corporate sabotage and betrayal. It’s pulpy; it’s dark; it’s over the top; it’s fun. Varrick is perhaps the most interesting and unpredictable character in the entire series, and it’s been really enjoyable to see him slowly transform from friendly, goofy business man to manipulative, dangerous business man. Varrick very coldly threatened Mako and his family, suggesting that unless Mako joined his security team Varrick would hurt Bolin and Asami. I’m not sure if Mako was stupid enough to not understand what was happening, or perhaps he was willing to stick to his principles over his family, but he said no. Which means more problems for him, more problems for Bolin and Asami, all of which means a more complicated plot, particularly compared to Korra’s generic save-the-world type deal.

So then let’s move forward with this. Let’s just embrace the separation. At some point I’m sure the groups will come together again, but for now I’ll just be satisfied with half of the storyline.

Stray(ish) Observations

-Has Jinora always been able to see spirits? Has her connection to the Spirit World been implied throughout the season? I don’t remember.

-Again, with Studio Pierrot. Two moments stood out to me in this episode. 1. Korra and Tenzin sitting on a bench, talking, with absolutely no body movement. 2. When they find the ancient Airbender meditation area, there’s about ten seconds of Korra in the foreground just staring at nothing while Tenzin talks in the bachground. Ugh.

-Why was everyone trying to get into the Spirit World?

-Is Asami really falling for the police arresting Mako for stealing her merchandise? Is she seriously going to fall for that?

-Speaking of, beautiful detective mustaches. Love those guys.

-Some of the dialogue seems a little stilted and it doesn’t really make sense. It’s bumming me out. “I guess I’ll never have the connection to spirits like my father wanted me to.” “It’s okay, Daddy.” “I’m proud of you.”

Written by: Joshua Hamilton

Directed by: Colin Heck

Overall Score: 7.5