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TV Review: Legend of Korra (S2/E3)

“Civil Wars: Part 1”

Frequently the very best television shows are about a group of people coming together to form some kind of family. Deadwood was about a camp coming together. Buffy was about forging bonds, both friendly and romantic. The original Avatar series was about Aang, after losing his entire culture and support structure, coming to grips with that and finding his own way with a new family (all the while saving the world, of course). Legend of Korra tackles family in a much more literal way, and so far it’s done wonders (mostly) in fleshing out the world and the characters. But let’s come back to that.

The episode opens with Korra asking Unalaq why he needed to bring his soldiers, and he fed her some BS line about ensuring peace and uniting the tribes, which she swallowed whole. In fact, later in the episode after she needs further clarification, he says, “I’m uniting, not invading,” which is a particularly telling line regarding his motives. Someone who was really uniting, and not invading, would never need to clarify that. And Unalaq’s actions would say otherwise: his soldiers roam the streets picking fights and they block in the Southern Water Tribe harbor. Once again, shades of the Fire Nation soldiers from the original series.

Unfortunately, Korra just doesn’t see it, which all comes back to family. In a conversation with her mother, she says, “I never wanted a normal childhood. All I ever wanted was to be the Avatar.” In saying so, she betrays both intense desire for recognition as well as a profound sense of insecurity. She is the Avatar. That she feels like she has to try to be is extremely telling. It’s no wonder that she can’t see what’s going on around her; her uncle (who has promised to teach her how to commune with the spirit world, mind you) is pulling her in one direction, while her mother and father seem to be pulling in the other. Add on top of all of that that she’s pissed with her family for making her stay locked up near the South Pole her entire childhood without a real reason (which is, admittedly, kind of a dick move), and I can see from where her confusion and indecision may stem.

However, her indecision plus the way Unalaq is characterized kind of hurts the show. He’s become a little bit of an over the top villain. When Korra goes to try to persuade him to prevent a civil war, he’s sitting in a darkened throne room for God’s sake, awash in deep blues and blacks, almost mirroring Ozai’s fire chambers from the original series. To the audience he’s so clearly a creep and a manipulator, so it’s frustrating to see our heroine be swindled by him; dramatic irony can be used to great effect, but it becomes very annoying in the long run. I just want Korra to actually think about what’s happening for a minute. There are soldiers roaming the streets. Plus, anytime there’s a rebellion happening, it’s usually good to take a look at why said rebellion is happening: frequently there’s a reason.

At episode’s end, though, Unalaq may have taken things a step too far even for Korra’s gullibility; he arrests Tonraq and Senna for essentially no reason, with Korra watching. The look of surprise on her face may just be a sign that she’s about to come to terms with what’s really happening. Thankfully. Hopefully in “Civil Wars: Part 2” we’ll see a fully empowered Avatar, with her mind made up.

Stray(ish) Observations

-Not much Bolin or Mako in this episode. Without Republic City/pro bending, they seem a little out of place. Sure they each have small subplots, but each has been based around romance: Mako with Korra, and Bolin with Eska. Give them something to do, please!

-Speaking of relationships, I’m going to be sorry to see Bolin/Eska come to an end (Beska? Eskin?). Aubrey Plaza is hitting all the right note and them some (did you hear that terrifying laugh?!) and P.J. Byrne’s panic induced rambling is hilarious.

-It’s fascinating to me that Aang was not the greatest father. That he would, even unintentionally, pick a favorite child seems a little against his characterization. However, it adds volumes of context to the relationship between Tenzin and his siblings (which were, frankly, my favorite parts of this episode).

-Ikki randomly running away seems a little bit like a plot device to me, and that we didn’t even see the alleged teasing take place is a little suspect. I get that it opens up avenues of conversation for Tenzin and his siblings, but I think that could have happened in a less obviously manipulative way. However, maybe next episode we’ll find out that Ikki running away leads to something amazing and I’ll eat my words.

-Great Direction of the Week: The slow fade from Korra’s extremely excited face to Korra’s extremely pissed face was so funny. Plus, Korra’s ability to fight with literally anything around her is kind of astounding. Leave it to LoK to make a visceral fight scene with a banner.

-“Laugh at my humorous quip!”

Written by: Michael Dante DiMartino Directed by: Colin Heck

Overall Score: 7

TV Review: Legend of Korra (S2/E1-2)

“Rebel Spirit/The Southern Lights”

Even more so than the original series, The Legend of Korra is a television show that blurs the lines between TV for children and TV for adults. Sure, it’s got animals making funny noises and fart jokes, but let’s remember that last season ended on a murder-suicide. There have been many moments in the short run of this show that have dialed back the slapstick and dialed up the emotional pain, frequently in a beautiful and heartbreaking way. To be honest, I was worried that Nickelodeon may have tampered with season 2 a little bit, trying to bring it in line with the rest of its children’s programming. Thankfully, I needn’t have worried at all, and the show wasted no time in setting up its serialized story for season 2.

One of the issues that plagued season 1 was that it took about half the unfortunately short season to really get going. The first half was all about learning about the Korra Krew (Korra, Mako, Bolin, and Asami) and playing pro bending. And that’s fine. Location and character clarification is important, but it seemed like maybe it took longer than was necessary. With all of that icky place setting out of the way, season 2 got down to busy. It took a little while to set the scene, but within the first episode Korra had fought, and nearly been defeated by, a spirit, setting up the initial mystery of the season.

Enter Korra’s uncle, leader of the Northern Water Tribe (Unalaq), a powerful water bender capable of defeating spirits in a way that looks humane and beautiful, but immediately makes me question his motives and powers. Last season we saw Amon use a waterbending technique to remove people’s ability to bend, which makes me automatically wary of any other special waterbenders. Unalaq, through skillful use of his unique abilities (and the ability to make Korra pissed off at her dad), positions himself as the only master capable of teaching Korra, forcing a wedge between Korra, her family, and Tenzin. My worries were justified when the end of episode one concluded with Unalaq saying to Korra, “I have big plans for you . . .” which is about as mustache twirlingly evil as you can get.

The second episode sees the Korra Krew, Unalaq, and her father (Tonraq) travel to the South Pole so that Korra can attempt to open a portal to the spirit world which is stoppered by, according to Unalaq, the Southern Water Tribe’s lack of connection to the spirit world. Along the way, the fight more angry spirits and are saved by, surprise, Unalaq. Eventually Korra is able to open what Unalaq called a portal, and the spirits disappear, leaving me uneasy. Clearly the spirits were angry, but I don’t trust Unalaq, his motives, or his abilities. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if later in the season we discover his abilities to calm spirits is cruel or dastardly in some way.

Upon arriving back at the Southern Water Tribe capitol, my fears are justified. We get shots of Northern Water Tribe ships (made out of metal) descending on/preparing to occupy the southern capitol, highly reminiscent of the opening credits of the original series. It’s a clear homage to the Fire Nation expanding and taking over the world. I’d like to come back to my first point about Legend of Korra being more than a children’s series, as well as moving very much faster than it did in season 1. By the end of the second episode, we have a potentially fascist leader invading his own people’s land in an attempt to show them the correct way to live.

At first I was a little frustrated, as it seemed a similar plot to the original Avatar series, as well as setting up Unalaq as a similar Big Bad to Amon. However, the more I think about it, the more interested I am. Unalaq’s politics are essentially the opposites of Amon’s, though they may be implemented in a similar way (military force), which could lead to a fertile dissection of fascism. Secondly, I love that Unalaq invades his own people’s land first. This sets up the season for a civil war which may or may not spill into other areas of the world. It’s at once a huge conflict and a small differing in ideals. I’m excited to see the plot move forward so quickly. I’ve very much missed this world in the year and a half that the show has been off the air and I’m anxious to dive right back in.

That’s not to say that there weren’t some issues, of course, but the issues I have are mostly minor and come with being the premiere of a season. Scenes get a little too exposition-y for my liking, and Korra seems angry and angsty out of nowhere. Why is she so angry at her father after such a long time of not seeing him? After hearing why her father was kicked out of the Northern Water Tribe, couldn’t she have given him the benefit of the doubt? Apparently not. She just immediately latched onto Tonraq and told her father to go home because of something he did way before she was born. Jeez, Korra. (It actually really reminds me of how essentially every season of Buffy would begin with Buffy being pissed and annoying for essentially no reason.) Plus, and this is just a random quibble unattached to any of the points above, but why did everyone Korra had ever met go on that trip to the South Pole?

But overall it was an excellent debut, beautifully directed and animated, and I can’t wait to see how the season plays out. Once again, seriously quality programming from Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.

Stray Observations

-Can we take a minute to enjoy the fact that Marko took the time to write out some police-themed one liners?

-I’m so excited that the various families are expanding. I loved how accurate the interactions between Tenzin and his siblings are, and much of that can be attributed to the talented voice cast.

-John Michael Higgins as Varrick the capitalist is absolutely brilliant. “Go rest your gams, Ginger!”

-Aubrey Plaza, gold as always. Bolin: “Like a boyfriend, or like a slave?” Eska: “Yes. Win me prizes.”

-This show once again proves to be one of the better directed series on television, live action or animated. I loved the shot of Korra and Mako holding hands, the fight scenes were visceral, and that POV shot of Bolin desperately trying to see Ginger over Varrick was hilarious.

-I’m a little nervous that splitting up the cast so much (Tenzin and co. leaving Korra) will put a strain on the storytelling, but I love that airbending family so much that I barely care. I’d watch them do anything. Plus, what was up with that glowy statue?

-And finally, how obvious is it that Bolin and Asami are going to get together? I’d say pretty obvious.

Written by: Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino, Tim Hedrick

Directed by: Colin Heck

Overall Score: 8.5

Dark Horse To Publish Legend of Korra Art Book!

Following the incredible success of the New York Times best-selling series of Avatar: The Last Airbender comics and the Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Art of the Animated Series art book, Dark Horse and Nickelodeon are collaborating on a gorgeous new art book that reveals previously unpublished art from the Legend of Korra animated series.

The Legend of Korra animated television series premiered four years after the conclusion of the Avatar: The Last Airbender series, elevating the Airbender franchise to a whole new level. Ever since the conclusion of season one, its insatiable fan base has been hungry for more!

This beautiful hardcover contains hundreds of pieces of never-before-seen artwork created during the development of season one of the show. With commentary from show creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko throughout, this is an intimate look inside the creative process that brought the mystical world of bending and a new generation of heroes to life!

The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series—Book One: Air is a must-have for any Airbender fan! This is the latest release in an ongoing partnership between Nickelodeon and Dark Horse to bring you the very best in Airbender books.

The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series—Book One: Air will be available for purchase on July 24.

Look for Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Art of the Animated Series now at a bookstore near you.

The Legend of Korra takes place seventy years after the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender and follows the next Avatar after Aang—a girl named Korra who is from the Southern Water Tribe. With three of the four elements under her belt (earth, water, and fire), Korra seeks to master air. Her quest leads her to Republic City, the modern Avatar world that is a virtual melting pot where benders and nonbenders from all nations live and thrive. Korra quickly discovers that the metropolis is plagued by crime as well as a growing antibending revolution that threatens to rip the city apart. Under the tutelage of Aang’s son Tenzin, Korra begins her airbending training while dealing with the dangers at large.

LOKARTS1 CVR SOL 4x6

Nickelodeon at Comic-Con 2011

Official Press Release Picture (Device Independent Bitmap)

NICKELODEON AT COMIC-CON 2011

PANELS

Thursday, July 21, 2011

  • Fanboy & Chum Chum, 12:00p.m. – 1:00p.m., Room: 23ABC

Panelists include Nika Futterman (Chum Chum), Jamie Kennedy (Kyle), Jeff Bennett (Boog), Eric Robles (creator/executive producer), Steve Tompkins (executive producer) and Jason Meier (supervising producer).

  • The Penguins of Madagascar, 1:00p.m. – 2:00p.m., Room: 23ABC

Panelists include Tom McGrath (Skipper), Danny Jacobs (King Julien), James Patrick Stuart (Private), Jeff Bennett (Kowalski), John DiMaggio (Rico), Kevin Michael Richardson (Maurice), Mark McCorkle (executive producer), Bob Schooley (executive producer) and Nick Filippi (supervising producer).

Friday, July 22, 2011

  • Kung Fu Panda, 11:45a.m. – 12:45p.m., Room: 6A

Panelists include Mick Wingert (Po), James Hong (Mr. Ping), John DiMaggio (Fung), Peter Hastings (executive producer), Gabe Swarr (supervising producer) and Randy Dormans (supervising producer).  Featuring the first look at the show, table read with the cast, screening of an episode and Q&A.

  • SpongeBob SquarePants1:00p.m. – 2:00p.m., Room: 6A

Panelists include Mr. Lawrence (Plankton), Paul Tibbitt (co-executive producer) and Vince Waller (creative director).  Featuring a sneak peek of “Mooncation,” art from “Runaway Road Trip” and a special programming announcement.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

  • The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra, 4:00p.m. – 5:00p.m., Room: 6BCF

Panelists include Mike DiMartino (creator/executive producer), Bryan Konietzko (creator/executive producer), Joaquim Dos Santos (co-executive producer), Ki-Hyun Ryu (supervising producer), Ben Wynn (composer) and Jeremy Zuckerman (composer) to feature an upcoming sneak peek at the art and animation of the series.

  • Power Rangers, 7:00p.m. – 8:00p.m., Room: 23ABC

Panelists include Alex Heartman (Red Power Ranger/Jayden), Najee De-Tiege (Blue Power Ranger/Kevin), Brittany Pirtle (Yellow Power Ranger/Emily), Hector David Jr. (Green Power Ranger/Mike), Erika Fong (Pink Power Ranger/Mia) and Steven Skyler (Gold Power Ranger/Antonio), moderated by Paul Schrier (aka Farkas “Bulk” Bulkmeier”).  Featuring a sneak peak of how they discovered their new secret lives and united to save the world from evil as well as a Q&A with the Rangers.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

  • T.U.F.F. Puppy and The Fairly OddParents, 1:00p.m. – 2:00p.m., Room: 7AB

Panelists for T.U.F.F. Puppy include Jerry Trainor (Dudley), Grey DeLisle (Kitty Catswell), Matthew Taylor (Snaptrap), Daran Norris (Chief), creator/executive producer Butch Hartman and Ray DeLaurentis (story editor).  Featuring a sneak peek of “Mission:  Really Big Mission” and table read and Q&A with the entire cast (including Jerry Trainor) and Butch Hartman.

CREATOR/CAST APPEARANCES & SIGNINGS*

Thursday, July 21, 2011

  • Fanboy and Chum Chum, 1:30p.m.-2:30p.m.

Nika Futterman (Chum Chum), Jamie Kennedy (Kyle), Jeff Bennett (Boog), Eric Robles (creator/executive producer), Steve Tompkins (executive producer) and Jason Meier (supervising producer)

  • The Penguins of Madagascar, 2:30 – 3:30p.m.

Tom McGrath (Skipper), Danny Jacobs (King Julien), James Patrick Stuart (Private), Jeff Bennett (Kowalski), John DiMaggio (Rico), Kevin Michael Richardson (Maurice), Mark McCorkle (executive producer), Bob Schooley (executive producer) and Nick Filippi (supervising producer)

Friday, July 22, 2011 

  • Kung Fu Panda, 2:30p.m. – 3:30p.m.

Mick Wingert (Po), James Hong (Mr. Ping), John DiMaggio (Fung), Peter Hastings (executive producer), Gabe Swarr (supervising producer) and Randy Dormans (supervising producer)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

  • Supah Ninjas, 12:00pm – 1:00p.m.

Ryan Potter (Mike), Carlos Knight (Owen) and Gracie Dzienny (Amanda), to include raffle

  • Legend of Korra, 1:00p.m. – 3:00p.m.

Mike DiMartino (creator/executive producer), Bryan Konietzko (creator/executive producer), Joaquim Dos Santos (co-executive producer), Ki-Hyun Ryu (supervising producer), Ben Wynn (composer) and Jeremy Zuckerman (composer)

  • Power Rangers, 3:30p.m. – 5:00p.m.

Alex Heartman (Red Power Ranger/Jayden), Najee De-Tiege (Blue Power Ranger/Kevin), Brittany Pirtle (Yellow Power Ranger/Emily), Hector David Jr. (Green Power Ranger/Mike), Erika Fong (Pink Power Ranger/Mia) and Steven Skyler (Gold Power Ranger/Antonio)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

  • T.U.F.F. Puppy and Fairly OddParents, 10:30a.m. – 11:30a.m.

Jerry Trainor (Dudley), Grey DeLisle (Kitty Catswell), Matthew Taylor (Snaptrap), Daran Norris (Chief), creator/executive producer Butch Hartman and Ray DeLaurentis (story editor)

*All to take place at the Nickelodeon booth.

EVENTS

Friday, July 22

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ticketed Fan Event, 4:00-7:00 p.m., Basic Urban Kitchen + Bar, 410 Tenth Avenue, Downtown San Diego

  • One extraordinary preview at the “Mutation In Progress” as we reveal a behind-the-scenes look at the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles including a look at the upcoming toys and comics.
  • Check out www.facebook.com/teenagemutantninjaturtles page and @TMNTMaster for more details.

ONGOING BOOTH ACTIVITY

  • Costumed characters to include SpongeBob SquarePants’ SpongeBob and Patrick, Kung Fu Panda’s Po, Dora the Explorer, The Penguins of Madagascar, Avatar: The Last Airbender’s Aang, The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra’s Korra, Fanboy and Chum Chum, Monkey Quest and Power Rangers.
  • Monkey Quest’s “Get Monkeyfied” where attendees will be able to see themselves on one of the several screens with 3-D virtual monkeys.
  • Booth also includes a giant video screen featuring videos of Nickelodeon’s hit series and the agenda for each day.
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