Dec 19, 2013

[TV] The Legend of Korra - Book Two: Spirits

Even though the first season of The Legend of Korra hadn't been quite as impressive as we had hoped, I know a lot of us were still happy to hear that the show had been confirmed for a second season. Given our love for the original Avatar series, I certainly felt that I had a fair amount of loyalty invested in the franchise. Thus I continued to hope for the best in terms of the show's direction, especially now that it was free to tell more stories with already established characters.

The chapter was announced to be called Spirits, which certainly presented an interesting realm of possibilities. The first Avatar series focused on the elements that Aang had to master in order to eventually defeat Fire Lord Osai. This time around the writers opted to deviate from the elemental path and focus on the other side of the role of the avatar - being the bridge between humans and the spirit world. So yeah, the thought tackling stories related to this were certainly exciting.

But the show still suffered from character development issues that had started in the first season. And this took away from some of the potential value of the show. And while it certainly had its valuable moments that have greatly enriched the Avatar universe, it still has a long way to go before it can stand up right there with the rest of the Avatar franchise.

Synopsis: The Legend of Korra's second season, Book Two: Spirits, brings us back to the world of Avatar Korra and the unified Republic City. The series as a whole was created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino as a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender on Nickelodeon.

It has been six months since the events of the first season and Korra (Janet Varney) has gotten much better at airbending. Mako (David Faustino) is now a member of the Republic City police force while Bolin (P.J. Byrne) struggles to get his new Fire Ferrets even past the first round of the pro-bending tournament. Asami (Seychelle Gabriel) is also struggling to keep Future Industries alive, especially given their role in the prior trouble with the Equalists. Beyond all this, Tenzin (J.K. Simmons) opts to take Korra and the rest of Tenzin's family living with the Southern Water Tribe.

While there she gets to meet Unalaq (Adrian LaTourelle), Tonraq's (James Remar) younger brother and thus Korra's uncle. He leads the Northern Water Tribe and demonstrates his control over troubled spirits. He points out that Korra's education has been sorely lacking in terms of her knowledge of the spirit world. He offers to become her mentor in this regard and Korra agrees. But of course we all know there's more to Unalaq's visit than seeing the Avatar - and this leads to full-on civil war between the two Water Tribes.

My core problem with The Legend of Korra thus far is that Korra herself isn't exactly a character that is all that likeable. She's all impulsive and headstrong and very prone to making poor decisions as she invokes her rights as the Avatar. Despite all that had gone on in the first season, it seems she hasn't learned all that much and thus goes running into the arms of Unalaq pretty easily. And while she does experience some growing up in this season of the story, it doesn't quite redeem all of her previous shenanigans.

Mako, Bolin and Asami don't fare much better as Mako is pretty much just a douche, Bolin goes full airhead this time around and all that Asami can do is whine and moan about her father's company. It doesn't make for a lot of fun, nor does the weird relationship between Mako and Korra that inevitably goes down a dark path. They had no chemistry when they first got together and you don't really feel all that bad (or surprised) when they eventually break up.

The Avatar series has always been very character drive. Aang was an Avatar who ran from his destiny but eventually came to embrace his role in the world - all this with the help of his friends. In this season Korra teams up with the man who is obviously the bad guy and stumbles about for the rest of the season as they try to figure out what to do next. Her team of companions is pretty much forgotten for most of the series as they go about their own business - she even doesn't have her polar bear dog, Naga, with her for most of the season either.

The season still has its moments - the most important of them all being the two-part episode "Beginnings", which introduces us to the story of Wan, the young man who eventually becomes the very first Avatar. It's definitely a key piece of lore that shifts the focus of the entire Avatar franchise and an interesting exploration of what had come before.

But the actual plot regarding Unalaq and his plans for the Southern Water Tribe remains a rather weak plot that doesn't really bring the story forward in a manner that leaves the viewer feeling fulfilled. Plus there's the inconsistency of the powers demonstrated in the show, whether we're talking about the individual benders and the Avatar's spirit-related abilities as well.

And it seems like quite a stretch to me that the whole Equalist moment is entirely out of the way. They were such a big force in the first season and one that demonstrated a pretty interesting aspect of their society - distrust and unrest between benders and non-benders. That's such a good story hook and one that didn't need to be entirely abandoned just for the sake of giving this season a focus.

And while I still enjoyed The Legend of Korra - Book Two: Spirits for the most part, there was still a lot that could have been done better o stories that could have been handled in a tighter, more concise manner. It had a decent story to tell, but I really hope they do something to address the characters need for more story and development of their own. Thus the season can only get 3.5 ridiculous outfits that they put Bolin in out of a possible 5.

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