Sep 142013

Good evening everyone, and welcome to tonight’s tasty bit of some “Food for Thought!” If you haven’t heard already, yesterday was the premiere of Season 2 of The Legend of Korra–a show that has got plenty of ambitious, awesome ideas but maybe not the sort of “direction” that most people are expecting. Many fans–especially those of us still nostalgic about Avatar: The Last Airbender–are definitely feeling lukewarm about the fiery young Avatar Korra, and even though I am a big fan, I have to say that I agree Season 2’s hour-long premiere went in with a bang but out with a bit of a fizzle.

And everything changed when the Northern Watertribe attacked--I mean, visited the spiritually-troubled South

And everything changed when the Northern Watertribe attacked–I mean, visited the spiritually-troubled South

So what went wrong for many Korra fans that were stoked for the up-coming season?

(Also, just a warning, this is not an episode recap–rather, this is kind of a discussion about some decisions that were made, with as few spoilers possible! )


Sweeping tundras with swirling, angry spiritual energy–pretty darn cool. (And pretty!)

First the good! This show is gorgeous, and if anything, it’s a lesson out there in of itself that animation is still a medium that can create some inspiring landscapes and scenery and even communicate action sequences that are just fun to watch.

There’s also some neat character designs that definitely win the Avatar team praise with its fans, from the dandy gear of Varrick (who specializes in shipping–oh man, we see what you did there) to Korra’s estranged family, including her uncle Unalaq and her (weird) twin cousins. I am very much in love with the contrast between Korra’s family, in the way that Tonraq and Korra radiate strength and Unalaq and his children are lean but proficient water-benders. And Unalaq wins points for being able to work with the spirits but well, that’s a point for another day.

A man to watch out for -- but a neat-o contrast to his Thor-like brother and Korra

A man to watch out for but a neat-o contrast to his Thor-like brother and Korra

Also, the spirits are pretty nifty, and interesting–although I do eagerly await for more of the whimsical designs that premiered at SDCC this year.

However, even amongst the big Korra fans, there seems to be the general consensus that these two episodes just didn’t pack the exciting oomph of Season 1’s one-hour premiere, which, by the way, is still my favorite of the Korra episodes. For an hour-long episode that’s supposed to set up the overall “feel” for the season, these two didn’t seem to hit the marks.

Fan-favorite Bolin reduced to nothing BUT comic relief is a big point of contention

Fan-favorite Bolin reduced to nothing BUT comic relief is a big point of contention

Some don’t like the pacing, Korra’s attitude towards things, or a combination of both. And honestly, I can’t argue against it; pacing seems to be the trouble for the Avatar team with Legend of Korra, although to be fair these are just the first two episodes. There’s more to come, and perhaps, a method to a few maddening plot points.

There is much to lament about a few characters that were otherwise “shafted” *COUGH BOLIN COUGH ASAMI*, placing them into what one would call “one-dimensional” roles to keep the somewhat haphazard plot moving along.

There’s also the issue with Korra as a character, which unfortunately seems to be a big complaint. If you can remember, Korra is a bit on a rocky ground with fans especially with the way Season 1 panned out and subsequently ended. Many lament the loss of the planned story-telling and character development that went into the original Last Airbender and the general feeling of “well-rounded” heroes the likes of Aang and Katara.

Honestly though, it doesn’t do much to dwell on the older series–remember, this is Korra’s story, and we do need to remember that her nature is completely different from Aang as is her thought process, which is based on her supreme confidence in her abilities and in her values.

Which was kind of a big deal for this hour long season premiere: the question of Korra’s own autonomy.

Like her or love her--it still is a pretty big thing to have a headstrong female character like her, just sayin'

Like her or love her–it still is a pretty big thing to have a headstrong female character like her, just sayin’

We know that last season she didn’t make some of the best decisions out there, but it does fall into the whole situation that despite being the Avatar, she is an isolated Avatar, raised on a compound with decisions and choices dictated for her. The first two episodes consider Korra making choices, and even with the big picture conflict (i.e. the whole spirit world imbalanced, thing), it is an interesting plot point to address that in order to “fix” the balance between the corporeal world and the spirit world, Korra does have to make a few decisions on her own.

As we know from her less-than-stellar points of diplomacy, Korra comes from a world of privilege that was borne from being isolated, hence leaving a woefully, laughably inexperienced Avatar to deal with the big-picture things like world conflicts.

This manifests itself in the way she reacts to several key characters in these first two episodes, such as her father and Tenzin who have, in many ways, been part of this whole process of deciding for her. And thus, the (arguably bratty) calls of “I’m going to make my own decisions!” or “You’re not my teacher any longer!” etc. etc. We never said diplomacy was Korra’s strong suit.

But, it also seems she never got the chance to make a mistake or had the sort of experience necessary to gracefully deal with situations–not that I think the average sixteen-year-old can deal with political intrigue and masked crusaders, but there still is room for Korra to grow. A lot of room is needed, according to some, but I think in being able to lash out and to make decisions (even if they end up to be bad decisions) is actually a pretty good start for the character.

It may not be the most exciting start, but well, we are still just one-hour-long episode in. There could be a method to the madness, but we’ll just have to see; I personally am not a fan of this pacing, but in terms of working with Korra and her growth from oh-hey-I-am-a-hot-shot-who-will-just-break-down-doors-instead-of-reason-with-them into a more dependable leader with a bit more experience with dealing with people (especially duplicitous relatives), I am going to just have to see.

Who knows, there could very well be a pretty darn good reason why things feel “rushed” right into the midst of a conflict after just two episodes! And maybe our young Avatar will learn a thing or two this time around–and it just won’t be Airbending but maybe a good dose of life experience.

That’s all there is to this “Food for Thought!” Tune in next time when we critique more shows that we really, desperately want to love but also can understand why people are kind of disappointed with!

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A would-be anthropologist, writer, food historian, and professional glutton hoping to combine fandom with her love of food. Ever wondered what a nug tasted like? Is butterbeer alcoholic? If you've asked such questions and are already drooling at the thought of a big old plate of lembas bread, then you're in the right place

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  4 Responses to “Food for Thought: The Good, the Bad, and the Legend of Korra (Part II)”

  1. It was a decent start, but not as good as season 1's beginning. I am still curious to see what else the show has in store. Also, while I was initially annoyed by Korra being somewhat of a jerk to Papa and Tenzen, it made sense given her isolated upbringing. It's like you said. The writers may have plans to combine both the "restoring the balance of the spirit world" plot with the "Korra finding balance within herself" plot as she's still a little brash at the moment.

    The main reason I am hoping the uncle is the main villain is a selfish one. It is because I want to see a boss fight against the twins. I especially like the sister. Creepy, monotone twins are usually awesome.

    • Haha creepy twins are a pretty cool trope — and it's interesting how Korra the definition of 'extrovert' has them as her counterpoints xD

      Definitely am excited to see what the writers have in store for her… And as a friend of mine pointed out, Zuko was a jerk way back when and then grew into himself; he also has a background that can account for his bitterness and his anger yet none of the blame for his lashing out at authority figures. Granted, he was abused in a very significant way, but there is also something that can spark defiance and resentment if you're basically "hidden" from the real problems of the world–it was very much a rude awakening for Korra, who otherwise has the powers of a god-like being, to be utterly disliked/resented/unable to communicate with the people who she SHOULD be protecting and all that jazz.

      She's had a bit of a "wake up", and still needs to grow into being the kind of protector her world needs–hopefully by learning the meaning of "balance" between awesome brute strength and spiritual empathy.

      • Exactly. A, technically, sheltered life, can have a negative influence on a person who has a very important responsibility in life.

        The force is strong in Korra, but it means little if she is not in the correct mental state to use them properly. Let us wait and see how she continues to grow and become a more responsible Avatar. This could be an exaggeration on my part, but what if, just what if, she's acting similarly to Avatar Kiyoshi? I could be wrongdue to only basing this on the fact both are brash and cocky (At least I think Kyoshi was cocky).

      • Oh man
        Avatar Kiyoshi was a force to be reckoned with. She was definitely brash, but I don't think cocky–she was actually pretty efficient. Evil warlord who won't reform? Kill him.
        Evil tyrant abusing the Earth Kingdom/her people? Separate an entire freaking plateau from the Earth Kingdom and make her own island.
        Kiyoshi was power with a controlled temper, I think, very solid and efficient like earth in deciding what to do and when to do it. Korra is a little more fluid (Haha) and definitely has/needs more room to grow but yeah, I can see her similarities to Kiyoshi, as well as a past Water Bending Avatar, Kuruk, who had a pretty tragic/shitty life as an Avatar
        Actually, Kuruk and Korra have a lot in common.

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