This is what I’m talking about.
Friday’s episode of Korra was amazing, possibly two of my favorite episodes in the entire series. Not just Korra’s arc either, this was one of the single best episodes the Avatar series has given us. I really can’t tell you how happy I am to see this. I want to love Avatar and this just did everything I love and expect from the series to perfection.
So, first things first, I am really glad they dealt with her amnesia. I called it wrong on this, I fully expected her amnesia to last until the last episode of the season. She finally gets in touch with herself or something like that and saves the day in a lame deus ex moment. I figured it was going to be a lazy drama tool. I was wrong about that and so, so, so glad.
But that was only a fraction of this episode. The big deal was Wan and honestly, I don’t know why we haven’t been following him this whole time. I have always loved Avatar’s worldbuilding and this was a fine example of why. I remember when I first saw an episode of Avatar. I thought it was stupid that earth benders couldn’t bend metal and that fire benders could bend lightning. I assumed they just weren’t thinking, when really it was me who wasn’t thinking. Every rule and world element they introduce is a permanent placement, a facet of that world.
This is the second time we’ve seen the Lion Turtles, the first being when one gave Aang the ability to take a bender’s power away. He mentioned that there was an era before, when they bent the energy of living beings, and we hearkened back to that comment here. It was a great origin story for a complicated world. You really get the sense of a world that is ethereal, still being molded. The spirits and their ways were really the majority in this era, with people just fighting to survive.
It makes me think they knew this story from the very beginning and this was just the opportunity to finally do it.
It also did exactly what I wanted with the character design. I have such a weakness for monsters and creatures and I loved spirits like the face stealer and the library’s guardian. I felt like that was more what they were doing in this episode. Each of the spirits was a unique creation, everything from the lemur guy to the little newt that became a giant newt. That’s what I always expected from the spirits and even when they went all dark side, they still retained their individual designs. Even Rava and Batu, who were very basic, were done in a fantastic way so as to represent whole concepts, living symbols.
And everything was expressed with such a great art style. I really have to respect the idea to make everything look like it was being drawn with a brush, Okami-style, and it really worked for me.
The story played out great. The timeless battle between light and dark is a simple concept, but they did it so well. Watching as the Avatar gives himself over to this burden, as he gives over everything he hopes and expects in life for the people and spirits of the world, I really felt the sacrifice of the Avatar for the first time. I teared up when he died at the end, when we saw him be reincarnated for the first time. The music played every moment perfectly and the voice acting was great. The guy who does Batu’s voice was perfect and I really hope that enemy rears its head again. I’m thinking he might be the real Big Bad behind this season, which would be great since Unaloq is boring.
I really want to love Avatar again. This episode, episodes, whatever, was enough to make me forgive this season, but I really hope it picks up from there. Again, one of the concerns I have to express is that the best episode in Korra’s arc didn’t have Korra but for a couple minutes. I also still want to see some more sophisticated bending. At this point I can’t help but think they’ve given up on people wearing stone as armor or water tentacles or mind bending explosive men.
That said, I don’t want to end on a positive note. You could have taken this episode and made it a small movie all by itself and I would have loved it alone. Without Korra, without Aang. This was artful, storytelling at its finest.