Life in a Glasshouse: Legend of Korra Recap

The Immortal Obsessions

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I'm immortally interested in cultural/literary deconstructions, feminism, anti-racism, South Korea, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes, Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones, food (including but not limited to maple butter, tomatoes, and toast), fairy tales, parentheses, paper airplanes, films and books.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Legend of Korra Recap

In addition to book reviews, I'll be recapping Legend of Korra starting on the fifth episode released tomorrow.

Brief overview of the last four episodes: Korra was raised as a rather sheltered girl as the Avatar born in peace time. When Tenzin, one of Aang's three children and the only airbending master in the world, moves to Republic City and potspones their training, Korra heads out to find him with Katara's blessing. After getting into some trouble with gangs, Equalists, and Lin Bei Fong, head of the police, Korra manages to convince Tenzin to let her stay and learn.

Pro-bending with the Fire Ferrets
Airbending however proves to be quite the challenge and frustrated, she turns to pro-bending, a recently popularized bending sport. Tenzin disapproves of it and Korra sneaks out to catch a match. In the arena, located directly across the Airbending Island where she and Tenzin's family lives, Korra meets a pair of orphaned mixed-ethnicity brothers, Mako and Bolin, who play for her favorite team, the Fire Ferrets. When a teammate drops out, she ends up subbing. She gains Tenzin's approval eventually as pro-bending helps her with airbending and joins the Fire Ferrets.

A complication for the team arises when they're told the need to ante up to move up in the competition. Bolin takes a job for the triad that Mako quit, sending Mako and Korra on a desperate all nighter hunt. They find him as he's being taken away by the Equalists but are unable to rescue him against the chi-blocking abilities of the party. The duo track down the upcoming gathering where the leader of the Equalists, Amon, demonstrates his ability to take away bending on the members of the triad. Mako and Korra rescue Bolin before Amon can take his bending away. Korra spills all of this to Tenzin, who may or may not know something about this new-found power.

From left to right, Hiroshi Sato, Asami Sato, Mako and Bolin
Amon and his abilities plague Korra with nightmares. At the council of Republic City, a member, Tarlokk, throws down an idea for a task force headed by the Avatar, and Tenzin is overwhelmed by the approval of the other members. When Tarlokk first comes over to woo Korra, she uncharacteristically turns him down. He continues to try and woo her with gifts while Bolin visits with his own paltry gift in thanks for saving his life and momentarily reveals his crush by being jealous of their extravagance. Meanwhile, Asami Sato accidentally hits Mako with her motorbike and invites him to dinner when she finds out he's a Fire Ferret. They strike up a relationship and Asami introduces him to his father who grants them with a sponsorship.

Tarlokk and his task force
Tarlokk throws a gala in efforts to rope the Avatar into his task force plot, where he succeeds and Asami and her father are introduced to Korra. The task force themselves carry out rather morally dubious plans as they invade chi-blocking lessons and arrest anyone present. Korra whose fear is palpable the entire episode throws down her own challenge to Amon, demanding that he face her in a one-on-one match. Amon doesn't show up until Korra's guard is down and with many other Equalists. He doesn't, however, take away her bending and instead tells her that doing so would be detriment to his plans and "make her into a martyr". He knocks her out.

The moment he does, Korra flashes back to a moment during Aang's life where someone by the name of Yakone terrorized Republic City. Here we see that Toph and Sokka are both alive, the latter being uttered dead by Katara. Korra stirs just as Tenzin rushes to her side. She confesses her fear as Tenzin assures her that there is nothing wrong with being afraid.

Thoughts: I'm impressed by the amount of world-building and philosophy that went behind these four episodes alone. The set up of benders versus non-benders also excites me as neither side is demonized by the narrative. In fact, I'd claim myself to be an Equalist even if I was a bender in their world. However, Korra's fear hammered in that bending is such an intrinsic part of benders that taking it away must cause some serious psychological damage. Not only that, but Korra, who announced her position as Avatar to the public at the end of the first episode and proclaimed at the age of four that she was the Avatar and that everyone had to "deal with it", is tied to bending in a way that few must be. 

Unlike other Avatars who discovered their role at the age of thirteen or (average) at sixteen, Korra grew up with this knowledge and was even cultivated with this in mind. Her identity is and has always been the Avatar. The fourth episode has laid out that she has a path just as difficult as Aang's laid out in front of her in terms of finding who she is. Rather than keeping a certain part of her intact, she has to find another identity and one that she can fit into as well as the Avatar's. 

The next episode seems more romance-oriented (or so it seems), but that doesn't make me any less excited for it. Brian and Mike have already proven that they can seamlessly meld romance with plot, and that proof is enough for me.

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