The Legend of Korra Book 2: Spirits “Rebel Spirit/The Southern Lights” Episode 1 and 2 Review

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It’s been a long wait but The Legend of Korra is finally back and has a nice spring in its step as we head into the sophomore season.

From the start we were told that Korra had trouble connecting to the Spirit World, something Aang did practically flawlessly in The Last Airbender. But in the finale we saw her go into the Avatar State, which means she’s all good right?

Well, no. She hardly possesses the skills of her uncle Unalaq. He brings a new sense of mysticism to the universe as he appears to do some funky yellow waterbending to control the spirits, something Korra arrogantly tries to emulate in a fight with a some dark spirits (a subtle touch that reminds us of our hero’s cocky demeanor).

Six months have passed since Amon was defeated, and Book 2 wastes no time showing us where the new Team Avatar landed after the battle. Bolin is the only remaining member of the pro-bending runner-up champion team the Fire Ferrets. Mako serves under Chief Beifong, who is sadly absent from both premiere episodes. Asami has taken her father’s place as head of Future Inustries and is struggling to rebuild the company name. And Korra, well Korra is playing with the Avatar State on Air Temple Island, ignoring Tenzin’s pushes to perfect her airbending.

In a smart move, the location quickly shifts to the Southern Water Tribe. Republic City was a perfect locale for a social uprising, but the cold of the South Pole is perfect for the creepy emergences of the unknown.

We’re introduced to a number of new characters that all made a significant impression. Tenzin’s siblings, Kya and Bumi, fit in perfectly with the tone of the series as the more playful siblings that bring their straight-laced brother back to his childhood. The “Vacation Tenzin” teasing was a riot.

Asami and Bolin meet Varrick, a potential business partner who is completely off his rocker. Again, he is new character that fits right in with this show’s quirky tone. It’s also pretty cool that he’s inventing the motion picture.

But the most significant introductions were Korra’s uncle Unalaq and his children, Desna and Eska (the latter is voiced hilariously by Parks and Recreation‘s Aubrey Plaza).

The first spirit attack comes just after a festival. The animation here was nothing short of stunning. The slight transparent hue the spirits carry with them is totally unique and unsettling. This series continues to deliver rip-roaring action unlike any other cartoon on television.

After witnessing Unalaq control the spirits, Korra turns her back on Tenzin to go train with her uncle. Korra seems to be even more filled with teen angst than last season. But hopefully the writers have a plan for helping her mature this season. Tenzin’s goodbye was surprisingly effective for a season premiere.

The second episode, The Southern Lights, saw a split in the characters. Tenzin and his family begin a journey to the Air Temples around the world, bringing on all sorts of Last Airbender nostalgia.

Meanwhile, Korra, Unalaq, and the rest prepare for a journey to the South Pole, where Korra will open the portal between their world and the Spirit World.

We learn on the way that Korra’s father was banished from the Northern Water Tribe for destroying a spiritual forrest, leading dark spirits to wreak havoc on the tribe. Getting some insight on his animosity towards Unalaq was necessary and I’m glad it was revealed so quickly.

This led to yet another great physical altercation with a few spirits, this one even creepier than the last. Eventually, Korra must take on the mission by herself. The icy forrest of the South Pole continued the creepy tone the spirits seems to have put on the series. But even more interesting was the juxtaposition of Jinora’s dream. What’s the connection? Whatever it is, it looks like Mad Men‘s Kiernan Shipka will play a larger role this season (I have no complaints).

Korra successfully opens the portal, and everyone congratulates her. But when they get back, the obviously evil Unalaq appears to have his own plans as the Northern Water Tribe fleet arrives to “fix” the Southern Water Tribe.

And so we’re off to a good start. No, these two episodes don’t have me as excited as I was with the first two of Book 1. But that was an entirely different introduction.

One thing I did notice throughout both episodes was the much improved chemistry between Korra and Mako. They feel significantly more real, meaning the writers took the biggest criticism of Book 1 to heart.

For now, I’m very excited to see where all this spirit stuff leads. A lot of potential rests in the new characters introduced and the paths being set up for our old heroes. The long awaited return of The Legend of Korra was well worth the wait. Grade: Rebel Spirit – A-/The Southern Lights – B+

By Matt Dougherty

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