The Legend of Korra: “Civil Wars Part 1” Book 2 Episode 3 Review

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The Legend of Korra‘s second season continued to lay the groundwork this week for what should be a pretty exciting conflict.

With all of Book 1 taking place in the politically charged metropolis of Republic City, it’s great to see this season showing the dynamic between different nations and tribes. It’s essentially giving Korra more of a Last Airbender vibe.

Civil Wars Part 1 was light on both action and spirits, instead showing how the Northern Water Tribe and the Southern Water Tribe may find themselves in a civil war from a political standpoint.

With last week’s cliffhanger of the Northern fleet arriving, it was great to see the Southern civilians animosity toward the troops.

But Unalaq doesn’t seem too fond of the idea of war. He tells Korra that before opening the Northern Spirit Portal she must try and keep the North and the South from breaking out in civil war.

We got that fantastic scene where Korra literally separated the North and the South by riding in on Naga. The South seems to think Korra is taking the North’s side. Could that be what Unalaq wants? But Tonraq was able to quell the situation before things got violent.

That made it extra difficult when Korra thought her father was part of the rebel forces kidnapping Unalaq. The way Korra fought them was very clever. She hardly bended, trying to keep the peace as much as possible. Korra is hardly a world peace negotiator, but you know when she isn’t punching fire at her enemies she’s really holding back.

Thankfully her father wasn’t part of the attempt, giving us another fantastic scene where Korra broke down to her parents. She’s under a lot of pressure, and forcing herself to be angry at her father only added to it. Korra is learning and it’s making for a very compelling character arc thus far for Book 2. I can’t wait to see how Korra reacts to her parents’ arrest next week.

This episode also had the subplot of Bolin trying to break up with Eska. Aubrey Plaza continues to crush it as the cold, psychopath (“You will be coming with me to the North, where we will live the rest of our lives in icy bliss.”). It was great comic relief compared to looming war.

While all the stuff in the South was great, the hands down best thing about this episode was Tenzin, Bumi, and Kya. Wow do these three really click. “Vacation Tenzin” is finally able to relax, even seeming to warm up to his siblings being around. But then they got to talking about their parents, more notably Aang.

As a huge fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender I initially found it difficult to hear that Aang may not have been the best father to Bumi and Kya, preferring the airbending son that holds his culture’s legacy. I was angry that the  writers were tearing down something I had imagined to be so perfect.

But it’s also the most real thing the show has ever done. Aang and Katara weren’t perfect people. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. That comes down on the kids, or in this case adults, who are left to struggle with what they’ve been given. The bond between these three, from Bumi not being a bender to Kya referencing how she lived with Katara after Aang died, feels so incredibly genuine. There’s no way Aang could have been a perfect father. He was the Avatar. He was the last member of a culture he tried desperately to rebuild.

Civil Wars Part 1 was an episode of story build-up and character development. Korra, Tonraq, Tenzin, Bumi, and Kya all feel stronger after this one half hour entry. Well done. It was also a daring chapter, as it chipped away at what we thought was perfect. If more stuff up to this quality is in store, keep ’em coming. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

 

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