In the first episode of the first season of The Legend of Korra, we meet the next Avatar, who runs into trouble when her plan to learn airbending. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to (finally) watch The Legend of Korra.
Oh my god, I missed this world so much.
So, let’s talk a few logistics before we start this proper! This is the first of TWELVE reviews that will run consecutively on weekdays. Like this post, it will not replace the normally scheduled reviews; instead, each will go up in the morning. SO TWO POSTS PER DAY YAY. We’ll run through all twelve of them, and you are also welcome to purchase a Mark Watches video for any of them as well! (There’s a lovely one at the end of this review! YAY!)
Please, please, please consult the Site Rules and Spoiler Policy for this site if you’ve not been here before. Well, if you’ve never been here before, you have a lot of reading to do! I did an entire Mark Watches series for Avatar: The Last Airbender and it’s full of a lot of sobbing and shrieking, so have fun with that!
I have a ruthlessly strict spoiler policy in effect here at Mark Watches, so please read about it. So that I and others who have not seen this show can still read the comments, do not post anything – thoughts, spoilers, hints, excited expectations, anything – that is about an episode beyond the review that is posted. You will also see a bunch of garbled nonsense in the comments. That is rot13! Go to that site, and you may discuss any and all spoilers by cyphering your comment with rot13. Please put a non-rot13 warning before your comment to let others know what you’re spoiling for your first rot13 comment. For example, say like, “Spoilers for the whole series” or “Spoilers for the next episode” before you paste your rot13 comment.
Full disclosure: I sat in on the Legend of Korra panel at Comic-Con in 2011, so I saw character designs, some names, and that one trailer that everyone cried over for like a year. I have managed to stay away from everything else, though! VICTORY. Please do not spoil me. 🙂
Oh god, it’s here.
After Aang and his friends brought the Hundred Year War to an end, the Avatar and Fire Lord Zuko transformed the Fire Nation colonies into the United Republic of Nations, a society where benders and non-benders from all over the world would live together in peace and harmony, Republic City being its capital city. Avatar Aang accomplished many remarkable things in his life, but his time in this world came to an end, and thus the Avatar Cycle began anew.
There’s a great deal of the premiere of The Legend of Korra that relies on calls to the past, but this isn’t done in a sloppy or insulting way. I remember when I was first doing Mark Reads Harry Potter, I was annoyed that in the first few books, Rowling largely summarized the series in the first chapter of two. And I didn’t care because I just wanted to get back into the story! I was being a bit petulant, to be fair, and I don’t really feel the same way anymore. “Welcome to Republic City,” by comparison, is absolutely nothing like this. The writers depend on the viewer having seen all of A:TLA, and a lot of the visual and dialogue points are all based on the previous show. Yes, that means I spent most of this episode wanting to fall out of my chair with excitement.
That does not mean, however, that this premiere relies too much on the past to keep my attention. On the contrary, this is an exciting introducing to a further exploration of a fictional world that I came to love last year. The real treat of The Legend of Korra, introduced here, is Republic City.
But before we even get there, we’re introduced to Korra. Unlike Aang, her introduction is knowledgable. She’s not trapped in ice, the world is expecting her arrival, and she has grown up with the knowledge of who she is. Oh, and she’s feisty as hell. Even at a young age, she demonstrates a ridiculous capacity for bending and for upstaging anyone and anything within a ten mile radius of her. And I like that this is the distinction we get right off the bat. The main character of this show is a confident, aggressive young woman, and she’s the polar opposite of Aang. It’s also interesting to see how much in common she has with most of the characters from A:TLA. She’s got Sokka’s sense of humor and wit; she has Aang’s technical prowess; she’s very much like Katara in terms of her determination and power. But even in just one episode, she’s still her own character, and I love how well everyone is developed in such a short span of time.
The Order of the White Lotus also plays a large part of the narrative, since it’s clear that Aang tasked them with finding and then raising the next Avatar that would come after him. (Ugh, can I also admit that it makes me sad to think that Aang is gone? No, stop it feelings, stop it.) They’re almost immediately contrasted with Korra’s impatient and childish attitude. And I know that the word childish might seem like an insult, but I don’t mean that here. She is very much like a child opening Christmas presents every day. She loves bending. Oh my god, does she love bending. She can’t hide her excitement at all, even if the Order expects her to have a more nuanced and sober attitude towards her responsibility. CALLING IT NOW: THIS WILL COME INTO CONFLICT LATER.
The point where we meet up with Korra is after she’s mastered firebending, airbending, and earthbending. And hell, I love that. We’ve already had to watch Aang learn all the elements before becoming a fully-realized Avatar, so I’m glad the show isn’t going to retread the same ground. Plus, it’s a way for the writers to bring us to Republic City and to include master Tenzin in the story.
TENZIN. TENZIN. Oh my god. It’s Aang and Katara’s son. Like, I can’t even deal with that fact at all. It’s so exciting just to think about this. And I’m already in love with him and his family, and I love that he is absolutely nothing like his parents. He’s so serious! And then his kids just fly off their sky bison on AIR SCOOTERS (oh my god Aang they still do airscooters i want to cry at this thought), and then MEELO. OH MY GOD, MEELO. He looks like a fucking alien, I AM SO HAPPY WITH HIM. And then Hinora asks about ZUKO’S MOM and Ikki interrupts, and I SHRIEK WITH LAUGHTER.
I can’t. This family is everything I want to be.
And it’s at this point that the premiere introduces the first main conflict that will govern what happens for the rest of this series: Tenzin cannot stay with the Southern Water Tribe to train Korra in airbending. I can already tell just how impatient Korra is. She’s so eager and excited all of the time, but I can tell that it’s kind of extreme. Her dinner that night with Tenzin and the rest of the Order is awkward because of it. She can’t deal with the idea that she has to wait in order to be trained, and she certainly doesn’t understand what’s happening in Republic City that is keeping Tenzin away from the Southern Water Tribe.
That ignorance is continually highlighted throughout the remainder of this episode. Korra thinks she knows what she’s getting into; she thinks that it’ll be easy to meet up with Tenzin in Republic City; and she thinks Tenzin will totally have all the time in the world to train her. Well, she does get Katara’s blessing to leave the tribe to seek out her destiny, so it’s not like she didn’t have encouragement. (Oh god, Katara, you are the only one left alive. My heart. MY HEART.) I don’t think Katara was misguided at all! Plus, Korra had a great point at the dinner with the Order: how was it fair that for her whole life, she’d been stuck within the same compound? I understand that Aang wanted to keep her safe, but that’s kind of a fucked up way to raise a child.
Still, the situation turns into a bit of a disaster once Korra and Naga escape. (OH MY GOD NAGA IS LIKE A BIG DOG BUT ALSO A BEAR AND OH MY GOD I WANT MY OWN BEAR DOG.) Korra’s own perceptions of Republic City are, frankly, wrong. She’s immediately impressed by the size and scope of the place (as was I), but she repeatedly misjudges what a large metropolitan city is like. She has no money. She has no friends there. She has no idea what the laws are or what’s frowned upon by people who live in that society. And she didn’t believe poor people lived in the city. Like, that is precisely how sheltered she is. The mere existence of that homeless man is entirely impossible to her. Seriously, she has a lot to learn.
And I think the entire scene with the Equalist protesters is a good way to demonstrate that. Korra can’t even fathom that non-benders might feel oppressed or hurt by the ruling bender class. To her, bending is a fun adventure. Why wouldn’t everyone want that? Lord, she is a mess, and I love that the show is already portraying her as flawed in the very first episode. Her ignorance is complicated because she genuinely means well! Like, she sees the Triple Threat Triad, she reads the situation as being a very obvious dichotomy of right and wrong, and she acts to save the phonograph vendor. The world is very simple to her, and she can’t really appreciate nuance. It’s one of the reasons she is so confused by the Metalbending Police Force. Isn’t she helping the citizens of Republic City by going after a gang??? But the world is so much more complicated than that, and she can’t see it at all. (Oh god, that gang is going to make life difficult for her, aren’t they?)
That’s when we meet Chief Lin Beifong. OH MY GOD, TOPH’S DAUGHTER RUNS THE METALBENDING POLICE FORCE. This is beautiful. Well, assuming the police aren’t this horrible element to Republic City’s society. Actually, that’s something I’m interested in seeing in future episodes. Tenzin tells Korra that Republic City isn’t quite what Aang wanted of the place. What else is wrong about it? How do Amon and the Equalists fit into this picture? Clearly, Tenzin is moved by the sight of his father’s statue and believes Korra can help him restore balance to the city. But how? Even Korra’s speech to the city is pretty vague. To be fair, it’s not like Korra even knows how this is going to unfold, and I was really impressed that she flat-out admitted that she didn’t have a plan. It’s a very humble moment from her! But does Tenzin believe that the mere presence of the Avatar might inspire peace and harmony? Or does he plan on using her powers to do this?
Of course, in terms of the plot, nothing got me more excited than the first glimpse of Amon, who plainly states that “their plan” must be accelerated now that Korra has arrived. Oh shit, are they the villains in this story? Or is this going to be much more complex than that? I AM SO EXCITED TO WATCH THIS, Y’ALL!!!
Every episode of this season has a Mark Watches video! You can purchase the