Mark Watches ‘The Legend of Korra’: S01E02 – A Leaf in the Wind

In the second episode of the first season of The Legend of Korra, Tenzin has a far more difficult time teaching Korra airbending than he expected. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Legend of Korra.

Oh lord, Korra’s going to be a difficult one, isn’t she?

Well, Tenzin shares some of the blame for the chaotic, frustrating mess that happens in “A Leaf in the Wind.” This is a story of two incredibly stubborn people clashing miserably over what each of them perceives as the best, most perfect answer to a complicated situation. Am I shocked that this story line was pursued so early in the season? Absolutely not! If anything, I anticipated that Tenzin would have this exact problem with Korra: she is impatient. That almost seems like an understatement. She can’t sit still, she can’t be meditate, she can’t calm down, she can’t concentrate… she’s just an endless ball of energy. Which is good! I think that “A Leaf in the Wind” ultimately shows us that it’s perfectly fine that Korra is often angry and energetic. The problem was that she didn’t have a creative outlet to use as a catharsis for her energy.

But it takes Tenzin the entirety of this episode to figure this out. It made me wonder if it had been some time since he’d taught someone how to airbend. Well, I imagine he’s been teaching his own children, but they come from an airbender background. Now, he’s teaching someone whose personality is the polar opposite of what the airbender mentality represents. Again, I love that the writers didn’t make Korra the same as Aang in this regard, yet are still able to reference the similar emotional struggle that Aang went through in “Bitter Work.” Korra’s difficulty in airbending is pretty much expected, and Tenzin tries to work around this.

“Tries” is the operative word here. Oh, Korra. You gave those wind gates a good solid try, but you didn’t take Meelo’s advice! You have to be the leaf. (Can I take a moment to talk about how fucking strange Meelo’s face is? Like, it doesn’t even look real half the time, and I totally love this fact.) She also doesn’t understand what Jinora demonstrates to her: she has to be ready to react to resistance. It’s a clever metaphor for what Korra can’t deal with. She’s not inherently a flexible person, and we watch her (over the course of “A Leaf in the Wind”) refuse to budge around any resistance that Tenzin gives her. It’s not just a physical state; she has to be prepared mentally to shift herself at a moment’s notice.

On top of that, she’s distracted by pro-bending. I remember hearing about this concept at the Comic-Con panel, so I was interested to see how this was going to be executed. I had to wait, though, and watch Tenzin and Korra clash even more over the techniques used to teach her airbending. I do think that during the meditation session, Korra is far more rude than she should have been, especially when she insults Tenzin’s use of the word “freedom.” I do recognize that she’s being kept on an island, away from Republic City, and that this frustrates her, but she doesn’t seem to be too interested in actually learning anything while she’s here. She expects her lessons to have immediate results, and that’s hardly fair.

So it was no surprise to me that she snuck away from the island that night to go to the Pro-bending Arena. I was also excited because I WANTED TO SEE PRO-BENDING SO BADLY. Oh god, IT EXCEEDED ALL OF MY EXPECTATIONS EVER. But can we first talk about Mako and Bolin? What babes. Am I right??? Personally, I find that I like Bolin more, as Mako hot jerk routine doesn’t do much to me. I like nice people! And Bolin is a genuinely nice guy. Not a Nice Guy™, mind you, or at least he’s not that way yet. But he’s so friendly to Korra throughout this episode, eager to have her participate and learn what it means to be a pro-bender. I ENJOY THIS DYNAMIC. Mako, on the other hand, has a bit of an ego until the very end of the episode. Why is he so stand-offish? Did something happen in his past to make him this way? Perhaps it’s just the difference between his and his brother’s personalities. This is okay! I just hope he stops being an ass to people he’s just met.

Okay, PRO-BENDING. YES. While I still don’t understand the ins and outs of it perfectly, I love the way this game is played. I love that there are three different types of bending involved, that a team can be pushed to zone three and still push back and win. (Wait, how come airbending isn’t allowed? Or does it just not happen? Or are Tenzin and his children the only airbenders around??? OH GOD I FORGOT ABOUT THAT.) Every match, I was on the edge of my seat. It’s so exciting to watch! And even though I’d just met them, I really wanted the Fire Ferrets to win!

Of course, Korra gets it in her system that pro-bending is what she needs to be doing to further her training, which IS DEFINITELY GOING TO GO OVER WELL WITH TENZIN. Oh, he wasn’t going to be happy at all. I kept waiting for him to just show up and cart Korra back to the island. But it didn’t happen. All I kept seeing was Bolin being all cute as hell with Korra, excited to show her new techniques and how to properly throw… um… earth discs? I can’t recall if I heard the name of those things in the episode. Anyway, that’s not the point! The point is that Korra suddenly learns something new in seconds. I was surprised! She hadn’t learned a thing with Tenzin, and then Bolin teaches her how to throw those coin thingies. Whoa! Why is that? Why could Korra perform better in this setting?

I don’t know that this is the motivation for Korra telling Tenzin the next day that he’s a poor teacher, but it’s an intriguing idea. Still, I don’t think Tenzin is a bad teacher at all! It’s just that both of these people can’t just stop and see things from the other perspective. Korra won’t give Tenzin a chance, and Tenzin refuses to admit that his approach might be flawed. It’s like two brick walls running into one another.

Bless Jinora, for the record, for refusing to promise that her teenage years won’t be like training Korra. You hold on to that, Jinora.

I seriously love the last pro-bending scene in this episode. I’m glad that the show acknowledges that while Korra is probably going to be strong, she doesn’t understand the rules. Oh god, it’s beautiful. She needed that moment of humility to focus on what she had to do in order to help Mako and Bolin win. Well, she needed that and a confrontation with Tenzin. Yeah, she doesn’t have much respect for her elders, does she? Or perhaps she does, but she certainly doesn’t show it here, choosing to chew out Tenzin and disobey him again so that she can continue fighting in the tournament. OH, THAT WON’T GO OVER WELL.

Except it does! Because now it’s clear that Korra is able to focus under pressure. She doesn’t learn based on silence or rigidity. She improvises. She’s able to implement the airbending moves Tenzin taught her during chaos. IT’S SO COOL. Even Tenzin realizes this! (OMG that moment is so cute). So when he and Korra finally have a conversation back on Air Temple Island, both are able to let down their guard and apologize for being stubborn and impatient. Tenzin expected Korra to learn immediately, and Korra expected to airbend immediately. And when that didn’t happen, they took out their frustration with each other. Ugh, I love sappy, feel-good messages like this. I DON’T CARE.

Oh god, Korra joined the Fire Ferrets. SHIT’S GONNA GET SO REAL.

Here is today’s Mark Watches video for this episode!

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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