In the thirteenth and penultimate episode of the second season of The Legend of Korra, Korra, Bolin, and Mako try to stop Unalaq and Vaatu, while Tenzin and his siblings try to find Jinora. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Legend of Korra.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse.
WOW, THIS IS SUPREMELY MESSED UP.
Unalaq / Vaatu
I greatly appreciate that this show can still surprise me, and a number of twists in “Darkness Falls” shocked the hell out of me. Like, let’s start here: Korra bending Unalaq right out of the spirit world. HOW DID I NOT EVEN THINK OF THIS? While it was clearly not meant to be a permanent solution, it was a brilliant way to separate Unalaq and Vaatu so that each could be focused on by the two groups.
I’m also forced to re-evaluate my take on Unalaq because… well, shit. Y’all, he clearly knew what he was getting into, and there was no big moment of regret once he merged with Vaatu. He always wanted this, and conquering the Southern Water Tribe was always just a means to that end. In hindsight, I can see how this was foreshadowed all along. I mean, Unalaq despised the cultural shifts that happened in the Southern Water Tribe and believed himself to be a superior leader because he was more “in tune” with the spirits. But it went further than that, didn’t it? He genuinely thought that he was doing a service to the world, as warped as that may seem. At no point here does he show otherwise, and that’s REALLY disturbing to me.
So, there are two main fights that play out in “Darkness Falls.” While Korra’s fighting Vaatu, Bolin and Mako take on Unalaq themselves, which was FRIGHTENING. I know there’s a part of me that believes that no one significant can ever die on this show, except once I think about that, then I start worrying that I’M FOOLING MYSELF. What if the writers will kill someone off? It’s an endless loop of anxiety, and it didn’t help to see how much more powerful Unalaq was. Not just powerful, but viciously motivated to destroy these two brothers, all so he could return to the spirit world.
Now, it’s not surprising that I feel very weird about the Eska/Bolin storyline, and I don’t think I need to rehash my thoughts on their… relationship? Courtship? Regardless of what you would call it, it’s still awkward because it’s so poorly defined. I don’t think it’s impossible to have a story where a toxic relationship is explored, but most of this plot has been a deliberate joke. We’re supposed to laugh at these two, so when we’re suddenly given a moment of genuine affection from Bolin towards Eska… well, it rings hollow. That doesn’t mean the act isn’t believable; it’s just that the story the show gave us doesn’t make it believable. It falls flat.
It certainly feels more glaring because everything else in this episode is so consistently good, though. Holy shit, Korra and Vaatu’s fight is one of the most intense things this show has ever done. AND THERE IS STILL ANOTHER EPISODE. Again, I kept thinking that there was no way that the writers would seriously harm Korra, but then Unalaq makes the earth open up and eat Korra, and WHY ARE YOU HURTING ME THIS WAY??? You are not allowed to take the thing I want and TURN IT AGAINST ME. Wasn’t this enough? Weren’t you already ruining me, The Legend of Korra?
Apparently not, because there was a secret Unalaq was hiding the whole time and this show was waiting to reveal, just so they could break me further. (Yes, I’m making this all about myself, DEAL WITH IT.) I anticipated a huge dual Avatar fight, and I was very satisfied with the result. It was violent as hell, spirited, intense, and massively entertaining. It was thrilling because I didn’t know how it would end, and I appreciated that. That made this so much fun, but it was stressful as hell!
And then Vaatu/Unalaq stole Raava out of Korra’s body and destroyed her.
I don’t even know how to deal with this shit. I don’t. I don’t know what the future holds for Korra because… she can’t be the Avatar without Raava inside her, can she? Y’all, that sequence where the past Avatars were extinguished… what the fuck. What the fuck is this show doing to me.
I honestly don’t know how this is gonna be fixed.
I’m also thankful that Tenzin’s story is not diminished by anything else happening here. I’m still not over how weird the spirit world is, and I’m so pleased that this is still the case. Horrible spider spirits with illuminated trap appendages!!!! IT’S LIKE DEEP SEA CREATURES BUT AS SPIRITS, NO THANK YOU. But I think the importance of this entire plot is Tenzin realizing that he is important himself.
First of all, let’s acknowledge that in order to find his daughter, Tenzin willingly submitted himself to the Fog of Lost Souls, knowing that the fog would poison his mind and turn him against himself. He watched his brother and sister drift off into the fog, and he still pressed on. That kind of determination is an admirable thing, but Tenzin’s lack of perspective on himself hurts him. He can’t see the goodness in his life because the bad shit feels so much more magnified. And that’s a difficult thing in his case because he’s always lived in the shadow of his father! At least, that’s what he thinks he’s been doing, but truthfully, he’s been living a wonderful life all of his own.
It’s fascinating to think about how guides play a vital role within the Avatar universe. They’re such a common motif because of the way the spirit world functions. Which is precisely why it’s so scary to know that Vaatu is about to unleash 10,000 years of darkness. That balance will be completely destroyed! I don’t know if Aang’s appearance here was a hallucination or his actual spirit – I’m guessing it was the latter – but I recognize the importance of the message he imparts. Like Iroh did earlier in the episode, Aang helps his son realize his path. He doesn’t force him along it, but rather points in the direction that Tenzin needed.
ALSO: HOW HAUNTING WAS ZHAO IN THE FOG? Or the glimpse of all the other lost souls that they had to leave behind? This show hurts.
The video for “Darkness Falls” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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