By: Joshua Hamilton & Michael Dante DiMartino (story)
The Story: Korra must learn to use her blues to defeat darkness for good.
The Review: It occurred to me that the separation of the physical and spirit worlds really seemed to be a very sensible decision at the time. Humankind had only just started to venture from the protection of the lion-turtles, and only some had any power to defend themselves against the more numerous, long-lived, and powerful spirits. Had the status quo remained, spirits would most likely have dominated humanity for ages, if not forever.
I bring this up in light of—spoiler alert—Korra’s decision to leave the portals between worlds open at the end of the episode, allowing spirits to live alongside humanity once more. She doesn’t give a very clear reason for this; she only suspects, without explaining why, that humans and spirits weren’t meant to live apart and that Avatar Wan made a mistake in concluding otherwise. This, even though all evidence at the time went to the contrary. The better rationale for keeping the portals open is that humanity has finally moved away from the endless wars of the past, and with their rapid technological progress, preserving their spirituality has become more important than ever.
The show itself is a testament to that theory. As fun as it has been to see the world of Avatar become closer to our own, it has also taken away a lot of the wonder and mystery that made the original series so enchanting. Bending has become means-oriented, rather than a spiritual outlet; the pro-bending tournaments are proof positive of that. Republic City has provided unity among the races, but has also muddled the cultural and philosophical differences among them. There is less emphasis on travel and exploration; characters are content to settle and grow where they are.
An infusion of spirits and the unpredictability they provide is just the thing to jigger the world of Avatar back into attentiveness, even if it subjects people to more chaos and danger than they’d grown accustomed to living with.* If nothing else, dealing with the consequences of the united worlds should be a heckuva lot more interesting than the political conflicts that made up the first season and a half of this show.
This is all to say that the importance of the second season finale has more to do with what it means for the future than with what’s actually going on—which is not to say that the finale isn’t an entertaining hour on its own. Between the Aang siblings’ emotional (and strangely comedic) sojourn into the Fog of Lost Souls and the multiple bending battles, climaxing with Korra’s large-scale tussle with Unalaq as a dark avatar, there’s plenty of thrills, stunningly animated, to enjoy here.
Unfortunately, there’s nearly as many points of confusion and underwhelming moments. One that stands out in particular for me is Jinora’s role in the episode, which is substantial but completely baffling. There’s at least a little contradiction in the idea that she would need rescuing from the Fog, yet also have enough spiritual mastery to manifest her soul in the physical world, dispel Unalaq’s bindings on Korra, and reveal the light of Raava within Vaatu. It’s one of the biggest moments in the entire episode and you have no idea how it works. None.
And how about that Unalaq and his creepy kids? Flat and sort of boring to begin with, Unalaq ultimately turns out to be nothing more than a container for Vaatu to achieve his ends, with little purpose of his own. His defeat produces nothing in the way of strong reaction from his own children, much less you, so his entire existence is a bit of a wash and largely unmemorable. Good riddance, but it does render the first half of this season more pointless than ever
This whole season has been something of a mess to evaluate. On the one hand, it’s offered some of the absolute worst episodes of the entire series and many of its introduced plotlines and characters have no returnable value whatsoever (I would rather see the cabbage salesman of Last Airbender fame come back rather than deal with Varrick,* Eska, or Desna again—ever). On the other, most of the latter half of the season has been far and away superior to anything seen in the first season—which isn’t saying much, but still. Though Korra is no way the protagonist Aang or any of his friends were, she is finally giving some credence to calling her story a “legend.”
Conclusion: Though obvious holes in plotting and character still plague the season into its final episodes, there’s a wealth of material to paper over them and enough to set a promising foundation for the next season
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * After all, not all spirit-human relationships can turn out as warm and fuzzy as Bumi and Bumju’s.
* I’m actually kind of disappointed that Varrick didn’t meet some grisly end in the chaos of Unalaq’s attack on Republic City.
– Asami pretty much disappears for the entire episode. So much for “Team” Avatar. And if the show decides to subject her to another rebound experience now that Mako and Korra’s break-up is official, it will really have crossed over into cruel territory.