[This is a review of The Legend of Korra Season 2 episodes 7 & 8. It contains SPOILERS.]
Last week's episode of The Legend of Korra sparked a heated debate about the validity of this season's plot. Some claimed it to be the pinnacle of Book 2: Spirits, while others (including this reviewer), felt that The Last Airbender franchise was on a steady decline. Can this mid-season two-part epic sway doubters to believe again?
Simply put, the answer is most assuredly yes! Creator/executive producer Michael Dante DiMartino wrote a fantastic story for 'Beginnings, part 1 and 2.' The brilliant world-building imaginations that made Korra's first season so magical are finally back on display, as we're introduced to Wan (Steven Yeun), the first Avatar. With Korra still suffering from amnesia, a Fire Nation healer helps Korra rediscover who she truly is by having her look into the past.
When The Legend of Korra season 2 premiered, there were rumblings about how the quality of the animation had lessened. This was most likely due to budget cuts; however, 'Beginnings, Part 1 and 2' showed just how incredibly talented the animators are. Wan's ancient world is a beautifully realized tapestry, full of interesting new characters that we'll hopefully see again in future episodes.
Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) gives a superb voice-over performance as the Aladdin-esque Wan struggles to discover who he wants to be. He has his own group of friends, but like so many other soon-to-be heroes, he longs for something more. After receiving the ability to firebend and being banished from the lion-turtle city, Wan's adventure sheds light on many of the mysteries we've been wanting answers to.
According to Raava, the spirits were never meant to exist alongside humans, but it was Vaatu who broke through, opening the portal and trying to cover the world in darkness. Does this mean Unalaq was in the spirit world trying to break Vaatu out of his imprisonment? What does Unalaq want with a dark spirit? There are other possibilities as well, due to the fact that most if not all of the spirits journeyed back into their realm after Wan became the first Avatar. Perhaps Unalaq is communicating with one of the good spirits? Probably not, but these new revelations do make his character more interesting.
Discovering how humans first obtained the ability to bend was another fascinating storyline. Even before human tribes coexisted with one another, the airbenders were still a spiritual people, living in harmony with the spirits and nature, while some of the firebenders were on the more aggressive end of the spectrum. The question now becomes, what does this all have to do with Korra in her time? Will Vaatu be freed, or does Unalaq have other motives we don't know about?
'Beginnings, Part 1 and 2' brought back the imaginative forces that make The Last Airbender series so special. It's not about the action, but the discovery of new worlds and the visionary splendor that only DiMarino and Konietzko can dream up. Book 2: Spirits should have focused more on this excellent story, instead of civil wars, movie (mover) making, and business acquisitions. The writers have given us that childlike wonder that we should never let go of. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of a new and exciting journey as the season moves toward its finale.
The Legend of Korra continues in two seeks on November 1st, 2013 with 'The Guide' @8:30pm on Nickelodeon.