First Look: The Legend of Korra: Book Two: Spirits

Copyright © 2013 by Nickelodeon
Copyright © 2013 by Nickelodeon

Last Friday was the premiere for the second season of The Legend of Korra. In short, it’s reminiscent of some of the developments that we can remember from Avatar The Last Airbender, but the show still has a way to go toward becoming a strong sequel.

The premiere of Book Two: Spirits was shown through two episodes (“Rebel Spirit” and “The Southern Lights”). We learn that Korra has finally mastered airbending, though her spiritual training is still lacking. Tenzin tries to arrange a trip to the Air Temples around the world to correct this, but when they detour at the Southern Water Tribe to visit Korra’s family, they learn about a terrible imbalance between the physical world and the Spirit World. Hideous spirits have emerged, attacking human beings at random and spreading chaos. Korra is called upon to open a portal to the Spirit World at the winter solstice and restore balance.

Copyright © 2013 by Nickelodeon
Copyright © 2013 by Nickelodeon

When it comes to the returning main cast, I was mostly pleased. Korra is still maturing–both as the Avatar and as a teenager–and learning to question the decisions of her elders. Her relationship with Mako could be interesting depending on where things go. I do, however, feel that Bolin isn’t getting much development (though I felt the same way about Sokka from ATAS before I saw “Sokka’s Master”). Asami is getting some nice development as the head of her father’s company and we’re seeing more modern inventions like biplanes and “moving pictures” through her scenes. I’m also pleased to see some new subplots involving Tenzin’s family, like his siblings Bumi and Kya, and his daughter Jinori in particular.

The new cast, however, is far more interesting. We get to see Bumi and Kya, the older children of Aang and Katara, and how their relationship with younger brother Tenzin is still developing. We also get to see new Water Tribe members like Korra’s father Tonraq, his estranged brother Unalaq (who possesses a curious passion about the Spirit World that bears watching), and Unalaq’s twin children Desna and Eska. While I could easily dimiss these latter characters as an Overprotective Father, an Ambiguously Evil Uncle, and a pair of Creepy Twins, the show does give them just enough layers to be more engaging than cardboard cutouts.

While I will miss the bustling atmosphere of Republic City, I do like that the second season is going back to familiar locales like the Air Temples and the Southern Water Tribe region. The colors and details in these landscapes are fantastic, and they remind me a lot of Avatar the Last Airbender, where our heroes would get to explore a large and beautiful world instead of being bound to any one settlement.

In the end, I guess what I come away with at the end of the first two episodes is a sense of cautious optimism. I know that the show’s creators will always put a lot heart and soul into these stories and characters, so I’m not afraid I’ll ever lose interest in the series. But at the same time, I’m hopeful that Legend of Korra will be just a little bit less about teenage drama and a little more about fighting the real dangers of the world while striving for inner balance.

The second season of The Legend of Korra is available on Nickelodeon. New episodes air on Friday night.

Bibliography: The Legend of Korra (Book Two: Spirits). Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. Written by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos and Ki Hyun Ryu. Produced by Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, Tim Yoon, and Joaquim Dos Santos. Ginormous Madman, Studio Mir, Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Studio Pierrot. Nickelodeon (channel). Original broadcast: September 13, 2013 – present.

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