Animation Recaps Television

NOC Recaps The Legend of Korra: …And a Child Will Lead Them

Episode Nine, “The Guide”

This week’s The Legend of Korra was all about Girls Rule, Boys Drool.

The Family von Airbender is still on vacation, this time at the Eastern Air Temple, blissfully unaware of the world burning down around them. Tenzin was in the middle of trying to convince his kids that ancient relics are fun, when in walks…Korra!!! She’s looking good, considering she was a complete amnesiac two weeks ago.

Korra gives everyone the run-down, including telling them the story of Wan, the First Avatar, and Unalaq’s mind-boggling plan to destroy the entire planet by releasing Vaatu from his imprisonment. Tenzin’s reaction?

Where have we heard this before?
Oh yes. Like mother, like son.

Now, Korra needs to enter the Spirit World in order to close the portal she re-opened for Unalaq, as well as ensure no one can ever re-open either portal again. Tenzin eagerly takes it upon himself to be the one to lead her there. Only, there is one small complication: despite a lifetime of training from his father the Avatar, Tenzin has never successfully entered the Spirit World himself.

Cue record scratch!

Tenzin is spiritually blocked because he is a somewhat petty man: he blames his inability to successfully meditate on Meelo’s childish antics, his sister Kya’s incense-lighting technique, and Korra talking to much. He embodies the Winston Churchill quote: “A man is about as big as the things that make him angry.” And since the Harmonic Convergence is only days away, Korra doesn’t have the time to wait for Tenzin to sort through his myriad of issues.

The spirits mock you, Tenzin!

Enter Jinora, Tenzin’s eldest and most serious child, to save the day. Apparently, she’s like the kid in The Sixth Sense and can see spirits on the daily.

“I see dragonfly-bunnies. They’re everywhere.”

Although Tenzin’s bruised ego initially forbids her from helping, Jinora, in her friendly, non-confrontational, a.k.a. very Airbender way, defies him and says she’s going to do it anyway. It takes her all but two seconds to lead Korra into the Spirit Realm, and now Korra can finally go do her job without Tenzin’s existential crisis slowing her down.

Back at the Northern Spirit Portal, Unalaq, still believing Korra to be dead, roped his twins Eska and Dezna into trying to open the portal with him. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t work out. Dezna gets utterly spirit-slapped, but Unalaq commands Eska to never mind her brother and keep bending. However, Eska, being at least a tiny semblance of a good person, insists on getting her brother to a healer, leaving their father to utterly fail on his own.

Unalaq, here is your prize for crappiest cartoon dad in the world: a broken son!

Meanwhile, back in Republic City, the cheesy cop drama that is Mako’s life keeps plaguing him. Bolin and Asami are still on Team Varrick, despite Mako’s growing case against the usurper. However, Varrick is ten steps ahead as usual and plants evidence in Mako’s bachelor pad, which promptly gets Mako arrested by his own department. All that is but dust in the wind because…

Now Asami has to choose between the man who is saving her family’s company from bankruptcy and her ex/friend’s ex/current saliva exchange partner.

Unalaq enters the Spirit World through the Southern Portal, and presents Vaatu with the bad news: the Avatar is dead, and he failed to open the Northern Portal without her help. Vaatu is apparently a Star Wars fan, because he said in his best Darth Vader echo chamber voice: “You have not failed me…yet. The Avatar still lives… I can still feel her presence.”

The Whoo!

  • Even though he’s evil, Varrick is so likable, complete with Dr. Evil-style swivel chair and Godfather-like veiled threats to all his loved ones coated with a smile.

  • Bumi is the most charming character on the Good Side of the Force, with zingers such as “Welcome to the I Disappoint Dad Club!” and naming his pet dragonfly-bunny-spirit Bum-Ju (short for Bumi Jr.).

  • Jinora and Korra share a stoner-like “Whooooa” moment when they discover that Jinora saw the statue of the first Avatar on the same day Korra opened the Southern Portal.

  • Korra to Tenzin: “Everything Unalaq taught me was to help himself, everything you have done was to help me. I am so sorry for turning my back on you as my mentor. I need you more than ever.” HUG! TEARS!

  • As a NOC parent, I really appreciated the subtle lesson of how academic learning does not always correlate with real wisdom or skill. The creators consistently portray pretty subversive themes into their shows with an uncannily light touch.

  • This has nothing to do with the actual episode, but the Korra team at Nickelodeon threw a Halloween party last week, complete with hand-painted glow-in-the-dark decorations!

The Meh!

  • After two beautifully-animated episodes from Studio Mir, the studio that did the first season of The Legend of Korra, the return to Studio Pierrot’s style of pan-the-camera-to-infer-movement-rather-than-actually-showing-the-movement is REALLY starting to chafe. According to Wikipedia at least, this was Studio Pierrot’s last gig, and our eyes should be dazzled by Studio Mir’s magic for the rest of the season.

  • That kiss and all the Mako/Asami touchy-feelies! Whyyyyy??? There are so many other things they need to be doing, like help the Avatar save the world again!

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