Legend of Korra, book 2: my thoughts so far
“Brainwork requires increased circulation.”
I haven’t started writing about avatar until now which is a shame because there is definitely a lot to write about. Today I will stick to this most recent episode (Peacekeepers), and the story arc of Legend of Korra in general. First of all, I loved book 1; perhaps even more then the Last Airbender. However book two so far isn’t doing quite as much for me.
I feel like legend of korra has lost its scope: the world is no longer in imminent peril. Unalaq doesn’t really pose a threat to the southern water tribe yet alone the rest of the world, or at least not at the moment. If he does gain control of the southern water tribe then what? Its still a water tribe, he doesn’t want to kill anyone, he just wants them to respect some of their traditions. Fair enough. I feel like book one had such a brilliant story arc: the bending nations were all in a very real state of danger, but from a relatable antagonist whose perspective was very easy to sympathize with. Amon felt just as dangerous a foe to me as Fire Lord Ozai and the historical allegories of the communist revolution of china were very cleverly portrayed. I can imagine non benders feeling threatened, and being routinely exploited in the world of Avatar. With Amon the threat wasn’t physiological, or at least not directly. He only sought to remove bending, and level the playing field, unifying all people. However this did not make him less threatening; the guy fawkes mask in particular was quite intimidating. Also the last minute redemption of Tarrlok was quite touching and tragic.
I think they key problem with book two lies amongst all this; Noatak was a worthy enough opponent to last the whole series. He was killed off too quickly, and now there will be substandard ‘villains of the series’. While Im at it a lot of things happened a bit to quickly; Korra has mastered all elements by episode one of book 2 (by the time Aang had mastered firebending, there were 5 episodes left) and Korra got involved with and broke up with another member of team avatar too quickly. Because of this Korra has nothing left to learn (except maybe metalbending or electricity?) she is unlikely to forge any more meaningful relationships (like varrick, funny but intentionally shallow relationships). And because she has broken up with Mako there will either be a cheesy get-back-together, or he will not return to team avatar, both would be a bad outcome (especially if Bolin leaves with him!). I am glad, however that they addressed the issue of tradition versus technological progression with Unalaq.
Which brings me to my last and most important worry about the Legend of Korra universe. It was the feudal Chinese time period of Avatar: the Last Airbender which really immersed me in the show. I liked the carrier hawks for messages, the various animals for transport and the traditional martial art inspired bending. While the steampunk-esque setting of Legend of Korra definitely has most of the charm of its predecessor and some charm of its own, Im worried about the culture of all the nations being lost in the industrial revolution. Cars are replacing animals increasingly, and only the air nomads (dwindling in numbers though they are) live traditionally. (although we haven’t seen fire nation or earth kindom yet.) also televisions, telephones and the like are increasingly popping up. Technological progress can not go backward, so there is nothing to do but watch the distinct cultures of the four nations be slowly lost in what is essentially fast forwarded globalization.
On the bright side Im glad to hear General Iroh mention Firelord Zuko in a way that suggests he is still alive. I guess only 60 years have passed, so where are Sokka, Toph and Zuko? Aang died at 50 or thereabouts, but I cant believe that only one in the group that defeated Ozai made it to 70. Im still looking forward to hearing about the future of these characters, which LOK hasn’t delivered much on yet. Also who Lin Beifongs father is. We know it (tragically) cannot be Sokka (on the bright side that means he could be with suki!) Im very excited to see how all that turns out.