Or maybe it's finally happened guys. Maybe I've finally outgrown animation. It was due to occur at some point in my life and here it is. Let me just watch a clip from some of my old childhood favorites to confirm the diagnosis...although that last one didn't count...which means I still must like animation!
So, in that case, what happened? Let's hit up the autopsy table and see, shall we? And to be clear, this won't be point by point. Instead I'm just going to focus on my reactions from watching the episode. So there will be some mild spoilers, but I encourage you to watch it yourselves and come to your own conclusions.
Let's start with the fact that the show seems to self-terminate what could have been several great plot lines or push very uninteresting ones. First we have Asami Sato: hands down, at this point anyway, the most interesting of the four characters. Asami has put it on herself to take the reigns of her Dad's company and pull it from the wreckage of its damnation thanks to him siding with the Equalists. Why the military doesn't buy the airplanes from her now that she's in charge and helped Korra last season boggles the mind but moving on. She travels to the South Pole to meet up with this world's Howard Hughes to hopefully strike a deal which would keep the company from bankruptcy.
From a writer's standpoint, this is something you could use to mirror Korra's storyline. While she's dealing with whatever she's dealing with, Asami's back home dealing with her own troubles and grounding the side characters who won't be tagging along with Korra in this round. It is literally resolved in five minutes. I can only imagine it's to build a new love triangle, only this one centered on Bolin, and it just seems like a total waste to me.
Speaking of Bolin, I am at a total loss at the what he's doing there. It was obvious from the beginning that he was supposed to take Sokka's role, but the shoes may be a few sizes larger than he can handle. At the end of the day, while Sokka was a wise ass, he was also very intelligent and brave and was an equal partner in a team of superheroes despite not having any powers. He was, for lack of a better word, cool. Bolin isn't cool, but we're stuck with him as comic relief.
Anyway he pretty much gains the interest of one of Korra's cousins and I can smell love triangle all over this one. Which means it would exist just to exist...and I don't get that. Regardless of how you felt about the Korra-Mako-Asami triangle in the first season, Korra's the main character. It helped to tie Mako and Asami to the story by having them involved and everyone pretty much knew how it would pan out, so it was just a distraction rather than an annoyance. This feels like its going to slip into annoyance territory PDQ. It really wouldn't serve a purpose so I hope it's just cannon fodder and something actually interesting will come from it but, I don't know.
Finally there's Korra's Dad and this one made me mad. The Asami and Bolin thing would've been tough to tie into the story but this is HER DAD and he has the most interesting back story since Iroh in the first series. Apparently Korra's Dad with the General of the Northern Water Tribe and one day had to defend his home from a barbarian attack. He and his army track them to an oasis in the middle of an arctic tundra...go with me on this...and go in to catch them. Unfortunately, the spirits blame him for the damage and attack his home anyway. After his brother saves the day, he catches the blame and is banished forever.
And this is GOLD. Immediately after he shares his story Korra pretty much turns on him for reasons we're going to get into and I was on the edge of my seat because I just knew this is where she was going to get the facts of life speech...and nothing happens. He just gets up and leaves because his child tells him to get up and leave. We do get a hint that removing Korra's Dad from the equation let Korra's Uncle become the tribal chief, but that is trivial BS. It still can be the bridge where Father and Daughter bound over and it brings her down to Earth because HE'S been there. He's seen things and he didn't have Deus Ex Machina to help him out. He's failed and had to live with the failure and despite that is still a decent man BUT for whatever reason, it gets put on hold.
I am so confused; I really am. Like I said, it could come full circle in the future and that moment can still happen where Korra's Dad calls her to the carpet and explains what it means to actually lead and protect people; which she hasn't had to do just yet. But I don't know if that will be the case and it's a shame because to take that set up just to fuel a sibling rivalry is kinda cheap.
And as for Korra...I'm honestly torn guys, because it can actually work. Okay, her sudden character turn from untapped potential to ego-maniacal brat doesn't make a great deal of sense in the larger scheme. And considering what she had been through in the first season, you'd think she'd be much smarter than she is here. But it can all be excused by the fact that she has let the Avatar powers go straight to her head. Now she's just a cocky idiot which leads most of the episode along until the end where it seems she made a big mistake. Of course.
So once I readjusted my skull after having the show backhand me with this revelation, I started trying to think of the possibilities because watching her was not an option. The only thing I can think of is that Korra is about to fall so hard and so fast that they had no choice but to make her unlikable enough where the audience won't call for their heads when the drop happens. This isn't completely out of my own head as the dialogue in the sizzle reel right before the first episode pretty much confirms that at some point this season, Korra's going to go back to Tenzin which means she gets her head out of her ass; which will be a great moment if written correctly.
The problem is getting to that point and that is where I hesitate because pulling it off will require the writers to be on their A game and dialogue-wise, the parts where Korra's rebelling are some of the worst written lines of dialogue in the entire show. The absolute worst was her cousins and it is compounded by the fact that their voice actors need a LOT of work, but when they try and put teenage rebellion next to Shakespeare drama it just fails so hard. Here's a bit of dialogue just so you can understand;
Korra: Unalaq has proven he’s the only who knows what I need to learn. I have to go with him.
Tenzin: Please, I know you’re angry, but we’ve come so far together.
Korra: I’m sorry Tenzin; this is as far as we go.
Tenzin: It has been a pleasure serving you, Avatar Korra.
And for those of you waiting for me to rip into Mako and Korra's relationship, don't hold your breath. I thought it was stupid in the first season and it is still stupid. Nothing I say will be any different from those who see pass the fandom fodder, so we are just going to move on.
Speaking of Season 1...Korra's Uncle: Unalaq. Seriously guys? Not only could you see him as a villain coming a mile away, but didn't we try 'Well-Intentioned Extremist' before? Oh even better: tell me if this one doesn't sound familiar in the Avatar Universe. You have an older brother who is a popular general, but fails in a campaign and becomes a national disgrace, which the younger brother uses to overstep his sibling and obtain power. It just sounds so unique and interesting, doesn't it? It's not like they've ever done it bef-OH WAIT
Anyway: Unalaq. I do think he has potential if they see this one through. Amon was their first attempt on this road and they backed off at the last minute. Here they would have to go all in and show that he really does believe he's doing the world a favor in his actions. Otherwise, as it stands right now, he's just a new version of Ozai. Speaking of which...a bunch of iron ships showing up to the Southern Water Tribe. I wonder what THAT was a shout out to...
He does seem to have solid manipulation chops and it still isn't clear what his deal with the Spirits are, so that gives me hope. The only logical answer I can think of is that he's controlling them somehow and using that to advance his agenda. Otherwise, if they just attacked when the world was out of balance, it leaves a giant plot hole in the first series. So it gives him plenty of weapons to use in his fight against, well, modernity. I'm willing to let it slide for now...with a yellow card.
The most interesting in all of this was actually Jinora. Considering Korra looks to be spending most of her time punching stuff (again), Jinora looks like she will establish a strong, spiritual connection first and then be the bridge Korra uses to learn more about that world. This, to me, makes perfect sense. Of all of Tenzin's kids, she's the most like him which means that she would be the one most concerned with the spiritual side of bending. So while Korra's helping the entire world spin out of control, Jinora can flesh out the background for the later half of the season when Korra finally gets it together. So, at least on this one, they did get it right.
And the animation is still fucking awesome. The final 'fight' where Korra punches a spiritual door to establish a connection was kind of lazy, but the fights against the spirits are all well done. The decision to start this season off outside of Republic City was a wise move and hopefully splitting time between the tribes and the air temples will keep a strong variety of tones and moods different locations can give you. So while I have a laundry list of story related issues, it has and will always be one of the best looking shows on TV.
The soundtrack though....um...that didn't stand out at all. A lot of it is rightfully recycled from the first season, but many times it didn't add to the scene which shocked the Hell outta me. The Track Team usually delivers solid work and in many cases they win out over the scene itself, so to not have a particular song that I can call to mind right now when the first season had such a great soundtrack is somewhat disappointing.
So, where does that leave us? Honestly, not in a very good place.
But I am willing to be proven wrong. Despite leaving a pretty big mess, there is also some potential there that I am desperately hanging onto because I do not want to hate this show. Here's hoping for better days for Legend of Korra in the near future.