The Hero’s Journey
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Korra Alone, evocative of the amazing Zuko Alone from Avatar: The Last Airbender, is one of the most powerful pieces of storytelling I have ever seen. Every beat, every scene, every little piece comes together in such a beautiful way it’s hard not too just get swept away. The powerful music from Jeremy Zuckerman and the Track Team certainly helps that feeling, imbuing every scene with an incredible musical pathos. In contrast to the premiere, this episode is all about Korra and it works superbly. Not wasting any time, the Korra team immediately coalesces Korra’s three-year journey into a single episode, imbuing catharsis throughout as we learn how Korra ended up where she was and how close she had come to coming back home to Republic City. And as the final scene begins to wrap, there isn’t a dry soul in the house when Korra mutters “Toph?” “Nice to see you too, Twinkletoes.” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The entirety of the episode is about Korra’s hero’s journey as she tries to overcome the post traumatic stress disorder that Zaheer and his company had left behind. It can be difficult to show internal conflicts if the individual is on his or her own and Korra takes the clever path of externalizing that internal conflict with presenting whom I would call Dark Korra. She’s a symbol of the darkness with Korra herself that must be defeated if she is to truly fulfill the destiny that is ahead of her as the Avatar. Dark Korra is one of the show’s best models and she’s used incredibly effectively, toying on the Avatar’s own darkness. But defeating her inherently requires patience and humility and if we know Korra by now, those are not her strongest suits. It’s understandable that three years’ worth of recovery not returning her to her strengths creates an immense sense of frustration. Add on top of that the reality of her being the Avatar and being responsible in some way for the entire world (no big deal), and it’s a wonder she hasn’t completely collapsed yet.
The pen pal letters were a nice touch and those scenes are a testament to how well the show knows its own characters. Of course Asami’s letters are professional, imbued with just the right amount of emotion. Mako’s letters are notably perfunctory, him openly admitting that he doesn’t really know how to write letters. Bolin’s are hilariously over the top and attached with colorful, kiddie drawings of the team. It’s telling that Asami is the only one to whom Korra actually writes back. I’ve loved how the show has developed their relationship and avoided the “two women hating each other over a boyfriend trope” so many shows have fallen into. Sure, they shared a boyfriend in their past. But the three of them are friends, they’re better than that.
Katara is wonderfully used here as the mentor who heals Korra in more ways than one. She physically heals Korra with a great toe reference to Kill Bill (I’m assuming it’s a deliberate reference). But more than just helping her move on her literal feet, Katara understands that being the Avatar is a tough job and that she’s not the only one who’s suffered a lot in the role. She reminds Korra that Aang had faced the genocide of his entire people and he had to recover from that and still save the world from the threat of Fire Lord Ozai’s aggression. Korra begins to understand, setting off to find that new beginning.
The episode takes Korra through the Spirit World, where we meet a Pikachu-esque spirit (how are the spirits becoming more adorable?). The spirits note that Korra is missing her Raava energy and the spirit, transforming into an adorable little puppy, leads her into a swamp. It’s a wonderful homage to Luke Skywalker entering the cave on Dagobah and facing the Dark Side himself. Struggle as Korra does, she is sucked into this metal quicksand (a nice visual, considering that the metal benders under Kuvira are the real threat this season). She wakes up in a beautifully constructed cavern, coming face to face with Toph. The inventor of metal bending coming into this season is a brilliant turn of events and I cannot wait to see how their meeting crucially changes Korra’s journey. On to next week!
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Asami designed those airbender suits, according to the creators at New York Comic-Con
+That open with the bathroom scene was far more hilarious than it had any right to be
+Korra almost getting run over was a neat little metaphor
+“Now don’t take this the wrong way, but I can’t wait for you to leave.”
+“Spoiler alert: Pabu and I already miss you.”
+Young Korra walking over to hug Naga is one of the most adorable things I have ever seen
+My God, the animation from Studio Mir was on fire today, the shots of the Aurora Borealis and the starry sky as Korra practices water bending are amazing
+Korra: “If you say, ‘Be patient,’ I am going to water smack you in the mouth.” Tenzin: “Nnnnnooo—I was going to say—you need to—not worry about the future. Be grateful for where you are now and the progress you’ve made.”
+Korra in a firebending uniform
+The wall of Avatars at that shop with Aang air bending seaweed wraps
+Can Kyoshi get her own series?
+Korra defeated by thieves and then cutting off her hair as a symbol of wanting a fresh start
+Dark Korra leading Korra into the earth bending ring and metaphorically being the one who defeated Korra
Note: I realize that the exclamation points above are not professional, but I do not apologize. Toph is back, dammit!
Title: Korra Alone
Written By: Michael Dante DiMartino
Directed By: Ian Graham
Animated By: Studio Mir
Image Courtesy: Realm Beyond Sight @ Blogspot