Prepare yourselves, because I’m about to spoiler-bend.
As much as I’ve enjoyed the start of the second season of The Legend of Korra, it’s become an uneven series as of late. The Tenzin family vacation side-story has felt forced, several characters have been relegated to the sidelines and even Korra herself isn’t that interesting when she has to carry the show.
That being said, the latest block of episodes has made me emotionally invested in the show once again. Proving that stronger episodes happen to be the ones that don’t feature too much of Korra herself, we finally got to see some more world-building in the Avatar world, as an amnesiac Korra has to find a way to reconnect with a spirit known as Raava.
This leads us to Wan, the first Avatar. And what a beautiful pair of episodes it is. The animation in this second season has felt a bit rushed, favouring cheaper images for action, but that frugal sensibility works beautifully here. With mankind and the spirit world rendered in lush, vibrant glory you’d wonder what could go wrong in this picturesque world. Well, apparently Australia has nothing on the older age of mankind, as anything with a spectra presence wants to murder anything with the mere taint of a human on it.
With humanity relegated to living their lives out in the massive cities on the backs of turtle-lions (remember those days?), life ain’t so great for everyone. Enter Wan, a rogue with a good heart who steals the element of fire in order to help those around him, and winds up sentenced to exile in the murder-factory known as the spirit-wilds, an outback teaming with all manner of threats.
And in just two short episodes, Wan adds so much to the Avatar mythos. It’s here where we see him connect with the spirits, master fire-bending and create the first proper fire-bending martial arts. And it’s here where we finally get to see the true big bad of the Avatar universe Vahtu. Tricked into freeing him from the control of his sister Raava, Wan accidentally unleashes an unstoppable force of darkness and chaos on the world and has to set out to find a way to stop Vahtu before he becomes too strong for Raava, the symbol of order and balance, and bring 10 000 years of darkness to mankind.
It’s a great explanation for why the spirits are becoming corrupted, and it also shows just how relevant the Avatars are to humanity. Wan’s journey to master all four elements, using Raava as a conduit to help him switch between them during battle, also serves as a great reason why there can only be one Avatar. It’s also a fun episode, revealing so much history between mankind and the spirits. And then it all comes to a head, in an all-or-nothing battle that sees Wan permanently bond with Raava in order to find enough power to not destroy Vahtu, but to imprison him.
As I said, there’s some massive world-building that goes on in this episode, but its done in a such a manner that it never feels crowded with too much information. It’s here that we learn that Wan is the Avatar of Raava, and that’s where all future Avatars derive their power from.
And even at its saddest moment, when an older and broken Wan admits that he has failed to help bridge the divide between mankind and the spirit world, this double-bill manages to end on a high note. Next to All Star Superman, this one scene of magnificent voice-acting and animation almost brought me to tears because its just so damn well done.
But more importantly, this episode gives Korra the one thing that has truly been missing from the show: A greater purpose. She’s been preaching balance ever since the new season began. And with only a few weeks until the next Harmonic Convergence, when Vahtu will be strong enough to once again challenge Raava and her Avatar for another 10 000 year reign of either order or chaos, the pieces are all beginning to fall into place.
Last Updated: October 21, 2013