I don’t want to get too excited but this final Book may very well be the best that the show has known. I know we’ve only seen two episodes but they’ve both been so engaging! Plus, good news, we’re going to get one episode a week until the four-part finale, somewhere around the beginning of December. Woohoo!
By the way, we’ve got a flashback episode! The creators said there would be a Korra-centric episode telling us all about her ordeal. This is the one.
At the end of episode one, we left a beaten up Korra leave the fighting pit. The beginning of this episode finds her in a bathroom, attempting to nurse her wounds. The shot of a character looking at his or her swollen face in a broken mirror is a very classic one but damn if it doesn’t get me every single time. Korra has to leave before being able to heal herself. She is almost run over by a car and walks into a dark alley. There, she comes across a ghostly copy of herself in the Avatar state, a chain wrapped around her right arm. This is Korra during her fight with Zaheer. This Shadow Korra attacks her. Korra firebends at the apparition until it vanishes. Around, passers-by glare at Korra: they didn’t see anything. Was this a real spirit or just a figment of Korra’s exhausted mind?
We jump back three years ago. Korra, still in a wheelchair, is about to leave for the Southern Water Tribe for, I quote, “a couple of weeks”. Her friends are there to say goodbye. Bolin, Asami, Mako, and Tenzin are sweet and kind, wanting to make sure Korra will take the time to recover. They try to reassure her but given Korra’s expression, it doesn’t work.
The next scene shows us Korra having a nightmare where she relives her fight with Zaheer. She wakes up and goes outside to look at the northern lights. Her mom joins her and, in front of her daughter’s distress, opens up: Korra hasn’t been sleeping nor eating for the past three weeks. She begs her to go see Katara. Korra agrees.
Katara diagnoses Korra. Never mind the words they use, Katara tells Korra that she’s suffering from PTSD. To be fair, if someone chased me down relentlessly, captured me, poisoned me then tried to suck the air out of my lungs, I would probably be in the same mental state. Katara explains in very well chosen words that if Korra focuses on getting better, she will be able to get through it. Katara knows what she’s talking about. We know it. Korra knows it too and presses Katara to help her heal. Katara’s first step is to have Korra focus on her big toe. Is this a Pulp Fiction reference? In any case, it works and even this tiny positive event lifts Korra’s spirit up.
Unfortunately, things are not that easy and later, when Korra tries to take a step, she has visions again and collapses. Katara, as smart and caring as ever, reassures Korra as best as she can. Korra, however, is exhausted. I must salute the performance of her voice actress during that whole episode. It reeks of despair and is absolutely spot on, just like the rest of the episode. You can feel the weight of the physical and mental pain Korra is going through in the lighting, the soundtrack, the animation and, of course, the narration. While Korra gets deeper and deeper into darkness, she receives letter after letter of her friends, whose busy, happy lives only remind her of her own situation.
Later, Korra sits in her wheelchair. Katara encourages her once more. Korra snaps. She can’t stand being stuck in the Southern Water Tribe, incapable of helping anybody, incapable of doing anything by herself. But most of all, she doesn’t understand why this happened to her, the Avatar, the woman who believed in her role as the bringer of balance. She fought for the world time and time again and it always backfired. This is the first time Korra opens up about her feelings. The moment is short. I must admit that it left me wanting more but I accept that they chose to keep it simple. Plus, the exchange between Korra and Katara is worth it.
One thing though: as heartwarming as it was to see Korra taking her first steps towards Naga after Katara encouraged her, I couldn’t help but wondering if they were going to let Korra heal completely before even hitting the mid-point. In my defense, I had seen them completely reset Korra’s arc between Book One and Book Two.
In the present, Korra comes across an adorable little puppy… And Shadow Korra. The puppy growls at Shadow Korra, confirming that she is probably more than just a hallucination. The pup chases Dark Korra with his barks and convinces Korra to follow him with his cuteness powers.
In the past, Tenzin visits Korra in the Southern Water Tribe. Korra is excited to show him her progress. Unfortunately, while sparring with a few firebenders, Korra has visions of Zaheer again. She loses all control. Tenzin interrupts the match and tries to reassure Korra, telling her that everything is under control, and especially under the control of Kuvira. It still doesn’t help. If you ask me, Korra’s first meeting with the Great Uniter is going to be more than entertaining. Also, please note that “watersmacking someone in the mouth” is my new favourite expression.
A year ago. Korra spends her nights training and writing to Asami. She opens up to her friend: she can’t go into the Avatar state anymore. She fears she’ll never recover from her encounter with Zaheer and the Red Lotus. At this point, I just want to give Korra a hug. She hasn’t been this vulnerable since her lost days in the Spirit World.
Six months ago. Korra sails away from the Southern Water Tribe, alone, telling her parents that she’s going to Republic City to finish recovering. On the way, she stops at a tiny village where she meets an old man who once met Aang. The old man is a fan of the Avatars, so when two petty thieves steal an old woman’s goods, he announces proudly the presence of Korra. Of course, Korra rushes after the thieves, eager to prove herself. Unfortunately, as soon as the thieves, two earthbenders, attack her, Korra collapses. The thieves flee and the two old people begin doubting her identity.
Shadow Korra’s menacing figure appears to Korra for the first time as she arrives in Republic City. Korra understands what she has to do. She turns around and reaches the shore somewhere else, where she changes her clothes for a modest Earth Kingdom attire and cuts her hair short. Alone, she travels to one of the portals to the Spirit World and meditates inside the Tree of Time. A group of adorable spirits notice and approach her, wondering why she’s been away from them for so long. They want to help Korra get better. She rejects their offer: she needs to recover on her own.
Korra travels the world for answers and writes reassuring letters to her parents, telling them that she’s safe and happy in Republic City. She sails through oceans, climbs mountains, walks through deserts, and always she is followed by Shadow Korra. We learn that Korra ends up in the fighting pit while following Dark Korra, thinking that she wants her to fight. It ends as we know it, except that in Korra’s eyes, her opponent was her dark alter ego. We fast forward and find Korra still following the puppy, who leads her to a swamp. I only know of one swamp in the Avatar world and it is quite the mystical place. We’re in for a treat.
Once inside the swamp, the puppy turns into one of the little spirits that we met before. Korra wonders what it wanted her to see. Turns out, it’s a « who ». Korra follows the spirit through the trees and vines and comes face to face with Shadow Korra. Was it a trap? Korra tries to convince herself that her alter ego is not real. When her shadow attacks, though, Korra is propulsed several yards away. Korra fights back but Shadow Korra dominates her without breaking a sweat. Even when Korra tries to flee, Shadow Korra catches her with her chain and drags her down in a pool of poison that completely envelops her.
Korra wakes up in a cave. The old lady who found her immediately recognizes her as the Avatar. The episode ends on the slouched, wrinkly face of our favourite earthbender, Toph.
Well, talk about a deeply emotional episode! I did worry here and there that they were going to take the easy way out but in the end, they definitely let Korra go through hell and I have a feeling that it’s not over yet. I don’t know what they’re going to do with Toph but I like that I got both the Spirit World and an old character in this episode. It’s dark, it’s engaging, it’s emotional, it’s awesome. I feel spoiled and I want to stay this way until the end of the season.
– Anais L