This is what I would call a pivoting episode, that is, the events happened for the purpose of wrapping up one part of the storyline to prepare for the start of another. In this instance, concluding Korra overcoming both her fear and trauma from the past villains and the physical (and spiritual) handicap the remaining metal in her body caused her, and preparing for Korra to eventually confront Kuvira, who’s planning to bring Zaofu under her thumb boot heel.
I enjoyed it, but it definitely was overshadowed by the last episode.
The writers decided to address everyone’s concerns about the Tenzin kids’ ages by straight up making the Aang Gang connection, and by the way Meelo and Jinora took down the Earth Empire soldiers, I don’t think Tenzin was wrong to believe his kids could take care of themselves.
There was a fun flashback to Tenzin in Book 2, attempting to meditate and being interrupted by Bumi with Ikki pestering Jinora. Apparently, though, Jinora’s spiritual powers have grown in the last three years, as she confidently believes that she will be able to locate Korra in the great galactic spiritual phone book within a day or so. The point that she seemed to also be landing at spiritual hot spots also kind of was a throw back to Tenzin’s attempts to meditate, as well.
Meelo….I can’t get over whether I find his bombastic personality incredibly fun or annoying (I take Jinora’s side in this), but I do find his large head kind of disturbing! “We will hunt for our food!” “We’re vegetarians, we don’t hunt!” Hee. I had to appreciate the subtle aspect of Meelo complaining to Ikki about running off the love of his life and then tossing the flower she had given him away in exasperation. And what about the art? I know I’m pretty much a doodle artist, but great, some elementary school kid wipes my butt in sketching. Thanks, Meelo!
Jinora did her Jinora thing, breaking out of her more calm and peaceful demeanor only when the sight of Korra, both spiritually and physically excited her. She’s definitely grown up some and had a little bit of Katara’s motherly demeanor from ATLA.
Ikki, who probably has one of the worst names ever for a girl, especially one with a little brother willing to to tease her, was I think the primary focus for the children. She kind of suffers from the middle child syndrome of getting no respect, but is entirely competent. She also finally gave us the Flying Squirrel Suited Air Bender Flying After the Flying Squirrel/Sugar Glider moment we have all been asking for (haven’t we? Maybe just me?). Her manipulation of the Imperial soldiers was awesome, from her coolness to the point where she nonchalantly pulled her arms up out of the rope to point at the map.
One of the great aspects of ATLA and Korra are the side characters. Characters who you will see maybe for a few minutes at most, and almost definitely, never again. The creators infuse these characters with personalities and substance and the end result is a world that breathes so much more than almost any other fictional world out there. This is true for the soldiers and the flower girl in this episode.
ATLA was also mirrored again by a group of three on an air bison being pulled down into the swamp. I do wish that Meelo’s fart bending could be quietly retired, even if it’s in character. Meh! It was also not the last time, either, that Aang’s visit to the swamp was replicated and that concerns Korra and the Banyan Tree.
The swamp continues its vision inducement with Korra getting a nice encapsulation of the three villains who have caused her the most pain, fear, and suffering. It’s temporary and she’s left to ponder them over on a large root until she’s joined by Toph who pretty much lays out why our final season is called Balance. Amon wanted equality, Unalaq brought spirits back, and Zaheer believed in freedom, but they were all imbalanced and went too far. Now Kuvira, who fervently believes in uniting the Earth Kingdom/Empire and creating a better world through technology and innovation has become imbalanced. It is the Avatar’s duty, or should we say, “calling” to restore balance to the world. Korra immediately doubts herself and Toph scolds her for having lost her connection to the world and takes her to the Banyan Tree.
Banyan trees have religious importance in Hinduism, as have trees in general through out the world. Buddha found enlightenment under a tree (not a Banya, tho’) and awakened to the Four Noble Truths, which involved recognizing suffering in the world, why it happens, and what is need to stop it (this is an extremely bad simplification – cause hey, my world religious class was years ago!). Now we have Korra under a giant spiritual tree, one that is connected to the world, where she is made aware of its connection by Toph, who had also explained to her about our Villains who caused suffering, and the cause of it was imbalance. The only way for Korra to stop this imbalance is to let go of her fears and this is done, in part by removing the remaining poison from her body. (It can be pointed out that in the ATLA episode, The Swamp, Huu, a swamp bender, claims to have found enlightenment under the same tree).
Huu had this to say, “In the swamp, we see visions of people we’ve lost, people we’ve loved, folks we think are gone. But the swamp tells us they’re not. We’re still connected to them. Time is an illusion and so is death.”
In this case, Korra connects with some one she thinks she’s lost, herself as the Avatar and Raava. In a physical sense, she also reconnects with her present by seeing Meelo, Ikki, and Jinora, who represent the life she created when she first arrived in Republic City and assumed the mantle and duties of the Avatar. As an extra bonus, as part of her connecting with the tree, Korra has the exact same experience as Aang, when she touches the root with the flash of spiritual energy that accompanies the touch.
With Team Tenzin’s Kids present and requesting help, Korra finally agrees that she’s ready to return to being the Avatar and before a fire, is required to withdraw the poison from her body. In front of a blazing fire, which as Iroh mentioned in ATLA, is the element of Power, Korra finds the power to overcome her fears of Zaheer and pain, and draws the poison out of her arms, bead by bead. I could be wrong, but I think she withdrew four beads of poison, which could be construed to represent the three villains she has faced and the villain she will face. Toph, like a good environmentalist, seals the poison in stone, permanently locking them away.
I have to admit, seeing Korra cry/smiling when she saw the kids got me a little choked up, as well. Ahem. Well. It made me aware of how dusty my room was when I was watching. Something like that.
Other relevant information, Kuvira is moving on Zaofu. I would be willing to guess that this will be the event that drives Bolin off the TechnoFreedom Train, as unlike the rest of the formerly shattered Earth Kingdom, there’s nothing to be fixed in Zaofu. There’s no hunger, there’s no poor or mistreated, and in short, there are no justifications for Kuvira’s actions other than plain ol’ power and control. Pokey eating his own vomit. Didn’t Momo do that once? Is Pepper related to Blueberry Spice Head? Rohan is apparently being babysat by Pabu, as we saw neither, while we know both are on Air Bender Island. Korra’s photograph on the fish shack, forced smiles never look good! Hopefully she will swing by for another.