The Legend of Korra Book Two: Spirits Review

SPOILER ALERT!  I just can’t thoroughly review Book Two of Korra without talking about spoilers, so I’m warning you now that you shouldn’t read this review unless you’ve seen all of Book Two.  You have been warned.

Out of all the movies and TV shows coming out this year, I think Book Two of The Legend of Korra was one of the ones that I was most looking forward to.  Not only was it the continuation of the follow-up to one of my favorite shows ever, Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it was going to explore an area left mostly untouched both in Avatar and Book One of Korra: spirits and the spirit world.  This was an opportunity to take the franchise to new heights and add to the already rich lore of the Avatar universe.  Book Two had just about everything going for it, and that was what had me so excited.  Unfortunately, Book Two fails to live up to its potential in almost every regard, leaving me incredibly disappointed with the final product.  While The Legend of Korra Book Two: Spirits has a few great moments scattered throughout, it is a largely unsatisfying chapter in Avatar Korra’s story.

From the beginning, it’s clear that Book Two doesn’t quite live up to the standards of Book One.  The dialogue doesn’t feel as well-written, the dark spirits look a bit generic (much like the ghosts in Luigi’s Mansion), and Korra magically learns how to calm dark spirits down despite the fact that no one taught her how to do it.  However, the greatest letdown of Book Two is the character development or, rather, the lack thereof.  Most of the characters that I grew to love (Lin, Tenzin, Asami, etc.) were practically reduced to background characters, contributing almost nothing to the plot, and even Tenzin’s arc with Kaya and Bumi (who was a huge disappointment, by the way) felt like it was only added to pad out the story.  Even Bolin who, even though he wasn’t one of my favorite characters in Book One, had such great potential to shine in Book Two did nothing of importance until episode 12.

The preexisting relationships between the characters are handled poorly as well, most notably Mako and Korra’s.  Within a few episodes, they break up after getting into some forced argument about Mako not supporting Korra enough, and I wouldn’t have had a huge problem with it if they hadn’t basically declared their undying love for each other at the end of Book 1 or there had been some decent build up to their breakup.  I understand that all couples argue, but going from “I love you” to “I don’t want to be with you anymore” is a bit ridiculous (what is this, Twilight?).  This along with another unsuccessful romance between Mako and Asami (though I liked their relationship more this time around) and Bolin having two teased romances that came out of nowhere and went nowhere left a sour taste in my mouth as far as the old characters were concerned.

However, the writers did introduce a series of new characters, including Unalaq, Korra’s uncle who has a vast knowledge of how to deal with spirits and who later becomes one of the main villains of Book Two.  While he does bring up an interesting dilemma, mankind’s treatment of the spirits and its disregard for old traditions, he ends up becoming a pretty generic villain.  Unlike previous villains in both Avatar and Korra, Unalaq doesn’t get much in terms of background.  Sure, you find out a bit about his past, but you never really get to see his motives.  With Ozai and Azula, they were born into an evil environment and both wanted to rule over those they felt were weaker through fear.  With Zuko, he was desperate to prove himself and regain his honor.  With Amon, he wanted to take away what he thought was the source of all evil in the world.  With Unalaq, he wanted to destroy the world because he’s evil.  Because we don’t get a good look at his motives, he loses the presence that made his predecessors so menacing and intriguing.  As for the other new characters, I felt that they were underutilized except for Eska, who mainly brought some comic relief into the first few episodes.

Despite all these flaws, though, there were some things that I liked about Book Two.  I found the two episodes featuring Wan and the origin of the first Avatar fascinating even though they contradict established lore on several occasions, such as when they explain the origins of bending and the nature of the Avatar State.  The war between the two Water Tribes, as short as it was, was a great source of tension, something lacking from the main story.  I also liked Mako’s subplot as an officer in Republic City trying to find the culprit behind a series of terror attacks that appear to be the doing of the Northern Water Tribe.  And I loved that Jinora finally got to contribute something to the plot.  But, these subplots also have their own flaws.

As I mentioned before, the Wan episodes contradict preexisting lore at times and I didn’t quite buy Wan’s transformation in the first episode.  In addition, it’s never explained how Jinora knows so much about the spirits, how she knows how to solve some of the problems Korra and the others face, and why she can enter the spirit world when Tenzin can’t.  The Civil War, which looked to be one of the more exciting plot points, is dismissed for most of Book Two while these other subplots happen.  My biggest problem with them, though, is that they ultimately overshadow the main plot.  I was actually more worried about how Mako was going to avoid going to jail for the rest of his life than I was about the world coming to an end, and when your subplots are more interesting than your main plot, that’s not a good sign.  That being said, the final two episodes were amazing (even if they relied on a deus ex machina to resolve everything) and they definitely ended Book Two on a high note.  But, two good episodes, even if they are the finale, don’t make up for all the missteps of the previous twelve.

In the end, Book Two of The Legend of Korra feels rushed, which is ironic considering how long it took to be released.  It may seem like I’m going out of my way to be hard on Book 2, but I hate the fact that I have such a negative opinion of it.  I’ve been a fan of the Avatar universe from the very beginning.  I waited anxiously for The Boy in the Iceberg to air for the first time ever since I heard about it, and I kept watching through all three seasons of Avatar and Book One of Korra.  These two series are very dear to me and I never pass up an opportunity to rewatch old episodes and relive all the great moments these series have to offer.  But, it’s for those reasons that I’m so disappointed with how Book Two ended up.  It had so much potential, but it was squandered on poor character development, plot points that went nowhere, and subplots that wound up being more interesting than the main story.  Book Two may be worth watching if you’re a hardcore Avatar fan (if for no other reason than to see where the plot goes), but casual viewers may find it a turnoff to the series, which is such a shame since I know the writers are capable of so much more.

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One Response to The Legend of Korra Book Two: Spirits Review

  1. Pingback: How I spend my semester break :3 | Daniel Azwan

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