The Legend Of Korra season 2 episodes 7 & 8 review: Beginnings

Review Kaci Ferrell 20 Oct 2013 - 13:44

The Legend Of Korra's artwork is stunning in this week's two-part adventure, Beginnings...

This review contains spoilers.

2.7 Beginnings (Part 1) & 2.8 Beginnings (Part 2)

In this week's two-part episode of The Legend of Korra, it's time for a trip to the land of backstory where the art is breathtakingly beautiful and the confusion level is high.

The people who found Korra are full of plot conveniences this week in that not only do they know who she is, they also know what's wrong with her and how to help her. Deciding that she's been infected with a dark spirit, the only way for her to survive and save the world is to remember Raava.

This is where we meet Wan, the original Avatar whose spirit is reincarnated into all the Avatars who have existed since. In Wan's time, the world was ruled by dangerous spirits, leaving humanity to make its home on the backs of four lion turtles who not only serve as protection, but who also temporarily gift certain people with the ability to control an element as a means of protection when they venture into the wild to hunt. Wan, however, refuses to return his fire and is consequently banished to certain death into the wilds.

He survives, naturally, and befriends the local spirits before setting off to find the airbending lion turtle. Along the way, he stops to separate two duelling spirits, who turn out to be Raava and Vaatu, the spirits of peace and chaos respectively. Their duel is what has until now kept the world in balance, so naturally it's now Wan's job to restore it. Eventually, by combining his spirit with Raava's, he is able to imprison Vaatu and close the spirit portal. You know, the one that Korra just opened up for Unalaq. Apparently doing incredibly misguided things that have severe consequences is just part and parcel of the Avatar gig.

First things first: the art in this episode is incredible. This show, like its predecessor, is so beautifully animated that I often take it for granted; you'll notice I don't often comment on the animation of the show because, to be perfectly honest, I've gotten a bit spoiled by how great it looks. But the art in this episode takes that already high standard and somehow exceeds it; it looks like a storybook come to life.

The episode in general was pretty amazing. I felt like I was watching a clip show of "Legend of Wan" or something; like it was a spin-off in its own right that I was only getting to see bits and pieces of. It was interesting to see how the Avatar world looked so long ago and imagine how it evolved into what it is today. But honestly, it raised more questions for me than it answered.

I'll admit that some of these might just be me having missed something, but then again, I'm twenty-seven years old and paying close attention because I have to recap; if I'm missing something, then the average kid in this show's target age group probably missed a lot of things.

At the end, the lion turtle said that they wouldn't give the elements to humans anymore. Does that mean they took it away from anyone who still had it from a hunting trip? How did humans learn to bend? I thought that in The Last Airbender, it was explained that humans learned bending from various animals; did they only learn from the animals how to refine the gift, rather than how to do it in the first place?

Does Unalaq know about Vaatu's prison? Did he ask Korra to open the portal on purpose? How does Raava being part of the Avatar spirit factor into Korra's complete inability to be peaceful for even two seconds?

Ultimately I just feel confused about how what we learned from this episode fits into the larger canon. I really did enjoy it, though, and I'm genuinely worried that my three favorite episodes this season have had Korra in them for less than a total of five minutes combined.

Read Kaci's review of the previous episode, The Sting, here.

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Avatar Wan's origin story was truly inspirational, I've never seen anything like it! Classic Episode - let's hope Korra can learn from this and gain some much needed character development.

dude ur getting so much of the story wrong, there were 12 lion turtles and the people werent living on them. the turles were between the humans and the "spirit wilds" protecting the humans from the spirits. Wan didnt go off to specifically find the airbending lion turtle he was just looking for another one and happened to come across one that was giving out the air element.

First off: There were "dozens of Lion Turtles all over the world."

Secondly: The turtles starting giving humans the elements to explore the wilds without the expectation of them giving them back, so they can live on their own. but after the spirits left they said they would no longer give them the power of elements.

Thirdly: the humans learned their bending "techniques" from animals. (did you see Wan mastering fire by following the dragons movements?) so yes they refined their bending from the animals

Fourth thing: Wan didn't search for air. he was just looking for other lion turtles and people.

5th: Of course the fire sages would know who the Avatar is. It's kind of their job to serve the avatar.

numero seis: They knew she was infected with a dark spirit because she used her fire healing to connect with

I might be wrong on some of these, so please let me know if I am. Just somethings I noticed

As i understood it the lion turtles stoped giving people the power to bend the elements and the people who where already given it passed it down through their bloodline. Also i was reminded of studio ghibli's spirited away when Wan watched the spirits going the oasis

These. Were. AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
IMHO: These episodes, which I LOVED, were not actually Legend of Korra eps. These were brand new Avatar:TLA eps, and true thank-you gifts to its fans. They were gorgeous and wonderful and brilliant. They were also an homage to Ghibli films: check out the design of certain spirits and the several Mononoke and nature references. BTW, I cheered when the first Lion Turtle rose up... I cheered for the Airbenders' Lion Turtle... I cheered for the Dragon Dance... I cheered when Wan finally became the Avatar and the original Avatar theme was played.
Instead of new questions, I got a lot of answers. Tiny details everywhere will answer some of your questions: the way the Airbenders' tattoos were turtle-shaped instead of arrow-shaped means they only later learned from the sky bison how to refine their bending. In these early days, they were honoring the giver of their bending, the Lion Turtle. Re the fire sages: they didn't know exactly what Korra needed to do to heal... they only gave the Avatar the means to do it.
These eps made me remember a long-ago quote from Steven Spielberg... he'd said that the success of Jurassic Park was what allowed him to make Schindler's List. I had that same feeling here: the success and broad appeal of A:TLA and Korra allowed "Beginnings" to be made in this very special way, because it's what the creators and the fans really wanted. For simple Legend of Korra backstory, these eps weren't required to be so extraordinary.
Don't be worried that you like eps w/o Korra. LoK has many different functions; one of the most important is keeping alive A:TLA.

"... my three favorite episodes this season have had
Korra in them for less than a total of five minutes combined."

pretty much this. these episodes were stunningly beautiful and emotionally powerful. i think that the main reason for this is that the show has been totally absent a moral center for this entire season. asami wasthe moral center in season 1, the one that did the right thing, even when it was hard, even when it cost her everything she valued - mako, her father, potentially her company. we havent seen her really this season, tho, we have only seen korra behaving like a thug and a bully (to put it bluntly). no one has acted out of any kind of higher principle (kataras sense of compassion, aangs pacifism, asamis courage). it has, in my opinion, really dragged the show down and made it feel like some horrible dystopia where the human spirit is completely drowned out by pettiness, cruelty and violence.

honestly, tho, these two episodes? seeing wan actively righting the wrong he did, even if unknowingly, sacrificing his safety, and ultimately his entire life to fix things? this is a return to the narrative and emotional power of tla and feels like a breath of fresh air. these episodes are the only reason i am not just up and quitting watching altogether. hopefully korra will get her head on straight and start acting like an adult instead of a spoiled child.

I assume that those gifted with the elements passed it on to their children (like the bending gene or something like that). That's why in the modern world some are born benders and others aren't.

I'm pretty sure you weren't wrong about anything there but I have a few more comments and this looks like the best place to tie them in.

I'd like to add to your second point, in the final episode of ATLA, a lion turtle 'unlocks' Aang's abilities, he doesn't 'give' them to him, implying that all humans have always had the potential to learn the elements, and the lion turtles would temporarily teach them.

The third point, did you notice that Wan and the dragon are doing 'the dance of the dragon' which featured in ATLA, not important, but it was a nice link in and worth mentioning.

and to your '5th:' It is precisely their job. When Aang visits in ATLA, one of them clearly says, "we are the fire sages, it is our job to serve the avatar."

And finally, in response to Kaci's final question, "How does Raava being part of the Avatar spirit factor into Korra's complete inability to be peaceful for even two seconds?"

Well, I'd wager that Korra's personality is the problem, and why she has 'lost' Raava, she is far too headstrong and independent to look for somebody else to help, even if that somebody is an "all powerful spirit" and inside her.

How does Raava being part of the Avatar spirit factor into Korra's complete inability to be peaceful

You really missed a lot more than the average 8-year-old. Others already enumerated a lot of the more obvious things. The question you pose at the end was answered by Wan at the very beginning of his tale, to be precise, when he told Korra she needs to find Raava, she answered where she is - and he told her he can only set Korra on her way, she has to find Raava [that is the Avatar's peaceful centre] by herself.

I think that's what this double episode was about, Korra has needed to buck her ideas up for a while, but is far too headstrong to realise it by herself, or even from her parents and now ex boyfriend, it only made her worse. The Legend of Wan was a though provoking one, and korra wasn't just watching it, she was remembering it. Korra would have smelled the lion turtles, felt Wan's pain, even heard his thoughts as though they were her own, that MUST have had some effect on her.

What's more, she now knows about Raava being inside her, and I doubt anyone could imagine a purer moral center than the embodiment of light and order.

Finally, Korra now knows what she's done wrong and what she needs to do next, giving the show some much needed direction.

to sum up, I think it's about to get a bit better

I'm just confused! Wan closed the portal right? Who opened the portal at the north pole? and why does Unalaq want Korra to reopen the one at the south? Someone please answer me.

Vaatu? He did say that he originally opened the portal millennia before Wan's time.

The green spirit with the oval circular face was clearly a Spirited Away 'shout out'.

Regarding the 'unlocking', I don't think Aang is a good precedence since he's the avatar :)

Episode 7 and 8 of Book two: Spirits was artistically a delight to watch. I find Korra an inherently unlikeable character. Wan on the other hand voiced by Steven Y of Walking Dead fame, is a fantastic character with positive attitude and charisma.The best two episodes had virtually no Korra in them. That should say something.

One aspect I find hard to digest is the unexplained technological development of the world from Aang to Korra. The old world feel is more suitable to Avatar as evidenced by The Beginnings Part 1 and 2. You are immediately comfortable when the date line is ambiguous.

There was technology in ATLA and like our world any advancement developed during a time of war would be re-used in a time of peace; consider the changes from World War I to even the late 70s.

Actually, as I can recall, cities were being built upon the backs of these lion turtles, a lot of the time.

I recall the tech being explained by people involved with the show when LoK first began. The idea is that the development of metalbending, plus both firebending & the existing Fire Nation war machines being used in a more positive way post-Ozai, accelerated the process of tech evolution.

If Vaatu opened it, Wan closed it. who reopened it?

I was thinking the Vaatu might have escaped but thinking again didn't Unalaq need Korra alive to open the Northern portal? Wasn't that the reason the twins were sent to capture her?

I'd like to mention something here regarding Korra's personality (inability to be peaceful) and 'finding Raava' within her. In the Bhagwad Gita, it's suggested that divinity is in all of us, the same amount (the constant); and the degree of ego we have (sense of self-importance/our personality) is the shadow, or the variable. I thought it was very interesting how a cartoon was able to portray this concept. .. :)

I thought the portal at the north is open already. That's why they have the northern lights there, right? hmmm

I'll need to re-watch it or look up the synopses :)

What do the other lionturtles do? Bend space, time, etc? It was said there are dozens.

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