News of the Civil War has already reached Republic City by the time Team Avatar arrives home, having already divided the local Water Tribe population between north and south. Korra, rejecting all pretense of neutrality, leads the Water Tribe southerners of Republic City in a peaceful protest that turns anything but peaceful when several explosions detonate in the Southern Water Tribe Cultural Center. Korra is convinced the northerners are behind it, but Mako, who fights two firebenders fleeing the scene, isn’t convinced and continues to investigate, despite Korra (and pretty much everyone else) insisting that the northerners were obviously to blame.
Korra’s meeting with President Raiko doesn’t get very far. He believes it’s not the Republic’s place to interfere with internal Water Tribe matters and refuses to send troops down the Southern Water Tribe. After a bizarre brainstorming session that involves hot peppers and gravity boots (bless you, Varrick), Team Avatar decides to approach General Iroh directly about leading some troops down to the Southern Water Tribe, which actually works until Raiko gives him express orders not to help them. His hands tied, Iroh suggests that Korra talk to his mother, the Fire Lord, and I nearly shit my pants with excitement at the prospect of seeing elderly Zuko and his daughter. The irony of our protagonists seeking aid from the Fire Nation to defend them from the Water Tribe just could not be any more delicious if it were dipped in Nutella.
Korra leaves for the Fire Nation, but doesn’t get very far before she is attacked by Eska and Desna, whom Unalaq has sent to bring their cousin back so he can use her to open the Northern Spirit Portal, which it turns out he does need her for after all. Eska, blaming Korra for stealing Bolin and ruining her wedding, hardly needs her arm twisted, but Desna…you know, it’s only a line or two and it’s very subtle, but I think we’re starting to see the first shades of his personality. I could be wrong, but I got the impression that he’s starting to smell the faintest aroma of bullshit surrounding his father.
So, the twins attack Korra, which is only so successful because she’s the fucking Avatar, and just as she’s about to flatten them, a dark spirit rises up out of the ocean and starts thrashing her. With a little Avatar state action, Korra starts spiritbending the fucker and almost succeeds this time but ultimately doesn’t, and we end on the cliffhanger of the spirit seeming to devour her.
Meanwhile, while everyone else attends to their serious business, Varrick takes an aimless Bolin under his wing for a look at Republic City nightlife, and seeing Bolin interact with his pro-bending fans clues him in to what a natural performer Bolin is. This leads Varrick to the idea of splicing footage he had a film crew take of Unalaq’s entire invasion with staged footage of Bolin as a Southern Water Tribe warrior in a ridiculous outfit just homoerotic enough for me to think Varrick just might be a true libertine. This unexpected turn for Bolin’s character is actually kind of a perfect fit. We’ve seen how much he enjoys attention and how well he can work a crowd, he’s got a cute face, and with the recent advent of moving pictures (“movers” in this world), why wouldn’t he become a movie star? But let’s not neglect to point out the moral grey area of our heroes concocting a what is essentially a propaganda film (bad) in the service of their cause (good). Hmm…
Oh, and there’s also some really thin story about Meelo training his lemur, Poki, and while it was nice to get some spotlight on Meelo, I really didn’t see the point of this story at all. It didn’t develop his character all that much unless that army of lemurs now at his command factors in somewhere later.
This episode was lighter than last week’s, and that’s not a criticism. After the roller coaster that was “Civil Wars,” it was good to take things down a notch and explore how this conflict is not only affecting the rest of the world but the characters as well. It also allowed for the reintroduction of Chief Beifong, which…yes. Always yes. Korra’s and Mako’s relationship issues finally come to a head when he calls her on her “with me or against me” attitude and how it’s not fair of her to expect him not to do his job just because it gets in the way of her agenda. It’s a conflict so potent they finally break up over it. I’ll say it again: legitimate, character-based, character-specific conflict is the good kind of romantic plotting. More, please!
Lastly, the appearance of the dark spirit raises an interesting question. While we’ve theorized that these spirits aren’t a purely natural occurrence, that Unalaq may be manipulating them, he was all the way back in the south when it appeared before Korra and attacked her… and it only did so once the twins were in danger. They seemed as surprised as Korra was, so it’s safe to assume they didn’t summon the spirit themselves, and yet there it was. Korra has remarked upon how the twins have always given her the creeps, how there’s a vibe about them that’s off, and we’ve seen that. What we still haven’t seen or heard anything about it their mother. With all Unalaq’s communion with the spirits and their world, is it possible that Eska and Desna aren’t entirely human? Because if they’re not, boy howdy, is that a can of worms I want to see opened!
I give this episode three out of five stars for a solid story, good character development, and some interesting ideas on which to speculate until at least next week, when I’ll see you back here for Den of Geek’s review of “The Sting.”