The Legend of Korra: Harmonic Convergence, Review
We're motoring towards the Legend of Korra Book Two finale at breakneck speed, and Harmonic Convergence is one of the best of the season!
Eska and Desna ask Unalaq what they’re still doing at the South Pole since the spirit portals have been opened and the Water Tribes have been successfully united under his rule. It turns out Unalaq doesn’t care about the fate of the Water Tribes, believing the world on the brink of a new order. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss it side-eye, the twins silently say to one another, “Dude…Dad is bugfuck crazy.”
Meanwhile, Team Avatar arrives at the South Pole with an unconscious Jinora, whom Katara comments is incredibly strong, having been separated from her spirit for over a week and still alive. Time, however, is running out. With the spirit portal guarded on the ground, the only solution is an attack by air, so Asami, Mako, and Bolin use the plane on Varrick’s ship to create a distraction while Korra, Tenzin, Bumi, and Kya fly in on Oogi. Between the troops on the ground waterbending ice javelins at them, the dark spirits swarming around the portal, and some sweet, stylin’ tandem waterbending from the twins, both the plane and Oogi crash, and everyone gets captured.
Bound but not gagged, Korra tries to reason with Unalaq, telling him that freeing Vaatu will undo all the good that’s been done over the last 10,000 years, and Unalaq finally tips his hand. He doesn’t believe that what Avatar Wan did was good. He doesn’t believe driving most of the spirits from the Material World was to our benefit. The Avatar shouldn’t be the bridge between the two worlds because there shouldn’t be a bridge; humans and spirits should live together. And while he is clearly insane, I applaud the writers for giving him what, objectively, could be a very sound argument. A monster never sees a monster in the mirror, and it’s easy to empathize, if not sympathize, with Unalaq’s point of view. Korra was only half right when she dressed him down in “Civil Wars.” He did want power, but power wasn’t the goal; it was just the means to an end. Unlike Fire Lord Sozin, Unalaq has a vision for the world that he genuinely believes will improve it. And his goal is to fulfill a fan theory that’s been a-brewin’ for weeks now: to fuse with Vaatu and become a Dark Avatar.
We get another side-eye from the twins. I swear these two are right on the brink. Korra attempts to appeal to their obvious discomfort with their father’s recent actions, pointing out that Vaatu has made him completely crazy, and I like that Vaatu’s corruption of Unalaq is being acknowledged without letting Unalaq off the hook for the personality traits and behavior that made him the perfect candidate for Vaatu in the first place. Bumi, the one member of the team that wasn’t captured, goes all pied piper on some dark spirits and comes to the rescue. Sure. Why not?
Asami takes Tonraq back to get healed, and the rest head into the Spirit World to get Jinora and prevent Vaatu’s escape. As soon as they cross over, Unalaq attacks, and while Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi go to find Jinora, Mako and Bolin face off against Unalaq so that Korra can close the portal. It’s a good fight, both in terms of effort and visuals, but it’s too little, too late. Korra fails to seal the portal before Harmonic Convergence. The globe becomes awash in a dark glow, and Vaatu is freed from his prison.
This summary would be longer, but there are only so many way I can say “fucking awesome” without it losing its impact. This was a glorious episode from the way it developed all the characters, particularly Bumi and Unalaq, to the action to the mythological development. It’s just fantastic! There’s nothing wrong with the episode itself, but it does highlight a problem touched upon earlier: unfulfilled potential, in this case with Eska and Desna.
In both this episode and the previous one, we saw more of their spectacular tandem bending, the way they work together, two halves of a whole. It really makes me wish we’d seen more of this throughout the season, really develop them as secondary antagonists, but they don’t come off as fully developed as Avatar’s Mai and Ty Lee or even Zhou. They’re much more akin to the Lieutenant from Book One: Air, who suffered from the same problem, being tragically and unnecessarily two-dimensional. The buzzwords “tight story” have, at this point, begun to fester in my ears. This approach in Korra has not had the effect the writers clearly intended it to have. It not only fails to clear out filler, but really inhibits character development, at least organic character development, certainly for a cast this big. For instance…
Desna, whose father was ready to leave him to die only two episodes prior, is quick to defend him, calling him the wisest man in the world. Why? We have seen nothing to explain, much less substantiate, this filial piety. Sure, Zuko was a loyal, obedient son to Ozai, who treated him like crap, but Zuko was A) a much more passionate character, and B) possessed of a sense of honor and duty that the twins do not seem to exhibit. This is not to say their actions and motivations are impossible, but rather that their attitudes, given what we know of them, require a little context. Why are they so dry and humorless? Why would they venerate a father who does not seem like a very warm figure? I mean, sure Ozai was an abusive asshole, his relationship with Zuko was intensely destructive, but it was intense; he was involved in a horribly negative capacity, but he was involved. Unalaq could not seem to care less about his kids, so why would they give a shit what he thinks or wants? Now, one could argue that having a father obsessed with his work (in Unalaq’s case, his spiritual matters), would inspire those kids to seek out his attention and approval, and I would totally buy that, but what are the odds we’re going to get to that in the last two episodes of the season? Are we really going to take time away from Vaatu’s rampage to deal with this? Maybe, but I doubt it would be to everyone’s satisfaction.
That being said, there was something the episode got very, very right, and that was Unalaq. When Tonraq tries to appeal to his brother’s humanity by asking him if he’s willing to become a monster, Unalaq makes a damn good point that he’d be no more a monster than Korra is, and—again, objectively—he’s right. Seriously, this is a fantastic villain. His point of view, however warped, is grounded in some pretty sound arguments, and it’s the worst kind of evil, insidious in how sensible it sounds. All of Unalaq’s beliefs and motivations have very solid foundations, and this makes for a very satisfying conflict. I’ve heard the term Tarrlok 2.0 thrown around, but honestly the only similarities that exist between the two characters at this point is that they’re both antagonists from the Northern Water Tribe. That’s it. Aside from their cultural/national background, they could not be more different, and I love that.
Also interesting is Vaatu and how he consistently addresses Korra as Raava, completely disregarding the Avatar’s humanity. To him Korra is nothing but a shell of meat and bone where Raava resides, and it’s telling of how different his true plans are from Unalaq’s perception. It’s almost certain that Vaatu has no intention of some kind of harmonic symbiosis with Unalaq. If he’s intending to join with him, he is taking that shit over. Unalaq will be erased, gone, or even worse, aware of everything Vaatu does and powerless to say or do anything about it, a puppet trapped inside his own body. Though, now that I think about it, what would be the benefit for Vaatu of such a joining? After all, Raava only joined with Wan after she’d gotten too small and weak to exist on her own and Wan had become attuned to her energy over the course of several meldings. Assuming, Vaatu didn’t fry Unalaq the second he went inside of him, why would he bother? Is he planning to dispose of Unalaq now that he’s free, because that would be a little disappointing. I’m hoping for a Dark Avatar situation.
On the matter of this whole Dark Avatar thing, it raises a few questions. First of all, is this narratively a good idea? One could argue that a Dark Avatar would bring balance to the influence of a Light Avatar, but it could be just as easily argued that Vaatu, being the spirit of chaos, opposes balance, and that keeping him in check is how balance is achieved. It would be interesting though, and would mark Korra as a historically significant Avatar for her to bookend Wan, closing out the era of only one Avatar and being there at the beginning of an age where two Avatars vie for the fate of the world. Would this new Avatar also master the elements? And what of the Avatar cycle? There is a kind of poetry to both Avatars always being of the same native element, but their deaths and rebirths wouldn’t necessarily align, and within a few generations, they could fall out of sync. For that matter, Vaatu might not conform to any kind of cycle at all. Being the spirit of chaos, he could reincarnate into whatever damn nation he pleased: water, earth, air, water, fire, fire, earth, air, water, etc., making him unpredictable and even more dangerous.
There’s certainly value in going either way, and it would be understandable if the writers deemed the idea as too messy, especially given the moral implications of what the side of light, in the service of the greater good, would have to do every dozen or so years to a vulnerable little Anti-Christ. I would not blame the writers for dodging that bullet and making the Dark Avatar a failed experiment on Unalaq’s behalf…but I’m kind of hoping that Unalaq succeeds, gets killed, and the good guys will just have to spend the next few years on the lookout for the Dark Avatar, and this is just what the world is now. We have entered a new age. I have to admit, I kind of like it. But I’m not holding out hope.
All together though? This episode was fantastic, and I am pumped for the finale…which Nickelodeon have decided to release early online! We’ll have that one up as soon as we can!
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