Sunday, April 22, 2012
The Legend of Korra Recap: A Leaf In the Wind
The Legend of Korra: A Leaf in the Wind
In a grainy newsreel like the ones your grandparents used to watch at the Saturday afternoon picture show, Republic City announces the arrival of their newest citizen, Avatar Korra. After being secluded in the South for many years, this master of water, earth and fire will be learning airbending from Master Tenzin, the son of the great Avatar Aang. Will he be able to tame this hot-headed teen?
Well, certainly not by banning her from professional bending matches, although he certainly tries. It turns out that Korra is absolutely nuts about the sport. As the story begins, she's got a newspaper and she's eagerly calling out the juicy details of the latest matches. She wants to go see them live. Can we, Tenzin? Huh? Huh? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeese?
Avatar Aang was a joyful, exuberant boy who had a funny habit of breaking stuffy rules. Remember, this is the guy who taught kids in the Fire Nation to dance during secret meetings in the dead of night. Unfortunately, Tenzin does not share his father's passion for life-improving anarchy.
Tenzin... is a stick in the mud. No, she can't go to the pro-bending fights. This bending thing is much too important to waste on something like fun. Korra gets to stay on the island, watched closely by guards, concentrating on her very important studies and going slowly bonkers with boredom.
Good luck with that, Master Tenzin. She's a teenager. This is not going to work. I do find it very funny that while she was in Republic City, she wanted nothing but to reach the island. Now that she's on the island...
As they take a calm, meditative walk through the calm, meditative garden, Korra explains that air is the only element that does not come easily to her... PFFFFFFFT! Not a very calm, meditative noise. Tenzin explains that each Avater often finds that it's hardest to master the element that differs the most from his or her own personality. Aang had trouble with earthbending; Korra can't do airbending. Tenzin has just the practice place for her. At first it seems like a simple enough maze of delicate little asian gates. All she has to do is walk through the maze without touching any of them. Piece of cake.
There's a catch. Tenzin sets the winds upon them, and suddenly all of them are spinning rapidly like blender blades. Tenzin tells Korra to be like a leaf, which he sends floating delicately through the spinners, twirling at every breath of resistance. Jinora, whom I realize looks an awful lot like Mai, offers to demonstrate the correct technique, and she twirls gracefully through the maze in a series of spiral movements, changing direction as she hits resistance from the air moving in the gates.
OK, it's so easy a little kid can do it! Korra charges is, and finds herself being bumped and slammed from gate to gate as the children shout encouragement. "Don't force your way through!" "Be the leaf!" Unfortunately, all Korra can do is be a human pinball in her own personal bally table of shame, and each spinning gate is a bumper that bangs her around. After the second attempt, she gets knocked out. Game over, no extra ball. Tenzin is not pleased.
As night falls, Korra is trying to force the air to move for her and getting nowhere when she hears the sweet, sweet sound of fun in the distance. Some of the guards are listening to a pro-bending match on the radio, and after a moment, so is Korra, hiding on the roof. The Fire Ferrets are involved in a really exciting match, and just when it's getting good... the radio shuts off.
It's Tenzin. BUSTED! Korra argues that Tenzin said she could not attend a match... he didn't say she couldn't listen to one. Tenzin grumbles something about bedtime, which reminds me that his own children are all under the age of ten. Lucky Korra gets to be the oldest kid who softens up the rules for everybody else.
Does anybody else here think it's sad that Aang never met any of his grandchildren? Korra is older than all of them. Tenzin must have gotten started late. Maybe Tenzin has nephews and nieces who got to know their grandpa.
The next day, Tenzin and his students practice meditating. Well, Tenzin and his daughters meditate. Korra is wiggling and scratching herself; she thinks she's doing it wrong. Meelo has gone to sleep. Tenzin talks about airbending as the discipline of freedom to a girl who is under virtual house arrest and forbidden to listen to the radio; he promises that all these lessons that mean nothing now will just click.
Now, here's the bad thing about stifling the freedom of a teenager who just happens to be the Avatar... she has ways of getting away. In the dead of night, Waterbender Korra jumps into the sea and swims away from her airbending prison to the place where the action is. It's lucky the pro - bending arena is so close to the Airbending temple, huh? Korra jumps aboard the arena and begins looking around. She appears to be backstage; when a grumpy old fight manager starts grumbling at her for trespassing, it's clear that she is. Fortunately, a cute guy is passing by to hear the old guy yelling at her, and he steps in to save the day. He's been looking all over for her! She's with him! Well, no, not WITH him, with him, but... OK, goody, grumblepuss went away. Korra's new benefactor appears to be rather used to saving girls from the bouncers and then showing them around; his next move is to impress her with a ring-side view of the official arena itself. He also introduces himself; his name is Bolin. Before they can get any further down this road, however, Bolin's very intense and serious brother intervenes. This is Mako, and he wants Bolin to stop showing fangirls around before matches.
And it hits me. Zuko,is that you? The coloring, the attitude, the chip on the shoulder... it can't be Zuko, but it makes me wonder if he's the reincarnation. Bolin is very much like Sokka. I see a trend developing here. At any rate, Bolin decides to introduce Korra instead of throwing her out... but Mako is completely uninterested in shaking her hand. He is not a Manners Bender.
And then... the match is on. Pro Firebending is a sport in which teams of three benders, each proficient at a different element, form a team intent on forcing members of the opposing team off a platform and into the water. Every official error moves a player closer to the edge of the platform and out of the game. Mako and Bolin are on the Fire Ferrets, and they are taking on the Golden Temple Tigerdillos. Mako is a star player, but their teammate Hasook isn't playing very well and the Ferrets lose round one. They storm back to victory in round two, but round three begins with a disaster; one of the Tigerdillos takes out both Hasook and Bolin with one great shot. Mako is the only one left, and he's playing one against three. Does he stand any chance at all?
This is a hero's journey. Of course he's got a chance. It's the Tigerdillos that don't. He's weaving! He's bobbing! He's... smart. He's parrying blows without attacking. He's wearing the Tigerdillos out, and when they are completely pooped... that's when Mako makes his moves. It's three on one.. now two on one... now one on one... and now, it's Mako alone, triumphant. Korra gets stars in her eyes. Never mind that he's rude to her and he's doesn't want her around... he can do THAT with his rad skillz in firebending.
Back in the training area, Korra is gushing about the Fire Ferrets, but Mako is grumbling. Hasook nearly cost them the match, and he still won't say a single polite word to Korra. Korra eagerly asks Bolin if he can show her some moves, and Bolin, still eager to impress a pretty girl, agrees... but wait... her clothing clearly suggests she's a waterbender. Bolin is an earthbender...
That's OK. Korra is an earthbender.
And a waterbender.
And a firebender.
And the Avatar.
And Mako freely admits he's an idiot. Now it's Bolin's turn to be a fanboy.
Training is soon underway, as Bolin teaches Korra how to hurl rock discs into the net. She's flat-footed... dance a little more. Once again - SCORE! Bolin praises her with huge enthusiasm. Mako offers up a bored "Not bad" which appears to be his highest praise, but not enough for disappointed Korra. How can she impress him? Why does she care so much when Bolin is being nicer to her?
Back at the airbending temple, the twirling gates are still eating Korra for lunch. She's continuing to ping pong her way from gate to gate and bruise to bruise, while Tenzin scolds her to have patience. Finally, she gets one bruise too many and explodes in a round of firebending fury, sending flames bursting everywhere and demolishing the set of air gates. Tenzin stands in shock. "That was a two thousand year old artifact!" The airbending gates survived a hundred years war and the almost complete extermination of the airbenders, but it could not survive Korra's temper tantrum. Oops. Korra deflects attention from her own terrible temper by calling Tenzin a terrible teacher, and storms off. Don't try this at home, kids. You'll be grounded for sure.
Pema is concerned when Korra does not show up for dinner; Tenzin should have been alerted by that. Pema tells him to give Korra space, and Tenzin asks his own children not to let their teenaged years be like Korra's. Jinora, who is already getting the patented pre-teen glare, makes no such promises.
Korra has sneaked back to the probending arena... of course. As she enters the player's area, she sees Bolin and Mako sitting dejected, as if their world was about to crumble. And indeed... it is about to do that. Their waterbender, Hasook, is a no-show. Apparently he has had enough of Mako's insults. That's what happens when you don't play nice with your friends, Mako. They can't play, and therefore, they are out of the tournament... unless... could Korra fill in? It's not cheating if she only uses her waterbending skills.
Of course, Korra does not actually know the rules of the game - at all. Mako sees the problem with this, but Korra overrules him, declares them ready to play, and grabs a uniform. Yes, Mako... she destroyed an artifact earlier today. She's a little crazy. You can thank her later.
As the match starts, Mako tells Korra not to do anything - just keep from getting knocked out of the area. I guess he's decided she's useful as a warm body that allows them to play, but not much else.... and, in the opening seconds of the game, she proves his point by illegally knocking one of the opponents over the side. Instead of executing a star move, she's gotten herself a penalty and has to move back a zone. Again, oops.
The announcer can immediately tell that Korra does not know what she's doing... Foul! Move back to Zone 3 Korra is only seconds into the match, and she's already on the verge of elimination. Of course, in a way she's already done the guys a great service by merely allowing them into the arena, but... The Platypus Bears smell blood. In Round Two, they begin to hit Korra hard, and once again, she loses her temper and has an earthbending tantrum right in the middle of everything, deflecting some rock discs and stopping the match as everyone stares in shock.
"Foul.... I.... think"... stammers the announcer.
And of course, everybody back at the airbending temple just happen to be listening to the match, and Tenzin just happens to pass by as the match officials just happen to make their ruling: The Avatar may continue to play in the match as long as she does not bend anything except water. Tenzin just happens to hear this, and his face turns as red as the Fire Ferrets uniform as he storms off the island to blow her home himself. Funny how that all just sort of happened.
I think the Platypus Bears were hoping to disqualify Korra; since she remains, they settle for hitting her with all the energy they have, leaving Mako and Bolin... kind of unscathed. That's a tactical error they will regret. One good hit sends Korra into the drink, and as she swims up, she sees Tenzin, who has mysteriously found his way into the player's area and is glaring at her reproachfully. Tenzin announces that he is going to force Korra to come home with him, and discovers that it isn't quite that simple to force the Avatar to do anything. Korra hollers back that she doesn't need airbending, she doesn't need to meditate, she doesn't need his lectures, and what she does need is to get back in the match.
The Fire Ferrets have lost Round Two. So has Tenzin.
As Round Three begins, the Platypus Bears force the Ferret Brothers into one section of the arena, away from Korra, whom they are pushing towards the very edge of the ring. She's on the brink of defeat... her pro-bending debut is going to be a disaster as the waves of water, flame and rock discs push her to the edge.
At that moment, she decides to Be the Leaf. Korra begins the gentle spirals that Jinora taught her, twirling away from every sign of resistance, and their attacks no longer hit her. I wonder a little if she's cheating by using an airbender trick. Tenzin looks almost... proud as he sees the odd fruit of his teaching. Then, the Platypus Bears find that their tactical errors are catching up with them. They are exhausted. Mako and Bolin still have a lot of energy... and in a matter of moments, one... two... three... the Fire Ferrets send the Platypus Bears into the water, and they are the champions of the match. Tenzin, fuddy duddy pro-bender hater, celebrates like he's Korra's agent. Well, for a moment, anyway. Ahem.
Mako gives Korra some genuine praise, and Korra realizes she's got somebody she needs to thank. She arrives at the Airbending Temple at dusk; they are rebuilding the airbending gates. Korra, who is properly contrite now that she's gotten exactly what she wanted, apologizes to Tenzin for blowing up at him... and he apologizes for blowing up at her, too. It appears that force does not work perfectly for either of them. Tenzin is proud of her... she moved like an airbender. Maybe she won't break his gates anymore.
Well, it's a good thing Tenzin's proud of her, because she's a permanent Fire Ferret now and she's going to be fighting in the big tournament soon. Woo Hoo! Tenzin might want to come; she seems to fight in the arena better when he's around.
As the episode closes, we see Mako quietly gazing at the Airbending Temple. Somewhere inside there, is Korra, thinking about him. Then we see Korra, quietly gazing at the Pro-bending Arena Somewhere inside there is Mako, thinking of her. Let the shipping begin... although it probably already has, ever since the sneak peeks came out earlier this year.
If you like this recap, try my recap of Welcome To Republic City.
There are more good recaps of Korra at abnormally paranormal