The Legend of Korra: Episode 2.09 Recap, Thoughts & Speculation

Posted by Heather on November 06, 2013
Television

lok s02e09_title

After a two-week break, the ninth episode of Book Two of The Legend of Korra, “The Guide,” aired on Friday. My weekly recap, thoughts & speculation are below the jump! Beware of spoilers…

Recap

The episode opens with Jinora visiting with some colourful flying spirit creatures. When Tenzin approaches, the camera angle changes to show us he can’t see the creatures; somewhat bashful, Jinora claims she’s playing with imaginary friends.

lok s02e09_1 Jinora spirit friends

The two of them reunite with the rest of the family in the temple courtyard, when Korra shows up. She speedily recounts all that has happened during her disappearance, and expresses her need to get to the spirit portal to close it before the Harmonic Convergence. Unalaq will have it heavily guarded from the outside, so she will need to get to it from the Spirit World. Tenzin, who has been training all his life for the moment, is eager to help her enter the Spirit World. The ceremony his father taught him, however, has no effect.

lok s02e09_5 tenzin korra ritual

Kya, who correctly assumed Jinora was playing with spirit creatures earlier, suggests they look to Jinora’s friends to guide Korra to a more suitable venue to enter the Spirit World. The spirits, colourful dragonfly bunnies, eventually lead them to an ancient sacred meditation area. As Tenzin begins a ritual to purify the area, a swarm of dark bat-like spirits appears from beneath the ground, swarming Korra, Tenzin, and his family. Korra is able to calm them using Unalaq’s spirit-calming technique. Even after cleansing the area, however, Tenzin is still unable to guide Korra into the Spirit World. Kya delicately points out that Jinora may be better equipped to help Korra on this task, since she has an innate connection with the spirits. At first, Tenzin is reluctant, saying it’s too dangerous, but he eventually relents. Together, Jinora and Korra venture into the Spirit World.

lok s02e09_2 Korra Jinora spirit world

Meanwhile, Unalaq brings Desna and Eska through the northern spirit portal, hoping they can help him break through the blocked southern portal by using waterbending to drill it. When their attack causes sparks that seriously wound Desna, Eska stops, telling the father that he needs a healer. Unalaq claims his task is more important, so Eska leaves, taking an unconscious Desna with her.

lok s02e09_3 Unalaq Twins Spirit World

Back in Republic City, Bolin is continuing work on his film career, and Mako and Asami have been rekindling their old relationship. Mako tries to tell them that Varrick double-crossed Asami, but they don’t believe him. He storms away, only to be confronted by two of Varrick’s henchmen. They bring him to see Varrick, who first offers Mako a security job, then, when Mako refuses, tries to blackmail him into keeping quiet by threatening to hurt Asami or Bolin. Mako sticks to his principles, and it ends up costing him: Varrick plants evidence in Mako’s apartment, leading to Mako’s arrest in connection with both the Cultural Centre blasts and the attack on Future Industries’ warehouse.

lok s02e09_4 makoasamibolin talk

The episode closes with Unalaq speaking with Vaatu, who warns him Korra is still alive, and she has entered the Spirit World.

Thoughts

This is rumoured to be Studio Pierrot’s last episode of the season, and I can’t say I’m sad to see them go. When juxtaposed with Studio Mir’s stunning effort during the previous two-part special, the quirks with Pierrot’s animation (weird expressions, off-model characters, talking heads) are even more magnified.

I also can’t say I was fond of Mako & Asami’s relationship rekindling out of nowhere. When we last saw these two in any kind of intimate situation, they shared an awkward kiss and then appeared to be uncomfortable about it, so when they enthusiastically kissed in this episode, it was a real “…what?” moment. It felt like it came out of left field, and it’s one case where I think we needed a scene or two to ease that transition. (There have been a few offscreen plot developments this season, such as this relationship development, or Korra learning Unalaq’s spirit-calming technique, that feel like they’re missing from the onscreen story.) As for the relationship itself, I’m having a hard time figuring out where they’re going with this. Is all this relationship drama happening for story reasons, or is it just for drama? I’d personally much rather see Team Avatar bond as a team than see more drama threatening to tear them apart. Given how distant Team Avatar is this season, we don’t need any more wedges between them. At least Bolin called them on moving too quickly after Korra’s departure.

As one final gripe, I found it implausible that Bolin and Asami would believe Varrick over Mako. In fact, the whole “Mako is right and no one believes him” thread of this storyline feels forced; I can’t buy that Chief Beifong, daughter of a woman who can sense lies through earth vibrations, would be so quick to discard Mako’s evidence. I’m hoping it turns out that this is part of a secret operation to catch Varrick…

In spite of those complaints, there was a lot I loved about this episode! Tenzin’s story was heartbreaking: he has been training his whole life for one purpose, and it turns out he just isn’t that good at it. I also loved that Jinora is naturally gifted, and Tenzin struggles with his pride, at first, before ultimately being proud of her. I’m excited to see Jinora get more screen time; she’s a welcome change from the countless older men who have been impacting Korra’s story. Don’t get me wrong, I love many of the older male characters who have appeared in Book One and Book Two so far, but part of what made Avatar: The Last Airbender so much fun was that they were all kids. Injecting Jinora’s youthful energy into the mix may give us more of that Avatar vibe. I’m looking forward to seeing Korra and Jinora interact on their adventure.

Another thing I absolutely loved about this episode was seeing Eska walk away from her father. If you’ve been reading my reviews, you know I’ve been hoping for the twins to side with Korra, and this may be the push she needs. I hope Desna pulls through and the twins side with Korra for the final showdown (even if it’s reluctant.) With how horribly Eska was treating Bolin (and everyone else around her), she has a lot of room for character development, and possibly even a redemption arc.

Overall, I really like where this season is going, and I’m excited for the last 5 episodes.

Speculation

I believe Unalaq is convinced he needs to free Vaatu for the greater good; I’d love for him to genuinely think he’s sacrificing his family for the fate of the world, rather than end up as yet another bad father who’s just power-hungry. Vaatu has coaxed good people to help him before, as we saw with Wan, so it may be that Unalaq is being tricked into aiding him.

(Future episode SPOILERS in this paragraph:) If you’re interested in the episode titles and descriptions for the last four episodes, you can find them on DongbuFeng’s Tumblr, but beware of spoilers! Based on episode titles and hints from the creative team, I’m guessing the showdown with Vaatu is not going to go well. I’m secretly hoping that the concept of the Avatar is going to be redefined, and Korra will be leading an exciting new age. It seems like all bets are off and the possibilities are endless, so I’m not speculating too much; I’m going to sit back and enjoy the ride. It look like it’s going to be intense. (/end SPOILERS)

With the rushed schedule for the remaining episodes, we’ll have the answers soon enough:

  • Episode 2.10 – Nov 8
  • Episodes 2.11 & 2.12 – Nov 15
  • Episodes 2.13 & 2.14 – Nov 22

Have some theories of your own? Agree/disagree with any of my points? Feel free to discuss in the comments section below!

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  • Matthew

    I didn’t dislike this episode, I’m glad it’s clear that Unalaq is working for the darkest of the dark spirits and that he actually is a total asshole, I’m glad that tension got a nice character moment realizing that the task he thought he was destined for was actually destined for his child and I’m glad that Korra is connecting better with her spiritual side.

    However.

    WTF the avatar is meant to be the only one who can enter the spirit world (according to A:TLA) ! I mean sure, makes. Door regular folk can walk through, but it’s expressly stated in TLA that the avatar is the only one who can just meditate their way there. I can’t be the only one who is frustrated that they are playing fast and loose with the rules of the universe, can I?

    Also, in book on Chief Beifong was smart and capable. In book two she yells. Please tell me this is part of a long con to lull the bad guys into a false sense of security so she can take them down. Right. Right??

    • Heather

      Uncle Iroh also ventured into the Spirit World in A:TLA lore, so it’s not a contradiction, just something very rare. I love that Jinora was given this rare ability (my headcanon is that she is Uncle Iroh reincarnated, though I doubt that very much!)

      I want to believe that everything that happened in Republic City this episode was staged as part of a sting operation.

      • Matthew

        It’s only rumored that he went to the spirit world! Never confirmed in a canon source that I’m aware of! And seriously, it totally contradicts the nature of the avatar as a bridge between the worlds. Ugh.

    • Heather

      Early in ATLA, Iroh saw Aang and Roku’s dragon pass overhead when they were in the spirit world but he was in the physical world, which is evidence to me that he has at least one foot in the Spirit World. It’s never explicitly confirmed, true, but it’s rumoured enough times that, to me, it makes it plausible that some humans can do so, especially ones like Jinora and Iroh who can see spirits when others can’t. I also don’t feel it really contradicts the idea of the Avatar as the bridge, because the Avatar is the only one who can go easily. It’s like, the Avatar is the bridge, and everyone else has to navigate the rocky, fast-flowing current of the water instead, and only few are strong enough to swim it…okay, that metaphor got away on me. X_x

      • Matthew

        Yeahhhhh maybe we should just agree to disagree. Lots of people can see spirits, hell the first spirit in avatar season 1 terrorized a town! But actually going to their world?

        Then again, it’s the writers world, they can do whatever the hell they want I suppose!

  • Eli

    I don’t know if this is a reliable source but in http://avatar.wikia.com/wiki/Iroh (trivia) its says that Zhao mentioned that Iroh could travel into the spirit wolrd.

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