Chapter 10 of Book 2 of The Legend of Korra aired on Friday, and it was a blend of stunning animation, adventure, nostalgic references, and heavy drama. Read on for my recap, thoughts and speculation. Spoilers ahead!
The episode opens with Tenzin expressing his fears about letting Jinora go to the Spirit World. Kya and Bumi try to keep him optimistic.
In the Spirit World, Jinora is delighted by the vibrancy and beauty of the spirits, while Korra is more cautious. Korra accidentally disturbs some groundhog-like spirits, and, panicking, she tries to bend at them, forgetting she can’t bend because she left her body behind in the material world.
Offended, the spirits begin to attack; Jinora tells her to stay calm because her energy is upsetting them, but Korra is too panicked. The ground opens up beneath them and swallows them into blackness, and they fall into dark water, where a great spirit swallows them whole. The two of them are separated, and after a harrowing journey down a rushing current and exposure to some fearsome-looking spirits, Korra ends up in a dark wood. Terrified, she reverts to the form of herself as a child.
Jinora, on the other hand, ends up in a bright and sunny area, where she is greeted by the dragonfly bunny spirit Furryfoot, who is much larger in the Spirit World than in the material world. Together, they venture to Wan Shi Tong’s Spirit Library, where Jinora will be able to find the location of the spirit portal. Wan Shi Tong, an owl spirit last seen in Avatar: The Last Airbender, is reluctant to let her enter, but relents when she gives him information about how a radio works. While researching in the library, she learns that during the Harmonic Convergence, the spirit energies will be so great that Vaatu will be freed from his bonds, again threatening to blanket the world in darkness. She wants to go find Korra, but Unalaq appears, Wan Shi Tong at his side. The owl spirit says Unalaq has proven to be a true friend to the spirits, while the Avatar has not. When Jinora says Vaatu will destroy everything if he’s released, Unalaq’s response is, “Don’t believe everything you read. Why don’t you come with me so you can do some first-hand research?” Behind her, Furryfoot takes on a dark form.
Korra, meanwhile, accidentally hurts a tiny dragon phoenix in her terror. Cradling it to her chest, she stands, and the two of them are approached by an elderly man carrying a lantern. It’s Iroh, Zuko’s uncle from Avatar: The Last Airbender. He invites her to a tea party with some spirits, where he shows her the teapot that Wan used to carry Raava back before the two were joined. He teaches her how her emotions can impact the energy of the spirits around her, bringing out darkness or light, then sends her on a quest to return the baby dragon phoenix to its home at the top of a dark, stormy peak. After a warm goodbye, she ventures to the top of it, using a positive attitude to clear the dark skies and soothe angry spirits. Once they reach the nest, the baby dragon phoenix merges with its siblings to become an adult, and Korra, now an adult herself, stares after him in wonder. The two of them fly off together toward the spirit portal, followed closely by three of the spirits she soothed.
Korra arrives at the portal, but just as she’s about to close it, Vaatu begins to speak to her, and Unalaq appears. He’s holding Jinora captive, using some sort of spiritbending to corrupt her soul. With Jinora’s life in danger, and Vaatu’s presence darkening the spirits that were once her allies, Korra has no option but to open the remaining spirit portal.
As soon as the portal is open, Unalaq begins to attack her with waterbending, and she’s unable to defend herself. The spirits take Jinora away, and Unalaq presses his attack. He’s just using spiritbending to destroy her soul forever, when the dragon phoenix attacks him, snatching Korra and bringing her to safety. She awakens in her own body, where a distraught Tenzin demands to know what happened to his daughter.
I’d like it to take a minute to rave about Iroh’s presence in this episode. Not only was it a beautiful nod to the first series, but he was a glimmer of hope in a season that has been extremely dark so far. There is a calmness about the character that makes him the perfect mentor for Korra in her time of anger and turmoil, a counterbalance for her anger like he was for Zuko in Avatar. It also provides us with a heartwarming fate for a much-loved character; his choice to leave his body behind and stay eternally in the Spirit World is the perfect destiny for Iroh.
I also loved how Korra’s fear transformed her into her child self for her quest. The shots where her adult Dragon Phoenix companion flies around her and the camera spins to reveal that she has returned to her adult form was a beautiful and heartwarming moment.
Jinora was the perfect character to enter Wan Shi Tong’s library, as she has the strongest connection to Aang’s adventures of any of her family members, as well as a love of books and lore. I’m intrigued that Wan Shi Tong sided with Unalaq, and it makes me believe that Unalaq has a key piece of information that we have not yet seen. While Wan Shi Tong disliked the Avatar in the previous series, it was for true neutral reasons (Aang and his crew were looking for information that would give them a leg up in a war against the Fire Nation, and Wan Shi Tong had forbidden them from using any of his information for their personal gain.) Unless Unalaq is manipulating him somehow, which seems unlikely, given how powerful Wan Shi Tong is, he must have said something to convince the spirit to his side.
And speaking of Unalaq, I still maintain that he would be a far scarier villain if we knew his true motivations. As it is, he’s looking to be chaotic evil, or evil-for-the-sake-of-evil, which is inconsistent with the seemingly genuine care about balance we saw at the beginning of the season. I’m guessing we’re going to learn that Vaatu is controlling him, or Vaatu has lied to him, or there is a key bit of information about the Harmonic Convergence showdown that we are not yet privy to. Still, I feel like more information is needed to make him feel like a fully fleshed-out villain.
I also like that the show didn’t pull any punches when it came to Jinora being in danger. I was a little bit disappointed that she Korra got separated so early, as I was hoping to see the two of them work together, but their separation made sense for story reasons. The bit where Unalaq put her in danger to force Korra to open the portal was a bit clichéd, but still tense. (For a moment, I thought she was going to have to refuse, and Jinora was going to be done for — I guess the moment was tense enough that I forgot this was a kid’s show.)
And speaking of Jinora, I loved Korra and Tenzin’s anguish at the end of the episode. What a heart-wrenching moment for an episode finale!
As a final note, I would be delighted if every single episode of Korra from now on was animated by Studio Mir, until the end of time. The level of expression and fluidity in their characters is unmatched. Rumour has it that the remaining four episodes of this season will be handled by them as well!
I don’t have much new speculation on top of what I believed last week. I still maintain that Unalaq knows more than we do, and I feel like the Harmonic Convergence showdown will not go well. I also still feel that Eska is going to become an unlikely ally for Korra.
The show returns next week with a two-part special.
Have any thoughts or speculation? Feel free to comment below!