I’m probably not going to blog Korra this time around, but for now at least I’ll watch it and hope it surpasses my expectations, and I wanted to at least check in with some quick impressions of the opening double episode.
In short, about the same. Though many new faces are on board the playing field has shifted, this feels very much like the same show to me, for better or worse. As with the first season, I find the overall plot to far exceed the execution – it’s another interesting premise, but somewhat clumsy on the ground. Pacing was a huge issue in the first season, and I’d hoped that with so much lead time Bryke might be able to transcend that problem but based on the premiere, it’s a work in progress. We still had long stretches of drag intermixed with bouts of frenetic noise, and things seemed to play out in a rather stiff and mechanical fashion.
The spine of the story son far is a long-simmering feud between Korra’s father Tonraq (James Remer) and uncle Unalaq (Adrian LaTourelle). The latter is the top dog in the Northern Water Tribe and highly spiritual, bemoaning the lost connection of his Southern brothers with the Spirit World. It so happens that Tonraq is in the South to begin with because he was banished from the North after destroying a sacred forest during a combat mission, bringing down the anger of the spirits on his people. That leaves Unalaq free both to assume leadership of the Water Tribes and to lord it over his older brother pretty good.
Siblings have always been a big theme in Korra – a sibling relationship was at the heart of the first season’s main plot, we have Mako and Bolin, not to mention Tenzin’s annoying sibs play a major role in the premiere, as do Tonalaq’s fraternal twin son and daughter. Unalaq intends to use Korra as a tool in his plan to tighten his iron grip over the Southern Water Tribe, and given that she’s shown no character growth at all she’s just as easy to manipulate as ever.
That, really, is a major problem for me with this series, especially as compared to the first Avatar. I don’t especially like Korra – she’s stubborn, dense, temperamentally violent, petty and astonishingly lacking in common sense – and that’s an issue when it’s her name in the title. But the cast isn’t a strong point in the Korraverse at all for me – Mako is as irritatingly smug as ever, for starters. In fact the only characters I find likeable are Bolin and Tenzin, and they (especially Bolin) are constantly made the butt of the series’ often leaden humor, and not in an affectionate way. There’s also Tenzin’s children, of course, and they’re endearing enough – indeed, there’s an indication that eldest daughter Jinora is going to explore her spiritual side and play a larger role this season. That would certainly be welcome, and the branch line that followed Tenzin and his family on their visit to the Northern Air Temple was probably the best part of these episodes.
Really, you could read my post on the conclusion of Book One and apply it to these eps without a whole lot of tweaking – Korra is very much the same show, at least through two episodes. I won’t lie, I was hoping for more – I just don’t feel the authenticity and subtlety in Korra that the original Avatar series had, and Korra being a rush-job is no longer a valid excuse. Korra is louder, more predictable, less character-driven and far less emotionally accurate than its predecessor, and given that this premiere is a result of such an extended period of planning, it seems unlikely that situation is going to change. It’s still pretty good, but some of the magic is gone.