Saturday, 24 March 2012

Legend of Korra: Episode Two Review and Recap

A Leaf in the Wind - Spoilers, obviously
- Recap
The episode begins with Korra chilling in her new home on Tenzin's island, reading a newspaper about the pro-bending tournaments that are going on in the city. She asks is they could go and have a look, but Tenzin is reluctant. He disapproves of the "sport" because, in his mind, it takes something that should be spiritual and mocks it by turning it into competative entertainment. Interestingly, they seem to be eating their meals in a canteen with several other men in Air Nomad clothes, which presumably means that some people from the other nations have converted or something.

Korra mentions how she's always wanted to see a pro-bending match, and since she's only a boatride away she doesn't see why she can't just pop over to the arena and have a looksee. Tenzin then points out that she's in Republic City to complete her airbending training, which is why she has to stay on the island and why the Order of the White Lotus guards are around to make sure she stays put. She reluctantly agrees when he mentions that she needs a calm environment, free from any distractions, to learn out to airbend, but she still looks whistfully out across the bay at the stadium.

Shortly after, Tenzin and Korra begin her training. He mentions how Katara said that she has never been able to airbend before, and Korra says that is the case, which confuses her since the other elements came to easily to her. There's a nice moment where Tenzin untucks Korra's rolled up sleeves (a very parenty thing to do) while he explains that Avatars tend to have difficulty learning their opposite element. With Aang it was earthbending, and with Katara it's airbending. Korra admits that she's about as opposite from an Airbender as you can get.

Korra meets up with Tenzin's kids, and she goes into an ancient airbending tool of spinning planks in order to start her training. Tenzin explains that while the kids spin the boards with their bending, Korra has to get from one side to the next without any of the bits of wood hitting her. Tenzin says that the key is to be like a leaf on the wind, and flow through the gates (hence the title of the episode). Jinora demonstrates, doing it easily, and then Korra has a go.

While Korra is being battered in amusing ways by the boards, the show's jazz soundtrack comes back, huzzah! She has a go several times, but isn't able to make it across without being hit by pretty much all of the planks. Tenzin rolls his eyes at this.

That evening, Korra is attempting to airbend, using a photo of Lin Bei Fong from the newspaper as a target, which seems kind of harsh. She's becoming more and more frustrated that she's not able to do it, while Naga looks on in concern. Her mood isn't really helped by the fact that the OWL guards begin to listen to a pro-bending match over the radio. Korra listens in to the hilariously old timey sports announcer (he uses words like Moxy!) as she sits on the guard's roof and looks at the arena across the bay...

Then the radio switches off, it turns out that Tenzin knew she was on the roof and disconnected the power to get her to concentrate. Korra attempts to rulesbend by saying that Tenzin only said that she couldn't WATCH a make, not listen to one. He responds by telling her to go to bed, which kind of seems like his parentiness may be getting in the way somewhat.

The next day, Tenzin, Korra and the kids attempt meditation, though it seems that Korra's getting distracted, like her ass being itchy and the like. She asks Tenzin if she's doing something wrong, and he says that you just have the let your mind go as "Air is the element of freedom". Korra laughs at this, pointing out the hypocrisy of saying that when he wouldn't even let her listen to the radio or leave the island. Tenzin tries pointing that even Meelo, the youngest kid, has managed to get the mediation thing, but Korra points out that he's actually just fallen asleep. The airbending master points out that although she's frustrated now, over time the teachings will sink and one day they'll just click. Korra walks off to get a glass of juice in annoyance.

That evening, the predictable happens: Korra attempts to sneak off of the island to go to a probending match. And it turns out that she's a strong enough swimmer to easily make it the mile or so stretch of open water between the island and the mainland, which... makes sense I guess.

Back on the mainland, it seems that Korra went most, if not all, of the way underwater YIKES! She waterbends herself up from the sea up through an open window on the second floor or something, and then dries off. Walking around, she takes time to gawk at one of the training rooms. An old waterbending, apparently the trainer of Brolin and Mako, starts yelling at her for being in his gym. Korra attempts to say she was looking for a bathroom and got lost, but the guy isn't buying it. In the background meanwhile, Brolin notices Korra, stares for a while and then makes his move.

Brolin pretends that she's actually with him and she just wandered off, which is an excuse that Korrawaterbending guy then starts lifting a dumbell with water inside it, which... is something that actually makes some sense, really. Korra thanks Brolin for saving her from an awkward situation, and the two run off.

The two go to have a look at the arena itself, and Mako is introduced. He's annoyed that Brolin's brought Korra along, thinking that she's "another one of Brolin's crazy fangirls", which kind of gives an insight to both Brolin's personalities and his own. Brolin, seems to think that he's in with a chance with Korra as he senses something "special" about her, Mako's introduced to Korra who immediately recognises him from being mentioned on the radio. Mako shuts her down by ignoring her and walking off.

The match starts, with the series' most flamboyant character yet. He starts the match, which apparently consists of two teams of three benders against each other, with the intention of knocking the other three off a platform into the water below. So essentially something along the same lines as the earthbending tournaments that Toph was involved with when she was first introduced. Brolin and Mako's third member is knocked into the water, ending the first round. The fight scenes are kind of well choreographed, with the bending actually impacting against the other contestants instead of being blocked like in the previous show. There's a bit of overuse of the fast-the-slow motion deal from 300 though.

The brother's team, the Fire Ferrets, win the second round, but due to the clumsiness of the Ferrets' waterbender, both he and Brolin are knocked into the water. Korra watches nervously as Mako is left fighting the rest of the round by himself. Which he wins, yay!

Korra is amazed by the performance of the team, though Mako is still kind of a jerk to her, possibly due to the bad performance of their waterbending. Brolin tries hitting on Korra, but she ignores it. She is interested how the style of fighting that the brothers use seems to be an entirely new version that combines several different bending styles into one. Korra reveals that she's the Avatar, which Mako works out almost instantly. Brolin is shocked by this, understandably.

The brothers train Korra some, and Brolin is surprised how quickly she adapts to their adjustments to her techniques. She is kind of annoyed about how brooding and stoic that Mako is, though. Korra learns that the pair live in the attic of the arena, which suprises her. She continues to train with Brolin, which is something she excells at...

...But back at the island the next day, Korra is so overcome with frustration by the boards thing that she just just starts using firebending to blast any of the offending boards out of her way. Tenzin, understandably, isn't that happy with this, the boards thing being a 2000 year old historical treasure and all. Korra yells at him about that the reason why it isn't sinking in like he said that it would is that he's a terrible teacher, and storms off. Tenzin looks depressed and his daughter give him a hug.

Later, at meal time, Tenzin's wife is surprised that Korra isn't there. Tenzin talks about how he's at his wits' end, and tries to make his daughters promise that they won't be stroppy like Korra when they're teenagers. Jinora says she makes no such promises, heh.

That evening, Korra goes back to the arena, where it seems that the Fire Ferret's waterbender has quit. Korra volunteers to fill in, and the brothers bring up the rather obvious fact that getting the Avatar to compete is more than a little bit like cheating. Korra barges in anyway.

The match starts, though it seems that the protective gear is a bit too big for Korra. I guess that it'll hide who she is somewhat. Korra immediately knocks a member of the opposite team off the side of the ring, and is instantly told off by the referee, as she's only allowed to push people off the BACK of the space. Turns out that there are a whole lot of rules to the game, which, knowing Korra, will not have the best result.

The opposite team, recognising a green player in Korra, focus the brunt of their attacks on her, which she uses earthbending to block. This understandably gets her both told off by the ref, as well as the crowd twigging that this might not be an average bender in the ring there. Back on the island, Tenzin asks a bunch of OWL guards whether they've seen Korra around... right when the announcer confirms that she's the new member of the Fire Ferrets team. Oops. Tenzin angrily says he's going to go and collect her himself.

The referee, back in the stadium, decides to allow Korra to continue to compete as long as she only waterbends, to the annoyance of the opposite team. It seems that their irritation over this seemingly unfair move is shortlived though, as they quickly knock her out of the ring through their continued focused attacks on her. Tenzin meets Korra as she climbs out of the water, and the pair start having an argument, predictably. She then announces that she's come to the conclusion that the reason why she can't airbend is that she doesn't need it, causing angry spluttering from Tenzin, she goes on to say that what she really needs to learn are modern styles of fighting, not mediation and the other stuff that Tenzin is trying to teach her. He responds by saying that there's more to being the Avatar than just fighting, but she ignores him and goes back to the match for round two.

The fight continues, with the brothers stuck in one section of the ring while Korra is forced to the back again. Tenzin shakes his head and is about to walk off when Korra starts using the dodging techniques that he previously been attempting to teach her with the board thing. Turns our that things have finally clicked with her, yay! She dodges the other teams attacks until they're too tired to be that forceful, at which point her and the brothers beat them quickly. Yay, again! Even Tenzin responds with a "Woohoo!", then he regains his composure and walks out with some of his dignity intact.

The Fire Ferrets go into the Championship, and Mako actually gives Korra some nice praise, though she admits that someone else taught her those moves. Back on the Island, Tenzin is overseeing the reconstruction of the board thing, and Korra comes to apologise. She admits that she was frustrated with herself and took it out on Tenzin, and he apologises, because he was trying to teach her about patience when he wasn't displaying any. He also praises her for how well she was doing in the tournament, and tells her that it turned out that pro-bending was the perfect teaching tool for Korra. A more enthusiastic Korra tells him that she'll see him in the morning for airbending practice, bright and early! Also that she'd permanently joined the Fire Ferrets and that she's going to be performing in the championship in a few weeks. This gets an exasperated sigh from Tenzin.

The episode closes up with Mako sitting at an attic window of the arena, looking out across the bay to Korra's island, the same way she's been looking out across the same stretch of water towards the arena. In fact she's doing it again, only for possibly different reasons that Mako might have...

- Review
The series seems to be continuing its streak of good episodes, with that effectively introduces the brothers to the cast, as well as several other developments, such as the Air Nomad converts, the fact that fighting styles evolve over time and the like.

Brolin and Mako were both interesting in their portrayal, though I have a feeling that they might be deliberately trying to invoke the relationship that existed between Zuko and Katara through Mako and Korra's interaction, instead of Zutara's accidental stuff.

Interesting episode, recommended.


  1. Eh, minor quibble here. We find out in this episode that the Avatar always struggles with the element least like themselves. While that's usually the element opposite to the one they first learned, Korra is different in that it's Airbending.

  2. I would say there was too much foreshadowing for the Zuko/Katara thing to be merely wishful thinking on the part of the shippers, plus the narrative was structured in ways that would facilitate such a reading. Actually, I believe M. Night Shyamalan even mentioned that the creators still weren't sure who Katara would end up with when he started making the movie.

    Anyway, I still haven't seen this episode and am debating whether to wait for the official unveiling. Are they releasing more episodes online or what? Also, are you going to these up on no_scans or do I need to come here to read these recaps? Because these are rather handy.

  3. I was going to link them to No_scans, along with my Young Justice reviews, though I do aim to try and continue posting them here as soon after the episodes as I can. :)

  4. Okay, so turns out my brother already had the ep so I thought why not watch it then. I liked it, especially the way probending sportified bending and made it much less lethal. In a real battle Azula or Toph would have easily crushed anyone using probending moves, in the way that sports martial arts like taekwondo or modern MMA don't contain the lethal moves to be found in SAMBO or such. By the same token, it's also faster and more focused in its technique which is a similar thing which can be found vis a vis sport vs combat martial arts.

    As for Tenzin's disapproval of probending, it's ironic that he feels that way because it's exactly the kind of thing Aang would have enjoyed. Perhaps like Toph's daughter rebelled by becoming a disciplinarian, so Tenzin also became his freewheeling father's opposite by becoming dour and serious.

    By the way, the probender's name is Bolin unless you were making some kind of point about him being a total bro which I think is unwarranted since he's not quite that grating.

    Anyway, yeah, the writers seem to be going for that Zutara dynamic, and in fact the Mako/Korra things feels almost like a sop or an apology for the way things didn't turn out the last time.

    And I forgot to mention but I'm actually deleonjh on LJ and DW.