Like holy shit guys can you believe captain swan happened? Like can you believe we got to see every moment from ust to banter to trusting to friendship to fighting to making out to I love you’s and separations and the best kind of reunions and fighting for one another and learning to open up and just these two amazing lonely people who had spent most of their lives searching for love and family, actually finding it and finding true love and such ridiculous happiness like
SO last night i finished korra book 1 in my rewatch…
it is still as AMAZING as ever. i don’t think my opinions have really changed except that going in with a completely cleared mind i actually like a bunch of the episodes MORE than before? i think? let me go through episode by episode and then provide some thoughts on it as a whole, korra’s arc, etc. there is a bunch of stuff i’ll just touch on lightly because i’ll cover it more after book 2, 3, and 4
episode 1 welcome to republic city: definitely a setup episode, everything is pretty quick but it’s efficient, all the scenes are full to the brim of meaning and usefulness and the season is ready to get started in one episode. and of course we have an amazing introduction to korra (and tenzin and republic city) and who she is and some wonderful support from katara that that personality is a good thing
episode 2 a leaf in the wind: i talked a bit about this here but basically i really really enjoyed this episode, it felt like i was back home
episode 3 the revelation: holds up as one of the best things ever, the atmosphere, the suspense, the characterization, republic city as a character, everything is so good
episode 4 the voice in the night: much like the revelation this episode is just so on point artistically. we have some reeeally good, deep character exploration and things move forward so organically, and the mood and atmosphere are just excellent, also one of the best things ever
episode 5 the spirit of competition: this was the first one where i was like wow this is actually really good, why do people hate on it? like it’s been a long time since i’ve seen it so i just got used to considering it as one of the duds of the season but it’s really not? the shipping stuff is totally lovable imo (like it gets more uncomfortable later in the season but here it’s just really fun) and develops all the characters involved. korra really shines, and in a technical sense it’s actually executed with the same finesse as 3 and 4 but with a lighter tone. for those reasons it really shot up high in my faves this time around
episode 6 and the winner is…: the episode that changed everything, that will forever be iconic for raising the stakes… it totally held up. probending came to a stunning, exciting conclusion and unraveled as the main plot took hostage, and it is still one of the most thrilling sequences i’ve ever seen. everything is so exciting and scary, the tension building up through the finals and then the equalists bursting in, the rooftop fight, korra being a superhero, and its so well-executed… whew
episode 7 the aftermath: another one that i always see people discrediting but i found really well-done this time. we get fun krew interaction, we get drama and suspense and really amazing character-driven action. like episode 5 this climbed high in my faves list, and for similar reasons: it’s so korra-focused while giving us lots of krew interaction and having a really strong sense of narrative and audio-visual storytelling artistry
episode 8 when extremes meet: the one i have always considered the best episode ever… IT HOLDS UP YALL!!! everything i have always loved about it came through as it always did: politics, the new team avatar being a team and on the ground in the streets for the first time, amazing atmosphere, amazing action, THAT SCENE– the standoff in dragon flats– is still like … THAAAAT scene. and then korra taking matters into her own hands, just EVERYTHING. and that CLIFFHANGER is still the cliffhangeriest cliffhanger of all time– throughout this rewatch i was only doing one episode every few days, but i just HAD to watch the next episode immediately
episode 9 out of the past: actually really excellent, pairs really well with episode 8! we get our atla tie-in that actually, you know, TIES IN with the season. we get a great republic city b-plot and korra-tarrlok-equalists climax that is consistent with the quality of the previous handful of episodes, and finally a denouement that we’ve been yearning for for most of the season by now
episode 10 turning the tides: this episode is definitely the most unremarkable of the season, like it’s still good but it’s also kind of just there. of course and we get some really good krew scenes and of course that amazing ending with lin, but it’s basically a setup episode but without the refinement of episode 1
episode 11 skeletons in the closet: the battle of yue bay is still AMAZING, the episode goes full war film, korra goes full action superhero, it’s really a sight to behold and i love it. tarrlok and noatak/amon’s backstory still pulls at the heartstrings and sheds so much light on the meaning of the whole season, gud stuff
episode 12 endgame: ;________; the action and drama are in full force and honestly this episode is hard to watch, it really digs deep and doesn’t hold back but it’s worth it because the ending is so beautiful and important. throughout the season korra has been growing and learning and to see her find it within herself to overcome one final hurdle, to be welcomed into the ranks of the avatars, i just couldn’t help tearing up…
that’s a good segue into some thoughts on book 1 as a whole: this is a season fundamentally about korra and fundamentally, intrinsically centered on her as its protagonist, main character, and hero. she drives the plot and the plot is about her. there’s so much happening in her life so we get to experience a lot of varied content, but at its heart this is a story about her, a young chosen one who was kept secluded from the world, who escaped and came into her own, found family and friends and a place for herself. one thing i took away really strongly from this rewatch was that this was in no way a referendum on her character like so many people want it to be– korra is a dark-skinned woman from an ethnic minority both in-universe and in our world, who is muscular and confident and brash, and she has overflowing pride in those things. and those things just are– like this is who she is and that’s that, it’s matter of fact and the story isn’t at all about “deconstructing” those things and changing them. because they’re good things and there’s no need for them to change. like i mentioned in the post linked up there in episode 1, katara, a trusted and loved figure, praises and supports korra as she is. there’s a whole arc about lin, who we trust and respect, coming to trust and respect korra. in episode 6, she remarks that korra is “tough as nails” and tenzin says she reminds him of lin at that age and that they would get along if lin gave her a chance– which she does when they fight together and come out of it as equals. this is so important and overlooked, like i know i never thought about it before, but the way korra and lin’s dynamic grows through the season is really awesome. and it all serves to further support the idea that korra as she is is a good person deserving of love and respect.
i mean, that’s a central tenant of the season itself. we have bolin’s friendship and crush on korra and praising her to the high heavens, which is just so cute and lovely. we have closed-off, no-nonsense mako opening up and falling for her. we have asami making the effort to be korra’s friend and the two are never actually at odds through all the relationship drama (i can’t stress this enough, for all the flaws of the love quadrangle, korra and asami, the two women involved, never do anything against each other). we have katara and tenzin and pema and the airbabies loving and supporting her, we have lin coming to respect her, we have mako, bolin, and asami being there for her and taking up the mantle of team avatar for and with her, we have a stadium of people cheering for her (PROBENDING IS GOOD AND IMPORTANT 2KFOREVERRRR), we have all the avatars showing up and welcoming her as one of their own, we have the season ending with tenzin putting his hand on her shoulder and saying “i am so proud of you, avatar korra” and korra smiling proudly, triumphantly. like, just at every turn, this is a korra-positive season and not just that but it being a korra-positive season is the point!
why? let me get back to the amon backstory flashback. young noatak is a CLEAR parallel to korra. they look remarkably the same, they’re both being trained rigidly by overbearing guardians for a grand purpose, they both run away to republic city. they even used the exact same shots, sitting on a cliffside overlooking a sunset, in the exact same position. it’s a strong parallel and the parallel is this: korra is someone who has pride and love for herself, and specifically for her bending. noatak is someone who doesn’t. he hates his bending because of what his father makes him do with it. he runs away to republic city and builds a whole new life and identity based on self-hate. korra meanwhile, as i have discussed, is someone who loves herself and her bending, and builds her life around it. it’s what gets her through her years of seclusion. noatak ran away and became amon to save republic city by eradicating bending because of his self-hate, korra ran away and ended up saving republic city because of her self-love. in fact, in a way, they were both haunted by the ghost of aang– noatak’s father had his bending taken away by aang and noatak subsequently developed this twisted anti-bending ideology where he sought to do what aang did. and korra’s connection to aang is obvious, republic city is practically a personification of his legacy and the whole season is about korra and amon (and tarrlok, who is also such a good villain) grappling over it. and then you have tenzin, mako, bolin, and asami as our view into the people of the city and altogether i just find it incredibly rich thematically
i know all of this isn’t explained in the show but bryke never explains anything and with the very obvious paralleling between korra and noatak, the broad strokes do come across and the subtext is woven in throughout the season enough that the pieces come together. i feel like the reason people don’t get this is because they refuse to treat korra’s character and personality as a good thing and so they have this big disconnect between the way the show is framed and the way they want it to be. and obviously people shill for the equalists because they hate korra and just want her to be wrong.
that brings me to my thoughts on the equalists. all of my talk about the korra-amon parallels ties into this: the equalists are built on amon’s lie and their ideology is a lie. you’re never meant to sympathize with them, you’re meant to sympathize with korra and be on her side. there is no history of oppression against nonbenders. like if we’re gonna have a somewhat nuanced conversation about this we could talk about republic city’s class division. but it’s never that simple and if we’re gonna have an actually nuanced conversation about this we could talk about the history of various modes of oppression in the avatar universe. but if we’re just gonna be black and white about it, there is far more evidence for nonbenders oppressing benders than the other way around. the way everyone talks, calling benders “you people”, “firebending street-rat like you”, “take back our city” speaks for itself. i refuse to humor people who still think the equalists were in any way right. i won’t get into it. this in-depth post from earlier this year still stands. again, was all of this completely clear in the show? no. the equalists were never painted with a lot of nuance but you can’t fill the empty space with your own hate of korra and stanning for asami and act like that means that benders oppressed nonbenders lol. especially when asami would NEVAH. i feel bad for her that her stans besmirch her name with equalist stanning. but yeah anyway they’re just straight-up villains and they behave like it. now, the relationship between regular non-equalist nonbenders and benders in the city is actually really interesting and explored fairly satisfactorily imo. part of republic city being a character is what the triads mean, what the council means, what probending means, what mako and bolin growing up on the streets means, what asami and her father being incredibly wealthy means, etc etc etc. all of these things are actually explored in the show whether explicitly or through well-honed subtext and this is what we’re meant to be looking into for nuance, not the obviously villainous villains lmao. i mean obviously the equalists tie into this and i personally am able to analyze them and their place in all of this, but if you’re gonna hate book 1 because they were villains, and treated as such, and defeated as such, you’ve missed the whole point…
umm what else. relationships. i won’t go too in-depth with this because i’ll cover it after i’m done the whole series, but i think for the most part it was fine. definitely in the first half or like two-thirds of the season i thought it was well-executed and enjoyable, whether happy moments or when they were in conflict. i will admit that it got pretty messy starting in episode 9, it feels like things kind of jump forward a few times without getting there naturally, but like… that’s because they didn’t spend enough time on it. it baffles me that people complain about their being too MUCH shipping in book 1 when all the problems with it in the latter parts of the season are because too much happens OFF-screen. but lol i know the real reason is because people hate korra/stan this false image of asami so it’s no surprise their made-up reasons for it don’t make sense. overall i’ll just say that if korra is happy i’m happy and whether it was rushed or not i like that she “gets the guy” in the end. i think both makorra and masami were good relationships for the characters involved and i think people overstate the amount of conflict/drama. for the most part it’s harmless teen relationship stuff that showed up enough to be noticeable but because more important things were being focused on it didn’t show up enough in the latter part of the season to have all the beats of the relationship development play out clearly. i’m really not bovered.
SO ANYWAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY basically i think that approximately episodes 3 through 9 are like greatest-of-all-time tier artistically, both technically and narratively/character-wise. that’s the book 1 that i adore so much, like it’s honestly just so flawless, such a beautiful experience, such a thrill. i do think that unfortunately the finale wasn’t executed with that same level of excellence as the main body of the season– i really think it could have benefited from an extra episode to spread things out over and make various scenes longer and with just like more content driving home what they already were. the only reason i have criticisms about it is because i love book 1 so much. but i still think the book 1 finale was good, i think korra unlocking her airbending is an excellent moment and i think her connecting with the past avatars is one of the most beautiful, touching, important things ever. i love that the whole season is so strongly about korra and that she grows throughout it while staying true to herself, with unconditional love and support from her friends and family and finding a home for herself in republic city. and i ADORE how beautiful it was visually and narratively and the music and everything, there was just so much glorious excellence all for this story about HER. like it was all for her!!! and i think it ends wonderfully and ties together the whole season both meaningfully and messily, which is something we just have to deal with with lok lol
so yeah. i’m really happy with book 1 in this rewatch. i’m so glad that it holds up and i still love it for the reasons i thought i did and i have more clarity about it than ever before. i just wish there was more sooo badly lool