Goal: Write 1 thought every day re: why I love The Legend of Korra until I finish rewatching the series.
#158: “Korra Alone.”
There are many, many things that I love about “Korra Alone,” which is probably my favorite episode of LoK. (So … sorry not sorrry for this megapost, which has more gasbagging than usual.) The narrative structure of the episode, for one, which makes heavy use of flashbacks (much like its namesake, “Zuko Alone”). The exclusive focus on Korra, for another. The pacing. But what I love about it most is how it ties into, highlights, and explores the central question of the show: what is the role of Korra as the avatar in the modern world, if any?
“I am the avatar. You gotta deal with it!” That was the first line Korra ever uttered in LoK. She was so sure of herself then, and so sure of herself in “Welcome to Republic City.” Now, after the traumatic events of “Venom of the Red Lotus,” we see Korra struggling to deal with the physical and emotional ramifications from nearly dying and ending the avatar cycle (again), struggling to reclaim her identity as the avatar, and struggling to find her purpose. The show is very literal about Korra’s fractured sense of self – it opens the episode with this shot of Korra in a broken mirror:
The episode builds on Korra’s hallucinations of Amon, Unalaq, and Vaatu in “Venom of the Red Lotus,” which reminded the viewer that each of Korra’s enemies has argued (though for different reasons) that the avatar no longer has a place in the world. In “Korra Alone,” Korra has to fight herself – not just her fear of nearly having died and ended the avatar cycle but also her own doubts about whether she has any role left to play in the world.
And so we see Korra’s mental struggles manifest physically in the form of, well, herself. Nega-Korra is Korra in the avatar state, but bound still by Zaheer’s chains; she appears throughout the episode and haunts Korra as she struggles to recapture her physical, mental, and spiritual well-being:
Korra first battles despair. When she leaves her friends in Republic City, she says she’ll “only be gone a couple weeks.” Tenzin assures her she need not worry because he, Jinora, and the airbenders have everything under control. But that just plants seeds of doubt in her mind as to whether the world needs her anymore. For weeks after her injuries, she’s unable to eat much or sleep, and she refuses to seek help. With the love and support of her mother, Korra finally agrees to take a step toward healing and go see Katara.
Korra then battles to heal herself physically after having her body broken by Zaheer. With Katara’s encouragement, she’s eventually able to wiggle her big toe (a la Kill Bill). And, after many initial frustrating months, she’s finally able to walk to Naga. But every step is difficult – particularly for Korra, who so prided herself on her physical strength and prowess.
In the meantime, Korra is, well, alone. She has her family and Katara, but her friends are off in Republic City, redesigning the city’s infrastructure, or staking out Red Monsoon hideouts, or stabilizing the Earth Kingdom. Her friends’ letters, though well-meaning, only feed into Korra’s self-doubt. As she’s stuck on the sidelines, the rest of the Krew is out making the world the better place: they’re out there doing her job.
We see this in her conversation with Katara, where Korra struggles to understand why this has happened to her – and hits on Korra’s main storyline for the season:
Korra: Of course I’m frustrated! A crazy man poisoned me, and now I can’t dress myself or cook for myself or do anything for myself, and this whole time my friends have been off helping the World while I’m stuck with you, and you can’t even heal me! Korra: That came out wrong. Katara: It’s all right. Let your anger and frustration flow like water. Korra: I am trying to understand why this happened to me. But nothing makes any sense. I’m tired, Katara. I’m so tired. Katara: Korra, I know you feel alone right now, but you’re not the first Avatar who’s had to overcome great suffering. Can you imagine how much pain Aang felt when he learned that his entire culture was taken from him? Korra: That must have been so awful. Katara: But he never let it destroy his spirit. He chose to find meaning in his suffering, and eventually found peace. Korra: And what am I gonna find if I get through this? Katara: I don’t know, but won’t it be interesting to find out?
From a story and character perspective, I love that Korra’s physical recovery is just the beginning. When Tenzin visits, we see Korra incredibly excited to show him her progress. But she rushes into it (as Korra often does), not realizing that her recovery has not been balanced:
I love the callback to and contrast with Korra’s firebending test in “Welcome to Republic City” here. The music, the setting, and the outfit all explicitly reference that first time we ever met teenage Korra. But this Korra is different. Although she seems physically recovered, she’s got emotional baggage. When faced with a huge fire blast – the same kind that she easily blew through before in “Welcome to Republic City” – Korra’s mind flashes back to Zaheer, she panics, and she’s beaten down.
Korra sees that Tenzin knows she is not ready to return, and it crushes her. Ever well-meaning, Tenzin tries to assure Korra by telling her to take her time, that Kuvira is stabilizing the Earth Kingdom and “everyone has this under control.” But again, this is exactly what feeds into Korra’s self-doubt: that she’s not needed, that she has no purpose, and thus no identity.
We then see Korra practicing firebending on a snowy cliff, and the scene is just freakin’ beautiful. It also reinforces how alone she is: a tiny shadow in the foreground, with a whole nighttime sky of stars in the universe. Such a gorgeous frame. (It’s my desktop background at work.)
Korra’s next battle is with isolation. She takes a baby step by finally returning a letter. She writes to the one person she felt she emotionally connected with in Book 3: Asami. It’s a small step forward, even as she admits that she’s still unable to go into the avatar state – another blow to her identity as the avatar.
She then tells her parents she wants to go back to Republic City. But her inability to defeat a common thief in a small fishing village means that her self-doubt follows her to Republic City. There, Nega-Korra is waiting for her:
Spooked, Korra tries to re-fine herself, perhaps thinking a fresh start will help her recovery. She adopts an Earth Kingdom outfit and cuts off her hair in a scene reminiscent of Zuko/Iroh cutting off their topknots in ATLA:
Korra then goes on a literal journey around the world, searching for Raava – searching for her identity, in other words. But everywhere, Nega-Korra follows her, and she cannot find Raava – not even in the Tree of Time. Finally, Korra declares that she is “ending this,” and we are treated to the ending scene from “After All These Years” from Korra’s perspective. She’s not fighting an earthbender in some earth kingdom fighting pit. Korra’s trying to conquer her inner demon the way Korra knows best: by fighting. And she loses:
Korra fights Nega-Korra again in the swamp, and Nega-Korra wins again, dragging her into the ground into a pool of metal poison.
This episode is amazing and masterful. It explores all the different facets of PTSD and recovery and, in doing so, hits on the key theme of the season (and the series) and lays bare the vulnerability beneath Korra’s blustery exterior. It tells the story of a 3-year journey toward recovery (and conveys very realistically the passage of time for one character), but makes clear that Korra’s nowhere near done with her journey yet.
And when Korra wakes up from her battle with herself in the swamp, we’re treated to the return of Old Woman Toph and a callback to ATLA: “Nice to see you again, Twinkle Toes.” Which leaves the audience salivating for the episodes to come. So well done.
Resta con me. Resta perché sei la cosa più bella che mi sia capitata. Può sembrare banale,ma lo sei. Resta perché da quando ci sei tu, sorrido sempre. Resta perché la tua sola prensenza mi fa dimenticare qualsiasi cosa. Resta perché non sopporto che te ne vada anche solo per un secondo, figurati una vita. Resta perché ti amo!
Mi dici un messaggio o una frase bella da mandare ad una persona che si vuole bene?
Come sono strane le parole.
Voglio dire, noi italiani abbiamo due modi per esprimere i sentimenti, d'affetto, per una persona: ti amo e ti voglio bene.
Nel resto del mondo si dice semplicemente “ti amo”
I love you.
S ‘agapo. (greco)
E chi più ne ha più ne metta.
Noi li distinguiamo, ma la maggior parte delle volte abbiamo questi sentimenti confusi e non sai mai se è un “ti amo” o un “ti voglio bene”
Nel resto del mondo è più facile, penso.
Nel resto del mondo dici una parola e le persone si capiscono, penso.
La mia domanda è: siamo noi i geni che abbiamo inventato un'altra parola per differenziare i sentimenti di amicizia e di amore o siamo dei cretini che abbiamo complicato le cose, senza trovare una risposta?
Non si può definire “Amore” solo una relazione fatta di baci, coccole e stupide gelosie. Credo si possa parlare d'amore quando si è grado di rimanere accanto alla persona che amiamo nei momenti belli e nei momenti brutti, soprattutto in questi ultimi. Vivere ogni sua situazione come fosse la propria. Donare tutto l'affetto per tirare un po’ su il morale, per donare, appunto, un po’ di ‘forza’; donare tutto il tuo tempo, donare tutto e basta, senza chiedere nulla in cambio…se non la sua serenità!
Mi ricordo. Io ricordo di tutto. Delle nostre mani che si sfiorano per poi stringersi, con la paura di perderci, dei nostri corpi che si toccano, petto contro petto, sentendo i nostri cuori scalpitanti, e le bocche che si cercavano, gli occhi che facevano l'amore solo guardandosi, e scavando nelle profondità delle nostre anime. La tua risata che scatena mille farfalle nel mio stomaco. Mi ricordo di ogni cosa porca puttana. Giuro che sto impazzendo, lo giuro. La tua mancanza scava di più nel profondo ed io mi sento sopprimere. Dio mio.