Iruka's Top 30 Favorite Moments from LoK Book 2 Masterpost
After working on this for something like half a year–from shortly after the Book 2 finale until early yesterday–I feel like celebrating its completion with a masterpost. (Hey, at least I’ve finished this one before the beginning of Book 3! ^_^)
I hope you don't mind another ask, buuut ... one of my favorite Korra and Asami moments is when Korra aggressively airbends the pilot/engineers on the Earth Kingdom airship, thereby destroying the controls, and Asami's reaction is more bewilderment/slight amusement/overall patience. It highlights for me why they work well together; Asami doesn't harp on Korra for ruining their chance of escape and instead works on another plan. I feel Mako would have been less ... forgiving. ;)
He’d still have been whining about it as the sandshark started to devour them.
Asami is great at problem solving and course-correcting for Korra, and does so without complaint. In turn, Korra sets the pace of the action and directs their “missions” (like she did in 4x07 with Wu’s rescue). They both bring something different to the table and both value that.
#38: Korra Teaches Airbending (K305, "The Metal Clan")
This scene is character development, relationship building, and foreshadowing all rolled into one, as we watch Korra’s first attempt at teaching the discipline that gave her so much trouble back in Book 1.
The premise of Book 3 is that the unforeseen consequences of Harmonic Convergence have saddled Korra with the grandiose-sounding job of “rebuilding the Air Nation.” But I love that she and her friends decide to begin their quest in the humblest way possible, knocking on the door of every newly minted airbender in the Earth Kingdom one at a time, and essentially begging them to come train with Tenzin.
One of those doors is in Zaofu, home of the Metal Clan, where Team Avatar finds some powerful new allies and a girl named Opal, the charming, shy-yet-assertive granddaughter of Toph (and, incidentally, Bolin’s first-ever viable love interest).
Korra neatly sidesteps the question of whether Opal will leave home to train by offering to “get her started” with learning the proper techniques, and her teaching method is impressive in itself. She starts by finding common ground with Opal (“I’ve never been a teacher before, so we’re in the same boat”), then proceeds to demonstrate a simple circle-walk, inviting Opal to “try it with me” and praising her when she gets it right away.
(For contrast, the show explicitly reminds us of Korra’s own first airbending lesson—i.e., her Epic Fail with the airbending gates, which left her battered almost into unconsciousness—by cutting straight from this scene to the new airbenders getting the same treatment at Meelo’s hands. Korra doesn’t have that particular training tool available in Zaofu, but I doubt she’d start out with it even if she did. :P)
Gradually, they shift into a different movement, with feet planted and arms moving a wide circle of air around them both. It’s the first time we’ve ever seen multiple airbenders pool their abilities…
…and this is where the Fridge Brilliance comes in, because aside from some minor differences that arise from creating the cyclone on the ground rather than in the air, this is the same technique Jinora and the other airbenders will use to stop Zaheer’s escape in “Venom of the Red Lotus.”
The narrative never does call attention to it; Jinora is currently hundreds of miles from Zaofu, and Opal isn’t shown at all during the corresponding scene in the finale. But moments like this–Korra’s first effort at teaching returning later to help save her life–are always waiting to be found in this show, if you’re willing to look for them. ^_^
#29: The Queen's Gold (LoK 303, "The Earth Queen")
This scene may not be as consequential, plot-wise, as some of the others I’ve already listed, but it does have a couple of things going for it: (1) It gives us a rare firsthand glimpse of the “barbarians”/bandits whose prevalence shows just how far the government in Ba Sing Se has fallen from serving the needs of its people (if it ever really did), and (2) it’s the first time my two favorite characters get a nice Curb Stomp Battle all to themselves.
Of those two, it’s mostly “Korra and Asami vs. two dozen guys on motorcycles”—all 35 seconds of it—that draws me in. ^^;
Asami and Korra have already gotten a great friendshippy scene or two in (which I will come to later in the list), but their tandem fighting here is a level up from what we’ve seen them do before—especially the moment when Asami, still recovering from an awesome leaping attack that knocked one bandit off his motorcycle, finds herself up against another guy who is coming at her a little too fast.
Fortunately, Korra’s got her back, knocking the guy down with a moving wall of rock. :-D
It’s a good thing that the bandits rely on mechanical power and not, say, earthbending, as it gives Asami a chance to match Korra’s effectiveness against them—which she does, handily. One of my favorite things about Asami is that she has no problem with doing her best at what she can do and leaving the bendy bits of the fighting to Korra. Their combat styles complement each other so well that despite Korra’s misgivings, they really don’t need “everybody else” to do this job.
But Gombo, the leader of the bandits, hits home with a parting shot: “You’re on the wrong side of this fight, Avatar!”
Having seen the pointless frivolities the queen will use this money for, Korra can’t deny that it’s true, even though she’s pragmatic enough to temporarily set the situation aside if the queen will help her rebuild the Air Nation. But when Hou-Ting welches on their agreement–so blatantly that she manages to insult Korra’s intelligence, besides showing how little she cares for her Avatar mission—Korra’s attempt at patient diplomacy finally cracks.
“This isn’t over!” she promises as she storms out, and it certainly isn’t. It’s the beginning of a struggle that will end with Korra on a prison ship crashed in the desert, and Hou-Ting dead–because tyrants who cross paths with this Avatar tend to have very brief life expectancies indeed.
[With all its breaks and its sheer length, I don’t think there’s anything else in my Top 30 that stretches the definition of a “moment” quite as much as this does. But, hey—my list, my rules. ;P]
Our writers have done it again–the entire central section of “Light in the Dark” seems made to remind me why Korra is, appropriately enough, my favorite character in LoK. In both this scene and the corresponding scene from the Book 1 finale, it’s Korra’s unselfish determination to protect the people she cares most about that gives her the strength to come back from what looks like irremediable defeat. (And again she manages to do it in public, with an even bigger audience than last time!)
To begin at the beginning, though… maybe I should call this my favorite AtLA callback, because here, as in so many other places, Korra gets to pick up the story where Aang left off.
Aang once spent an entire episode opening his chakras with Guru Pathik, only to fall short of Cosmic status. Korra has been overcoming spiritual blocks with less fanfare since Book 1, and so she’s the one who finally gets to show us, onscreen, what happens when a chakra-opener actually reaches the giant glowing version of him/herself on the astral plane.
What happens is this:
Cosmic Korra is no wimpy astral projection, either, as Unavaatu quickly finds out.
The details are great, of course–Ikki and Meelo summing up the scene as only they can (“Korra’s back!” “And she’s a blue giant!”), Pema being a mom, Jinora being a eucatastrophe, and Korra using Unalaq’s signature technique against him, then sending him off with his own tag line, “Go in peace.” Not to mention, once again, the lack of dialogue–especially on Korra’s part–until she gets her second wind from her determination to save Raava.
But if I were going to pick out one actual moment as a favorite from this all-around-amazing sequence, it would be the one shown in the picture below, for being a perfect encapsulation of the entire fight.
This scene takes the top spot on my list because Avatar has always been about characters, especially its title characters, and this whole episode–from the Tree of Time to the Korra’s decision to leave the Spirit Portals open–is the epitome of character development. Unalaq schemes throughout the season to gain the power of an Avatar… only to be beaten by Korra, whose Avatar powers are mere appendages to her own incredible strength and conviction, and who’s more than a match for Unavaatu even after losing Raava and the Harmonic Convergence battle. This final fight isn’t just about Korra developing some new power; it’s about her becoming more fully the person she always was.
And that’s why I love this show and this character so much, and why I maintain that every season of Avatar has been better than the one that preceded it. I can’t wait to see how this trend continues in Book 3. ^__^
#7: Opening the Northern Portal (K110, “A New Spiritual Age”)
What a difference eight episodes makes! The opening of the southern portal might have been exciting just for the fighting involved, but the revelations about Unalaq, Vaatu and upcoming Harmonic Convergence make the opening of the northern portal one of the most emotionally intense scenes in Book 2.
Instead of a bunch of freelance Dark Spirits trying to drag Korra away from a spirit portal she’s struggling to reach, she’s got Unalaq’s Dark Spirits forcing her toward it; instead of a group of friends offering to help her open the portal, she’s got one friend risking her life to get her to stop.
It’s that last element that gives the scene its drama, as our heroes’ plan to close the southern portal has played straight into Unalaq’s hands by leaving both of them without bending at a critical moment.
Korra rightly chooses Jinora’s life over her own safety, tacitly agreeing to refight the Harmonic Convergence battle from 10,000 years before–but between being crushed in the jaws of a Dark Spirit and nearly having her soul destroyed by Unalaq’s spiritbending, she still takes a terrible beating before being rescued by the friendly dragon-bird. And that’s not even the scariest thing in the episode.
The ending of “A New Spiritual Age” has my favorite twist in LoK thus far—after all the scary, unexpected things that have happened to Korra in the past five minutes, the scariest of all is the moment when she has to face Tenzin’s distress over the loss of the daughter Korra was supposed to be protecting. I don’t think we’ve ever seen her this horrified.
Legend of Korra may manage to stay within the limitations of Y7 violence-wise, but it doesn’t spare its viewers anything when it comes to psychological drama. It’s moments like these that make it impossible to see LoK as just another kids’ show.