Legend of Korra Recap: “Old Wounds” and “Original Airbenders”
Chapters 6 and 7!
I didn’t major in something people considered “normal.” I wanted to work in animation, because I loved cartoons, and I loved telling stories that left people wanting more. As I went through my college, the worst happened: my passion began to wane. I was growing tired, nothing was coming out right, and I was wishing that I could find that passion again.
It wasn’t until I was overseeing a class for one of my professors (TA jobs were amazing) that I got a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. Someone brought in a DVD of old animation, the really early 1920s/30s stuff, for background noise. As student’s pencils wiggled over flipping animation paper, a conversation was started: Why was everything in animation about comedy? It felt as though early animation wasn’t about anything but goofy gags and stupid jokes. Frankly, the more we thought about it, the more it seemed like that sophomoric mentality in animation hadn’t changed at all. Then someone piped up: “Well, Avatar isn’t like that!”
Thankfully, that student was right!
All that family drama boiling over in last week’s episode was bound to explode, and boy howdy, did it! This episode focused largely on how the past has really taken an emotional toll on Lin.
Stress can be a killer, and geez, does Lin need to relax! After a run in with the Truth Seer, Lin takes his suggestion to see an acupuncturist. Through her appointment under the
terrifying flying needles we get a glimpse into what happened so long ago that pushed Lin and Su Yin apart. Turns out Toph’s girls were just one side of the same Toph-stamped coin. Stubborn, brash, unshakable in their own truths – these two have way more in common than either wants to admit.
When the young Lin finds out her sister is playing getaway driver for criminals, she has no choice but to arrest Su. When Su tries to walk away, Lin grabs her and gets those badass facial scars for her trouble. Of course, Toph is not okay with any of this. She’s the chief of police, and having her daughter in prison doesn’t really look good. Toph covers up the entire incident by sending Su to live with her grandparents, and Lin is furious that her sister got away with it. Toph tells her daughters that “this is the only option,” leaving viewers wondering why this is the only option Toph thinks she has. There’s got to be more there.
During all this there’s relatively little for Team Avatar to be doing, so of course it’s a perfect chance for Korra to learn metalbending (Korra’s the first metalbending Avatar, ya’ll)! Bolin eventually gets in on the action after an incredibly honest and sweet chat with Opal. Just as Bolin is about to realize his dream of metalbending (Toph is his biggest hero! Awww!), Lin shows up.
Lin confronts Su about their past, and the gloves are off when Su drops this bomb:
The only thing that keeps these two from crushing each other under rocks/metal is Opal, who steps in, and air-blasts them apart. Fast forward some 16 hours later, and Lin is awake, cheerful and in a dress. Frankly, she seems like an entirely different person. The complete 180 is so jarring it almost doesn’t feel real when Lin asks Opal to talk with her. During their heart-to-heart, Lin convinces Opal that she should do what’s best for her, not what she thinks her mom would approve of. OMG OPAL’S GONNA TRAIN WITH TENZIN! Under another statue of Toph (that’s three now), Su and Lin finally patch things up, deciding to move forward.
While all of this is going down, Republic City is on red alert due to Zaheer’s fumble at Air Temple Island. Their plan to kidnap President Raiko was a bust due to heightened security, so they decide to blow town. With a bit of P’li’s mind bullets and Ghazan’s lavabending, they hightail it out of Republic City unscathed. They’re back on the trail for Korra, and with that, viewers are left wondering what these guys want with her so much.
After so much drama in the last few episodes, “Original Airbenders” was a breath of fresh air. While it’s the more relaxed of the two episodes, and the closest we’ve come to ‘filler’ in this season, it still stands well enough on its own. It’s compelling, and the character dynamics stay true to each person. While the stakes aren’t as high, this one was a welcome reduction in tension.
So, as it turns out, being the only airbending master kind of sucks, especially when you’re not really that good at teaching. As much as Tenzin wants to be a good teacher, he doesn’t exactly have that talent of inspiring students. This was true with Korra, and it’s especially true with the new airbenders. Tenzin admits as much on a radio call with Korra.
The Avatar suggests Tenzin use the assets he has in his kids, but especially in Bumi. After all, Bumi was in the Navy, so of course he knows how to get people motivated! Following her advice, Tenzin asks for help, and Bumi is more than happy to tell his younger brother what to do: “You gotta break them and build em up again!”
If only Bumi realized what a monster he created. Tenzin follows through on that advice, becoming nothing short of a drill sergeant. Jinora’s skeptical of this routine, but her concerns are brushed aside. While everyone does their best to keep up, drill sergeant Tenzin isn’t motivating any of the new airbenders.
As the training continues, Kai and Jinora get a little closer, taking one of their breaks to check out some wild flying bison babies. Of course they’re adorable, but mama bison isn’t so cool with visitors. Luckily, Jinora plucks Kai from becoming skewered by angry bison mama. There’s a wonderful moment where we learn why Jinora doesn’t have her tattoos yet. According to Tenzin, Jinora has yet to master airbending, so she can’t have her tattoos. This is pretty ridiculous considering Aang got his for inventing air scooters, and Jinora isn’t only an incredibly capable airbender, but a spiritual prodigy as well.
Back at airbender bootcamp, an obstacle course is the undoing of Bumi’s desire to be an airbender. The outburst of sibling dysfunction leaves Tenzin looking for escape, so he names Jinora to take over. Jinora wants her tattoos, and her father still feels she’s too young despite her talents exceeding his own. What’s so great about this scene is that Jinora and Tenzin actually fight like a parent and child. This scene feels natural, and similar to the experiences a lot of us have, whether we’re kids or parents.
Tenzin’s problem is that he keeps forgetting that adjusting to a new way of life takes time. Pema gently reminds him that the new airbenders aren’t what’s causing his problems. It’s his own lack of patience. Tenzin apologizes to Bumi, but his older brother has no interest in listening. Frustrated, Tenzin takes Oogi for a ride to cool off.
But Tenzin isn’t the only one who’s frustrated. To blow off steam, Jinora and Kai head back out to see the baby bison again, but run into bison poachers instead! As they’re captured along with the baby flying bison meant for slaughter, we learn that the Earth Kingdom royals love exotic meats. Also: THE EARTH QUEEN ATE BOSCO, THAT BITCH.
Jinora sends a spirit to plead for help, and it’s Bumi that receives it. Picking up on Tenzin’s slack, Bumi leads the new airbenders in an all-out airbending assault on the poachers. The new airbenders preform remarkably well. Once caught, the poacher leader yields to Kai, but the new airbender’s rage is palpable. The dude is only saved when Tenzin steps in.
With Jinora and the baby bison saved, the original airbenders spend time with the new airbenders. The brothers make up in a touching moment where we learn Bumi was scared of being a disappointment. Who can blame him really? Being born a non-bender to the last airbender alive had to be hard. Tenzin also patches things up with Jinora, promising to think about letting her get the tattoos.
Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra continue to be two of the few exceptions of quality amid a sea of cheap comedy cartoons. When I finally watched the original series several months later, I got my groove back. When I began working on my own projects, I looked to the example of dramatic depth and quality storytelling Bryke set with Avatar.
The animation quality alone makes Korra easily one of the most beautifully animated shows out there right now. Studio Mir may as well be filled with pencil-benders, because they’ve created one of the most beautifully animated television shows ever. This season is proving to be the best yet for Legend of Korra, and my hope is that it’ll only get better from here.
What did you think of this week’s episodes? Share your theories, your favorite moments, and your love for Kainora in the comments! It’s another week before we see the next two episodes, which will air on July 25th. Until then, my fellow Korra fans!
By day, Carrie is the co-creator, artist and production coordinator of Kamikaze. By night a writer, budding comic nerd and passionate feminist. Occasionally she takes pretty photos. A devoted scholar to film, animation and storytelling Carrie is feared wherever books are sold, and enjoys the company of animals, geeks and artists equally. Feel free to follow her on Twitter.