The Legend of Korra returns with a new look, but that same ole’ Avatar goodness. The spirits are a little restless.

The Legend of Korra, a spinoff of Avatar: The Last Airbender, follows the next Avatar in the lineage on her quest to learn airbending and bring the world to peace. Season one, known as Book One: Air, felt rushed but worked to establish new within the old. Fans of the original series were right at home, 70 years after Aang triumphed over the Fire Nation, in Republic City, the capital of a state that arose after the war.

Book Two, called Spirits, starts with insight into the Spirit World, a realm coexisting with the Material World. Evil spirits have emerged from the Southern Water Tribe’s shunning of the spiritual realm, in reducing an event near the Winter Solstice to merely a festival with games and cotton candy. This has angered the spirits, who emerge to attack Korra and crew.

If this conflict is the thrust for Book Two, it would enter new territory. The Last Airbender only dabbled into the spirit realm. Aang entered it either looking to other Avatars for guidance, or in one Book One episode. Presumably, this direction means we’ll explore the history of the Avatar, since all past ones live in the Spirit World.

In “Rebel Spirit”, six months after Amon’s downfall, our characters find themselves anew. Except Bolin (Mr. Comic Relief as he should be known), who holds a dubious record: the fastest probending defeat in history. Mako is now a member of the Republic City police force, while Asami is tasked with returning Future Industries to glory.

Korra, never the pupil, doesn’t take kindly to Tenzin’s suggestion that they visit every air temple. He believes the Avatar has yet to master proper airbending, but on Korra’s insistence, they pit at the Southern Water Tribe for a festival. Tonraq, her father, greets her. Unalaq, leader of the Northern Water Tribe and Korra’s uncle, arrives not two seconds after.

He lays out the situation: The spirits are angry and attacking ships. Just as this happens, a spirit appears and takes out the group handily. Unalaq, attuned to the spirits, calmly sends the spirit back through some unique form of bending. Bored with airbending, Korra decides to accept Unalaq as her new teacher to Tenzin and Tonraq’s dismay.

In the second part of the premiere, “The Southern Lights”, Unalaq has a hands-on approach to teaching. He suggests they “set things right” by travelling to the South Pole so Korra can reestablish a spiritual connection to the Material World. She must open an ancient portal to the Spirit World that has long since closed.

As the crew rests, Tonraq confesses that he had been banished from the Northern Water Tribe and came south to start anew. When bandits attacked the main city, he had tracked them to a spiritual forest. Capturing the bandits meant destroying the forest, but Tonraq did so anyway. Angry spirits then attacked the city and almost brought the North to its knees.

Korra was understandably upset. Unalaq stops to explain how the Northern spirits dance in the sky–the Northern Lights. Because the South suppressed that connection, their lights disappeared.

Almost immediately after, upon entering a heavy storm, dark spirits lunge at the group. The scuffle causes all the equipment to break. They approach the frozen forest, where Korra must go in alone. She reaches the forest’s heart, and after struggling to break through the ice, she is grabbed by a spirit. Going into the Avatar State, she breaks through and lights pierce the sky, confirming the bond is once again whole.

Reaching the Southern Water Tribe, Korra sees Northern soldiers gathering over a foothill. Asking Unalaq, he says “There’s more difficult work to be done, before our two tribes are truly united.” Unalaq isn’t as noble as we thought…

A few interesting side-stories:

  • Bolin and Asami secure shipping for Future Industries, with Bolin playing assistant. Maybe there’s something brewing between the two?
  • Accompanying Unalaq were his children, daughter and son twins. Bolin, the sly guy he is, tries to get with Desna, the female twin, only to be “claimed”. This mini-plot provided the bulk of the premiere’s hilarity.
  • We become acquainted with Bumi and Kya, Tenzin’s brother and sister, and Aang and Katara’s two other children. When visiting the Southern Air Temple, a great scene happens when a maidservant assumed Bumi and Kya were first servants themselves. She then wrongly assumes they are airbenders, leading to a hilarious proclamation from Bumi. (The show has not lost its charm.)

One interesting element to note: The show received quite the visual upgrade since Book One. Crisper colours, more detailed bending and even the snow flying around during the latter half looked convincing. It’s one visually appeasing package, which I can’t wait to see more of.

The Legend of Korra airs Fridays on Nickelodeon. Watch it, then practice your own bending skills.

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