Reunited, and it feels so awkward.
Bryke & Co.’s decision to turn LoK into a “one major arc per Book” kind of show has occasionally lead to some issues with pacing or a focus on plot to the exclusion of character development, but they’re usually pretty good about giving us one or two episodes that function as sort of self-contained “bridge” chapters that let us spend some time with the gang and see them interacting and growing on a micro rather than macro level. “The Sting” and “Original Airbenders” come to mind as good examples of insular stories where Korra wasn’t even involved; this season we get “The Reunion,” a Korra-centric episode that also belongs very much to the entire Krew.
Overarching plot-wise not a lot of major developments to discuss—Bolin and Varrick flee the Earth Kingdom with the help of some “reeducation camp” escapees, and Kuvira has decided to drain the Great Banyan-Grove Tree of its spirit energy (Toph is gonna be pissed)—but that’s fine, because we get to spend some quality time with some old friends who have been more-or-less sidelined this season. While it’s a small step down from last week’s delight of an episode, it’s still solid entertainment (I mean, who can resist a Train Fight?) and a good way to reacquaint everyone before (presumably) Shit Gets Real in the coming weeks.
The story is pretty straightforward: Korra returns to Republic City and meets up with Mako and Asami (and the uninvited Prince Wu), but three years of separation have created some tension and mild resentment between the trio. Korra worries that Asami’s father might be manipulating her and Asami snaps at her for giving out “life advice” when she’s been gone for so long, and Mako feels some mix of jealousy and hurt at the fact that Korra wrote to Asami but never to him. It’s understandable but also completely unfair to Korra, who had plenty of good reasons to behave the way she did. And I think both Asami and Mako start to realize that as the episode continues and they all have to work together to save Prince Wu from Kuvira’s kidnapper squad.
And by “all have to work together,” I mean “Asami drives like a boss and Korra airbends and spirit-sleuths like a boss, and Mako won’t stop complaining about them both.” He’s a fine cop (he makes the proper arrests and alerts the proper higher-ups about the situation), but he’s always been a very meticulous, by-the-book kind of character, and it means he doesn’t think on his feet as well as Korra or Asami (or Bolin, for that matter). Sometimes I think Bryke & Co. created him almost solely for that (ugh) love triangle of the early seasons, and now that he’s single they’re never quite sure what to do with him.
Not that I’m complaining—he makes a fine minor character and a decent foil to Korra’s “wrecking ball” approach to conflict, and the show seems to understand that now and uses him accordingly (and sparingly). The whole Krew clicks better now that Mako’s playing the long-suffering straight man instead of the romantic lead, and the change in his role makes perfect sense given how foolishly he handled his early-series relationships with both girls. They’ve all moved on and forgiven each other for it, but they’ve never really forgotten it, and it’s good that the series recognizes that and has adjusted their relationships to one another.
By the end of the episode the trio seem to have set current hurts aside and acknowledged that, while it might take some time to settle back into that old, easy camaraderie they used to have, they’re willing to stick together and work towards rebuilding those ties even so. The episode reestablishes long-time relationships and characters and shows us how far they’ve come (and how far they still have to go), but more than that, it serves as one more example of human connections damaged and then rebuilt (examples, actually, as Bolin forges ties with the escapees as well).
The Book builds on its central themes even when it’s not focused on its central plot, and it’s encouraging to see as we head into the final round of episodes, where I suspect all these issues of reconnection and redemption will come into play in a big way.
This, That, and the Other
- I’ve never really ‘shipped anyone in LoK, but goodness, they’re teasing the “Korrasami” romance so hard, I’m about to declare it canon.
- So. Kuvira is officially partaking in ethnic cleansing. She just shifted from Dangerous Imperialist to Super Fascist… and yet, it’s a testament to the show’s writing that I still kinda like her. She’s a bit of an Ozai 2.0: Similar goals and methods, but her public persona is so charismatic and practical that it’s easier to understand why so many people support her (which is also what makes her infinitely more threatening than Ozai ever was).
- “Hey, pop into the Avatar state for me! I wanna see your eyes glow.” Wu continues to straddle the line between annoying and hilarious, and Korra’s reactions to him throughout the episode were priceless, an absolutely pitch-perfect blend of bafflement and scorn.
- Steven Blum (a prolific voice actor who will nevertheless always be Cowboy Bebop’s Spike Spiegel to me) plays the firebending escapee this week, and maybe this was just fan-goggles, but it struck me that his character design sort of resembled Spike’s. Probably just a coincidence, but one that made me smile even so.
- I opted not to talk too much about Varrick and Bolin because it would mostly just be me gushing about how perfect and wonderful they are in every scene ever, but let’s take a moment to remember why we love Bolin:
“Thanks. You didn’t have to come back.”
“Yeah, I kinda did.”
And another moment to remember why we love Varrick:
“Listen, pal! I had to fight off two badger moles, six wolfbats, and 18 hogmonkeys to get these guys, so sorry if I don’t have the paper work! I was too busy cramming it in a hogmonkey’s mouth while it was trying to eat me!”
Also, beating the bad guys with SCIENCE and LAVA and ACTING! There is a spin-off series about these two just begging to be made.