“The Ember Island Players” it ain’t, but…
“Remembrance” is a recap episode of the reused animation variety [Edit: Turns out this was thanks to Nick’s surprise-slashing of LoK’s budget, as Bryan explains on his own tumblr], but I’ll give the team credit for finding a way to inject some originality and character development (and of course humor) into the whole project. In a similar but, well, very different way to A:tLA’s “Ember Island Players,” the series retells its story through a new lens, although instead of rumors and theatre, they use character narratives and “movers” to do it.
And it was sort of enlightening to see the past few seasons told by the characters (and their respective peanut galleries), as it sheds additional light on both past and current perspectives that may not have been clear at the time. In Mako and Korra/Asami’s narratives, there’s also the sense of the fandom hovering in the background, arguing through the characters about decisions made in past seasons. I mean, seriously: How many of us have had The Mako Debate or The Korra Discussion over the years? (Don’t worry, I’m raising my hand.)
Mako’s an introverted character so we’ve seen very little of the story from his perspective, and hearing his take on events is a refreshing and worthwhile look at his psychology. The “audience” reactions are also pretty much perfect (I laughed and applauded when they side-eyed him for his “breakup” with Asami), partly because they’re quite funny, but also because using Wu (who is himself hopeless at speaking to women) highlights how much easier it is to handle romantic entanglements when you’re not involved in them.
That said, I found the venture a tad disappointing, as I had hoped Mako would more openly admit to his past mistakes after the others called him out on them. But, well, this is Mako—proud to a fault and bad at expressing himself. In retrospect, it would have been nice to see him in a healthy relationship after the time skip, to help show that his past behavior was rooted in immaturity rather than callousness.
Korra’s segment of the tale provided a similar although less enlightening personal retrospective: We sort of knew she was beating herself up about the way things have turned out, so hearing her go over it for a few minutes felt more like a summary of old rather than new information. The most revealing part here was when Asami came to Korra’s defense, because it shows the closeness of their relationship and the kind of respect Asami feels for her friend. Tenzin’s piece was fairly sweet as well, but too on-the-nose in terms of telling the audience How To Feel about Korra’s journey for it to really resonate.
I have almost nothing to add to Varrick’s “Bolin as Nuktuk as Bolin” mover plot. I believe it speaks ridiculously for itself. The dialogue was great and his delivery was pitch-perfect as always, and I loved hearing the villainous voice actors being silly on the phone together. This one did suffer from the reused animation, though, as the narrative didn’t quite match up with what was on screen. A little extra work here and there (and not just pasting Bolin’s face onto Giant Spirit Korra) would have gone a long way to making this one pop. As it was, I felt like I would have enjoyed it more as an audio file, which is about the first time I’ve ever said that about LoK.
All in all this was easily the weakest episode of the last two seasons, but it was still more rewarding than the vast majority of recap episodes—I even managed to get a solid page’s worth of review out of it, whereas most recaps are just “Well’p, see you kids next week.” And hey, if the intense amount of money-saving that went on this week mean that the final four episodes are going to be the most beautiful, dynamic masterpieces of animation we’ve seen from the LoK team, then I’ll consider “Remembrance” a smashing success.
This, That, and the Other
You know what? My notes are full of quotes, so let’s just fill this sucker with those:
- “You’re so weak ‘Wu down’ is your catchphrase.”
- “You know, it seems like you’re so afraid to disappoint anyone that you end up disappointing everyone.”
“Wow. Truer words were never spoken. High five!”
- “Just like your grandfather!”
- “Hey Vaatu.”
“Oh. Hey Zaheer.”
“Glad I caught you at home. (snickers)”
“Hah. Very funny. Like I can leave this stupid tree.”
- “The evil Unaloq: The diabolical but incredibly boring and unpopular sorcerer from the North!”
- “You turned into a giant spirit.”
“Yeah. That was pretty awesome.”