K402 Korra Alone
Written By - Mike Dimartino
Directed By - Ian Graham
Animated By - Studio Mir
I will start by saying I have no issue with this episode. It is one of the best episodes of Avatar we have gotten so far. While it is not perfect in that we still have many questions about Korra and what she is going through, we don't really get many answers, but for an episode that completely focuses on Korra's journey during the 3 year time skip it is incredibly emotional and well written.
The decision to have a Korra solo episode as the second episode worked very well given all of the questions brought up by Korra's appearance at the end of episode 1. It was very important to explain why she did not return to the city and reunite with her friends and why she is going undercover and not wanting people to know she is the Avatar. That explanation requires a full episode as Korra's character arc this book looks to be very much in her head and very emotional. I will talk about her recovery later on, but for now the direct answer for the end of episode 1 is that she is wearing different clothes and not wanting people to recognise her as the Avatar not because she has left that life behind and does not ever want to be the Avatar again. Instead the answer was something I did not predict, while she has recovered physically for the most part, the mental side of her recovery still needs to happen and she cannot seem to fight effectively without memories of being poisoned coming back. The scene on the island perfectly explains her change, just being recognised she is just expected to solve every problem that comes up regardless of where she is or what she is doing, she fails to stop some simple thieves and the people even question if she is the avatar. So her change happens because right now she feels she is not good enough to actively be the Avatar, she badly wants to recover and reconnect to Raava, but she cannot handle always being recognised and expected to solve everything when she knows she is not ready. I loved this explanation, I hoped that she had not lost faith in the world even needing the Avatar and she was on the run from her role, so seeing how passionately she wants to recover and return to being the Avatar again was a big moment for me in this episode.
Then finding out that she cannot enter the Avatar State since starting her recovery, that was unexpected and right up there with the most mysterious parts of this episode. Especially when the spirit said that it cannot sense Raava energy from her, I was really wondering what is causing this and in general Korra's loss of spirit connections. She goes to meditate in the Tree of Time and senses nothing and more than that she sees nothing, we know one of the abilities of the Tree Of Time is that it shows all of your memories, but Korra sees nothing. Like many things in this episode, I am incredibly interested and intrigued about what happened and am desperate for an explanation. While I have no issues with this episode now, depending on how the explanations go my view of this episode will either go up or down.
Her trip to the spirit world also features one of my favourite parts of the episode. When the spirits offer to help her get better, she gets up and talks about how for her whole recovery everyone has been saying they can help her, but that never could, she has to do it on her own. For me it is the moment where you fully realise why this episode is called "Korra Alone", the spirits may not have been able to help her, but the big difference between Korra before this book and Korra now is that before she would have accepted the help anyway, now she is convinced she has to go it alone and it is very sad to see her thinking this way.
As for the biggest mystery of this episode, what in the name of Raava does that Dark Vision of Korra represent? What is it? There are so many different theories I could talk about here, but I would be here all day so instead I will just discuss what the episode shows. The vision first appears to Korra as she goes to enter Republic City after the incident on the island, it seems as if it is guarding Republic City keeping Korra away. Just from this being it's first appearance I would assume it represents the fear she has that she is no longer a good enough Avatar and until she can accept that things have changed and she won't just be the same as before it will always haunt her, but the fact that it appears nearly everywhere else she goes is interesting. She can see the vision, but no one else except the spirit who disguises itself as a dog. So this would lead me to believe it perhaps is the spiritual part of herself or the Raava energy that the spirit said was missing, but this doesn't make sense right now and has no basis. But I feel the fact that the spirit could see it will be important. Some other interesting things are that the one time the vision does something is that it leads Korra to the Earthbending cage match as if it wants to fight her, but when Korra does fight she is badly beaten both times even though no physical fight took place, so this would lead me to believe it is about a conflict within herself. The vision may be the strong and powerful side of herself, while Korra right now feels like she is weak.
I liked that the final confrontation of this episode is in the swamp and Korra and her vision have a big battle and especially the symbolism of Korra's defeat happening as she is dragged into a pool of the poison that put her in this situation.
Even stuff like the spirit knowing that guiding Korra to Toph will help is interesting as while Toph appearing is awesome, the more interesting thing for me is why a spirit would know that Toph can help Korra. Toph is right near the top of the list of people who probably wouldn't be recommended by spirits, but that adds to the idea that the Toph we meet and I am sure will get to know more about is much different compared to the way we know her from ATLA. We know she left on a journey of enlightenment and how amazing is it that she has ended up in the exact place where we first saw her in the series, The Swamp. More than that we know the swamp is a place you can achieve enlightenment as Huu mentioned in "The Swamp". Then there is the fact that Toph, who is blind knows that Korra is the Avatar, Aang and Korra are different people (Albeit both reincarnations of Wan), so unless Toph can sense the spirit energy of an Avatar which even a spirit could not do I am not sure how she knew straight away. This means that when we return to these two in a future episode not only are we interested in how Toph will help Korra, but also what Toph is doing living in the swamp, what was Toph's journey. This in my opinion may be why Toph may be the perfect person to help Korra, they both have similar personalities and have now both gone on big journeys to find themselves in some way.
As for Korra's recovery, I found this to be such an interesting sequence of scenes. So simple yet immensely emotional, from Senna showing a lot of concern for her daughter to the amazing scenes between Korra and Katara. It says so much that a scene of Korra slightly moving her big toe with the help of Katara can be so powerful, the performance of Janet Varney giving the reaction to the toe moving was so well done. Korra goes from being so concerned about her situation that she avoided going to see Katara to the most excited/relieved she has ever been in her life. Then her anger and frustration after 6 months with little progress all aimed at Katara, it is such a strong journey for our main character. I have always loved her as a character and even while other fans complained about her in Book 2, I still liked her there, but with this it is hard to not feel so much for Korra and the situation she is in.
The scene with Tenzin is great in that we get a carbon copy of the firebending test from K101, it is such a perfect way to show the problems left for Korra despite her good physical recovery, before she just burst through the fire attacks and this time as she tries to do this again her memory of nearly dying nearly happens and the sparring session ends. The mental side of her recovery still needs to happen.
Final scene I want to mention is Korra's hallucination in the desert, this scene shows just how desperate she is to reconnect to Raava and become the Avatar again. Despite going undercover she wants to be the Avatar as soon as possible.
Overall this is an excellent episode, while it is not the most epic episode of the series, it is so character focused and emotional that it is right up there with some of the more epic moments. If there is anything holding it back as an individual episode it is that we don't get many answers and arguably more questions are presented, so if the answers are not satisfactory this episode will go down in my estimation, but if they end up being as good as I think they will be this episode will just get better. Often early episodes are forgotten as more action packed episodes come towards the end of the Book, but I think this episode will linger in may fans minds just because it is such a sad journey to see our main character on.