Well, that was interesting. I mean I really am trying to digest what just happened, but overall I guess “Civil Wars, Part 1” was a bit anticlimactic in terms of the setup we experienced last week in the premiere. If anything I believe Korra is suffering from Breaking Bad syndrome, in that the quality is so good on such a consistent basis that when an episode like this happens it is a little bit of a letdown. Granted, there was plenty of fun material that occurred that would make for a very solid setup episode, but in Korra’s case the opposite seemed true: I wanted something more and for everything not to feel so telegraphed. On which note, let’s dive right in.
So, we, much like Korra, are left to delve into the ramifications of her actions by opening the Southern spirit portal and, although it is great to see the writers following through and continuing plot lines, I find myself as a audience member less interested in the Korra plot, and more interested in the side plot. This is not because of anything on Korra’s part, it is just that you can see the plot of the waring brothers and the civil war playing out from a mile away. The viewer could easily figure out how each side would react to the escalating actions and who the villain of the episode would turn out to be. Watching the tensions escalate between the North and South reminded me of the episode “The Waterbending Master” of the original series. The North all seem to embody Paku’s superiority complex believing themselves to be the complete betters of the south. If the creators were attempting to make us question both sides they did not accomplish it as the South always came off as the good guys.
This is why Korra’s choice as a character to remain neutral during the conflict doesn’t make sense. From the moment the North arrives they seal off the port, enforce their will, and drop kids off a roof. They do not act like a sibling nation, but rather like complete fascists who have no respect. Korra should have been able to point out the flaws of the north’s actions to Unalaq, but instead all of the character seem to be blind to everything besides their own motivations. This is apparent in the conclusion of the episode when Korra’s parents are arrested to be put on trial. We knew after Unalaq attempted kidnapping that there was no way he would allow anyone even slightly connected to the rebellion to get off free, especially his own brother whom he really dislikes.
What really helped to point the flaws of the main plot was how thoroughly enjoyable the subplot of Tenzin and his siblings was. It was a simple setup with Ikki running away after her siblings had made fun of her and Team Aang’s kids going to look for her. The difference is even though many of the big reveals were easy to guess, they were done in a much more natural/entertaining way. We had a little inkling of how Aang’s other children were viewed by the rest of the world, but to know that even Aang played favorites with his kids was heartbreaking. It is not that this was not a believable idea but rather how much the Aang we knew and loved had changed so much since becoming a fully realized Avatar. I want to believe that Aang or Katara showed Bumi and Kya the love they deserved or at least that Uncle Sokka was amazing.
What helped to lighten the mood was seeing the interplay between the siblings and finding out the fun quirks they all had. Finding out that Bumi was not only the kid who never grew up but also the overly dramatic actor type was a fantastic reveal that really added a fun element to his character. The entire shark-squid conversation was worth its weight in gold. Also seeing the hippie/intimidating Kya be shown as Katara reborn added a thoroughly fun and unique element to the entire search process. It was in watching all of these conversations that I came to realize how lackluster the main plot was, and by the end I found myself wishing we had only had an episode with the search for Ikki.
Overall this episode did not deliver on the promises of“The Southern Lights”, but still managed to give us a highly enjoyable subplot to play around with.
Final Grade: B-
+Fantastic subplot involving Aang’s kids
+Really good comedy
+Unique action scene
-Main plot really lackluster
-Fairly easy to predict developments
-Bolin is unable to stand up for himself
-No Asami at all
-Northern Water Tribe are just a great big bag of dicks
-Seriously Bolin needs to grow a pair fast ’cause Eska is just awful.
-”Shark-squid… my old nemesis”. Bumi probably has a painting of himself shirtless fighting a shark-squid over his mantel, and I am perfectly fine with that.
-Varrick is proving to be the standout character of the season so far with Bumi. Everything he says is amazing.
-Seriously though, Asami is a main member of Team Avatar; she should appear at least once an episode even if it is only in the background.