Yay for a substantial uptick in quality and Iroh, there will never be a time where Iroh showing up is bad. Yes “ A New Spiritual Age” succeeded where the slower paced episodes of the season have failed, building a strong fast paced narrative that is well connected to the main conflict. Korra and Jinora’s adventures in the Spirit World did not turn out like they had hoped and it seems this season may end up being darker than we thought as the stakes were really ratcheted up by the end. The animation this week was as stunning as in “Beginnings” and the story has truly benefited from having Studio Mir handle the Spirit World aspects of this season. There were some noticeable absences such as a solid B-story for them writers to play off of, but the episode managed to be at such a high form that it is hard to nitpick such aspects. So lets dive in and pour a cup of tea.
So I really want to know who had Iroh being Korra’s spiritual guide in the Spirit World, because I am pretty sure most if not all of us went full foaming mouth guy at his reveal. Yes in the pantheon of Avatar characters few are as quoted and none are as revered as our favorite elderly, philosophical tea drinker. It was crystal clear from the moment Iroh appeared in the forest that we were going to have some good old fashion Iroh-isms and philosophy to help Korra understand her place as the spiritual center of the two worlds.I don’t want to give him too much credit but by introducing Iroh to Korra the episode was going to largely live and die on those scenes, and the writers have a very strong grasp on what it takes to write for Iroh as a character. He really helped to shine a light on Korra’s lack of a true spiritual counselor, yes we have had Tenzin, and now Jinora is in play, but this is the first time anyone has been able to explain the value and true meaning behind being the world’s spiritual guide. Aang had Roku and now hopefully Iroh will serve a similar role moving forward.
I could go on gushing about how awesome Iroh is for a few more paragraphs but I would do myself a disservice if I did not mention the growth that Korra went through on her journey with the baby dragon-bird. Once Korra came across her spirit mount she began to develop a true understanding of how the Spirit World works and what it mean to be an understanding Avatar. We can draw a lot of similarities between Korra and the dragon-bird, and Aang and Hei Bai, as each was confrontational at first, but once their respective Avatar’s connected with them they understood the spiritual balance a little more. This episode also slightly confronted Korra’s emotional inconsistency a little bit by having her understand that anger and rage only managed to help strengthen the dark spirits and and being open and understanding was the way to change the world. A little hokey and on the nose, sure, but this is still marketed as a kids show, sometimes we have to make concession. I hope this means Korra will be less sporadic in her mood swings now that she knows the damage they can cause. Also dragon-bird is going up on the list of mythical animals I want to own. your move sky bison, owl bear, and platypus bear.
While Korra was off having the best tea party ever Jinora was accompanied by one of her dragonfly-bunny friends across the Spirit World. Specifically she took a page from Sokka’s book and chose to visit the library and in turn ran in to Wan Shi Tong, he who knows ten thousand things, but not how a radio works. It was nice to see some characteristics of the library remained including Wan Shi Tong being a dick to his fox library assistant, as well as the professor who decided to stay being a corpse. These little details, much like the quirks of Iroh’s personality helped to boost the sense of nostalgia we have about the original series. Of course Jinora gets screwed over by Wan Shi Tong as he promptly hands her over to Unalaq who is apparently “a friend of the spirits.” We have very different definitions of friend.This all leads us to a major change in plans as not only is Jinora being held prisoner in the Spirit World but both spirit portals have been opened for Harmonic Convergence, now allowing Vaatu to escape in a few short weeks. We have no idea what Unalaq will gain by helping Vaatu but it has got to be something good to risk ending the world.
Overall another fantastic episode.
Final Grade A-
+Iroh still a boss and a half
+Korra’s character development
+The stakes have been ratcheted up
+JInora’s library excursion.
+Art direction top notch
-What does Unalaq get out of this
-No update on Team Avatar
-Cake, Tea, and Pai Sho. Iroh throws the best weeding parties ever.
-I am really happy that we have had a consistent amount of new and varied spirits since “Beginnings,” they were sorely lacking dying the first half of the season.
-Iroh’s light in the darkness speech was amazing, Tenzin needs to take some classes as a spiritual advisory.
-Golden Dragon-Bird I hope you remain a constant through out the rest of the series.
-Korra’s face at the end when Tenzin finds out Jinora is trapped in the Spirit World, completely heartbreaking.