In “The Calling,” we are given a beautifully crafted episode that reminds us how essential the theme is in this book..scratch that..how the entire series working towards establishing BALANCE..
We are already a quarter way through the last book of the Legend of Korra, therefore here is a quick little summary of the previous week’s episode to catch you up. Please only read this in the epic announcer voice of Shiro Shinobi (commentator of pro-bending matches and each episode summary)..
Last week’s official announcement of Kuvira’s takeover of the Earth Kingdom during “The Coronation” was unsurprising however, it did garner some sympathy for Prince Wu, who has a fantastic little breakdown in Ba Sing Se. Bolin completes his transformation as Kuvira’s parrot by continuing to spew her rhetoric despite any reservations he continues to hold. Eska and Desna make a quick appearance, where we learn that Desna “sleeps in the tub,” which only solidifies my theory that if there was ever to be a creepy spinoff of Korra, it would feature these two as this universe’s murdering versions of Grady twins. Toph reminds us why we fell in love with her in the first place (of course, she would punch you for saying that) and that she has not lost any of her fighting abilities. It is also revealed that Korra is not fully cured of the poison that was in her body which would explain why she continues to feel so “weighed down” as well as angry, spirit-y Korra. The episode closes with Varrick taking on the role of Frankenstein as he begins to mess with some super unnatural science that combines technology with spirit vines. Will anything ever be safe again?
NOW ONWARD TO THE MAIN EVENT!
This week, little is revealed about Kuvira’s continued plans for the Earth Empire, however there is some brilliant character development as we follow Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo on their mission for Tenzin as well as in Korra’s completion of her much-needed stay in the swamp.
We begin with Tenzin and Pema watching the children pack up Pepper for their upcoming mission to find Korra. We learn that there is still no solution to the whole Kuvira situation and it would seem that that President Raiko is looking towards more diplomatic solutions with Tenzin to appease the metal-controlling nation’s dictator. Does any other history majors think that this entire Kuvira storyline stinks of World War II? Between the suggested appeasement diplomacy to Bolin’s acceptance of Kuvira’s dominance, it is like revisiting sophomore year of high school history.
This scene is important as it is only one of two times we learn what is going on in terms of the Earth Empire’s side of things in this episode. It also reveals that despite the fact that there are instances where the Avatar’s contribution seemed unnecessary, when there is trouble in the world, the people look towards the Avatar for help. Pema dishes out some delicious food and wise words about how sometimes things are not always perfect..which foreshadows much of the airbending children’s adventure.
As the children set up their first camp site, we can already see how old sibling problems from before are still cropping up. In this scene, we see just how preoccupied the airbending children have been with rebuilding the Air Nation and protecting the world. While they spend time together, they rarely communicate therefore knowing very little about each other. Meelo’s ability to draw greatly surprises Ikki, who is usually paired with Meelo.
As Jinora begins her meditation to find Korra’s spiritual energy, Ikki is her usual impatient and talkative self. Meelo announces that he is going into town to search for Korra where Meelo’s cheeks are assaulted and we see just how much Korra has disconnected from the world. “The Avatar? We still have one of those?” are definitely not the words our hurting Avatar would want to hear..in fact, these words are the spoken embodiment of a lot of Korra’s fears.
Meelo spots and flirts with a pretty Earth Nation girl named Tuyin whose conversation Ikki interrupts. Meelo laments the loss of his love (totally Sokka-esque). The kids stumble onto the fish stand Korra visited in “Korra Alone” and sees her picture up on the wall alongside the picture of smiling Aang performing his marble trick. It would seem the children had found their first lead but the only thing they could really gather was that Korra was not looking so hot six months ago. Between the interrupted chat with Tuyin and the failed lead, Meelo begins to blame Ikki out of frustration but unfortunately, our poor middle child does not see it as this. The mission that was supposedly meant to bring the team closer together was revealing all the issues the children have not entirely dealt with yet.
We cross over to where Korra is still struggling with what to do with herself. Because she has not dealt with her personal issues (and at this point, Korra isn’t even sure of what it is herself), there was no way to remove the metal from her body and therefore, prevents her from achieving the Avatar state (yip yip). Korra listens to Toph’s retelling of how Aang picked up earthbending and how they defeated the Fire Lord was extremely accurate and in typical Toph fashion. She is then sent by Toph off into the swamp to search for mushrooms in the woods. If that’s not a veiled hint to go and take a spiritual journey into the swamp, then I’m a food-filled Sokka.
We see Jinora still attempting to mediate over Ikki and Meelo who begin to argue because Meelo had thrown away all their food. Meelo runs off to unintentionally find some poisonous berries. Ikki gets frustrated and leaves, wandering through the woods, imitating Jinora and Meelo. In her anger, she scares a flying squirrel who drops its fruit. Ikki tries to fly after it and smacks right into a tree.
She is captured by two of Kuvira’s earthbenders who remind me of Pinky and Brain where she is able to find the food AND obtain the possible position of our avatar! We learn that Kuvira has taken all the troops with her and had left them. Ikki is “rescued” and leaves the two bumbling soldiers two buns as a way of saying sorry and thank you for almost releasing her.
As we return to Korra’s search for Toph’s slimey mushrooms, she begins to see visions of the past. As we know from Avatar: The Last Airbender, the swamp is connected all through the vines of a single tree, the Banyan-grove tree, and was a place that mysteriously helps a person find what it is they are seeking the most.
Of course, sending Korra off on a perspective-altering journey was Toph’s intention all along and she then lays down some super Toph wisdom at the Banyan-grove tree. It is super interesting that while Aang’s visions were of the future (and of TOPH! SWAMP-CEPTION!), Korra’s visions were situated in the past. In a way, since the beginning of Korra, our hero has always been focused on moving towards the next step and glossing over many of the finer details embedded in the past. She is dealing with her enemies in a similar fashion, instead of learning something from them, she blames them for the troubles they bring about. Thanks to Toph, she realizes that she will never eliminate all the troubles of the world but as the avatar, she must continue to do what she can and learn from the lessons from her adversaries.
As Toph explains it, each of the major enemies Korra had dealt with had good intentions, however, without balance in their ideology, they lost their purpose. Korra is in a similar position, in that she cannot move forward unless she releases her blame and fears from everything she has faced. Korra has disconnected herself from everything that is good for her including her friends and her own self. She has been carrying her fear over her past enemies that has been blocking her from moving on and fulfilling her role as Avatar because she has never really understood her position until she was unable to perform it in the manner she was accustomed to.
Korra finally is able to come to terms with how much she was blocking herself from those around her allowed Korra to use the roots to connect with Jinora! Finally!
I almost started crying along with Korra as the children float downward to reunite with the missing avatar after all these years. Each of the children acknowledges the others contributions in finding Korra and it is so heartwarming to see how much the children have grown..
In terms of the whole family dynamics between Aang’s three airbending grandchildren, let’s flashback to Book 2 where Ikki wanders off because she was being picked on by Jinora and Meelo..Ikki has always been seen as the less useful of the children despite her equally skilled abilities. It would seem the airbending children are getting to finally deal with their problems as well…while Ikki is generally portrayed as slightly annoying, I feel that she is most like Aang out of all the three grandchildren. While Jinora may have Aang’s skill spiritually, and Meelo who is basically a spiting image of Aang with thicker brows, Ikki has Aang’s character. We forget that when Aang was not out saving the world, he was a little annoying, he did have trouble fitting in, and he was always curious, just like Ikki.
That heartwarming feeling quickly passes when Meelo and Toph meet! “Wait a minute..cranky, old, blind,” Definitely my favorite meet-n-greet, it even outranks Zuko and Bolin’s first interaction..
Anyways, Korra bends the metal out of her body because she realizes her place in the world and how she must overcome any of her fears in order to provide the support necessary to keep the world running despite the fact that there will be another criminal or villain in the horizon. The episode ends with Korra and the children riding off on Pepper. Toph walks back into her cave, now brightly lit, who can finally have some peace and quiet.
This episode had so many feels in it! The choice of Toph as the only mentor available to Korra is perfect because not only was Toph the most “grounded” member of Aang’s crew, she is the one person that can provide a different perspective on Korra’s role in the world. In the previous episode when Toph explains that despite what Korra has been told, she is not the only line of defense against the terrors of the world, and that no matter what she does, there will be another criminal that rises up to cause new trouble.
Another point that stands out is that unlike The Last Airbender, most of the baddies have a foundation in politics. I think this really speaks to the transition into the more “modern” Korra-verse from Aang’s world where the avatar was clearly laid out. While Aang had to rescue the world from the Fire Nation, Korra is dealing with new ideologies that rise with the growth of technology and a sense of individual awareness. With Amon and the Equalists, we were dealing with legitimate issues that could evolve out of a “united” city environment between two different groups of people.
One thing that cannot be helped but still bothers me is the fact that the creators are trying to cram so many interesting characters/story lines in such a short season. As much as this makes the story so much more compelling because you are more aware of those outside of the main cast, it does sometimes feel like there could be so much more told in each episode. OH WELL, I GUESS THAT’S WHAT THE COMICS WILL BE FOR!
And because we did not have something last week, here is a collection of my favorite TOPH LINES from “The Coronation” <3
“I’m the original Beifong!”
“if you want to hug something, go hug a tree! we’re here to work!”
*mud punches* “YOU’RE BLIND COMPARED TO ME”
“who do you think you’re talking to?” *shoves Korra’s face*