The Legend of Korra "The Guide" Review: Nowhere Fast

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Nov 02, 2013

The Legend of Korra S02E09: "The Guide"

It felt like months instead of weeks passed between "The Guide" and "Beginnings" Parts 1 & 2, but I'm not complaining. Absence makes the heart grow fonder an all that—spending some time away from a show can cause me to miss it, allow its flaws to to recede from my mind, and muster up some excitement for its return. This is especially true in the case of writing about any given show on an episode-by-episode basis; sometimes it's easy to forget the forest when you're focused on a different tree every week, and getting out of that forest, as it were, can really help.

So, after the "Beginnings" and the break, I found myself maybe not exactly anticipating "The Guide," but at the very least feeling a little more charitable toward Korra's return to my TV screen. "The Guide" didn't do anything to dash the feelings of goodwill stirred up by "Beginnings," but it didn't much to enhance it, either. Indeed, the episode was more about set-ups, both narrative and actual.

Before discussing the episode's story, let's take a moment to celebrate the fact that "The Guide" was Studio Pierrot's final episode for Book 2, and not a moment too soon. The episode was light on action and heavy on dialogue,  and the animation was stiff and often too limited, with the characters' facial expressions in particular suffering from a lack of nuance. To be sure, nuance in animation is expensive and time-consuming, but when you're dealing with an episode that's ultimately about character, nuance is important. Inexpressive faces dampen and/or undermine vocal performances, and they prevent character beats from landing as well as they could have.

So, thanks for filling in, Studio Pierrot—without you, who knows when we would've seen Book 2—but I'm glad your work on the show has come to an end. It was very telling that Studio Mir stepped in for the season's two most pivotal episodes and is taking over in the back half. Thank goodness the folks at Studio Mir got the rest they needed.

Despite focusing on Korra's need to gain access to the Spirit World so as to close the Southern Spirit Portal from that side before the harmonic convergence could do whatever likely world-ending thing Unalaq intends to use it for, "The Guide" actually turned out to be about Tenzin's inability to access the Spirit World, and I rather liked that development for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it gave Tenzin and Korra something in common. Much like his family, I was surprised that Tenzin hadn't actually been able to make contact with the Spirit World, and so in that way, he and Korra are alike in their spiritual blockages. You can know all the theory and meditation practices you want, but if the spirits aren't answering when you're calling, they're not answering. Tenzin's anger was very Korra-esque in the way he lashed out and blamed everyone around him but himself for his failures.

I also liked that Tenzin's overall sense of frustration was nicely built up during the earlier portions of Book 2, during the search for Ikki as he and his siblings argued and exchanged perspectives on Aang and their childhoods. Tenzin prided himself on carrying on Aang's legacy by himself, but he found himself unable to fulfill one aspect of that legacy. While Bumi made light of it by inducting Tenzin into the disappointing Aang club, it was still a character beat that wouldn't have landed as well without that earlier plot. Hopefully he'll realize now that carrying on Aang's legacy isn't just his job, but the job of his siblings and now his children as Jinora finally gets in on the action.

Meanwhile, in Republic City, a.k.a. the Place Overtaken by Idiot Ball-Holding Characters, Mako did his best to convince Asami and Bolin that Varrick is actually an "evil mastermind," to borrow Asami's phrasing. However, since everyone else was, as I noted, holding Idiot Balls, this went nowhere for Mako. Except for being arrested by Lu and Gang under Lin's eye.

I can totally understand Bolin not buying the story Mako was weaving, and Asami made a decent-ish point about the detonators and explosives. That Asami put up very little resistance to the notion that Mako was working with the Triple Threats to pilfer her warehouse, however, was just plain ridiculous. There was no signal of support, no "I'll get you the best lawyer my meager funds can buy" declaration, nothing that indicated a belief in the guy she was looking to rekindle a relationship with. Just silence, which I hope just meant Asami was stunned due to the recent rash of events that have severely undermined her sense of self. Then again, this is the same woman who battled her father in a mecha tank, so I'm really not even accepting stunned silence at this point.


– I am so excited about Korra and Jinora teaming up in the Spirit World. You all have no idea.

– All the Bumi stuff this week was pretty funny. I particularly liked the really long stick he used to poke Tenzin.

– "Yay. Old things."

– "I'm saying I want your help to protect them." Varrick's just a straight-up gangster at this point. I really liked his ominous hot-coal-pit office. I should get one of those.

– Bryan Konietzko has the details on when the show's final five episodes will airIn addition to finishing out the season in the 8pm time slot, Book 2 will conclude at the end of November, as Episodes 11 and 12 and Episodes 13 and 14 will be air in one-hour blocks on November 15 and November 22, respectively. It's like they don't care that I get paid by the article!

What did you think of "The Guide"?

  • Comments (72)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • Entertain_Me Nov 06, 2013

    I've been watching and paying attention and believe me when I tell you that I prefer the RERUNS of Avatar: The... to this series and that kills me to say that. Alot of critics have already ID'ed the problem points so I won't repeat, but one thing no one else has mentioned is when is Korra going to lose that stupid coat around her waist?! Seriously, it's there ALL THE TIME! With a minor makeover effort she could be every bit the eye-candy that Asami is. It's just a bizarre character handicap that is baffling like so many other problems.

  • GirishKrishna1 May 04, 2014

    Not being an eye-candy is baffling to you.... No one is mentioning it because Korra isn't brainwashed by Hollywood double standards (imagine Aang being an eye candy) and is a honest to goodness character of her own. May the Gods help this world with humans such as yourself.

  • Zelli42 Nov 05, 2013

    It was so weird when Mako stormed out of Varricks office. Did he not get that he was blackmailed?? So in real life, a lot of people would die now (not all of them, but a lot) Not to nag to soon, but LoA never made light of consequences.

  • headclub Nov 04, 2013

    Best episode of the season imo (which isn't saying much I guess...). But it connected many dots, & Setup the final 5....

  • Zawman13 Nov 04, 2013

    I know you said you liked this episode, but for me it, along with this entire season, has just been going so slow. It feels to me that the story so far, with the exception of beginnings 1&2, could have been told in fewer episodes, and has just progressed at a snails pace. Also I'm really angry that Korra didn't go to the firelord and meet Old Zuko.

  • noelrk Nov 04, 2013

    I think what they've done has moved quickly, but it's been very disconnected/disjointed since they left the South Pole, and that has made everything feel clunky.

  • AriSky Nov 04, 2013

    This was a decent wrap-up for the character development of this season. And I'm also very excited to see Jinora in the spirit world with Korra.

  • Watashii Nov 03, 2013

    Kinda feel bad for Tenzin. They made his character so arrogant and self-centered. I never got that vibe from him last season. He was even berating his own children and almost refuses to acknowledge Jinora's special abilities.

    Finally they entered the spirit world. But personally I think its a bit too late. I do hope they give some time and explore the world, and not rush it.

  • all-hail-lord-starscream Nov 03, 2013

    I think I need Korra to recap everything for the rest of my life- she is just so awesome at making it quick and fun and saying it all in a row reminds me of how insane this show can really get. I also didn't really believe that Asami and Mako were getting back together, I think he's just running to her because she's low maintenance, and I think this should remind him why he loves Korra, she would have believed him without even a single shred of proof.

  • pa-tan Nov 03, 2013

    Korra finally you are not acting like a hot-headed mess!
    Bumi is awesome and yeah I want a flying bunny too.
    I like pissed off Tenzin that keeps finding fault in everyone else but himself. Why? who knows probably because it suits him. He is a typical know-it-all.
    And noone believes in Mako. Can't say I feel for him he should be smarter and secretly get real concrete evidence and then expose Verrick.

  • Azul012 Nov 04, 2013

    Maybe Mako now knows how it feels to not have anyone backing him up. Kinda like Korra did. I know she was wrong, but maybe he could have handled that better.

  • vcivi Nov 03, 2013

    I lked Korra this episode again. The beginnings has done her good! She seems more sharper.
    Poor Mako, no one believes him...that slime of Varrick is simply to clever for Mako..that look on the face of Asami, when they took him sad..:(
    Loved that Korra and Tenzin are back together. So funny that he kept changing scenery to get in touch with the spirtits, while in the end it was Jinari who joined the Avatar...can't wait to see how that will end up...

  • torque_smacky Nov 03, 2013

    No. NO!


    If they buy this, I've had it. There's no excuse to write your own characters that poorly.

    Do they not understand the stakes? This is supposed to be the shining beacon of TV animation! If we can't look up to this show, where can we turn? I wish there was a way to go right up to Mike and Bryan and scream them stupid until they see the light again.

  • See More Comments (19)