It seems as if, following the Hundred Year War, the Water Tribe decided to hold a symposium on how to be ruthless politicians. There were probably guest speakers from the Fire Nation, and I bet Long Feng gave the keynote address. I suggest this because, boy, Water Tribe politicians are a shady and manipulative bunch.
To be fair, I'm painting with a very broad stroke, since Tarrlok and Unalaq are the two most prominent Water Tribe politicians we've met on Korra, so I'm sure there are perfectly fine and upstanding leaders at both poles of the Water Tribe. Or at least I hope so, because otherwise the Water Tribes are either a) never going to be united, or b) once united, will probably end up trying to take over the world. In 20 years, there'll be a young Earth Kingdom girl talking to an audience, saying, "Everything changed when the Water Tribe attacked..."
If I sound grumpy, it's because I am. The second installment of the show's "Civil Wars" two-parter crammed what probably should have been two episodes' worth of Korra-related plot into about 18 minutes, and it was not a terribly satisfactory 18 minutes. Last week I was happy to cut the show some structural slack due to Part 1's place in the narrative combined with the fact that it was the first half of a double-header, but I'm all out of slack now since the show apparently wants to move at a breakneck speed. If a series want to move that quickly, it has to provide big moments that impact the narrative, and nothing Korra's done has had much of an impact since Korra turned on the Southern Lights. Otherwise, as was the case here, it undermines potentially big moments for the sake of expediency.
Yes, Unalaq's arrest of Korra's parents was a big deal, but as soon as the words "I've appointed" and "judge" slipped out of his mouth, I let loose a heavy sigh. Folks, whenever someone says they've appointed a judge for a trial, and then they assure someone else that said judge is very fair and honorable, you should know something is up. I was still holding out some bit of hope, though, because even though I was convinced the judge was crooked, I saw Unalaq's appeal for a lighter sentence as a smartly executed political gambit. While it probably wasn't going to win over many of the more disgruntled members of the Southern Water Tribe population, it at least signaled a conciliatory olive branch, of sorts.
Alas, it was not to be. From that point on, the episode moved very quickly as Korra shook down the judge not only for confirmation that Unalaq had staged a mock trial, but the bonus information that Unalaq had hired the barbarians to attack the Northern Water Tribe all those years ago. Afterward, he'd instructed them to hide out in the Spirit Forest, knowing that Tonraq would attack them with a wee bit too much force—thus providing him with a way to easily insert himself as chief. Just like the efficient manner in which the arrest was ultimately handled, this reveal—which should've been a big, end-of-episode shocker—was treated very matter-of-factly, existing more as a cherry on top of the "Unalaq's a dirtbag and we need to get him" sundae than anything of actual importance. You would think that bringing this information to the attention of other prominent members of the Northern Water Tribe would've been a priority, but you would be wrong.
Hmmm, anything else from this episode? Oh. Right. Remember that spirit portal at the North Pole that Unalaq needed Korra to help with? It turns out that's no longer the case. I have no idea why, but it's what Unalaq said. I'm assuming he's lying to her about something, but that was just a very random reminder and then dismissal of that particular plot point. Unless the show's cocking Chekhov's spirit portal.
On the upside, we're going back to Republic City, and that means Lin, right? Please tell me it means Lin Beifong.
– Lest you think I didn't like anything in this episode, I did actually enjoy the stuff at the Southern Air Temple. The quiet reflection of Tenzin sitting down with Ikki and a few sky bison calves—a moment that allowed them both to think about their fights with their respective siblings—served as a nice conclusion to that plot.
– "No honey?! We're in a bear for crying out loud!"
– "You can sit next to Blueberry Spicehead."
– I really hope whatever Zhu Li gets paid is worth it. I really, really do.
– Eska as a deranged ex-girlfriend/almost-fiancée is not a happy thing for me. I was hoping for an angry spirit—that would've been an example of something having an impact—but instead the episode ended on a "Women be crazy!" joke. Blerg.
What'd you think of the second half of "Civil Wars"?
AIRED ON 12/19/2014
Season 3 : Episode 13