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The Legend of Korra S02E04: "Civil Wars" (Part 2)


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. 



LEAVES ON THE WIND


– 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"?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 12/19/2014

Season 3 : Episode 13

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As I watched this episode I kept remembering how good The Last Airbender was. Korra is a pale ghost in comparison. The first few episodes of this season can be compared with the ridiculous political storyline from Star Wars Episode I... ick and yawn.
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You know what the problem is watching a dramatic cartoon series when you're an adult (I mean, you know....besides that fact)? It's that you never stop rolling your eyes at the self-destructive habits of the teenage heroes. Korra, the all-powerful heroine of the show, has the emotional maturity of a pre-pubescent valley girl, and 90% of her problems spring from her poor decision-making skills. I love this show, but sometimes it's hard to not want to slap some common sense into the main characters.
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It's interesting that Korra has now left the village. It could be that the first four episodes were really setup for the season and most of the season will be a travel story like the original series.
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Re-watch the first episodes of the season, you'll notice that there always was a pacing issue, as well as many other problems you pointed out in this episode.

btw, i actually think the stuff at the Air Temple was the weakest part of the episode. It could have been just 2 scenes and it could have been done last episode; not sandwiching Korra action scenes to completely ruin the tension there. I guess they totally wanted the Civil War thing to be mirrored in both the nations fighting and the family internal feuds and they just ended up killing eachother's momentum; for me.
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Hm...I certainly think there are pacing issue with "Spirit of Competition" and "The Aftermath" (particularly with "Aftermath") but I don't think either is as egregious as this episode is.

I could understand a pacing critique of "Skeletons in the Closet" but I also wouldn't agree with that critique, either.
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I think I've also got to agree with the majority of what was said here, it defintely feels like the pacing is a bit off. I defintely loved the whole Tenzin and ikki intereaction, and how both their situations mirrored each other. On a side note I'm starting to see Varrick as one really funny character. Don't know if people are gonna burn me at the stake for this but I'm going to go ahead and say he was a lot funnier than Bolin. I think it's pretty much a consensus that Bolin supposed be be the comic relief of this LoK, similar to how Sokka was in ATLA. However over the course of season one and up until now I haven't really found him all that funny of a character. So I'm glad to see their is a new outlet of comic relief.
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I have to agree with this review. The storyline is moving way too fast at the expense of character development. I wish the episodes would take more time to really flesh out the personalities of the characters. To be fair, this episode did do a bit of that when it comes to Tenzin and Ikki. However, when it comes to Korra and the new Team Avatar, they are just jumping from one sub-plot to the next. It seemed way too convenient that Korra found out so quickly and easily that Unalaq framed his brother so that he would be banished. I wish the writers would give these sub-plots more time to fester, in a sense, so that when the reveal came in later, it would be more gratifying. At this point in season 2, I'm getting less and less invested in Korra as an avatar and her struggles. In other words, I care less and less about her and whether or not she overcomes the challenges coming her way. I can think of "filler" episodes like The Cave of Two Lovers in the original series. Episodes like that are necessary to give the viewers a more deeper look into the dynamics of the relationships between the main characters. Legend of Korra would benefit greatly from episodes like that.
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I feel we've lost character depth in s2. Like what's with Bolin & Mako? I mean at least Bolin is still funny...but what else?
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Perhaps the problem isn't we lost character depth, but that depth and development has gone to other character besides Mako and Bolin. Bumi, Kya, Unalaq, Korra's father, Korra, and Tenzin got good depth and development so far.
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I would dissagree. You don't have to sacrifice character depth from one person, so someone else can have it. Bumi to me so far seems to be a cut-out character. Nothing original about him so far.
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What you mean by original and depth? Because we could have 2 completely different meanings. To me nothing is original about any character in fiction because everything has been done to death or based of something else. When say there is nothing original about Bumi I'm not sure if you mean personality, archetype, characteristics, or skills etc. Or he is a type of character used in this show a lot? When say depth do you mean the characters seem basic with no defining characteristics or motivations to speak of or is the fact that some of them haven't given major roles so they don't seem to have depth?
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I'm glad you finally see it my way. The story is moving way too fast! Even that fight between Unalaq and Korra could have been longer and much more epic. I wish this was an anime... There I said it!
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I agree (not to the point that I want the show to be a dragging anime). Even comparing it to last season, they seem to be skipping fight scenes, at least for the past two episodes. And fight scenes are part of what makes the Airbender series so good.
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You really thought that could be an epic fight? I don't know. Physical confrontations with Korra will be harder for regular benders thanks to the Avatar State. Roku and Aang beat Sozin and Yakkon quickly thanks to the State. I felt any fight with the uncle would have ended fast thanks to Korra being the Avatar.
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Does it bother anybody else that she can just go into the Avatar state at-will for a quick boost? Does she even appreciate the gravity and vulnerability of being in the Avatar state?
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Tenzin brought that up in the first episode. I think this will definitely be addressed before the end of the season.
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I don't think korra would go into the avatar state to fight her uncle. That would probably kill him..
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I don't know. From both the original series and LoK we've seen that fighting the Avatar that mastered State is hard to challenge. If the Avatar is put in a position they feel they can't win or need a quick victory over a prolonged battle they borrow some power from their past lives to end the fight quickly.
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Agreed. I think she'd try and hold out, but in an effort to end the fight quickly, she'd probably go into the Avatar State for a quick "rocket boost" and that'd be that.
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A chaotic episode.
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I have one question: Did I miss some important piece of information? Has anyone explained where all those new sky bisons came from? Ok, that´s technically two questions but you get my drift.
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Funny, I was thinking the same thing the other day. As well as, where did all these new air benders at the Temple come from. Unless I have also missed something, the only air benders on earth should be Tenzin and his kids, right?
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I don't think the folks at the air temple are air benders, more like philosophical followers of air bending traditions: non-violence, spiritual communion, making pies, etc. At least that's the sense I'm getting?
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They are. Those guys at the temple aren't airbenders, I'm guessing they chose to become air nomads to carry on the culture. There must have been some non-bender air nomads in Aang's time too, like every other nation. As for the sky bisons, I have been wondering the exact same thing since I saw Tenzin riding one in season 1, I thought Appa was the last.
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Yep, they're air acolytes, who are followers of the airbender tradition who are training to carry on the culture. Think Mike and Bryan might have mentioned that somewhere. Its hinted at in the Search too.
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I could be wrong, but I think the writers said Aang discovered a new breed of sky bisons in between A: TLA and LoK before the show premiered.
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When was that mentioned? I must've missed that. I was just self-assuaging by rationalizing that if sky bison lived in caves, it could be possible that in some remote Air nation islands there could've been a line of surviving bison.
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I think that's how they've hand-waved it, yeah. I don't think it's come up in either The Promise or The Search, though.
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This was a important epsiode for the rest of thes season i guess...war is started....love the twins...they are so funny....
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If being chief is passed down, then isn't there at least some possiblity that that Unalaq and Tonraq's dad is Yue's brother. Just saying.
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I'm glad the plot moved fast in this episode. I don't think I could take another episode of Korra not knowing Unalaq is a villain.
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1. I told ya, Eska was bad news. That girl is both creepy AND crazy. Also judging by the Bolin's collar she's in BDSM stuff. Kinky.

2. Unalaq you sneaky bastard! Luckily, Korra saw through your scheme.

3. I loved the attack on a prisoner's ship. I wish it was a longer sequence though.

4. Sky bison calves are so cute!! More of them, please!

5. Money pooping bear - brilliant! Also I have dirty thoughts about Varrick and his lady assistant sitting inside the bear.

6. Varrick plane was awesome! Shame it crashed.

7. I loved Kya and Bumi hugging scene. Awwww!!!!

8. I want Earth Kingdom girl to be the heroine of the third installment of the Avatar's franchise! Make it happen, Nick!

9. We're going back to the Republic City. Lin!!!!!

I loved this episode and I can't wait for the next one!
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I also felt this episode was rushed a step down from the other ones. It's probably my least favorite episode so far, but I've been enjoying the season up until now, so I'll cut it some slack.

What I liked:
New Team Avatar's reunion. I'm happy to see to them back together to fight again. Asami and Bolin's interaction was good. I loved how she sighed at Bolin gave the bribe money to the random people instead of the judge and liked her advice on breaking up. Verrik was hilarious self as always so that's a plus. Tenzin's family making up. Bumi talking to Aang's statue was heartwarming. It show that they had issues they genuinely love each other. Kya reassuring Bumi that Aang would be proud of them at least shows despite Aang's faults as a parent that he at least made sure they knew he loved them. The family picture at the end was sweet. Korra and dad fully making up was good to. We're returning to the Republic. I hope to see Iroh II.

What I disliked:
Korra's uncle being behind her dad's exile. Felt unnecessary to me made a good anti-villain into a more typical villain. What I liked about him was that he seemed misguided and overzealous man who genuinely wanted what was best for his tribe. I liked that Korra couldn't just fight him before and instead bought what he was selling because he was right about the Spirits and her dad was wrong. It really called into question on how to balance spirituality and modernization in the Avatar universe. I hope the book will follow that up without her uncle though. Bolin's antics grew tired for me after a while in this is episode by the third act. His character development should kick in soon. Eska quickly went from amusing and cool character into a deranged joke character. I still think she's a spirit. All in all not the best episode and a example of fears of rushed storytelling being justified. We're only 4 episodes in and I think the remaining 10 can wrap up the story nicely.
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The good
- republic city = Lin beifong and possibly general iroh 2. Actually the new war might bring bumi out of retirement. I don't know why but I really we want to see bumi in a fight. Sokka in a fight was awesome (did he ever get back space sword?)
- varrik and Zhou li. I agree She must be getting paid a fortune, secretly in love with him or he's in love with her... Whatever the case I like him. He's not a good guy - he's kind ofa a shmuck but he knows it. And seriously when a guy says "Zhou li, do the thing!" And it's followed by "that platypus bear is pooping money!" Well I was amused.
- asami! I wasn't her biggest fan but boy did I miss her in part 1.
- the aang family pic.
- that family drama. - I get the bickering and all might not make sense and seemed out of place but I have a feeling it's going to play a part in the big story line of the book. It has to.
- korra and her dad- i was kinda annoyed but I get it. Teenage girls and their fathers have complicated relationships and add the whole avatar thing.. And the resolution made sense to me.

The bad
- the info dump. I mean I always suspected that unalaq caused the brothers downfall, but come on man where is the Shakespearean poetry to it? I hate to compare it to book 1 but tarrlock only figured Amon out because of a secret they shared and then the pieces came together. I mean yes you did get to see naga in action but still..
- eska oh eska... You started out so creepy and delightful and then just plain sad.
- it feels like a lot happened and nothing happened at the same time. That's the best way I can explain it but... It's not a good feeling.

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The fact of the matter is though, they have 14 episodes at hand, that's 6 less than Avatar: The Last Airbender ever had for a book, and since they're devoting another 2 to the first Avatar story, they're basically running the same length book as last time. But this series has a much larger scope, spending any more time in the Water Tribe would make the other nations less important.

Korra's shakedown was a interesting reminder of the difference between Aang and Korra. Aang never really succeeded in being threatening, and would never threaten to feed anyone to Appa.

Hopefully now we're out of the water tribe, we might be able to get more actual Team Avatar moments.
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You think it would make the other nations less important if we spent more time in the Water Tribes? We spent most of last season in the Republic, but feel like it was more important than the other 4 nations.
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Good point.
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I was wondering since the last episode, where the heck is Katara. She is still alive isn't she. Shouldn't she be the southern tribe's leader. She is after all the previous Avatar's wife, daughter of the commander of the southern Water tribe army, and was the only waterbender in the tribe for a long time. If the writers acknowledged her existence, there wouldn't be a civil war, because she would be in charge of the southern water tribe, not some recently banished northern water tribesman.

And what is this point about the Avatar being neutral in war. The last avatar fought against the Fire nation exclusively. Kyoshi was fighting a war too.

The series used to be great in terms of continuity. I guess its not the case this season. And what the hell happened to the spirits? Aren't spirits suppose to be the point of the season, and not another conflict between people.
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Sokka was older then her. Maybe he was the chief for a long while before he died or picked his successor himself and it wasn't Katara. Or Katara was leader for a bit got sick of it and passed on to Korra's dad.

Ideally the Avatar being neutral means she can't favor one nation over the others as oppose to neutral in a war. Last episode she was trying to keep a civil war from happening and unite the tribes back into one peacefully. I think neutrality also meant the Avatar just can't say hey my Dad's innocent so he doesn't go to prison for trying to kill the leader of the Northren Water Tribe. You know his if you want someone in power to stay neutral in this situations to be fair. The writer rectified that by making uncle a straight up villain.
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Holy moly... How the crap did I miss the missing katara? I think the whole avatar being neutral isn't so much as not fighting but preventing war from affecting the world in a global scale... But if people are determined to cause it, the avatar steps up for the little guy, to bring balance to the four nations or something. I think the spirits will come back... Well I hope they will. I think they play in later on because it might be that a sprit has taken over unalaq... Gasp! Maybe koh? I'm just speculating here of course.
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Next two episodes are the first avatar episode right? I'm really looking forward to that, especially because it has a different animation style and the animation this season has been really mediocre, especially compared to the outstanding animation from season 1. I really hope they realize the animation's fallen in quality and try to fix it in season 3 by going back to the original company. I honestly wouldn't mind if it was delayed if the animation returned to it's original level of quality.
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We have, I think, at least 2 more episodes before the Wan two-parter.
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Actually, the original studio takes over the rest of Season 2 in episode 7. So only two more weeks left I guess.
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Definitely. That's the one thing i can't get over when watching these episodes. I really miss the crisp style. There used to be more detail and it bothers me that they think we wouldn't notice or care. The quality has really gone down. Both visually and in the writing. And what's up with Mako?
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Yeah, in one of the scenes Mako was standing there and he just didn't have a mouth because he wasn't saying anything, it's lazy animation like this that I hate and I hate that it's being used for a show that used to have some of the best animation on television.
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I thought this was the best one of the season. Of course, it hasn't been a great season, but I'm just happy Korra isn't stupidly trusting that guy anymore. Waiting through that was lousy.
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I agree with you that this episode was pretty lackluster. It seemed to me that there were a lot of opportunities missed which could have really enhanced the story. The only real highlights for me were the scenes with Varrick in them ( I felt so bad for Zhu li who was somewhere in that platypus bear). Unfortunately, I've felt that the comic relief roles have made up the better parts of all of the episodes this season so far. I hate to compare Korra to AT:LA because I don't think that's entirely fair, but two seasons in it just hasn't packed the same (emotional?) punch that made the first series so enjoyable.
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I feel like it's because the different approaches to the shows. Korra tries to tackle more social issues and political corruption while Last Airbender was more adventure story. LoK for me has been good in a different way, because it challenges the established facts of the last season. Equalists movement made question if they had a point on benders oppressing them and if they were gray villains as oppose to straight up villains like the Fire Nation. This season which showed Avatar's role more with the spirits and stopping a civil war through peaceful means (well guess that went out the widow this episode) as oppose to fighting one. The issue of modernization and tradition being balanced has my interest too. As a trade off the characters haven't fleshed out as much as A: TLA have though.
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Defintely have to agree with this. LoK feels like it deals with more of the political and as you said social implications of events that are occuring. We've seen countless times how Korra excels when it comes to things that are physical. And Especially now that Korra has mastered the Avatar State arguably watching Korra fight just any old bender wouldn't be the most efficient use of time. ATLA ended in a way that set up an Era that was very different than Aang's, Roku's, or even Kyoshi's eras as Avatar. What we see in this series is a character who is beginning to realize sometimes you can't just beat everyone up to actually win.
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I guess I liked this one more than you did. It might have been a bit rushed, and I may have seen what Unalaq had done coming from the second we learned that Tonraq had been banished, but I also enjoyed watching it play out on screen. Korra's character took a turn for the better in this episode and the whole exchange with the judge and Korra(and Naga) was awesome, and can I just mention how great it was to have Asami back after she went missing for two episodes. Of course Tenzin's storyline was still my favorite, everything from Tenzin bonding with the baby sky bisons and Ikki to Bumi talking to Aang statues was perfect in my eyes. Unfortunately Korra's plot cannot help but feel rushed. These 12-14 episode orders are not doing the story any favors. Hopefully when Korra reunites with Tenzin, things will begin to feel less rushed.
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I agree that this episode was an absolute disappointment. The writing is just so low-grade! I agree that Tenzin's bits were the best (seriously, the 10-second scene between Boomy and Kya at Aang's statue gave me that jerky feeling in the back of the throat) and were paced much better. Stop assuming you have to get through everything in a season! If you write it well, the fans will come and if the fans come, you get more seasons.
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