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 air. In 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"?