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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.



LEAVES ON THE WIND

– 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"?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 12/19/2014

Season 3 : Episode 13

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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.
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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.
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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.

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Best episode of the season imo (which isn't saying much I guess...). But it connected many dots, & Setup the final 5....
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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.
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Staff
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 away...so 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...
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No. NO!

WHY WOULD BOLIN AND ASAMI BELIEVE MAKO WOULD STAB THEM IN THE BACK LIKE THAT? WHY WOULD ANY HUMAN BELIEVE THAT?

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.
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also these are spirits


WTF are these



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I agree. I love how the spirits were presented in Aang's series. They weren't so squiggly and transparent. They totally rectonned how spirits worked from the last series.
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I can believe that there are different types of spirits
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am I suppose to care about the mako storyline?
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Tenzin: "I knew this would happen." Fantastic moment.
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Great episode as usual, but I have a small gripe with this season in general.
Being a extremely interested in sociology, Season 1 of Korra built up this amazing idea of a society with benders and non-benders, a society where one group of people is physically superior to another, but yet they attempt to live as equals. That's something that doesn't exist in our world. Its something the X-men series touches on but ultimately gives up on it to favor action and combat.
It would have been amazing if Korra kept a balance between character development, plot, and yet expand and show the world around Korra and how society is changing in the world she lives in (even it was just small examples of it sprinkled throughout the season). I really miss it, it was easily my favorite part of Korra Book 1.
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Yeah. Instead of the Meelo and lemur training, it could've been Jinora and spiritual stuff.
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While I don't disagree more of Jinora's spiritual affinity would have been nice, but I think the point of the lemur training was to provide a moment of self-awareness for Tenzin and what his rigid training can be like....
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No, totally agree. Just priorities.
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I had once Serious problem with the episode. Multiple times in the last air bender we were told and shown that you can't do bending in the spirit world and what do we see Unalaq and kids doing ? Water bending!
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What those folks said below.
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I'm pretty sure they used the portal to transport themselves to the north and they weren't actually in the spirit world when they were bending.
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That was sort of explained. Unalaq and the twins entered through a spirit portal (as Wan did) but Aang only ever entered the spirit world spiritually, and can't bend because of it
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Which pretty much means that Korra and Jinora shouldn't be able to bend in the spirit world... hopefully.
But then again are the elements in the spirit world just like the ones in the physical world?
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Something tells me that Korra and Jinora will be able to bend because it seems like they were able to manifest a physical body in the Spirit World (they were not blue in color like Aang was the first time). Aang could not bend the first time because he was only in "spirit" form and his body was not physically there. Aang also only tried bending in the Spirit World once I believe, though he seems to be unable to bend in "spiritually strong areas" probably due to his beliefs as an Airbender subconsciously stopping him. He also tried bending on the lion turtle, but I think that was again, a mental block for Aang rather than a real limitation.

On the other hand, Unalaq and friends were physically transported, meaning that they could probably do it. If Korra and Jinora are strong enough spiritually, it is probably possible for them to manifest a physical body in the Spirit World much like how the spirits can manifest a physical body in the realm of humans as strange as that sounds.
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Slight problem: Jinora and Korra definitely only entered the Spirit World spiritually and not physically. Thus Tenzin saying that they'll keep their bodies safe until they return. Maybe we'll learn that to not be true in the next episode, but I'm thinking they won't be missing from the physical world as Aang was able to manifest more physically when he was at the North Pole. Plus, it would be really interesting to see how Korra copes without her bending, especially since they briefly touched on it last season with Amon but never fully explored it.

Also, Aang was able to bend on the lion turtle. That's how he knew he wasn't in the Spirit World. He airbended to prove it to himself. He tried to earthbend, but wasn't able to because the "ground" he was trying to bend was actually the lion turtle's shell.
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Mako is playing 'Hot Lava' with the ladies. He can't touch the island on Single.
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I'm done w Moko! NOPE! Don't want him w Korra. He hooks up w girls, he NEEDS to be in a relationship. He's like a rat that jumps ship now that his is sinking. Doesn't care if he lands back on an old ship or not.
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It's good to see a more humble Korra in this episode, and we get confirmation that Vaatu and Unalaq are working together (not that it wasn't particularly obvious after the last few weeks) less said about the Republic city part, the better
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So was this the last episode animated by the crappy studio? It's Mir from now on right?
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Yes...
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Thank every deity in every heaven, and thank you Noel.
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Only thing I'll say is I don't care if we even go back to Republic City I mean come on what a waste of time! Let's just focus on Korra and Jinora kicking some butt please!
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Awesome about the 1 hr blocks. I've waited too long for this show to return and would not have been happy if they did a thanksgiving preemption. As for the ep, yeah it felt that way, another set up ep. I think it is great it isn't tenzin that can contact the spirit world and gives one of his kids the spotlight. Have to agree with what raizen said about how it would be bad if unalaq is doing vaatus bidding because he wants power. I still hope it was because he was mislead or something.

verrick as a sorta mob boss type is really interesting. I had a feeling he was going to threaten asami or bolin than to plant evidence on mako. But yep, something bad was going to happen when mako turned down the offer.

Anyway, can't wait for the next eps and appreciate how much i missed mir doing the animation. I still dont think periot is that horrible as ive watched bleach and think its ok. But that's just me.
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I think Pierrot's work has been about par for its filler arcs on Bleach, but not the main arcs, where the animation is stronger.
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I liked it, because Korra and Tenzin's reconciliation. I didn't see the parallel between Tenzin and Korra until I read your review. That actually makes me enjoy it more. It's nice to see master and student are more similar than we think. I missed Korra and Tenzin's back and forth. Jinora connection to spirits is finally touched upon. I love Bumi's antics from welcoming Tenzin to the club and his long stick. Korra really is a part of Tenzin's family. Seeing everyone so happy to see her made me happy.

Republic City part was also my least favorite part. I feel like the writers can't do a Mako plot that's not revolved around romance. I admit I'm lose hope Bolin story is going pay off. I did like gangster Verrick was. I do like Densa and Eska are becoming more sympathetic, but Unalaq is getting too much like Ozai for me. I'm still hoping for morally gray anti-villain.

What confuses me is doesn't Korra have to fight Vaatu during Harmonic Convergence? Fro Beginning it sounded like Raava/Avatar have to battle Vaatu every 10,000 years to decide who would rule for the next 10,000 years, order or chaos. This episode it sounded Korra just plans to close both portals and not face Vaatu at all. Does anyone have ideas why that is or did I misinterpret it wrong?
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Raava and Vaatu are supposed to fight every 10,000 for the fate of the world, but something tells me that Wan broke the cycle by sealing Vaatu instead of defeating him and sealing the portals, meaning it might be possible to avoid Harmonic Convergence. It seems like both portals have to be open for the Harmonic Convergence to even occur since it requires the two portals have to interact and Unalaq seemed desperate to open it. It seems to me that Harmonic Convergence is not possible unless the other portal can be opened. I believe that someone needs to spirit bend it open, and Unalaq is going to be the one who is able to do it considering his obsession with spirits and Korra's repeated comments about his spirituality.

Vaatu and Raava can only grow out of each other if one is defeated. However, Vaatu was sealed, which is completely different. I think Wan broke the cycle by sealing Vaatu instead of defeating him and unless the portals can be opened and the seal on Vaatu broken, Harmonic Convergence can be avoided altogether since the portals will never interact as long as they are sealed.
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I agree. its interesting because I thought Ravi and Vaatu HAD to battle to maintain balance in the world, but I guess not.
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I think the way things are going, the original idea is to close the portal and hopefully try to spirit heal the dark spirits they encounter. But i kinda expect vaatu to be freed, possess probably unalaq and be the anti avatar. Then it'll be a rematch on a bigger scale.
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I still don't think Unalaq can become a Dark Avatar because bending is granted by the Lion Turtles. All Vaatu can do is support Unalaq in obtaining those powers if the Lion Turtles choose to give it to them and Vaatu does not seem like the kind of creature that would willingly submit to Unalaq for any length of time for some grand scheme.
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Ok, I guess at most maybe Vaatu uses Unalaq as his vessel or something to channel his powers then. I don't think Vaatu is going to risk a single one on one fight against the avatar again as he lost and was sealed in the tree.
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Is it just me or are those two detectives (Lu and Gang) working for Varrick?

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Wouldn't surprise me. That or they are just jerks willing to undermine a younger guy who is clearly better at his job than them.
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probably both ;)
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I'll be glad when this season is over. What a mess. Between Pierrot's less than stellar work, the immenent character assassination of half the cast, rushed stories, undeserved emotional moments, cliches out the wazoo, 2-3 seasons worth of plot being forced into 1 and basically all around bad writing, I would gladly have waited another 6 months for LoK so that they could do it right.
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I can't honestly see most of the problems that you stated. This season may have started out rough, but they've really course corrected starting with Beginnings. It was then that they slowed down and really gave the show time to breathe. And I may be wrong, but dealing with Vaatu doesn't seem to be a one-season arc. So give them time. I've been impressed with the past few weeks and I think it's really gonna turn around before the season finale.
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yes, but they've said that each book will have its own story. So will Vaatu go on in the other books? It seems like since this battle only happens every 10,000 years so how much more can they do with vaatu?
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"It's like they don't care that I get paid by the article!"

Gotta love honesty :P
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I am always honest, even when I'm joking.
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