Where to start... where to start...
First and foremost, "Peacekeepers" was just a remarkably bad-looking episode. Studio Pierrot's work has steadily declined over the course of five episode, drifting away from the Studio Mir style to their own particular style of animation, and on the lower end of what they're capable of, too. It's about on the same level as the filler-arc animation you'd find in some of Pierrot's other shows. It's stiff and un-detailed, and it's obvious which choices they made regarding where to spend their time. Arriving at Republic City? Not a whole lot of effort. Korra and Mako breaking up? It actually looked decent.
Likewise, the color palette and lighting have shifted from Studio Mir's more subdued impulses to Pierrot's favored look of "always popping, always bright." Republic City is significantly brighter than I think it's ever been, and while I get that we never saw much of it during the day in Book 1, and that the seasons are likely different—it's obviously not winter any longer—the brightness and lack of detail just make Republic City seem generic and kind of uninhabited. Heck, Mako's apartment looked like no one lived there apart from the Fire Ferrets wall scroll.
I've mentioned this a couple of times, maybe in the comments, but certainly when discussing it on Twitter, that lately I often feel like I'm watching Naturo or Bleach instead of The Legend of Korra, and this episode really locked in that sensation for me. Pierrot is slated for two more episodes—6 and 9—and Studio Mir animated what's left in the season.
I understand the production demands behind animation. Nickelodeon didn't leave a lot of time to get the show on in a year, and Studio Mir is, as I've said, a small operation; something as rich and good-looking as Book 1 required a lot of their animators. They needed a rest, and Pierrot is nothing if not a workhorse when it comes to churning out animation, making them an ideal interim solution. Hopefully, since Nickelodeon has made orders for Books 3 and 4 in a timely fashion, they'll look significantly better and more consistent than what we got this week.
Last week I mentioned that I was pretty much all out of slack for the show's narrative, and "Peacekeepers" decided to test me on that threat. The second half of "Civil Wars" was a series of structural stumbles for the sake of narrative expediency, but that expediency didn't really get us very far this week. Except to show us that Mako is the only sane, responsible character in the A-plot, and that is something that I honestly never thought would happen? My head, it hurts.
Based on your comments and my very shallow wading into the fan community outside of you all, my sense is that Korra is very much on the outs with much of the audience. I defended her a bit earlier, but I've reached a breaking point, of sorts, regarding her behavior. Her intense stubbornness—from yelling at the president to going over the president's head to manufacture a war with General Iroh—I still defend as teenager insanity, and I do sort of applaud the show for putting what has become an intensely unlikable protagonist at the center of its narrative. We're seeing Korra without a moderating influence, like Tenzin, and, really, it's actually rather bold, especially for a "kids' show." It's Luke Skywalker leaving Dagobah without completing the training and then the whole Cloud City mess* stretched across four episodes. And if Luke was much more of a jerk to R2-D2 the entire time.
*I cannot believe I am worried about spoiling The Empire Strikes Back for someone. I dislike what the Internet has reduced me to.
The problem, however, is that Korra isn't facing much in the way of actual consequences for her behavior, and that's what I think is so frustrating for us, or at least it is for me. It isn't enough for her to be blocked by the president at every turn, or even that Mako breaks up with her. She doesn't see these instances as linked to her behavior, and instead views them as failures on their parts. She needs to be dealt something very serious that causes her realize the errors of her behavior. I think the end of this episode, with the angry spirit swallowing her whole, could likely be that wake-up call, in the same way that Amon's easy humiliation of her in "The Voice in the Night" caused her to start reevaluating things.
Even the things I should've really responded to this week, like Varrick using Korra to stir up a war by encouraging her to talk to Iroh and in doing so setting up Asami to become a war profiteer and then his decision to make a propaganda 'mover' with Bolin should've just tickled me to no end. I love this sort of stuff, and after the political drama from Book 1, it should feel like a much bigger deal. I'm just having trouble getting past how lightly it's being framed by the show. It's undercut by the jokes, but not in a meaningful way like the show was even capable of way back in the first episode as contrasted Unalaq's grand religious speech with Varrick's insistence on mindless entertainment. Varrick's incredibly ruthless and conniving, but sort of like with Korra thus far, I'm not convinced he'll face a real consequences.Then again, maybe a business tycoon not facing any consequences for his actions will be exactly the point the show wants to make.
If it ever gets around to making a point.
– I didn't like the Air Temple stuff as much as I did last week, but at least it was more coherent, and pushed steadily toward Tenzin realizing that he should have stayed with Korra, regardless of her attitude. However, this could end up feeling like a way to avoid forcing Korra to accept responsibility for her actions, and shifting that responsibility to Tenzin alone... and it really does not belong there.
– At least Lin showed up this week, and had my favorite line of the episode: "Welcome home, Avatar. Thanks for starting a war."
– "Being alpha lemur is lonely."
What did you think of "Peacekeepers"?