Note: For reviews of episodes that have recently aired I post my thoughts only. No page quote, no snarky title, no picture, no plot points or random thoughts.
Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for the episode that I am reviewing.
Thinking about the first part of Civil War, I feel generally pleased. It was an episode with great dialogue, good humor, consistent characterization, character development and, as usual, amazing art. I also feel good about the direction book 1 is going.
Now as for the episode itself? Not really that good.
Oh don’t get me wrong, everything I said in the first paragraph is true. The next episodes of Korra will, I think return to form – if nothing else because most of the problems I had with this episode were resolved within this episode. But this episode itself?
Invading the Southern Water Tribe should have been a deal-breaker for Korra, as far as it came to her friendship with her uncle. I understand why, in the first two episodes, Korra trusted her uncle over people she knew longer. In this episode it feels a little unnatural. Korra’s not stupid, she should know better than to think that an invading force, even if it’s technically part of the same tribe, could possibly be a good thing. Unalaq, to his credit, is very clever, insisting that Korra remain neutral not that she get involved herself.
Korra’s reconciliation with her parents saved the episode for me. It was a touching moment, well written and acted with genuine emotion. It just worked. And then Unalaq, true to form, arrests Korra’s father. Hoo boy. That should make part 2 interesting and worth watching.
Tenzin’s arc didn’t work very well for me either. It’s well written, well acted, but something about it felt a little off. The idea of Aang being an absentee father to all his children except the Airbender (Tenzin) makes some sense, and I don’t begrudge that. Somehow, the siblings bickering about it felt a little unnatural, though. Not to mention, I don’t believe that Tenzin forgot that he was the only one of the siblings who went on vacations with Aang.
Most of the background moments were well done. I’m enjoying the Bolin/Eska “relationship”. I don’t know why exactly. On some level, someone threatening to encase someone in ice forever if they don’t remain in a relationship should be horribly disturbing. But yet, mostly because of PJ Byrne’s (Bolin) terrific voice acting and Aubrey Plaza’s (Eska) brilliant deadpan, it works. Although it is still a little terrifying.
Varrick (the businessman from episode 1) continues to be hilarious, while gaining a sinister edge in this episode. And I want some kale cookies. On a side note, I recently discovered that his assistant’s name, pronounced Ju-lie, is actually spelled Zhu Li. I love that the show maintains it’s roots to asian cultures to such a ridiculous extreme – logically, the name is actually spelled using 2 distinct characters – this seems to be the style of the The Last Airbender universe. But just for the heck of it, the writers made sure to give “Julie” a Chinese spelling to her name.
Still, on the whole this episode, while funny, well written, and generally entertaining, didn’t work for me. With most of the problems created in the episode seemingly fixed by its end, I’m not overly concerned.