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Lately I have been too busy to write a serious and coherent piece on Greek elections and the financial crisis (even though I will try to put my thoughts into words by the end of the week). For the time being, I’ll stick to lighter topics, that’s to say, to the latest developments in the Legend of Korra which has turned from one of my weekend’s must-see (alongside the now finished Indian Hospital, Game of Thrones and the loathsome Girls and now True Blood) to an intriguing series with depth and interesting characters.

This week’s episode was truly a revelation and the perfect set-up for the forthcoming season’s finale. When Korra first started, I was impressed by the character and set design, the details in the fight scenes and the care of the producers for the creation of a world that would both intrigue and absorb the viewer. What I had felt back then was a lack of connection with the characters which I had – correctly I believe – attributed to the fact that the series was still in early stages. As this is a project of a limited number of episodes, it was obvious that the creators had carefully planned the development of the characters in order for the revelation of their past to coincide with major plot events.

The development of the character of Lin Beifong has strengthened this belief. When she first appeared, chief Beifong seemed like a strict and calculating individual with little empathy. Yet, her relationship with Tenzin only reveals the impulse level to which her emotions can lead her. In fact, this love, which once made her imprison Tenzin’s then-girlfriend and current wife, led her in this episode to lose what was most important to her, her bending. Her bending, in fact, was more than an ability to her: it was her work, it was her strength, it was her way of life and it was her connection to her mother who had developed metal bending. She is a true heroine, strong, emotional and ready to give her life for everything she loves, without neither being a mother figure nor losing her femininity.

However, it can be argued that this amazing character development comes in direct opposition to the development of the three main characters, Korra, Mako and Bolin – as the fourth member of the group, Asami Sato has already demonstrated important aspects of her personality. Even Amon, without anything about his past having revealed yet, has turned from an uninteresting opponent to mighty antagonist. It is true that besides the mostly awkward triangle and in times quadrangle between the characters, little is known about the two brothers, Mako and Bolin. Nevertheless, they show great potentials for various reasons: they are orphans (which is always good ground for sobfests), the do not look alike (which may or may not imply something) and they have still many challenges to face.

Korra, on the other hand, does not have the emotional baggage that, say, Aang had. She comes from a happy family with her two parents still living and breathing, she has pretty much mastered three and a half elements (she needs to work on her air-bending but, oh well, nobody’s perfect) and she is genuinely cool. In fact, she at times resembles an oh-too-perfect girl to the point of being annoying. She didn’t have the ethical dilemmas of Aang in relation to fire bending or his guilt about abandoning the air temples. She has been given a clean start. This is why for all I know, something will probably happen that weaken her to a breaking point. Just like the death of Mufasa was Simba’s lowest point, Korra’s lowest point may be related to a death or the loss of something dear (parents? friends? I dare betting that it will be something more than a few Republic City buildings).

Talking about a torturing life, it is my firm belief that Asami will remain one of the most interesting characters even during the next season. She may not be a bender, but she is called to fill in the gap left by Mai’s character from the Legend of Aang. She is the one that is asked to choose sides not based on fear of demise, but out of desire to fight beside the one she loves and stand up for what is right. What distinguishes Mai and Asami’s characters is the element of jealousy that will probably play a major – yet possibly temporarily – role in Asami’s loyalties. However, the two women look alike in another way as well: they both come from affluent families and have black hair, porcelain skin, smooth features and an internal strength. This is why I could tentatively see a connection between Asami’s character and General Iroh.

Let’s go now to General Iroh. General Iroh was definitely the highlight of the previous episode and made many old fans (including myself) rave at the sound of Dante Basco’s voice. Iroh does not resemble Zuko only in voice but in fact he looks in many ways like him and it is almost certain that they are related. This was definitely a treat to the fans, a kind of loyalty present. It also highlights the effort to maintain a continuity between the current and previous Airbender series, as many old characters make cameos as adults or are brought back through relatives and stories. This continuity also applies to the last episode’s realisation that if Tenzin’s family dies, airbending will be lost forever, which was a key issue in the previous series. Now Korra is preparing for a large scale battle which will probably allow her to release the Avatar state and – maybe… – connect with Aang. Therefore the end of this season seems not just promising, but genuinely moving and exciting enough to make people come back for the second season, which, hopefully, will include even more good story-lines. At the end of the day, what is animation if not the visualisation of compelling storytelling?

PS. For the first and only time I will confess that I now believe that not disclosing Ursa’s (Zuko’s mother’s) whereabouts at the end of the previous series was an excellent choice. It is one of these highly distressing events that keep fans loyal to the last episode in order to find an answer. Just please dear producers, give it to us.

Sincerely yours, A.

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