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Welcome to the South Pole. It's nice to be back in the Avatar world and enjoy the show's gorgeous animation, expansive world, and colorful cast of characters. There's plenty of show to enjoy with Korra's one-hour season premiere, so let's dive in.
It's been six months since the end of events of the first season. The last time we saw the gang, Amon and the equalists had been defeated and Korra had finally learned to airbend and tapped into the Avatar state. A lot can change in six months and the first episode wastes no time getting viewers up to speed. Republic City has done away with the council and has elected its first president. The Fire Ferrets are still competing, but the team looks a little different. Mako and Korra have been replaced and the replacements seem to be pretty terrible athletes. Mako's busy chasing down getaway cars as a new member of the Republic City police department and doing his best Horatio Caine impression. His line after stopping the car? "Looks like you had some car trouble. Good thing the police is here." Asami is trying to keep Future Industries from going bankrupt in the aftermath of her father being arrested for helping the equalists. Korra is back to training full time on Avatar Island and she's obviously bored. She feels like she's mastered airbending and is not too happy with Tenzin for saying that she still needs to learn "real" airbending. Meanwhile, spooky things are happening in the south. Dark spirits are being spotted and are even attacking sailers out at sea.
The whole crew travels south to attend the Southern Water Tribe's Glacier Spirits Festival. Here we meet many new characters, including lots of Korra's extended family. We're reintroduced to Korra's father, Tonraq, and learn that Korra is part of water tribe royalty. Her uncle Unalaq is chief of the Northern and Southern Water Tribes and lives in the north. We also meet his kids - identical twins Desna and Eska. The northerners are very proper and regal and it's quickly established that there are some family issues between Tonraq and Unalaq. Unalaq makes it clear that he believes the south has lost its traditions and that their lack of connection and respect for the spirit world have angered the spirits. He also believes he should be Korra's teacher and spiritual mentor. Tenzin and Tonraq are quick to dismiss this notion, but Korra, already chafing from lack of control over her own future, is intrigued. Asami's trip to the south is all business. Accompanied by Bolin and Pabu, she heads out to meet a rich businessman named Varrick to try and negotiate a shipping deal for Future Industries. Bolin's terrible business manners turn out to be more than appropriate once we meet Varrick. Varrick is a fast-talking, slightly eccentric businessman and soon enough, Asami has her deal and a new ally. Later that night while the village sleeps, a dark spirit attacks. The spirit quickly puts Tonraq, Tenzin and even Korra, who was enhanced in an Avatar state, out of action. Korra is in serious trouble when Unalaq saves the day by calming the spirit and driving it back to its own world. Korra is impressed and decides that Unalaq should be her new spiritual mentor and teach her about the spirit world. Tenzin is disappointed, but decides to continue with his original plan of visiting the four Air Temples scattered around the world and is joined by his siblings Bumi and Kya.
"Episode 2, The Southern Lights" picks up right where episode one left off with Korra packed and ready to begin her new training with Uncle Unalaq. Right off the bat, her training isn't exactly what she was expecting and this time she's happy about that. Unalaq plans an expedition to the South Pole to the spiritual center of Southern Water Tribe lands. Tonraq quickly invites himself along for the ride and they set off with Mako, Bolin and Korra's cousins Desna and Eska. Tensions between Unalaq and Tonraq reach a head and Tonraq finally reveals what happened between them. As a promising young general, Tonraq fought off invaders in the north. He ordered his troops to continue attacking even once the battle had worked its way into the Northern Water Tribe's sacred forest. The battle destroyed the forest and the spirits took their revenge on the city. Unalaq was able to calm the spirits and save the city. Tonraq's father banished him from the Northern Water Tribe and Unalaq eventually became chief. After another spirit attack that night, Korra has had enough of her father and sends him back to the village. The group arrives at their destination, a frozen and damaged sacred forest, and Unalaq tells Korra what she must do. In the center of the forest is a portal to the spirit world. If Korra can open the portal, balance will begin to be restored and the spirits will calm down. Korra enters the forest alone and makes her way to the portal. She tries different types of bending to activate the portal, but nothing happens. Another group of angry spirits attack Korra and after entering the Avatar state yet again and touching the portal, it finally activates. The southern lights reappear in the sky and everyone congratulates Korra. Things are looking up until the group returns to the village and Unalaq drops another surprise. A fleet of Northern Water Tribe ships has arrived and soldiers are pouring out of them. This is the next step in unifying the two water tribes, says Unalaq.
I didn't touch on Tenzin's journey very much because it's obvious that story is barely kicking off. Tenzin and his family arrive at the first Air Temple and are greeted by some very fanatical air acolytes. The acolytes love Tenzin and his airbender family, but are not all impressed by waterbenders Bumi and Kya. When Korra opens the portal, something happens in the statue room of the temple, but it's not clear exactly what that is. Whatever happens going forward, it seems likely that Tenzin's daughter Jinora will be involved.
All in all, I thought this was a solid premiere that wasted no time in setting up the coming conflicts. Clearly, opening that portal was only the beginning and I can't wait to see what other surprises the show has for viewers.
New episodes of The Legend of Korra air Fridays at 7 p.m. on Nickelodeon.
Image: Nick Press