K203 Civil Wars Part 1 Episode Review

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K203 Civil Wars Part 1 

CivilWars

Written By/ Mike DiMartino
Directed By/ Colin Heck
Animated By/ Studio Pierrot

This is an episode that took me by surprise, its title led me to expect a vastly different episode than I got, it was not a bad surprise in that I loved how it turned out, it was just not at all what I expected from an episode titled “Civil Wars”. That title made me believe that I would see a very action packed episode with a war breaking out between North and South Water Tribes, with a shocking cliff-hanger to bring into the second half of this arc. The episode was in fact a more character focused piece, with family issues and the emotions that stem from them the main aspect of the episode, with the War being something looming in the background always ready to kick off. As I said I really enjoyed this episode, once I got over my expectations I realised how deep and powerful the emotions of this episode were, they really did not hold back anything when it came to showing family issues or big emotions. I also really enjoyed how the war, even by the end of the episode, has not kicked off yet as it really allowed the tensions between the tribes and Korra’s position in the middle to be explored well and not just quickly glossed over in favour of the action of a war.

I will begin with Tenzin, Kya and Bumi’s side of the story. It revolved around Ikki running away after being teased by Jinora and Meelo; even Tenzin’s kids are having sibling issues. I was a little concerned to see nothing really done with Jinora in this episode after such a strong and mysterious showing in the premiere, she seemed to almost not even remember what had gone on the night before, I at the very least expected another moment of her hearing something at the temple and turning around, with no one else hearing it. Instead we got her teasing her sister and then lying about it to Pema, a bit of an odd choice to show nothing of Jinora’s new focus this episode.

The one thing I feel could be linked in is Ikki’s disappearance. I have a feeling she may have been pulled into the Spirit World which will be the reason that Jinora decides to go into the Spirit World with Korra, to rescue her sister. It all seemed a bit too mysterious to just be Ikki just hiding somewhere in the Patola Mountain Range, that said they could make this a short term thing and when Ikki is found she and her siblings make up and show the older siblings (Tenzin and co) that despite any issues they may have they are still family. I do hope there is more to this search for Ikki than meets the eye.

Now, the cloud siblings themselves. Wow, things got heated pretty quickly between these 3. At times it was a little jarring to see them just joking around and all of a sudden they are cutting deep with personal issues, but these are siblings who, based on what was said, have not really spent much time together in a long time and have been holding in some problems for a while. While I think that in the end their issues will be linked into Tenzin’s children’s issues and the disappearance of Ikki, I found it interesting that their side of the story was very character focused, but little to no plot, a complete reverse of Book 1 Air in most things. Book 1 had a lot of plot and people were begging for more character focus, so it was interesting to see the reverse, little plot and a lot of character.  So far it is working for me, but I really need to know where exactly the sibling’s arguments are heading, what is the end goal? Especially now that Tenzin has gone in search of Ikki alone and the other 2 have returned back to the temple, I assume Tenzin will get some solo time next week.

As for the issues they brought up about each other, the big thing that stood out to me was how they all talked about the issues they had themselves and them all being unable to really understand why each other are as they are. Bumi and Kya are jealous of Tenzin for getting so much alone time with Aang, yet do not understand why Tenzin got that time, as the only Airbender he needed to be thought all about the culture and teachings of the Air Nomads. Tenzin is the only one who seems to understand the pressure Aang was under, being the Avatar and trying to assure the future of the Air Nomads, not to mention that he is the only one who had kids of his own so he further gets where Aang was coming from. Kya and Tenzin as benders see that Bumi tries hard to keep up with them, but do not get why he feels the need to try so hard. He is the only non-bender from arguably the most famous bending family, and the first born, so naturally he felt the need to prove himself in other ways, probably explaining why he joined the United Forces and why despite not having bending powers he tries to do everything they can do. Bumi and Tenzin do not understand why Kya felt the need to travel the world alone to find herself. My take on this is that Tenzin had his goal chosen for him, he had to continue on the Air Nomads, while Bumi had the goal of proving himself to be just as good as the benders in his family, she never had that instant life goal and looked for one, only finding it when her father died and deciding to look after her mother.

So as you can see all 3 have issues with their siblings, but IMO they are focusing on their own issues and not attempting to understand why they are as they are. I do wonder how this will be resolved as they really seemed to hurt each other and outside of Aang appearing and speaking to them all I do not see the instant apology coming soon. Especially with the final few lines before they split up, Kya and Bumi talk about how they also want to continue on Aang’s legacy, not just Tenzin, who thinks he is a saviour for being an Airbender. It confused me, because Tenzin technically is a saviour, as he was at one stage The Last Airbender and has continued on the culture, when was it ever about the general family legacy, Bumi and Kya are not Airbenders. I think it is just that Bumi and Kya feel left out as they see Tenzin as the favourite child and they are part of the family too.

Bolin and Eska went places I did not expect to see this early, him deciding this soon to get out of the relationship took my be surprise as going into this book this relationship was one of the big things mentioned about his story. I feel there is a lot more to come; I think emotions will soon come into it. Does Eska actually feel anything towards Bolin other than an interest in him as a “simple, uncultured person”? Is there more to Eska than she is showing so far? And what exactly is Densa’s role in everything? The 3 are endlessly entertaining every time they are on screen, but where is it going outside of being a funny relationship? that is what I need to know. I think it is important that Bolin has yet to break up with Eska yet, so I feel there is a lot more to come. On another note I really enjoyed Mako’s role in this side of things, his advice to Bolin was great and important. He tells Bolin to end the relationship and make is very clear that that is what he is doing, but Bolin not wanting to hurt her just kind of hinted at it.

Now for the main part of the episode, Korra, her parents and Unalaq. Unalaq continues to be a fascinating character, but one whose exact goals I am unsure of. It is pretty clear that he is not good, but at the same time I don’t feel he is completely bad, though he continues to move more and more towards that. He is not saying anything that clearly shows him to be evil, he gives Korra good advice, but advice that is subtly manipulating her and putting her in tough situations yet not alerting her to the fact that his intentions are not fully good. The end of the episode seems to be that point, I think him arresting her parents with no obvious proof will finally show her that all is not right with Unalaq.

There is also the mystery of who exactly is trying to start this war. Varrick is the most obvious one as he seems to dislike Unalaq and is the one who starts a rebellion, but is he working for Unalaq with the goal of starting a rebellion against the north, a planned kidnapping of Unalaq, ultimately resulting in giving Unalaq justification for starting a war, justification that he would not have had otherwise. The problem is that Varrick also seems so self-obsessed that he could just be starting the war for himself to save his wealth, what this did tell me is that Varrick is not just the eccentric business man, there is something off about him and he too is not all good. I do think Unalaq had some involvement in planning his kidnapping, just because he seems powerful enough that he could have fended off those waterbenders with his skill. I think he may know that Varrick went to Tonraq asking him to join the rebellion and is going to use that as proof for Senna and Tonraq’s arrest. Then there is his odd speech about what a civil war would result in, he did not need to say that and it seemed odd that he knew that it would all lead to that. I have a feeling that his ultimate goal could be to make that happen, but come across as if he is trying to stop it from happening.

Korra is the star of this episode for me. She tries so hard to be the Avatar and be balanced and fair to both tribes, all she wants is the two water tribes to be united and at peace, but her neutrality makes her appear as favouring the north to her own people. We see this clearly when she steps in between some southern and northern waterbenders, she is just trying to stop a war from breaking out, but all the others can think about is that she is not siding with them, then when the kid throws a snowball at her and calls her the worst Avatar ever you completely feel for her. They do not understand the situation she is in as they just expect her to side with them; they cannot see that war would be the worst thing to happen. Korra throughout this episode does nothing wrong and is doing and saying all the right things, yet gets nothing but abuse for it. Combine this with the issues she is having with her parents with them not believing and trusting in her and you have a character struggling inside so much.

My favourite scenes of the episode are the 2 that involve Korra’s mother, Senna. The first of which is a 1 on 1 talk between her and Korra, I LOVE THIS SCENE. It is incredibly emotional and deep, I love the facial animation when Korra explains to her mother about the lies she has found out about, she is angry at the truth being kept from her and hurt by it too and it shows on her face. Senna attempts to calm Korra down, but ends up angering her more, especially when she says that she doesn’t want Korra involved in dealing with the rebellion. This is the same issue she is having with her father, they don’t seem to get that as the Avatar these are the types of issues that he has to resolve, so when she says that she is already involved it was perfect and shows that it is not just Tonraq she has issue with, it is Senna too. Senna tries to explain their actions by saying that they just wanted Korra to have a normal life, but in a really powerful moment Korra explains that she never wanted a normal life, she only ever wanted to be the Avatar. It is fantastic because Korra has always accepted her role as the Avatar and everything that went along with it, plus her parents decision in trying to give her a normal childhood ended up giving her an anything but normal one, growing up locked up and with no friends.

The second scene is of course the ending scene. Korra returns home and just breaks down in tears as she hugs her father. She has tried so hard throughout this episode, under so much pressure and just lets it all out with her parents. I love how balanced the scene is, Korra is not made out to be wrong for being angry at her parents, but at the same time he parents are not made out to be bad for their mistakes with Korra. It is just so well done, Tonraq telling Korra that he should have never held her back and then Senna in a heart-breaking moment explaining that she and Tonraq only wanted a simple life and to raise a family, but when Korra turned out to be the Avatar it all went away. Then her parents actions in holding her back are explained when she says that they always knew that one day the world would need her and she would not need them (tissue please!), but Korra says that she still needs them. It is such a tender and emotional scene, perfectly done to resolve the issues that she is having with her parents.

I really did enjoy that what ultimately made Korra decide to go and apologise to her parents was her thinking that her father was involved in Unalaq’s kidnapping. When she found out it was not him, she just had to apologise for even thinking her father would do something like that. The scene itself was a fantastic one for Korra, she steps up perfectly as the Avatar giving the kidnappers every chance to avoid a fight and stop before it got too serious, and then when the fight started she just restrained them and did everything possible to not hurt them. It was a real sign that she is growing into her role as the Avatar, and then when she speaks over Unalaq, the chief of both water tribes, to suggest that the men stand trial as opposed to just being sent to prison was a great way to show how much she has grown as a person. A very fair and balanced decision here, even Unalaq agreed.

Overall this was a very good episode, while it was different to what I expected, I am happy with what this episode did as I think it has set things up very well for Part 2 to do some very interesting things. There are still a lot of mysteries: Unalaq’s goals, Ikki’s disappearance and Jinora and the statue, which I am really enjoying. It was a little slow paced at times and perhaps focused too much on character development with not enough story development, but I have faith that Part 2 will resolve things well.

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By:

My name is Morgan Bannon, I am a 22 Year old Male from Ireland and I am the Site Super Moderator. I have watched and been a fan of Avatar since it premiered. I am also a news post writer for the site and host the site's podcast, The Avatar Online Podcast. My strength as an Avatar fan would be just a good knowledge of Avatar Canon and characters.

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Comments - 3 Posts

  1. Droc Plug Said: Comment by Droc Plug on September 24, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Permalink
     

    I love how we can finally see this season how far Korra has come in her bending abilities. In the last two we just see her on unfamiliar turf fighting spirits and not exactly excelling. Here she fights benders and you can really see how advanced she is and how with ease she is able to restrain them without hurting them, yet still keeping her own stylistic touch(ie. her breaking through ice with a fist instead of bending it).

    Reply

  2. Steve Said: Comment by Steve on September 25, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink
     

    What I’m starting to wonder if Unalaq is the main antagonist or if the main antagonist has yet to be revealed, Unalaq isn’t exactly black nor is he white, he seems like a blurred grey. (When I say black and white, Im referring to good (white) and evil(black), much like the YinYang.)

    Reply

  3. Jon Said: Comment by Jon on September 26, 2013 at 6:31 am | Permalink
     

    I loved the stuff with Korra and Unalaq, but the ending was a bit predictable. The best were the scenes with Bumi, Kya, and Tenzin. I like how Aang wasn’t the perfect father like we probably all imagined him to be. This not only gives more insight into the siblings’ charcters, but also Anag’s.

    The attack on the Palace was a great action scene because we actually see Korra bend nothing but water. We are so used to see her fight with firebending most of the time, but this action scene showed us how great of a waterbender she truly is. Also the her feelings during the fight were great. Having her be more worried that her father was invovled then just knocking some sense into the renegades was very genuine. Her feelings were real and heavily believable.

    Reply

 

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