K207/K208 Beginnings Episode Review

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I will just combine these two episodes into one to review. I apologise in advance if I do not go as in-depth on these episodes as I usually do, there is just so much to talk about that I could spend all day typing out this review.

Thankfully I have already done podcasts about these 2 episodes

Part 1 Roundtable Podcast – http://avatarthelastairbenderonline.com/korra-roundtable-podcast-k207-beginnings-part-1/

Part 2 Roundtable Podcast – http://avatarthelastairbenderonline.com/korra-roundtable-podcast-k208-beginnings-part-2/

K207/K208 Beginnings

Beginnings Review

“Don’t worry, we will be together for all of your lifetimes, and we will never give up.” – Raava, the now Avatar Spirit upon the start of the Avatar Cycle.

Written By/ Mike Dimartino (Part 1) and Tim Hedrick (Part 2)
Directed By/ Colin Heck (Part 1) and Ian Graham (Part 2)
Animated By/ Studio Mir (Both Parts)

UNBELIEVABLY GOOD, I feel like that is all that I need to say about these two episodes, as they were far and away the best episodes of Korra so far and could quite possibly be the best episodes of Avatar ever. I honestly can say that right now these are my favourite episodes of Avatar. I say that because as two episodes that told the story of the Origin of the Avatar, one of the most anticipated reveals in Avatar history. They succeeded perfectly in just 40 minutes or so while also continuing on and setting up Korra’s story going forward. Most of you probably know that I have always been hugely interested in the origin of the avatar, origin of bending and so on, so for these episodes to address all of this and more made these episodes exactly what I was looking for. It comes down to mythology, Avatar is at its best when it uses Mythology well and these episodes were steeped in it. That said, there was more to these episodes than mythology, continuity and epic moments, there was a lot of emotion to these episodes too and despite how epic sounding “The Origin Of The Avatar” sounds, this was a surprisingly personal story, which I loved.

As mentioned above I love talking about the beginning of the Avatar, I always get involved in any speculation about it and I had a lot to say, but the big thing that I forgot when theorising what happened was emotion. I fully expected that the Avatar would begin due to a grandiose decision made by the spirits to create a spirit and combine it with a worthy human to keep balance in the world. So I was surprised, but in a good way, to see that the Avatar came into being because of a mistake, Wan’s quest to set that mistake right, a friendship and bond between a human (Wan) and a spirit (Raava) and ultimately a promise between the two to bring peace and balance to the world. It was so much better than I ever imagined it could be, what I had always overlooked was that the person and spirit involved must have had a relationship and as epic as everything was, it was the friendship that developed between Wan and Raava that I came to love. We meet Wan about 2 minutes into the episode, but we do not meet Raava until the end of Part 1, so in just 20 or so minutes we get a powerful and meaningful journey as these two characters come together into what we know is the Avatar. It is so well done.

The two are at odds with each other at the beginning. Raava seems to have no time at all for humans and like all of the spirits has no respect for them and a huge superiority complex over them. Wan, on the other hand, at this point has lived with both sides and is friends with both humans and spirits, he is more balanced than the spirit of Peace, Light and Balance is. Before he even has the powers of the Avatar has the ideals of the Avatar and I love that, he does not adapt his personality to being the Avatar, he gains the power to help people. We see Wan is the one who constantly remains optimistic and has the drive to take down Vaatu, while Raava at times begins to lose hope and has little confidence in Wan. She is really not on board with the plan to help Wan get the power of the other elements; she even says why should she help a human who caused so much trouble. Over time she starts to help him and by the time of the Harmonic Convergence she and Wan are close friends and he has helped her to see something more in humans. It is also a bit of a sad story as over time Raava begins to shrink as the balance of power between her and Vaatu shifts, all while Wan grows more powerful as he gains each new element and connects more and more with Raava.

It is because you emotionally connect to this relationship that the battle at Harmonic Convergence is so intense. They walk into a battle against a skyscraper sized Vaatu with Raava small enough to fit in a teapot. In this fight we really get to see the determination of Wan, it has become more than just making up for a mistake for him, he now is emotionally invested and wanting to help Raava and beat Vaatu. I was already connected with this character by the time of this fight, but to see him say that if he dies that it does not matter because everything will be gone is huge. This is the same character we met stealing food for his friends and he is now willing to risk his life in the battle for the fate of the world to aid his now friend, Raava. Then we get the moment we were waiting for, the moment when the Avatar as we know it comes into existence, the situation is perfection itself. The Avatar begins in the place where the two worlds meet which is shaped like a Ying and Yang symbol, at an event called Harmonic Convergence and results in the perfect balance of human and spirit with Raava and Wan becoming linked forever. There is such perfect symbolism to how the guardian of balance in the world began. Not to mention Wan’s journey to become the Avatar starting with him splitting two spirits and ending with him combining with a spirit. I did feel that what Wan touching the portal needed to have some form of explanation, but it worked well enough, but my word things got epic when we see the Avatar State for the first time. Wan completely dominates Vaatu and seals him away. It was a true epic Avatar moment.

While the friendship of Raava and Wan was the big relationship of the episode, it was the conflict between humans and spirits that was key to the story. What really stood out to me was how neither side was in the right, the spirits by virtue of being spirits were the ones blaming humans for everything and how they destroy nature, yet were unable to understand why they did what they did nor that they by being there were living in the human’s world. Humans at this time are penned into a few dozen Lion Turtle cities and are forced to brave the spirit wilds to gather food to survive, they need to protect themselves and are on guard when they go out all because spirits have taken over much of the world. As far as we know spirits do not need food, yet occupy much of the land that has fruit, they do not see what they are doing wrong. Even Raava states that Humans only care about themselves no matter how many others are around, she just cannot see how dangerous the world is for humans with so many spirits around and why all humans are so on guard. This is why Wan is so important, he lived most of his life with humans, but he also spent years living with humans, this worked because both Aye Aye and Wan took a chance on each other which led to a long friendship. This conflict highlighted how difficult the role of the Avatar is, Wan attempted to talk both sides down and was put in a position between his two best friends: Jaya and Aye Aye, like the canyon guide said “It is lonely being neutral”, but more than that both sides won’t listen to anything and only respond to a demonstration of power. A harsh reality that sometimes there is not always a diplomatic solution to a problem.

Wan’s greatest accomplishments as the Avatar are him sealing away Vaatu and also bringing balance between the spirits and humans by getting the spirits to return to the Spirit World and teaching man to respect them. At this point I expected to see Wan die having brought complete peace to the world, so when we then cut to an elderly Wan on a flaming battlefield dying, it hit me HARD, it was one of the most emotional reactions I have had to any piece of media ever and all this about a character I had met 40 minutes ago. I could not believe the first Avatar died having failed to bring peace to humanity; he brought balance between worlds, but could not do it with his own species. There was something incredibly sombre about Wan’s line “Darkness still surrounds humanity”, this person who has been endlessly optimistic throughout his life, even helping the spirit of light through bad times, is dying with no hope. This dark scene suddenly turns into a beacon of hope as Raava has clearly learned from Wan and gives him some optimism with her line “”Don’t worry, we will be together for all of your lifetimes, and we will never give up.“”, especially that last part, that defines Wan in his quest and now it defines the Avatar Cycle going forward, it allows Wan to die with a glimmer of hope, what he devoted his life to will continue forever. I never thought we would have such an emotional beginning of the Avatar Cycle. (BTW I literally teared up a bit just writing this paragraph, it got me that much)

Now that I have got most of the plot/character stuff out of the way I can talk a bit about some of the big mythology/continuity reveals. On the roundtable on Sunday we basically came to the conclusion that while we expected the origin of the Avatar to be all we ever wanted, we now NEED the origin of the Lion Turtles. The mystery has just shifted. I had for some reason never considered the idea that if one Lion Turtle can give Aang energybending (Effectively making him the first human energybender) that many brought bending into the world. I literally out loud when watching Part 1 said “That is it, the perfect bending origin, LION TURTLES”. The mystery of the Lion Turtles would be questions like: How old are they, Raava calls one “Ancient One” and she is one of the 2 all powerful spirits? Why did they decide to protect humanity from the spirits? Why does only one still live (as far as we know)? Why after 10,000 years did they again see it fit to interfere in the affairs of humans by helping Aang?

I think that is enough questions, their role in these episodes answered many things also. Through them we basically get to see the origin of the 4 nations, especially the Fire Nation, we really do see the scene where a nation was born. We see that the Air Nomads back in this time were very similar to them as they are now, but with some important changes. Their arrows are not the same as we know them; this is clearly before they learned to bend the true way from the Sky Bison who have arrows naturally in their fur. Each Lion Turtle seemed capable of gifting one of the 4 elements via energybending, which again makes the Avatar unique, the only Energybender capable of giving people any of the 4 elements (if the ability works that way for humans). I loved seeing Wan be the first human to not only keep his bending abilities, but master it the true way from the dragons. These episodes could have done some terrible things to Avatar continuity, but because Mike and Bryan know their world so well they avoided mistakes perfectly allowing these episodes to shine as they were meant to. There are so many other great details I could mention here, but I would be here all day.

So I will conclude with Korra, who is easy to forget being in this episode with all the Wan stuff. While she only got about 3 minutes of screen time, the implications of Wan’s story on her story really add to the present day stuff. We now basically know where Unalaq was in K206, he had to have been in the place where the worlds meet and must have seen Vaatu. At last we know what Unalaq’s plan is (We think), it also gives Korra a goal now, she knows that the portal needs to be closed and that her Uncle must be trying to release Vaatu again. This episode also explains well why she heard Wan’s story, the Dark Spirit attack infected her Avatar Spirit with dark energy and separated her from Raava, and seeing the story of how the Avatar began and specifically how the Avatar Cycle started allowed her to reconnect with Raava. So this episode was much more than just a way to get out the story of the first avatar, it serves multiple Korra plot purposes, that is clever writing. We also get a big reveal in Korra’s story, that being how there are so many bison still in the world, the sages on this fire nation island have been raising a herd of bison since the 100 year war. The only issue I had with this side of the story was that they never explained where the island was or who this shaman woman or the others were. The others were clearly fire sages, who we know are loyal to the Avatar, so it would make sense that this is Crescent Island, but that island was covered in lava after 108. So is this island where the sages moved to to start a new fire temple, this was an episode steeped in continuity yet they didn’t reveal this. The episode ended well with the reveal that the next Harmonic Convergence is only weeks away and that no one knows how long Korra has been missing, but she is heading south on her new Bison. It really is great set up for K209 The Guide.

Overall these episodes are stunning. I cannot think of another show out there where 2 episodes can do so much to make you reconsider every theory you have ever had and look at the two show’s main characters in a different light. Another show that can have 2 episodes as important to the mythology of the world as these 2 to Avatar. These are my 2 favourite episodes currently, because they hit on everything that I love about Avatar. Also Carrot Guy was in part 1 and he wins the world and thus these have to be my favourite episodes, you cannot argue with logic like that.

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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 - 10 Posts

  1. Airspeed Prime Said: Comment by Airspeed Prime on October 22, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink
     

    Now we are left to wonder where the title Avatar came from.
    Apart from the obvious Raava flipped around with a t between the two a is Avatar, where did the title come from.

    Reply

    YangChen Reply:

    I think the name is a combo of raava and vaatu

    Reply

    Eska Reply:

    Maybe someone in the avatar world knew Hindu and got it the same way that Bryke did? Idk.

    Reply

    Anton Reply:

    RaAVA + TARlock … but that wouldnt make sence would it :p .I think i need to watch these episodes again. Perhaps i will find a hint or something. I never heard the word “avatar” in wans story so i guess that means the title didnt exist back then. Maybe as you said it is a combination of Raava + The avatar after wan. Maybe…

    Reply

  2. Jon Said: Comment by Jon on October 22, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink
     

    I’m not sure about the Avatar title origin, but the animation in these episodes were astonishing! The whole thing was so colorful and lively. It seriously reminded me of ATLA animation.

    Also a few other things about this episode reminded me of ATLA. 1) The part when Wan dresses up as “Bushy the Bush Spirit” reminded me of something Sokka would do and say. 2) I love Aye Aye’s humor. He’s was very sarcastic like a lot of the characters from ATLA were.

    As for Wan’s optimism and selflessness; that reminded me of Aang’s personality which was very comforting to see.

    Reply

    KoolKorra Reply:

    Agreed 😀 Aye Aye was such a cool character. It would be nice if Korra and Aye Aye met. XD

    Reply

    Anton Reply:

    The animation was Awesome! Loved these episodes. i wonder who was the next avatar after wan… and how the element cycle began. Wan did first learn fire , then air ,water and earth but what about the next avatar? Did he have to travel in order to find the lion turtles too? and why would Raava choose a baby from the air nomads to be the next avatar? We need more!

    Reply

  3. YangChen Said: Comment by YangChen on October 22, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink
     

    I bet the fire sages are on a lion turtle

    Reply

  4. Jon Said: Comment by Jon on October 22, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
     

    I think Korra passed a lion turtle at the end when she was flying away on the air bison

    Reply

  5. 北方拓芙 Said: Comment by 北方拓芙 on December 7, 2013 at 4:25 am | Permalink
     

    I know this comes as kinda (okay, very) late, but since I just finished watching Book Two today and watched these episodes just yesterday, I just thought I’d leave my own opinion.

    These episodes were AMAZING, definitely jumped right up to my Top 5 favorite Avatar episodes of all time. Yet, to me, something keeps them from being absolutely perfect: lack of breathing time. To me, these episodes suffer from the same ills as #112 Endgame.
    Part One was perfectly fine, but Part Two definitely felt a little rushed to me. The origin of the first Avatar in itself was absolutely amazing and the plot was brilliant, perfectly tying up with the story back in Korra’s time. However, I do feel that we needed a little more time to let the story breathe and to do some more exposition. One or two minutes would have been more than enough. I would have really liked to see what happened to the other three nations apart from the Fire Nation. It is kind of implied that they went through the same process, but I really would have liked to see them explicitly gain their elements and being able to keep them even after the Lion Turtles went away. I also would have really liked to see those three nations learn the bend the proper way, even if only for mere seconds, the way we see with firebending. Seeing the four modern nations being established and more of what Wan did after effectively becoming the Avatar would be icing on the cake.
    In short, while the plot was amazing, I think Part Two would have greatly benefited from just a little more breathing time and a little more exposition, especially in regards to the other three nations.
    All of these reasons left these two episodes feeling a bit bittersweet to me, because, were it not for these shortcomings, “Beginnings” would have been, as Airspeed put it, “perfection itself”.

    Reply

 

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