K307 – Original Airbenders Episode Review

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K307 Original Airbenders

 K307review

Written By: Tim Hedrick
Directed By: Melchoir Zwyer
Animated By: Studio Mir

Definitely the odd episode out so far in Book 3. It is not a massive drop in quality, but it is so removed from everything else going on in the book that it makes for an odd sudden change in focus, minus one scene with Korra, this episode is completely focused on the northern air temple. We have not seen Tenzin since the end of episode 4, and while I have wanted to return to him, it being a full episode of airbenders is an interesting choice. I almost feel as if it would have been better to either turn the Lin family arc into 3 episodes and have this episode happen throughout the past 3 episodes as a side plot or extend this one out to give more time to resolve all of the things brought up. This is the key issue in this episode, despite one plot getting full focus in the episode it introduces so many little things that by the end it struggles to pull everything back together at the end. There are some great character moments throughout, but following up a 2 part character focus episode with a character focus episode for new characters makes for a huge gap in the middle of Book 3 where the main action takes a backseat, it really left me eager for the show to return to the main action of the book.

The main issue with this episode is that it really feels like two episodes crammed together with attempts made to link the two stories. It is not a completely failed attempt, but so much is introduced that by the end there was no way to possibly conclude it all. The two plots are the first half which focuses heavily on Tenzin and his struggles and attempts to train the new recruits, the second is a more action focused plot with hunters kidnapping bison. These could have been executed well if an episode was devoted to each. Instead they try to use both plots linked together as a way to hit two birds with one stone. I can see the idea they were going for clearly, Tenzin struggles with training and turns everyone against him, bison and airbenders get captured and this is the event to bring this new group together as the new air nation as they rescue them. That is what happens in the episode, the problem is that there is no real resolution of the training situation, this episode badly needed an epilogue type scene showing the next day and if Tenzin has changed his teaching approach and if the new airbenders are beginning to feel like part of their new nation, instead they resolve the character conflicts with Tenzin and Jinora and Tenzin and Bumi while the new recruits are kind of forgotten.

The writing in this episode is interesting in that character-wise the show has never been better and remains well written, but in terms of structure this episode falls a bit flat, which brings up the overall main issue I have with Book 3 Change. Like Book 1 Water, it lacks an overall structure and while there are great character moments, you are never really sure what is driving things forward. Once they explain what the red lotus are about and what the earth queen’s main involvement is in the book, I think it will have that structure, but right now the book is amazing in terms of character writing, but unfocused about what exactly the aim of the characters is.

The characters are what make this episode fun. Jinora and Kai for me are the standouts here, with these ATLA aged characters you really get that ATLA connection, exploring some younger characters. Jinora really has been standout all book, while Kai I think is my favourite new character so far. So when you nail their relationship you know you are onto something good. Throughout this episode I really noticed something I have been saying from day 1 with Kai, he reminds me a lot of Aang. We see here that Kai does have a good personality for airbending, he is a more rebellious version of Aang, Aang often put fun ahead of responsibilities, while Kai is doing much the same here but not listening to Tenzin’s teachings. Add the love of animals and natural talent at Airbending and you have even more Aang comparisons. Especially at the end when he loses his temper at the hunter for taking Jinora and the bison, I saw clear visions of Aang getting angry at the Sandbenders from “The Desert”. We saw Kai really come out here as a hero and powerful airbender, he also really does care about Jinora willing to put himself at risk to save her and I like that to some extent Tenzin notices this and begins to accept somewhat his relationship with Jinora. I also like how like Lin helps Opal to be more honest with her parents, Kai’s compliments and truthful statements about how strong Jinora is help her to finally let her father know that she is ready to become a master, let him know that she is not just a little girl anymore. She helped Korra to save the world and has many abilities that Tenzin does not. They do a good job at not making Korra come across as stroppy or just simply “acting like a teenager”, yes she shouts at Tenzin, but she is correct, Tenzin is not acknowledging how much she has grown and is still treating her like she is much younger than she actually is.

The idea of her getting her Tattoos comes up here and is definitely one of the most talked about points from this episode along with the loss of a beloved character. From day 1 with Jinora most fans have proposed the idea that her getting her tattoos would be the perfect way to symbolise her growing from oldest airkid to full on member of the group and character, so it being brought up here is awesome to me. By the end of the episode Tenzin accepts that she is effectively a master and will think about it, so I think that when we start Book 4 Jinora will have her tattoos. I just don’t see there being the time in-universe for it to happen this book at least until an epilogue type scene at the end, the tattoos cover a lot of the body and would require Jinora to shave her head to get them applied there, so I think we will only get Jinora’s tattoo when we can have some form of a time-skip. When you think about it Jinora has had some of the best development of any character in Korra, she really was just one of the kids in Book 1, then she rose to importance in Book 2 and is now a main character in Book 3, that is amazing development. This episode shows off so many aspects of her character, her bookworm knowledge talking about the Sky Bison, her spirituality throughout and even a little of the shipping side of things with Kai.

Meelo and Ikki get a bit more screentime here also, Meelo is always fun with his concerning one-liners, but Ikki really needs something to do, she doesn’t speak in this episode, though they show that she is a very good airbender in the fights. Rohan is so young that it is difficult to do too much with him, perhaps just showing him airbending for the first time would be a good move.

Bumi also gets a big focus in this episode, at first you think all of the drama between him and Tenzin is because of how Tenzin is doing the training, but towards the end of the episode we find that he is just frustrated with himself and how he is struggling with Airbending, now that he has airbending he thinks he should feel like part of the air nation, but doesn’t because it is difficult for him. Obviously not helped by Tenzin’s ways of teaching, but it was a nice twist, with a nice conclusion of the two apologising to each other and Tenzin complimenting him on what he is excellent at, Leading and his new skill of communicating with the spirits, he is part of the air nation now.

Speaking of which Bumi’s speech was great. This was the big moment that brought the group of new recruits together as a real part of their new nation. It really did spark up a lot of pride within everyone about being an airbender, the mention of “2 of our own” and Meelo’s “Leave No Airbender Behind” were very inspirational. Throughout the episode you can see the recruits are drawn to Bumi for bringing a lot of humour and personality to their new situation so it was nice to see him bring them together in a more serious moment.

Which leads nicely into one of my favourite scenes of the episode. The only scene with Korra in this episode, she talks to Tenzin over the radio. In short Korra gives Tenzin advice on how to best train the recruits and in just a few lines you see how much Korra has grown as an Avatar and a person, the voice acting, which I don’t mention too often was particularly of note here. The way Janet Varney delivered these lines as Korra effortlessly knew exactly what to say and how Tenzin should use his kids and Bumi to help him, it was so well done, showing that Korra really understands and gets the people she is around. Even though we have seen a lot of Bumi as a comedy character, Korra knows that he is a great organiser of people and a natural leader.

My second favourite scene was Tenzin and Pema, again Tenzin receives advice from someone, this time his wife. We have not seen to many scenes between husband and wife in the series so far, but this showed their relationship very well. Tenzin is prone to losing his temper and not always understanding other’s feelings, while Pema is very cool headed and knows how those around her feel. So her pointing out to him that these people are new to air nomad life, they will need time to adapt to their new lives and feel like a true part of their new nation, feel like part of this family. It was a great point to make to Tenzin, he just expected them as new airbenders who have joined him to adapt to training as easily as his own kids did, he needs to realise that to outsiders air nomad culture is a big shock. Very good scene, Tenzin still needs to develop.

Tenzin is interesting in this episode in that he receives great advice from Korra and Pema, but fails to implement it properly and ends up making things worse with his students. It all leads to Tenzin ending the episode as a character much more aware of how those around him feel. He did not know that Jinora was annoyed that he was still treating her like a child and now a fellow master airbender, he did not know that the recruits needed time to adapt and that Bumi must have a lot of emotions behind his sudden airbending skills. He makes things up to everyone and knows better how they feel, but it is key what happens next when we return to the Northern Air Temple, will he adapt his training style. Will he now use Jinora as a teacher on an equal level to him, use Bumi as a leader that the group looks up to and use Ikki and Meelo as leaders of more fun events. It is key to show things coming together as a real nation now.

The northern air temple itself was a location I was a bit disappointed in this episode, not that it looked bad, it didn’t, it was amazing. The problem was continuity and references, the last we heard about the NAT was in 117 when Aang went there. We had The Mechanist, Teo and other refugees living there turning it into their home. Aang at the end of the episode accepts that it is their home now and they leave. Why was their no sign of all of the steam technology the mechanist had, why were there not descendants of The Mechanist and co still living there. Avatar always does so well with continuity, so why were not of these key things we know about that temple brought up at all. There was one slight reference to The Mechanist with some of the obstacles used on the assault course looking like something only an inventor could make. Though I did appreciate the idea that the refugees in ATLA made it their new home and here it is the place where the new airbenders come together and see the temples as home.

Final thing to mention is the big talking point of the episode, THE EARTH QUEEN ATE BOSCO!!! This was the most talked about thing from this episode. Obviously it is played up as a joke and we do not know for sure it happened, but given that she hates and is allergic to animals the idea of her killing/eating Bosco seems to make sense given how cruel she is. Add to that the idea that she is paying these hunters to kill bison and get her bison meat and you have a dark and nasty side of the episode. As avatar fans we adore sky bison, they are the go to Avatar animal and to see Bison being captures, especially baby bison, it is hard to watch. What I did like was the minor side plot of the episode of the wild bison gradually accepting the new airbenders are friends, the mother bison who may be the bison that Korra used to fly back to Tenzin on was very protective of her young and by the end of the episode was letting Kai and co play with her and her babies. I hope that the baby bison here become the bison friends of Kai, Jinora and Bumi or something like that. Kai especially seemed to have an Aang and Appa apple moment with one of the babies. Even the end scene of the baby bison flying for the first time was very cute and fit in with the theme of the episode, people growing up. They looked like they were being abducted by aliens at the end just flailing around, lol.

Overall this was not a bad episode, but it was also not an amazing episode. This is the first time we have had a middle episode in Korra, there are 6 before and 6 after this one, I found it interesting that the middle episode is and probably will end up being the least plot focused episode of the book. Thankfully the lack of plot was balanced out by a lot of great character moments for characters who may have got lost if this episode had taken place as a side plot over the course of multiple episodes. It is a hard one to really pin down how I feel about it in just a few words, I think the best way to describe it is that I appreciated the attempt at a different type of episode, but I will appreciate it more when we return to the plot and action. Though this interested me enough to where I want to return to the NAT to get an update on how things are going, especially when Opal potentially arrives, I would love to see how she takes to training with Tenzin.

 

 

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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 - 1 Post

  1. Troy Said: Comment by Troy on July 21, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink
     

    306 and 307 Get 1.282 and 1.334 Million Viewers
    As I suspected ratings went up after the episodes after the 4th of July break, I thought they would go up more. Interesting that the second episode got more than the first by 50,000 considering that is only later into the night and worse for kids. Really shows this is more for teens.

    Reply

 

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