Because fans should be critical, too

Quick Impressions of “The Coronation”

No, I haven’t been dead, just extraordinarily busy (with work, with school, with the Frozen review). I intend to catch up on episodes this weekend, but let’s not all hold our breath.

In the meantime, I just watched “The Coronation.” I didn’t like it for mostly petty reasons. For instance, why does Toph’s voice sound so weird? Why is Toph even still around? Why must the bad guys be so damn obvious for no reason? Why do T-shirts exist? Is this the first time Julie, Varrick’s assistant, has spoken in the entire show?

This one is a doozy for me. Maybe you guys will make more sense of it than I did.

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11 responses

  1. I felt that episode one and two (in particular) were very enjoyable. I felt this episode was a step back, though it seems like the creators of Avatar tend to have a repeated issue when it comes to pacing during the middle of the season.

    1) When Toph said there were still parts of metal in Korra, I made up my mind to commit seppuku, thank the good lord that Korra’s issue is more emotional or spiritual than physical. I got spooky reminders of Aang healing Korra at the end of book one.

    2) Wu’s character was slightly more developed, the first two episodes painted him as a complete one dimensional character, but at least it seems like he can ’empathise’ with others.

    3) I am going to applaud the creators for moving beyond the simplistic plot that was evident in the original series. In many ways the actions of Kuriva are justifable and if I was an earth citizen I would prefer her over the inadequate Prince Wu.

    4) Asami, Pema are in desperate, desperate, desperate need of characterisation.

    5) I liked Toph’s voice, this is very subjective, but I felt like it stayed true to character but it was still obviously the voice of an elderly person.

    6) I am not sure how I feel about Toph’s treatment of Korra, clearly I don’t want Toph to lose her fire as that’s her distinctive trait. But I felt like she hasn’t changed AT ALL, surely age and being a mother has matured her to some extent? She seemed more calm and wise in Lin’s flash back in book three.

    October 17, 2014 at 10:05 am

    • Is it impossible for Toph to regress in her old age?

      October 17, 2014 at 10:54 am

      • I guess, though the difference between Katara and Toph are so distinct. If Toph looked like a 10 year old I literally could not tell the difference between them.

        October 17, 2014 at 10:51 pm

  2. Clander

    Korra is actually getting character development? Didn’t see that coming

    October 17, 2014 at 12:44 pm

  3. tox

    My thoughts

    -Toph: She was the same person as we knew from A:TLA. Maybe I’m the only one, but I preferred their portrayal of Zuko & Katara, who are clearly the same people (Zuko’s horrible elevator stories) but have clearly grown up. It made all the scenes with Toph feel a little fanservice-y, especially with other visual callbacks like that elbow leech. On the other hand, I didn’t actually find her character to be inconsistent, i.e. it’s not really mischaracterization that she reverted as such.

    -Was glad to see they didn’t have Toph fix Korra’s problems. Having fragments of mercury as an externalization of her trauma from 3 years ago makes a lot of sense. Also Korra using the mercury as an excuse to not fight is pretty sensible; she wants to help but she doesn’t want the actual responsibility of fighting (PTSD I suppose). I’d also surmise she’s afraid of losing, so she has this excuse.

    -Naturally I called Wu’s character development earlier, but yeah it happened. Not sure why anyone here thought he’d be assassinated, especially with Mako as his guard. I would’ve preferred him to be groveling in front of Kuvira but at least the days of him being so unlikable are probably over. He’s basically Kuzco.

    -Kuvira: Speaking of whom, she seems like an OK villain. I stopped expecting the show to have to say anything insightful politically, and so there’s no actual need for moral ambiguity if it’s not in service of a broader thematic commentary. Granted I’ve heard she resembles emperors like Qin Shi Huang in how she took control and unified a fragmented country, but my limited world history knowledge makes me see her as fascist, so I suppose an absolute villain as a fascist works politically anyways. As they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and so I think she’s been painted as a natural villain who had good intentions at one point but turned into a tyrant as she’s gained power (especially as she realized the incompetence of the Prince, who has the support of the rest of the world)

    -Suyin: Her character was handled pretty great in short screentime. I don’t think the show is endorsing her non-action either—there is probably some happy middle between Kuvira and Suyin—so that might be a critique of isolationism. I also just like how her flaws aren’t these huge identity crises that it seems Lin & Tenzin had to deal with (which were fine but kind of coming of age-ish) but rather things like wanting to focus on family instead of outside politics, feuding with a son who has betrayed your cause, etc.

    October 17, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    • tox

      I thought I’d answer a few questions, since on a rewatch this seemed pretty solid (minus Wu).

      Why is Toph even still around?
      -Because she’s the only person who is in a position to give tough love to Korra and Korra to actually still listen to her AND also have that sort of temperament to actually do it. Korra’s fundamental issue has always been defining herself and how that relates to the Avatar. Toph is arguing that Korra is shirking her responsibilities, using recovery as an excuse.

      Why must the bad guys be so damn obvious for no reason?
      -I mean suppose you wrote a movie about WW2… wouldn’t you think the same thing? The Holocaust, The Rape of Nanking, etc.? I have a problem with Amon and (to a lesser extent) Unalaq with how evil they are. But it’s not like Kuvira’s character doesn’t make sense… someone who originally wants to stabilize a country and heads closer to tyranny and they realize they need more power to keep their vision alive? It’s not a bad character archetype at all, especially since it relates to Korra. They’re setting up an obvious parallel (Bolin explicitly said it) about Kuvira and Korra. Kuvira has a vision for the future and doesn’t care if she engages in underhanded methods (e.g. paying bandits) and will use force to get what she wants, because she believes her future is better (and to be fair, Kuvira would be a better leader than Wu, and any other solutions haven’t been proposed).

      I’m all for moral ambiguity, but there’s literally no reason to force it upon every single plotline.

      Is this the first time Julie, Varrick’s assistant, has spoken in the entire show?
      -Didn’t she say “yes sir” or “yes” or something? She seems pretty pissed off too at Varrick, I wonder if she’ll betray him somehow.

      October 17, 2014 at 11:18 pm

  4. rosemon

    Those reasons don’t sound petty at all. More exposition and not a lot of showing, particularly as to how Kuvira seems to be helping others. The shirts make up last time’s equivalent of the random slang word “spoilers.” Seems like the creators forget this is supposed to be the olden days in a pan-Asian world, but modern Western trappings always seep into the picture. Quite a few of the minor female characters, like Pema and Zhu Li, hardly get lines. It’s been four seasons, and Korra’s personality is still irritatingly arrogant. Last episode had her threatening anyone who told her to be patient; not much has changed since “I hate this being patient stuff” from Endgame, eh? How can she be so mad about fighting “losers” in the city arena when she spent previous books being constantly bested by middle-aged men? As for Kuvira, the only reason the bad guy is obvious is because this is a kid’s show; executives/writers assume that kids are idiots, which is why everything from what a sign reads to where a character stands on the moral compass is unnecessarily spelled out through dialogue.

    October 17, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    • tox

      “Seems like the creators forget this is supposed to be the olden days in a pan-Asian world”

      Are we watching the same show? ‘Korra’ is not set in the “olden days” anymore.

      “Korra’s personality is still irritatingly arrogant”

      Two things:
      1) Korra’s personality has had a ton of development since her reset in ‘Beginnings.’ The way you framed it (using the word “still”) makes it seem like she hasn’t developed at all. It’s fair if her continual self-importance bugs you, as long as you’re not claiming her total character is in stasis.

      2) Her arrogance is the point! She’s the main character. In-universe, she already has a statue, her past lives have saved the world several times and are generally regarded as the saviors of the world, and she (with the help of others) has defeated three powerful villains. She SHOULD have an inflated sense of importance of what her role is as the Avatar, since the entire world depends on her. In fact, this is the central idea that is being examined in Season 4!

      This ties into something else I want to say:
      “More exposition and not a lot of showing”

      I actually don’t agree here. Firstly, the show isn’t always explicit: Korra’s loss of agency isn’t ever explicitly stated, and so you need to figure out on your own why Korra looks down every time Tenzin talks about the air nomads replacing her. That’s the first part that comes to my mind but I’m sure there are other important character/ plot points that aren’t spelled out for the audience.

      Furthermore, I find that the show’s exploration of its central themes is substantially more subtle, especially after Season 1. For example, the show sets up a mirror between Korra & Kuvira blatantly (like Bolin says it), but it works well on a thematic level since her arc has deconstructed the role of the Avatar down to one single assumption: the Avatar is an active agent in keeping balance in the world. This, by the way, is the root of Korra’s arrogance, and I don’t think it’s a mistaken belief. It just needs to be framed properly, and when Korra figures out the answer, she’ll be able to beat Kuvira (and thus gain balance in herself since Kuvira is a mirror to Korra’s old personality). But is this even closely “told,” or are the viewers expected to figure this out themselves?

      (Also comparing Zaheer, Unalaq, and Amon to those thieves in that port town in ‘Korra Alone’ is laughable. If you think Korra shouldn’t be mad at losing to two random thieves, you’re gasping at straws in trying to attack her character.)

      October 17, 2014 at 11:07 pm

      • Clander

        Technically Korra’s setting is meant to mirror the industrial era, ie the 1920’s. T shirts being around at this time isn’t too crazy but having a printed hot topic style t shirt is ludicrous.

        October 18, 2014 at 2:14 am

  5. JMR

    What this episode suffers from more than anything is a complete lack of tension. We all knew that Kuvira was going to become the out and out villain at some point, but you could definitely keep some suspense going by not blatantly telegraphing to us exactly when and how its going to happen. So on that note, how about not having Tenzin and Raiko stand around having a conversation that can basically be summed up as: “Gee wiz, I sure do hope that Kuvira doesn’t refuse to relinquish her power and instead proclaim herself permanent ruler of the Earth Kingdom today at the Coronation Ceremony!”, huh?

    There was some good stuff here, though. I liked Mako and Bolin’s argument and the way that each has a particular view of Kuvira that they refuse to back down on. All too often that’s the way these sorts of feuds happen, and I liked that touch.

    For Kuvira herself, who were we kidding? You fooled me once with Amon, show. You almost got me again with Unalaq. But I’m not falling for it anymore. I had no expectation that we were going anywhere but villainy with Kuvira, so I can’t say I’m disappointed. I think we’ve touched fairly well on the reason historically that fascism rose to power. I don’t think we need to put lipstick on a pig though. Fascism just kind of generally sucked.

    I was worried for a minute that Toph was actually going to bend the metal out of Korra and that would be that for Korra’s current predicament. I honestly wouldn’t have put it past this show to do something like that. I’m glad they didn’t though, and that they’re acknowledging that Korra has other issues she needs to work through before that can happen.

    October 18, 2014 at 10:37 am

  6. Italianbaptist

    I hope they address toph’s comments at the end of the episode in a tasteful way. Both series have proven time and again that the advice of wise elders is not infallible, and I thought the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you obviously don’t want to get well” was actually dangerous to the viewing audience. Speaking from personal experience, there are indeed times where you can’t just buck up, and while Korra may be afraid, she’s also been through a lot of trauma. I never expected toph to be a kind old grandma or anything – the taunting was fun for me – but that seemed heartless even for her.

    October 18, 2014 at 4:55 pm

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