(Once again taking a page out of the book of everyone’s favorite Russian music reviewer George Starostin, the format for the episode analyses is a variation on that of his Important Album Series. For example, here is his write-up on Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon.)
This will include a very brief summary of the episode(s) in discussion.
- This section will focus almost exclusively on the narrative aspects of the episodes. This includes character, plot points, locations, etc., in no set order.
- New characters, new locations, and any new insight into the mythology and inner workings of the Avatar universe are detailed here.
- This is where things get more subjective, in which I elaborate on the effectiveness of the storytelling, action set pieces, animation, music, voice acting, editing, etc.
- Same as “high points,” but for moments and choices I thought didn’t work as well.
- This section is reserved for any loose observations or thoughts that have no place in the previous ones.
- This section will be a bit of a wild card (and likely the most subjective of all), as it deals more so with the “meta” of Avatar and Korra than with the mythologies of either show.
Finally, any final thoughts on the episode(s) will be put in this section.
Keep in mind, too, that none of this is set in stone. As the series progresses, previous reviews can be revised and amended in light of new connections between episodes, and new information and insights about the series. This will be an experiment as well as a retrospective, which means it’s just as liable to reveal new layers to both shows as it is to crash and burn into chaotic nonsense.
Any thoughts? Suggestions? Concerns? Let me know. In the meantime, let’s get started and see what happens!
Next week: Avatar: “The Boy in the Iceberg” & “The Avatar Returns”
For the past few days, I’ve combed through the episode lists of Avatar: the Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra to figure out a way to review them side-by-side while taking into account the difference in their number of episodes (Avatar has a total of sixty-one episodes, while Korra has fifty-two). The schedule I’ve devised perhaps doesn’t completely rectify this problem, and yet somehow that may work in this retrospective’s favor. We shall see.
So here’s the plan: starting next Saturday, I will alternate between reviewing Avatar and Korra. The first week will focus on Avatar, the second on Korra, then on Avatar, then on Korra, etc., etc. What episodes I review and how many of them will vary as the weeks go by, especially since I want to conclude both series at the same. Depending on how significant the individual episode is, it will either receive its own weekly review, or be lumped together with one or two or even three other episodes. In other words, I will no longer be giving each and every episode its own personal write-up for a few reasons. One, it’s too arbitrary and time-consuming, especially if I want to post once a week. Two, I’ve already done that Avatar, and absolutely refuse to do the same for Korra. Three, this isn’t about ranking each episode so much as making note of the emotional high points and low points of each series as they progress. And fourth, and pettiest of all, so much of Korra past Book One is such a blurry mess in terms of quality that attempting to dissect each episode on its own terms is all but impossible.
And this all comes back to the general thesis I had in mind for both series: Avatar, even when it wavers in quality, manages to overcome to the inherit limitations of television animation and maintain a strong and specific emotional core because of its unified narrative structure and unique vision, while Korra ultimately falls apart because its narrative is so fragmented and shaped by forces and values that don’t grow organically from within but rather are imposed from the outside (hence why Korra and Asami’s surprise union at the series’ finale, while cathartic for some audience members, makes little to no sense from a narrative standpoint).
It will be interesting to see how this develops from week to week, and I definitely hope to get more than a few different voices in on this discussion. I definitely can’t wait to start watching Avatar again, even if means sitting through Korra one more time. Let’s do this!
P.S. I’ve finally created the Research Hub page for all Avatar/Korra interviews, articles, and the like. Expect more to come.