In order to defeat the Dark Avatar, Korra must find her inner spirit.
“Light In The Dark” is just about perfect. It’s a significant improvement from last episode’s “Darkness Falls” and, outside of a couple of mishaps, concludes Book Two with flair. It managed to raise the bar so high that it poses the question: How will Books 3 and 4 top that?
The battle against the Dark Avatar will sit alongside Aang’s encounter with Ozai as a defining moment. I’d say this episode arguably tops the other in terms of pure, unadulterated epic content. Korra’s transformation is a marvelous display of continuity and character growth. Realizing that Unalaq and Vaatu have won, Korra loses all faith. It is Tenzin who picks her up and guides her to the Tree of Time so she can meditate and find her inner spirit. Raava does not represent who she is – Korra is her own person. Everything about this is laid out beautifully. Compare Korra’s reaction at the end of Book One to this scene. In the first finale, she cries in despair over the loss of her bending until Aang steps in and easily hands it back to her. This time around, his son delivers what she needs, but he doesn’t just hand it on a silver platter. Tenzin gives Korra the answer, but she must achieve the rest on her own. She doesn’t get her inner spirit because Tenzin gave it to her, nor does she wallow in tears; she lifts herself up and successfully finds herself. It’s a subtle growth and her overall journey is taking steps in the right direction.
Korra meditates inside the tree, achieving the same cosmic energy that Aang nearly found back in the end of Book 2 of Avatar: The Last Airbender I find it very lovely that a girl like Korra reached her spiritual essence when she couldn’t even get close to anything of the sort many episodes back. She reaches her goal and turns into a giant, glowing version of herself, likely created and enhanced by the extra energy from the Harmonic Convergence. The entirety of this scene is mind-blowing, but it’s further capped off through Jeremy Zuckerman’s musical mastery. It’s superbly conducted; it’s dramatic without feeling overdone, emotional and atmospheric, powerful and triumphant. So, is Nickelodeon going to make a second Legend of Korra soundtrack?
I expressed grievances on the concept of light vs. dark in the “Beginnings” recap: for all their talk of balance, Vaatu largely plays the evil card instead of merely being a creature of darkness. The idea seems to be that even if Raava and Vaatu are opposites of the same coin, the heroes must always embrace light anyway instead of unifying the two as a whole. “Light In The Dark” can’t be blamed for being inconsistent, Korra spiritbends the Dark Avatar and essentially consumes him with light. I’m going to guess this is what Jinora did, too. She pops in during the middle of the fight, glittering in light and managed to recover enough of it so Korra can rescue Raava. I think. I wish they had explained her actions better, but I really dug it regardless. This doesn’t revert Vaatu back to normal because light cannot change what is purely dark, but the fate of him and Unalaq is left oddly ambiguous. Vaatu cannot truly die and he most certainly is not chilling in a big mystical tree anymore. My personal bet is that Vaatu reincarnated into a newborn mortal to create the next Dark Avatar, much like what Raava has been doing for the past ten thousand years. I doubt we’ll see the full outcome of this as it likely requires a massive time skip to have any sort of relevance. But this would match up with the other major shifts Korra caused by the end of the episode.
And really, isn’t that the point? Realizing that Unalaq may be right, Korra decides to leave the portals open, creating a world where humans and spirits can get along in peace. The Avatar will no longer be the bridge in-between, but her job is far from over. It’s pretty clear this was deliberate in order to it set up the events for Book 3, because I can’t imagine the complications that will arise from this. There are a lot of parallels between the two species, in that both are capable of malevolence yet also capable of befriending one another. Korra also has to deal with loss of her previous reincarnations. Thanks to the Dark Avatar, she no longer has ties to her past life and can’t summon them when she needs help. This is a game changer—the biggest. The gate has been opened, the status quo has been flipped upside down, the rules are rewritten. And it’s good, oh so good. I can’t wait to see how Korra and her friends will handle these new changes.
There are a couple of nagging issues though. Losing the past Avatars is a somber moment, but it only works if you have familiarity with Avatar: The Last Airbender. Unlike Aang, Korra barely spent any time communing with any of them. If I had never watched Avatar, would this have had as much emotional impact? I’m also not sure what to make of Korra’s sudden decision to keep the portals open. While the story emphasized the pros and cons of doing so, Korra’s decision seems like a sudden and impromptu one and not so much something that was well thought out.
Fortunately, Korra’s romance is over and done with; she finally had the good sense to break it up with Mako. I’ll give the boy some points, he does confess the huge argument they had before she ended it for good. I’m a little concerned that he conveniently forgot to mention his brief fling with Asami. But given that the two of them haven’t settled scores yet, I can’t help but think Mako/Asami will be the next big romantic tango in Book 3. I am not looking forward to that. Sadly, I think little of Asami for going back to Mako and the idea that this might be a future plot is something I dread. Still, one step at a time. I’m glad Mako and Korra is over; their relationship has been agonizing to sit through and I’m rooting for them to just stay as friends for the reminder of the show. I’m also glad Bolin and Eska won’t be a recurring thing either. My only irritation is that Eska is the one who broke up with Bolin, when it should have been the other way around. Come on, give Bolin some backbone! Overall though, I’m satisfied. These were honestly some of the most unhealthiest relationships I’ve ever seen and the endless torrent of bitter abuse and toxic decisions were nightmarish. Good riddance to them all.
“Light In The Dark” is a fantastic closer to Book Two and a much better finale than the poorly rushed “Endgame” of Book One. The latter scurried to try and wrap up everything, but “Light In the Dark” has the benefit of forethought and the necessary breathing space to expand its story to set up Books 3 and 4. There’s a definite vision present here, and I can only hope the next twenty-six episodes will be smooth sailing from here on out.