The Legend of Korra Book 2: Spirits came to a close in a spectacular two episode finale. Chapter 13, “Darkness Falls,” and Chapter 14, “Light in the Dark,” provide satisfying closure the season's character threads, beautiful action, and a bold new status quo for the series going into Book 3.
While there is a beautiful battle between Avatar Korra and Dark Avatar Unalaq being waged during “Darkness Falls,” the real story of the episode is Tenzin's search for Jinora in the Spirit World. Accompanied by Kya and Bumi, Tenzin is unable to find Jinora until he is given a hint from Uncle Iroh.
Tenzin allows the family to be captured by some kind of spider-scorpion spirit that tosses them in the Fog of Lost Souls, a kind of prison for mortal souls that eventually drives its inhabitants insane. It is here that Tenzin is forced to confront the father issues that have been haunting him throughout the season face-to-face, literally. He finally achieves a sense of self-realization, stepping out from Aang's shadow and becoming his own man. He leads his family out of the Fog. Jinora comes to and senses the immense danger the world faces. She fades away, assuring her father that they'll see each other later.
Meanwhile, Korra's battle with Unalaq turns bad for her. Bo Lin and Mako were unable to keep him out of the spirit realm. He returned and fused with Vaatu to become the Dark Avatar. A ferocious battle ensues and Vaatu draws Raava out of Korra, smashing the spirit of light against the rocks and severing the bond between Korra and her past lives.
Things seem pretty grim for Team Avatar heading into “Light in the Dark.” A triumphant Vaatu/Unalaq has grown to enormous size and started attacking Republic City, while Korra, Bo Lin, and Mako are all still unconscious in the Spirit World.
Tenzin, Kya and Bumi find the trio and submerge them in spirit water so that Kya can heal them. Once healed, Korra is still shaken from her fight. Tenzin takes Korra to the Tree of Time, where Vaatu was imprisoned, and shares some of his new found self-respect with her. She meditates, reaching deep into her own spirit, and finds the power to touch the fabric of reality itself.
Korra super-sizes and transports herself to Republic City, where she defends the city from Vaatu/Unalaq. Studio Myr, again, animates the whole crazy battle wonderfully, and the magnificent score, with all of its Eastern influence, compliments the scene perfectly, adding a gracefulness to the combat.
Things are looking grim for Korra. She tried to find traces of Raava within Vaatu, the light in the darkness, but there was none. Her spirit form is being overpowered by Vaatu/Unalaq while her friends, now joined by Desna and Eska, are not able to hold off the dark spirits coming for the physical form she left in the Spirit World.
Then, Jinora shows up...out of nowhere...with a ball of light...and then there is light within Vaatu...and then Korra gets it and she defeats the Dark Avatar...and everything is okay.
Its a pretty sudden finish to the climax and its a little disappointing. Jinora feels like a deus ex machina, especially since no one offers any explanation as to where she went when she disappeared or what she did when she suddenly reappeared. When Jinora finally returns to her physical body, she tells everyone that Korra saved the world. With the actual events being so fuzzy though, I'm not entirely sure that she did.
Korra, too, returns to her physical body where she fuses, once again, with Raava. However, she no longer has a connection to the Avatar's past lives. The cycle has been broken and must start over from scratch. It's an interesting new state for Korra that nicely reflects the season's theme of stepping out from shadows of the past.
And Korra is quick to differentiate herself from the original first Avatar, Wan. Where Wan closed the portal to the Spirit World, Korra decides to keep it open, allowing for spirits and humans to cross over into each others worlds freely. Its a bold move, and sets up an interesting new world of possibility for the series in Book Three.
The finale to this season was good, but a little awkward at times. The Book is titled Spirits because spirits and their realm play a big role. The frustrating thing about the Spirit World is that its like an extended dream sequence in that writers don't need to obey rules of logic and can just use it as an excuse to have character development simply happen on a whim. As much as I love Uncle Iroh, his presence in the finale, as well as in previous episodes, is simply as a plot device to move the characters where the writers need them to be without having to actually reason out how they get there. Similarly, Jinora has been built up as something of spirit medium throughout the season, but she just ends up feeling like a quick and easy way of bringing the immense conflict to a close.
Luckily, where the major plot suffers, the character plots at least wrap up nicely. Korra and Mako finally mutually agree to walk away from their relationship, seeing that its just not working despite their feelings for each other. Bo Lin and Eska find similar closure for the relationship they started at the beginning of this season. Tenzin has finally stepped out of his father's shadow and forged new bonds with his siblings. Tenzin also reclaims his position as Korra's mentor, only to relinquish it as he realizes that she no longer needs a mentor.
The episodes leave the series in an interesting and exciting place. It has already been revealed that the next book's title will be “Changes,” and its easy to understand why. Korra is without the guidance of her past lives, but can now forge her own path. Spirits, once again, walk amongst men. We'll have to wait for next season to see what this all means for Korra and her friends.