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Published on October 20th, 2014 | by Lauren McPhee

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The Legend of Korra – The Coronation review

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Korra 4.3e

Episode three, The Coronation, doesn’t quite carry the emotional resonance of the first two, but in cutting the emotional ties we get a much more blunt and pragmatic look at where the season is going. This episode is about weaving the threads of the previous two together and building the foundation that the series will rest on as the hapless King comes up against the ruthless Empress in a conflict over who holds dominion over Earth Nation territories. Meanwhile, following on from the reveal last episode, Korra trains with Toph in the swamp to try to regain her Avatar mojo.

The episode opens on Prince Wu’s enthusiastic description of his upcoming coronation, complete with dance of the Badger-Moles. Meanwhile, Mako, Raiko and Tenzin outline three competing ideological positions that are to be the roots of conflict this season. First, Mako questions both Prince Wu and Kuvira as authorities to the Earth Nation. Secondly, Raiko, as Wu’s backer, intends to usurp authority in the Earth Kingdom through the advisors he will instate following Wu’s coronation as King. And finally, Tenzin states that he would feel a lot better if Korra were there to oversee things in her role as the Avatar.

Korra 4.3b

Mako’s position is expounded on through his reunion with his brother. With Bolin working for Kuvira and Mako for Prince Wu, there is some awkwardness between them but the two show how two completing ideals need not be entirely polarising while also serving to highlight the ambiguity of the other’s position. Prince Wu is ineffective but not bad in and of himself while Kuvira maintains order through aggression and intimidation. Similarly, both brothers have reservations about their roles but ultimately choose to be faithful to their higher authorities because they are made to feel like they are useful and doing good. Here, the theme of separation from episode one is developed through the brothers’ opposition and mingled with a growing sense of moral ambiguity.

Secondly, Raiko’s authority is put into question when unsurprisingly, given her unsettling, knowing smiles, Kuvira refuses to step down from the position she has created for herself. Despite Wu’s self-interest, his obliviousness and ineffectiveness when Kuvira bulldozes over him at his own coronation has the audience feeling sorry for him.  Then when Mako finally gets him to face up to himself in light of all Kuvira has done for the Earth Kingdom, his genuine regret for his failings as a leader makes him kind of likable. And yet, Kuvira is still not the obvious villain this season and that is the most interesting thing about this episode. The audience wants to root for her even as she metaphorically crushes freedom in her hand, in the form of the Kyoshi Medal of freedom given to her for her services to the people of the Earth Kingdom.

Korra 4.3c

Lastly, there lies the question of Korra’s role in all of this. Tenzin looks to the Avatar as the highest authority. Bolin compares Kuvira to Korra saying that they are both passionate and believe in what they’re doing, despite being hard to work with at times. This draws out images of the Avatar as a sort of dictator, which is also implied by a play on the episode’s title, “Korranation”. Is the Avatar the ultimate authority in all this? Is it Korra’s duty to use force and intimidation to bring about what she believes is right? In many senses this is what she has tried to do in previous seasons, and is likely linked to her current conflict of identity. Which brings us to Toph.

Toph’s presence in this episode really makes it feel like it belongs in part to the original series. Although over seventy years have passed, her characterisation remains exactly the same: she’s dressed in her original clothes, her hair is done up the same, she’s snarky and she still loves torturing the Avatar. She’s also more powerful than ever, mudbending and connecting with the world through the roots of the trees in the swamp. From calling Korra “Twinkle-Toes” last ep, to constantly referring to Korra as the Avatar, Toph is still dealing with her old friend here. The training scene recalls when Toph unforgivingly trained Aang in the original series. Despite Korra being aged up at the beginning of this season, seeing her alongside elderly Toph as a mirror to the playful character of Aang, she looks younger than ever.

Korra 4.3d

Meanwhile, Toph plays Yoda by stating that Korra is pathetic for allowing herself to be beaten, beats her up, and then laughs at how pathetic Korra is for being beaten by an old lady. She dismisses the need for Korra as the Avatar, giving her own failure to eradicate crime as chief of police as an example of the cyclic nature of good and evil. Which brings us back to Korra’s identity as the Avatar, or as Toph calls her, “the worst Avatar ever”. If everything Korra has achieved up to now is pointless or if she cannot heal herself and take up her role once again, what will be the consequences, for both the Avatar and the world?

So, while this episode might not seem spectacular, it is in fact artfully deep and heavy with story. Imperceptivity, perhaps, I think it is a better episode than the two before in terms of context and construction, though the two before do better in evoking feeling and appreciation of the art and characters. There is a glaring artistic continuity error when Mako gets smoothie splashed on his jacket, but it’s no secret that Korra has been a rush-job to finish. In all, The Coronation cements the themes and plot structure of the story in the realms of politics, authority and separation while also giving us a few hints as to what to look out for in future episodes. Keep your mind on Zao Fu, the airbender kids, and whatever it is that Varrick is working on that’s going to change everything.

Lauren McPhee

Lauren McPhee

Writer. Reader of comics. Martial artist. From Republic City.
Lauren McPhee

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