Michael Moccio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Executive Editor
Official Description: Please join Executive Producer and Creator team Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino (Avatar: The Last Airbender) as they provide a tantalizing glimpse behind the curtain of this ground-breaking animated series. Special Guests include Voice Actors Janet Varney (Korra), David Faustino (Mako) and P.J. Byrne (Bolin). Includes an exclusive screening of a never-before-seen episode from Korra’s final season. Moderated by Megan Casey, Vice President, Current Series, Nickelodeon Animation.
The cast and crew were first introduced. Bryan and Mike came out first, to thunderous applause, followed next by Janet Varney and David Faustino. The Legend of Korra fans are in complete uproar for their favorite characters, especially for P.J. Byrne as Bolin.
Bryan opened up the panel and said it would probably be the last Avatar panel, to the boo’s of the crowd. Mike lightened the mood when he told us we’d see the next episode of Book Four. Keep following for the recap and review:
Season 4, Episode 2: It was only the opening and the crowd went absolutely wild. The announcer’s recap talked about Korra–Mike says this is going to be a Korra-centric episode, so hopefully we’ll find out more about her time away. We open with Korra looking into a fractured mirror after her fight–an obvious symbol choice. It’s clear that Korra is suffering from PTSD and she immediately sees herself, in the Avatar State, with the chains that bound her to the Red Lotus rock. She’s obviously still suffering very much.
We flash back to Korra leaving for the South Pole while still in her wheelchair. This, along with Korra’s small nightmare scene, was a part of the initial previews. There’s a nice interaction between Korra and her mother–it’s great to see her mother urging her to see Katara and ask for help. Flash to Korra getting healed by Katara, with Katara essentially telling Korra that she’ll be the one to decide if she gets better or not. It sends a great message–Korra says she wants to recover, but Katara points out that Korra hasn’t started on the path to recovery. We’re treated to two short scenes of Korra’s recovery, one where she gets some progress in moving her toe, but predictably fails on the second.
The scenes are starting to move incredibly fast. We’re on our fifth or so and this is less than five minutes in. It’s not leaving enough room for us to be appropriately emotionally impacted by the scenes. The content is good, the delivery doesn’t do the content justice.
After going through all of her letters, Korra predictably blows up after penting up her anger and frustration. It’s great to finally see Katara in a mentoring role again, especially since she’s been an incredibly underused. Katara reminds Korra of Aang’s suffering and journey to get through this, which evokes a powerful recollection that Korra still isn’t connected to her past lives. But, it does the trick to get Korra to try again. There’s a heavy emphasis on visualization in recovery throughout the recovery scenes, which makes it feel almost overused. That doesn’t diminish the pride we feel when Korra walks across the room to hug Naga.
We flash forward again to the present, where Korra is still plagued by images of her Avatar state self from three years ago. Korra seems to randomly cross paths with a tiny white dog, which scares away her past self. She’s obviously intrigued and follows the dog, thinking it means to show her something.
We flash back again to Korra’s recovery. Although she’s doing better and sparring with White Lotus firebenders, she still sees Zaheer in her combat, which scares her. All of this is very predictable, and not in the good way. The show has lost its immediacy, specially since we can anticipate everything in advance. There was, however, an instance in the flash back, where Korra wrote Asam and told her that it’s easier to talk to her. All the fans of Korra and Asami’s friendship in the room automatically oohed and awed in content. While, again, it doesn’t give us time to properly feel the moment, it was still nice to see.
Korra heads back to Republic City in her flashback, which is where she first meets the image of her former self. She’s immediately afraid and retreats before she can confront the spirit. It’s at that point Korra cuts her hair and leaves her Water Tribe clothes behind. She heads back into the Spirit World to meditate in the great tree fro Season 2, which is a great throwback to previous seasons. Even the spirits don’t recognize her at first. Korra’s having trouble connecting with Rava’s spirit and the spirits offer to help, but Korra decides to try and figure it out on her own.
We’re then treated to a traveling montage, where the spirit closely follows Korra. It’s when she finds the spirit next that she decides to confront it. The spirit is the one who led her to the underground Earthbending arena. Korra sees her opponents as that spirit, which explains why she fights in the arena. It was an interesting premise, which flashes us back to the present day Korra, catching us up with her entire journey, but–again–it doesn’t give us the time to feel it.
The dog ends up being one of the spirits at the Tree of Time. The spirit leads her to the swamp Aang went through, the swamp where he found the vision to find Toph. Korra is led straight to the spirit of her past self. The fighting is quick and fluid, beautifully rendered, and is exactly what we’d expect from the animators this far into the game. They’re on point with the compat and it’s visually stunning. The fight, visually, ties back to Korra’s predicament in the last season, as the Spirit tries to drag Korra into a puddle of the “poison” from last Season.
Oh. Dear Lord. Korra gets sucked in and wakes up… in a cave. And just like that, the crowd erupts into cheers as we finally get to see Toph. And with that, the episode ends.
Grade: B- (with Toph as the major saving grace)
The cast then revealed they had something prepared for the panel. The lights dimmed and we were treated to a short video with Varney, Byrne, and Faustino. It was essentially a tribute to Mike and Bryan and then a behind the scenes look at how the actors prepare for their shows. They didn’t really show anything serious, just them acting like goofballs, which sent the entire audience into fits of laughter.
Mike and Bryan saw their tom foolery and then showed a recording of from their very first group audition. It was the scene from Episode 2 where Bolin brought Korra into the box. It sounded almost exactly, albeit with some funnier dialogue, as it played out in the episode, which just speaks to their chemistry as a cast. It was great to see the cast smiling and following along as recording played.
Bryan asked for each cast member to talk about their experiences as a final farewell.
Varney: When we found out we would have some time to talk to you [fans], we all froze. I’m not even prepared, because I didn’t want to read some statement. This really cements what my experience has been like: when I got the role, I ran into the agent at Nickelodeon, and she said, “Are you ready for your life to change?” I was skeptical, because it wasn’t my first job, and she seriously grabbed my arm and said, “I’m not kidding. This will change your life.” And it has. And having the opportunity to watch the episodes with you at the cons, it fleshes the experience out in a profound way. I get really emotional watching the show and if I haven’t said it a thousand times, I’ve never worked on anything better than this show. I know that this show is going to exist forever because it’s just that god damn good!
Faustino: Thank you, Janet–I guess it’s my turn now. For me, this has been a tremendous experience. I had no idea what I was getting into when I went into that audition. It’s been quite an experience. It’s very cool, especially when kids come up to me. I’m just so glad to be a part of this show. We’ll do conventions and I’m sure we’ll see you around. I appreciate all the love on Facebook and Twitter. Just thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Byrne: First and foremost, thank you Mike and Bryan for this. I think this a historic show that will stand the test of time. I think we’ll be friends forever.
Faustino: A lot of shows, you don’t stay friends forever. But I don’t think that’s the case for this.
Byrne: The other thing is, I truly believe we have the best fans of any show. We’re so lucky that we got to be a part of this, but I think the world is also going to be lucky to see what comes next from Mike and Bryan.
Michael Moccio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Executive Editor