Spoilers, if you must know.
I meant to write these weekly, but hey, there’s a ton to process here! The first two episodes set the stage six months after the defeat of Amon. Korra can airbend, Mako’s a cop on the fast track to detective, and Bolin’s remade Fire Ferrets are terrible. Asami is barely keeping Future Industries afloat, looking to make a deal with an eccentric businessman. Everyone comes together in the Southern Water Tribe for the Solstice Festival, including Korra’s parents, her Uncle (and Water Tribe Chief) Unalaq, and his twins, Desna and Eska. Unalaq throws a huge snowy blanket on the proceedings when he decries the Southern tribe’s lack of spirituality, and then offers to take over teaching Korra about spirits. Seems there are marauding spirits that normal bending has trouble defeating, but he can ‘calm’ them. Korra decides to let Unalaq teach her instead of Tenzin. Feels! as the fandom says.
Part two, The Southern Lights, has Unalaq taking Korra to the South Pole to open a ‘Spirit Portal’, with the idea that this will help settle the spirits that are angry with the Water tribe. There is drama when Korra finds out that her father, Tonraq, had been banished from the North when he and some troops destroyed a forest and angered spirits there. Also, Tonraq and Tenzin worked to keep Korra safe (or trapped, in her mind) as a child in the White Lotus compound. She sends him away. Korra does manage to open the Portal, and the Southern Lights are restored. We also see Tenzin and Pema taking the family on their ‘vacation’, starting at the Southern Air Temple, with Kya and Bumi tagging along. Jinora seems drawn to Grandpa Aang’s statue, and another one, a very very old one. The episode ends ominously, with Northern troops of Unalaq’s entering the Southern capital to help it “get back on its righteous path”.
This week’s episode, Civil Wars Part 1 (note the plural there), shows how the Southern Water tribe reacts to Unalaq’s ‘help’. Not well, you can imagine. He blocks the port, leading some (including Varrick, the businessman working with Asami) to agitate for rebellion. There’s a ton of family drama everywhere, with Korra first thinking her father was one of the rebels who attempt to kidnap Unalaq, to seeing her uncle arrest her parents not long after she helps rescue him. Back with the airbender family, Ikki runs off after Jinora and Meelo pick on her. This leads Tenzin, Bumi and Kya to go searching for her, with some uncomfortable conversations about Aang’s parenting style. Bumi and Kya think he favored Tenzin, you see. Speaking of uncomfortable, Bolin has some trouble with Eska – he wants to dump her, but can’t.
There is a ton of interesting set up here, and I’m hopeful that the next episode, Part 2 of Civil Wars, begins the payoff. Korra had JUST convinced Unalaq to give the rebels that tried to kidnap him a fair trial instead of just detaining them (real world parallels much Bryke?), but now that it’s her parents? I love that Jinora’s going to get some face time this season, she seemed to get the short end of things with Ikki and Meelo being the more active kids in Book 1. My personal theory is that the spirit portals were closed to help KEEP the balance between the spirit world and the physical/real world, possibly dating back to the first Avatar who we meet later. From the Book 2 trailer, we see Wan Shi Tong and his library – researching the portals? Or the first Avatar? I can’t wait to find out!