Legend of Korra Book 2: Episode 9 ‘The Guide’ Review

The Legend of Korra returns from its mid-season break and gets the plot rolling immediately. If “The Guide” is indicative of what’s to come from Book 2’s second half, we should be in for a spiritually dense thrill-ride, but how about the episode itself? From opening to close, this week’s installment is purely a set-up episode, and like any proper set-up, it promises more than it delivers on individually. That being said, “The Guide” does a great job of selling the season’s upcoming content, but isn’t always succeeding in its own duration.

One of the more endearing moments of the episode is Korra’s apology to Tenzin, along with Tenzin and Korra’s developing relationship in general. Their pairing is a good change of pace from Korra rejecting other familiar characters, which is also due to Korra’s new behavior. In fact, of all the cast in “The Guide,” she seems the most productive and objective. Even I, while never having any major problems with Korra’s character, notice her more likable personality. The MVP of the episode, however, is Tenzin, who struggles to accept his own imperfections.

Following an exaggerated reaction from Korra (a nit-pick in its truest form), we learn that Tenzin has never been able to enter the Spirit World, despite his mastery of spiritual knowledge. Having him overcome his personal issues has been hinted at through the interaction with his children in past iterations, but to have it come full-circle is significantly more effective. It’s always fun to pull Tenzin from his cool, collected shell and having a large chunk of the plot dedicated to him solidifies “The Guide” as his best outing so far.

Unalaq gets a fair amount of screen time this week as well. While his villainy has been primarily two-dimensional, his ploy with the spirits, Vatuu specifically, ties his involvement into the season’s plot solidly. He hasn’t exactly had the chance to develop as a character, but the focus placed on him will hopefully be consistent for here on out.

The only piece to the puzzle that hasn’t gotten any better, and actually seems to worsen with each passing week, is Mako, Bolin, and Asami’s adventures in Republic City. What began as an intelligent detective tale, now dampens more enthralling plots that deserve the screen-time. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a healthy dose of Varrick here and there, but if I had to decide between a few jokes and a journey into the Spirit World, I would choose the latter.

Unfortunately, Bolin is the worst offender of needlessness. It’s disappointing to have a character who shined amongst others in the first season, confined to “Nuktuk.” Nuktuk was humorous and a clever way to build Bolin and Varrick’s consociation, but what has it added to the story? If you’re still thinking about it, then you realize the problem here.

What makes the Republic City sections acceptable, though, is that they’re still fun. Relatively weak, but entertaining. It’s a simple argument, but I believe it’s worth noting, especially if you share my intrigue in Varrick as an antagonist. I’m actually more invested in him being a villain than I am with Unalaq, primarily because “Avatar” has had plenty of power-hungry baddies, like Unalaq, but there has yet to be a comedic villain, like Varrick could be.

Among other flaws, the one that worries me the most is the possibility of another love-triangle, or at least relationship drama between Korra, Asami, and Mako. I can’t believe the writers would allow Book 1’s greatest shortcoming to return in an identical fashion, and technically it hasn’t occurred yet so it’s hard to judge as of now, but it remains enormously possible. Particularly with the plot gaining serious momentum at the moment, more shipping issues could be quite damaging to the season as a whole. We can only hope it’s either a mislead that will actually work itself out by seasons end, or that Mako and Asami will remain an “item” for the rest of the Book 2, and Korra will eventually win him back in a future season, after having them mature separately.

Lastly, being that this is the final episode animated by Studio Pierrot, I find it appropriate to address the mark they left on the series. I’ve had my fair share of gripes at Pierrot’s quality, in comparison to Mir’s work on the series, but I think the studio exited on a decent note. In episodes prior, there were often awkwardly stoic scenes the required minimal animation that Pierrot just couldn’t seem to accomplish. The results were conversations between characters where only their mouths moved, but such is not the case with “The Guide,” (for the most part) in which Pierrot does a solid job of having everything move. It allows for a natural and realistic look to the animation that is far less distracting than it would be otherwise. Next week will see the return of Studio Mir, and with a less stylized episode than “Beginnings,” so it’ll be interesting to see the difference between the studios in a more comparative view.

“The Guide” is ultimately more beneficial to the overall season’s plot, than it is in its own respects. The episode provides a clear direction for the rest of Book 2, which is a refreshing transition from the sporadic arcs from previous episodes (I mean, seriously, it took seven episodes to revisit Jinora’s juncture with the glowing statue… seven! And whatever happened to Korra’s dad and the rebels?). Apart from Mako’s side of the story, all of the subplots are very strong and make me genuinely excited for what’s to come. As for the episode itself, it’s definitely great, though I’ve seen Avatar produce more admirable set-up episodes (“The Guru” anyone?).

It probably won’t blow you away, but “The Guide” is immensely entertaining and lands an 8.5/10 because of it.

  • Professor Farnsworth

    I’m still curious as to where they are headed with Lin’s apparent stupidity this season.
    She won’t listen to Mako at all (because she’s either stupid or _already knows_), but she’ll search his apartment if given a rumor from some other source.
    Why are these two detectives always hovering around her? What happened to the metalbender cops?

    • Kailee

      Totally agree!! Lin was one of my favorite characters from book 1 but now…… not so much. I mean she listened to the triple T’s instead of one of her own police officers! And those two detectives that are always with Lin are stupid and useless.

    • Sibis

      Lin said it herself. It was a lead that she got out of the Triple Triads. By the book procedure to check it out. Especially when Lin finds out Mako has been doing his own illegal sting operation, working with criminals, and obtaining evidence outside of a non sanctioned actions.

      Add on to the point that Mako has been entirely unprofessional the whole time acting like Korra rather than as a cop.

      He’s got nothing more than little evidence that can easily be challenged and his own theory which he cannot fully prove.

  • Sergio

    Great review! And well…though I can’t say I’m disappointed with Mako and Asami subplots (both did a great job as characters in The Sting and even so in The Guide), I feel Bolin is starting to become unnecesary in the season. What I mean is: Mako showed his firebending skills a lot of times in the season, and Asami did the same with her badass driving style! But Bolin?? No earthbending except for a couple of seconds in Rebel Spirit. I still like the plot that involves Varrick, ’cause I guess there’s something else we could be missing about his evil plans…but I’m really looking forward to see more Bolin and earthbending…

  • Katherine M.

    Nuktuk is supposed to be a way to develop Bolin. If you haven’t noticed, Bolin isn’t a very good probender without Mako leading the team and his relationship with Eska sank in the South Pole. Acting is something he is really good at and he really likes it. I know his only use in this episode was to say “are you two back together? Korra just left a week ago!” with disapproval in his tone, but I think he has gotten a little less egotistical here. In the past episodes, he was ignoring Mako. He didn’t believe Mako in this episode but at least he listened. Bolin was kinda like the voice of reason when commenting on Asami and Mako’s “relationship.” He shares our opinion, and he’s not brushing it off as if he was still on his high horse.

    We know from Book 1 that Lin is a strong hardass with a soft side to her, but we weren’t actually shown how she deals with her colleagues. We only saw her give orders. Maybe Mako is indirectly helping her out too. When he proves that he wasn’t responsible for stealing from Future Industries, Lin will probably think twice about associating usefulness and intelligence with rank. In her defense, Mako did intrude while she was talking to the president and the ship captain. This doesn’t make him look good.

    This love triangle isn’t identical Book 1’s love triangle, and I think it’ll end better. I trust the creators to see there is a happy, logical, and reasonable ending to this triangle because they are aware of how disappointed the fandom was with it in Book 1. They aren’t stupid and I’m positive they won’t repeat the same exact thing. Korra isn’t Republic City and Mako was technically single after she left. Asami started playing her cards before Mako could get over Korra, which is only causing Mako to be infatuated with her because he’s receiving the love and affection from Asami that he is no longer getting from Korra. Right now, Mako is too infatuated with Asami to realize he doesn’t actually love her. This could potentially solve itself before Korra shows up again. Mako is in jail now, so he doesn’t have anything better to do than to mull over recent events. Maybe he will make the revelation that he doesn’t love Asami since they are separated and Asami can’t touch him like that anymore LOL.

    Learning about Wan’s journey has definitely helped Korra grow more and she is much more calm and levelheaded. She saw that things aren’t always what they seem and this inspired her to take a less blunt approach to situations she’s placed in, like her relationships with friends and family members. In the case of her uncle, he’s crazy and he needs to go down. Her strong and aggressive nature will probably surface again when she sees him in the spirit world.

    • LOKlover

      Yea Korra’s character in this episode was much more likable. And I’m glad that Korra didn’t use the avatar state to get rid of those spirit bats. I think she finally understands that the avatar state is no joke and that it should only be used if she’s in grave danger. Can’t wait for next week!! :D

      • Katherine M.

        I know o_o. It worries me sometimes. I think I’ll write a couple of sentences and that turns into an essay lol. Yea I noticed she didn’t use the Avatar State to get rid of those dark spirit bats. Korra connected with her oldest past life, and found Raava, her avatar spirit, so I think that is what made the spiritbending thing work. She tries it twice in previous episodes, once with the avatar state, once without the avatar state, and both attempts fail at transforming dark spirits. Both were before she met Wan.

    • Kailee

      Wow. You wrote a lot.

    • Wyatt

      Thanks :) But I urge you to consider how exactly Bolin will step out of his current situation (as Nuktuk) as a changed character because, in my opinion he is severely underdeveloped and Nuktuk is simply him being humorous, something we’ve seen a hundred times over from him.

      • Katherine M.

        All Bolin wanted to do from the beginning of the Book was to find himself, do something he enjoys, and really come out in his own. Bolin didn’t know what do then, and pro-bending was definitely not an option anymore (“fastest knockout in pro-bending history”). I’d give Bolin a little more time. We haven’t seen him much so we’re bound to see a lot of him pretty soon.

        • Wyatt

          Yeah, I’m not giving up on him by any means, I’m just judging him based on what we’ve seen from him so far.

          • Katherine M.

            :) I appreciate the discussion.

        • Guest

          me too. I just wish we would have seen something from him sooner. 9 episodes is a long time. But maybe I just need to wait and trust the writers.

      • Guest

        Can the same be said about Asami (all shipping aside)? She seems like an undeveloped character to me as well. What has she done in book 2?

        I have hope for Bolin after reading the description for episode 11. Fingers crossed.

        • Wyatt

          Same, I’m certainly not giving up on him, especially after reading the episode descriptions, and Asami doesn’t have much of a place either.

    • Katherine M.

      I’m so sorry if I write way too much by the way.

  • Brendan

    Another nice review Wyatt! :)

    I can tell the best episodes of the season are yet to come, with the exception of The Beginnings Part One + Two.

  • Sibis

    Korra skipped over the details of her thuggery and extreme behavior. She just gives a light recap which was enough for the mouth piece Tenzin to absolve her of any personal responsibility.

    That’s not a good way to go about, when Wan took responsibility of unleashing Vaatu on the world.

    • Guest

      What “thuggery and extreme behavior” do you think she should have divulged? At least she admitted to starting a civil war and opening the portal when she shouldn’t have?

      • Katherine M.

        Shoving a judge in Naga’s mouth and yelling at the president of the United Republic is probably on that list. Though they’re kinda irrelevant.

        • Sibis

          She also tried to circumvent the President by trying to talk Iroh into attacking the NWT forces which would have dragged Republic City into the civil war.

          • Katherine M.

            Haha, that too. Mako stopped her from doing that so she avoided making the biggest mistake she could in the entire book.

          • Sibis

            It should be something she needs to reflect on.

            Her idea like in the Airbender race of abusing the Avatar State, is to do whatever it takes to get it done.

          • Katherine M.

            That’s kinda the Avatar’s job description. Do whatever it takes to protect the world. I thought the airbender race was childish of Korra to use the Avatar State in. It was childish, but not dangerous. Shoving the judge in Naga’s mouth brought out useful information and the guy left scratch free. Can’t say the same for his car.

          • Guest

            I suppose she could have mentioned both of these things, but I don’t think it takes away from the change she’s starting to make in this episode. To go back, apologize to Tenzin, and say anything at all, and stay calm seems like a giant step forward for Korra. IMO I respect yours :)

          • Guest

            ps- I saw it as her taking responsibility. I am not sure I see how not mentioning those things absolve her of her responsibility. She said she played a part and is trying to fix it.

  • https://twitter.com/VishalMalla61 AvatarVishal

    I think Studio Pierrot has done a lot better with The Guide and they have more experience but I’m glad for the return of Studio Mir.

    • Wyatt

      Episodes animated by Studio Pierrot in order of best animation (IMO):
      1. The Southern Lights
      2. Rebel Spirit
      3. The Guide
      4. Peacekeepers
      5. Civil Wars Part 2
      6. Civil Wars Part 1
      7. The Sting

      • Kakashi

        i agree with your list

  • KorraFan

    Another fantastic episode! :D I love that we’re finally getting to the Spirit World part of the season, the moment we’ve been waiting for! It’s great seeing Korra and Tenzin together again, just like old times, only better. :) It was cool seeing them try different methods to get into the Spirit World. I love the design of the Bunny-Dragonfly Spirits, and it was cool seeing them assist Korra, Tenzin, and his family. The scene where Korra restored balance to those Bat Spirits was awesome, too. But the most awesome part was finally seeing Korra and Jinora get into the Spirit World! The Mako-Bolin-Asami subplot is heating up, too, and I’m excited to see where it will lead. Seeing that Unalaq is working for Vaatu was a bit scary, especially since he doesn’t even care so much about his own children anymore. The animation in this episode was decent, and I think it’s Studio Pierrot’s best one yet, but I’m still very excited for the return of Studio Mir. :) I am so psyched to see some serious Spirit World action! “A New Spiritual Age” is going to be AMAZING! :D