That's one way to ensure your episode works out. Needless to say, I was thrilled with what was put in front of me with this most recent Korra episode. Audio is below, but my brief bullet point thoughts are below.
-- After a rough start in Beginnings, the last two episodes have been to form animation-wise. Last week's was on par with the best of Book 1, and I'd say this episode was the best of the series.
-- Bumi has led a fleet of United Forces. He's clearly a good strategist and should have good hand-to-hand combat skills. Do Tenzin and Kya really think so little of non-bending fighting capacities that they'd only be able to think of "positive attitude" as his only ability? Uncle Sokka would be ashamed.
-- Every instance of the Spirit World in A:TLA was in this brown river area. When did the place become more colorful than the physical world?
-- Korra is back to "something is in my way. IMMA PUNCH IT!" mode. I feel like Korra was turned into Kid Korra because she was acting too immature for her age so she aged down. When she grew up mentally over the episode, she grew up for real. Not sure if I'm accurate, but I'm really hoping that this is the end of Loose Cannon Korra.
-- IROH AND WAN SHI TONG! I knew the spirit would be back, but I was amped when I saw Iroh. I've never been so glad I watch this on DVR and can pause until my geek-out moments phase out.
-- So Iroh decided his work was done and so he Quantum Leaped his way into the Spirit World? If people could do that, why aren't more of them around?
-- Jinora is basically Penny from Inspector Gadget here: Doing all the legwork to solve a problem and yet being made into bait for the main character. To be fair, though, Jinora is still much younger than the main cast and this is a good baseline for her. If they work her in more in later seasons, this could be seen as her first steps toward true badassery.
-- I REALLY don't like that the Spirit World is effectively powered on Good Vibes. Further, I DESPISE that this spirit bending thing is being treated as good spirit therapy instead of evil spirit mind control. Their wills are being affected by everyone but themselves.
-- I will say that Wan Shi Tong played a great bitter, psychotic spirit here. When he suddenly let Jinora browse the library, I thought it was out of character, but that's why you wait until stuff plays out before you critique.
-- However, if Jinora was SO knowledgeable about the library to the point that she knew how people used to access it and the name of the dead professor, HOW ON EARTH did she not think Wan Shi Tong might be a little peeved at the Avatar and his descendants for what happened that day?
-- Much like how I thought Beginnings Part 1 was better than Part 2 because it let the characters breathe and process what was happening, The early part of this episode was better than the end. It's like we went from 10 mph to 70 mph in a matter of seconds.
-- How did Korra escape the Spirit World from the air like that? If she could do that, why couldn't Jinora? Does she have to go unconscious first? Why did we burn an episode in the Spirit World and not use any of the spirits we were introduced to in Beginnings? If the Harmonic Convergence needed both portals opened, why did they go into the Spirit World at all? If it was to close the other portal, would she have known how to close it anyway? Why does every episode of Korra need the Val Kilmer, "It just raises too many questions" clip?!
Anyway, outside of the flaws I mentioned, this was a solid episode, and one that may compete for best of the Korra series. Should we be concerned that a character from the previous series was needed to put it over? Maybe, but the story has finally become something worth anticipating, so I'm more than happy with what I'm getting here.
Stay tuned this weekend for my review of "The Search Part 3," where I will have to eat some crow.