“The Calling” works well as a conclusion to this now three-episode arc about Korra’s healing process. “Korra Alone” focused directly on her three-year journey between Books Three and Four. “The Coronation” spent time showing Korra’s training with Toph, but largely stepped back to show the trouble bubbling in the outside world. Building from the same themes, this episode hammers home the point: the world needs the Avatar back.
At the end of last week’s “The Coronation,” Tenzin sent Jinora, Ikki and Meelo on a quest to retrace Korra’s steps. They revisit the fisherman/photographer from “Korra Alone” and learn that he hasn’t seen Korra since taking her photo. He turns to his wall of Avatars where we see Aang’s charming portrait joined by a photo of Korra squinting at the flashbulb. The scene is a welcome callback to the more humorous elements of that earlier episode.
Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo grow as characters as they confront the big bad world in search of the Avatar. Jinora’s struggle to handle both her responsibilities as a leader and as a spiritual liaison makes her a parallel to Korra. When Ikki gets captured by two disgruntled Earth Empire soldiers, she confides that she feels unappreciated by her siblings. In that scene, we see Ikki’s cunning as she takes advantage of the soldiers’ sympathy to learn about Kuvira’s plans. Meelo provides his usual comic relief while trying to flirt with a girl, but surprises both the audience and his siblings by producing a perfect sketch of Korra to help with their search.
Studio Mir’s animation in both The Legend of Korra and Avatar: The Last Airbender has always been great, but these past three episodes have been especially remarkable. The Airbender kids fly through some incredible scenery atop their sky bison, Pepper. Wide shots of the sky at twilight pop with orange and yellow hues. Their journey allows the show to stop for some breathtaking pans over the misty treetops that span the massive swamp.
The entire episode is beautifully framed and lit. In one of the final scenes, Korra follows Toph to the banyon-grove tree so she can reconnect with the world. A subsequent wide shot places Korra in the middle, tiny among the huge network of vines extending out. In that moment, we get a sense of the interdependence between the world and the Avatar. As the bridge between worlds, Korra is inextricable from a universe whose problems are larger than her own.
Korra places her hand on the root. A wave of light flows from her hand through the tree, just as it did for Aang in “The Swamp” in The Last Airbender. The signal races through the spiritually linked roots and finds Jinora. When Korra sees her fly in with Ikki and Meelo, she can’t hold her tears back. Their reunion is an affecting sign that it’s time for Korra to rise above her fears and reenter the world.
In the shelter of the huge tree, Toph confronts Korra about her inability to let go of the past. She offers a different take as she reflects on the motivations of Korra’s enemies. Amon wanted equality, Unalaq wanted to bring spirits back into the physical world and Zaheer wanted freedom. These are ideas the audience has been privy to, but not something Korra has ever been told.
As Toph notes, these antagonists were “totally out of balance.” Still, she suggests that Korra should consider their central ideas. Even though their actions were extreme, their motivating philosophies were rooted in something good. The exchange is thought-provoking. It underlines a complex morality scale in the show. It also allows the story to link back to Book Two and especially Book One, the latter of which still feels disjointed from the rest of the show’s narrative.
Korra accepts this council and confronts her fear. She relaxes her mind and finally bends the metal from her body. The literal fire burning behind her symbolizes her own renewed spirit. When she opens her eyes again, they flash with Raava’s light. The scene is intimate and emotional.
Jeremy Zuckerman’s music expertly compliments these heavier moments. New music blends with rearrangements of the original Avatar theme as the kids search for Korra. Tense strings resound as Korra ponders the truth beneath the villains’ ideologies. A powerful crescendo drives Korra towards the triumph of removing the Red Lotus venom, and the softer, lilting music in the episode’s final minutes emphasizes her rediscovered sense of peace.
“The Calling” provides a simple closing to this season’s first major arc. With the Avatar State restored, Korra can face a bigger problem: Kuvira. The writers have given themselves the opportunity to raise the stakes in a new way as Korra takes up her mantle once more.
But is Kuvira the biggest threat this season? Or is Korra’s biggest obstacle admitting that Amon, Unalaq and Zaheer may have had a point?