The Legend of Korra‘s second episode of the season crafts the poignant tale of Korra’s recovery and disappearance. “Korra Alone” demonstrates the despair Korra feels at being isolated and useless while the world changes around her, while also offering a potential source of hope for her future.
“Korra Alone” tells the tale of Korra’s rehabilitation at her home in the Southern Water Tribe. While she’s initially only supposed to be gone for a few weeks, Korra’s trouble with her emotional trauma and physical injuries extend her stay.
Korra’s recovery takes up most of the first act, and her struggle is heartbreaking. Many shows choose to gloss over the difficulty of physical rehab, but The Legend of Korra doesn’t pretend that everything will be okay. It takes months of exhausting exercises and healing water baths to allow Korra to even walk a few feet. Despite encouragement from Katara and her parents, Korra’s recovery takes a devastating emotional toll on her, leaving her feeling weak and unimportant. She isolates herself from her friends and their attempts to communicate with her, save for one letter to Asami.
In the end, it takes Korra roughly 2 1/2 years to regain full mobility. Her brief joy at being able to walk again is tarnished by her inability to fight effectively. Both her physical and mental struggles contribute to her diminished fighting capability, as she’s not only been out of practice, she’s suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that manifests in the form of her ghostly Avatar state (though the narrative hints that this Anti-Korra could be more than just a hallucination). Her happiness at showing a visiting Tenzin her fighting skills is crushed by her PTSD, and for Korra, that more or less convinces her that she’ll never be as good as she used to be.
Eventually, Korra can’t stand to be at the South Pole anymore, so she sets sail for Republic City. Along the way, she stops at a fishing town and utterly fails to stop a couple of shoplifters, much to the disappointment of the local Avatar enthusiast. The incident only adds to her self-doubt, causing Korra to change track and sail to the Earth Kingdom instead. There, she cuts her hair and wanders aimlessly, being dogged by Anti-Korra the entire way. Korra’s desire to be rid of her shadow causes her to seek guidance in the Spirit World, where she learns from a few friendly spirits that she may be cut off from Raava.
Korra’s fight scene at the end of the premiere episode is given more depth in “Korra Alone”, as we see Korra fighting not just her opponent, but Anti-Korra as well. Korra’s fight with herself perfectly represents her inner struggle, and her defeat at the hands of her shadow is chilling.
After a crushing defeat, one of the curious little spirits leads Korra into a nearby swamp, where she meets none other than Toph Beifong. Toph is undoubtedly the person Korra needs to build her back up, and it’s wonderful to see another member of Team Avatar alive and well. Toph’s retreat into a swamp (perhaps the very swamp she first appeared in a vision to Aang?) is exactly the kind of retirement she would enjoy.
Korra has been beat down by her enemies for the entire series, with Zaheer being the one to completely break her. Korra is left feeling unneeded and unqualified, and it’ll take a lot of personal growth and confidence building to bring her back. Hopefully Toph, ever the instigator of tough love, will force her to face her demons and trigger Korra’s transformation into a new version of herself.
“Korra Alone” (much like it’s spiritual predecessor “Zuko Alone”) is a beautiful, introspective look into Korra’s struggles. Her recovery is long, painful, and far from over. Korra has always struggled with being The Avatar, and now all of the problems she’s faced have made themselves part of her. It’ll take everything she has to shed them. I look forward to the rest of her journey.
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