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Recap / The Legend of Korra S1 E1 "Welcome to Republic City"

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"Republic City does need you. But it needs me, too."

The first episode of The Legend of Korra.

Like its predecessor, we begin with narration. Tenzin, son of Avatar Aang and the last airbending master alive, tells of how his parents and their friends ended the 100-year war and brought peace to the land. Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Zuko turned the former Fire Nation colonies into the United Republic, and made Republic City their capital. Since then Aang has passed away, but like the seasons, the cycle begins anew.

We appear over fields of ice at night, with lights of a village leading the way. Three members of the White Lotus have come to investigate claims that the new Avatar has been found. They are skeptical—this is not the first time someone has claimed their child to be the Avatar; however, when we see little Korra, only four and already bending water, earth and fire, it becomes clear. She is "the one." The White Lotus takes her away to be trained nearby.

Flash forward to the current day; she is in a fight with a fire bender for her final exam. Having passed her final fire exam (despite grumblings that Korra is still rather rash), Tenzin arrives only to tell Korra he cannot stay to teach her as he has more pressing responsibilities in Republic City.

Disappointed, the next night she escapes to seek Tenzin out, with the blessing of an elderly Katara. She stows away on a ship and arrives in Republic City, where she soon finds she is a fish out of water, with no money or idea of how the city works. After beating up a few Triad members, she is arrested for causing more damage than they did.

Here she meets Chief Lin Beifong, Toph's daughter, who is unimpressed by her attitude or her title. After a short talking-to, Tenzin shows up to bail her out and promises that she will be sent back to the South Pole. Just about to send her off on a White Lotus ship back to the south pole, Tenzin changes his mind, resulting in Korra picking up all three of his kids and then him in a massive hug.

Shortly after, Korra announces both her status as the Avatar and presence in Republic City at a press conference. Listening to this on the radio, a man in goggles asks a masked man (Amon) about his intentions. Amon turns to him, stating that since the Avatar has arrived early, they'll have to speed up their plans...

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Katara chuckles when she sees Meelo driving Tenzin up the walls and treating his head like a playground.
  • Age Cut: Four-year-old Korra affects an intense expression as she Firebends directly into the camera, obscuring the scene with a burst of flame, which seventeen-year-old Korra then disperses, wearing a matching expression.
  • Are We There Yet?: The introduction of Tenzin and his family has his daughter Ikki saying this over, and over, and over...
    Tenzin: [as his son gums his head] Yes, Ikki. As I've been telling you for the last fifteen minutes, We are. Finally. Here.
  • Arrested for Heroism: Sure, she may have beat up the thugs, but she also destroyed three shops, a street, disrupted traffic all over the city, and evaded arrest, in essence costing far more than the shakedown would have.
  • Audible Gleam: When a bush manifests Bishie Sparkle.
  • Badass Army: It takes more than a mere Avatar to impress Republic City's metalbending police force.
  • Bear Hug: Korra uses an Effortless Amazonian Lift to pick up Tenzin and his children to give them a group hug.
  • Big Entrance: Korra when she first meets the members of the White Lotus.
  • Big Fancy House: Tenzin and his family live on Air Temple Island, a sanctuary on an island in the city's bay.
  • Bishie Sparkle: Parodied. There are bishie sparkles on the resident bush of a park-dwelling Hobo.
    Hobo: Took me a while to procure a bush that beauteous. [bush sparkles]
  • Building Swing: The Republic City Police perform this to debark from their patrol zeppelin, via metalbending retractable cables dispensed from wrist-mountings on their uniforms.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Automobiles are called Satomobiles in-universe, after Hiroshi Sato, the Henry Ford-like industrialist who first marketed cars to the masses.
  • Changing of the Guard: Lampshaded in the aged Katara's Passing the Torch speech to Korra:
    Katara: Aang's time has passed. My brother and many of my friends are gone. It's time for you and your generation to take on the responsibility of keeping peace and balance in the world. But I think you're going to be a great Avatar.
  • City of Adventure: Republic City.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Korra absolutely spanks the Triple Threat Triad members.
  • Destructive Savior: Korra ends up destroying more property than the gang members she caught. Pointed out by the Metalbending Police when they try to arrest her.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The water-bending thug throwing water at Korra out of his coat looks very similar to gangsters from the movies pulling out a concealed firearm.
  • Dieselpunk: A major influence on the setting of the series, though mixed with high and urban fantasy.
  • Effortless Amazonian Lift: While hugging Tenzin, Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo, Korra manages to effortlessly lift them off the ground. Not individually — all at once.
  • Electric Slide: The metal-bending police use this to easily chase criminals on the run.
  • Establishing Character Moment: "I'm the Avatar! You gotta deal with it!"
  • Eye Am Watching You: Captain Beifong gives this to Korra, index and pinky pointed to her eyes, then Korra. Korra gives one heck of a stink face before throwing the gesture right back to the Captain.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Equalism movement claims that the Benders are oppressing the non-benders of the city.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: At the end of the first episode, there are some blueprints on the wall to Amon's right. Given the design, he's apparently building a Mini-Mecha.
  • Generic Ethnic Crime Gang: The Triple Threat Triad, a pan-elemental bender organization that collects protection money from shopkeepers.
  • Good Parents: Korra's parents, along with Tenzin and his wife.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: The Metalbender Cops weapons of choice are wrist-mounted retractable cables that can be manipulated through bending. They are used to tie up criminals and move around the city.
  • Hero Insurance: Subverted. Korra learns the hard way that being the Avatar is not a license to dish out vigilante justice and smash property.
  • Hero Secret Service: The Order of the White Lotus acts as this to Korra. However, they do not seem to be too good at the job.
  • Hobos: Korra encounters one in the first episode, living in a bush in one of Republic City's public parks. He alludes to there being quite a lot of homeless people in the city.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: One of the triad members tries to attack Korra with waterbending. She bends his water right back at him, encasing his head in ice.
  • Instant Expert: Korra, generally, as evidenced by her ability to bend three elements at a very young age.
  • Island Base: While not exactly a "base," the Air Temple Island where Tenzin and his family live is pretty sweet.
  • Lame Comeback: Korra is not that good with the verbal wit.
    Protestor: Benders like this girl only use their power to oppress us!
    Korra: What? I'm not oppressing anyone! You're... you're oppressing yourselves!
    Protestor: That didn't even make sense!
  • Licked by the Dog: The cop who brings Naga back to Korra keeps getting his head licked by her.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: All of the Equalists wear masks. Some are Gas Mask Mooks, and the leader wears a White Mask of Doom.
  • The Mentor:
    • Aang's son, Tenzin, is Korra's Airbending master.
    • Katara taught Korra waterbending.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The series opens with a brief look at four-year-old Korra as part of an Establishing Character Moment, before jumping ahead thirteen years later to the present day.
  • Motormouth: Ikki's first words are her asking her father "are we there yet" over and over.
  • Mundane Utility: Korra goes fishing in Republic City's municipal park and uses Firebending to instantly roast her catches.
  • Muggle Power: The entire Equalist movement is based around establishing nonbenders in positions of power and eliminating the need for bending entirely.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: See The Unreveal. As Katara begins her story, dramatic music starts in the background, only for it to abruptly stop when Ikki interrupts.
  • Na├»ve Newcomer: Our heroine doesn't quite fit into the big city.
  • Not Helping Your Case: With a small side order of Unwitting Pawn. When Korra tries to argue against the Equalist protestor, he easily manipulates her confrontational attitude to make her look like the bad guy. Not that it took much manipulation on his part.
  • Not-So-Safe Harbor: Republic City.
  • Our Founder:
    • Republic City has a massive, Statue of Liberty-esque monument to Aang, one of the city's co-founders.
    • Toph has a statue seemingly made of gold at Police Headquarters.
  • Passing the Torch: Katara's role in this episode.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: While not overly friendly, the metal benders in Republic City come across this way. When Korra starts a street fight with a gang, they promptly arrest the thugs, but also arrest Korra for "destruction of private and city property, not to mention evading arrest."
  • Reincarnation-Identifying Trait: Korra did away with "traditional" methods of identifying the Avatar and instead proved herself by bending three elements as a child.
  • Roaring Twenties: The technology, speech, mannerisms, and culture is evocative of the real-life 1920s.
  • Shame If Something Happened: The Triple Threat Triad thugs are rather unsubtle about their shakedown.
    Viper: Mr. Chung, please tell me you have my money, or else I can't protect your fine establishment. [The Firebender gangster palms a ball of fire and grins]
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Tenzin's daughters Ikki and Jinora. Jinora is a Cute Bookworm Shrinking Violet and the Girly Girl to Ikki's Motor Mouth, Genki Girl Tomboy personality.
  • Small, Secluded World: Upon learning that Korra was the Avatar, the Order of the White Lotus set up a large compound in the Southern Water Tribe for her to live in, to fulfill the promise they made to Aang to protect his reincarnation. There, Korra underwent her Avatar training, under constant watch from the Order. She was allowed to leave, but only with supervision and as long as she did not go outside the South Pole. Korra ends up running away in order to get to Republic City.
  • Spanner in the Works: Korra is explicitly stated to be this to the Equalists in the closing scene. Amon and company knew they were going to have to deal with the Avatar eventually, but they didn't anticipate she'd come to Republic City this early. Amon takes it stride, noting they'll simply have to accelerate their timetable to compensate.
  • Spinoff Sendoff: The elderly Katara's supporting role — and especially with her Changing of the Guard speech.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Invoked in-universe with a scene shift. The Equalist rabble-rouser has a whiny voice and generally behaves like a strawman whining about benders terrorizing non-benders, but then the succeeding scene shows non-bender shopkeepers being terrorized by criminal benders (something hinted to have been happening for a long time).
  • There Was a Door: Korra's Establishing Character Moment has her Earthbend the wall of her room to make an entrance. Her parents probably did not have that in mind when they wanted her to come meet the White Lotus members sent to verify her Avatar status.
  • Title Drop:
    Hobo: You've got a lot to learn, newcomer. Welcome to Republic City!
  • The Unreveal: Jinora asks what happened to Zuko's Mother. Katara starts telling the story, but Ikki interrupts with her own barrage of questions.
  • Welcome to the Big City: The plot of this episode, as sheltered Country Mouse Korra realizes Republic City isn't the shining beacon of harmony and prosperity she thought it was.
  • Wretched Hive: Tenzin acknowledges that Republic City has gotten a lot worse since his father's death, to the point that he considers his responsibilities as a council man more important than teaching Korra. Eventually, he comes around.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Republic City has its own zeppelins, used by Metalbending Police patrols. Apparently, the Fire Nation shared the technology with the rest of the world.