|"My name is Wan, and I will show you how I became the first Avatar."|
|— Wan to Korra.|
"Beginnings, Part 1" is the seventh episode of Book Two: Spirits of The Legend of Korra and the 19th episode of the overall series. It was aired on October 12, 2013, for attendees of the The Legend of Korra panel at the New York Comic-Con and premiered on Nickelodeon alongside "Beginnings, Part 2" on October 18, 2013.
In order to cleanse herself from a dark spirit's attack, Korra must reconnect with her Avatar Spirit by finding Raava. To do so, she needs to learn about the origins of the first Avatar, Wan. He tells her how he received the power of fire and learned the ways of the spirits, as well as how he was the one responsible for unleashing Vaatu, the spirit of darkness, into the world.
After falling unconscious on the beach, members of the Bhanti carry Korra to the temple where they reside. There, the shaman uses firebending to read Korra's energy and concludes that she is infected with a dark spirit who would consume the Avatar Spirit if it was not cleansed in time. The shaman orders the sages to lower Korra into subterranean spirit waters, where she reconnects with her spirits, as well as four of her past lives: Aang, Roku, Kyoshi, and Kuruk. The past Avatars attempt to remind her of who she is, but she is unable to remember, prompting a young man to appear behind her in an orb of gold light. She asks him if he was the spirit Raava, whom she was told to find; the man said that he is not, but assures Korra that he can aid her in finding Raava, before introducing himself as Wan and recalling how he became the first Avatar.
Wan shows Korra his life, starting with his stealing food from the Chou brothers to feed himself and his friends. He successfully evades his pursuers for a while, but the brothers eventually catch up to him and subsequently throw him into a muddy pen with hybrid pigs. Wan returns to his tree house, bringing Yao and Jaya what little food he had managed to salvage in his tunic. He laments over their impoverished lifestyle, wishing they could live like the Chous. Jaya cautions him against stealing from the Chous again, fearing he would wind up dead, or rather banished into the Spirit Wilds. Despite Jaya's attempt to convince Wan that some people simply have power and others do not, Wan seems only inspired to develop a plan to obtain power.
In the city, a group of hunters prepared to journey into the Spirit Wilds in order to collect food, knowing that the local lion turtle would grant them the element of fire to protect themselves against wild spirits. Wan immediately volunteers; however, after receiving the ability to control fire, he feigns fear and is told to return the power of fire to the lion turtle before returning to the city. Wan returns to the city without returning his fire and shows his newly acquired ability to Yao and Jaya back at the tree house. They tell him that it is forbidden to bring the power of the elements into the city, but he remains adamant and says that they can use the power to change things.
That night, Wan leads Jaya and several other citizens in a raid on the Chou palace. To allow the others sufficient time to escape, Wan battles the Chou brothers and the palace guards and is unmasked during the altercation by one of the Chous. Hesitating to kill the smallest of the Chou brothers, Wan is apprehended and brought before the lion turtle. Refusing to reveal the names of those involved in the raid, Chou the Elder banishes Wan to the Spirit Wilds and Little Chou orders him to give the fire back to the lion turtle. However, Wan pleads with the lion turtle and convinces the giant to allow him to keep his fire power in order to survive in the wilds.
As he wanders the Spirit Wilds, Wan encounters several hostile spirits, such as accidentally stepping on a talking frog that grows giant, forcing him to remain awake until he eventually collapses from exhaustion. However, vines sprout up from the ground beneath him and starts to pull him in. Before being engulfed completely, Wan uses his bending to propel himself back to the surface. Although exhausted, he decides to venture onward until he comes across a tree carrying strange fruit. He plucks one of the fruits and attempts to eat it, but is surprised to find the fruit is actually a swarm of wasps that promptly attack him. In his attempt to flee the swarm, Wan inadvertently falls off a cliff.
As he lands, he finds himself looking at an oasis with trees bearing actual fruit. Still hungry, Wan approaches the island, but before he could reach it, an aye-aye spirit appears and tells him that, being a human, he is not welcome at the oasis. Wan tries to reason with the spirit, telling the entity that he was hungry and in need of sleep. The spirit refused to listen, prompting Wan to use his fire to force the spirit aside. The spirit easily evaded the attack by teleporting behind him and proceeded to shove him to a nearby bush. Shorty after, a procession of spirits approached the oasis. In a final attempt to enter the oasis, Wan disguises himself as a bush spirit but is stopped by the aye-aye spirit, who recognizes his distinct human scent. The spirit guardian orders Wan to return home once more, and he reveals that he was banished, causing one of the spirits to suggest moving to another lion turtle city. Wan expresses disbelief at the thought of other lion turtles and inquires as to where he would find one. The aye-aye spirit refuses to help him and Wan stalks off in frustration.
While traveling through the wilds, he spotted a cat deer caught in a net. He initially decides to eat the creature but ultimately pities it and chooses to help set it free. Before he could release the animal from its restraints, the group of hunters Wan was initially supposed to accompany show up. To protect the cat deer, Wan fights the hunters and leads them away from the creature, using the forest's own hazards to his advantage. Though he manages to stop two of his pursuers, Wan is eventually chased down. Before he could be apprehended, however, the aye-aye spirit appears and possesses one of the hunters, prompting the other to flee in fear. He exits the body, leaving the human part aye-aye and deformed. The oasis guardian subsequently carries Wan to the oasis and allows the spirit waters to heal his injures and feed him. Deciding he has had enough of humanity and their ways, Wan resolves to stay in the wilds to learn the ways of the spirits. The guardian explains that spirits are able to take over bodies for a short time and any longer can kill someone.
Back at the lion turtle city, a huntsmen explains to the people that that the spirits attacked his men and that they were protecting Wan, like he was one of them. Jaya and Tao are happy to hear that Wan is still alive, and the former tells the people that since Wan has proved that people can live in the wild with the power of fire, they no longer need Chou's rules and asks them to leave with him and start over, eliciting a joyful response.
As time passed, Wan befriends the spirits and learns the Dancing Dragon form from a white dragon, mastering the art to the point where fire became an extension of his own body. In doing so, he improved his firebending skills and managed to drive off any hunters that trespassed in spirit grounds. Eventually growing restless, Wan decides to leave the oasis with the company of his cat deer Mula, in order to travel the world and find the other lion turtle cities.
After wandering across many different terrains, Wan and Mula run across a large group of spirits running away from the all-powerful spirits, Raava and Vaatu, who are battling in a nearby valley, threatening to destroy it. Wan goes to investigate and attempts to stop the fighting in order to protect the spirits and animals in the surrounding forest. Vaatu manipulates Wan, telling if to help him as the other spirit has tormented him for ten thousand years, and tricks him into using his fire to separate Vaatu from his counterpart, Raava. After Vaatu left the scene, Raava informs Wan of his mistake, telling him that he is the spirit of darkness and chaos and she, as the spirit of light and peace, had kept him under control for the past ten thousand years. Wan also discovers that the human and spirit realms are now headed toward annihilation because of his interference. Back in the present, Korra says that she has finally found Raava.
- Written by:
- Directed by:
- Janet Varney - Korra
- Steven Yeun - Wan
- April Stewart - Raava
- Barbara Goodson - Shaman
- Jonathan Adams - Vaatu
- Jason Marsden - Spirit Aye-Aye
- Andrew Kishino:
- Big Chou
- Paul Nakauchi - Chou the Elder
- Jim Cummings:
- Lion turtle
- Hunter #3
- Travis Willingham:
- Random spirit #2
- Steve Blum:
- Jeff Bennett
- Radio broadcaster
- Random spirit #1
- Also starring:
- Main article: Transcript:Beginnings, Part 1
- Main article: Transcript:Beginnings, Part 1 (commentary)
- Wan learns the Dancing Dragon from a white dragon, which is the same form Aang and Zuko perform for Ran and Shaw in "The Firebending Masters".
- Wan's age cut mid-firebending is similar to Korra's in "Welcome to Republic City".
- When Wan is pouring tea in his tree house, he picks up the only cup on the table beside him, but another one appears when the table is shown from a different angle.
- When the spirits enter the oasis, the kind spirits are shown in the pool. However, when Wan's disguise is discovered and he is pushed off the bridge, the kind spirits were among those still approaching the oasis.
- When Wan is sitting in the oasis and Mula rubs up against him, the cat deer's paws alternate between being in the water when it is a frontal shot, and still on the bank when it is a side-shot.
- When the aye-aye spirit is naming Wan "Stinky", his eye markings disappear and reappear within the same scene.
- The basic concept of the origin story used in these episodes had been in development well before the creators began work on Book Two: Spirits. Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko had been discussing the idea since Book Two of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but did not present the story to the writers until much later.
- In order to emphasize that the episodes are set in a much earlier time period, a unique art style was used to alter the appearance and aesthetics of the setting. The design was inspired by the ancient Chinese ink wash paintings, Japanese woodblock prints, and Tibetan tapestry paintings, and was achieved by changing the color palette, reducing lighting effects, and increasing stylizing of the backgrounds and bending effects. However, the basis for the characters' designs remains unchanged.
- "Beginnings" parts one and two were the first episodes of Book Two to go into production. Despite scheduling conflicts that prevented them from handling the first half of the season, Studio Mir was able to join the rest of the production crew for the extended creation process.
- The spirit telling Wan that "[the other lion turtle] is on the other side of none-of-your-business valley" recalls a scene in "The Blind Bandit" when an earthbender student told Aang that Earth Rumble VI was located "at the isle of none-ya business".
- Korra's attempt to reconnect with her Avatar Spirit by connecting with her past lives resembles Aang's similar attempt after being struck by Azula's lightning.
- This episode has a number of homages to the films of Hayao Miyazaki, of which the series' creators are professed fans.
- The scene with the spirit procession across the bridge to the Spirit Oasis is similar to a scene early in Spirited Away. Likewise, humans having a distinct, unpleasant scent, according to the spirits, is a key point in the movie.
- Mula is reminiscent of the red elk Yakul in Princess Mononoke, which also deals with conflict between humans and forest spirits. The elk similarly serves as a mount for the protagonist, the banished Prince Ashitaka.
- Wan's acquisition of fire through deception fits with the thematic theft of fire, in which an individual steals fire for the benefit of humanity. In this case, Wan's acquirement of firebending indirectly helped bring balance to both the physical and spirit realms.
- The designs for the various spirits proceeding to the Spirit Oasis were created by an artist at Studio Mir, while the studio's animators developed the unique way each spirit moved themselves.
- Jeremy Zuckerman's direction from the creators was to use even more traditional East Asian instrumentation, like the guqin and the shakuhachi.
- This episode marks the first time Naga does not make an appearance, thus making Korra the only character to appear in every episode of The Legend of Korra.
- The technique Wan uses to separate Raava and Vaatu is similar to a technique Zuko used to free Azula from Katara's waterbending hold in "The Crossroads of Destiny".
- The markings on the forehead of the fire lion turtle are identical to those on the head of the lion turtle who gave Aang the ability to energybend.
- Zuckerman derived the theme that plays during Wan's interactions with the lion turtle from the leitmotif associated with the lion turtle that Aang encounters.
- Gonzalez, Maricela (October 9, 2013). Steve Yeun of 'The Walking Dead' to join 'Korra' panel at NY Comic-Con, plus look at first Avatar – EXCLUSIVE. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on October 11, 2013.
- Schick, Michal (July 19, 2013). The Legend of Korra at San Diego Comic Con – live blog!. Hypable.com. Retrieved on August 4, 2014.
- DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Zuckerman, Jeremy & Wynn, Benjamin (July 1, 2014). "Beginnings, Part 1" commentary. Book Two: Spirits Blu-ray.
- DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Zuckerman, Jeremy & Wynn, Benjamin (July 1, 2014). "Beginnings, Part 2" commentary. Book Two: Spirits Blu-ray.
Co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino posted three entries to his story blog that detail the process of writing the premise, outline, and script of an episode of The Legend of Korra, using "Beginnings, Part 1" as an example: