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This article is about the third episode of Book Two: Spirits. For other similar uses, see Civil war (disambiguation).
"Look, we all know where this conflict is heading. We need to start preparing for war."
Varrick to Tonraq.

"Civil Wars, Part 1" is the third episode of Book Two: Spirits of The Legend of Korra and the 15th episode of the overall series. It aired on Nickelodeon on September 20, 2013.


Korra tries to remain neutral as tensions flare between the Northern and Southern Water Tribes. However, things are complicated when the Southerners are talking about preparing for war and a group of rebels try to kidnap Unalaq. Meanwhile, at the Southern Air Temple, Tenzin, Bumi, and Kya all search for Ikki who has ran away after being teased by her siblings.


In the Southern Water Tribe capital of Wolf Cove, many troops from the Northern Water Tribe march through the streets, telling the citizens of the South to return to their homes. When the Southerners in the street stand there and glare at the soldiers, the Northern waterbenders make short barriers of ice and push the civilians out of the way, while other waterbenders in their battleships form large walls of ice around the harbor.

At this time, Unalaq is explaining to Korra that his soldiers are there to protect the now-open spirit portal at the South Pole. He also informs Korra of another spirit portal at the North Pole that can be opened, allowing both spirits and humans to pass from one pole to another at will. Seeing the potential to reunite the tribes, Korra favors the idea.

Meanwhile, at the Southern Air Temple, Tenzin and Pema are relaxing while Kya is sitting on a rock, feeding lemurs. Bumi shows up in his underwear, ruining his brother's relaxation. Tenzin brings up how this reminds them on when they would vacation with their father as kids. Kya and Bumi rebuff this, stating that they were not there. Tenzin beings up more instances, which are all rebuffed. Tenzin, his elder brother, and sister are suddenly bickering about how Aang had spent much more time with Tenzin rather than with Bumi or Kya. Tenzin assures them that he could have sworn they joined them on their vacations, but is soon interrupted by Jinora and Meelo, who have been riding around on air scooters. Pema soon realizes that Ikki is nowhere to be found and chastises her eldest daughter and son for teasing Ikki and causing her to run off. Tenzin is determined to find Ikki and reluctantly lets Kya and Bumi accompany him.

Southern Water Tribe meeting

A meeting is held in Tonraq and Senna's home to discuss the actions of the North and the possibility of civil war.

In Tonraq and Senna's home, there is a meeting regarding the recent activities of the Northern soldiers. Varrick and other Southern waterbenders are determined to start a rebellion against the Northern Water Tribe for not letting them live in peace and live their own customs and views, despite Korra's attempt to explain Unalaq's actions. Tonraq tells Korra that she must talk to her uncle to put a stop to the civil war that is stirring between their tribes.

In the streets of Wolf Cove, Bolin is pulling a cart carrying Desna and Eska, while the twins discuss their hatred for the South. As the three and Pabu arrive at their destination, Bolin sarcastically comments to Eska that he will miss her when she is gone, but much to his dismay, Eska reveals her plan to move back to the North with Bolin, where they will live together in "icy bliss". Bolin decides it would be best to break up with her after receiving Mako's counseling.

Korra and Unalaq

Korra goes to talk with Unalaq about the upset Southerners.

Korra confronts Unalaq and tells him that a lot of Southerners feel like their tribe is being invaded and that there could be a civil war. Unalaq explains that a civil war would further disrupt the balance between both tribes, the rest of the world and the spirits. Unalaq assures her that only the Avatar can prevent the war between them all and reunite them as one tribe, but Korra is not so sure.

Meanwhile, in the streets, passing Northern Water Tribe soldiers become agitated when three native children drop snowballs on them, and the soldiers waterbend the children off the roof in retaliation. Adult Southern waterbenders intervene, causing a standoff, until Korra arrives and attempts to alleviate the situation. Seeing this, they accuse Korra of siding with the North and a young waterbender girl throws a snowball and calls her "the worst Avatar ever". Realizing his daughter is having no success, Tonraq arrives and settles the matter by telling the Southern benders to return to their homes. He attempts to talk to Korra, but she storms away on Naga.

Kya chiding Tenzin

Kya chides Tenzin for being the same kind of father Aang was: someone who made too little time for his children.

Back at the air temple, Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi are searching for Ikki, though in vain. Kya points out that Tenzin is not spending enough time with his children because he is too busy with his other duties, similar to how their own father had been. Tenzin walks away to avoid the subject, as Kya mentions the fact that they did not have a perfect childhood, despite what Tenzin believes.

In the Southern Water Tribe, Korra approaches Mako, explaining her frustrations with her Avatar duties. Mako responds by suggesting that she forget about everything for the time being and that they have a nice dinner. However, the dinner ends up being quite awkward, since Bolin, Desna, and Eska join them. As soon as the twins go to get some food, Bolin confesses that he could not break up with Eska due to her threatening to freeze him in a block of ice and feed him to dolphin piranhas.

Returning to Ikki's search party, Bumi is telling a story from when he was in the United Forces, though Tenzin does not believe his tale. Tenzin doubts that it can help him, while Bumi replies it is supposed to inspire them. The three come across a large waterfall, and Bumi starts climbing down rather than taking the path, insisting that it will be faster. Tenzin and Kya do not trust that it will be easy, though after Bumi challenges them, they easily reach the bottom using their respective bending abilities. They tease Bumi in turn, saying that he had been right by saying descending the waterfall was faster, though grow worried when he slips and falls, hitting his head on the way down. 

Korra saves Unalaq

Korra catches up with the masked man who kidnapped Unalaq.

At the Southern Water Tribe, Korra runs into her mother, Senna, who asks how she feels about the tensions between their two tribes, and specifically between her and her father. Korra tries to explain that all she had ever really wanted was to be the Avatar and that she is still furious with her father for having lied to her about his banishment and about his and Tenzin's keeping her confined in the Southern Water Tribe as a child. Senna tries to assure Korra that she and Tonraq merely wanted her to live a normal life until Korra was ready to fulfill her duties as the Avatar. Korra insists that she cannot standby and let their tribes go to war. Senna reminds her that the North and South have been at odds for decades before she was born and she cannot expect to undo them in a day. Korra storms off angrily, ready to stop the growing rebellion Varrick is leading, of which she believes her father is a part. When she arrives at Unalaq's residence, she sees Northern soldiers tied up and rushes to find her uncle, but she sees masked men have taken her uncle captive. After a futile attempt to negotiate with the rebels, Korra chases them, doing everything she can to slow them down without hurting them. She finally catches up to the man who she thinks is her father, but it turns out he is not and her father did not actually join the rebellion. Korra convinces Unalaq to give the rebels a fair trial rather than throwing them and Varrick in jail.

Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi argue

Tensions rise between Kya, Tenzin, and Bumi.

Meanwhile, Kya is busy healing Bumi of his injury, while explaining to him that he cannot do everything a bender can, but he immediately objects, reminding Kya that she is not his mother. The three continue to bicker about Kya moving all over the world, Tenzin going on vacation with Aang, and Bumi acting immature. Kya brings up that she was the one who moved to the South Pole to comfort Katara after Aang died. Tenzin, fed up with the conversation, finally tells his siblings to check for Ikki back at the temple and continues looking by himself.

Korra approaches her parents and apologizes to her father for thinking he was involved with the rebels and for the pain she caused her parents. Tonraq subsequently apologizes for holding Korra back, and Senna reveals her and Tonraq's initial plans to have a normal life, which changed when they found out Korra was the Avatar. Senna stated that they had always knew that there would come a day when the world needed Korra and Korra would no longer need them. However, Korra denies it, claiming that she would always need them and gives her parents a hug. But their family moment is interrupted, as Unalaq enters the hut with several Northern soldiers and arrests Tonraq and Senna for allegedly plotting against him, much to Korra's surprise.


  • Additional voices:
    • Jeff Bennett
    • Dee Bradley Baker
    • Kiernan Shipka
    • Keone Young
    • Nolan North

Production notes[]


Main article: Transcript:Civil Wars, Part 1
Main article: Transcript:Civil Wars, Part 1 (commentary)

Series continuity[]


  • When Kya snaps at Tenzin that she was the only one who moved to live with Katara after Aang died, the piece of her hair behind her ear is colored the same as her skin.
  • After Tenzin tells Kya and Bumi to return to the temple, they walk off to the left, while he continues to the right. However, he should have been the one to walk to the left, since the path to the right leads back up the waterfall, which they descended in order to follow Ikki's footprints.


  • The episode title is a double entendre regarding both the Water Tribe Civil War and the divide between Tenzin and his family.[1]
  • Meelo's commenting on Bumi's stomach was based on a similar situation between Bryan Konietzko's nephew and father.[1]
  • When acting out Desna and Eska's chortling, Aaron Himelstein and Aubrey Plaza's direction from the script was simply "weird, bizarre laughter".[1]
  • The creators wanted to have a larger riot between the Southern Water Tribe citizenry and Northern Water Tribe soldiers compared to the scattered, smaller incidents depicted in the episode, but were unable to given the limitations on the show's production.[1]
  • Korra subduing the rebels by wrapping them up with nearby objects was inspired by the action sequences of films starring Jackie Chan.[1]
  • The moment where Kya and Tenzin descend the cliff using their bending came from the network asking Michael Dante DiMartino to include more bending in the episode, with DiMartino enjoying the opportunity to show more non-martial examples of bending.[1]