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This article is about the episode from Book Two: Spirits. For the light display that appears in the South Pole, see spirit lights.
"Opening the spirit portal was only the first step in getting the Southern Water Tribe back on its righteous path. There's more difficult work to be done before our two tribes are truly united."
Unalaq to Korra.

"The Southern Lights" is the second episode of Book Two: Spirits of The Legend of Korra and the 14th episode of the overall series. It first aired alongside "Rebel Spirit" on Nickelodeon on September 13, 2013.


Korra begins her spiritual training under Unalaq. The first step of this training is to travel to the South Pole and open up the spirit portal residing deep within the area. Mako, Bolin, Tonraq, Desna, and Eska come along as well. Tensions between Korra and her father grow as she discovers the truth about his relocation to the Southern Water Tribe.


A dark spirit manifests itself outside the Southern Water Tribe. Meanwhile, in Wolf Cove, Korra meets with and begins training under Unalaq. He tells her that her training will be much more than learning how to fight spirits, and that the first step is to travel to the South Pole and open the spirit portal. However, he warns her that it will be very dangerous, but Korra remains enthusiastic about the trip.

Southern Air Temple gardens

Bumi, Kya, Tenzin, and his family arrive at the Southern Air Temple.

Meanwhile, Tenzin and his family arrive at the Southern Air Temple, where they are greeted by the Air Acolytes leader, Abbot Shung, who presents Tenzin with an airbender head shaver and Pema with a large bouquet of flowers. Jinora and Ikki get into a fight over a book, even though the latter does not like to read. Meelo picks out a flying lemur for himself, naming him Poki, and chases after him. As for Kya and Bumi, they ask for help with their luggage. A female Air Acolyte mistakes them for servants, before they introduce themselves as Tenzin's older siblings. Surprised to learn that Aang had more children, the Acolyte asks if they are also airbenders, which Kya denies, much to the woman's embarrassment and Kya and Bumi's annoyance.

Back in Wolf Cove, Mako is helping Korra with her preparations for the expedition to the South Pole when Tonraq shows up. When Unalaq inquires about the reason for his older brother's presence, Tonraq announces that he is coming along to the South Pole. Unalaq refuses, deeming his brother to be a distraction and a hindrance, though Tonraq insists that she needs someone to watch after her. Korra asks her father why he always believes to know what is best for her, and Unalaq answers that it is because he is misguided. Unalaq blames men with nonspiritual attitudes like Tonraq for bringing the Spirit World out of balance and Tonraq for not having learned from the past. When Korra asks what happened in the past, Tonraq dismisses her inquiry and brings everyone's attention to the Everstorm they would be facing, noting that it is the reason why he is adamant about joining their mission. Before the tense situation can escalate further, it is interrupted by Bolin, who rides in on a snowmobile procured from Varrick. Korra eventually decisively breaks the conflict between her father and uncle by declaring that Tonraq can come as long as he does not interfere with her training.

Bolin drives Desna and Eska

Bolin, thinking he would give Eska a lift, gets stuck driving both siblings.

Eska walks up to Bolin and asks if his machine's passenger compartment can hold two people. Eager to impress her, Bolin asks who will drive, though he finds himself the driver while the twins are in the passenger seat, to his chagrin. Mako attempts to smugly comment, but Bolin tells his brother to go away.

Unalaq explains that their destination is a spirit portal for Korra to open. He also explains that there are light and dark spirits. He explains that when spirits become unbalanced, the darkness takes over. With the winter solstice the next day, it is imperative that the Avatar reach it before it is over.

The group notices that dark spirits are stalking them, so they set up camp in a cave-like area. After the group gets a fire going, Unalaq says that he believes that he knows the reasons why the dark spirits are after them. He pins the blame on Tonraq. He asks Korra if she had ever wondered how her father ended up in the south or why he never took her to visit his homeland in the north. Tonraq is upset with his brother revealing his past, to which Unalaq retorts that he should have long since told his daughter the truth. Tonraq is subsequently forced to confess that he left the North Pole because he was banished.

The destroyed northern spirit forest

Tonraq's men escort the captured barbarians from the destroyed spirit forest.

Tonraq reveals to the party that when he was younger, he had been the general of the military in the Northern Water Tribe. The tribe was being attacked by barbarians at the time when he and his troops responded with a counterattack. His efforts were so successful, he was able to rout the barbarians to a sacred spiritual forest. Refusing to let the barbarians gain sanctuary on hallowed ground, Tonraq and his troops initiate an assault on the troops, while destroying the sacred forest in the process. The spirits turned hostile after the destruction of their habitat and attacked Agna Qel'a, but Unalaq was able to use spiritbending to guide the spirits back to the forest and turn them neutral. However, since Tonraq was responsible for the attack in the first place, his father banished him from the Northern Water Tribe. Tonraq accepted his fate and left to pursue a new life in the South.

With the story at an end, Bolin notes that Tonraq was supposed to be the tribal chief, only for Unalaq to take his place, which would explain the animosity between them. Mako gives his brother a hard nudge in the gut to shut him up, after which Korra voices her displeasure toward Tonraq for having kept this from her. Tonraq defends that he wanted only to protect her from the shame he had brought on the family. Korra angrily retorts that she has had enough of his protection and secrecy and storms off.

Jinora looking at Aang's statue

Jinora is intrigued by Aang's statue at the Southern Air Temple's sanctuary.

Meanwhile, Tenzin shows Jinora the hall of Avatar statues. However, Meelo and Ikki are preoccupied racing each other on air scooters, resulting in the boy crashing into a statue and accidentally destroying it, prompting Tenzin to tend to him. Jinora looks up the statue of Aang, being intrigued by it. However, she suddenly senses something behind her, though as she flips around, there is no one there.

Back in the south, as the group continues on their way, Tonraq tells Korra that she has a right to be angry with him. He confesses that he does not want her to repeat his mistakes and insists they cease this quest, claiming that the physical and Spirit World are meant to remain separate. Korra reminds him that the Avatar is the bridge between both worlds and she has this chance to live up to her potential. Her father, however, insists that Unalaq may not be right about the spirits. His brother interjects, stating that the northern lights are spirits lighting up the night sky, but the southern lights are absent. Due to the Hundred Year War, the South was thrown out of balance. The Northern Water Tribe has helped the South rebuild physically, but it lacks spirituality, hence the dark spirits' rampage.

Dark spirits attack

Dark spirits attack the group.

The group arrives at the Everstorm. Suddenly, they are attacked by dark spirits, which steal their supplies, as well as cause Bolin's snowmobile to go haywire and send him and the twins speeding toward a mountain. Tonraq and Korra fight off the spirits and during the fight, she attempts to use Unalaq's spiritbending but it fails to work. Unalaq is able to save her when the spirit came close to harming her. Meanwhile, the twins leap off the snowmobile with Bolin, saving him. They slide down the slope, Bolin's coat inflating while the twins slide down on ice shoes. Once they slow to a stop, Eska waterbends ice to deflate Bolin. With their supplies gone, Tonraq insists they turn back. However, Korra coldly tells him to leave. Tonraq heeds Korra's advice and leaves the party.

Southern Water Tribe spirit portal

Korra arrives at the South Pole, the location of the locked spirit portal.

Shortly afterward, the group keeps on traveling and reaches the Everstorm. Unalaq tells Korra that inside the frozen spirit forest is the spirit portal, and that she must open it again so that the South will become spiritually balanced once again. However, he says that Korra must do it alone despite Mako and Bolin's protests. Korra heads in and is attacked by dark spirits. She struggles to fight them off, but succeeds in trapping them behind ice. She reaches the portal, and attempts to open it by force using her bending, only to fail. She is attacked by a large number of dark spirits which grab and restrain her. She enters the Avatar State in a desperate attempt to break free. While pulling away, she taps the portal and it opens, causing the sky to light up. At the same time, Jinora finds an Avatar statue that is different from the others which lights up, causing her to wonder which one it is.

Northern ships at the South

Unalaq's troops arrive at the Southern Water Tribe.

Tonraq, who is heading home, smiles as Korra heads out of the Everstorm. Bolin embraces her, only for Eska to waterbend ice around his neck and drag him toward her, demanding to know why he is initiating physical contact with another woman. Korra turns to Unalaq, remarking that everything he said was true. Her uncle commends her for her actions, stating that what she has done will help restore spiritual balance to the south and maybe the whole world. Korra turns to hug Mako, whom is equally pleased that she has succeeded. The group travels back where they see Northern Water Tribe fleets gathering at the Southern Water Tribe's shores. Unalaq tells her that the South's spiritual decay cannot be cured simply by opening the source, which leaves Korra worried.


  • Additional voices:
    • Jeff Bennett
    • Dee Bradley Baker
    • J. K. Simmons

Production notes[]


Main article: Transcript:The Southern Lights
Main article: Transcript:The Southern Lights (commentary)

Series continuity[]

Character revelations[]

  • Tonraq was originally from the Northern Water Tribe and next in-line to be chief, but was banished because he destroyed a spirit forest, which resulted in dark spirit attacks.
  • Bolin dislikes ghost stories.
  • According to Jinora, Ikki does not like to read.


  • When Tenzin and his family arrive at the Southern Air Temple and are greeted by the Air Acolytes, Pema's eye color changes.
  • One of the two Acolytes carrying the box with gifts to greet Tenzin's family wears a tunic without sleeves. However, when Meelo jumps atop Abbot Shung, the Acolyte is wearing long sleeves and when the scene changes to a side-shot, the Acolyte is wearing short sleeves.
  • When Meelo loses grip of the flying lemur and jumps off on his air scooter, the box between the two Air Acolytes disappears, leaving one of the Air Acolytes without lower legs.
  • When Bolin comes to join the group during Tonraq and Unalaq's argument, Korra's sleeves become full length gloves, though in the next shot, her fingers are bare again.
  • While Desna and Eska are eating at the group's campsite, the twins' sleeves are pulled back, exposing their bare arms. When the scene switches to another point of view, their arms are covered by their inner sleeves as usual.
  • When Desna and Eska are sitting in the sidecar, Desna is on the inside while Eska is on the outside. However, when Bolin loses control of the machine, Eska is on the inside of the car when they save him from crashing.
  • While riding the snowmobile, Desna and Eska have their hoods up, though when they grab Bolin and jump out of the uncontrollable machine, they are down.
  • When Eska confronts Bolin after he makes physical contact with Korra, her makeup is gone.
  • When Korra speaks with Mako after opening the spirit portal, the insignia on her parka changes color.
  • After Unalaq tells Korra what plans he has in store for the south, Naga's eyes change color from brown to blue.