It takes a lot for me to forgive the ending of the Aang/Ozai battle in the Avatar finale. Of my complaints against the finale (of which there are few, but they are large), the reveal that the Avatar can take away a person’s bending abilities is the largest. Coming in out of nowhere, after having spent two of the four parts of the finale essentially realising that Aang has to kill Ozai, thanks to a philosophical debate about whether such an act was justified that similarly came out of nowhere (I have some pacing issues with Book 3), it felt like a giant arse-pull designed to get around the slight problem of not being able to kill a character on kids’ TV. It took me out of the fight so much that I choose to ignore it entirely in my memories and have instead made the outcome of Azula and Zuko’s agni-kai the real emotional climax of that series, in my mind. I didn’t believe show creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko for a second when they claimed that such an outcome was always written into the show bible, because it came off so much as Nickelodeon telling them that they could not kill the villain and them scrambling to write around it at the last minute.
Maybe I should have believed them, because permanently wiping away a bender’s ability to control the elements just became Amon’s trump card with his plan being to forcibly wipe away every single bender’s powers. And, ladies and gentlemen, in the space of 17 minutes, The Legend Of Korra has managed to make me forgive that plot decision in the Avatar finale almost totally. I am willing to forgive how shoddily such a giant mythology addition was thrown into that finale if it’s now going to be a vital part of this show’s universe and done in such a fantastic way. I’m sorry for ever doubting you, DiMartino and Konietzko! Can you find it in your hearts to forgive me for my error of judgement?
The best villains almost always have some degree of truth attached to them. The kind of truth where they make valid points and you can see where they’re coming from, but it’s the extremity of the methods that pushes you to root against them. When Amon is speaking about how many of those privileged enough to be benders, which is something genetic (oh, man, the depths that this entire plotline could go! I love it), end up using their powers for crime and how all wars across all ages were caused by benders, you realise that he has a point. When he relates how a firebender cut down his family in front of him when they refused to be extorted anymore, you sympathise with him. When he reveals that he can take away a person’s ability to bend for good, demonstrates using a mob boss and pledges to use his power on all benders, you turn on him faster than most people turned on The Newsroom. Sure, maybe the punishment fits the crime in some respects, but all benders? Not every bender is evil or misuses their powers and it is at that point you realise that Amon and The Equalists are too far gone to be able to support in good conscience. But, for those few minutes beforehand, you’re eating out of Amon’s hand. Phenomenal work there from the script and Steve Blum’s voice work.
Of course, other stuff happened this episode that didn’t involve setting up the villains and their overall goal (although I’d class that stuff as pretty damn big). For one, it’s time to rescue Mako from the scrappy heap! Now, I’m still not fully warm towards him (the blatant ship teasing in this episode is one of two things stopping me from busting out the A grade), but I feel far more favourable towards him than I was last week now that he has a real personality of sorts. His backstory is appropriately tragic enough to make me feel sympathetic towards him (though I may be confusing those feelings with the ones towards Bolin instead), he gets to trade some barbs with Korra, he’s fiercely protective of his brother, he loves having money. None of these traits are particularly distinctive but they go a long way towards making him more three-dimensional instead of just the Designated Love Interest. There’s still a ways to go before I decide that I like him on a par with the rest of the cast, but this is a good step in the right direction.
The power to take away bending was not the only link between shows to crop up in this half hour as the chi-blockers return, being the driving muscle behind The Equalists, which led to a great set of martial arts sequences. They make a nice change-up visually than just having two people fling elements at each other and it’s good to see how else The Equalists will be terrorising Republic City in the episodes to come. Plus, and I don’t think that I can mention this enough, the animation on this show is frakkin’ gorgeous and any opportunity for it to be shown off should be welcomed. We also met Korra’s version of Momo in the form of Pabu, who’s appropriately cute and has already established a fun rapport with Naga, and we got a great chase sequence that seemed custom built to show just how far the CG/hand-drawn integration has come in the years since Avatar ended, almost never becoming as extremely conspicuous as in that earlier show, the transition being that smooth.
And I didn’t even mention how Bolin is already turning out to be the best (the dude taught Pabu to perform circus tricks and, even when he was shot down by Mako, went out and used that to try and raise money on the street anyway), or how the mass public support that The Equalists have actually makes them and the movement far more terrifying in my eyes (as an ex-student of History, I find extremist groups with mass public support to be some of the scariest things on the planet) or how Tenzin’s children continue to be the perfect comic relief. On episode three, Korra is strutting about with the confidence and quality of a show in its third season and if this is how good the show is now, then I can only image where we can go from there!
Once again, I’m going through this blind but I appreciate that almost all of you have already seen this season and may want to start discussions about it in the comments. So, if you want to talk about or allude to events that happen later on in the season, please put them in spoiler tags. Thanks in advance!
- The other thing holding this episode back from an A grade? No Lin Beifong. You can’t introduce Toph Beifong’s daughter in the pilot and then not use her for two of your twelve episodes, Korra! That sh*t is just not fair, gorram it!
- Why yes, I do prefer my shows with 100% less shipping, how’d you guess? And it is absolutely not due to me still being bitter about 1×362 never becoming official in Codename: Kids Next Door. Absolutely not. I’m over that. Really.
- The Previously On’s are still being done in the style of a 1930’s newsreel. I still continue to be filled with joy at this fact.
- Book 2 premieres in America in September, as revealed at Comic Con, which, co-incidentally, is around about when this season finishes on UK TV. HOPEFULLY, this means that Book 2 will be shown in the UK within days of the American airing. If, however, that turns out to be the wishful thinking that it most likely is, then I will simply watch it online on a weekly basis like everyone else on the planet does. It is 2013, TV networks, there is no excuse for this bullshit anymore.
- Nickelodeon UK’s Attempt To Undercut The Drama Of Korra This Week: Victoria Justice’s mug kept popping up at inopportune times to plug a show that wasn’t going to start for another hour. No, really. And the Korra webgame plug during Korra’s conversation with Tenzin at the end of the episode took up more of the screen than usual. Still no credits pushback but these pugs are getting out of hand. You have ad time for a reason, Nickelodeon! Use it!
- Korra is not a fan of training in the morning. “The morning is evil.”
- That entire scene with Bolin and Pabu street-performing was hysterical. He is a more than worthy replacement for Sokka!
- Korra catapulting Tenzin’s daughters into the sky after they make fun of her supposed crush on Mako, though, was even better. I actually had to pause and rewind the episode because I ended up missing some dialogue due to laughing so much at it.
- Mako is finally introduced to Naga, Korra’s best friend. “Your best friend… is a polar bear dog. Somehow, that makes perfect sense.” “I’ll take that as a compliment, city boy.”
- Skoochy extorting Mako for money makes it two for two on comic relief kids who weren’t annoying little sh*ts. Korra is getting damn good at this.
- “No Naga! Pabu’s a friend, not a snack!” If I’m not mistaken, that’s a call back to Momo and Appa’s first interaction in Avatar, right?
- Korra needs to come up with better alibis. “What are you doing back here?” “Uh… Looking for the bathroom?”
- Bolin is more than ecstatic to be rescued. “Yes, Mako! I love you!”
- “Let her go. She’s the perfect messenger to tell the city of my power.”