Avatar: The Legend of Korra – 04

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I believe NOAA has issued a shipping forecast calling for choppy seas ahead…

This post is full of spoilers about this week’s Korra episode, so beware before reading.

Well, the last three minutes of that episode were certainly the most interesting – especially this 10-second stretch – but the rest of it was pretty good too, so we’ll work out way up to that.  On balance I think this was the best episode of Korra so far, with our cast growing quite a bit larger and the nature of the political situation in Republic City clarifying itself quite a bit.  There was a good deal of movement on the personal side of things too, though where that leaves us is still very much open to debate.

In very general terms, Korra is dealing with a crisis of confidence (and rightfully so) after her frightening encounter with Amon.  I can’t blame her – for an Avatar, somebody who can take away bending permanently has to be about the scariest guy in the universe. This kind of thing hasn’t been the strength of the series so far, as the emotional crises of the characters have been painted with a very broad brush (perhaps with the timeslot in mind) but this at least feels natural, even if Janet Varney’s performance still doesn’t.  Stepping in to make things worse is Councilman Tarrlok (animation vet Dee Bradley Baker) the Waterbending representative (with the Romulan name) on the council and a sleazy guy who sees Amon as his ticket to political stardom, and Korra as his ticket to taking out Amon in a way the press will love.  He strong-arms the council into forming task force to take out The Equalists, and eventually goads Korra into joining by having his dogs in the media call her out as a coward publicly – all of this happening much to the displeasure of Tenzin.

Things are also looking complicated on the personal side of things, thanks to the introduction of Asami Sato (Seychelle Gabriel) the rich and seductive beauty who almost runs over Mako with her moped.  She’s the daughter of the most successful businessman in town, barrel-chested Hiroshi Sato (Daniel Dae Kim) inventor of the “Satomobile” (which is a cool car and a cute name).  Both seem nice enough, but Asami definitely sets her claws into Mako straight away – spinning her near manslaughter into an invitation to Mako to join her at the snooty Kwong’s Cuisine, and getting her Pops to sponsor the Fire Ferrets in the pro bending tournament. 

I suppose it was never likely that the relationship paradigm would be as obvious and effortless as it looked early on, but Asemi feels to me like an obstacle to Korra and Mako’s pairing, not a threat.  In any case he’s certainly interested, and why not – she’s rich and beautiful.  Korra makes it very clear by her jealous pique that she has strong feelings for Mako, and Bolin by his hilariously inept courtship that he has them for Korra.  Alas, it looks as if Mako has two girls who like him and Bolin has none – not so much a love quadrangle as a love triangle and an irrelevant bystander – though I wouldn’t be surprised if Bryke end up pairing Asami with Bolin eventually despite early appearances.  Given that the cast is several years older than in the first series, I would expect the romance side of things to play out more overtly this time around.

As for Korra, she foolishly challenges Amon to a one-on-one throwdown on “Avatar Aang Memorial Island”, and while he doesn’t exactly honor the “one-on-one” part, he certainly shows her that she’s nowhere near ready to take him on. But he doesn’t take her bending, reasoning that by doing so he’d only maker her a martyr of her (and let’s face it, we wouldn’t have much of a show), and telling her he’ll destroy her, but not until his plan is in its final phase.  Instead he humiliates her and knocks her out with a blow to the neck, which if I’m not mistaken, gives Korra her first taste of the Spirit World.  At the very least, she has visions of the past – an adult Toph for sure, what I think is the adult Sokka, and either an adult Aang or a younger Tenzin (given that Korra initially thinks it’s Aang who’s come to rescue her but it’s actually Tenzin, either would seem possible).

The Amon/Equalists angle is still the part of the series I’m finding the most interesting, though the character stuff was definitely better this week.  I saw speculation somewhere (I apologize for forgetting who mentioned it) that Amon might have contracted with Koh, the face stealer from the Spirit World, for the power to nullify bending in exchange for his face.  That sounds a bit too simple to me, but I wouldn’t be the least surprised if Amon’s ability has some sort of Spirit World connection – that’s the only logical way in this mythos I can see where he would have such a power.  Even if he were a bender himself, I’ve never heard of one that can steal the bending of others – except the Avatar, and we already have one of those.  In any case I suspect it’s about time for the links between Korra and the original series to be solidified on screen – possibly via a visit to the Spirit World by Korra.

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  1. J

    Just let Mako keep that woman if he wants (she's probably a spy, anyway) and have Korra realize who the real pimp is. It's funny how everything Bolin does either passes unnoticed by Korra or makes things worse. Gee, talk about being arbitrary…

    Anyway, LOL yes, those 10 seconds were by far the most interesting! I guess it's to be expected: in sequels, Eureka Seven and Darker than Black to name examples, the thing fans want the most is to know what happened to their favorite characters from 'season 1'. I can already see this show's ratings exploding when they air the flashback-episode. And I'm sure it'll be a damn heart-warming one. I predict humor, conspiracies and tragedy.

    It's too bad this show doesn't seem it'll go into deeper waters, though. Characters will most likely remain as flat as they're introduced. Tenzin's the good mentor who really never makes a bad, human-selfish-like move; Korra's innocence and naivety knows no limits; that Toph descendant is the harsh, strict woman but surely has her warm side, so forth and so forth. It's dissapointing, and it makes The Legend of Korra little more than a guilty pleasure. But hey, maybe I'm just comparing everything to Game of Thrones too much.

  2. K

    And as much as I like Game of Thrones I don't think it is as good as people make out either…of course I am biased having read the series a long time ago and know it has plenty of huge faults.

  3. A

    as i live another side of U.S, i have to wait a few hour before i can watched stream online..

    maybe that Sato guy relative to Cabbage guy, jk

  4. A

    Korra pissed me off to no end in this episode. Getting goaded into something stupid from people yelling / questioning them has always been exaggerated in the Avatar series (even Aang did it numerous times).

    She could've just said I don't trust this water-bender councilman enough to join his task-force because oh I don't know? Maybe because he is shady as hell? She isn't even a trained in combat fighter compared to most in this series.

  5. N

    She is Avatar, people expect her to fight and won't care much if she is a trained fighter or not. Avatar is supposed to do his job, both in diplomatic and combat sense (which is why they can bend four elements in the first place). Also, Korra is well trained in combat so thats another reason she can't use that excuse.

    Neither can she say that she distrusts he Councilman because she doesn't distrust him. She didn't originally want to join due to fear of Amon, not because she distrusts the guy.

    Either way, this kind of pressure is often used to force people to do something so it is not exaggerated… and for people with Korra's personality, it is very hard not to fall into its trap.

  6. A

    I know all that, and yes her personality makes it very easy to trick her into it. I just put myself in those situations and I would've been way more logical about it, so it annoys me lol.

  7. f

    She's a sheltered 16 year old girl. She has no idea how to deal with the shady under dealing of politicians.

  8. D

    Anon, just because you would do so doesn't mean that Korra would. She puts on a show of bravado because she thinks that's what people would expect of her, especially because she loves and makes a big deal out of being the avatar herself in the first place. This episode was the first time she really felt the weight of responsibility that her job possesses, and the way she glances upward to look at Aang's statue while waiting for Amon along with her visions of the past (even mistaking Tenzin for Aang) show that she is really trying to live up to his legacy despite her fears. When that failed, she broke down crying in front of Tenzin.

    And let's not forget that Tarrlok's public reputation is quite good. He's well-liked and respected by the public and the counsel (though Tenzin sees right through him), so she can't even say she distrusts him without making herself look bad. It was a situation she was bound to lose.

  9. K

    The character in the flashback was definitely Aang. They said it happened 42 years ago, so I expect Tenzin was just a boy at the time.

    Anyways a great episode..but I was disappointed in Mako caring more about Pro-bending then how Korra might feel in this situation. But I guess the 3 teens are not exactly close yet (not like the Gaang was). At least Bolin made some effort though.

  10. E

    Yeah, I noticed this as well. Tarlock was actually right when he related what is happening with what happened long ago.

  11. t

    Am i the only one who doesnt have a problem with Asami? her profile already told us that she was a big fan of probending, so it makes sense that she was already a fan of the Fire ferrets. Then this guy she bumped into happens to be the captain of the team that she likes so she asks him out on a date. Simple and realistic. I didn't see any of this "gets her claws into mako" idea that you mentioned Enzo, she just genuinely seemed interested.

    I might have gotten a manipulative feeling if she had known about his money problems from the start and offered to cover it during the first date, but everything we see says she was not aware of it until he brought it up. It just seemed like she genuinely interested in him and thus decided to date him and he said yes. i liked how simple it was, even though such fast progression almost certainly means it won't last. Although im certain that Mako and Korra will end up together, (Mike and Bryan are never very subtle with this) the way things played out between Asami and Mako this episode was pleasant and sweet.

  12. I certainly don't have a problem with Asami. It's not impossible that there's more to the story than we know, but I have no reason to think she's not genuinely interested in Mako – I guess "claws" sounded harsher than I intended. I just meant she saw what she liked, and made a grab for it.

  13. D

    Sorry if this is a retarded question, but do I need to watch the first Avatar in order to fully appreciate this show? The animation looks breathtaking and now after skimming this post, I'm intrigued…

  14. Have to? Well – there is quite a bit of assumed knowledge in Korra, I think. But you could probably skate by. Thing is, the first series is so much fun, it's be a shame to skip it.

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