Avatar: The Legend of Korra – 09

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“Out of the Past”

Damn, things sure move fast in this series, don’t they?  It’s certainly a marked difference to the first series, which spent much more time on world-building and character development in the first season.  There are pluses and minuses to each approach – the major drawback to Korra’s pacing being that I feel nowhere near the buy-in with these characters that I did with the first cast.  Of course the payoff is that there’s never a dull moment, and things are constantly happening.  Plots are resolved quickly (is that it for Tarlok already?) and we move on.

Resolve and move on we did this week, with extreme prejudice.  It was long past time that Korra explored her connections to the past, and so she did – from the dungeon where Tarlok was keeping her prisoner in a steel cage.  But while that was happening we also had rogue cop/Tony Stark Lin Beifong, ripping her badge off and leading a posse to find the Avatar and free her friends.  And Tarlok shows that he learned the lesson of the post-911 decade well – when you do something evil, just blame the terrorists.  While he admittedly did a pretty good job faking Korra’s “abduction by Equalists” I have to say I’m a bit disappointed that the good guys continue to be suckered by the bad guys so easily.  Certainly Tenzin and Lin should have been a lot more suspicious of Tarlok than that.

While Lin, Tenzin, Asami and the Bending Brothers chase wild geese to the Equalists hideout below the city, the main event is happening in that steel cage in the mountains somewhere.  Both threads are pretty good – Lin certainly proves herself an astonishingly badass bender, “seeing” through her feet very nearly as well as her mother did.  And Mako’s obsession with finding Korra is showing the handwriting on the wall to Asami in pretty uncertain terms.  As for Bolin, alas, he still gets little to do besides be comic relief (it’s my hope that he gets a Sokka-like arc, but I’m skeptical based on what I’ve seen so far).

The A ticket is Korra’s vision though, because that’s where we see the adult Aang (D.B. Sweeney), Sokka (world-class geek Chris Hardwick, very funny here) and Toph (anime dub veteran Kate Higgins).  We also meet a hood named Yakone (Clancy Brown, Avatar’s Long Feng and Bosco).  He’s a key figure here, because in Korra’s vision it’s Yakone that Aang and Toph are trying to bring down, as he’s the crime boss making Republic City all icky.  And as he turns out, he has the mysterious ability to bloodbend at any time except during the full moon – and it’s in convincing Chief Justice Sokka of this that Yakone is convicted.  But he turns on his bloodbending and escapes, and it’s only when Aang goes into spirit mode that he’s able to resist and eventually capture Yakone.  This is a terrific scene, especially as it features the retooled music from the original series.

Now, you’d probably guessed the connection between Yakone and Tarlok by this point – Tarlok is Yakone’s son, trying to rule Republic City via the centers of power rather than the underworld.  But of much more interest is the connection between Amon and Aang.  For you see, Aang takes away Yakone’s bending powers permanently.  We knew Aang had energybending of course, but the parallel to Amon is inescapable – especially when Amon arrives at the stronghold where Korra is being held prisoner.  He dispatches Tarlok fairly easily and energybends his bending powers away, in the process proving semi-resistant to bloodbending.  How is that possible, you say?  Darn good question, I say.  Amon didn’t exactly “rescue” Korra – he intended to take her as his own prisoner – but he certainly caused her to be freed. 

Amon, in the first place, is easily the most interesting figure in Korra so far.  He gets the best lines off here – “I am the solution.”  And to Tarlok, “It’s time for you to be equalized.”  Where Tarlok is an obvious and flat-out villain, Amon is an anti-hero – someone who professes to pursue a noble goal.  Most importantly (well, apart from being voiced by Steve Blum) I think Bryke are strongly hinting at a direct connection between he and Aang.  After all, they’re the only two people we’ve seen energybend – which is the primordial form of bending, after all – and I’m pretty damn sure I saw him airbending when Korra flung the snow at him.  He’s an anti-bending crusader who’s also a powerful bender.  He’s had several chances to energybend Korra and declined.  He’s a contradictory, mysterious figure – is the man in the mask always fated to be compelling in the Avatar universe?

Certainly Korra is still at the center of the series.  Her love triangle is messier than ever (Asami may as well give up) and it’s her journey that we’ll be following, just as it was Aang’s.   But it was Zuko who had the most compelling and far-reaching arc in the old show, and I wonder if it will be Amon here.  It’s his situation – his identity, his motives, his true nature – that fascinate me far more than anything else about this series at the moment.  Tarlok was a distraction, an arc – but it seems as if Amon will be an oppositional figure (and perhaps much more) for the duration of the series.

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  1. C

    I'm still holding out hope for a Bolin character arc too. Also, DAT LOVE TRIANGLE.

  2. K

    At this point I definitely agree with you: Korra's strong point is definitely it's plot not it's characters. And the plot and the political/historical similarities to are world are excellent

    Though oddly enough I wasn't a fan of Ozai at all in Avatar but I am loving Amon so that's a plus.

    In general besides Korra I think Tenzin & Lin are more interesting than Mako, Bolin, and Asami. I mean I do like Mako, Bolin & Asami but I don't believe in their closeness like I did with the original gaang.

    And I think what I really miss is a great relationship like Zuko/Iroh or the parallels between Aang/Zuko. That is probably what really sold me on Avatar.

  3. L

    In terms of characters I perfer the original gang and it also helped there were more episodes that focused on developing their closeness (fillers can be awesome when done right) As much as I loved the gang it was Zuko character that made me come back over and over again.
    The plot for Korra is amazing but I guess to have something great something needs to be lost which is character development =( Regardless I still think Korra is interesting in her own way along with Tenzin and Lin but I hope there are some episode dedicated to building up the other three.
    I hope we see Zuko soon…..

  4. K

    inb4 Amon has mechanical limbs, thus allowing him to resist bloodbending.

    I was expecting Tarlock to have ties with the equalists. To have Tarlock removed so quickly seems abrupt, considering the amount of build-up he was given. I wish there would be more to Tarlock than just wanting power. His plan to control Republic City by manipulating people to grant him power was rather impressive (Emperor Palpatine, anyone?). He played many of the characters quite well, and exploited Korra's hotheadedness and naivety rather impressively.

    The plot is definitely much stronger than the characters atm. Although we have to keep in mind the first Avatar had ~60 episodes for character development and plot, whereas Korra only has 26. Even in the first Avatar, the characters weren't fully developed even by the end of the first season. It's natural to compare the two, but I don't think it's fair to judge Korra entirely by TLA standards.

  5. A

    I saw an ultra air-scooter performed by Aang.

  6. N

    On Bolin: I heard that the authors said that Bolin will get a serious arc (most likely in Book 2) so I think we can be optimistic.

    Anyway, I don't think we are done with Tarrlok&Yakone. Not only do we still need to find out how Yakone and Tarrlok can bloodbend whenever they want, but lets remember that 2 of the 3 flashback attempts happened near Amon, not Tarrlok.
    And since Yakone is connected to Tarrlok, than Amon is probably also connected to Tarrlok. I am also interested on why he wasted time putting Tarrlok onto the truck rather than just leave him where he is.

    Also Amon was hit by Bloodbending but somehow managed to resist and nullify it. It is not impossible that he himself is also secretly a Bloodbender (which is how he resisted it) connected to Yakone. I am still holding to my theory that Amon and Tarrlok might be brothers (tough not on friendly terms).

    Unconnected to all that, Amon's crusade is proven pointless: Yakone was "unbended" 40 years ago and Tarrlok was born 3 years after with Yakone's Bending abilities. So unbending doesn't seem to stop Bender genes from being inherited.

  7. J

    Damn, I gotta give it to them, despite some flaws in narrative here and there, Korra has had a solid presentation throughout the series. Seriously, impressive stuff. I don't think I heard/read someone say this before, but I'm loving the sound design and its quality. not voice acting – I mean steps, armor clings and clangs, and *quality* of recorded voices. Music to my ears!

    This episode had cool moments left and right, even Bolin had his moment to shine bending! The only thing that spoiled this for me is that almost every episode must end with a happy, solid closed ending…Leave us with more cliffhangers guys! Maybe Korra gets lost in the snowy mountains until an elder finds her, while back in Republic City Amon is doing his own stuff…This story has all that's needed for some great storylines. I hope we get to that soon!

  8. D

    Kept hearing Mr. Krabs in Yakone oops.

    Also that bloodbending scene between Aang and Yakone was terrifying, just watching him twist Aang's limbs and nearly snapping his neck. Same thing with Tarrlok lowering Korra into the cellar with restraining her with bloodbending; my brother told me it reminded him of Saw when he first viewed it. Just, wow, bloodbending it even more frightening than when it was first presented.

    And Nayrael brings up a point that I'd been mulling over after watching this episode; non-benders can still have bending children, and even if one is de-bended, they are not subject to their children only being non-benders. Bending might become more rare as a result of Amon's actions, but if they are still able to be born, then there is no stopping benders from being a part of the world. And all Amon will have succeeded in doing is creating the first war instigated by non-benders.

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