No puttering around in villages of the week for The Legend Of Korra—this sucker is moving. In “The Revelation,” we find out that there are way more Equalists than the city suspected, that chi-blockers are more than capable of taking down the Avatar, and that Amon can energybend. (Maybe? It certainly looked a lot harder, not to mention more glow-y, the only other time we’ve seen it.) This does mean that there’s a lot less room for humor—when I looked at my notes to pick out stray observations, there weren’t nearly as many funny quotes to choose from, and it wasn’t because the jokes were suddenly bad. (Bolin’s holding it down.) There just… weren’t very many jokes. But the pace is understandable—we’re already a quarter of the way through the first season, believe it or not.
Korra herself seems to be progressing quickly, too—not only can she now float herself through those darn spinning gates, but her naïveté about city life and gray ethical areas seems to be cracking (though it took a cute boy pointing out her privilege to make it sink in). When Mako responds to her outrage about his sketchy past by yelling that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, Korra seems to actually consider this for the first time. (Though she does immediately go bully the weaselly Equalist megaphone guy with bending, just like he said she would.) It’s also made clear that Korra’s had a really weird life with the White Lotus—her best friend is a polar-bear-dog, a fact which appropriately weirds Mako out. Korra’s clearly never had any real friends her own age; it’s amazing she’s as well-adjusted as she is.
Firebenders seem to occupy the most prominent criminal roles in this era, whether that’s a signal of something about the element or not: The head of the Triple Threat Triad is a firebender, one killed Mako and Bolin’s parents, another allegedly killed Amon’s family and scarred his face (though I’m not persuaded that’s the reason he wears a mask). Even Amon’s mustachioed sidekick is firebender-like with his electric sticks.
Speaking of that, you gotta love the irony of Mako getting zapped at least in part with electricity he’d funneled into the power plant the previous day. (I assume those weapons charge off the grid.) The scene of him working in the lightning factory, though brief, raises some interesting questions about Republic City. In a world with an easy, infinite power supply of dudes doing kung fu moves, would anyone even bother to develop generators or a power grid that rely only on science? It would be as profitable as marketing solar panels in the 1920s. What motivation is there to invent new energy sources when the one you’re using is cheap and seemingly inexhaustible?
The Equalizers portray benders as leading privileged, exciting, violence-filled lives, but in peacetime the majority seem to do boring, everyday work like opening doors, moving streetcars, and feeding juice into the electrical grid. Metal and lightning, specializations used only by the most powerful fighters in the first series, are downright mundane now. (Bloodbending, unsurprisingly, less common, though we haven’t been to any hospitals yet.) I hope we get more about the extent that Republic City is built on unglamorous uses of superpowers. From what we’ve seen, if Amon managed to get rid of bending, the city would cease functioning. That seems to be a pretty huge flaw in his stated plan, and might be a sign that there’s something else going on.
Several other things ring false now that Amon’s gone on record, not to mention the pro-wrestling showmanship, which feels a little too slick for someone with such an earnest message. First, he claims the spirit world gave him the power to energybend specifically because the Avatar has failed humanity, which doesn’t fit with what we’ve seen of it. (They’d probably have at least dropped the Avatar a spiritual pink slip, right?) And his claim that bending has been the cause of every war seems like a deliberate oversimplification for political ends. There's something else going on here.
So this was something I wondered about at the end of the original series, and revisited reading Hayden’s final Avatar: The Last Airbender review, of “Sozin’s Comet.” Skipping all the issues of whether energybending is a deus ex machina, it seems ridiculous if Aang never messed with it again, given how useful it was on the very first try. The possibilities seem endless: If it can be used to take bending away, could it be used to restore it? To give it to a non-bender? To change someone’s element affiliation? To make a couple hundred new airbenders?
- P.J. Byrne’s delivery of “Ah! Stop! I want! To be! On! Your back!” as Bolin is bounced around in a polar-bear-dog mouth was great.
- The intro has been drastically cut down, yet another connection cut with the original show. Aside from the Aang statue, the only callback here is Bolin’s usual hangout being under a huge, eternal-flame statue of Zuko.
- It’s kind of hilarious that Korra’s solution to the problem of two little girls teasing her about a boy is violently blasting them up into the air—it’s cool, they’re flying children.
- I loved that little bendy music cue right before the fight with the chi-blockers, which was awesomely choreographed. It was also interesting to see how panicked Korra is about getting blocked; Mako’s calmer reaction suggests that the chi-blockers are pretty well known in Republic City.
- The visual of Lightning Bolt Zolt’s fire dying off was great, and chilling—when they cut back to the other tied-up benders, one of them is weeping.
- Pro-bending looks like it’s a bit of a scam.
- Korra can not only hoist Megaphone Weasel two feet into the air with one hand, but she doesn’t even use bending when fighting the linebacker-sized guard, whom she chucks into a tank so hard it breaks. I doubt I would be even noticing this if not for her gender, even though picking up a 350-pound dude would be equally unrealistic for a similarly sized male cartoon character. My own subconscious annoys me sometimes.