“The Revelation” introduces the villains of The Legend of Korra — Amon and the Equalists. Well, I should say, the antagonists rather than villains, since they have a lot of strong arguments, and while their actions are extreme they clearly have a point and they focus the brunt of their actions on those deserving of it. I mean — we see from the first couple episodes that there is a system of inequality, at least at the bottom levels of society. Citizens are terrorized by gangs of benders — exemplified in the Triple Threat Triads — and even Korra’s basic assumptions and arguments reinforce what The Protester is saying.
When the Equalists strike back in “The Revelation,” it is worth noting that they go after gangsters; it may be vigilantism, but it isn’t terrorism…not yet at least. I expect that we’ll see the situation spiral in both directions — Korra realizing that the Equalists have a lot of persuasive positions and growing sympathetic to them…and some of the Equalists becoming increasingly excessive in their methods till at last they go beyond the pale. I predict a split between The Lieutenant and Amon, personally. Remember, the “villains” of the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender were Zuko and Uncle Iroh, and they ended up being an integral part of the group, so at this point I’m ready for anything.
I noticed a few things, starting with this episode. The first is…wait, all the benders have eye colors that match their element? How did I never figure that out? Seriously, rewatching Avatar: the Last Airbender they even do dramatic close-ups on people’s eyes — like when Azula is impersonating a Kyoshi warrior — that clearly are meant to telegraph that information. Some aspects of that can be chalked up to the tribal and ethnic identity of the Four Nations — waterbenders are from the Water Tribe, firebenders are from the Fire Nation and so on — but the rule holds true for the mixed-bending brothers Mako and Bolin, too. It is another subtle visual cue that communicates information to the audience without needing a sloppy piece of plot exposition; just really very clever storytelling.
The second thing I noticed is that this is “Book One: Air,” which completes the Avatar Cycle started in Avatar: The Last Airbender — Book One: Water, Book Two: Earth, Book Three: Fire, and now with Korra, Air. The question I have next is… will season two of The Legend of Korra be “Book Two: Water?” It seems like it will be, but I have another thought: what if it is “Book Two: Spirit?” Given the direction that the first few episodes are going — including Korra’s struggle with the spiritual side of being the Avatar — it is a possibility. From the first series, the spirit world has been a factor — the past lives of the Avatar, rampaging spirit pandas, Yue ascending to the moon, the lion turtle — and I can’t help but wonder if perhaps the endgame of this series will involve the spirit world even more heavily.
To explain why I think that, I suppose I should mention my little theory: I think that Koh the Face Stealer is behind Amon’s powers. This isn’t an unpopular theory; you can’t put a character in a mask and not expect people to wonder about who is behind it. I’ve heard everything from an inexplicably immortal Ozai to Aang’s nonbending son Bumi, to an ancient Aang himself. I understand the urge to brainstorm! There has to be something behind that mask, right? I mean, it could just be legitimately a Doctor Doom situation, but I think it is something worse; I think he’s faceless. Amon has discussed the spirits, and how they empowered him to “restore balance” with his anti-bending technique. It seems to me that Koh, as a spirit imbued with personality, menace, and a connection to both the former series and the Avatar, is a very likely candidate for that. If Amon is the shaman, than Koh is his spirit guide, you know? The similarity of the Noh-esque masks are yet another visual clue. That is the theory I ascribe to at the moment, anyway. Unless…it is The Protester behind the mask!?
Otherwise, the allusions to the previous series are already fading into the background. The biggest ones in this episode are all choreography — we’re back to the show’s genius use of the medium to communicate information on a visceral level — as embodied in the Equalists. The chi-blocking strikes of the Equalists mimic Ty Lee’s fighting style perfectly, and Amon’s ability to strip the bending from someone is an ability only exhibited by Avatar Aang at the climax of the series. Now — is Amon’s ability truly energy-bending? Is it spirit taught or is he a charlatan? I’ve seen gif sets comparing the techniques — I think that yes, that is totally a valid approach; the visual detective work holds up, because the systems and cosmology of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are well thought-out and internally consistent. From what I’ve seen, I would agree that Amon isn’t using the same ability that the Lion Turtle teaches Aang — I’d guess that Amon’s ability is much more like when Aang’s Thought Chakra was blocked. Too early to render a verdict, if you ask me, but very interesting. It does imply that some major character will have their bending removed…and also begs the question of whether or not they’ll be able to regain it.
The other connection to the previous series is the continuing use of “advanced techniques” from Avatar: The Last Airbender in the day-to-day life of Republic City; notably, Mako’s side job at the power plant. I can’t help but think about Final Fantasy VII when I think about that scene — quite literally a Mako reactor! — but I really think it shows a thoughtful application of the consequences of bending. Speaking of Mako, this really is an episode for those shipping Mako and Korra — “Makorra” — as we have them incognito and arm in arm, infiltrating the bending rally. Not to mention the delightful scene with Jinora and Ikki teasing Korra about him. And...I have to admit, when Mako was talking about his past and it was revealed that he’s…basically Batman? I pumped my fist in the air. Totally awesome, rivaled only by Bolin’s joy at being rescued by his brother.