Tue
May 1 2012 2:00pm

Korra and the Equalists. The Legend of Korra: “The Revelation”

“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.


Mordicai Knode is a sucker for creepy totem spirits, so he sort of has a vested interest in the Koh theory; tell him your pet theory on Twitter.

38 comments
Mordicai Knode
1. mordicai
Or you know, tell me your pet theory here in the comments; that too. Because I know you've got 'em!
elliesaurus
2. elliesaurus
I've heard a lot of things about Amon, but the Koh theory keeps popping up. Not to mention Mako's story and Amon's story are eerily similar. Same firebender? Inherent abuse within the bending community towards nonbenders?

I've also heard whipsers that Bolin might get set up as a character they're going to kill later in the series. I really hope that's not the case because I love Bolin and I think he provides a lot of innocence and levity to the show. And, if it's not death in the cards, then I fear the removal of Bolin's earthbending at the least. Talk about a punch in the gut, considering he thought he was safe after this episode.
Thomas Simeroth
3. a smart guy
Amon is probably Tenzin's wife. I quote, "That's not fair, I wanted a child like me (a non-bender)." At the very least she is an equalist. She could use a voice changer to mask her identity as well. I'm putting my money on her.
Zayne Forehand
4. ShiningArmor
I loved loved LOVED the little touch of showing that it's firebenders shooting lightning that powers the city. Such a great touch and just shows how fully realized this world is in the minds of its creators.

I really am feeling the tighter storyline of this season and really enjoying it. No "The Great Divide" for this show!
David Goldfarb
5. David_Goldfarb
The scene with the lightningbenders also provides a direct contrast to Amon saying "The only thing bending has brought to the world is suffering" -- a statement he makes in an electrically-lit room, over an electrically-powered PA system.

In episode 4, the city council seems to be entirely made up of benders. The police force seems to be all benders also. If that's so, then Amon and his people have a point.
elliesaurus
6. elliesaurus
Not to mention non-benders don't seem to work in the factory, and given that Mako says it's a decent job, that's another tick in favor of Amon's agenda. If you tilt your head Korra and her Krew come across as Villain Protagonists.
Mordicai Knode
7. mordicai
2. elliesaurus

I am basing my theories primarily on the text as we see it-- I can't say that reading theories on the internet doesn't influence me somewhat, but I take 'em with a huge grain of salt, you know? The similarity between Mako & Amon is a good catch...except I'm not sure I buy Amon's story entirely. & I think we're probably missing some key pieces of Mako & Bolin's story, while we're at it.

I think somebody is definitely going to lose their bending. Whether or not it will be permanant or whether it will be reversable after a spirit quest is debatable. I would actually put my money on Mako; I think the show is too smart to use Bolin as a punching bag.
Mordicai Knode
8. mordicai
3. a smart guy

& what, she's faking her pregnancy? Naw. I think Pema's comments are just there to illustrate the bender/non-bender tensions, & that they even extend to the most "healthy" of families.
Mordicai Knode
9. mordicai
4. ShiningArmor
&
5. David_Goldfarb
&
6. elliesaurus

I talk about the city council being (apparently) all benders in my next recap (I promise I'll stop saying that! After this I'll be all caught up!) & I think yeah, Amon & the Equalists clearly have a lot of strong arguments...but have just as many silly ones. It isn't ultimately a question of the Avatar "defeating" anyone-- except most likely the wildest extremists-- but about returning balance to the world. I think there will probably be nuts on both sides-- Tarlok & Amon?

Unless...well, I have a whacky theory that maybe it will end with everyone getting bending?
Thomas Jeffries
10. thomstel
I'm pretty sure that Amon's master plan can't be "fight every bender everywhere and remove their power". I have to think instead he's going to have to angle his plan towards making the benders appear as oppresive as possible to non-benders, and removing those benders that people could rally behind as paragons from the playing field. There's either gotta be a big "many more non-benders than benders" sort of revolution, or there's some mass anti-bending thing that'll get used for Amon to "win".

That being said, I could easily see Korra without bending by the end of the first arc and having to go a-questing to get it back by coming to terms with the spirit world/previous incarnations/etc. in some fashion. She's got a lot of skills, but hasn't really been looking to bring balance to anything yet; and as others have said, her attitude is pro-bending, full stop. The Avatar can't be that short-sighted, and I'm not sure how else she'd learn the lesson of benders vs. non-benders without experiencing both.

And for mordicai@9, I was wondering if the end state would be that everyone LOSES bending?
Mordicai Knode
11. mordicai
10. thomstel

I mean, there is the definately permenant way of removing bending...death. We've already seen large scale genocide in the show-- the end of the Air Nomads-- so it is plausible in the logic of the show. A sort of French Revolution. Or you know, Amon could only be aiming to take down the oppressors, the gangsters & corrupt officials, & his Lieutenant will be the one to take things to the next level...

I could see Korra losing her bending too; I sort of don't want to see that, but ultimately I trust the authors of the show. If they go that way, they'll do it in a clever & complex way.

NO benders? No way. I want to see the next Avatar go to the moon!
elliesaurus
12. SlappytheClown
Not an Amon pet theory, but rather one regarding his lieutenant (the one with the shock prod/swords). Is this possibly the non-bending son of Sokka? The age looks right, given Tenzin's apparent age and neither of his parents would have been benders. Did benders have something to do with Sokka's death, causing him to seek out the equalizers and Amon?

And I can definitely see Korra losing her bending by the end of the first season. She depends on it far too much, especially the combat aspects, to continue on the path of the Avatar without a significant shock and wake-up call.
elliesaurus
13. Scandal
I've found a couple of aspects interesting, especially in comparison to the original series, but I haven't seen them mentioned.

1. There seem to be an awful lot of civilian benders, whom we caught a glance of in Ba Sing Se. These are benders with no serious combat training who are easily outclassed when they fight opponents like the police or the equalists. Surprisingly, many of them are main characters, who really need to wake up before going head-to-head. In the original series, most benders we met seemed to be much more competent in fighting for their lives.

2. They really opened a gateway to adult, emotional issues in this episode. Korra's deep fear regarding Amon is totally appropriate and her tearful admission was certainly heartwrenching. This sort of rawness is on par with Aang's pacifist frustrations and Azule totally losing her sanity, which weren't reached until the end of three seasons!
Jim Brannick
14. divisionerror
I think people heard the "spirits spoke to me" and "took my face" bits, just confused/combined the two and came up with this nutty Koh theory. He seems to have eyes and speaks, so he probably has a face. It seems far more likely that either he really did get his face horrifically burned by the firebender in his story, or his story is a complete lie and the mask is just to protect his identity and garner sympathy.
Mordicai Knode
15. mordicai
12. SlappytheClown

From what I understand, "Yakone" translates "blood on the snow" in Ahtna Athabascan...but you know, that is just scuttlebutt. If that was the case, though, I'd say it is a good bet that it implies a bloodbender, so your theory could have some legs. Plus, Sokka was quite the inventor, which could influence his son to get into...cattleprods.

I hope that Korra's wakeup call doesn't need to be so heavy handed, personally, but like I said-- after three flawless seasons of Avatar: the Last Airbender, I trust Bryke.
Mordicai Knode
16. mordicai
13. Scandal

This is the review for "The Revelation" not "The Voice in the Night," which is forthcoming...but you are totally right! The use of fear in the most recent episode-- & her bonding with Tenzin-- is pretty amazing. As to the non-combat bending, you're right that we've been seeing a lot of non-violent uses...but I espect Mako & Bolin will get their chance to be bad ass.
Mordicai Knode
17. mordicai
14. divisionerror

I don't think it is neccisarily garbled; yeah, that is exactly what I heard-- the bit about the spirits & the bit about losing his face. Sure, we see eyes & we hear a voice, but that doesn't mean anything in a supernatural context. Heck, a mask within a mask! I mean-- okay, you are right that they are strikes against the Koh theory, but I think Amon talking about spirits & wearing a mask are still strong checks for the Koh theory.
elliesaurus
18. elliesaurus
Ok, now that I have a laptop with a spacebar I can better convey my ideas. :D (Just file this under 'Things I Do Rather Than Study For Finals')

I noticed the lack of combat training, too! In A:tLA, the protagonists, most of whom were barely in their teens, were able to take on fully-trained Fire Nation soldiers, usually a bunch of them at a time, and still come out of top. (Or at least fight to a draw). Here we have the new Avatar and she can't even take on the generic Faceless Goons/Mooks. The "fighters" of this society are either the police or the pro-benders, who are used to playing in a sport with mutually followed rules and regulations. A Voice in the Night proves that Amon is not going to play by those rules.

And the electrified kali sticks the Lieutenant wield are amazing and I want them. Certainly is beneficial when the main SWAT force uses metalbending and is armored in metal, not to mention the damage that can be done to average fighters. I just love this world and how it's being built. Can't wait for more!
elliesaurus
19. Twi
@5. I doubt that the city is entirely powered by fire benders - they're probably used to help use less coal, or during peak energy use periods. The point about Amon still stands though... so much of the city's developments would be stunted by no benders!

@18. Well, they kidnapped some people. Unless that comes under vigilantism. Agreed on the kali sticks! So cool @_@
Mordicai Knode
20. mordicai
18. elliesaurus
&
19. Twi


Yeah, I was like "okay, electrical escrima sticks are pretty sweet, but...why? I mean, they why could just be 'because they are cool' but...oh crap, metal armored cops!" The "technological" arms race of the show is just...magnificent. Benders a problem? Learn chi blocking! Can't chi-block someone encased in metal? Zap 'em!

Twi, I would say kidnapping counts as vigilantism, on account of how they are all gangsters about to embark on a spat of gang warfare. Even Bolin isn't innocent; that wasn't spelled out for him, but it was pretty clear. I think we are seeing the first signs of escalation though...I doubt Amon & the Equalists are going to stop at kidnapping "bad benders."
elliesaurus
21. a1ay
In episode 4, the city council seems to be entirely made up of benders. The police force seems to be all benders also.

Sorry to lower the tone, but comments like this really pinpoint the reason that I suspect this series is never quite going to catch on with British audiences.
Amal El-Mohtar
22. amalmohtar
One thing I find myself wondering is if Energy Bending can remove latent bending. So, for instance, I wonder if it's a potential plot development that Korra will have her Earth, Fire, and Water Bending abilities removed towards the end of the Air Book, and find the means to developing them THROUGH developing Air Bending and the spiritual approach it requires -- leading her to then need to rebuild her other bending skills from scratch in subsequent books.
Mordicai Knode
23. mordicai
21. a1ay

Huh, had to google that one. Weird how slurs works, & sad. Is the term really so widespread? Dumb old intolerant language; more examples of how bigotry hurts everybody.
Mordicai Knode
24. mordicai
22. amalmohtar

Huh, that is an odd theory, but I see what you are saying. I would say no, based on the fact that...we already had an airbender story in the last series? Which is sort of cheating, using narrative structures, but I think that focusing on airbending would be sort of-- beside the point? By why I mean, the "balance" of the elements is sort of a red herring for this series; it is the balance between benders & non-benders that Korra needs to focus on. Personally, I don't think Korra will get her bending removed; I think it will be Mako or Bolin. Or heck! Oh! Maybe Asami will get bending added to her? Can Amon turn on bending talents, as well as off?
elliesaurus
25. a1ay
23: afraid it's pretty universally known, yes - though it's not really a very harsh slur and is used in a joking way for self-description as well.
elliesaurus
26. BCsmith
FINALLY!!! Something is actually happening. I hate to say it but before then I could only describe this show as one thing: BORING. Sure, animation looks good and republic city is stunning to look at from a vvisual standpoint, but everything else was...complete filler to say the least. Not even the wonderful voice of JK simmons couldn't stop me from nodding off every once and a while.
Mordicai Knode
27. mordicai
26. BCsmith

But...I like boring entertainment! Hence 2001: A Space Odyssey being my favorite movie I guess. I mean, yeah, though; there are two episodes setting up the characters & the setting, & then this episode dropping some "bad guys." I have these pet theories, but honestly? Who knows where the show is going to go!
elliesaurus
28. Anansi
Mordicai, I'm glad you made the distinction between "antagonists" and "villians". Where I come from, advocating for equality and non-oppression is a virtue, and it is clear that there is rampant abuse of bending and de-centralized power in the world order we are now being introduced to. Until you suggested that the good vs. evil paradigm could get turned on it's head, I was fearing that the makers of Avatar/Korra had become a little fascist in their thinking. Now I can keep hope alive!
Mordicai Knode
29. mordicai
28. Anansi

Oh yeah, I think there are very realistic injustices in the world of Korra, & I think Korra is going to find out she has more in common with Equalists who learn chi-blocking to fight against triads &...you know, warrentless government raids than she does with the...you know, violent taskforce targeting people for their political opinions.
elliesaurus
30. Aeryl
Spiritbending is the lost fifth form of bending. That's the only logical explanation as to why Aang could perform it in the first place, as the definition of the Avatar is "can perform all forms of bending".

Following that logic, it is a legitimate form of bending, its sole purpose is to bring balance to nonbenders and element-benders, so anyone could do to Ozai what Aang did. It's meant to keep elementbenders in check.

Now, that's my theory. Which opens the way for the ending you proposed earlier, mordacai, where everyone gets bending.
Mordicai Knode
31. mordicai
30. Aeryl

I'm not sure it is a lost form or a...different schema entirely? I mean, the Lion Turtle says "in the time before bending," right? I think it could be argued that the fire/water/air/earth Hermetic elements might not be the most fundamental aspects of the world, or at least not the only ones...as we can see from the existence of the Spirit World & energybending.

The question still remains...IS Amon energy bending? We see no glowing lights, like when Aang took Ozai's bending away.
elliesaurus
32. Aeryl
Well one of the important things the lion turtle stressed is that the one attempting the energybending must be incorruptable. And Aang, as a young child, would have been pretty darn corruptable, which explains the light show as his and Ozai's spirits battled.

Amon, with his extremist fundamentalist viewpoint seems pretty darn incorruptable to me, which may be why the bending isn't hard for him.
elliesaurus
33. trackkidemc
Amon could be koh the face steeler or his identity could be related to wan shi tong or the library in the sand. remember the library could have had books or scroll that teach how to take a persons bending. or one of those spirits could be hosting Amons body because both spirits have something against the avatar. and Amon said that bending has started every war since the beggining of time and only the spirits would know about that especially Wan Shi Tong. also there arent 2 avatars because it was seen in Korra's flashback that aang went into the avatar state to take Yakones bending which means his spirit side didnt leave when azula so called killed him.
Mordicai Knode
34. mordicai
33. trackkidemc

Oh sure, I never really ascribed to the "two Avatars" theory; it isn't like "oh, dead Avatar, time for a new Avatar!" but rather the Avatar-- the soul of the Avatar, past life & incarnations included-- that transmigrates. It isn't some (literally) soul-less mechanism, it is the cycle of rebirth & cosmic awareness.

That being said, Amon could totally have learned if from a book at the Owl Library; that is an interesting point. Except it being swallowed by the sand did have an air of finality.
elliesaurus
35. from the future
i'm from the future, i hope this spoiler makes it in time, but Amon is councilman Tarrlok's brother, and their both BLOOD BENDERS . . a big shocker indeed, but the truth nonetheless . ..

he uses an advanced form of blood bending to block a bender's bending permanently(or so we think, since noone has yet been "unbended" for such a long time that it was truly tested to be permanent
Mordicai Knode
36. mordicai
35. from the future

You failed to account for the leap second & all your calculations went awry!
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
37. tnh
You are hereby awarded the internetz for best use of the leap second.
elliesaurus
38. TBH
amon is taroks other son so he's yakons brother. i already saw the episode, and korra connets with anng and gives everyone thier bending back!

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