Wed
Jun 6 2012 1:00pm

Team Avatar Rides! The Legend of Korra: “When Extremes Meet”

After a week hiatus, The Legend of Korra is back with a vengeance. Saturday’s episode, “When Extremes Meet,” unites a number of threads, weaving them into a whole; notably Tarrlok’s Task Force from “The Voice in the Night” and the continuing fallout from the revelations of “The Aftermath.” All along we’ve seen that the Equalists have a number of strong points to their rhetoric despite their extremist members, and now we’ve seen those concerns validated as the oppression of non-benders begins to spiral out of control. Korra is faced with the ramifications of her actions and starts to confront her assumptions, not just about the role of bending or the Avatar, but about herself as a person, as well. Luckily, Korra doesn’t have to do it alone; she has Naga, Asami, Bolin and Mako as “Team Avatar,” as well as Tenzin and his family.

The destruction of the stadium in “…And the Winner Is” has left Mako and Bolin homeless, and her father’s crimes have left Asami adrift as well; luckily for them, the fledgling Air Nation has taken them in. On Air Temple Island Bolin finds a fast friend in the hyperactive Ikki, Jinora nerds out on Pabu—she’s a wonderful little bookworm—and Meelo develops a crush on Asami. You have to admire the worldbuilding here; none of the characters are static. Other people’s lives continue despite off screen during Korra’s training and playing pro-bending and this shows most clearly in Meelo. He’s much more talkative and present in the story. Yes, he continues to be a slapstick diversion—especially his…er, fartbending—but he’s clearly grown up a bit since his first appearance gnawing on Tenzin’s head in “Welcome to Republic City.”

If “The Voice in the Night” was all about psychology, “When Extremes Meet” is all about emotions. The hyper-stylized anime breakdowns of Korra and Ikki are the first evidence we get of it. Ikki just drops “Did you know Korra like Mako?” like a bomb, a single devastating line. Asami’s “um…no, I wasn’t completely aware of that” is a telling response—that “completely” hangs in the air like the cloud of debris. Ikki’s demonic meltdown after that is just an aftershock.

Korra is feeling roundly defeated in this episode; she’s failed at resolving all of her major conflicts. Amon has trounced her every time they’ve clashed. Lin has resigned. The boy she likes has a girlfriend. She can’t airbend. She hasn’t gone into the Avatar state or spoken to her past lives. Or has she? The scene with Korra riding Oogie with Tenzin is telling in that regard; you see Tenzin tense up when Korra talks about her flashbacks—to someone steeped in a spiritual paradigm, those “hallucinations” are clearly a connection to her past lives. It is just a hunch of the shoulders, a tilt of the head, but the animators are able to get body language across; so much is communicated as Tenzin sits up straight.

Is there anything worse than watching Korra off alone, crying? Not sobbing; at least when Korra was sobbing it was because of outrageous circumstances, because of reasonable fear and trauma. Korra’s depressed tears here hurt because they are honest, because they have verisimilitude; everyone has been ground down to a nub at some point. The thing is—Korra isn’t alone. Her friends are there for her, literally and figuratively, as is her surrogate family. The “go team!” moment is deflated by a farting Meelo, but a little levity never hurt anyone. It leads directly to one of the most truly fun sequences of the show to date: Team Avatar out patrolling the streets of Republic City.

As soon as we see Asami flex the taser-glove and wheel out the sleek satomobile I realized—she’s the Han Solo of The Legend of Korra. It is a shame they can’t take Naga—I know she’s much less anthropomorphic than Appa but I miss Aang and Appa’s rapport—but watching the Krew careen around town, jumping obstacles and taking sharp bends with a few clever applications of earthbending and then demolish the bad guys were totally worth it; it reminded me of how well the Fire Ferrets worked together in “The Spirit of Competition” when all the pieces came together. It is interesting to see teenagers treated like teenagers; unlike Avatar: the Last Airbender, where kids were often treated like adults, in The Legend of Korra, the group is sometimes pushed aside and ignored until an adult like Tenzin or Lin intercedes on their behalf.

From the moment Korra says to Tarrlok “You need me; I don’t need you!” you can tell things are going to take a serious turn in their increasingly antagonistic relationship. Korra has already been manipulated and used by him, and seen him either engineer or exploit Lin’s downfall, so she knows what he’s capable of in the political realm. Or at least, she thinks he does; Korra has underestimated the lengths Tarrlok will go to, as we see with the mass arrests. In a move “ripped from the headlines,” we have police engaged in segregation, mass arrests, kettling and indefinite detention. Things are escalating, and they go off the rails as Tarrlok has Asami, Bolin and Mako arrested to use them as leverage against Korra.

Of course, we as the viewers have underestimated Tarrlok as well, as we start to realize when Korra confronts him in his home. Lovely architecture though, isn’t it? His speech about power, violence and intimidation isn’t just bluster—we start to see the veneer fade away and be replaced by something much more… feral. Things get physical and we see that Tarrlok fights dirty; no tentacles of water for him, just jagged knives of ice. The episode is messing with us, the viewers; we think now we’ve seen the nadir of Tarrlok the Bully. When Korra hulks out, smashing through the wall (just like baby Korra!) and lands with a shockwave you can’t help but think it is game over… and it is, but not the way we think. Rather than a righteous beating at the hands of the Avatar, we get Tarrlok bloodbending.

And a flashback. So, what do we see? Things are jumbled; the chronology of the flashbacks are muddled, but it seems pretty clear that speculations of Yakone being a bloodbender are more than confirmed. Which begs the question of whether Tarrlok and Yakone are related? They do have similar features, but then, that could easily be explained by both being from the Northern Water Tribe. Really though, two bloodbenders? Of course they are related in some way. The question is—is Aang bloodbending? To me it looks more like Aang is frozen in place as well, but I’ve heard other theories, including the theory that Katara (notably absent from these flashbacks) is going to swoop in with some bloodbending of her own… or is the one responsible for teaching Yakone bloodbending.


Mordicai Knode thinks Korra & Tenzin are wrong; the new Metalbending Police Chief Saikhan isn’t the worst; the rest of the Republic City Council are the worst. Seriously, stop voting unanimously with Tarrlok, you offend my sense of civics! Want to rant about fictional politics with him on Twitter, or follow his Tumblr? Click away!

56 comments
Ashe Armstrong
1. AsheSaoirse
Tarrlok...man, that guy got really creepy, really fast. We're getting close to the end of season 1 and after Tarrlok driving off with Korra in the back of the car, being super ominous, I wanna know where we're going from here. I'm also curious how they'll do this whole story in only 26 episodes but that's still a ways off. I'm glad I didn't let the love triangle and the shippers on Tumblr ruin things for me cause things got real good, real fast.

Oh, related hypothesis/question: Would bloodbending allow someone to remain youthful looking?
Fade Manley
2. fadeaccompli
I summarized this episode to friends as "Everyone is Batman!", and I stand by that. The chase sequence with the full team going after those Equalists was brilliant on so many levels--and what would've been the climactic highlight of an episode in its own right turned out to just be build-up, here, to the real conflict.

Which is one of the strengths of this show: it can get in the awesome high-powered combat in one scene, and then in the next show you that awesome high-powered combat just isn't going to fix everything. Because, seriously, what was Korra expecting? (I don't hold this against her, mind; her responses are perfect for an aggressive teenager who knows she's someone important.) That she could solve a major political crisis in the city by shouting at the right person a bit?

Also, I kinda want Tarrlok's office. Becuase, damn, that wall! It's gorgeous! It makes me wonder what the offices for the other council members look like.

(And I don't think bloodbending would let someone stay youthful looking; consider how old the first bloodbender we met was, and how she explicitly wanted to pass along her skills before dying.)
wcarter4
3. wcarter4
Korra is turning out to be a great serious, but I have one complaint...the 'darker and edgier' plot is almost taken too far with how many times Korra has been soundly and completely beaten.

She been beaten by chi blockers. She loses to Amon badly. She even loses to Tarvek after beating him half to death and slaming him flat on his back onto a stone floor 15 feet below him (non-moon aided blood bending aside, dude's hellaciously tough to have taken that and lived let alone kept fighting). In fact she hasn't won a single fight on her own against any non-mook who can even almost fight back.

I understand that she needs to lose some confrontations both to grow as a character and to show what the stakes are, but tearing her down will only hold an audience for so long before they really need to start giving her and the team some sort of victory.

The storyline is compelling so far, but if the "Korra loses" keeps up for too many more episodes they will turn a very cool female action hero into yet another helpless damsel in distress. That would not be justice to this series or females in fantasy/action settings in general.
Sean Fagan
4. sef
I'm continuously amazed at how intense this show is, and how much I'm into it.

I'd initially thought that Tarrlok was Amon, and then discounted that because they are voiced by different actors. Now I'm back to wondering if that's a clever ruse on the producers' part...

wcarter4: A lot of the reason she keeps losing fights is because of her overconfidence. She's NOT the most powerful bender in the world (I don't think Ang was, either?), but she keeps thinking she is. I think that's the thing that's causing her problems with airbending as well.
Mordicai Knode
5. mordicai
1. AsheSaoirse
&
2. fadeaccompli

Regarding bloodbending & retarded aging...I mean, I think it might be a bit off the rails, but I mean, there is a Western link between blood & immortality in the form of vampires...which is almost certainly not the direction this is going to go...unless the situation with Amon does wrap up this season & then a vampiric story arc heads up season two's villain? No, that is crazy, we're just being crazy now I think.
wcarter4
6. Kingtycoon
8:15... You know I was mad, I almost shut this thing off. Would've missed out, that's true - but come on? Fart jokes? Is this just star wars now? Why stoop so low? Just to fit in with the other nickelodeon programs?

I know you watch this in your capacity as someone who likes to be entertained - but I see it in the capacity of someone's Papa and... Man, don't be like Spongebob Avatar! Don't stoop to that!
Mordicai Knode
7. mordicai
1. AsheSaoirse

If the shippers start dragging you down-- or I should say the fans with no sense of decorum or courtesy, since there are plenty of shippers who are great assets to the community-- my advice is to pull out of the body where the negative energy is coming from, not the show. Turn off tumblr if it is gettin' you down!

2. fadeaccompli

I think the major shift in tones is a huge strong point. I have a friend who was bothered by fartbending Meelo, but I think that being able to jump from action to pathos to horror to comedy is the crux of The Legend of Korra's storytelling & will sometimes require a bit of a cheapshot to switch your emotional modes. Comedic relief is there for a reason!
David Thomson
8. ZetaStriker
It's there for a reason, but when comedy falls flat on its face it's very, very offputting. The thing we all love about the show is that it's smart. Good comedy is also smart. Fart jokes are not.
wcarter4
9. kingtycoon
Also I predict that both Tarlock and Amon will be revealed as the heirs to the guy shown in the flashback/courtroom sequences - they're carrying out his mission against the weaker avatar.
Mordicai Knode
10. mordicai
3. wcarter4

I think it is a far stretch to go from her losses to a damsel in distress situation, but I do agree that we must be on the cust of the upswing. Having the hero suffer defeat isn't new to the world of the Avatar; in Avatar: the Last Airbender we took for granted that Aang was on the run, but he was always running & being defeated; Ba Sing Se fell, Kyoshi Island burned, Azula almost killed him-- it was a litany of defeats. You are right though, this pounding drum has to turn a corner & I think it will; I think the next episode will start dark, with Korra captive, but it will end on an upswing; maybe even with the Avatar State.

Which of course is what Amon is waiting for. Korra to unlock the Avatar State. So he can kill her & end the Avatar Cycle forever...
Mordicai Knode
11. mordicai
6. Kingtycoon
&
8. ZetaStriker

I didn't think the fart was as aggregious as you seem to but I do agree in theory; it was the weakest moment of the episode but it didn't take me out of it or taint the rest of it.
Scott Silver
13. hihosilver28
Mordicai, the battle at the end takes place in Tarrlok's office in the City Council Building. That was why he asked his assistant if all the other council members had gone home. Also, it seemed pretty clear to me that Yakone was bloodbending the entire courtroom. Toph goes to bind him with her metal cables and then the cables go limp. Sokka and Aang looked in pain and struggling, implying that they were being bloodbent. Hmm, at first I thought that was inconceivable that someone could bloodbend that many people, but on recollection, Hama was able to control Aang and Sokka while fighting Katara. So, it's definitely not out of the realm of possibility.

Re: fartbending- Not my favorite moment in the episode, but it was consistent with Meelo's character and it didn't take me out too much. It didn't bother me and I thought the Meelo moment at Korra's gala was quite hilarious with Tenzin "Meelo, NO! That is not a toilet!".

This was one badass episode of tv. I loved the new Team Avatar patrolling. I also loved how they handled the Asami-Korra friendship aspect. It's a little strained, but they're both willing to work through it and work with each other. It is so refreshing to see that maturity and mutual respect in a tv show and how it doesn't always have to descend into petty fighting for the guy. But it also doesn't ignore the fact that situations like that are difficult. Fantastic stuff.

And the fight with Korra and Tarrlok...seriously...damn. Every week the show surprises me and that was an incredible fight. I still don't know what Tarrlok's end game is here. He has all the power he needs in the council, they always vote with him. So, anything he wants to get passed, will get passed. He has a new Chief of Police who's loyal to him alone. Why does he need Korra out of the way? He should be able to do whatever he damn well pleases at this point in time anyway. Based on that, it must be more than slightly illegal, or allied with the Equalists...but I have no idea. Hopefully we'll find out more on Saturday. CANNOT WAIT! Now that the second season of Game of Thrones has completed, I can safely say that this season of Korra has been way more consistent and exciting than Thrones. That fact surprised me. Korra FTW!
Mordicai Knode
14. mordicai
13. hihosilver28

Oh, good catch on the location; already so pretty sweet office to have, then, huh?

The question isn't really was Yakone bloodbending the gallery-- as you point out, Toph & Sokka clearly are-- but was he bloodbending Aang. To me it does definitely look like Aang is "frozen in place," paralized from bloodbending as he reaches for Yakone, but others interprete it as Aang bloodbending, as Yakone's pupils suddenly constrict. Me, I think that is because he sees Katara there, about to reverse his bloodbending.

You are right that..."bathroom humor" has been consistantly applied to Meelo. I'm glad it didn't take you out of the scene; me either. It seems we about had the same opinion of it; it wasn't the best, but hardly damning.

I have to admit, I totally understand the..Kasami(?) shippers, because their relationship really is interesting. What do you do when the wires are all criss-crossed like that? I think they are both presented with a soap opera situation & trying to respond to it like adults. I consider it vindication for the people who were concerned that "The Spirit of Competition" would tank everything into a contrived triangle.

I too can't help comparing Game of Thrones to The Legend of Korra, & in Korra's favor. The "blood & boobs" of Game of Thrones seems was more immature than Meelo's fartbending, a lot of the time. Not that I don't like Game of Thrones! I just like The Legend of Korra better. Much better.

9. kingtycoon

Huh! Having them not be the same guy or anything but rather two sides of the same coin? That could be interesting. Prediction so noted!
wcarter4
15. Jurisprude
@14 Mordicai - something to ponder about Yakone's eyes dilating in the flashback ... we've seen that happen to the bender victims of Amon when he takes their bending away. Perhaps its chronologically out of place in Korra's vision, but a possible sequence of events would be Yakone blood-bending, upper hand, Katara or something disrupts his hold, Aang removes Yakone's blood bending abilities.
George Brell
16. gbrell
Re-posting my previous comment (which appears to have been eaten @ 12).

I was pretty unhappy with Meelo's fart joke, but I have no problem overlooking it since I love the entirety of the episode otherwise.

I still can't figure out how a kids show on Nickelodeon is able to discuss issues of entrenched privilege and the moral ramifications of indefinite detention/torture by re-contextualizing the Boxer rebellion. I wish more adult shows would aim so high.

Two links for the people:
-A great tumblr (no shipping) that discusses the historical origins of architecture, clothing and other cultural features in A:tLA and Korra:
http://atla-annotated.tumblr.com/
-An interesting theory re: Yakone that goes a little further than the current evidence, but is certainly interesting:
http://birdbrainblue.tumblr.com/post/24281699688/an-analysis-of-the-flashbacks
Simon Southey-Davis
17. Glyph
Well, the fartbending was perhaps a bit much... it did throw me a little, but so did the extreme anime reaction shots on Ikki and (especially) Korra early on, albeit for different reasons. (Yeah, I just knew a pic of Korra's would make it into the post!)

The fart joke, I thought, was just incongruous - mixed in with the much more mature story around it, it didn't serve to 'lower the average' to a more kid-friendly level; it just felt out of place.

But tbh those moments were quickly lost in an episode that had me chortling and punching the air several times - really, it felt more like a mini-movie than an episode. I'll be rewatching it soon, but thinking back to the first watch I'm having trouble working out how they managed to fit all the stuff I remember into only 23 minutes.

And so many great moments... The Krew in their Kruiser! (...or 'Batomobile'?) Korra hulking out! Tarrlok-- HOLY FRAK TARRLOK IS A BLOODBENDER?! That one literally had me jumping out of my seat with excitement: something that I thought was really compelling but essentially a closed book from the first series, a Hallowe'en episode special that was only brought back once to show how close to the dark side Katara was running in her quest for revenge. Oh. My.


One thing though - I am becoming slightly concerned at just how far removed TLoK is getting from TLA in its 'darker, edgier' feel. Obviously the show is pitched at a YA level - like many other properties, it's grown up along with its audience - but I've just started watching TLA with my 6-going-on-9-year-old, who's taking an immediate shine to the series. I don't think he'll be ready for TLoK any time soon, especially if the series follows the standard path of getting 'even darker, even edgier' as the story progresses.
Scott Silver
18. hihosilver28
Regarding the final battle taking place in Tarrlok's office and then in the Council Building Chambers, I'm really curious how Tarrlok is going to cover all this up. He and Korra were wrecking the hell out of the place. It seems like that's going to be a bit much to explain when the council members show up in the morning for their meeting. And waaayyy to much damage to fix to brand new in the 8ish hours before morning. I guess the one thing we do know is Tarrlok is one sneaky weasel-snake, so he'll probably think of something.
Jonathan Chen
19. jonc
It wouldn't be surprising to find out that Water benders have life and youth extension capabilities. Water bending can be used to heal, and it would logically follow that it can be used to keep oneself (or others) healthy.

Self examination and the ability to remove internal tumours, stroke causing blockages, keep coronary arteries clear; all without trauma inducing surgery! This goes a long way in life extension.

As for the youthful appearance, all you need to do is to keep enough water in the skin to keep the smooth looking skin.
Mordicai Knode
20. mordicai
15. Jurisprude

I think that sequence of events you state it correct, more or less; it clearly is all being shown to Korra jumbled & out of sequence. I still can't help but thing we're missing a central piece of the puzzle--which is why I think Katara bloodbending against him & being ultimately responsible for him makes sense, at least in theory. There has to be something, some revelation, that this is hinging around.
wcarter4
21. Jandore
@hihosilver28:

Ten to one Tarrlok blames Korra's disappearance on the equalists.
Mordicai Knode
22. mordicai
16. gbrell

The Annotated blog is great! The author can get a little defensive at times about the dominance of Chinese influences, but the side by side illustration usually is all the argument he or she needs.

17. Glyph

Comparing the fart joke to the stylized "reaction faces" is a good call; they are both total breaks in the tone, but I think the reactions work-- when Ikki dropped that line I was like whaaaat & Korra's reaction was a perfect mirror.

I'm rewatching it tonight & really looking forward to it...& the faces of my friends as they watch it for the first time.

The "aging up" thing is a point that Harry Potter had as well; the books mature in tone with the reader...unless one is a new reader, in which case voracious reading might be a problem. On the plus side, if you wait to show your kid Korra you'll have that to look forward to...
Mordicai Knode
23. mordicai
21. Jandore
&
18. hihosilver28

I would...not take that bet. Tarrlok is clearly going to blame the Equalists!

19. jonc

The "healing" thing brings up a point I keep coming back to. Firebenders have lightning; earthbenders have metalbending; waterbenders have healing & bloodbending...what about airbending? What are the "advanced" techniques of airbending? You know who I bet could figure it out? Jinora!
wcarter4
24. Jurisprude
@Glyph and @Mordicai - re the extreme reaction anime shot of Korra - this was by FAR my kids' (age 11, 10, 8, and 6) favorite moment of the episode; they had us re-play it three times and once again after the episode was over for good measure.

To me, these types of scenes do break somewhat from the tone at the moment, but I'm totally cool with that. This is part of what makes animation as a story-telling medium so great. I don't feel like the writers are trying to shoe-horn these 'juvenile' moments in, but rather are acknowledging that the mode of storytelling for the series as a whole encompasses a wide variety of techniques.
Mordicai Knode
25. mordicai
24. Jurisprude

Appealing to a bredth of emotions, genres & age ranges does seem to be part of the mechanics of the show. With the length & breadth of that mandate, I'm surprised they don't flub the tone more often. Well, not surprised; after Avatar: the Last Airbender was basically a perfect three seasons I decide to just trust the show's creators.
wcarter4
26. Jurisprude
@23 Mordicai - re "advanced" techniques for the various elements, I was just thinking along those exact lines the other day.

Airbending is way behind in skill-set development, due to the various meta-reasons; entire air kingdom wiped out pre-TLA, Aang as the only airbender left, no proper airbending master. Other than Aang's progeny, there would be no other airbenders in existence, correct?

Some thoughts on what the advanced airbending techniquest could be:
* you could alter the relative air density in a particular space, say - in a room or around a particular person; this could lead to several different kinds of results, ranging from general light-headedness to more serious 'Everest'-like edema conditions.
* you could manipulate the oxygen around a particular person; say you sucked all of the air out of their lungs - could be quite effective in a fight.
* there's always the whole 'more of something' scale; i.e., lighting is 'more of' or more refined fire; metal bending is earth bending applied at a more refined level; for air bending this could be using air in a 'more of' brute force sense, ala tornadoes, or in a more benign sense (along the lines of healing for water bending) for something like using pure oxygen to increase well being.
* ... ?
Fade Manley
27. fadeaccompli
See, one of the reasons the constant defeats don't bug me is that there are victories in there too. Some of them are on the sports field, which maybe doesn't seem to count as much? But the whole successful chase scene at the beginning of this episode was brilliant and pitch-perfect as an example of a success of the protags working together at the height of their game.

...it just happens to be that the height of their game is "several mooks" or "a really good sports team," because it's still early on in the series. I like the flux back and forth between win and lose, because it gives them a lot of room to grow. And showing that "being a really powerful bender" != "able to fix a problem of wrongful arrest" helps keep things other than Awesome At Bending relevant as areas worth growing in.
Scott Silver
28. hihosilver28
21. jandore & 23. mordicai
In that case, I'm curious what kind of story he will concoct to explain the whole mess, including why Korra was at his office and how it came to be that she disappeared and he's ok.
Mordicai Knode
29. mordicai
26. Jurisprude

I think it requires some sideways thinking; we can't let science obstruct our understanding of the hermetic alchemy of bending, you know? While you are right that suffocation would be a real terror, you're also right in pointing out the limited pool of talent; Aang & Tenzin aren't likely to start murdering people (though you never know where season two will go...) & Ikki, Jinora & Meelo are too young to really start down the path of eeeevvviiiillll in this series (though a "oops, preteen Ikki got angry & accidentally killed someone" would be like, the most traumatic half hour of sobbing ever).

Tornado is too much in line with what they already do with airbending. Density is too "science." Chi? Something like that? Aether? Um...darkness? Invisibility?

Maybe the third Avatar will be in a more technologically advanced setting-- I think it would be cool to see the Avatar use bending to go to the moon!-- & something like density or aether would make sense in that new context?
Simon Southey-Davis
30. Glyph
It's long been established that the Air Nomads were strongly spiritual due to their monastic lifestyle - I'd lay odds that an 'advanced' airbending technique would be connected to the Spirit World in some way. +1 on seeing Jinora figure it out, if only for coolness points (it'll probably be revealed to Korra in a spirit vision, though - if it ever actually appears!).

I do like the proliferation of the master-level techniques in TLoK - a whole organisation full of metalbenders, lightning bolts being apparently a minimum-wage labour job, etc. It fits right along with, say, the four-minute mile - it only took one person to show that a feat long thought impossible was actually achievable, and suddenly many others found it was within their reach after all.


Speaking of bending and spirit connections, this is one of the most intriguing things about Amon for me - I don't really buy that he's not a bender himself. (EDIT: the following mildly amended on the basis that he's claimed his abilities were revealed to him by 'the spirits'.) His fighting style is reminiscent of airbending circles, and his bending-removal trick is so clearly derived from Aang's energy-bending revelation, if a version lacking in pyrotechnics. I don't think it can be part of the chi-blockers' repertoire, as the stance is completely different from the chi-blocking attacks and I just don't see that being something the creators would slip on.

His use of that technique raises a couple of interesting points: firstly, the lion turtle exposited to Aang that it's a technique from 'the era before the Avatar' (which, correct me if I'm wrong, no-one one but Aang knew about as of the end of TLA); secondly, using it requires the bender's own spirit to be 'unbendable' lest they be corrupted and destroyed. I interpret this as, among other things, being sure in one's purpose and free from doubt - a particular contrast between Amon and Korra, no?
wcarter4
31. ScurvyKnave
One of the big themes this season has been, "There's a lot you don't understand." Sometimes it is shown to us as just natural progression from atla, e.g., when there are so many people lightning-bending to produce the city's power or the metal bending police force. Other times it's used to totally mess with our equilibrium; Aman's bending removal and the moonless bloodbending (not just existing, but being so close to the main plot and characters). They open the possibilities of what can be wonderfully.

It enforces the feeling that the world we saw in atla really was just a small snapshot of the travelling children. The similar revelations in atla included that the avatar state was not invinceable, the appearance of the lion turtle, metal-bending, swamp-bending, but each of these did not have the feeling that they could upset/derail the entire path of the series (except perhaps the avatar vulnerability).

I, for one, have decided to just sit back on the roller coaster and be entertained. It was great to see Korra demonstrate some real power, but you knew from the moment that she crushed the main chamber of the city council building that she wasn't going to walk away from this. What would the council/police do when they come in and find most of the place wrecked by earth and firebending and Tarlokk blames loose-cannon Korra? And it's pretty unlikely that she would deny it, based on her past behavior. It's such a fun, striking contrast to Aang - his personality is a big reason why this sort of thing never happened to him (as Sef pointed out, it's an overconfidence issue).

I look forward to Korra's banishment/imprisonment and what I can only imagine will be a form of enforced meditation montage similar to so many movies. And possibly a pile of Torlakk's former enemies who have been conveniently removed from the city and are treasure troves of information.
Mordicai Knode
32. mordicai
30. Glyph

See, "spiritbending" was something that occured to me as well, but as you point out the lion turtle clearly claims it as something other than elemental bending. It is hard to speculate on the spiritworld; so far we only see the Avatar interact with the spirit world, you know?

I too have noted that Amon's evasive fighting style is highly reminscent of Korra's training & Aang's combats in the first series. I don't think he's a bender, though...I think that while Amon may be lying about a great many things, the part about the spirits being involved is correct. I still think Koh is behind things, & that Korra needs to sort that out.
Mordicai Knode
33. mordicai
31. ScurvyKnave

I couldn't disagree more with you & Sef on the topic of overconfidence. Overcompensation, maybe, but I think Korra's lashing out comes from a place of doubt & frustration. She's supposed to be helping people but she can't even help her friends, let alone the innocents being oppressed by the Council.

There are other major mysteries that are touched in in Avatar: the Last Airbender, things that could have derailed everything. Zhou killing the Moon is one that that springs to mind. Sozin's Comet is another one. I think you have the right of it that undermining the audience expectations is a big part of The Legend of Korra-- in part just because the audience has seen an early show & does feel a little knowitall.

(Also if I was the Avatar & I destroyed City Hall fighting an oppressive hegemon who had been engaged in segregation & had outright tried to kill me & the Council was like "what did you do?" I would be like "hey any of you all want to try to pass some more bills listing nonbenders as second class citizens? What about you three, back there, who only ever vote with Tarrlok in a bloc of evil? Anybody?")
Fade Manley
34. fadeaccompli
33. mordicai

...oh! See, that just highlighted a really interesting point for me about the difference between this Avatar and the previous one. (A point which is probably obvious to everyone else, but what the hey.) Aang was raised by fairly relaxed authority figures--just look at him and his mentor throwing pies at monks!--and, when pressed with something he didn't want to do, ran away.

Korra was raised by what seem to be somewhat stricter but also more focused authority figures; we don't get a whole lot of backstory on her growing up years, but she was surrounded by all sorts of adults who were all intently focused on helping her become a Really Good Avatar. Which on the one hand means she's pretty confident (recent events aside) in her Being The Avatar state, but on the other, means she has a...rather different approach to authority.

I mean, yes, she ran away from home just like Aang did, but she ran away from home to go fulfill her calling, not to escape it. And even when she disagrees with Tenzin's rules, she keeps ending up trying to bend the rules, or argue with them, not just ditch them entirely.

Aang & Co were a bunch of kids who were constantly on the run, with no constant authority figure around. Their default response to authority was to oppose or subvert it, if it was in their way at all. (Take a look at Katara casually encasing annoying civilian teenagers in ice because they wouldn't tell her what she wanted.) If it was an ally, great, they'd respect authority to get what they wanted sooner, but they didn't have any inherent respect for the concept of it. It was usually something that got in the way of their plans.

Korra is still trying to argue with authority, because she still accepts that it has some inherent value. When she saw innocents being rounded up, her first instinct was to go tell authority figures to stop--not to just outright oppose them. Even in the first episode, when she was arrested, she was angry, but she was an "argue about whether or not they're right in doing it" angry, not treating them as enemies.

It's a very different approach, when authority figures aren't neutral-to-enemy nine times out of ten. And I think it's necessary, for politics to have some relevance in this series. You can't do a lot with politics in the plot if your protagonist just goes all Batman and does her own damn thing every single time they get in the way. And the tension there--trying to respect the legitimacy of authority as something that can exist in a good and proper way, and also trying to fight misused authority--is in some ways a lot more interesting than the direct conflict between Bad Guy Who Is Doing Illegal Things and Good Person Who Completely Opposes Him.
Matt Wright
35. matty42
I really want to see Lin be the one to go charging in and rescue Korra, as I feel it would be in line with her new "vigilante" role.

Also, I am dying to see all of these flashbacks explained. I just watched this episode last night and was nearly beside myself at the end with the bloodbending and the slick fighting choreography. Kudos to the show for never going with the expected!
wcarter4
36. Twi
Korra's constant defeats is definitely there to show that she still has a LOT to learn. For all she's "mastered" water, earth and fire bending, it's come at the cost of her being completely sheltered from the real world. She's basically been raised in a world where she is the best with simple decisions to make, and been thrust into an overwhelmingly complicated world.

I agree with most people that there's going to be a turn around soon. I think her capture is going to help with her spiritual block, and as she becomes more aware of what role the Avatar is meant to have in this much more modern world, she and her friends will start to become more successful.

Besides, if you look at her defeats - she didn't do so well at probending for a bit, because she didn't know the rules. She lost to the chi-blockers because she'd never fought anything like that before - hell, it's dubious if she's ever had to ACTUALLY fight with someone, not just sparring to train and learn. Against the mechas, all the benders were overpowered, which was probably a good wakeup call for everyone there, and once again it was a new foe, a new situation. Finally, battling Tarrlok, she was winning until he started bloodbending, which can't be fought. Every loss has been against something completely new or unexpected. The equalists and Tarrlok have to be running out of tricks now, and with her expected spiritual and emotional growth, I anticipate she's going to be kicking a lot more butt soon.

Also, ASAMI
wcarter4
37. Kingtycoon
Today I rewatched the episode where Asami first shows up. Do you remember that she almost hits Mako with her car? Because that's how it happened. She's really good at driving and also turned on her own father at basically the first prompting.

I'm just mentiong this.
wcarter4
38. finn111
I'd like to see Korra rescued by the equalists when they go after Tarrlok and find out that he's hiding the Avatar. Awkward.

Really want to see Amon thrown off his game and deciding he needs to ally with the Avatar to take down Tarrlok.
Mordicai Knode
39. mordicai
38. finn111

I think Korra's rescue is going to be handled through the medium of Naga, personally, but I think the Equalists rescuing her are a close second. It would be neat to have her "confront" Amon with rhetoric. Starting with "I see why you are fighting now. You're right."

37. Kingtycoon

I think Asami being an Equalist is still a possibility, but I hope not. I think "pretty girl is up to something!" is a tired trope; at this point plain old "Asami kicks butt" is basically the most subversive thing they can do. Well, that & be critical of power structures that enshrine a second class citizenry, abuse protestors, exercise indefinate detainment, & over all oppress people in the name of "freedom."

36. Twi

I touch upon this a little, but it is interesting to me how much of a teenager Korra is. I mean, Aang & the crew were all children but it was taken as a given that they could learn how to waterbend & go from "I can barely do this" to "I have savant-like mastery" in the course of just a few months. A little unrealistic; The Legend of Korra seems to show a much more plausible take on skills & learning. Sorry Korra, I know you've been studying airbending for what, almost a year? But it turns out that the ability to control an element isn't easy to learn! Anyone who has tried to learn something brand new can identify with that; you don't just show up at college, spend a few weeks there & walk away a master.
Mordicai Knode
40. mordicai
35. matty42

I'm glad they backed off Lin; she is super awesome-- I haven't been shy about my admiration of Spider-Lin & WolverLine-- but I don't want her to wilt from over-exposure, either! Plus, I want Korra to be the star; it is natural to sort of glom on to the supporting cast, but now it is Korra's time to dominate the story!

34. fadeaccompli

Oh gosh I have to get ready for BEA so I can't really respond to this in the form it requires but see my comments above about Korra actually being a teenager, in contrast to Aang & co's sort of "well we are kids but so precocious it hardly matters & also everyone we meet is a kid or if they are an adult they treat us like equals anyhow." There isn't really a power division in Avatar: the Last Airbender, there was Monk Gyatsu, but he is dead & as seen treated Aang almost like a peer. There is Iroh for Zuko, but even then the "prince & disgraced uncle" dynamic means that Iroh's avuncular advice lacks true authority.
Jennifer B
41. JennB
It's interesting reading the comments and realizing how different my take on this show is than everyone else. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy it, but I don't think it is anywhere near as good as the original. The great thing about Avatar was the characters. I was really looking forward to seeing how they would come up with characters as interesting and fun to watch as Zuko, Iroh, Toph, and Sokka without copying them. They completely failed. The characters in Korra are so boring, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get into the show. Luckily the plot picked up enough to hook me in.

To address the fart joke, while it was stupid and we could have done without it, we have to remember it is Avatar. The original was full of jokes like that. In the first episode, Aang comes out of the privy joking about how everything freezes in there. Sokka was always limiting potty breaks, and Toph was always picking her nose and flinging boogers.

The stylized animation when characters are angry was used frequently in the original as well. Seeing this was actually as much of a homage to the original as the eye roll inducing "Not my Cabbage Corp." It brought a smile to my face.

I am glad things are getting interesting. I hope they make lots more Avatar series. What I would really like to see is the Legend of Iroh. Now that could be a great show.
wcarter4
42. TheTick
Didn't know the Tor.com blog was covering Korra, nice counterpoint to my own. :D I personally think Lin will rescue Korra, perhaps with help from Naga and Tenzin (he'll be looking for Korra, and Lin will be investigating on her own, seems natural they'll end up working together - marriage drama!).
wcarter4
43. Owlmouse
I actually viewed Tenzin's questions about whether Korra has spoken to her previous lives as partially motivated by how he really wants to hear news about Aang. Imagine if you had the opportunity to find out how your dad was doing decades after his death? Tenzin just came across as a very supressed hopeful son, and he seemed so surprisingly young for a moment there or two.
wcarter4
44. Earl Rogers
Interesting you should mention teenagers being treated like teenagers. In the sort of situation depicted in the original series, I'm wondering if the concept of "teenagers" truly existed. The kids were treated like adults because in the situations daily encountered in such a world, they had to be.

The world is now much more full of luxuries and "play time." Until recently, there also seems to have been a lot more (relative) peace and protection. Suddenly, the idea of a teenager has room to exist.
wcarter4
45. Rybal
Thinking back on the fact that being able to use lightning and metalbending is fairly commonplace in this society, it really doesn't surprise me that Tarlock can bloodbend, even without the full moon.

I really can't help thinking that Tarlock is subservient to Amon. Everything he is doing is directly in line with what the equalists are saying is wrong with benders. I really don't expect him to say that it was equalists that kidnapped her. I expect that he will just say that she attacked him - their animosity towards one another is well known at this point. He'll probably deny bloodbending, though.

Here's what I really hope to see in the show: the avatar using multiple elements simultaneously. We've seen examples during the tournament of benders working together to use different elements in attacks - wouldn't it be natural for the avatar to do that as well?
wcarter4
46. Northern Fist
#45 Rybal -
Multiple elements like what? A bunch of rocks in some water (like in the tourny) isn't too exciting. Air and water could make ice, but water benders can make ice on their own. How would you see her using multiple elements simultaneously?

Something I found strange is that at the beginning of the fight, Tarlok was flinging ice daggers at Korra, trying to kill her. But then when he had her helpless and unconscious, he ties her up and drives her out of town instead of finishing her off. But having blood bending, he could have killed her at the beginning of the fight. What's his endgame? I don't think he wants to kill her in the avatar state, as someone mentioned, because he's for benders. If he just wants her out of his way, why try to kill her and then switch gears?

Another thing I was thinking is maybe Katara cancels out Yakone's bloodbending, then Aang takes away his water/blood bending but inadvertantly grants him spirit bending. Yakone = Aman. But I think he'd be way too old.
Mordicai Knode
47. mordicai
41. JennB

I think it is much more plot driven, but I think any attempt to compare characters in Avatar the Last Airbender to The Legend of Korra is doomed to fail just on the math of 20/20 hindsight.
Mordicai Knode
48. mordicai
41. JennB

Sorry, my comment last night was truncated by an interruption; let me respond a little more clearly. We've watced eight episodes of The Legend of Korra, so comparing it the full scope of Avatar: the Last Airbender is always going to be dissapointing. If you compare the first eight episodes though? In A:tLA they just finished the one with the spirit panda. Between those two? I think Korra might actually be better; the scripting is certainly tighter! Though it probably comes down to a matter of preferance.

42. TheTick

I say Naga only because she's been off screen & is explicitly outside waiting for Korra. At the very least, I think scent tracking will be involved in how people find Korra. & then of course there is the option we're all overlooking; Korra isn't a damsel, she doesn't need saving. Which-- listen, not that being bloodbent & kidnapped is somehow undercutting her agency, I don't think it is-- I just mean that Korra might very well save herself. Through cunning or the Avatar state or airbending or otherwise.

43. Owlmouse

I think Tenzin is incredibly well realized; all of the characters have real depths but I think he takes the cake. I'd say that I think Tenzin would probably strive to want Korra to make contact with her past selves in order to further her spiritual & personal growth...but if he gets to make contact with his ghostdad, that might be a fringe perk! It reminds me of Katara's lingering stare at Korra; it wasn't creepy or anything but she clearly has a bittersweet wistfulness about her husband's soul being reborn.
Mordicai Knode
49. mordicai
44. Earl Rogers

Well, the other group were kids! I see your point, & I think it is probably regional & situational? I mean, Aang's situation hints at the existence of adolescence, or at least an extended childhood; they told him he was the Avatar earlier than they normally would have, they normally wait till 16, if I recall correctly? Sokka was explicitly left at home when the adults left, but was left at home with the vague responsibility of taking care of every one-- which hints that the Southern Water Tribe had an "subadult" understanding too? Interesting point though; I wonder what the deal is with the age of majority?

45. Rybal

We haven't seen Amon be duplicitous in any way, though; from his characterization I get more of a "I have a dangerous & terrifying purity in my intentions" vibe off him. He screams zealot. That being said I don't think collusion is the case, though it certainly isn't impossible.

46. Northern Fist

Oh! Just thinking of it made me think that it would be cool if there was an Alchemist who could turn air to stone, stone to water, so forth. Whose peculiar style of "bending" was one of shifting elements from one state to another?
Scott Silver
50. hihosilver28
ONE DAY ONE DAY ONE DAY ONE DAY!!!!!! Okay, now that's out of my system, on to more constructive statements. :)

I've been going back through A:tLA as well, and I've been extrememly impressed with how they have handled this season of Korra. There is not an ounce of fat on this show at all. I do miss some of the leisurely pace of the first show, but there is something incredibly exhilarating with the pacing of a 12 episode season. I also feel that they've done a great job of allowing character moments even with the compressed schedule. Looking back on it, oddly enough, The Spirit of Competition is one of my favorite episodes this season. Which definitely was not the case when it first aired. It's grown on me as I've rewatched it more and had some time between when it aired. And I am just thanking the TV gods (in this case Bryan and Mike) that we don't have a The Great Divide episode. Rewatching that was even more painful than I remembered.

Anyway, all that to say, I feel that once we see this season as a whole and have the option to binge it, many complaints from people about the pacing will go away. I watched the first series on DVD and binging a 22min show is completely different from having to wait week to week. I have the utmost confidence that Korra will hold its head high with The Last Airbender as both shows are a paragon of excellence.

Speaking of Avatar: The Last Airbender, does anyone know if there are any plans to release the first series on Blu-Ray? As I've been going through Book 1, there are some serious compression artifacts with the video that makes it look quite sub-optimal. Which makes me sad, since the quality of the art and animation is top notch. I really want the first series in high definition.
wcarter4
51. apapartanen
This show is great and this episode for me was probably the most exciting pisode so far. However one suggestion for the show is that they should add some main villains which are also teenagers. For example, in the Last Airbender we had Zuko and Azula. They my favorite characters of that series. When you have young characters as the "bad guys" it makes the enemy relateble for the audience. Not only that, but since they are young syou can also develope them throughout the series and it just makes the show so much better. Again the prime example is Zuko and Azula. This is may only complaint with the legend of korra. But the show is great anyway.
Cait Glasson
52. CaitieCat
First, because it made me laugh: @34, are you saying Korra is also a rulebender?

Glad to see your latest, mordicai, as always; could have written much of it myself, I agree with you so much. :)

I think - I can't remember and don't have time to search right now - but I think I mentioned thinking Tarrlok was a bad guy the first time we met him. And by now I'm almost completely certain he's working with Amon in some manner. Everything he does is playing directly into the hands of the Equalists: the raid on the self-defence class, the outlawing of association with the Equalists, rounding up of people he knew perfectly well were innocent citizens, his McCarthy-esque "if you're not with us, you're a dirty dirty Commie hippy Equalist" line of behaviour.

Everything Tarrlok does is polarizing. What I've not seen speculated is - what if we've all got it backwards? What if it's not Tarrlok who's working for or against Amon - but Amon who is the subordinate of Tarrlok (a bloodbender)? Making Tarrlok a sort of...dare I say...puppetmaster? *cough*Hama*cough*

He'd be using the Equalists - most of whom would be sincere, mind, the rhetoric is pointed and quite persuasive, to this non-bender - to get state control of bending. Amon would be using some kind of water-bending to break whatever it is in people that makes them benders. Maybe some brain bit, or a spirit thing, I dunno, some bending-ability toggle.

But in reality, Tarrlok is using the whole thing like, oh...I can't think of anything off the top of my head, can anyone think of a nation where a leader used a fear of difference and terrorism to get himself vastly increased executive power and a huge state security machine, along with an excuse to get a lot of otherwise-likely-to-be-disaffected youth out of the country for a few years? It feels like I should have an example ready to mind, but...

Yes. In the end, I guess I'm suggesting that in Avatarverse, there will be an actual conspiracy to provide a false flag operation giving carte blanche to move toward a newly-renamed Thousand-Year-Republic City. And I'm willing to be proven wrong on it, but there's my prediction.

Separately: funny you mentioned the advanced bending techniques, because I was saying the same thing at Audrey Gonzalez' site on the The Blind Bandit episode of ATLA when she rewatched it last week, that I'd love to see more of the refined/advanced bending techniques we've seen. The worldbuilding, as someone noted above, of these two is absolutely gorgeous. Everything feels like a real society built with this one major difference.

My suggestion for advanced airbending: how about weather control? What if it'd been discovered before, but was lost when the Fire Nation committed genocide on the Air Nomads? And there was a great consternation within the Air Nomads about whether or how to use such an ability? The balance aspect of things would be very easy to story-ize, I think. But in any case, the argument was made moot when the Air Nomads were destroyed.

Thanks, too, for a great comment thread. Been very interesting, very thought-provoking, good compliments to a creative team which is 2 for 2 in putting together great, intensely watchable shows so far, to my eye.
Jennifer B
53. JennB
mordicai 49
I don't think Aang's childhood is analogous to the other characters in A:TLA. It occurred 100 years before Sokka and Katara in a time of peace. Sokka and Katara had to grow up much faster than the kids during Aang's time. If anything, Aang's childhood is more like Korra's.
wcarter4
54. Earl Rogers
I also note that characters like Suki, Ty Lee, and Mai all were depicted as being warriors in a very adult sense in the original series, despite them not being all that much older than the original Team Avatar.

Probably it's a cultural thing? The Kiyoshi warriors and the Fire Nation seems to have a very early "coming of age" in that era.
Mordicai Knode
55. mordicai
50. hihosilver28

I always forget until Saturday & then I'm like "aw yeah, Saturday Morning Cartoons Time!" Even though Korra is the only one I reliably watch right away-- Young Justice tends to sit on my DVR for a few days.

51. apapartanen

There was the mislead with Tahno, but you're right, there isn't really a "b-plot" like Zuko & Iroh, or a rival group like Azula, Mai & Ty Lee. Maybe for the second season? The villains here are...well, villainous! Amon is ideologically ambiguous, sure, but his actions aren't. Tarrlok...well, Tarrlok sure is evil. A plausible evil, which is hard to pull off; he's not some shrieking Cobra Commander or Mum-Ra or whatever.

52. CaitieCat

See, I think a conspiracy would actually take some of the oomph out of the villains? That is; Tarrlok's incredibly oppressive reactions to events mirror actual real behaviors. Irrational reponses to terror, divisive & fundamentally arbitrary policing of people based on perceived differences, increasing inequality...that is all...well, happening in the real world, too. That is what makes Tarrlok really scary: he is a guy who could actually exist. Who could think he's doing the right thing, even though it is incredibly wrong.
Fade Manley
56. fadeaccompli
I think the McCarthy analogy is pretty accurate with Tarrlok, actually. Because he does, on some level, really seem to believe everything he's saying is true and righteous and the best idea; he just doesn't feel like sticking to the exact truth, or not manipulating people, is part of being righteous and stalwart and so on and so forth.

I don't think Senator McCarthy was secretly a communist agent either. It's honestly a lot more interesting to have people on both extremes doing something dreadfully wrong than to have everything come down to a singular Very Evil Villain manipulating everything. It's more...human, I guess, in a way that seems to map well to this show's more mature take on a lot of situations, to let people be very wrong on both sides.

(And even the original Avatar had some of that: the Earth King's obligatory evil vizier, who could be evil and vicious without being secretly working for the Fire Nation; or the general who thought it was necessary to push Aang into the Avatar state by any means necessary.)
Mordicai Knode
57. mordicai
56. fadeaccompli

Yes! Long Feng is a perfect comparison, I think. Memorable as a villain not because they were some exagerated archetype of puuurrre eeeviilll but because the mix of ambition, ends justify the means, opportunism & cunning gone wrong all gelled together to be all too possible. Ozai was over the top, crazy in a meglomaniacal bad guy sort of way; Avatar pulled that off, too; Amon may be more of an Ozai, but Tarrlok is totally a Long Feng.

(As a weird aside, a mistype in google led me to the fact that "Dai Lo" means "big brother," which is totally something I'm going to use for a secret police in a Sino-inspired campaign at some point.)

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