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I Told You Not to Underestimate Her! The Legend of Korra: “Out of the Past”

“Out of the Past” is more or less a two-parter with “When Extremes Meet,” as ending an episode with your protagonist tied up and being driven off to an unknown location might just as well have “To Be Continued!” written underneath it. Of course, it doesn’t, since The Legend of Korra trusts the audience to be smart enough not to need a sledgehammer of exposition and sloppy title cards. “Out of the Past” conveys a great deal of information through monologues, dialogues, flashbacks and character’s puzzling things out… and segues us nicely into the tide of the rising climax. And makes you really, really, really hate Tarrlok. As if you didn’t already.

Because, of course, Tarrlok blames the fight on an Equalist attack. Because of course he has a platinum box at his cabin in the woods. That guy is a budding little serial killer, isn’t he? In a way, it makes the revelation that he’s Yakone’s son even worse. Yakone may have been a sociopath, but he behaved in a very rational, logical way. Taking control of the underworld through bloodbending and other nefarious means, and then living high on the hog, immune from retribution… unless the Avatar gets in the way, that is. Tarrlok is a little Silence of the Lambs, what with his lair and his preparations, no matter how he rationalizes it. I think we can safely assume that Aang’s removal of Yakone’s ability to bend is at the root of Tarrlok’s escalating oppression of non-benders. Amon possesses the same skill Aang did; taking away bending is Tarrlock’s hot button. He goes wild on the Equalists because he’s frightened—a frightened megalomaniac.

We get Lin armoring up and tearing off her badge and for a second there I thought we were going to have to add Bat-Lin to her list of epithets. Instead she pulls on a heavy overcoat, and so en-trenched she busts Asami and the Brothers from the School of Hard Knocks out of the slammer. Asami’s reunion with Mako seems tender enough, but that’ll all be put to the test soon enough. Bolin is using the bathroom when they come in—or trying to anyway—leaving us with another piece of potty humor. Hey, Shakespeare played to the groundlings, I’m not complaining… and it was worth it for the punchline of Lin metalbending the zipper of his fly closed.

It’s hard not to grind your teeth while the Krewe infiltrate the Equalist base. Not because it stretches credulity—hey, they sleuth it out with a plausible mix of narrative coincidence—but because you know they are in the wrong place. Luckily, the Equalists are a bunch of extremists who have kidnapped Lin Beifong’s officers, so it isn’t like it is all for nothing. Of course, it provides a perfect place to… talk about feelings? Asami’s not wrong to be suspicious of Korra and Mako’s relationship, but poor Bolin to get put on the spot like that. After “The Spirit of Competition” I actually have high hopes that the love triangle—love triangles, if you include Bolin—will be handled by the characters in a reasonably mature way. Or you know, there might be an epic meltdown. Either way.

We get a bit of a call back to the chutes and slaloms of Omashu—”They do get their mail on time!”—with the Equalist’s underground railway, a couple of wisecracking Equalists and some nice lateral thinking from Lin, avoiding a showdown with the Lieutenant and a small army of chi-blockers. Which leads to their confrontation with Tarrlok—and I can’t help but notice that it doesn’t seem like Lin inherited Toph’s ability to act as a lie detector, which sure would come in handy with deciever like Tarrlock. Instead, the office assistant saves the day—well, at least until Tarrlock bloodbends everyone into unconsciousness.

Finally, Korra sits down and meditates like she means it. Avatar: the Last Airbender had a theme of the Avatar overcoming expectations, of finding ways when everyone said it was impossible, from putting out fires on Kiyoshi Island after everyone said the only way he could help was to leave, all the way to finding a way to defeat Phoenix King Ozai without killing him. The Legend of Korra has a related theme, but one much more related to the teenage tenor of the show: you should listen to those whose advice you trust. Tenzin has given reliable council to Korra and shown in “A Leaf in the Wind” that he was willing to let her find her own way; now she tries his way, and it pays off.

We’re rewarded with a coherent flashback! From a narrative standpoint, I’m glad they strung out our seeing Aang and the rest of them this long; this is The Legend of Korra, after all. That being said, Aang had entire episodes devoted to his past lives, and we are all curious to see our old friends again. Sokka as a Republic City Councilor is nice to see; the current crop of Councilors might all be bending milksops who vote whatever Tarrlok tells them to, but it is nice to know that the founding Council had non-benders with some backbone on it. Sokka’s speech only recalls his struggle with public speaking in Avatar: the Last Airbender—our little Sokka is all grown up! I can only assume that the Air Nation representative—I don’t think you can call them “nomads” when they all live on an island—is a non-bending Air Acolyte as well, as Tenzin would only be a child at this point.

Yakone is voiced by Clancy Brown! You know, we were just comparing Tarrlok to Long Feng in the comments of the last post. He is, in fact, a crimelord, and he does, in fact, bloodbend—facts surprising no one, as we started to think that with “And the Winner Is…,” but officially confirmed now. He doesn’t just bloodbend, but he bloodbends everyone, a room full of people, and he does it without a full moon. My pet theory? Bloodbending doesn’t work during a full moon anymore because Yue is coming into her own as the moon spirit. During a full moon her powers are at their zenith, and she is able to interfere with the bloodbenders. Still, even Yakone can’t stand against the Air Scooter of Justice; and when Aang removes his bending you’ll notice there are no glowing pyrotechnics.

The struggle between Aang and Ozai’s spirit was a point of contention for Amon’s ability to remove someone’s bending. Reading Aang and Ozai’s glowing light show as literal was plausible, but now we’ve seen that it was metaphorical—meaning that the absences of dazzling lights doesn’t undercut the legitimacy of what Amon does. One less leg for the “Amon is faking it” theory. We do still see Aang touch the chest as well as the head—perhaps Amon’s is a mental block, rather than a deeper severed connection? While I’m theorizing, I’ve noted before that Amon’s twisting, spinning, avoidance-focused style of fighting reminds me of an airbending style; the Air Acolyte on the council would probably be too old…unless he was a decrepit cyborg or something…

It is Amon to the “rescue!” Or at least, Amon attacking Tarrlok. How did Amon get there? That is… a perfectly reasonable question, actually. The conspiracy theorist in me will note that none of the Krewe seemed to know where Korra was, nor did we see anyone strangely absent, ruling them out. Did Amon and Tarrlok have an “arrangement?” It could be. We see that Amon is… if not immune to bloodbending, at least able to resist it. My first guess was that we were about to see a clockwork arm under those robes—given the technology we see in “The Aftermath” that would be credible—though the possibility exists that his clarity of purpose just gives him incredible willpower. I still sort of stick with my theory from “The Revelation” that Koh is behind everything, somehow. Amon tells his underlings not to underestimate Korra… but of course, they do. That trick is velociraptor smart, Korra—clever girl!—hanging from a piece of fabric to resist electrocution. She’s no damsel. Like Lin, she avoids a showdown—not out of fear, as you might expect from “A Voice in the Night” but just because she’s not in any shape to take him on. She snowbends away to be found by trusty Naga… and is carried home smack dab back into the middle of the romantic triangle.

Mordicai Knode is really stoked to see the colossal statue of Aang with a Guy Fawkes V for Vendetta Amon mask on it. What do you expect from the last episodes of the season? Tell him on Twitter or see lots of silly Korra gifs on his Tumblr.


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