What is the sibling term for “Linsanity?” Su-per Sa-yin? Okay, that’s pretty dumb, but Suyin cutting loose in this episode of The Legend of Korra, oh boy! I should say all the Beifongs bring the pain, and I do mean all the Beifongs—excepting Batar Jr. I suppose—because guess who came out of retirement to kick some butt? That’s right, the Original Beifong. Yeah, it’s a Beifong blitz!
But despite the episode title “Operation Beifong,” it isn’t all about the Beifongs. The heroic Bolin from “Battle of Zaofu” steps up to maturity, Zhu Li gets up to some new tricks, and Korra reaches out to the Spirit World. After last week’s more focused character piece, I am ready to see some earthbenders go toe-to-toe-to-toe…to-toe-to-toe! There are a lot of bare toes in this episode is what I’m sayin’.
Oh, grown-up Bolin, I’m so glad you’re here. I would have liked to see your character arc start earlier, but here we are now, and it was worth the wait. Now, Bolin, at long last I think it is fair to say you are “the Sokka.” Oh, it seemed pretty clear from the get-go, but you can’t just provide a bit of comedic relief and call yourself the Sokka of the group. No sir, you’ve also got to a) have clear and exceptional character growth and b) you’ve got to be the man with the plan. Unofficially you could add in (c) have the most romantic development on the show. And you’ve got to do it all without going grimdark, either! Bolin isn’t the sharpest pencil in the box, but he makes up for it with teamwork and stepping up to the plate. Bolin made a bold, risky choice to side with Kuvira—and when he was wrong he acknowledged it and took concrete steps to fox his mistake. Hardcore Bolin, you’re swell.
Speaking of Sokka, we can put the rumor of him and Toph firmly to bed. Lin’s dad is Kanto, an anti-climax adeptly handled and used—again, by a Bolin who has really come into his own in this final act—to skewer Avatar: the Last Airbender’s “Zuko’s mom” mystery.
This episode really dug in to the Beifong family dynamic. It’s no surprise to me that Toph doesn’t know how to get along with her children; her own parents definitely didn’t know how to get along with her. Talk about bad role models. The show crams a grandkid in, too. Opal really carves out an identity in this episode, and in the end we get to see the whole clan, sans Batar Jr., in a massive bending brawl with the Earth Empire.
How great is the choreography on this show? A brief digression. My favorite Flash is Jay Garrick, but Barry Allen had a manner of speaking where he would say “Flash Fact” and then rattle off some quirk of high speed physics that justified whatever superpowered trick he was trying to pull off. Portal had that same effect on my brain when I played it, of weaponized physics, where your avatar’s momentum and inertia become a sort of intuitive sixth sense thanks to portal chicanery.
Anyway, that’s what the fight scenes in this episode made me think of: earthbending techniques used to Cirque du Soleil the fight. The Beifongs use earthbending to propel themselves, they bend metal to accelerate themselves by linking cables, or to make sudden high-g turns… it’s aerial but brutal. It’s…well, it’s a little Attack on Titan is what it is, come to think of it!
In Avatar: the Last Airbender we got to see plenty of firebender on firebender combat, whether it was Zuko against Zhao, Zuko against Azula or…well, Zuko against Azula. With Iroh in the mix and the Fire Nation as the antagonists, there were plenty of opportunities for fire-on-fire combat. Now it’s the Earth Kingdom’s turn. Earth Empire, that is. I wonder if the rise of nations runs counter to the cycle of Avatars, with Earth always coming after Fire?
Korra sits down at the meditation spot on Air Temple Island, unprodded, unprovoked, and to me it really showed how far she has come—from angry Korra trying to punch her way through learning airbending to cosmic Korra who thinks “I am the conduit between the Mortal World and the Spirit World and I should astral project to the World Tree to beseech their aid.”
Oh Korra, you’ve been dealt an awfully crummy hand. At least when Aang went to new places, he made allies. Everybody Korra meets turns on her, or is utterly useless. Wu seems for a brief moment to be looking out for someone other than himself—“will there be a series of checks and balances, a constitutional monarchy with Wu and Kuvira and the Beifongs sharing the real power?” I think to myself—but then lapses into MRAish white knight garbage. So close!
“Batar’s Big Blaster.” That’s what I’ve started calling it, anyway. Zhu Li is not to be underestimated; we’ve suspected she was a double agent, avoiding coercion by collaborating and using the opportunity for sabotage. Attagirl! Her monkey-wrenching is figured out and her rescue is heroic, which means now we’ll get to see her thrown in with Varrick to see how that particular B-plot resolves.
On the subject of the oft-malfunctioning death ray: boy oh boy oh boy, kudos to the foley artists on this episode. The noise that Batar’s Big Blaster makes is so, so great. Reminds me of the sound made by Slave I’s mines in the Star Wars prequels.
Lots of cute little tip o’ the hats this episode, if I’ve pluraled that correctly… A piping hot meal of Flameo Instant Noodles around the campfire. Opal blowing on a “silent” sky bison whistle, like we’ve seen in Avatar: the Last Airbender. Boogery sky bison “Juicy,” however, is that strain of scatological humor running through the series that… isn’t my favorite. Toph using her earthbending senses to check for liars. Asami and Varrick teaming up to become a couple of mad scientists? Flying mecha, huh? Seems like “mad scientist” is infectious, but luckily “evil” seems to be curable, as Varrick’s stand on weapons of mass destruction is the counterpoint to Wu’s similar pretenses, but seems sincere. What will happen when Zhu Li gets back?