How do all. It’s time for another spoilertastic look at The Legend of Korra, in this case episodes 4 and 5; The Voice in the Night and The Spirit of Competition.
There’s a lot to unpack in these episodes, particularly The Voice in the Night as the series really accelerates through its story set-up. Which is saying something.
I did enjoy The Voice in the Night though. A lot happens, and self-contained story it’s not, but it’s maybe the most character focused episode so far and raises a bunch of interesting questions. Finally, maybe most importantly, we get to see Korra with doubts. With fears. With weaknesses.
The actual arc of this – Tarrlok’s task force and goals, the underground chi-blocking academy – is whatever. Everything’s flowing so fast and I don’t get invested in things as a result. Tarrlok is too clearly a dick to to root for, not quite dickish enough to hate, and lacking a general intriguing quality to compensate for this. You can see the writers attempting to portray a more complex, more nuanced world than AtLA with a character like Tarrlok but complexity and nuance needs time to set up. Hopefully this is the set up for something else.
The Equalists are obviously a set up here but we are focused on the wrong things for my taste. There’s so much about how much power they’ve got and how dangerous they are, but where do they come from? What are the hopes and dreams of their members? Zuko was interesting because of his journey, not because he punched a lot of fire.
However – the raid on their academy and the way bending is used as a team – that’s cool. The way we see Korra forced to face her deepest fears – that she could in fact be ordinary and powerless – is cool. That she reacts to that fear with violence and aggression is a strong insight into her character. Her challenge to Amon, and his reaction, is in many ways a really good way of showing character and creating a personal bond between protagonist and antagonist – mostly. It also feels very much like something out of a Bond movie, or other such contributors ‘If I Were An Evil Overlord’. Which, in Bond movies, is fine! But in a show trying to persuade me of its complexity and nuance, there are some tonal dissonance issues. Which is a shame, as I thought this was otherwise a good episode until it screwed the ending.
There’s also a sideplot in which a very beautiful lady ploughs right into Mako on her motorbike, leading them to going on a date and Mako discovering she’s the daughter of Republic City’s biggest industrialist, who sponsors the Fire Ferrets. This leads direct into the next episode, The Spirit of Competition, which is built on two things.
- Having the sponsorship means the Fire Ferrets are in the big tournament, so lots of pro-bending
- Mako having a girlfriend leads to a love triangle where Bolin asks out Korra, but Korra wants Mako.
As such, there was such a very small chance of me liking the episode.
I don’t actually hate all love triangles. But I do dislike drama based on failures to communicate in stupid ways, and love triangles so frequently use that, that I have an instinctive mistrust. Lo and behold, seconds after asking out Mako and failing, Korra agrees to go out with Bolin because she’s all petulant about being rejected. Which of course all comes tumbling down – because Korra’s selfish and immature – which turns the previously awesome Fire Ferrets into awesomely bad. Fair dos to those who enjoy it, but I have nothing good to say about this as a type of story and there’s nothing in the execution that changes things in this case.
So let’s talk about the Pro-Bending. I criticised it in the last review and MD Presley made a good point about how the writers are trying to make a comparison between Martial Arts and MMA; between the spiritual disciplines of AtLA and the way these have been taken and rendered down into quick efficient brute force. It’s definitely what the writers are aiming for, and a great metaphor for how AtLA’s world has advanced. And to a certain extent it works. But it also doesn’t look too great. However, the big thing I picked at – the lack of teamwork – is rectified a little here. It plays a part. You occasionally see them defending each other. I do think they could go a lot further in terms of showing teamwork, do some big shiny co-ordinated attacks and defences. I compare it to the bending fights in AtLA and its not favourable. But there’s some good stuff going on.
Good stuff going on in not quite compelling circumstances is a good summation of these two episodes of The Legend of Korra. Some of this is very subjective – not everyone hates love triangles like me – but I think the sheer amount of stuff going on and the pace of the plot is a semi-objective thing. Now, I’ve only just realised that the season is 12 episodes long rather than 20, so maybe this is why it all feels rushed. The writers should adjust to that though, shouldn’t they?
Still, I am curious about what’s going on. We’ll see where it goes.