By: Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko
The Story: Someone turn on Twisted Sister because the non-benders aren’t gonna take it anymore!
The Review: It seems pretty clear that this Avatar series won’t have the classically epic qualities of its predecessor. The last show had all sorts of prophecies and symbolic elements running throughout the story, and the very concept of the Avatar had shades of higher powers within it. Supernatural creatures abounded, from dragons to demons and even to demi-gods, of sorts. Taken together, The Last Airbender was very much a spiritual tale.
Its sequel doesn’t have much to do with these rather ethereal themes, but the story it wants to tell is no less important. Whereas the Avatar’s powers were crucial to bring an end to a senseless war driven by too much momentum to stop itself, no amount of power can really quash a war of ideas and principles. The Equalist movement (which Tenzin foresees as a “revolution”) exists not on the basis of gaining power, but as an effort to gain dignity.
Anyone who’s read Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” knows the notion of social equality is a lot more complicated than most people want to admit. The Equalists tread on the very conflict Vonnegut’s short story envisions: whether it is right to diminish the gifts of others so those without it may stand equal to them. Since bending has become less necessary with the advent of advanced technology, the Equalists may make a good argument that the world doesn’t really lose anything by removing bending from it. But the issue is whether they have a right to do so at all.
DiMartino-Konietzko address these questions only at an angle. Amon, voice of the Equalists, focuses more on the damaging effects of bending, scapegoating it as the cause of wars and human turmoil—which, for anyone with a brain, doesn’t hold water. No war was ever waged because of a weapon, and certainly the Hundred Year War did not start as a result of bending. Quite the contrary, the War was as long-lived and violent as it was because of the Fire Nation’s technological superiority. And doesn’t the fact that both Amon and Mako/Bolin lost their parents to a fire-bender prove that bending violence doesn’t endanger non-benders alone?
Setting aside these subtleties, it’s clear that for the non-benders, who see themselves as innocents pushed around by the benders’ powers, the Equalist theory is a very attractive salve for their problems. It’s significant that Korra reacts to them with both stridence and force, which not only plays into their anger, but also indicates that she doesn’t really understand where their grievances come from. If she’s to bring “balance” to the world, she won’t be able to rely on her powers alone to do it; modern problems require much more nuanced solutions.
This is all heavy stuff, but don’t make the mistake of assuming the whole episode consists of it. We get a bit of character-building for both Mako and Bolin. We get some obligatory warm-and-fuzzy moments between Mako and Korra—whom I’m assuming are an indirect appeasement to the Zuko-Katara shippers from the last series. And sheesh, the action sequences just keep getting better and better, don’t they? The non-benders really steal the show with their ridiculous agility and kung fu tricks, particularly the Equalist lieutenant who faces Mako and Bolin by himself.
Conclusion: While mostly an exhilarating action episode, the underlying conflicts of the world are slowly coming into focus, setting up the main tension of the season.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Korra launching Jinora and Ikki into the air when Mako arrives is probably one of the funniest moments thus far in this series.
– Nothing says creepy and crazy better than full-on face masks. Think about it: Jason Vorhees, Ghostface, V, the JabbaWockeeZ—the list goes on.