By: Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko (story)

The Story: Korra learns it’s not easy to defeat the bending world’s Che Guevara.

The Review: No doubt one of the major factors which played into the original Avatar’s popularity was the irresistible charm of its star character.  Aang had such a joyful, happy-go-lucky nature (with just the right amount of pathos thrown it to keep him from being saccharine) that it was hard not to like him.  Since you naturally feel invested in anybody you happen to like, that made any change to Aang a little more intriguing and any danger a little more threatening.

So far I can’t really say the same for Korra.  While not totally unlikable in any way, she just doesn’t capture your heart.  Part of the reason is aside from her love of bending and a superficial desire to be Avatar, she doesn’t project many qualities you can get attached to.  She’s stubborn, strident, temperamental, and cocky, which doesn’t exactly make her the most appealing protagonist.  If not for her honesty and affectionate heart, she’d practically be grating.

Perhaps that’s why you get so interested in her paranoia of losing her powers in a way that’s borderline sadistic.  Just as you secretly wish the talented-yet-arrogant person in your life would suffer a humbling defeat, you sort of want Korra to run into an obstacle she can’t bend her way out of, and psychological trauma seems like just the ticket.  At the very least, it gets you to pity her in the end, when she realizes just how vulnerable she is.

Korra’s obsession of bending (and her fear of losing it) feeds right into Amon’s ideology.  Certainly once she agrees to track down the Equalists, she pretty much proves their point about bender tyranny.  Her efforts with councilman Tarrlok’s anti-Equalist task force are doomed to failure; we know from history that silencing the voice of dissent almost never works, and in this case the dissent has too strong of an argument to lose faith or support just from arrest.

After all, it’s about time that non-benders achieved more prominence in this world.  Since they make up the bulk of the population, at the very least they deserve the chi-blocking self-defense techniques the Equalists have to offer.  When you consider both Mako and Amon (if he tells the truth) have personally suffered from benders, and how bending gangs terrorize the street, it’s a mature step for the show to address how to manage this inherently unequal situation.

Speaking of Mako, we get a little wrinkle in the series’ romantic entanglements in the form of one Asami Sato, who makes the pro fire-bender fall head-over-heals so quickly you almost have to regard it with suspicion.  Still, considering she convinces her father, a Henry Ford analogue who invented and manufactures the world’s automobiles, to sponsor the Fire Ferrets, that’s one sign she’s not out to destroy our heroes.  Besides, if she can continue to bring out the goofy side of Mako (where we can see the brotherly resemblance to Bolin for the first time), I’m all for her.

With Mako so attached, that leaves Korra free to develop her relationships with the other cast members.  Even though Bolin has little chance of being a serious love interest, his sweetness is quite disarming, and his own fearful experience with Amon should give the two of them a common ground to work with.  And it’s high time that Korra and Tenzin became more than just master-pupil; that last scene of the two of them together is the most genuine emotional moments this series has offered us so far.

Conclusion: The show continues to chug along at an even-keeled pace, but still hasn’t found the right tone or energy.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Incidentally, Asami is easily the most attractive character the show has ever designed.  I may be a bit biased, however, because until now, I gave that honor to June, and Asami is pretty much a way classier version of the Fire Nation bounty hunter.

– More Dixie jazz background music!  Traditional Eastern is all well and good, but I love me some jazz.

– Hiroshi Sato mentions he built his Sato-mobile empire on a “selfless loan” from an unnamed benefactor—this is too pointed a detail to not prove important later.  Could that benefactor be Amon, I wonder?  It’d be a handy explanation of where Amon gets his resources.