By: Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko (story)

The Story: If only one can bend feelings the way one can with the elements.

The Review: Look, I know how the entertainment business works.  It’s never lost on me that if the audience latches on to something, it’s in the show’s best interest to play to that.  I understand that shipping certain couples on a TV series can bring in a lot of fans—many of whom might never even care for the show otherwise (I knew several women who couldn’t care less that West Wing was a great drama so long as Josh and Donna got together).  I get it.

But I always find the romantic plotline the most predictable and frequently the least interesting part of any story.  For any regular readers of my reviews, you know how often I rolled my eyes when one of those warm and fuzzy scenes popped up between Superboy and Miss Martian (or Artemis and Kid Flash, for that matter) on Young Justice.  You probably also know I have pretty much the same reactions for any Korra-Mako bits of fluffiness.

So when the teaser for the episode immediately starts talking about the less-than-subtle attraction between the Avatar and the captain of the Fire Ferrets, and the recent obstacle of non-bending Asami, I cringed as I prepared for twenty-some minutes of awkward and cutesy rom-com moments.  And although I wasn’t disappointed in that regard, I was relieved to see the thoughtful way DiMartino-Konietzko handled the material.

First, it makes a lot of sense that Korra, being confrontational by nature and unversed in the nuances of interacting with the opposite sex, would tackle her feelings the way she does most things: head on.  And if there’s one thing she shares with Aang, her predecessor, it’s a charming lack of guile—what the less delicate would call “bluntness.”  She pretty much blurts out her confession to Mako, heart on sleeve, eagerness shining from her eyes, so his unnerved but gentle rejection actually does feel poignant.

Yet I immediately lost all genuine pity the moment Korra drags Bolin into the aftermath of her disappointment.  You can never help finding the man-in-the-middle situation needlessly unfair when it comes to getting between two romantic foils.  They always treat him like a tool in their love-hate antics, as if his feelings are disposable distractions to the “real” chemistry at work.  True, Bolin has a huge ego (“She’s beautiful; I’m gorgeous!”) that can perhaps use a dose of cold, hard truth, but this guy also has no guile, and thus is even more deserving of our sympathy.

The whole mess proves Mako’s early proclamation about the danger of fooling around with your teammates, as their pro-bending prospects bloom and wither in direct correlation with their love triangle.  At least it spices up their competitions and gives their battles some emotional stakes.  Frankly, the pro-bending stuff is beautiful and fun, but little more than exercises to show off the slick fluidity of the show’s animation.  In and of themselves, they have little value to the series.

Besides, the pro-bending storyline undeniably comes across shallow and silly after truly troubling events like those from last episode.  It’s actually a bit surprising that DiMartino-Konietzko had Amon traumatize Korra last episode, then just put that all away.

Conclusion: I can only hope this show uses a whole season’s worth of romantic clichés in one episode just to get it out of the way, letting us move on to more interesting beats from now on.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – What Pema neglected to mention while advising Korra to confess her feelings is that basically she broke up Tenzin and whatever poor girl he liked at the time—and if I were to hazard a guess, it was probably Lin.

– Clearly Tenzin and Pema have allowed Linora and Ikki too much freedom in their reading choices.