By: Michael DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko (story)

The Story: Ringside seats grow less amazing once terrorists take over the ring.

The Review: I don’t mean to sound like a downer, but I’ve found another point of dissatisfaction with this series.  It just feels like we don’t have much going on in each episode, making you feel as if DiMartino-Konietzko are trying to scrape a fairly limited plot across a whole season, filling in the gaps with as much bending tricks as they can dream up.  And while that’s entertaining enough in itself, it doesn’t make for a very driven or memorable show.

The show has a consistent problem of predictability.  At first, you think it throws you a curve ball when Tarrlok, of all people, is in total agreement with Tenzin on protecting innocent lives rather than confront Amon.  You start thinking he might have some good in his body after all, which would make him a more multifaceted character than your run-of-the-mill obsequious schemer.  And then he ruins it by immediately stepping back once he’s sure that someone else will take the blame should things go south.

And of course, once Lin takes over the security duties and Republic City’s council allows the pro-bending championship to go on, you knew Amon and Co. would show up and ruin everything.  The sad part is he does nothing you didn’t see coming from the start of the episode.  He basically makes a bit of a spectacle, delivers yet another self-righteous, misguided speech, and then leaves the place in shambles, instilling discord in his wake.  This is Revolutionary Villainy 101, folks, and in any real-life scenario, it would never have much effect.

The only reason the Equalist movement might manage to gain any momentum at all is because Republic City’s benders simply just don’t get it.  You can see it when the Council discusses whether to let the pro-bending tournament go on; where are the non-benders in this convo?  Judging by the sheer naivety of the benders in the room (Mako declares pro-bending as the one place where benders and non-benders “gather together in peace…”), it’s clear no one has really spent very long actually listening to the average non-bender speak his mind on the situation.

One fun development we do get is discovering more about Tenzin’s apparently adventurous past, which included a significant dalliance with Lin (totally called it, by the way—although I imagine most of us probably saw that one coming a mile away).  And we get some vague, silent visions of Korra’s Avatar past as Aang very grimly deals with some unnamed figure (Amon, perhaps?).  But other than that, this episode leaves us little further than where we began.  Tenzin’s statement that Republic City’s officially at war doesn’t hold much suspense; anyone with a brain knew the city was at war long, long ago.

The one thing the show never fails to do superbly is their bending choreography.  While the battles between the Wolf Bats and the Fire Ferrets are intense and awesome to watch (especially since the Bats employ some clever, albeit impermissible, tricks in their game), it’s the battles between Korra and Lin versus the Equalists that have the most stunning martial artistry.  We’ve seen some great moves from the Bat-family over in Young Justice, but the kung fu here is better by a mile.

Conclusion: Entertaining, but not stimulating; a by-the-numbers approach to plotting makes the show far less engrossing than it should be.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Woah.  Aang apparently grew himself a pretty sweet beard once he grew up.

– And Toph got tall!  What!  Mind officially blown.