By: Michael DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko (story)

The Story: Grown-up Aang = less cute, more beard.

The Review: In some ways, this show has been quite prudent in avoiding too many references to or guest spots from the original Team Avatar.  Obviously, DiMartino-Konietzko want the show to stand on its own to some extent, and give the new cast a chance to grow without distractions from already beloved characters.  Yet it would’ve been highly unusual if we didn’t get to see the old gang at some point; I’m certain there’d be some kind of protest if that happened.

Honestly, though, while it’s exciting to see the grown-up Aang, Sokka, and Toph, the only real resemblance they have to the cute kids we knew and loved are echoes in their physical features (with Aang, you don’t even get that; you can’t see a trace of the round-faced kid in this Amish-bearded, strong-jawed man).  But that’s to be expected; they couldn’t possibly be impulsive or silly children forever.  And on the bright side, you at least get a “Twinkle-toes” out of Toph and Sokka’s borderline creepy affection for his “trusty boomerang,” so it’s not a complete loss.

Anyway, DiMartino-Konietzko didn’t flash back to the Aang gang just to bathe you in warm and fuzzy memories.  This is some very necessary information they’re giving us here, enlightening you on a major villain’s motivations, though perhaps not the villain you expected.  By the end of the day, Tarrlok’s power grab has some interesting twists, but it’s still just a power grab.  He doesn’t seem to have any more profound goal than taking over for the sake of doing it.

So what about Amon?  We all know he’s the real threat in this series, so why does Korra’s visions have nothing to show about him?  The simplest explanation is Amon is a totally new figure, and none of the past Avatars can help in that respect.  Nonetheless, we do learn a few important facts.  His blood-bending resistance indicates a superhuman will (perhaps strong enough to bend energy without the Avatar State?).  And the fact that he takes Tarrlok with him, rather than leave the councilman to his own fate as he does with other benders, means he has a personal beef with Tarrlok he wants to act upon, underlining his sadistic side.

In other business, the Mako-Korra romance rears its head once again.  I had hoped that when Mako gently but firmly turned his teammate down in S01E05, that signaled the show easing off on the lovey-dovey stuff, but no such luck.  It’s not enough that Ikki blurts out Korra’s crush offhandedly to Asami, apparently; it’s not enough for Asami to endure Bolin’s totally inept responses when she asks if he knows how Mako feels.  Here, Mako’s thoughtless obsession with saving Korra leaves you in no doubt where his heart is, and it’s very sad to see.  Not only did Asami turn against her own father to ally herself with her boyfriend, it’s a shame to waste a chance to really explore a relationship between a bender and non-bender in these circumstances.

I just feel the show is pushing a romance where one doesn’t really exist.  Just as I felt the Superboy-Miss Martian coupling was pushed on us in Young Justice, I don’t sense any special chemistry between Korra and Mako and we have gotten very little from this show to convince us Mako could’ve developed such passionate emotions for her so quickly and so suddenly.  Korra and Lin Beifong have more spark between them, in all honesty.

Conclusion: While the plot twists tighter, the resurgence of a heatless love story distracts from the more interesting parts of the story.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – “Tarrlok, the jig is up and you have nowhere to go.”  I appreciate the guts it takes to threaten someone like that while one is in a jail cell.

– Incidentally, was “the Aang gang” an official or unofficial soubriquet for the original cast?