By: Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko (story)

The Story: The unemployed Lin seeks a new career in childcare.  Hey, desperate times…

The Review: Amazingly, we are nearly at the end of the show’s first season, and as we get closer to the finale, it becomes increasingly clear that the story we’re getting now is the only one DiMartino-Konietzko care to tell.  I always suspected the romantic sub-plot and everything to do with pro-bending were just brazen ways to commercially fill the time until the primary material could get going, but for now, let’s set all that behind us.

And as much as we would like to, we can’t.  We still have this totally uninteresting Asami-Mako-Korra triangle nudging its way into an episode when it’s not wanted.  Frankly, the show hasn’t done a great job defining Asami beyond her love for Mako and drag-racing, but here we get to see her no-nonsense attitude, which knocks directly into Mako’s strong, silent nature.  I, for one, think the non-bending debutante has the high ground on this one; all she’s asking for is some truth and explanation, and Mako refuses to give either, citing the Equalist chaos as excuse.

But you know, just as long as the show avoids the melodramatic cliché of Asami betraying the team as revenge, I don’t care who Mako ends up with—mainly because it’s hard to care that much about him or any of the young adult characters (including Korra) because of how thinly they’ve been portrayed.  Besides, with so many more important events going on, any amount of romantic angst feels grossly indulgent.

Maybe that’s why the adults take on so much more presence in this episode, to the point where they become the series’ emotional center.  Thrust into a sudden position of sole leadership, Tenzin’s charisma and assertion has never come through so clear and strong, not just in his competent direction of Republic City’s last internal resources, but in his incredibly aggressive air-bending.  Aang may have fought a war for three seasons, but his grown-up son’s martial artistry with wind beats his by a mile.  Who knew you’d grow to love that pointy-bearded guy?

However, it’s Lin who wrings our heart in this episode.  Almost without us noticing, her solid characterization has become more and more important to the show, her steely sense of purpose (pardon the pun) a necessary contrast to Korra’s flightiness.  Yet we’ve also seen her great capacity for love in her softness towards Tenzin, and that side of her is very much out in the open here as well.  You can only imagine how bittersweet it must be for her to place her duty with Tenzin’s wife and children, and then to make the bitterest sacrifice of all for them.  Yet she does all this without hesitation.  She may say she wants to preserve the last air-benders in the world, but you can definitely tell her commitment goes way, way deeper than that.

While the character work is quite respectable, the plot itself still leaves something to be desired.  Though Amon has successfully established himself as a major threat, one that you can believe necessitates a response by the United Forces (a kind of four nations army, you presume), his motives are still unclear.  After all, no one actually believes he has the best interest of non-benders in mind anymore, right?  All this unwarranted damage to Republic City, all the trauma to benders, non-benders, and descendants of every nation, and for what?  DiMartino-Konietzko better have a good answer, or this might all be a spectacular waste of time.

Conclusion: Now this is the Avatar sequel you’ve been waiting for.  The character moments are outstanding enough to make up for the less than impressive plotlines, and the show is beginning to have some real stakes to it.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – So, about this Iroh dude.  With his Fire Nation clothing, royal bearing, and the namesake of Zuko’s favorite relative—not to mention the fact he’s voiced by Dante Basco, the Zuko of the original series—leads me to believe he is most likely Zuko’s descendant.

– And hey, for all you Katara-Zuko shippers, wouldn’t it make a lot more sense if Korra and this Iroh fellow hit it off?  That way, Asami and Mako can make things work and maybe she won’t get stuck with Bolin at the end of all this.