By: Michael Dante DiMartino (story)

The Story: The Water Tribes reconsider their tradition of having no career options for lawyers.

The Review: By a show of hands, how many of you were ninety-nine percent sure that Unalaq would turn out to be a no good, power hungry rat fink (and one percent sure he would just be no good)?  Oh, all of you?  Yeah, me, too.  The man can’t stand others having fun; isn’t that already a sign that this isn’t the kind of person that can be trusted?  Did we really need to wait for the arrival of troop ships before we decided it wasn’t a good idea to put him in a leadership position?

It’s like a Tarrlok situation all over again, only even less exciting because we already know how all this is going down.  Unalaq may be a more subtle manipulator than Tarrlok, but his plots are no less easy to spot.  Again, this only makes Korra look none too bright, as if to compensate for her avatar powers, she got less than her fair share of brains.  When Unalaq announces that he’s hand-picked the judge who’ll preside at her father’s trial, you want to rip your hair out in frustration that Korra doesn’t see this as a red flag and merely assents with downcast eyes.

But if Korra seems deficiently deductive in this regard, then so does everyone else.  No one makes much of a fuss over how blatantly biased the judge is (“I’ve heard all I need to,” is never a great thing to hear from a judicial officer).  No one, that is, except for Bolin (“Objection!”), and this is a fellow who doesn’t even understand the concept of bribing very well, so you can imagine what this says about the intelligence of all the other spectators at the trial.  Really, I’m surprised it took the sight of her mother weeping helplessly before Korra decided to get some answers from the man who unjustly condemned her father.

So it’s not enough that you’re bored by the painful predictability of Unalaq’s thinly veiled grabs for power, but you’re also pretty pissed that the situation had to progress this far for Korra to finally get it.  When she berates herself later, saying, “I can’t believe I trusted him,” you’re simultaneously thinking, I can.

From there, we get down to the usual Korra business of taking forceful action after the fact.  The prison break-in sequence and the chase of Northern ships bearing her father are entertaining enough, no less so for the constant presence of Varrick (and Zhu Li) in a bear-platypus suit,* but also a bit mindless and underwhelming.  Unalaq’s forces, despite outnumbering Korra’s team by a factor of a hundred to one, don’t put up much of an obstacle, making you question if the Southerners are as screwed in a civil war as Korra’s dad says.

As has become customary for the show this season, the more interesting parts of the episode come elsewhere.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they’re a lot more interesting, but at least they feel novel, and that counts for a lot in Legend of Korra these days.  As sweet as it is to see Tenzin and Ikki bonding (accompanied by a pack of sky-bison) over their sibling problems, it all too quickly puts to rest the tensions among Aang’s children, which had the most dramatic potential of all the show’s plotlines thus far.  As for Bolin and Eska, well, that relationship will probably always make us laugh for its ability to increasingly spiral out of control, though let’s hope that Eska sticks around in a capacity beyond spurned-fiancee-turned-crazy-stalker.*

Conclusion: The episode commits the carnival sin of any kind of fictional medium: it gets predictable.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t redeem itself much by execution either, resulting in a flat viewing experience overall.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Which I find incredibly creepy.  That’s not the biggest costume in the world, so where exactly is Zhu Li in relation to Varrick?  The possibilities are scintillating, no?

* And may I just say that considering how Eska’s dad has given zero attention to his daughter’s courtship, engagement, and near-marriage, it doesn’t surprise me that she’s emotionally unbalanced.  Says a lot about that father-daughter relationship, huh?

– Not that we should be surprised that Unalaq’s a less than affectionate dad, of course.  Sounds like he wasn’t much of a brother, either (or son, come to think of it).