By: Katie Matilla & Tim Hedrick (story)

The Story: Family, the ties that bind and gag.

The Review: There was a long period, starting in Season 1 and gaining steam in Season 2, when it looked like Korra might turn into the least likable character in her own show—which would have been awkward, to say the least. You could forgive her hot temperament, impulsiveness, and pride, but her tendency to trust her enemies before her friends displayed such a severe lack of common sense that you couldn’t help feeling her position as avatar was ill-deserved.

But her spiritual experiences last season have done a lot to polish her personality and give her some measure of wisdom. She’s humble enough to freely admit her inability to metalbend, sensible enough for Tenzin to take her advice seriously, likable enough that even when she has the occasional outburst, she seems passionate rather than nauseatingly self-righteous. All this evolution is conveyed through Janet Varney’s centered voicing, which keeps Korra sounding firm and strong, but with gentler delivery.

While you might even go so far as to say you’re very fond of Korra, she’s far from the most interesting or beloved character on the show. The writers seem to have accepted this, as this season has focused on making her more of an ensemble player than a star. In both these episodes, Korra puts in her two-cents as she may, but the spotlight lands elsewhere. If nothing else, it’s a testament to how much the rest of the cast has also grown in the last two seasons.*

This is all to say that the show has finally gotten back to its roots of solid character development. Lin and Suyin’s relationship in particular is depicted with admirable naturalism, refraining from placing blame squarely on one sister or the other. Lin’s anger is ultimately justified once you learn of Suyin’s unsavory teenage years, but it’s Lin who continues to roadblock any reconciliation between them, even after Suyin has made her peace with their mother. Predictably enough, Lin is only able to move past the past by bending it out with her sister, and their emotional tension spices up an already dazzling fight sequence to guarantee it a place as one of the season’s most memorable bending duels.

From the sidelines, Bolin is also making big strides in becoming more well-rounded. His boisterous, affectionate ways, though enjoyable, nearly trapped him as the show’s lovable idiot; think Sokka, but with less brain and lamer jokes. His time in Zaofu is quickly broadening his personality, however, with Opal encouraging him to have more moments of self-honesty. His over-the-top praises for his new girlfriend notwithstanding, theirs is the sweetest romance on the series thus far. “Look at us!” Bolin exclaims after a heart-to-heart about his metalbending insecurities. “Talking about our feelings, supporting each other…”

“It’s nice,” Opal says. Hugs. D’aww…

And when all else fails, we can always turn to Tenzin’s family for reliably genuine emotional storylines. Tenzin and Bumi’s brotherly conflict is never not funny, even it’s even funnier when they unintentionally sabotage each other with their wildly differing personalities. And even if you don’t care much for Kai as a love interest for Jinora, at least he’s getting her to push back against Tenzin a bit, which makes for some excellent father-daughter bonding.

Conclusion: All in all, these two episodes are a triumph of character interaction, with hardly a weak relationship in the bunch.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: *Mako and Asami, it should be noted, have almost disappeared. Not surprising, as they’re easily the least dynamic characters on the show.

– Bumi, trying to inspire the new airbenders to action: “Remember how we persevered together on the obstacle course?”

You actually quit,” says a bespectacled bender. That guy may be my hero.

– Varrick’s developing a magnetized suit. Seems like part of a plan to overcome Zaofu’s metalbending population, no?

– “Look to your left! Look to your right! One of those people will not make it out of here alive.” Well, we know which male figure in the family Meelo takes after, don’t we?