Legend of Korra s01e08: When Extremes Meet and s01e09: Out of the Past

Hey screen people, you’re getting two Korra recaps coming at you today. Because last weekend I was too busy dressing up as a Medieval lady and watching swordfighting at Stirling Castle. And then movies. Men in Black III is serious business, though the most you’ll hear about it from me is my review on Letterboxd because there are way too many nostalgic feels tied up in that to actually do a real review without it taking ages.

But hey, we’re here for Legend of Korra, right?

So we open the episode with everyone finally picking up and moving the the air temple…

This piece of filler is entirely worth it for Meelo. I think I’m just going to stop and say this kid is crazy every time he’s on screen. He hits on Asami by asking, “You’re pretty, can I have some of your hair?” which bodes well for his future as a pickup artist. Of course, we also have the seeds of dissension sown when Ikki lets it slip to Asami that Korra may have a bit of a thing for Mako. This will be important later.

It’s also revealed early on in this episode just how much of a tremendous dick Tarrlok is. They get Lin’s chief of police replacement up there and it’s pretty obvious the entire police force is in Tarrlok’s slimy hands. Korra isn’t having none of this, but Tarrlok pulls out a trump card by bringing up Korra’s lack of airbending. Oop.

Korra may be depressed with her lack of airbending, but as with any kids’ programming, the power of friendship gets her and friends off Air Temple Island and into the mean streets of Republic City to chase some Equalists. The whole group thing is a nice little parallel to the previous series, especially since it’s been confirmed that Asami is now our Sokka with her mad car driving skills and cool weaponry. I mean, check out that high speed chase with bending, pretty sweet.

Get in bitches, we’re going shopping.

What’s really interesting and slightly ominous with the Republic City scenes though comes later on when the new police try to arrest some non-benders for being out after curfew. See, Tarrlok decided to do exactly what Amon was accusing the benders of and use the terror in the city to tighten his hold on its citizens. This feels a bit like history parables for kids. Asami, Mako and Bolin getting arrested at the end of that scene is just so symbolic, I can’t even. It completely shows off how much of a new ballfield Korra’s playing in compared to the Gaang back in the old series. It’s not just the big baddie of the Fire Emperor anymore, and the whole levelling up until you’re able to defeat him in single combat. These new enemies are far closer to home and are looking to catch her alone and off guard when she least expects it. The claustrophobia, it is palpable.

But the real “what the hell is going on and am I actually watching a show for the preteen and younger demographic” moment doesn’t come until Korra goes and confronts Tarrlok about this on her own at the council hall. What do they have to pull out at the end? Tarrlok is bloodbending and it isn’t even a full moon. You can totally just see the “well, crap” moment on Korra’s face when she realizes this fight is pretty much over. And it is, because Tarrlok’s just throwing our intrepid hero around like an understuffed rag doll.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6EJ3hLPnO4]

Bloodbending’s always easily been one of the creepier elements of the Avatar Universe. What, you think Waterbending is all Tai Chi and fluid movements? BAM. And then it’s “ooh, stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself!” but forever. I used to take Kung Fu back when I was an angsty teen, and I remember my Sifu saying, speed up a Tai Chi routine, you’ve got some pretty deceptively effective moves. So it’s kind of fitting that waterbending has the deadliest of the level 2 skills in Avatarland.

–Herein lies spoilers for episode 9, please don’t internet-punch me if you read on not expecting spoilers.

So to all Spider-Lin fans who were totally bummed out that she wasn’t in the last episode, have no fear. Episode 9 opens with Lin on a mission, getting suited up and busting Team Avatar out of jail cause that’s how she rolls, even taking the time to help metalbend Bolin’s fly up. She’s just a cool-ass lady; I want her comic book series.

Now, here’s where things start getting really creepy. Creepier than the bloodbending in the last episode. Tarrlok has Korra locked away in a shed in a portapotty-sized metal box so she can’t use her bending powers. I’m a die-hard horror fan, and even I can say this series has taken a turn for the dark. In fact, I’m pretty sure the whole locked in a box by a probable murderer thing has been a major plot point of a few dozen rated R movies. They’re expecting kids to watch this? Of course, being locked in a metal death chamber gives the distractable Korra the focus to get in touch with her spiritual side, which leads us to….

Like episode 8, a large part of this particular storyline is in the flashbacks we get to an older Gaang in Korra’s visions and some mysterious incident they’re all involved in involving a certain bloodbending underground mob leader name Yakone. Yakone is life scarification inducing and we get some nice scenes with the old Gaang. It’s nice to know that Toph calls Aang Twinkle Toes into their 40s. And that Sokka still has fond memories of his boomerang.

So to cut a long story short: yes, Tarrlok and Yakone are related. Yes, Tarrlok has actually been trying to manipulate everyone into his own reign of terror. After a confrontation with Team Avatar, he tries to run away but ends up running into Amon and having his powers taken away. So this proves Tarrlok’s not in league with Amon at least. However, Amon was resisting the bloodbending pretty well, which may point to Theory #2 that Amon may be a secondary avatar who got all of Aang’s mind powers whereas Korra got all the kick butt powers. Because Aang basically died symbolically from having to Avatar-state in ice for a century. It makes sense, see?

But whatev, the Threat of Tarrlok is no more, everyone can go home happy and not wanting to throw their screen out of the window because damn he was annoying. And Korra and Mako have a moment so hooray Makorra shippers.

So I think we all know where this is headed.

But final thought: I have to say, I’m not overly thrilled about this whole love triangle that keeps popping up throughout the episode. Asami begins to suspect things are afoot when Mako acts like a man possessed in their hunt for Korra. It doesn’t really help when Bolin lets it slip that Korra and Mako may have kinda sorta kissed at one point. Seriously, guys? Seriously? Is Mako the kind of guy we want getting with Korra? Is he the kind of guy we want getting with Asami? Both ladies are pretty awesome, and Mako is a bit of an indecisive manchild who doesn’t quite realize what mess his indecisiveness is wreaking. It would have been nice to have gotten through the series without a probable romantic conflict between two pretty cool female characters on the horizon, but I guess something had to be sacrificed on the altar of shipping. Or maybe they could realize he’s (ok, maybe unintentionally, but still) playing them both, and they can go off and have friendship adventures instead.

OK, real final thought? Korra suspending herself in the metal box with a scarf while the Equalist dudes tried to electrocute her by zapping the box: totally awesome. Check out that upper-body strength!

About Jac Thurmond 25 Articles
Co-founder of The Spoilist. Resident horror aficionado. Also reviewing science fiction, animation, and arthouse films. You can find me on Twitter.

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