Sunday, 6 May 2012

Avatar: Legend of Korra - Episode 5 Recap and Review

The Spirit of Competition

- Recap: The episode begins with the old timery narrator seemingly setting this up to be a shipping episode, talking about how Korra has a crush on Mako, but how he's with Asami Sato instead.

In the episode proper, the Fire Ferrets are having a practice session, throwing their chosen elements at each other to jazz music until they're knocked over. Mako thanks Korra for showing up for so many back to back practice sessions with them, and she agrees that it's good to be back, though Tarlokk isn't happy that she's taken a leave of absence from the Anti-Equalist Taskforce to do so. Bolin argues that since Korra joined the Fire Ferrets first, that technically means that they should have priority.

Mako calls them over into an official Team Huddle. He says that although they haven't actually been a proper team for very long, but he feels that they're ready to compete in the championships... which adds as a lead-in to Asami saying they're not quite ready, as they haven't gotten her dad's new sponsorship uniforms yet. Mako apologises to the team, then explains that he and Asami have a lunch date but that he'll meet up with them again at the match tonight, and then leaves with his girlfriend. Korra is amusingly squicked out by their open displays off affection, but Bolin decides that the now mostly empty gym is the perfect time and place to make a clumsy pass at the Avatar.

Korra stares at him for a while, but then makes her excuses and books it. Later, in the brothers' apartment, Mako is making dinner while Bolin is trying to give Pabu a bath. Bolin asks Mako what he makes of Korra, in a girlfriend sort of way. Mako replies that she's great, but really he thinks that he should go with Asami, getting the irritated response that Bolin meant as a girlfriend for himself, not Mako. Once this is clarified, Mako says that Korra would would make a better friend than girlfriend, and Bolin saying that Mako is nuts, as he and Korra are CLEARLY made for each other. Okay, have to say that the voice actor of Bolin is easily the funniest one in the entire show, thus far. Mako warns his brother off of dating Korra once again, saying that dating teammates during the championship won't end well, but Bolin basically ignores him.

Back on Avatar Island, Korra is putting food out for the Lemur-monkey things, when she's suddenly ambushed by Ikki and Jinora, who ask her how her romance with Mako is going. She says that it's not really going anywhere, as there isn't a romance, what with her not being interested in either romance nor Mako, and besides, she says, he's currently into that "beautiful, prissy, rich girl". But, she says, if she WERE interested, what should she do? Jinora volunteers an idea she read in a historical saga, where the heroine who fell in love with an enemy general's son who happened to already be engaged to a princess. The heroine's solution was to get a dragon, burn down the entire country and then jump into a volcano, which Jinora says is "so romantic". Ikki just puts forward the idea of making a love potion made of moonbeams and rainbows, which will cause them to be whisked off to a castle in the clouds where they can eat clouds with spoons... Korra says that the first suggestion kind of makes more sense to her now.

Someone laughing gets the girls' attention, where it seems that Pema, the young airbenders' mum, has been listening. She explains to Korra that there was actually once a time where she was in the same situation as Korra, where Tenzin was in love with someone else. Pema explains that for the longest time she didn't say anything, out of a fear of being rejected, but eventually the idea of the man she loved being together with the "wrong" woman got too much for her, and she confessed her love for him. "And the rest is history", she says, causing a romantic sigh from the younger girls there, including Korra. Surely this sage advice will have no bad consequences for our young Avatar!

The night of the championship finally arrives, with the Fire Ferrets (of the Future Industries Fire Ferrets as they're now called) fight their first match, against the all-girl team the Red Sands Rabaroos. The match continues on, managing to be both well animated and not boring as Quidditch. The FIFFs win their first match, and Korra decides to make a pass at Mako, on the basis that she feels that they're been connecting both in and out of the ring lately, so that they should spend some more time together. To her credit Korra looks really, really embarrassed while saying this, but after Mako tries to politely turn her down, then bursts out how she really likes him and thinks that they should be together. Mako tells her that he just doesn't feel the same way about her, and Korra, feeling humiliated, tells him to forget that she said anything.

Asami shows up in the gym almost immediately after this to congratulate the team on winning their first match, and gives Mako a congratulations kiss. He makes an awkward face at Korra and then leaves, leaving Korra looking incredibly miserable. Bolin, who missed the confession incident due to being out in the arena still waving at the fans, then decides that it's time to ask Korra out on a date. The melancholy Avatar says that she doesn't feel very date-worthy, but she relents after Bolin shows her with praise about how awesome he thinks that she is. The two go off on their date, while Mako gives the retreating pair an odd look, before Asami pulls him back into their embrace...

Shortly afterwards, Korra and Bolin are eating some Water Tribe food at a restaurant, eating some green noodles that I'm going to assume are seaweed based. They bond a little over their love of Water Tribe food, the increasingly desperate sounding Bolin saying that it's another thing that they have in common. Korra then notices a group of people hanging around at the back of the restaurant, in a section that is plastered with pictures of their faces. Bolin explains that that's Tahno and his team, who are both bad news and the reigning champions on the pro-bending circuit for three years in a row. He tells Korra not to make eye contact, but she does anyway, so Tahno and his group come over to start insulting the pair for no reason. Maybe he's trying to psyche them out, or maybe he's just being a dick, I don't know. Probably both.

Tahno then pretty much makes an explicit sexual advance on Korra, which the Avatar then takes as a cue to prepare to beat his ass. Bolin explains that Tahno is just trying to bait her, as if she hit him then she'll be kicked out of the tournament. Korra solution is to whistle, causing Naga to stick her head through the window and roar in Tahno's face, causing him to fall over in shock. Bolin is awestruck by this, saying that no one has been able to rattle Tahno before, and declares her to be one of a kind, making Korra feel a little bit better about herself. Yay.

The pair then get drunk at the noodle place's bar, getting into a burping competition. Then they go to what I think is meant to be Republic City's version of the Eiffel Tower or Seattle's Space Needle to look around, with it becoming more and more obvious that Bolin's seriously starting to get serious about Korra. The next day, Korra arrives at the arena for the next match, only to find Mako outside waiting for her. He accuses her of playing a game, essentially saying that she's messing with Bolin's head just to get back at Mako for rejecting her. He says that he's just trying to look out for his little brother, but Korra comes to the conclusion that Mako is actually jealous, and that he DOES like her like she likes him. They get into an argument, Korra adding the kind of skeevy suggestion that when Mako is with Asami he's actually thinking about Korra, and the pair storm off. Yikes.

The match begins, but the tension between Korra and Mako causes their game to be really off, and only the performance of Bolin, who is unaware of what's up with his brother and the Avatar, keeps them from outright loosing. On a side note, the impacts really seem to look like they hurt in this game, which explains the amount of padding they have to wear. The match is a tie, and Bolin goes forward with the tie-breaker round as he recognises that Mako's head isn't in the game. He wins though, to the relief of his teammates, who still hate each other despite not being knocked out of the tournament.

After the match, Mako goes up to Korra, saying that they need to sort out the situation that's going on between them. Korra grumbles that he's already made it pretty clear how he feels, but Mako says that he hasn't. He says that despite the fact that Korra drives him crazy, he also thinks that she's pretty amazing. Korra perks up at this, realising that he DOES like her. His protests that he actually likes Asami a whole lot too and that the situation is complicated is cut off by Korra aggressively kissing him... right when Bolin happened to be ten foot away with a bunch of flowers for her. Oops.

Bolin bursts into tears, complete with snot, and runs away, causing Mako to yell at Korra for upsetting his brother by kissing him. She protests that Mako kissed her back, but he angrily runs after Bolin. Korra looks sad again, and sarcastically congratulates herself for wrecking everything. Mako manages to track him down to the noodle place, where Bolin is face down on the table in misery, while Pabu is lying in a bowl, stuffed with noodles. He tries to take his little brother home, but it seems that Bolin is actually pretty wasted, or at least is acting like it. He accuses Mako of not being his brother, but of being a betrayer and that the only person he can trust is Pabu. Mako hoists his brother up, despite his protests, and carries him home.

The team prepare for the semi-final match, but it's clear that no one is on good terms with anyone else at this point, and Korra looks after seeing just how miserable Bolin is. The match continues but the team are meshing no where near as well as they did in their first match. Bolin is hit in the stomach by an earthbending disc, and promptly vomits (offscreen) the many bowls of noodles he'd consumed prior to the match. This apparently is enough prompting for the announcer to advertise one of the Championship's sponsors: Flameo Noodles! Huh, I guess the word caught on again after all.

The second round goes even worse than the first one, with Mako accidentally shooting his own brother, who is knocked out of the arena when he turns to yell him. And Korra manages to get a yellow fan for "unnecessary roughness" after bouncing one of the opposing team members up and down, and then slapping the referee when he complained. With the final round, Mako has pretty much given up hope of winning, but Korra says that they can't give up or they'll never forgive themselves, this doesn't inspire the team like it should though, and they sullenly continue on. Bolin then takes a disc to the shoulder, missing the padding and actually injuring him, and while Mako is distracted by looking at his brother in concern he's knocked out of the ring, with Bolin following shortly afterwards.

With the three members of the opposing team ganging up on Korra, who is all alone at this point, it doesn't look good for the FIFFs. Mako fishes his brother out of the water surrounding the ring, making sure that he's okay. They apologise to each other, admitting that they got into a mess over something silly. But just when they think that they're out of the match they manage to catch Korra winning entirely on her own through using her airbending style dodging motions to evade all of the opposing team's attacks, before knocking them out of the ring in one go with less then ten seconds on the clock. Yay!

The FIFFs now in the final, it's time for mending bridges. Mako thanks Korra for not giving up on the team, and Korra admits that things are complicated between them at the moment, but she hopes that despite that they can still all be friends. Tahno then shows up for his team's semi-final match, and manages to annoy the FIFFs by calling them a bunch of stinking losers. Korra rages about this for a little while, but changes her tone when she actually pleasantly thanks Asami and her father for their sponsorship, as they wouldn't have been able to get this far without it. So, yay, another friendship made! She then goes over to Bolin, and reveals that she had learnt the water-healling thing from Katara to fix his smooshed shoulder. Korra then apologises for messing with him, saying that it got a bit out of hand and that she didn't mean to hurt his feelings. Bolin bounces back though, saying that he'll get over it, but he says that the pair did have fun didn't they? Korra enthusiastically agrees, but just then the announcer declares Tahno's team to be the winners, and will be going onto the finals against the FIFFs. It seems that they beat their opposing team so badly that paramedics have been called, and that they've won after just one round. This understandably worries the FIFFs...

- Review: Okay, despite my misgivings about the level of shipping that seemed to be going on in regards to the promotional materials and the like, for example, last week Nick decided that the introduction of Asami was apparently more integral to advertising the episode than the whole "Can Korra conquer her fear" thing, this episode actually surprised me by actually hanging the whole relationship thing maturely and by giving a good dose of character development to everyone involved. And what could have been a painfully melodramatic teen drama kind of episode ended up being a funny, oddly sweet thing, making a great contrast to the previous two episode's Amon-influenced darkness.

 First of all, a bit shout-out to P.J. Byrne, the voice actor of Bolin, who has been consistently been making the character one of the best in the show, thus far. His great comic timing and the little inflections that he's been putting into his character's voice really make the scenes that he's in, and turn a character that could be incredibly annoying into one of the most entertaining in the show. Bolin's storyarc was really interesting to watch, both in making his infatuation with Korra seem to be less shallow than it initially might have appeared when they first met, and in how he and Korra compliment each other in a lot of ways.

The further growth of Mako and Korra was interesting to see, with the concept of Korra actually being somewhat falliable and prone to making mistakes continuing to be fleshed out. It does make a kind of sense that a teenage Avatar have to face different challenges than her male, preadolescent predescessor, particularly as Aang had a whole different set of priorities during his series to work with, rather than Korra's peacetime concerns.  Overall, I think that it's good that the various pairings have been put to rest, at least for now, as it kind of distracts from the main story.

Tahno was an interesting addition to the cast, as having an out and out antagonist for Korra who wasn't Amon and Co. was certainly going to be a tall order. Though I guess he fills a different niche to the Equalists, what with them being more pseudo-Maoist terrorists while Tahno is more akin to the villain in a post-Karate Kid 1980s sports movie, being a slimy dick to everyone just to make it clear that you're not meant to root for the right people. Interestingly, he pronounces Avatar the same way as the characters in the live-action adaption of Airbender ("Ohvatar"), which combined with his unusually pale appearance for the setting might be a knock against the Shymalan movie, maybe?

A detail that emerged this week that I think is interesting within the context of the show is the revelation that Pema made her move on Tenzin while he was in a relationship with someone else. I have seen several people already on the internet react to her negatively because of this, but I don't really think that people should be, after all she and Tenzin seem to be perfectly happy together and all... Though it does raise the question as to who it was that Tenzin was dating prior to Pema making her move on him. What if it happened to be Lin Beifong, for example? As the children of some very close childhood friends it's possible that they might have gotten together at some point... though making Lin's grouchiness be due to loosing a boyfriend to someone much younger than her (Pema is 16 years Tenzin's junior) seems... I don't know, kind of cheap?

Anyways, here's a gif of Bolin crying and running around in the manliest way possible.

And here's a teaser for next week's episode, 'And the Winner Is...'

Hey, that didn't tell us anything at all, other than Korra's popular on the internet, which is something I and anyone reading this review already know!

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