Sunday, 24 June 2012

Avatar: the Legend of Korra - Episode 11 Recap and Review

Skeletons in the Closet

- Recap: And so, the two part finale of the show begins! Republic City is now under the control of the Equalists, and being patrolled by their mechs and airships. Hiroshi Sato, who appears to have moved from being in the financing and equipment design section to being defacto second-in-command in the organisation, tells a crowd about how Amon has been so successful thus far, through his outlawing of bending, his taking over Air Temple Island, putting the Avatar on the run etc. Hiroshi also mentions how they know that the United Forces fleet is coming to the city to quash the rebellion, but he says that they'll prevail anyway. While this is going on, two masked chi-blockers at the back break away from the crowd and walk off. It turns out that they're actually Korra and Mako, who were in disguise and going some recon from their sewer hideout. She fumes over Hiroshi saying that she's on the run, and says she's going to go and beat him up to show him who's boss. Mako reminds her that they're waiting for Iroh II's fleet of battleships that are coming as backup, which makes her sigh in arguement and mutter about how she hates this "being patient" stuff.

Back in their hideout, Asami is still bitter about Mako's deceptiveness and infers that she thinks the two had snuck off to make out somewhere, resulting in the firebender snapping at her while Korra looks puzzled as to what the deal is between then all of a sudden. Suddenly, a wild hobo appears, the one with the bush from episode one to be precise, who welcomes them back to his underground hobo village and gives them some food. Gommu, that's the hobo's name, gives a little speech about how he and a ground of others are more than a little skeptical about how Equal Amon's regime actually will be, and points out that they're made a society where bending and nonbending hobos live in harmony right here, so it should be possible above ground too. Bolin calls him a wise and noble hobo, and compliments him on the dumpster broth that he'd made for them, which causes Asami to discretely push her's away when no one's looking when she learns where the ingredients came from. Later, Mako notices that Korra is having trouble sleeping and asks here what's up. She replies that she's got this awful pit in her stomach and that it seems crazy that just a few months ago she was in the South Pole, and wouldn't have dreamed she'd be where she is right now then. Mako then starts complimenting her in a way that implies he wants to kiss her again, but Korra, wisely, shuts it down before it starts and tries to get some sleep.
Elsewhere it appears that Amon had rounded up most of the benders in the city, including the White Lotus guards, Tarrlok's former taskforce and the remaining metalbenders, and is debending them all one by one in something arranged to look like a state execution. Yikes. Later, Team Avatar gets ready for the arrival of the fleet, which arrives in the midst of the morning fog. But the old phrase of "It's quiet, too quiet" is in effect, and both Iroh and Korra realise that it's odd that there are neither airships nor any Equalist mechtanks there to engage the fleet as it arrives. And just as Iroh says that something's not right, one of the many, many underwater mines that it appears Hiroshi filled with the bay with explodes, causing massive damage to first one, than many of the ships. Korra dives into the water as the general orders his waterbenders to detonate the mines, and shortly the two hear a noise that up to this point would be entirely alien to residents of the Avatarverse. It is the noise of airplanes. Their appearance causes Bolin to ask where Hiroshi gets the time to invent all of this stuff, and they begin to make short work of Iroh's ships through a combination of bombs and torpedoes. Hiroshi is there in person to take part in the bombing raid, which makes sense considering he invented the things.

Korra is momentarily stunned by one of the underwater blasts, and comes too to see at least one of the ships already on its way to the bottom of the bay. Err... this is a lot more overt death than I expected in the show. Don't get me wrong, if people survived things that would be obviously fatal it'd take you out of the story, but this is still surprising. Korra even blows one guy up with his own torpedo, for example. The planes turn out to be too fast for most of the benders, meaning that it seems to be up to mostly Iroh and Korra to bring them down. And Iroh does take them down, quite spectacularly, he even punches out a bomb that was aimed pretty squarely at him though the blast does knock him into the ocean with several burns. Korra saves him though, and after he thanks her for saving his life, she takes him back to the Korracave.

Back in the Korracave, Iroh explains that they were prepared for the mechatanks, but not this "new highspeed aircraft". Korra admits that it seems that everytime they think that they have an advantage, the Equalists whip out something new to counter it. Iroh explains that they have to get a message out to the head of the second fleet of United Forces ships, which is headed by Commander Bumi, aka Tenzin's brother. Iroh says that he's "a bit of a wildman, but one of the bravest people out there". They get Gommu, who apparently has a working radio broadcasting station in the sewer, and they send out a warning to Bumi to stay back until he sends his signal. Iroh then puts together a plan to find the Equalist's airfield and destroy it, so that the UF fleet will have a chance of retaking the city, but it seems that Korra has other plans. She says that she's going to go and face Amon one on one, because that's what her gut it telling her to do. The others tell her that that's really not a good idea, and Mako says that he's going to go with her to make sure she's okay. Iroh muses for a moment, saying that his grandfather (implictly Zuko) would respect the Avatar's instincts, and decides to let them go.

The team say their goodbyes to Korra and Mako, who apologises to Asami for how messed up things had gotten, and she gives him what can be interpreted as either a breakup or a goodbye kiss and runs off. They part ways, with Bolin, Asami and Iroh going off with Naga to the mountains while Mako and Korra walk to Air Temple Island, her using her waterbending to create a bubble for them to breathe in as they go. Whilst in disguise they bump into the Lieutenant, who tells them that they should be at the arena as extra security at the rally that Amon is throwing, but after throwing off his confusion as to why they're there, the pair go and hide in the temple until Amon comes back, having seen him leave via airship when he arrived. But to their surprise, they're not alone when they get to the attic, as it seems that Tarrlok is being kept there in a cell. They ask him why he's so special that he's being kept there when no other prisoners are, and he responds with the genuinely surprising answer that he's Amon's brother. Which gets a melodramatic gasp from Korra in response.

Tarrlok explains that Amon is actually from the Northern Water Tribe, and that he's a waterbender and a bloodbender, just he used to be. This surprises Korra even further, and Mako asks him if he knew this all along, which Tarrlok denies, saying he found out only after Amon had captured him. Korra asks how his brother managed to become Amon, which leads to Tarrlok continuing the story told in Korra's Aang flashback. He explains that Yakone's gang broke him out of prison and he underwent plastic surgery to start a new life elsewhere with a new identity. He moved back to the North Pole, where he met Tarrlok's mother and settled down to start a family. It turns out that he was a good natured man, at least until he discovered that his kids were waterbenders, then Yakone became really, really abusive. Tarrlok says that even when they were children he wanted everyone to be treated fairly and equally, and that he was surprisingly good natured. One day, when Amon was ten and Tarrlok was seven, their father took them on a hunting trip where he explained who he really was and began their bloodbending training.
And it terms out that Katara was the one who had bloodbending made illegal, which makes sense. Yakone explains his master plan to his kids, that he'll train them to use their bloodbending until they are supreme masters of the style, and then they'll return to claim Republic City for their own and get revenge for him against the Avatar. From then on Yakone taught his sons bloodbending, where it seemed that even amongst a family of extremely powerful benders Amon was a prodigy, who managed to completely master the form by the time he was 14. Everything changed though when Yakone attempted to get the boys to bloodbend each other, but when Tarrlok refused, resulting in Yakone threatening to beat his younger son. This caused Amon to bloodbend Yakone in response though, and say that they're not his father's tools of revenge and that he's running away from home. He asks if Tarrlok wanted to come with him, but he says that he has to stay behind to take care of their mother. They searched for days, but they couldn't find him, coming to the conclusion that he must have died in the snowstorm. The news of Amon's supposed death seemingly broke their mother emotionally, and with him gone Yakone stopped tranning Tarrlok how to bloodbend, his hopes for revenge withering without his eldest son. Leading to him dying a few years later.

Korra admits that that was one of the saddest stories that she'd ever heard, and Tarrlok apologises for everything that he'd ever done to her. He says that he thought that he was a better man than his father, but he became the tool of revenge that he'd always been intended to be, formed by his father's ghost subconciously. Tarrlok admits that the same could be said for Amon, as despite him being a bender himself he truely believes that bending is the ultimate source of evil in the world, due in no small part to how his father raised him. These revelations cause Korra to realise that Amon's debending ability must be some form of bloodbending, and that he's virtually unbeatable due to him being able to redirect people's attacks with his mind. But, despite this, they now have an advantage, she explains, as all they have to do is expose him as a bender and people will know that he's a fraud at the rally he's holding. Korra and Mako pause for a minute, and she says that they can't leave Tarrlok here, but he tells them to go as noone can know that they spoke to him, and tells them to put an end to "this sad story". They nod in acceptance, and head off to rally in the next episode...

- Review: Well things seem to be shaping up nicely for the finally, they finally have a way to defeat the bad guy that doesn't seem like a copout, Amon gets a back story, and they have a hell of a set piece in the form of the air/sea battle between the UF and the Equalists. Okay, not for the things I liked and disliked.

I liked the reveal of Amon's origin, as despite it being a for characters to be long lost brothers, it does actually work here, I felt it did anyways. I liked how it showed that revenge ultimately ruins people's lives, for example, while at the same time bizarrely made Amon something akin to the Anti-Zuko. Zuko was a basically decent guy who was emotionally and physically abused by his father until his desire to please him caused him to try and assist taking over the world in order to please him. While Amon was also a decent guy, but was his father's favourite so he didn't have to put up with the same things, putting him oddly more in the position of Azula. But rather than revelling in his sibling's misfortune like her, he used his father's behaviour to justify trying to tear down everything that his father held close to him.

I liked the sea battle, and Iroh's characterisation. And as I said in the recap I was surprised by the inferred deathtole that must have resulted from it, considering how the original series went out of its way to show people diving out of the way at the last minute and the like. But then, this is skewed more towards an older audience, but I'll give them that. Hiroshi Sato having a higher bodycount than the likes of Azula is kind of bizarre though.

Things I disliked... although I thought that the reveal itself was good, I thought that the way it was all suddenly dropped on us was possibly a bit heavy handed maybe? Possibly if they'd had more time they could have had unexplained flashbacks and enabled us to put it together in some way first would wouldn't have seemed so convienient, but that isn't really a serious gripe I have with it.

Right then, on to episode 12!

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