Sunday, 3 June 2012

Legend of Korra: Episode 8 Recap and Review

When Extremes Meet

- Recap: After a week off due to it being a holiday in the States last weekend, Avatar is now back with the repercussions of the actions of the last two episodes starting to hit the city hard. We get a recap of the last episode, and the announcer is back, huzzah! The plot of the last episode, Hiroshi Sato being an Equalist who built the world's most expensive mechs for the terrorist group, while his daughter rejected him and joined Korra etc.

The episode begins properly with the brothers and Asami officially moving to Air Temple Island. And interestingly the Air Acolytes appear to use wind-powered boats instead of the standard steam or petrol powered ones seen in the rest of the show, though I guess it does make sense, what with air being their element and all. Tenzin's kids welcome the new folks to their island, and Ikki and Meelo instantly start bugging them. And then Meelo starts staring at Asami and asking her for some of her hair as he thinks she's pretty, which amuses Mako. Ikki and Bolin then get into a kind of competition regarding who can talk the fastest (Ikki wins) and the new folks are led to their new rooms.

Once in the girl's dorms, Ikki starts off the conversation by loudly asking Asami if she knows that Korra likes Mako, which gets a reaction from Korra that... has to be seen to be believed. This causes Korra to drag Asami into her room, and slam the door in Ikki's face. Which gets an equally over the top angry reaction from the young airbender. Korra apologises that the room might not exactly what she's used to, but Asami says that she thinks it's charming, and that she doesn't mind it being different to her old place as it would just remind her of her father. A knock at the door causes Korra to angrily shout for Ikki to go away, only for it to be Tenzin, who welcomes Asami to the island. He then explains that Lin Beifong's replacement in the Metalbender police has been chosen, a guy called Saikhan voiced by Ghost in the Shell's Richard Epcar, and he asks Korra to come along to his promotion press conference.

At the press conference, Saikhan does the usual schpeel of how working with Lin was an honour, hopes that she's recover quickly from the injuries she suffered from the raid on the Sato Estate, and his hopes that he'll be an adequate replacement for her, but then his speech takes an entirely different route. He beings praising Tarrlok for the strength that he's shown since the beginning of the Equalist problem, and says that in all matters relating to the Equalists they now come under Tarrlok's jurisdiction. The police now have to lend any and all resources Tarrlok and his taskforce, and now Saikhan reports directly to him. This, understandibly, alarms Tenzin and Korra, and even they can see where this is going.

After the press conference, Tenzin approaches Tarrlok and outright accuses him of bribing Saikhan in some way, though the waterbender smugly says that the metalbender just recognises his talents and just deferred to him in this case. He then spies Korra, and happily says that now that her probending distractions are behind her, he looks forward to her rejoining his taskforce. Korra scoffs at this, saying that there's no way that she's going to go back to being on his vanity project. He says that that's unfortunate, but he's sure that she'll come around eventually like she did before. Korra angrily says that she knows at this point that Tenzin was right all along about him, and that he'd played her, Lin and was now playing the new guy, but she's wise to him now, and that Tarrlok should remember that she's the Avatar, meaning that he needs her, but she doesn't need him. Tarrlok turns this right back around on her, and says that she's not the Avatar, she's just a "half baked Avatar in training" and mocks her for lack of progress in airbending up to this point. This comment manages to get Korra to become incredibly depressed, and Tarrlok, his job done, walks away, telling her that if she's not going to be on his taskforce, then she better just stay out of his way.

On the way back to ATI, Korra is still annoyed about her mental block when it comes to airbending, as she's memorised all of the practice forms, but has yet to produce so much as a measily puff of air. Tenzin tells her that she just have to keep working to eventually break through her airbending block, which causes Korra to grumble about him stating the obvious. Tenzin continues, saying he wasn't finished. He says that Aang didn't just have his bending teachers to help him along the way, but also had input from his past lives as well, and he asks her if she's had anything like that happen to her thus far? This gets a definite no from Korra, who says that the Order of the White Lotus said that she was a spiritual failure as well. Tenzin says that she might have had a vision of one of her past lives and not realised what it was, and Korra brings up the "hallucinations" that she'd experienced when she'd been significantly beaten up by someone else. This causes Tenzin to suddenly become alert at the mention of his father in Korra's "dreams" and they decide to try and decypher what Aang might be trying to tell her in them.

Later on, Korra is sat on a clifftop in tears due to her inability to airbend or understand what Aang might be trying to tell her. Eventually though the brothers and Asami find her, and get to explan what's up. She says that she thinks that she's the worst Avatar ever, as she can't save the city as she can't learn all of the elements, and that she feels really alone because of it. Luckily for her, her friends come armed with Canon. Mako reminds her that Aang hadn't learnt all of the elements when he first started fighting the Fire Nation, and that he was just a little kid. And Bolin mentions that he didn't do it along either, he had his friends to help him, just like Korra does. Aw. Her confidence boosted, the New Team Avatar gather to save the City, but the four of them turn out to be too much for Nagu, who just slides them onto the floor rather than carry them. This makes them choose a backup plan, in the form of the Korramobile! The music shifting from the jazz and Asian-influenced score to one akin to the Christopher Nolan Batman films during its introduction was a nice touch.

They patrol the city looking for any Equalists to beat up, and it turns out that Hiroshi had police scanners built into all of his private cars, which Asami says puzzled her at the time but now... less so. They hear about an attempted jailbreak being carried out by some Equalists, and coincidentally the convoy of chi-blockers' bikes and trucks rolls past just afterwards. Thus begins a cool chase scene, with Asami and the benders working togetherto create ramps and the like to make their pursuit easier. Mako uses lightningbending to zap some of the bikers, while Bolin chucks cobbles at them until they crash. Eventually, they manage to capture all of the bad guys and foil the escape attempt, and the press are already there taking photos when the police finally show up. Tarrlok appears with them, and yells at Korra for her team getting in the way of the Real Authorities through her incepting the escape for herself. Korra smugly tells him that she didn't see his taskforce nor the police the entire time she was chasing the Equalists, so she doesn't really have anything to apologise for, she feels. Tarrlok's cool is momentarily broken when he snaps at her to stay out of his way, but Korra is in too much of a good mood to care.

The next day, Tarrlok is holding a meeting at the city council, where he is laying out a new law that he's written up. Namely, he wants to make it illegal to be either a member of the Equalists or associated with them in some way, as well as enforcing a curfew all all nonbenders to be in their homes by nightfall, lest they be arrested. Tenzin right objects to this, saying that he can't punish all nonbenders for the actions of just a few, which results in Tarrlok saying that kind of talk is cowardly, and will ultimately result in the city falling into Amon's hands. He then calls for a vote, which gets the law passed. This will not end well.

That night, Team Avatar are waiting around for news about another Equalist attack, and hear via the radio that there is a demonstration of Equalists gathering in the city. They pile in the car, Asami glaring at Mako and Korra after he helps her into the car (Ikki's revelation from earlier apparently wasn't lost along the way) and they head off. They arrive in the mostly nonbender portion of the city, and Korra asks why the power seems to be out. And then it quickly becomes obvious that the nonbenders aren't Equalists, they're just protesting over the fact that the city cut their power right in the middle of friggin' WINTER. Saikhan ignores their complaints though, and orders them to be back into their homes. One of the kids in the protest, yeah, there are kids and babies there, points out that Korra is there, and their mum asks her to help them as she's "their Avatar too". Korra shoves the cops out of the way, and asks the nonbenders to remain calm while she tries to put a stop to this. She then stomps over to Tarrlok, who apparently decided to have the power cut to the protestors' homes personally. Tarrlok still considers the fact that they're complaining about being freezing cold is evidence enough that they're Equalists, while Asami tells him that they're not Equalists, they're just normal people who want their rights back. Tarrlok ignores her and orders his men to start rounding up and arresting the demonstrators, yes, including the children. And Tahno it appears, who either just happened to live there or he was moved after his lost his bending... hrrm. Korra uses her bending to free the people who Tarrlok attempted to arrest, and in retaliation he has Asami arrested, on the grounds that she's a nonbender out past curfew and that her father is a known Equalist. This understandibly pisses off Mako, who tries to get them to let her go, which apparently is enough evidence for the waterbender to have him and Bolin arrested as well. This gets Korra even more annoyed, as she yells at him to stop, but both Tarrlok and Bolin point out that if she squashes him with rocks like she threatening to do, it'll just get her arrested like them. Korra begrudgingly puts down her rocks, and tells her friends that she's going to get Tenzin to get them set free just as they're packed into trucks. Tarrlok takes the opportunity to start mocking Korra for the fact that her team has been disbanded so quickly after its formation, getting a "This isn't over!" declaration from Korra, only for Tarrlok to smugly say that it is...

Later, at the metalbenders' HQ, Tenzin arrives and tries to get Saikhan to release Korra's friends, and Korra points out that since the police were rounding up innocent people and claiming that they were Equalists, they should be released as well. Saikhan says that that isn't going to happen, as the new police regime has installed a policy of indefinitely detaining all suspected Equalists until the Taskforce determines that they either aren't a threat or are not guilty of the charges they face. Korra grabs Saikhan by the chin and calls him the Worst Chief of Police ever, only for Tenzin to lead her away from the shoulder and tell her to remain calm. He then immediately turns around and says to the cop "You really are the worst chief of police! Ever!" While pointing accusingly. Back on the island, Korra feels angry and frustrated about the situation, so she decides to go and have it out with Tarrlok to give him a piece of her mind.

Korra leaves Naga outside, telling her to wait as she goes to face Tarrlok alone. She breaks into Tarrlok's office, via the window, and tells him that he's using exactly what it is that Amon says is wrong about benders, in that he's using his power to oppose and intimidate people. This gets a sceptical "And you don't?" from the waterbender, causing a stumbling denial from Korra. He then points out that isn't that why she came here tonight, to intimidate him into letting her friends go. Tarrlok then changes tune, saying that the fact that she's willing to go to extremes to get what she wants is one of the things that he admires about Korra, as it's an attribute that they both share. He then makes Korra an offer, if she falls into line and does what he says, he'll have her friends released from prison. This makes Korra realise that he actually had them arrested to get to her, which is something that he doesn't deny. Her refusing his offer (and comparing him to Amon) causes the waterbender to attempt to murder her with his bending, as she's made it impossible for him to work with her. Thus begins a short but actually really well done fight scene, where Tarrlok even manages to cut Korra's face with a barriage of icicles before she just hoists the wall behind him loose and smashing him through another with it. He's left hanging by one hand over the council chambers, where an enraged Korra yells "Still think I'm a halfbaked Avatar!" before smashing the entire balcony he was clutching, making him fall to the ground, before jumping down after him and smashing the room up with her earthbending. Korra mocks him for being powerless after being removed from any nearby water source... only for him to use bloodbending to restrain her, which is suprising as it's kind of considered to be... well, evil, in waterbending circles in the 'verse. Tarrlok tells the panicking Korra that she's in his way, so she has to be removed. Korra, meanwhile, is shocked that he's able to bloodbend when it's not a full moon (when a waterbender's power is at it's highest, which even the inventor of the style thought was necessary for it to work). Tarrlok then smashes her into a wall on the far end of the room, causing her to blackout, and have another series of flashbacks. They consist of the odd monkeyfaced man from the last one, apparently bloodbending everyone in the courtroom he's in (while in handcuffs) including Sokka, Toph and Aang while laughing evilly.

Korra comes too in the trunk of Tarrlok's car, where the councilman tells her that he's having her sent somewhere far away, and that she's never going to see Republic City again. He manages to slam the door just in time to avoid Korra literally breathing fire at him, as she screams and yells as  she's drived out of Republic City for parts unknown by possibly the one man who hates her more than Amon does...

- Review: I think that this episode might be my second favourite in the series thus far, with the creators managing to pack a lot of stuff into the running time, to the extent that it almost feels like a mini-movie. The animation on the numerous action scenes is stunning, the characterisation continues to improve (with Asami especially seemingly becoming less of a flat character as things progress) and the music was also really good, particularly in the aforementioned almost Batmanish section at the formation of Team Avatar.

Another thing that I'm honestly kind of relieved about was Korra actually beginning to side with the nonbenders more and recognise that they have legitimate complaints, while at the same time having Tarrlok demonstrate that it's not really a straightcut good versus evil plot at this point, as both the bender and nonbender communities have bad people in them. The fact that both sets of bad people claim to be acting in their social groups' best interests is certainly interesting, as is the fact that both Amon and Tarrlok have... somewhat unique ways of incapacitating people. This isn't to say that I think that they're the same person (that would be horrible writing if that were the case), it's just an interesting comparision.

Shout out to Janet Varney, the VA of Korra, who in this episode particularly I feel did a really good job at acting the various roles that and situations that Korra found herself in in the episode.

I am curious as to where the show is going from this point though, I mean Tarrlok becoming the Fascist to Amon's Communist was at least kind of telegraphed, but I am wondering where Korra is going and what's going to happen to her. Is she just going to be dumped in the wilderness, or put on a boat to the middle of nowhere? The girl is kind of the personification of the planet, and although she's not god (yet) she's kind of hard to dispose of without outright killing her, which despite the darker tone the series has taken, I doubt that Tarrlok is going to take her upstate, do her head in with a shovel and bury her in an unmarked grave in a field somewhere. Maybe she meets the elderly Zuko on his wanderings, and they team up or he gives her Iroh-ish advice or something, I don't know.

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