TV Review: The Legend of Korra – 9
“In my years, I have encountered people born with rare and unique bending abilities. I once bested a man with my trusty boomerang who was able to firebend with his mind…”
Picking off from the last episode, “Out of the Past” started off with Tarrlok locking Korra in a metal cage somewhere in the snow mountains. The episode specifically deals with Korra’s attempt to connect with Aang and what happened to him and his friends in Republic City. Meanwhile Tenzin, Lin, Asami, Bolin and Mako attempt to find Korra as they are sent on a wild goose chase by Tarrlok.
The episode itself was very intense for fans, new and old. Not only did it expand on the concept of bloodbending, which was a minor part in the original series that fascinated fans ever since it’s appearance, but it also tied in the Aang Gang’s experience with the problems facing Korra and her friends.
The episode marked the return of Lin Beifong after her resignation and hospitalization in “The Aftermath.” As soon as she hears of Korra’s kidnapping, she puts her armor on, minus her police badge, and sets to the Police Headquarters. There she rescues Asami, Mako and Bolin and heads to Tenzin so they can look for Korra. Due to Tarrlok lying that Korra was kidnapped by Equalists, the gang heads to the Equalists hiding place to find Korra.
While they find the now bending-less police officers that were captured by Amon, they find out that Korra was not captured by the Equalists and Tenzin deduces that it must have been Tarrlok who kidnapped her.
Another major part of the episode was Mako’s extreme concern for Korra’s well-being; while everyone else was worried over Korra’s disappearance, the episode made a clear point of showing Mako’s extreme concern for Korra, which would reflect his possible romantic feelings for her. Overall, the series had done a good job of reducing the melodrama of the love triangle between the main characters, every now and again it would return to the issue, which sometimes takes away from the plot and the characters themselves.
Also, Mako’s sudden display of affection towards Korra shows a complete change of heart and in his characteristics. Up until this point, while he did admit that he had some feelings towards Korra, he rejected her and showed his devotion to Asami. However, in this episode, Mako seemed to disregard Asami’s feelings, especially with the fact that he did not tell Asami about the kiss between himself and Korra, instead, she found out in this episode from Bolin.
It just seems that Mako has not sorted out his feelings and is being unfair to both Asami and Korra by leading both on in different ways. While Mako is entitled to his feelings and his actions came out from his genuine concern for Korra, it just increased my general dislike for Mako and his treatment of girls.
The focus on Mako and Korra’s potential relationship worries me because it can result both Asami and Bolin to be pushed into very typical tropes: Bolin as the comedic relief character and Asami as the jealous love interest. The beauty of the show is its ability to flesh out its characters and their relationships with each other, so I hope that Bolin and Asami do not suffer from the love triangle storyline. Also, the last episode did an excellent job of having Korra, Mako, Bolin and Asami act like a real team that valued their friendship with one another. So, it would be disappointing to see tension and animosity arise from the romantic conflicts, especially since they should be focused on working as a team.
As for the Tarrlok, the bloodbending storyline and the Aang Gang flashbacks, the episode did an excellent job of tying all of them together. Since the first flashback, it was very unclear whether they had to do with the Equalist problem or another problem entirely. Then, with Tarrlok’s actions and his ability to bloodbend in the previous episode, more questions regarding the plot came up. However, this episode answered many of those questions. While trapped in the metal cage, Korra meditates in hopes to gain connect with Aang and get answers from her previous life. After a while of trying, she finally connects with Aang and sees a flashback of him, the Police Chief Toph and the first Chairman of the Council, Sokka, dealing with Yakone, a serious criminal that threatened Republic City.
In these flashbacks, it is revealed that Yakone was a powerful bloodbender that could use it against an entire room at any time, who has been brought to trial for using such a taboo technique against the people of Republic City. Chairman Sokka announces the verdict that Yakone is guilty and is sentenced for a life in prison. However, Yakone responds to this by using bloodbending against the entire court, including Sokka, Toph, and Aang. While Aang tries to stop Yakone from escaping, he is put under bloodbending and grows unconscious. However, Aang goes into the Avatar State and attacks the carriage Yakone is using to escape.
Yakone in turn responds by using bloodbending on Aang again and attempts to kill him by breaking his neck. However, Aang returns to the Avatar State and breaks free of Yakone’s bloodbending. Then, Aang decides to use energybending to take Yakone’s waterbending away, which would be extension prevent him from bloodbending.
This flashback makes Korra realize that she cannot trust Tarrlok because he is in fact Yakone’s son.
The expansion of the bloodbending skill was a key part of this episode and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Since the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode, “The Puppetmaster,” the concept of bloodbending has fascinated fans for years due to its interesting skill and the fact that it was a much darker part of the series. However, the skill has not been used or mentioned much because Katara was the only bloodbender and the idea that using bloodbending was wrong and immoral, which gave to the fact that bloodbending is considered taboo in Korra. So, this episode was to take a unique, albeit frightening, skill and expand on it; in the first series, it was used more as a way to control people like “puppets,” but this episode made it clear that it was a very dangerous skill that could easily kill people. The animation and sounds that came out of the bloodbending scenes were truly disturbing and frightening, but it was still a very extraordinary plot point and made the episode very suspenseful and exciting.
After Korra learns the truth about Yakone and Tarrlok is exposed as the person who kidnapped Korra, Tarrlok claims that he will start a new life away from his father’s reputation and Republic City by keeping Korra hostage. But Tarrlok is ambushed by Amon and some of his chi-blockers, who are quickly stopped by Tarrlok’s bloodbending. As Tarrlok uses bloodbending against Amon, he discovers that Amon has some sort of immunity against his bloodbending; Amon takes away Tarrlok bending and orders his chi-blockers to capture Korra by electrocuting the metal cage. However, Korra outsmarts the chi-blockers by hoisting herself with her armband to avoid being electrocuted and quickly defeats the chi-blockers. While she encounters Amon abducting Tarrlok, she waterbends shar icicles against Amon to give herself time to escape. Although she is successful in escaping Amon, Korra slams into a tree and becomes unconscious in the middle of the forest until she is rescued by Naga, who returns her to friends.
Originally, there was much speculation as to who would save Korra, but in the end, she ended up saving herself, which I really enjoyed. Not only was she able to overpower the chi-blockers and escape Amon, but she also displayed a great deal of ingenuity by avoiding electrocution while in the metal cage. This really helped reaffirm Korra’s characterization as a strong, independent character, which is something that is very uncommon in modern television. Also, the fact that it was Naga who found her helped heighten the importance of their relationship, which is to the same degree as Aang’s deep love for Appa in the original series.
At the end of the day, however, the flashback scenes were the best part of the entire episode and one of my favorite parts of the whole series. As someone who has a huge attachment to the original Aang Gang, being able to see Aang, Toph and Sokka in an extended flashback was truly amazing and made me, along with many other fans, emotional. It was more than just the appearance of some of our favorite characters; their interactions and dialogue really reflected the characters we knew in loved even though they looked and sounded different now.
From Toph calling Aang “Twinkle Toes” to Sokka recounting his triumph over “Sparky Sparky Boom Man” to using the original A:TLA soundtrack, seeing the older characters in a new setting gave excellent closure for the series and added a layer to Korra as a whole. However, it was nice to see that despite being a spin-off series, The Legend of Korra could still stand on its own without relying so much on its parent series, which I find very important because Korra has its own characters, plot lines and messages that is separate from that of The Last Airbender.
Overall, “Out of the Past” proved to be a very strong episode that continued from “When Extremes Meet,” which I found to be the best episode of the series. Despite the problems I saw with Mako’s characterization and the return of the romantic tension, the episode did an excellent job trying the flashbacks to the current problems facing Korra.
GO Rating: 4/5