In the sixth episode of the first season of The Legend of Korra, AMON IS A WHOLE LOT SCARIER THAN I THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO BE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Legend of Korra.
Sweet baby Gandalf, this was a spectacular and upsetting story, and it’s especially effective because I wasn’t the biggest fan of the previous episode. “And the Winner Is…” does EVERYTHING I WANT FROM THIS SHOW and so much more! Truthfully, I was so wrapped up in the action of the pro-bending finals that I had completely forgotten about Amon’s threat. WHICH WAS THE WHOLE POINT, oh my god.
But I’ll get there in a bit. This is a simple story with complex emotions and motivations at the heart of it. Amon’s threat opens the episode, and we then watch how different people react to it. I expected the Fire Ferrets to oppose closing the arena, and I expected the United Republic Council to support it. Hell, their reasoning was sound to me! Was it worth it to expose innocent fans of pro-bending to Amon’s possible attack? Why tease the opposition? I was completely shocked, however, when Lin intervened. To be honest, I thought this episode would be about Korra finding a way to host an underground competition to get around the ban. 100% WRONG. And it wasn’t until later in the episode that I understood why Lin would go against Tenzin. Well, I understood her reasoning, yes, but I couldn’t have known that there was such a personal angle to it. Now that I know that she was the one Tenzin was seeing all those years before Pema, IT ALL MAKES SENSE. I was initially worried that this show might just paint Lin as being the bitter ex-girlfriend, but a lot of the second half of the episode develops her character in satisfying ways.
At the very least, I understand where her anger comes from. To me, that’s an important similarity between Korra and Lin, as they’ve both got tempers. Oh god, I can already see Lin becoming a mentor of sorts for Korra, especially after watching them team up against Amon at the end of the episode. I LOVE WHEN WRITERS MAKE PARALLELS LIKE THIS. And I also love that there’s a quiet moment between Lin and Tenzin right before the final pro-bending match starts where both characters agree to set aside their differences for one night. These are the scenes I enjoy and why I loved A:TLA so much. That show was so much about character growth and insight amidst a time of war, and I’m seeing those same patterns appear here as well. It’s so exciting.
But from the moment the match starts until the very end of this episode, this is just fantastic storytelling. I’m glad that nearly an entire episode was devoted solely to the final pro-bending match because it gives the writers time to be more detailed than I expected. We get to see the disparate styles of the two teams, both in their introductions and their fighting. There’s a clever commentary on class issues when it becomes obvious that the Wolfbats have probably paid off the referees in their favor. And introducing that concept of cheating not only makes the match more intense, but it later boosts Amon’s claim against the benders.
And really, I kind of want to spend most of this review talking about Amon. No one needs a play-by-play commentary of the fight, as y’all have already seen it. It’s wonderfully animated and written, and the suspense of the scene makes this episode go by quickly. (Also, the cosplayers in the crowd were THE BEST!) But as soon as the Wolfbats win by cheating, this episode gets dark as fuck. It’s a disturbing thing to watch, especially since Amon’s terrorist attack is so brutal and efficient. He and his henchmen take out all of the metalbending police force, as well as the Fire Ferrets, Lin, and Tenzin, and it’s so effortless for them. Hell, that’s what is so frightening about him at times. It never seems like he or the other Equalists are ever truly trying hard. They’re all ridiculously skilled, and this attack is evidence of Amon’s brilliant understanding of warfare.
The Equalist banners unfurl from the rafters, and shit is so real. Korra has another one of those visions of Toph and Aang and WHAT THE FUCK DO THEY MEAN? Who is that other guy in her visions? Why does she keep having them?
But none of these questions are answered. WHEN WILL THEY BE? Probably after Amon stops being A TERRIFYING VILLAIN. The thing is, there is a point buried in his behavior. He points out the fact that the crowd and the pro-bending organization just celebrated three bullies, and draws parallels between this and how the benders treat non-benders. And I seriously can’t disagree with him! It seems the only person who understands this is Tenzin, who remains the only character who has ever said that the benders need to fight the Equalists while respecting the concerns of non-benders.
However, that doesn’t mean I am TOTALLY OKAY with what Amon does here. The sheer violence and dehumanization of his actions disturbs and unsettles me. This is the first time that Amon suggests bending is unnatural, that a person must be “purified” of their bending to become normal. Yeah, holy shit, THAT’S SO FUCKING DISTURBING. The entire concept of “leveling the playing field” is executed in this deeply unsettling way. Seriously, watching a person’s bending being taken away just makes me feel so wrong, like I shouldn’t see it happen. On top of that, now I know that the Equalists have technology in their possession to give them an advantage, such as those weird glove things that emit lightning. THIS IS SEVERELY FUCKED UP.
Lin and Korra’s attack on Amon is just riveting, and I didn’t think it would happen, considering how effective Amon’s attack was on the unsuspecting benders present. But my god, they are a fabulous team, able to combine their strengths to give Amon a serious threat. And then Lin saves Korra’s life instead of going up into Amon’s airship, and be still my heart. Could this signify the start of a closer relationship between Lin and Korra? I REALLY HOPE SO.
But honestly, I am disconcerted by what’s happened here in “And the Winner Is…,” especially since the title of the episode feels like the worst joke ever. Neither team really “won” the pro-bending championship. Amon bested them all, blowing up the pro-bending platform as he escaped and successfully launching his revolution. Now I’m left to wonder what sort of response the United Republic Council will give. Will they overcompensate and start persecuting non-benders, proving Amon’s point? Will they finally listen to Tenzin’s advice? I am incredibly excited to see where this goes, as the writers certainly have my full attention at this point. THIS SHOW IS SO GOOD, Y’ALL.
Today’s video is for MAGGIE, my wonderful editor and friend who I love deeply and forever and HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS FOR.
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