Mark Watches ‘The Legend of Korra’: S01E05 – The Spirit of Competition

In the fifth episode of the first season of The Legend of Korra, UGH. REALLY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Legend of Korra.

Okay, look, I don’t think this episode is awful. I did ultimately enjoy the story, but it wasn’t until the last few minutes that I felt this way. And there’s one reason for that:

Oh my god, I fucking hate love triangles.

I don’t like them! They always unfold the same way, they generally end the same way, they provide me with absolutely no insight into the human condition or love or romance. Often, writers just want to “explore dynamics” or create drama, and like none of this is interesting to me. And then there’s a part of me that is just bitter and full of hate because I grew up with no one pursuing me in a romantic sense for years, so how am I supposed to feel bad for someone who has too many people vying for their affection?

Also, I’m clearly just embarrassed at how wrong I read things in the last episode. WHOOPS.

But I also don’t like love triangles because it’s nearly impossible for characters to navigate them without at least one of them getting hurt. It was clear to me that Bolin would fall in that role, so it’s even less surprising that I didn’t really care for this episode. I am so predictable. But that doesn’t mean this episode is a waste! I must be honest: there is a lot explored here that I did enjoy. I appreciated the chance to get inside these characters’s heads, and it’s the one thing this script does super well. But it’s painful to watch these people tear themselves apart after seeing how fantastic they are as a team. Their closeness as friends has really paid off, giving them an emotional advantage in the pro-bending arena. AND IT’S AWESOME! And look, y’all know that I love emotional friction like it’s going out of style and I’m the last holdout left, but this is just too much. I just can’t get into this.

What I can get into is this:

  • Bolin/Pabu. They are perfect together.
  • How close Bolin and Mako are. Even if Bolin is heartbroken by catching Korra and Mako kissing, you can still tell that he’s attached to his brother and misses him. The same goes for the reverse; Mako doesn’t take his brother’s heartbreak lightly. He knows that they only have each other left, so he does what he can to rectify their relationship.
  • Jinora and Ikki’s adorable conversation about winning over a boy. I half-expected one of them to make a reference to someone’s girlfriend turning into the moon. (“That’s rough, buddy.”)
  • Bolin and Korra hanging out. I don’t ship, but if I did, I’d ship them in a heartbeat. They are seriously so ridiculously with each other, and it just fits. They’re both kind of clumsy, sloppy, and over-the-top in their behavior, and it’s just perfect. As uncomfortable as it might be, I can actually see Bolin and Korra remaining friends and never pursuing a romantic relationship.
  • Tahno kind of reminds me of Jet, only a million times more douche-y.
  • BOAR-Q-PINES. Best team name ever.
  • Bolin’s win in the second match of the tournament. Ugh, that was so incredible!
  • I do like the way the group’s emotional struggles are represented in the ring: they cannot communicate, they can’t work together, and they can’t focus at all. It’s the reason they’re nearly defeated.
  • Korra’s technique of lining up the Buzzard Wasps to take them out was BRILLIANT. SO BRILLIANT.
  • You know, as stressful and frustrating as this story was, it honestly was worth it for the brief conversation all three characters have about their complicated and confusing situation. They agree to be friends, and I can tell they mean it. I think Korra’s point in the ring – that if they lost, they’d never forgive themselves – is really important here. Yes, Mako and Korra messed up terribly here, setting things out of sync and hurting Bolin, but there are more important things at stake here.
  • KORRA LEARNED HEALING FROM KATARA this is so beautiful.

So this episode certainly wasn’t a total loss. It started off as an adorable tale of people having crushes on people close to them, and then, for about fifteen minutes, it was soul-crushingly awful. Look, I know it might seem silly that something as simple as a love triangle can make me shrivel up in disgust, but I just don’t like them at all! I don’t like that Mako disrespects Asami by not being honest about how he feels. I don’t like that Korra pursues and kisses Mako despite knowing that he’s already dating Asami. I don’t like all of this being ruined. My only hope is that the show isn’t going to take this story line any further than this. It does feel final after “The Spirit of Competition,” though I wonder if the writers might pick it back up after the Fire Ferrets face the Wolfbats. Lord, they are good. That’s going to be a brutal match.

Okay, enough whining. I didn’t hate this episode, but it’s not my favorite. Onwards I go!

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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1 Response to Mark Watches ‘The Legend of Korra’: S01E05 – The Spirit of Competition

  1. This episode made me DEEPLY uncomfortable with the way they animated Bolin running away in tears after The Kiss. I know it’s a more stylized show than ATLA was but I loathed the way Bolin was, even for a moment, treated like a crybaby.

    That said, I was totally cool with him drowning his sorrows in seaweed noodles. It made his hurt and pain real, with a reaction that I MYSELF have had, and without trying to hyper masculinize his behavior to “cancel out” the crybaby scene. One reason I love Bolin is that he seems to be the same kind of balanced masculine/feminine personality I have (though I fully admit I am almost certainly projecting). I would love to see him turn out bi! Come on, Nickelodeon, be activists!!

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