Legend of Korra
2 x 6: The Sting
Episode Summary (from the Avatar Wiki): When triad activity threatens to put Future Industries out of business, Mako performs an investigation and uncovers a conspiracy.
My Thoughts: Oh, no. You did not just dumb down Lin Beifong for plot convenience! Korra writers, you and I need to have a talk.
The most interesting thing in this episode was Unalaq coming out of the spirit gate. So after a minute of that, we immediately jumped to the world’s most ill-conceived sting operation, in which all of our characters apparently suffer from a -6 penalty to intelligence checks.
Mako (fails INT check): Busting in on an interrogation is a great idea! I’ll totally do that!
Lin Beifong (fails INT check): Apparently I have no control over my department, because reasons! And Mako was a fool for interrupting me, but I’ve also worked with him enough to take him seriously … on second thought, I think I’ll side with the mustache twins, who seem to have a collective IQ of 12, but I keep them around because comic relief is more important than competence.
Bolin (fails INT check): Look at me! I’m a cliche of a self-absorbed actor! (Though his “My instrument!” howl of anguish was funny.)
Mako (fails INT check): I’ve got it, let’s hire criminals! That’s totally in character, and couldn’t possibly end badly!
Writers (fail INT check): You know what this season is missing? Let’s bring back the love triangle!!!
Look, you have twelve episodes this season, and you used this one to reveal Varrick as a bad guy. That’s pretty much it. That’s all you accomplished, aside from jumping various characters through silly plot hoops.
What frustrates me most is what this episode could have been. Imagine if Mako had come to Lin Beifong in private with his suspicions. Imagine her taking taking him seriously, giving us a Mako + Beifong police-themed episode, maybe with Asami and Bolin, all working together to track down leads. We’d get a few battles — maybe even see some metalbending, which was freaking gorgeous in season one and we haven’t seen once in this season.
Imagine them getting closer to the big bad, who starts pushing back. Instead of stealing Asami’s stock, he blows it up when they don’t heed his warnings to back off. Instead of Asami kissing Mako, maybe we see her crying, starting to break, but instead pulling it together and deciding that no matter what else happens, she’s taking this bastard down. Maybe she even breaks out some prototype equipment she has sitting around.
They end up in secret bad guy headquarters, where Zhu Li ambushes them, revealing herself to be a skilled fighter, possibly a bender herself, a kind of secret bodyguard character. Varrick gets away of course, because we’ve got six episodes left, but we also end up with a stronger team of characters who might actually like one another.
It’s really bothering me that we have almost zero teamwork here. With a few exceptions, I don’t like these characters this season. Bolin isn’t funny; he’s obnoxious. Korra’s overreacting, even abusive. Varrick has been rather slimy from day one. And Tenzin and his family are apparently Sirs-Not-Important-To-This-Story.
And that’s before we get into problems like Bolin forcing his unwanted “affections” on Ginger, complete with creepy-rapist dialogue. “So, that kiss! I liked it. And it seemed like you liked it too.” (Thank you Amal El-Mohtar for getting me the actual quote, which I had apparently blocked from my memory.)
I know this franchise is capable of being much more. I hope it gets there soon.
Positive Stuff: I do kind of like seeing Varrick’s propaganda machine. It’s interesting seeing the tactics a non-bender can use to manipulate the world. Asami is officially a badass getaway driver. Korra’s reflexive airbending when she woke up on the shore was nifty. (Someone pointed out that she performs the same move we see Aang do in the opening credits.) And while Mako comes off as a bit uptight, I’m continuing to like his character this season, and I thought his piecing together the detonator clue worked well.
Predictions: I assume we’re going to get more Mako/Bolin drama as Mako works against Varrick and Bolin defends the guy making him famous. We’ll have more romantic triangle tension. And we’ll have amnesiac-Avatar finally getting the chance to be free of the pressure and responsibilities of Avataring, during which time she’ll discover her spiritual side and learn who she’s truly supposed to be.
I hope we’ll soon bring Tenzin et al. back into the story, and discover what’s going on with Unalaq and the spirits. I’d love it if that revelation added some depth to him and his family, one way or another. And one way or another, I want to see Asami (with Mako’s help) bring Varrick down. Don’t know if it will happen that way, but I can hope, right?