Legend of Korra: The Sting
Legend of Korra
2 x 6: The Sting
Full episodes available at Nick.com.
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?
October 13, 2013 @ 3:58 pm
I find I can’t really disagree with your analysis … I wonder if this would all be less bothersome if the limited amount of episodes wasn’t making me feel “they’ve really gotta make every episode count! No dawdling!”…?
Also… I am HOPEFUL that the whole kiss thing isn’t inviting back in the triangle, but providing a way to possibly CLOSE it… like, if Mako and Asami have a scene talking about the kiss, why it happened, and they actually discuss their badly-written last-season break-up. If they do that and move on from there I’m hopeful it’d be a nice adult way of wrapping up what seemed to be glossed over way too fast last season….
Jim C. Hines
October 13, 2013 @ 4:00 pm
I’d be okay with it if they used this to provide some triangle closure and build more of a genuine friendship with Mako and Asami, but I’m having a hard time trusting the writers at this point…
October 13, 2013 @ 4:41 pm
Since watching this episode, I’m not sure I care what happens to these characters anymore.
I’ve been wondering if there was a change in the writing team between Aang’s series and Korra’s. Definitely feels like something is missing, particularly in this season.
Jim C. Hines
October 13, 2013 @ 4:43 pm
Based on this, there was a very significant change, yes: http://bankuei.tumblr.com/post/25763644437/kernels-a-visual-representation-of-legend-of
October 13, 2013 @ 5:24 pm
Yeah. Mako and Asami are the only characters I actually like right now.
Well, and Tenzin et all, who are conveniently not where they’re needed. I’m kinda hoping the fire temple people’s reaction to finding Korra is to send for Tenzin post-haste.
Plot-wise, in addition to “Verrick is a bad guy” we also got “Unelaq coming out of the spirit portal right after Korra got eaten by a ‘dark spirit.'” Which is something, I guess.
And Bolin. JFC. Bolin.
Last season, his would-be relationship with Korra was a nuanced portrayal of how a ‘nice guy’ who does everything right can nevertheless not get the girl because girls are not prizes you get for doing everything right.
This season, he’s instead absolutely everything wrong with the nice guy narrative. Nice guy dates overbearing, manipulative woman who pushes him around, and he takes it because he’s Nice, until they break up because She’s Crazy. Nice guy tries to push himself on woman who very clearly tells him she’s not interested, but it’s okay for him to harass and assault her because No doesn’t Mean No If You’re Nice.
At this point I’m honestly just waiting for them to put him in a fedora.
October 13, 2013 @ 10:18 pm
Compared to season 1, I would say that Mako and Asami have improved, whereas Bolin and Korra have not. However, to say that they and the writers have failed is somewhat harsh. None of us are at our best 100% of the time. We screw up and do stupid things that makes things even worse sometimes. Hence, I have no problem believing the characters behaving that way. I think it’ll all build up to some smart cooperation and clever teamwork near the end. They’re probably just trying to show a character arc.
What I dont like in this season is the apparent lack of focus. We saw some interesting hints and clues in the first few episodes that haven’t been touched yet (remember the glowing avatar statue?). I’m sure they’ll get to that at some point, but I think a greater emphasis there would tighten up the story.
October 13, 2013 @ 11:46 pm
I find I’m in agreement with you over this too. Clearly the weakest episode so far, and I was really hoping that Varrick was just what he seemed (and I could still see that Zhu Li turns out to be the mastermind and Varrick was what he seemed, and clueless about what his assistant was up to).
I think the best scene was the one I summed up “don’t upset a firebender when your sitting in a coal heated hot tub.”
Jim C. Hines
October 14, 2013 @ 7:56 am
“At this point I’m honestly just waiting for them to put him in a fedora.”
Best visual of the day 🙂
Jim C. Hines
October 14, 2013 @ 7:57 am
I just want Zhu Li to be *something* beyond Varrick’s ever-obedient and mostly silent servant.
David M. Crampton
October 14, 2013 @ 9:58 am
My wife abandoned the series halfway through Season 1. Her opinion boils down to, “Korra’s no Aang. She doesn’t even come close.” Up until this episode, I argued that the story was good, and I was enjoying the ride. I had hope for the series.
I understand that Avatars can be drastically different. I understand that telling a story in peacetime is completely different than telling one during a war. I understand that age (and target audience) will mean that Korra will be more aggressive, make more rash decisions, and be less open to influence from elders than Aang was. I also understand that being a waterbender from the Southern Water Tribe is a completely different societal background than being raised an Air Nomad.
But, FFS, sixteen-year-old Kitara would have made a better Avatar than Korra at this point. Lin Beifong might as well say, “I’m getting too old for this ****!” Bolin might as well be the poster boy for a Con Creeper. Sure, they’d taken away a lot of the physical beauty of bending in favor of the pro-bending punch-and-kick-is-all-you-need style, but I was fine with that because of the fun way that steampunk was being handled.
Season 1 at least had some sort of observable structure to it that kept pulling us along through the episodes. This season feels like nobody was expecting the show to get renewed, and the writers wrote all of the episodes in one energy drink fueled all-nighter.
At this point, I’m inclined to agree with my wife, and that makes me sad.
Jim C. Hines
October 14, 2013 @ 10:50 am
I’m okay with Korra not being Aang. And while season 1 had some issues, there was a lot I liked about it, too.
I’m not giving up yet, but I’m definitely not enjoying it the way I used to.
October 14, 2013 @ 10:53 pm
First off, season one was rushed. All the loose ends were wrapped up in the last few minutes on #12, not happy with the pacing. To me, a more reasonable ending would have been to keep the airbending (because that ability was not mastered at the time she was wiped) and she would need to relearn the rest because she would need to retrain the parts of her brain that allows that ability. (or at least another conversation with the dragon sea turtle…) I blame Nick for this, having them to force this being brought in 12 episodes.
The writing for 5 seems to stereotypical, anything that could go wrong, did. This episode has several bright spots. But overall, this season is being dumbed down. I agree with your assessment of Baifong.
Comment: Does the president of Republic City remind you of Teddy Roosevelt?
btw – The music for season one is available on CD. (Jim, I found it at Schuler’s the night you gave your reading there.)
October 17, 2013 @ 12:19 am
I am actually in love with the fact that Korra isn’t Aang, just like Aang wasn’t Avatar Kiyoshi. Whether the world likes it or not, avatars are people, and we saw in the first series that they can make some really serious mistakes. Where Aang went down as an undisputed hero, Korra is going to be one of the most controversial avatars in history, between the anti-bending war and the current civil war.
However, I think with this episode, I’m about ready to give up. Bolin’s scene with Ginger was first creepy and then condoned by Varrick, I’m sick to death of the love triangle, they completely tied Lin up into the conservative chief of police stereotype, and I’m very tired of the fact that we’re just being told, not shown, that Asami places a lot of importance into her company (seriously, I’m beginning to doubt she actually has one). I don’t like that the bending styles have been collapsed into what feels like gunplay mechanics, and the world simply feels more shrunken, less colorful, and less well-realized.
October 21, 2013 @ 11:26 pm
Yup. In total agreement with this assessment. I LOVED Bolin in the first season. He was adorable, and I really, really loved the subplot with Bolin as proto-matinee idol. I even loved the beginning of this episode when we got all the Flash Gordon nods. That was fun, and a nice callback to the Ember Island players in ATLA. And then we got to the Bolin creepering. *headdesk* Bolin needs to stop being a creeper. This makes me sad.
It feels like
I too am annoyed by the return of the love triangle. No likey at all. (And I also don’t much trust the writers anymore.) Why is EVERY girl stuck on Mako? He’s getting a little more personality than last season but come on! There are other guys: Bolin. Zuko 2.0 (Iroh?). Creepy Boy Twin. Bumi (now that would be odd…) But, seriously, let’s mix the Asami pairings up and stop with the same ol’ love triangle!
October 21, 2013 @ 11:27 pm
*Forgot to delete “It feels like” when I was editing comment.