Here is Part 2 of my Legend of Korra writeup! This one is half-review and half-meta discussion.
Episode 2, "A Leaf in the Wind". This title reminds me of Wash's line from Serenity. Given what happens in that movie, I'm not sure how I feel about that. But anyway! Let's move on.
LOL, of course, Tenzin would be opposed to the Pro Bending tournaments. You would be, son of Katara, you would be. ("*sigh* This is just going to be a bunch of guys chucking rocks at each other, isn't it?") I bet he went to lots of Aunt Toph's Earth Rumble tournaments as a kid, and Katara would take them because Toph invited them and it'd be rude not to go, and Katara would spend the entire match grumbling about how brutish it was.
And Korra may have escaped the restrictive environment of her Southern Water Tribe compound, but Tenzin is still keeping her cooped up. Not gonna work, bro, you should have figured that out already!
FLYING LEMUR YES THERE ARE MORE MOMOS YES GOOD.
I adore the fact that Korra rolled up the sleeves of her Air Nomad clothing. I also adore the fact that Tenzin rolls them back down. Mike&Bryan are so good at setting up character traits like that-- just two little details, Korra's rolled up sleeves and Tenzin's act of unrolling them, and we have learned so much more about these two characters.
The training exercise with the spinning gates is fabulous. The design on the gates is awesome, as is the explanation of Airbending. And, again, THIS ANIMATION. The scene of Jinora weaving through the spinning gates is just so cool.
LMAOOOOO TENZIN. "You just said I couldn't watch a match, you didn't say anything about listening to one." "You!-- Hmph. You know what I meant! Anyway, shouldn't y--- Shouldn't you be in bed by now???? *storms off in a huff, robes billowing*"
KORRA SCRATCHING HER BUTT DURING THE MEDITATION SCENE. Scratching her butt and being fidgety as hell. Again, an excellent little character detail. Also, the writers are allowing her to be unfeminine and the writing isn't shaming her for it or making it seem like a bad thing. It just is and that's awesome.
BOLIN. It was roughly five seconds into Bolin's first appearance onscreen that I knew he was going to be my favorite (after Korra, that is). Because Korra sneaks into the Pro Bending stadium, where a trainer catches her snooping around his gym. The trainer confronts her. And then Bolin strolls on by in the background
literally pauses in midstep
takes a moment to smooth his hair
and then strolls on over to see what's what with a hearty "There you are!"
Rescuing the cute girl from trouble by pretending to know her? Aladdin would be proud, son.
LOLOL oh my god I love the dialogue in this scene. "It's okay, Toza, she's with me." "Right!" "So, y'know, we're together." "But not together-together, more like friends." "Right, friends! I didn't mean to imply..." "Oh, you implied it." INSTANT BFFS I LOVE IT THEY ARE THE BEST BFFS EVER AND THEY'VE ONLY KNOWN EACH OTHER FOR LIKE THIRTY SECONDS.
BOLIN HAS CRAZY FANGIRLS, GUYS. Mako says it, not even making that up. Speaking of Mako, I have some things to say about him, but we'll get to that.
Now, the Pro Bending match. I wish I could say something insightful and detailed about it, but, yeah. All I have is HOT DAMN THIS IS SOME AWESOME SHIT YOU GUYS. The combat animation is just mindblowing-- and, again, more violent than we saw in ATLA. When one combatant on the enemy team is knocked off the platform and into the water below, he hits a metal pole as he flies out of the ring and bounces off it.
"Oh, you're still here?" "Oh, you're still a jerk?" LOLz, Mako and Korra. More on that in a moment.
Korra's explosion of anger at Tenzin during Airbending practice is another great character moment, especially on the heels of her very successful lesson on sparring technique with Bolin. Tenzin's exasperation at being unable to get through to her is also excellently done. As is the scene with his kids: "You must promise me that your teenage years will be nothing like this!" And Jinora calmly replies, "I will make no such promises." YES GOOD.
I also love this scene where Tenzin comes to the arena to bring Korra back, and she brings up a very good point: up till then, she'd only been learning traditional Bending styles; but what she really needs to learn is the contemporary fighting styles showcased in Pro Bending. Tenzin also brings up a good point, that being the Avatar is about more than kicking asses and taking names.
BUT THEN THIS SCENE where Korra starts to use Airbender-style moves to evade the attacks of the opposing team! It's a bit sudden, the way she abruptly starts moving like an Airbender, but I'm willing to go along with it and see what Mike&Bryan have planned because it is just SO DAMN COOL.
Also, I love Bolin's "Oh, is that applause I hear?" pose.
Please do this in all the episodes, Bolin. Thanks in advance.
The reconciliation between Korra and Tenzin is nice. You can see the kindest aspects of both Katara and Aang's personalities in Tenzin here.
Then we end with two shots: first, of Mako gazing out towards Air Temple Island. His expression hints he may be thinking about Korra.
Then we have a shot of Korra gazing out towards the arena. The expression on her face hints she is thinking of one thing only, and that thing is, "GODDAMN I LOVE PRO BENDING."
And so the first two episodes of Legend of Korra end, and that's all we'll get till April 14th. So now let's talk about Mako for a little while. This is where the meta begins, so if you don't feel like reading it, now would be a good time to hit the ol' back button.
So, it looks like the writers are in fact going to be steering towards some Mako/Korra. Whether it will actually happen is still anyone's guess, but there are hints in this premiere that can't be ignored. Especially in light of the season preview that was posted on KorraNation this past weekend, in which we have a clip of Korra saying tauntingly to Mako, "Admit it-- you like me!" I have some thoughts about this potential ship, and it kind of bothers me for a very particular reason.
Mako, to put it bluntly, is a stoic jerk. He's very quiet, he's very sharp and observant. He speaks little and when he does speak, he says exactly what he's thinking. "Not bad" is high praise coming from him. He reminds me a lot of a character from ATLA-- and it's not Zuko, despite the squeeing of the Mako fanits ever since his face was revealed during ComicCon 2011. No, his ATLA counterpart is not Zuko... it's Mai.
I've always believed that if Mai had been a guy instead of a girl, she (or he) would have been one of the most popular characters in the series. Stoic guys like that always are. And if Zuko had been a girl, I think Maiko would have been an insanely popular ship: a fiery, hot-tempered girl paired with a cool, collected boy of few words... That sounds remarkably like Mako and Korra, doesn't it?
Now, ever since ComicCon, we've had shippers-- mostly Zutara shippers-- loudly declaring that "Makorra" was destined to be canon and that they were Zuko and Katara 2.0. At first, I objected to this because I thought it was unfair to shoehorn these two new characters into the roles of two characters from the original series, purely because of some elemental and physical similarities. But now I object for another reason entirely. If Makorra can be compared to any ship from ATLA, I'd argue that it's Maiko, not Zutara. Zuko was never a calm, stoic guy and Katara was never as brash and hot-tempered as Korra. Then again, it's still not a perfect comparison. Zuko still wouldn't be as brash as Korra, even if he were female. None of the characters from ATLA can be perfectly mapped onto the new cast of LoK, and that is an extremely good thing!
So here is why I have some problems with Makorra. It's not the pairing itself I have a problem with-- it's the way the fandom will inevitably handle the pairing, the characters involved, and the resulting ship wars.
Ever since Book 2 aired, Mai has been getting shit from the fandom for being stoic-- specifically, she's gotten shit for being "unfeminine", which is- in the eyes of certain fans- the worst crime a female character can commit. She's not nurturing and compassionate, like Katara. And in the eyes of those fans, that's how a female character should act: nurturing and compassionate. It seems a lot of fans wanted Zuko's love interest to be someone who would ~*~heal his pain~*~ with her gentle soul; it would probably involve cradling his head to her bosom or something, I dunno. And apparently many of them felt that Katara would have been just the girl to fill this role, with her naturally motherly personality. (Then again, I also feel that a lot of these fans were/are completely wrong about Katara's character, but that's another topic for another meta essay.)
To be fair, though, Mai does show kindness and tenderness towards Zuko. She isn't constant with it, though, and she tends more towards tough love. She isn't willing to put up with his angsting and his self-pity, nor is she willing to put up with it when he takes his issues out on her as he does in "The Beach". But we do see her smiling at him, cuddling with him, encouraging him when he feels uncertain about the war meeting. After the war meeting, she's happy for him when he tells her that Ozai welcomed him with open arms, and that he got to sit at his father's right hand. We the viewers know that that isn't what Zuko needs in his life anymore, but Mai doesn't know that yet, so she thinks it's a good thing and is appropriately supportive and congratulating. She also tries to cheer him up with the joke about ordering servants around-- it doesn't work, but she did try. But I digress.
The point is, Mai was and still is punished for having a lot of the same traits that Mako now possesses. They both speak little, they're both sparing with praise and they're both very blunt. (But they both also deliver kind words where appropriate. Mai is supportive of Zuko as mentioned above, and Mako congratulates Korra on her skills after the Bending match and admits he was wrong about her.) And yet, I doubt we'll see many people bashing Mako for his behavior the way they bash Mai for hers. Why? Because Mako is a guy. That kind of behavior is seen as acceptable, and even desirable in a male character.
That is why I am apprehensive of Makorra. Because it's really going to suck to see people inevitably praising Mako and Makorra for the same reasons that they were (and still are in some cases) bashing Mai and Maiko.