THAT is how you do it! I finally am excited for the direction of Korra's second book. My full thoughts are in the audio blog, but I'll hit you with a few quick notes below as well.
-- It's a little unsettling that Korra seems to always be on the peripheral whenever I really like an episode. It's most likely a coincidence, but I could really go for a Korra character-building episode.
-- The main plot did what the Airbender family subplots have been doing well: Introducing a situation that allows characters to grow and bounce off each other as the situation progresses. It's storytelling 101, but comparing this episode to previous ones, I'm floored by how much this season seems to have been bathing in its own melodrama before today.
-- Lin Beifong and the police force flat out irritated me. After the madness that occurred last book, Lin is actually letting seniority determine the validity of an officer's ideas. Poor characterization aside, Mako was considered a major part of Team Avatar II's success last book, and Lin's refusal to entertain an alternative notion approaches Commissioner Loeb in Batman Begins level of clueless.
-- Also, Asami is unbelievably weak in this episode and has managed to reignite the love triangle no one was clamoring to see get revived. Did the writing staff forget how to write IQs into female characters? Could we give Kelly Sue DeConnick or Greg Rucka a call to work on this?
-- Speaking of no IQ, Bolin is a freaking moron and appears to be the Chris Griffin of the show when it comes to handling social situations.
-- ALL OF THIS SAID... the introduction of noir/pulp era detective work more than makes up for the problems and has managed to redeem Mako for me. Seriously, I saw glimpses of the Green Hornet, the Shadow and even Joe Friday from Dragnet in this performance. You can't have that much cool and have a bad show.
-- Also, the reveal of Varrick as evil is EXACTLY where this show should have gone. He's now obviously been pushing for a war because the subsequent military-industrial ties would lead to massive profits, especially now that he owns Future Industries and its military-grade applied sciences division.
-- So to summarize, we've got war for profit on one side and war for spirituality on the other. If this doesn't amp you up for the season then I feel sorry for ya, son. I got 99 problems but a dull plot ain't one. (Had to do it.)
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