An early morning training session with Mako and Bolin teaches Korra about the hardships of the brothers’ lives, and presents the Fire Ferrets with a new problem: a 30,000 yuan entry fee for the pro-bending playoffs. Bolin’s attempt to earn the money legitimately ends prematurely when he encounters an old acquaintance from the Triple Threat Triad, who uses a gigantic wad of cash to lure Bolin back into shadier dealings. When Bolin doesn’t return home, Mako thinks he’s snuck out to see Korra and seeks him out on Air Temple Island. The pair begin searching Republic City for Bolin, soon learning what happened to him and that all the major crime organizations in the city are preparing for something big. Their visit to the Triple Threat headquarters leads to two nasty surprises: that Bolin and the rest of the Triad gang members are being kidnapped by Equalist forces, and that the Equalists are proficient chi-blockers, neutralizing Korra and Mako and nearly capturing them as well. The two manage to infiltrate “The Revelation,” a meeting of the Equalists where their leader Amon uses spirit-bending as he strips the leaders of the Triads of their bending abilities in front of a massive gathering of anti-bending citizens. After escaping from the clutches of the Equalists, Korra returns to Air Temple Island and tells Tenzin what she saw, revealing that the Equalists are a much bigger threat than they had first imagined.
A common comment about the premiere episodes of The Legend of Korra is that they didn’t waste any time, throwing us head-first into a new scenario and ripping ahead at an incredibly fast clip. That pace continues in “The Revelation,” which firmly establishes Amon as a real threat to be reckoned with while firming up numerous details about the new setting and the characters. There is a powerful irony in Amon’s methods, especially in context of the “Old vs. New” theme discussed in the prior episode’s recap. While the Equalists represent the New, their main weapon against the benders are techniques even older than the Avatar (and I really wish I had set down that thought after watching episode 2, since it would have made me look eerily prescient). Something Old enough is New again, just as the early 20th Century fashions and technology of Republic City feel new to us now.
I do have to say that Mako and Korra look rather dashing in their period clothing (Korra gets an especially fabulous hat), and the fact that most major characters have had at least two or three costume changes so far is a subtle sign of how much more attention the animation is getting in this show. The reason why characters always wear the same outfits in cartoons is a cost-saving measure, so you can spread the work across a team of animators more easily without characters going off-model. The episode also repeatedly shows off Korra’s physical power as she bowls over Mako during practice, when she kicks down the door to the Triad headquarters, and when she lifts the Equalist protestor off the ground with one hand.
This episode also tosses in the potential for teen romance between Mako and Korra, which may be the only major plot thread that won’t end up fitting the “Old vs. New” theme. So far, it’s also been the only aspect of the show that’s been really predictable to the point of cliché, following a “they hate each other so they’re perfect for each other” romantic comedy arc.
I was wondering whether Amon’s spirit-bending was just a big stage show, but it doesn’t work without the cooperation of the Triads and they would lose far more than they could ever gain from such a demonstration. Intimidation is one of organized crime’s most powerful weapons, so letting themselves be so publicly humbled would completely neutralize their ability to operate.
Speculation abounds among viewers on the identity of Amon, with many theories linking him to some cast member from the original show. While I suspect at least one of them will turn out to be true, I think it would be much more interesting if he were exactly who he claims to be: a person who has taken a deep, personal grievance against benders to unreasonable extremes and simply seeks to destroy them all. There are numerous indications that Amon’s intentions are not entirely honorable and that he is Evil to Korra’s Good, just as Firelord Ozai was Evil to Aang’s Good in the original series. It would give much more texture to the series if Amon were not simply Evil, despite his extremist philosophies and tactics. The original show had numerous benders who were thugs and bullies, abusing their powers purely to oppress others, so Amon has perfectly legitimate grounds for his movement.
However, the mark of any extremist is the inability to see exceptions, except for self-exemption when one’s own behavior exactly mirrors that which you decry; the problem with extremist behavior is it will often invalidate even the legitimate grievances. This is why it’s important that Mako and Bolin’s backstory mirrors Amon’s so closely, since it allows us to see Amon’s own brand of tyranny more clearly. If Amon parallels anybody in the original series, I hope it won’t be Firelord Ozai, but Jet in his season 1 appearance: a character who would have been on the side of the angels, but for his inability to see his enemy reflected within himself. It would make dealing with him less of an exercise in Good Defeating Evil and more of an exercise in restoring balance.