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The Legend of Korra - "The Sting" Episode 18 Recap

Mako and Asami attempt to figure out the mystery behind the terrorist attack and the sinister connection it has to Asami’s company.  

With Korra out of the picture, “The Sting” forces the spotlight on the other members of Team Korra. Mako takes the lead as he tries to figure out who initiated the terrorist attack in the Southern Water Tribe cultural center back in “Peacekeepers.” The other cops jump to the Northern Water Tribe sympathizers as the likest suspects, but Mako doesn’t buy it. He presents a specific detonator he found and a picture of the man who triggered it, but not even Lin believes it’s worth anything. “The Sting” excellently displays Mako’s skills and resourcefulness as an officer, but I didn’t like how contrived the beginning was. Apparently all the cops are assumptive and idiotic, refusing to listen just because Mako is a “rookie” despite evidence worth checking out. I didn’t expect much from the two dumb cops, but Lin? She disses Mako immediately as a “B cop” and tells him to hit the road. This contradicts “Rebel Spirit,” when Lin herself told Mako he has a future as a detective someday. Granted, this is from Mako’s words, but he’s not the type to bask in his own ego. I suppose they wanted Mako and Asami to work alone, if only for what happens between the two at the end, but it really makes the Republic police force or at least Lin look bad in comparison.

Speaking of egos, Varrick’s movies are a hit and their star, Bolin, is thriving off the fame. Unfortunately, it’s consuming him and he is slowly failing to distinguish reality from fiction. He refuses to be acknowledged by his real name, preferring to be called by his character’s name Nuck-Tuck: Hero of the South. He tries to woo his fellow actor Ginger, but is confused when she refuses his advances. Nuck-Tuck and Ginger are in love, why isn’t she falling into his arms? His actions turn him into a entitled jerk and his behavior with Ginger is downright skeevy. This can be a tiring thing to sit through; Korra’s been acting like an aggressive idiot for five episodes and now Bolin is being the same way in this episode, which is sure to drive someone off the wall. But “The Sting” makes it perfectly clear how delusional he is. Ginger and Mako aren’t giving him the satisfaction he wants and the only reason Varrick butters him up is for his own personal gain. Deep down, Bolin wants to be Nuck-Tuck because Nuck-Tuck is courageous, heroic, and always gets the girl. Bolin has no purpose in life, doesn’t have anyone special, and has no interesting quirks to set him apart. He feels like he doesn’t matter. When that’s coupled with his naivete, of course he lets stardom get to his head. He can’t handle it and like Korra, if he keeps this behavior up, no one will want to be with him.

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I am in love with the Nuck-Tuck movie regardless. It’s a cornball film governed in its clichés, filled with demonizing villains and goofy animal sidekicks. The special effects are terrible and the entire movie is in black and white, complete with grainy film lines that are appropriate for the 1920s setting. It’s a lovely spiritual successor to the equally endearing and cheesy stage play from “The Ember Island Players” in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

By contrast, Asami’s role is anything but funny. With her mother and father dead and jailed, respectively, Future Industries is all she has left of her family. To fail would be to face a reality she doesn’t want. I like that she isn’t doing this just for her own sake, but to redeem and save her family name. When all hope is lost, Asami’s face is devastatingly heartbreaking. And then she kisses Mako.

On the one hand, I’m fearful. One of the biggest problems with Book One was the incompetent love triangle subplot. It was needlessly dramatic, had characters making petty and stupid decisions, and overtook potential character arcs that could have been far more important than what we actually got. However, I’m not sure I want to write off this scene just yet. Asami kissed Mako because she was at her lowest point and needed comfort. I’m actually glad this happened because it acknowledges residual feelings she still has left since the break up. Book One ended the love triangle too neatly and we were left to assume Asami got over it real quick, but “The Sting” proves otherwise. Imagine how Asami must have felt when Mako chose Korra over her so quickly after their break up. Mako may have realized he loved Korra all along, but Asami loved him and that’s going to take a while to get over because he broke her heart. Her reaction is much more genuine and believable here than what she got at the end of Book One.

To Mako’s credit, he doesn’t kiss back and is awkward about the whole thing. He’s moved on and was happy with Korra until “Peacekeepers.” I think Mako and Korra’s romance is inevitable, so I can see Mako eventually letting Asami down gently if it comes to it. But unlike Book One’s love issue, I don’t think there will be any extra drama. Asami isn’t the kind of person to go there. I do think Mako and Korra owe Asami an apology for the fast hook up, because “The Sting” ultimately proves how callous their action really was. Right now though, I don’t think this scene is that big a deal. That said, I do get the wariness in response and I’m holding my breath as well.

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Asami’s company is eventually saved when Varrick buys a controlling portion of it. I suspected Varrick was involved with the terrorist attack in the last episode and “The Sting” cements it. I love this character. He’s all fun and games until he proves just how manipulative and underhanded he can be. The show never doubted his sneakiness for a second, but it’s taken to a whole other level here. With a series of propaganda movies and now a shared portion of Future Industries under his belt, Varrick has a firm grip on his wealth and influence. This man could go places if he keeps playing his cards right. And the beauty is, I still can’t figure out what his final fate will be. He’s not as predictable as Unalaq and that makes him a deviously interesting guy. He plays the antagonist role far better than Unalaq does, although I’m not entirely sure I can slap that label on him. Varrick is a walking enigma and I love it.

Unalaq’s scene is short, but it’s important to note because he went inside that portal to the spiritual realm and came out again. We still don’t know what he is looking for and now that his children have delivered news of the Avatar’s ‘death”, I wonder if this will have any lasting affect on him. As for Korra, she wakes up on what I presume is Crescent Island, given that she’s rescued by Fire Sages. I’m reluctant to accept the amnesia plot because of how hackneyed and cheap it often is, but I do like that her first reaction upon seeing the Sages is to Airbend. The way she pulls it off is also interesting because it’s different from how she normally does it. That wasn’t Korra-style Airbending, where she offensively punches air out, she maneuvers her entire body around like an actual Airbender would do.

“The Sting” is a great episode that proves other characters can carry a plot without the leading heroine herself. I admit there are some elements that could set things up for disappointment in the near future, but for now things are good.

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