When Amon threatens to disrupt the Pro-Bending Championships, Korra and the Fire Ferrets burst into the Republic City Council chambers to find that the council is ready to shut down the event in the name of public safety. They gain an unexpected ally in Lin Beifong, the chief of police, who offers her metalbending police force as added security for the event. Lin continues her chilly attitude to Korra, leading to Korra realizing that Lin and Tenzin used to be a couple. The championship round goes badly for the Fire Ferrets, as the Wolfbats they face cheat and have paid off the ref. However, the evening goes even worse for the Wolfbats once Equalist forces in the stands neutralize the police (including Lin and Tenzin), clearing the way for Amon to emerge on the competition platform and strip the Wolfbats of their bending ability in front of the audience. After his declaration of war on the Benders of Republic City and the world, Amon makes his exit on an airship flying Equalist colors. Despite pursuit by Korra and Chief Beifong and a pitched battle on the roof of the Pro-Bending Arena, Amon makes his escape, leaving the Fire Ferrets, Chief Beifong, and Tenzin dreading the Equalists’ next move.
After “And the Winner Is…”, I’m a little more favorably inclined towards the previous episode, since the teen romance and Pro-Bending drama seem to have been a cover to place several pieces for this episode: the Pro-Bending championship round, the Wolfbats and their obnoxious leader Tahno, and Asami (whose importance I’ll get to in a minute). The episode seems a bit anti-climactic until those last 10 minutes, when the Pro-Bending match is revealed as the distraction that it is. I was glad to hear at least one character give voice to objections I had with the focus on Pro-Bending (even if it turned out to be Tarrlok) and happier to hear reasons for Pro-Bending that I hadn’t really considered. I’m also thinking that the relatively trivial stakes of the Pro-Bending championships were a way to establish how much higher the stakes are after the Equalists make their move. We also get another Avatar dream sequence, showing Aang and Toph, two shots of a Waterbender (which I’m guessing is the earlier threat Tarrlok referred to in “The Voice in the Night”), and two shots of a very ticked-off Aang. No guesses from this corner on what that all means beyond what I’ve already ventured.
Now’s as good a time as any to sing the praises of the Track Team’s soundtrack for The Legend of Korra. Their music for Avatar the Last Airbender was always one of my favorite things about that series, but they’ve really taken it to another level in this series. The music in The Legend of Korra is much more subtle, but if you can rip your focus away from the on-screen drama (and this is remarkably hard to do), pay attention to how effective the musical cues are at reinforcing what’s happening on screen. The jaunty jazz that the Fire Ferrets listen to during their practice sessions (also established in the last episode) is cut off immediately when Amon starts talking, signaling a much darker, more serious turn. The same trick is used for more comedic purposes as Tenzin abruptly cuts off discussion of his memories of things past. The music during the competition is minimal, but ramps up once the Equalists make their entrance. The use of dissonant or minor-key chords echos danger on-screen, and the tempo slowly speeds up as the climactic battle unfolds. Older animation used to be done specifically to the musical accompaniment (the Fleischer Bros. Popeye cartoons were famous for this), and I get that same vibe from this episode of The Legend of Korra even though I suspect the score was done after the animation.
Now is also a good time to declare that Lin Beifong is made of 100% USDA Grade A Certified Awesome, just as her mother was in the original series. It’s hard to believe that the battle at the end of the episode only runs about 5 minutes, considering how much action is in it, and I’m also firmly convinced that the magic kung-fu of bending allows the show to get away with a lot more violence — Korra’s counters against Tahno and the Amon’s lieutenant are surprisingly severe.
It’s also worth noting that Korra seems to have gotten a lot of her confidence back, judging by how quickly she pursues the Equalists.
I am a little surprised to see how well-equipped the Equalists are, although there may be a clue hidden in the ease with which they got their people and equipment into the stadium, took out the police boats and ships, and made their escape in a highly conspicuous airship. Amon’s plan in this episode is a pretty classic insurgency tactic. The only outcome that wouldn’t have been in their favor would be if the championships happened and they didn’t make an attack: whether their attack succeeded or not, the mere fact that they mounted one successfully would have undermined faith in the (bender-dominated) government.
However, the scale of the attack and its success are possible only with backer(s) with tremendous financial resources, access to the latest in modern technology, and insider knowledge of the stadium. The first is required to pay for the equipment and the airship, the second for the scale of the attack, and the third to dodge the heightened security measures. If we assume that the Law of Conservation of Characters applies and if we assume that all the major players in this story arc have already been introduced, there is only one character who has all three and that’s Asami Sato. Her connection to Future Industries would be the source of money and technology, and her relationship with Mako would have given her plenty of access to the stadium for reconnaissance and to find ways to smuggle all that Equalist gear into the stadium. She would also probably have access to Future Industries buildings to hide that gigantic Equalist airship. I even wonder if she (and/or the Equalists) had a hand in the Wolfbats’ victory, to ensure that Korra (and possibly Mako) were not the benders that Amon would make an example of, based on Amon’s earlier comments that Korra is being saved for last to keep her from being a martyr for the benders.
If I’m right, then my earlier guess that something horrible might happen to her is now being modified to say that the something horrible is going to be Korra and Mako when they find out. We’ll see.