Councilman Tarrlok imprisons Korra in a mountain cabin far away from Republic City or anyone who might help her. He then returns to Republic City and spins a story of an Equalist attack to explain the damage to the council hall and the missing Avatar. While he mobilizes his task force, former chief Lin Beifong suits up (minus her badge) to spring Asami, Mako, and Bolin from jail. In the mountains, Korra abandons her attempts to free herself from her prison or call for help, settling in to meditate on her strange visions instead. She receives a complete one, seeing an adult Aang and Toph arresting the crimelord Yakone. On Air Temple Island, Lin, Asami, Mako, and Bolin recruit Tenzin to begin searching for Korra. Korra’s polar bear-dog Naga has gone missing along with Korra, but a group brainstorm leads the five to a nest of underground tunnels used by the Equalists for transportation, storage, and a prison. Unfortunately, Mako’s fervor in searching for Korra does not go unnoticed by Asami, who is hurt even more when Bolin accidentally tells of Mako and Korra’s kiss during the Pro-Bending finals. The rescue party finds the Equalist prisons in the tunnels and release Lin’s officers (all of whom have had their bending taken away by Amon), but fail to find Korra and learn that the Equalists never attacked the council hall.
Korra sees more visions in her meditations, seeing Yakone on trial for maintaining his grip on the Republic City underworld through bloodbending, with multiple witnesses reporting that he can bloodbend without the benefit of a full moon. After his conviction, Yakone gives the lie to his plea of innocence by bloodbending everyone in the council chamber — an act soon mirrored in the present by Councilman Tarrlok when he is confronted by Tenzin and exposed by his council page. Korra’s visions continue with Yakone’s escape and recapture by Aang, who overpowers Yakone’s bloodbending in the Avatar State and then strips him of his bending powers. Her vision concludes as Tarrlok returns, where he admits to being Yakone’s son and briefly rants on how she ruined his plans to rule Republic City as a hero rather than a crime lord. However, his escape plan is cut short by the arrival of Amon and a band of Equalists — a surprise only exceeded when Amon proves immune to Tarrlok’s bloodbending powers. Amon strips Tarrlok of his bending and sends the rest of the Equalists down to retrieve Korra, but Korra escapes through a clever ruse. She bursts from the house in time to see Amon loading an unconscious Tarrlok into a truck, but she panics at the sight of Amon and escapes down the mountain. She is eventually found by Naga, who returns her to Republic City and safety with her friends…including a slightly over-enthusiastic Mako.
I continue to be impressed at how The Legend of Korra continues to top itself episode after episode, with “Out of the Past” finally revealing some secrets and raising the stakes ever higher for Korra and her friends. In this episode in particular, I was also exceptionally pleased with the way the show animated facial expressions through both exaggerated caricature and in remarkably subtle acting. For the former, catch the multiple expressions Tenzin goes through when Lin walks into his office with Mako, Asami, and Bolin in tow. For the latter, the skillful animation mated to sensitive voice acting by Seychelle Gabrielle makes it acutely uncomfortable to see Asami alternating between fury and heartbreak as she learns of the depths of Mako’s feelings for Korra. When Korra sees Amon face-to-face for the first time since “The Voice in the Night,” it takes only the smallest facial expressions and body language to tell that her brash confidence is crumbling in his presence, and we can detect more than just relief at being reunited with Mako, even if she says and does little.
However, I am still not as impressed with the romantic angles of this season’s story arc for a few reasons. One major reason for believing Asami was an Equalist spy or destined for a bad end was that I couldn’t see any other way for a Mako/Korra romance to blossom without making one or both of them look like total jerks. Asami’s initial attraction to Mako looked like a spontaneous infatuation, but over time it seems to have grown to something much more substantial. Sadly, it seems like the show is just going to make Mako a totally insensitive jerk, completely unaware of how his girlfriend is reacting to his slightly inappropriate zeal to find Korra. It’s made me lose a lot of respect for Mako as a character, and I’d respect Asami a lot less if she continued to let Mako take her for granted like this. Honestly, Korra isn’t coming off too well in this scenario, either.
The events of “Out of the Past” raise as many questions as they answer, setting up the last three episodes to focus on wrapping up the Equalist sub-plot. With this episode, the Yakone/Tarrlok plot can be viewed as another example of an Old vs. New contrast. I’m not sure we will get an answer to how Yakone and Tarrlok can bloodbend without a full moon, especially since that question is soon eclipsed by the follow-up of how Amon isn’t affected by such a powerful bloodbender. My insanely wild guess about Amon is some kind of artificial limb technology developed by Hiroshi Sato that makes Amon as much machine as man. I might even go as far as to suggest a mechanical puppet under Hiroshi’s control with the removal of bending achieved using drugs, but that all seems a bit further “out there” than the show has been willing to go so far. However, Avatar-age cybernetics might explain Amon’s almost super-human martial ability, and possibly even his impossible sense of calm regardless of circumstances.
I also wonder what Amon has in mind for Tarrlok. I could argue that the metalbending police were held as bait to trap Lin Beifong, but Amon never bothered to imprison any other ex-benders before. They have more value to the Equalists as public examples/warnings, especially for a high-profile target like Tarrlok. The fact that Korra’s first visions were triggered by encounters with Amon make me fairly sure that he’s also connected with Yakone somehow. It’s interesting that the trial, escape, and fall of Yakone in the past is mirrored in the present almost exactly with Tarrlok, except that the roles of authority figure and criminal at the end are reversed. There is also the possibility that Aang’s spirit-bending didn’t work, and that somehow, Yakone’s spirit infected Aang rather than the other way around, but I find that exceptionally unlikely. I also think that theory starts tripping over other plot events pretty quickly.
Since Amon was ordering his minions to take the Avatar, I think we can also assume that he’s ready to start his endgame, which means the breakneck pace the series has been maintaining is about to upshift again.