During the second season of The Legend of Korra, Mike Mazzacane and I teamed up together to provide weekly recaps of the season for Screened. These posts contain my half of each entry.
Well here I was all set to go into this week’s review clarifying my statement from last week that “Varrick is the best” despite his clearly being a manipulative war profiteer who is actually one of the most reprehensible characters on the show, and Korra, in the closing minutes, turns around and makes him a straight-up villain. A genius, scheming, evil-to-the-bone bad guy who, at least from how I’m interpreting it (which may be completely wrong, so who knows), has been playing both sides against each other in order to maximise his own profits. Who would have thought from the man who practices archery blindfolded? And the reveal was exceptionally done, the kind where you don’t see it coming until the other characters do, because nothing the show has shown up to this point indicates that Varrick could just be straight up evil, yet it still works in the context of what you do know and you end up kicking yourself for not catching on sooner. It’s the first genuine curveball of the season (because, let’s face it, the four people who were surprised that Unalaq was evil have never watched a TV show before) and further cements my belief that Varrick is the best (read: most entertaining and interesting to watch).
Heh, typical Varrick, coming out of nowhere to bury the real lead coming out of “The Sting”: I am finally a full-blown fan of Mako. Though Book 2 may be making some majorly worrying missteps (you all know what scene I’m referring to and I will get to that, believe me), one thing the show has slowly been fixing over the past six episodes is Mako. He has finally become a character, a likable, sympathetic and understandable character and pushing him to the forefront of the Republic City story has given him life at long last. No longer is he basically just “Korra’s romantic subplot who wanders in and out as necessary”; now he’s making decisions, spearheading action sequences, being a badass and getting to trade barbs with various people. He’s become entertaining and interesting. I can now understand why he does certain things even if they’re not that great an idea, instead of what happened last season where most of his actions were accompanied by a thought along the lines of “Mako, you complete imbecile”. The break-up from Korra seems to have worked wonders for him, let’s see if it holds when the pair are inevitably reunited.
Another reason I loved this episode? Asami doing stuff (the kind of stuff that apparently gets Janet Varney’s motor running)! More so than Bolin, Asami has been frequently running the risk of being made redundant this season, as if the show knows it needs to keep her around (because she’s Asami, come on people) but has no idea what to do with her. Much like with Mako, though, pushing her to the forefront of the Republic City plot has done wonders for her. For one, she gets to pilot a speedboat in another one of those gorgeous and badass action sequences that Korra can just toss off without a care in the wild, now. But mainly, she, and her VA Seychelle Gabriel, is getting some slightly weightier material to chew on. Just that cold, almost dead delivery of her lines after finding out that her entire Future Industries stock has been stolen from under her nose… man, that was a brutal scene. I’m not even mad that she seemed to lapse back to Mako for a moment, because it makes sense. She’s at a low point, he’s there for her, she remembers what drew her to him in the first place; it’s a moment of weakness that, nonetheless, makes sense for her at the time, considering the situation and her headspace. If they make a much bigger thing out of this, then I’ll get upset, but for now it works.
I have a feeling that Mazz and most Bolin fans will be rather irate at how the guy was handled this week, and especially at his total shunning of Mako in Mako’s time of need, but I am completely cool with it because, like Asami kissing Mako, it’s a character move that makes sense at this point in time. Just last week, Mako completely gave Bolin the cold shoulder when he was in a rough spot and Mako, much like everyone else in the Korraverse, treated his ‘relationship’ with Eska as a joke instead of actually trying to help Bolin out. Mako and Bolin have been growing apart all season long, with Bolin being the one who is constantly dumped upon by the universe and his brother, so of course he’s going to turn his crap back in Mako’s face. Of course he’ll act like he’s too big for his brother now, because he’s a star in his own Flash Gordon-like serials. And the reveal of Varrick being evil also justifies it even further, because Varrick is the only guy in this whole season who has been making Bolin feel needed and wanted, a weapon that will surely come into play when Mako has to go to someone with his ‘theory’.
In fact, if Korra has been narratively consistent on anything this season, and even more so than this point last season, it’s been stacking the odds. It takes these characters, that we know and love and root for to triumph, and keeps putting them through the ringer, turning the world against them. Korra is helpless to interfere with the Northern Water Tribe’s war with the South and her bloody-mindedness has turned everyone against her; Mako finally has a lead that will bust the various terror attacks in the Republic City area wide open, but nobody will listen to him (apparently even Lin Beifong thinks that helping to expose Amon is worth diddly-squat which is… an interesting character turn); Asami has finally found someone to help save Future Industries, but that man is also the guy who is almost single-handedly responsible for ruining her in the first place. Korra keeps turning the screws as hard as it can, but I do think that our characters are due for a win soon. By which I mean, there’s only so long that you can make the heroes’ lives an endlessly depressing hell before the audience stops caring what happens to them. So maybe throw them a bone soon, eh?
That said, I have been enjoying seeing the odds stacked higher and higher this season and if the episode had just ended with the Varrick reveal, this would have been a solid A-, maybe A. But, no, we had to have an appearance from Korra and that old chestnut of a plot twist “she’s suddenly developed amnesia”. Maker… Yeah, it prompted the same “slow yet sharp intake of breath, eyes widening, mental ‘oh, crap’” reaction that the Varrick reveal did, but for different reasons. If Varrick was “Oh, shiiiiiiiiit!”, amnesiac Korra was “Oh, shiiiiiiiiiiiit, we’re going there! Why are we going there?” It’s just plain lazy a twist to pull out and, though they have proven me wrong before, I don’t think that Korra’s writing staff are capable enough to make this anything less than a cliché cliffhanger. Please prove me wrong, Korra, because I will be more than happy to apologise profusely if you do.
Next week is the origins two-parter. Please be amazing and make up for that closing scene. Please?