By: Dan Tomasik
In Harm’s Way:
The trip down memory lane in Ba Sing Se comes to a close with “In Harm’s Way”. Zaheer and his cohorts break out their final (and most explosive) comrade in an assault on the North Pole that gives new meaning to the phrase “rock you like a hurricane”. Korra and Team Avatar reunite and try to rescue the new airbenders the Earth Queen has forced into her private army. The episode ends with Team Avatar splitting up; Tenzin and the airbenders gather at the Northern Air Temple to begin training while Korra & co resume their search for new airbenders.
A little time spent in a secret military training prison has definitely helped with Kai’s focus and respect for Team Avatar. More conflicts are certain to come (especially once Tenzin finds out his daughter kissed a pickpocket/fugitive), but Kai has proven himself to have a good heart alongside his sticky fingers. The Earth Queen has proven herself to be a minor player, unlikely to appear many more times unless something drastic happens. The woman is just mean and selfish.
Zuko’s return is cool but far too brief. We only see a minute or so of him fighting, nothing too big. His dragon, however, is much bigger than previously implied. This thing is nearly half the height of Ba Sing Se’s outer wall (tail-to-snout). There is, however, another excellent prison breakout by Zaheer’s group. It appears I misjudged one of them in my last review. Either he is an earthbender who can create lava, or (the cooler possibility) a dual earth & fire bender. Zaheer is clearly getting the hang of his new airbending powers faster than anyone else, creating snowstorms for their arrival with ease. Our water arm friend takes on both Desna and Eska at once, wiping the floor with them in seconds. Neither of them is a lightweight, so this woman must be something extraordinary indeed. Last, their final comrade is revealed to be a prime contender for “Most Powerful Avatar Villain (Excluding Giant Spirit Monsters)”. Combustion Man’s power and Azula’s appearance, but with much more experience and purpose. For whatever people may say, Combustion Man was the scariest villain from the original Avatar series. Fire Lord Ozai was dangerous, but Combustion Man was like a juggernaut. That power resurfacing alongside a group intent on capturing Korra, that’s scary.
Check out Episode 9 “The Stakeout” trailer here.
The Metal Clan:
Well now, this is a most unusual episode. At times graceful, idealistic, and spiritual; at other times throwing into question everything we thought we knew about a character.
The newest airbender to turn up leads Team Avatar to the home of the Metal Clan, founded by the original metalbender, Toph. Toph has apparently changed a lot since the first series. From sarcastic & rebellious tomboy, to founder of the Police Squad. As a parent, she was a stern and demanding taskmaster who put a lot of pressure on her children. And in the last few years she has up and left to explore the world. No one’s heard from her since.
Our new airbender is revealed to be Lin’s niece Opal, daughter of her step-sister Suyin. Lin’s relationship with Suyin isn’t just rocky, it’s one-sided warfare. Lin pretends she’s not there to avoid her sister, refuses to look her in the eye when she’s caught, brings up their mother at every chance, criticizes everything she says or does, and even bites at her niece when she tries to help. Lin’s always been a bit prickly and stubborn, but she’s still disciplined and reasonable about it. She’s not even treating this person like her sister. She’s never displayed this kind of animosity for anyone, and she deals with some of the worst criminals in the world.
Perhaps it’s jealousy? Suyin seems to have it all. Kids of all types, a loving husband, the respect of those around her, numerous passions she’s pursued, and contentment with everything in her life. Everything, that is, except for Lin in her life.
Going on around this is a fantastic display of creativity and grace in the form of airbending choreography with Opal and Korra, metalbending dance & art routines, and possibly a new love interest for Bolin. The metalbending arts are remarkable to watch. When one thinks of utilizing metal, thoughts tend to go in the direction of weaponry, fighting, war, etc. Dance, sculpture, and an awesome pinball-meets-hockey sport? Way to take the creative and unexpected way!
But seriously, there needs to be a flashback/explanation in the first 5 minutes of the next episode, because whatever happened between Lin and Suyin is clearly something HUGE.
Also sneaking it’s way in is a new airbending student who seems to be just what Tenzin is looking for. His head’s already shaved (guy has a few mysterious scars), he’s polite, open-minded, and clearly has a natural affinity for airbending culture, technique, and tradition. He’s a little too good to be true, but the showrunners do a good job not making him appear creepy or sinister, just mysterious.
After the mother of all cliffhangers in the last episode, “Old Wounds” is a spiritual journey detour. A chance to better learn about Lin, Suyin, and Toph. Having heard the story between Lin and Suyin that has turned Lin into an abominable passive-aggressive grouch monster, it has become clear…. that Lin can really hold a grudge. Honestly, it’s understandable that she has issues and unfinished business with her sister, but damn. She needs to learn to let go. Everyone makes mistakes, herself included. It’s interesting how they depict the toll a grudge can have on a person. The longer things go unaddressed, the more explosive and volatile they become when they’re brought out into the open.
Lin’s transformation after the fight…. is so abrupt as to be scary. She has never been this civil or sweet to anyone. It’s a strong reminder that sometimes the best thing to do is (sing with me) “let it go, let it go!”
Lin and Suyin’s battle is definitely one of the coolest earthbending battles of the series, as well as a point for the arts. Lin is the eldest sister, an earthbending master, veteran metalbender raised by the founded of the art, and the police chief of Republic City. Suyin does metal dance choreography. And Suyin outclasses Lin in every way.
Elsewhere, Zaheer & co have learned the location of Korra. There needs to be further explanation into Zaheer’s past, this guy acts like he’s been an airbender longer than Tenzin.
Back at the Northern Air Temple, it’s airbending training, taught by the one and only Tenzin! After a day of meditation and getting smacked around by wooden boards, it’s time for the longest, most boring story in the history of the world; the monk who didn’t eat.
Sensing/being informed that his students aren’t very interested, Tenzin goes to Bumi for advice. Bumi suggests airbending boot camp for the new recruits, forgetting that he’s one of them. Drill Sergeant Tenzin goes Full Metal Jacketon his students, with Bumi stuck as Private Pyle. Up at the crack of dawn, 10 mile hike to the mountain, meditation until your mind goes numb, then begin training for the day!
Kai and Jinora bond over their issues with Tenzin. Jinora offers insights into the reason behind the airbending tattoos none of the kids have; Tenzin won’t let them (or her) until they’re (she’s) older and more experienced. Family issues come to a head, leading to a temporary split. Everyone makes up in the end, and new steps forward are taken for the Air Nomads-in-training. Tenzin even gets a good laugh in.
“Air Nomads never strike an opponent who can’t defend themself! But that was very nice form.”
For being the title of the episode, the actual amount of time spent discussing the original airbenders (the sky bison) is somewhat brief. It isn’t explored as much as the Moon or the Dragons or even the Badgermoles. This episode is more about the students.
Still, the adult Aang kids are always enjoyable when they work together. They always feel so real both in their conflicts and their resolutions. Being adults doesn’t mean they don’t still have insecurities and problems, but they always have each other.
The Terror Within:
Since her arrival, Korra and Lin have been assured of the security Suyin’s home provides. Giant metal flower petals that close during the night and armor-wearing metalbender guards certainly drive the point home. So when Zaheer and his cohorts infiltrate and kidnap Korra, the question becomes “where is safe?”
The battle waged with Zaheer’s cohorts is definitely the biggest of the season so far. Metal, earth, lava, ice, water, air, and explosions are on the ground, in the air, and everywhere. Interesting and utterly horrifying little tidbit, Combustion Woman can curve her explosions around walls and pillars. Because it wasn’t scary enough just to be able to blow things up with one’s mind, she can bend it like Beckham, too. Lovely.
Bolin gets one of his rare moments to shine. He may be the comic relief, the goofball, and the bumbling imbecile, but when it counts, Bolin always pulls through. He really should stop doubting himself so much.
Next comes an investigation, and with it another betrayal. Zaheer isn’t going away for long, he has friends in powerful places, and he’s proven himself to be a terrifying airbender (two words one never expects to hear together).
So much to happen in the season, so little time. Where it’s all headed, who can say?