Thursday, July 18, 2013

Yakone's Sons Revisited (a very special entry)



It's been a whole year since Noatak and Tarrlok drove that boat over the horizon, it blew up, and they were never seen again. Yes, this sudden blog entry is because of the recently released and much controversial commentary by Mike and Bryan on the official "The Legend Of Korra: Book One" Blu-Ray collection. A commentary that, I must add, has made my respect for the two drop down waaay low. They are brilliant creators, but are not fit to be writers, are lousy at managing their own creations, and have developed all the wrong ideas in the wake of "Avatar: The Last Airbender"s success, including swell-headed egotism, a misunderstanding of their audience, and a closed mind towards any and all criticism. Just another sad example of mighty talents that have fallen as of late.

However, there is one complaint I'm hearing from fans that I think is all wrong. That's the idea that
the ultimate fate of Noatak and Tarrlok was Bryke's way of condoning suicide. Which I think is pure bullocks. To put it into perspective, as the scene above shows, Tarrlok put down that electric glove
on the boats core, blowing it up with him and his brother still on the vehicle, thus committing murder-suicide on a Nickelodeon animated family show. It was a much talked about and critically acclaimed moment, and definitely where that story's finale peaked. However, now Bryke has gone on the record of saying how Tarrlok's murder-suicide was a "noble action" and a "sacrifice": that he did the right thing by removing himself and his brother from the world because it rid society of two people who were damaged beyond repair and would only go on hurting others and themselves. "That's not fair!" the people cry "Many suicide victims in real life feel like they don't belong in the world and that it'd be better off without them. They may very well convince themselves that they're doing the right thing by offing themselves! Mike and Bryan are condoning suicide! ASSHOLES!"

For one thing, I think part of the problem was with the way Bryke worded it. Let's face it, they're not the most articulate people around. They described Tarrlok as having been "a real jerk all season" as part of the reason why his decision was justified. Which led to much asking of "If being a real jerk is reason to take your own life, then why hasn't Mako done it?" No, Tarrlok being more than just a jerk is only part of his decision's reasoning, which I'll get to later.

Another thing the fans decry is the idea that anyone in this universe could be damaged beyond repair. They cite Azula and Ozai as examples, especially the latter since not killing him due to the belief of all life's sacredness was a big part of the previous series' conclusion. To which I say...let's look at how that worked out, shall we? Even without powers to hurt anyone anymore, even from behind bars, Ozai is still able to scheme ways to slowly get himself back to power and to damage Zuko's rule as well. "The Promise" shows us that he is a pure douche beyond any hope, and "The Search" shows us that evidently he always has been. So it's safe to assume he always will be, meaning that yes, some people are just plain irredeemable. And as for Aang using energy bending as an alternative to killing anyone else? That actually started the whole crisis here with Yakone! Yeah, this "everyone deserves a chance to live" mentality really shot itself in the foot. And Aang even realized that sometimes killing has to be done in "The Promise." If Bryke is backtracking on this issue, it's because they've recognized that. An Air Nomad's beliefs don't necessarily have to be the creators' and narrative's belief. Particularly in a series where said Air Nomad is no longer the Avatar.

Also, just because many real life suicide victims feel a certain way when they make the decision doesn't mean that fictional characters should shy away from feeling the same thing, even in family entertainment. That Bryke called the murder-suicide noble might expose their belief about the issue: that they really do believe that your feelings of not belonging in the world and needing to rid life of your existence is absolutely justified as long as you're a villain, so by all means, go for the suicide. And if that is their belief, then that's their belief, and they expressed it through this story and these characters. We shouldn't viciously argue about that even if we disagree. And I kind of do see the point. Most suicide victims who feel the way Tarrlok did probably haven't committed the evil deeds of Yakone's bloodline. But more important than it being the creators' belief is that it was the characters' belief. That from the character's perspective and from a character standpoint, this was indeed the right action to take and was the only way their arc could possibly be closed.

Let's look at the scenario closely. After being outed for the hypocrite he was, Noatak retreated back to his lair where he was keeping his brother Tarrlok imprisoned. He comes in to say "Hey bro, I'm sorry for all I did. It's all over now, I lost. But the two of us can start over! We can live a new life under new identities and leave all this behind! It'll be great! Please, you're all I have left in the world!" And you can just see the uncertainty and sense of dread in Tarrlok's eyes as his brother says all this. Because this is exactly what happened with their father Yakone after Aang had defeated him: his associates broke him out of prison, gave him plastic surgery and a new identity so he could start over, which led to him getting married and having two sons. And look how well THAT ended up? Now history is repeating itself, with Tarrlok in Yakone's place and Noatak in his gang's place. If their father, the father who abused them and put them on the self destructive path of vengeance they were on, had failed to let go and live his life anew, then how could Tarrlok be sure that the same thing wouldn't happen to them? That they'd have kids of their own that could bloodbend and they'd relapse into wanting to use their kids talents to take revenge on Republic City and the Avatar? And it's not just the past actions of their father that makes Tarrlok distrusting of himself and his brother, but also their own past resolves. As a teenager, Noatak had told his father that "We are your sons! Not your tools for revenge!" A little bit earlier, young Tarrlok had cried "I never want to bloodbend ever again!" And yet all that proved easier said than done. They talked the talk, but utterly failed to walk the walk, ending up becoming exactly the tools of war that their father had wanted to shape them into. So even if they were to now say "We're going to really put all this behind us and start over, and if we have kids, be better fathers to them than our father was to us!", can we really be certain that they'd keep their word? Tarrlok sure as heck didn't seem certain, and after all that, who can blame him?

Then we get to the moment itself, very reminiscent of the ending to "Of Mice And Men." On the
boat, Noatak is gleefully talking about looking forward to the two of them living life together again
as brothers. With an almost childlike naivete, he says there's nothing they can't handle together.
A sulking Tarrlok just murmurs "Yes, you're right, Noatak." "Noatak" his brother replies wistfully "I'd almost forgotten the sound of my own name." Which is an acknowledgement from the man himself of how far he's fallen. He'd so enraptured himself in the persona he was putting on for his anti-bending revolution, he'd forgotten his own past. He'd put the source of his pain behind him, but in doing so, lost sight of the things he should have known better. He'd followed in his father's footsteps without
the level of self-awareness that Tarrlok had about it. Tarrlok then looks at the Equalist electric gloves loaded on the boat, then his glance turns to Noatak at the steering wheel, and then back at the gloves. He reaches for a glove and puts it on, his gaze going once again to his brother, who is standing still at the wheel of the boat. When I first watched this, what I thought was going to happen was that Tarrlok would use the glove on Noatak, take the wheel and go back to Republic City, and haul himself and his brother to prison in order to owe up to their crimes. But of course, that's not
what happened. Only later did I get the significance of how the build-up to Tarrlok's final action was animated. When first eyeing the gloves, he was no doubt questioning "Why is this boated loaded with these things? Why do we need them? I could use them to get us killed, but does Noatak know that? Why didn't he throw them overboard?" He then looks at Noatak, and the realization is that Noatak, deep down in his heart, knows how this is going to end. He knows what his brother will choose to do with one of those gloves. So Tarrlok takes the glove and then lastly there's the reaffirmation. Noatak still doesn't budge from where he's standing. As a bloodbender, he should be able to sense Tarrlok's movements from behind him and figure out exactly what he's about to do. And yet he doesn't stop him. He's waiting...waiting for it all to end. So keeping their self-deluding conversation going with one last line, "It will be just like the good ol' days", Tarrlok makes his move. The last shot we see before the boat explodes is Noatak looking grim and a single tear falling from his eye. Confirming that yes, he knew what was going to happen here. Which means that both these guys wanted to die. They both felt that they were so damaged that they had to remove themselves from the world in order to spare themselves and anyone else from getting hurt by Yakone's hateful legacy. When Bryke spoke of this murder-suicide as a noble sacrifice, they had the characters' perspectives on their minds. And in the context of these characters, it makes complete and total sense. It was not condoning suicide.

While "The Legend Of Korra" thus far has had it's share of numerous, very glaring problems, and
I suspect shall still have them if Mike and Bryan really haven't learned anything from these failures
(but there'll be more writers on board now, so who knows?), the handling of the first story arc's primary antagonists was not among them. The story of Yakone's bloodline and how it tied into the Equalist revolution was the most well written, well thought out, and well executed part of the show as it now stands. So people, let's please not look for something to misblame it for now. Likewise, suicide is a very serious issue and should not be condoned or encouraged, particularly not in shows watched by children. But characters, like people, don't always reflect ideal morals. And in the right setting and context, a suicide, or even murder-suicide, might be necessary for a fictional story to work. It does not and should not nessecarily reflect the morals and ideals of the people involved. That is all.

27 comments:

  1. I agree. I am gaining a new hate for Bryke, but their commentary on Tarrlok's suicide and murder of his brother isn't one of the factors and people are blowing it out of proportion. They aren't condoning it, they're only explaining why Tarrlok himself feels that it's justified and noble. Whether you agree with it or not is to be left ambiguous. Yes, that's right, a thing in this story arc that actually ended up ambiguous! O_O

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    1. I think everyone is gaining new hate for Bryke and "Korra" (or at least Book 1) in general. I will concede that had Book 1 been the entirety of "Korra", it would've been a badly narrated story and a complete, utter failure of a series, let alone a sequel to one of the greatest animated series' ever made. It's only because it's a real show now that I'm giving it a chance to move past the growing pains of it's first 12 episodes. It worked wonders for "Scooby Doo: Mystery Inc." after all.
      As for Bryke...yeah, they're on my list of favorite creators AND least favorite creators now (a right reserved for those rare likes of Bob Kane or Joss Whedon) and I suspect on your list of "With Great Power" Fallen Creators. Aaron Ehasz was the true storyteller of "Avatar": Bryke are just the concept creators and animation directors. They're not writers and they should recognize that rather than defending themselves in the most insulting, juvenile way.

      While the Equalist story line was HORRENDOUSLY handled by the end, the story behind that story (the story of Yakone's bloodline) was the best thing Book One had going for it (Korra's arc, Asami's arc, and Tenzin's character in general coming close behind since they all had their obvious problems too, while everything else all went to crap in some way or another) and it sucks to see it get slammed along with everything else. It's especially odd since, like you said, it's actually giving us some complexity and ambiguity in the villains, something that the rest of the Equalists lacked, and yet people still hate on it FOR being ambiguous now? Unpleasable fanbase!

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  2. I really can't argue much on this. Well spoken and entertaining.

    To respond to Matt's post:
    "but their commentary on Tarrlok's suicide and murder of his brother isn't one of the factors and people are blowing it out of proportion."

    Maybe so, but I feel that the overreaction is owed to Bryke's lack of people skills in regards to the Book's criticism overal. Had they conducted themselves better, it would be easier to give them the benefit of the doubt and listen rather than blowing it out of proportion.

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    1. That's what I meant when I'd said "I think part of the problem was with the way Bryke worded it. Let's face it, they're not the most articulate people around." They weren't meaning to condone all suicide as a good thing, but it just came out that way. Can't defend much else of what they might've said in the commentary, but I got what they were meaning to suggest with Tarrlok's motivations in that moment.

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  3. I have something I'd like to bring up in regards to other bits of the commentary.

    Now it's been suggested that Bryke despite trying to go for a female lead, has been getting a reputation of arguably having some sexism in them. Maybe even thinking that having a female lead counts as progression (despite other cartoons doing so).

    For starters, some of their dismissal of criticism is based I believe on the fact that it's just a bunch of fangirls upset that their ship lost at the end of Book One.

    Second, one thing I don't think I acknowledged much or at all is some of the discussed implications of sexism:
    - One thing I've heard in regards to the commentary is that Linzin was actually planned after Episode 1 was produced. So basically, the only reason Lin was down on Korra is because she didn't have her man to keep her happy. Now this could be dismissed as Korra's behavior was just furthering Lin's bitterness, but given how the former never really had to do anything for the latter's sudden respect, hmmm.

    - Heck, basically anytime that two female characters shows any conflict is over a guy rather than other reasons. ATLA at least had some of the alternatives like Katara and Toph quarreling over more practical matter like whether it's okay to cheat against something who's already cheating or whether you need to help out despite providing for yourself.

    I mean aside from how Lin and Korra's conflict was originally presented as the former objecting to the latter's reckless, I feel that if they wanted to have conflict with Korra and Asami, they could do so by having Asami sticking up for Nonbenders (in a manner that's legit, but still notable enough for Korra to be at odds).


    That said, do you think it's baseless assumption? Or for that matter, does anything in the commentary contradict that possibility?

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    1. I don't think Bryke is intentionally sexist. They're just typical dudes who are not very understanding of females and what constitutes great female characters. In "Avatar", Katara was their only major female character in the conception, and I doubt she would've turned out as good as she did without Aaron Ehasz and the rest seeing as Bryke seemed to have the same favoritism towards her they have for Mako now. They also stated that they believed from the start that girls would only watch if there was a strong female character and "relationship issues." There was even going to be an Aang-Katara-Toph love triangle back when Toph was a dude. That thankfully got cut, but now they recycled the idea with Korra-Mako-Asami-Bolin.

      Yes, they do indeed deem all Mako haters or people who hated the ending to be angry fangirls butthurt that Mako/Asami or Korra/Bolin didn't happen. That's what I meant when I said they completely misunderstand their audience. Shippers are NOT a majority and Bryke ought to know that. But alas, ever since discovering it, they've gotten a bit too interested in the shipping community for their own good.

      So Lin was going to have a different arc, but Bryke changed their minds after one interaction between Tenzin and Lin?

      The Korra-Asami conflict over the ethical issues of non-benders is a great idea, so long as it didn't lead to Asami joining the Equalists. That was a terrible idea that I'm glad they didn't go through with. We need non-bender representation in Team Avatar.

      No, I don't think it's baseless. It just has nothing to do with Yakone's bloodline. XD

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  4. I think my biggest problem with Amon and Tarlok was that the flashback to their childhoods does more muddling than it does explaining.

    Example Amon in the present claims that he hates benders, and wants to bring about equality; because the benders are the ones with control. Why he holds a grudge against benders and wants to change things is at least well explained by him, despite it just being words. This is what we're given throughout 10 episodes.

    But the backstory to Amon & Tarlok changes things. And what we got just left me wondering; "why does this guy hate benders so much that he feels he has to change things?" After the backstory, I just assumed he was power hungry, but Tarlok kept pushing the idea that Amon has always felt he needed to do this. Okay but why, does he feel so strongly about it then? Nothing in the flashback gives us a convincing reason why hates them so much. I could buy that it was the hatred for his father, HAD THEY NOT shown him getting along with Yakone for majority of it.

    If anything the flashback made me feel as if Tarlok should've wound up like Amon; and Amon should've wound up like Tarlok. To me, that would've made much more sense. But that didn't happen.

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    1. Actually, there is an explanation for this. Whether or not it was explained well is up to you.

      Amon had one end goal but multiple motivations, all of them purely psychological. Noatak HATED that he was Yakone's favored son because that meant more training work was given to him, and he'd rather he and his brother be treated as equal, thus explaining his obsession with equality.

      He did NOT "get along" with Yakone at all: if he did, he wouldn't have ever turned on him so easily when he was threatening his brother. Noatak was just obeying his father's wishes because Yakone made him believe he needed this, whether he liked it or not. But what so much bloodbending and exploitation of power ended up doing was detaching Noatak from humanity and making him feel miserable and traumatized. He recognized this, recognized that he had become an evil monster. And he blamed this on bending: all his feelings of hate for his crappy life were directed towards bending and all the pain that came with bloodbending became, in his warped mind, synonymous with just "bending." Aang removing Yakone's bending started all this and Yakone pushing his sons into mastering their bending caused all the trauma. And that he recognized how bloodbending corrupted him explains his views of bending as an "impurity."

      Before running away from Yakone, he'd also brought up the Avatar. "He took away your bending. What could be more powerful than that?" This alludes to the reason why, when he discovered that bloodbending could be used to block off people's bending, he used that and made the Amon persona for himself: to be the anti-Avatar and use his power for an ability that only the Avatar could possess. He might have also wanted to take revenge on the Avatar for taking Yakone's bending, which is what led to all his childhood suffering, as well. And he also wanted to rule over Republic City as the only bender in power once everyone was de-bent, but that's only so he could use the city as his base of operation for "equalizing the rest of the world" like he'd said. Then once everyone was equal, he'd bloodbend himself last and remove all bending from the world forever. Then nobody would have to suffer like he did, which is what he most wanted. He wanted to shepherd all the people of the world into a new age without bending: or as he thought of it as, without suffering or oppression.

      So the answer to "why does this guy hate benders so much that he feels he has to change things?" is basically because he hates himself. He hates what he became through his bending training and thinks of bending as a corrupting influence (even though that was just bloodbending's problem) that the world should be rid of, so that no one else may end up like him.

      And why would Tarrlok wind up like Amon? Yakone stopped training him in bloodbending after Noatak left, so despite what it might have seemed, Tarrlok suffered ALOT less from bending than Noatak did. Tarrlok suffered mainly from his father's abuse, which is why he wanted to be better than his father by taking over Republic City through "legit" means and becoming it's savior. Likewise, Noatak wouldn't end up like Tarrlok because he'd been traumatized beyond the point he'd care about "fixing" his father's legacy. He wanted to take his own issues into his own hands, but like Tarrlok, ended up becoming what his father wanted him to be anyway.

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    2. Now I get the self-hating aspect of Amon (though even if his cover story couldn't stick, I feel they could have still had him being a Nonbender powered by the spirits while maintaining the link with Tarrlok and Yakone, but that's another discussion).

      But I tend to still feel like he further devolved into a power mad villain after his berating of Tarrlok for being weak. Yeah, wanting equality my ass. If that line wasn't present, then I would have at least felt he was still operating under legit reasons with his actions being the only problem.

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    3. "Amon had one end goal but multiple motivations, all of them purely psychological. Noatak HATED that he was Yakone's favored son because that meant more training work was given to him, and he'd rather he and his brother be treated as equal, thus explaining his obsession with equality."

      I could buy that HAD they not shown Noatak chastising his brother for being weak; thus favoring his fathers ideologies, whether he liked it or not.

      "Then once everyone was equal, he'd bloodbend himself last and remove all bending from the world forever. Then nobody would have to suffer like he did, which is what he most wanted. He wanted to shepherd all the people of the world into a new age without bending: or as he thought of it as, without suffering or oppression."

      I haven't watched Korra in awhile but I don't remember ANY OF THIS being brought up by Noatak or Tarlok.

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    4. "I feel they could have still had him being a Nonbender powered by the spirits while maintaining the link with Tarrlok and Yakone, but that's another discussion."

      No, I would not have liked Amon being that much of what he said he was. It wasn't just the "a firebender killed my family and scarred me" that he was making up: that he was a Nonbender granted power by the spirits was clearly bullshit too. Why would the spirits themselves grant him, of all people alive, the power to remove bending? And if it's really energybending, that only the Avatar should possess, then why is his grip different and does he touch different chakra points than what Aang did with Ozai and Yakone? It was always bloodbending at work, there are even hints to that in earlier episodes. That was always the solution to this great mystery, and frankly, it's the ONLY solution there could have been.

      "But I tend to still feel like he further devolved into a power mad villain after his berating of Tarrlok for being weak. Yeah, wanting equality my ass. If that line wasn't present, then I would have at least felt he was still operating under legit reasons with his actions being the only problem."

      Think of the context. He was berating Tarrlok for being spiritually and mentally weak for not joining him in running away from their father to start their own lives. He wasn't calling him weak for not having strong enough power or not wanting to take over the world or anything. People can be internally weak (or physically weak, or strong, or smart, etc) while still being "equal" in every other way. I don't get where you're getting at here. Noatak was disappointed in his brother for his cowardice. How does this undermine his current motivations in any way, shape, or form?

      "I could buy that HAD they not shown Noatak chastising his brother for being weak; thus favoring his fathers ideologies, whether he liked it or not."

      He likely didn't even recognize that he was favoring his father's ideologies. Remember, the context for Yakone calling Tarrlok weak was that he wasn't willing to bloodbend his brother. The context for Noatak calling Tarrlok weak was that he wasn't willing to run away with him from their father. So clearly, while Noatak favored the ideology, he did not favor the father who passed it on to him at all.

      "I haven't watched Korra in awhile but I don't remember ANY OF THIS being brought up by Noatak or Tarlok."

      Show, don't tell. Noatak or Tarrlok didn't feel the need to spell out their psychology or ultimate intentions to anyone. Amon in particular speaks for himself through actions rather than words. He goes through all this trouble and sincerely believes it to be for the good of the world, never once doubting himself or implying it's all a lie, and not even trying to punish all benders so much as he's "cleansing" them. That shows how messed up he was by his backstory and how he sincerely wants everyone to be equal to each other and not at all like him.

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    5. "Think of the context. He was berating Tarrlok for being spiritually and mentally weak for not joining him in running away from their father to start their own lives. He wasn't calling him weak for not having strong enough power or not wanting to take over the world or anything."

      I believe Antiyonder was talking about the flashback when he called Tarlok weak while next to his father. I remember Noatak calling Tarlokk weak for not having the stomach for his father's training; NOT about running away.

      "Show, don't tell."

      Again they did a lousy job SHOWING that when he looked at his brother as beneath him in the flashback. If I was supposed to feel he was going to bloodbend himself; they clearly missed the mark. HIS agenda to instill fear in to benders and him feeling the need to do so SHOWED me otherwise.

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    6. Okay, I just re-watched the whole flashback on Vimeo. That moment you talked about literally never happened. Noatak stopped having any dialogue between asking Yakone what happened to his bending at the campfire and telling him to leave Tarrlok alone. Yakone was the one who said something along the lines "You're going to need thicker skin for this!", and Tarrlok himself narrated that he "didn't have the stomach for father's training." Noatak said NOTHING. In fact, before he called Tarrlok weak, he'd said "you're the weak one!" to Yakone! So yes, the only time he called Tarrlok weak was for not running away with him.

      And he never looked at his brother as beneath him either. Yakone looked at Tarrlok as beneath Noatak: that was all. Maybe you misread Noatak's facial expressions during all this time as being arrogant, but those were meant to be thousand yard stares from the trauma of bloodbending. Tarrlok says at first that Noatak "SEEMED to revel in his power" but then goes on to say "Even though Noatak was my father's favorite, it wasn't any easier for him. He carried the burden of all Yakone's expectations and demands. Something changed in Noatak over the years. The loving brother I'd once known became cold and detached." And his agenda was more than just "instilling fear into benders." He wanted to "equalize the world": he TOLD us that and made it clear as day.

      I'm starting to think you just want to hate everything about "The Legend Of Korra" so much that you're choosing to remember things a different way just so you can denounce Amon as a generic power-hungry villain because he didn't turn out the way you wanted him to. Amon wasn't totally consistently handled, but he was still one of the best executed things about the series thus far. Going back, watching, and paying attention shows that alot of his character's story DOES add up.

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    7. "I'm starting to think you just want to hate everything about "The Legend Of Korra" so much that you're choosing to remember things a different way just so you can denounce Amon as a generic power-hungry villain because he didn't turn out the way you wanted him to."

      If you think that, then your the one assuming things.

      I'll take your word for it on this. But I think your assumption that he was going to bloodbend himself AFTER bloodbending everyone else is a bit of a stretch given that they were pushing Amon becoming more and more like his father. If that's the case, why should I believe he would take your suggested route IF he was going down that route?

      Regardless of any character consistancies or lack there of, I thought killing off Amon was a mistake, and took away a character they could've down a hell of alot more with.

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    8. It's true that we have no evidence that he was saving himself for last, or if he even could. It could be that he was always going to end up the only bender in the world had his plans succeeded, but he'd see that as a sacrifice for the common good of everyone else. He would've ended up like his father, but he would not realize it. He lacks the awareness that Tarrlok had.

      I disagree. Amon was only meant to be the villain of this one storyline. The mistake was first on Nickelodeon's part by ordering only 12 episodes for said storyline, and then on Bryke's part for not doing all they could have with Amon in that time since they let more trivial things like shipping get in their way. I personally would've loved to see a 20 episode book with the Amon, Equalists, and Yakone's bloodline storyline playing out, but that's obviously not what we got. So I just gotta take what we have, and what we have is still solid, all things considered.

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    9. Ehh. Still say that Bryke gets more of the blame. They knew how much time they had going in and chose to indulge on the trivial things. Had they been offered 20 episodes, and then had the number reduced to 12 episodes between their work, I might be willing to be lenient. When it comes down to it, they chose "having a lot of cool things happening" over having a few cool moments that made complete sense.

      Going with things like characterization for example, Tarrlok had 4 less episodes than Mako (Not to mention less screentime in some of the episodes he was in) and still came out better. Heck, going with the first half of ATLA, Zuko appeared in 9 out of 12 episodes (one of which was a half minute) and still showed potential.

      As for solid, depends. I mean the good points would have to be equal or more frequent than the bad points.

      Also to respond to your earlier comments:
      "Why would the spirits themselves grant him, of all people alive, the power to remove bending?"

      Well, if oppression was really an issue (at least I don't recall Bryke rebuking it as such) rather than a claim made by Amon, I could see the spirits legitamitely angered that Benders abuse their spiritual gifts so to speak that they gave Noatok such an ability out of anger.

      "And if it's really energybending, that only the Avatar should possess, then why is his grip different and does he touch different chakra points than what Aang did with Ozai and Yakone?"

      I'd speculate it being different since Aang was in Avatar State when he did it, whereas Amon (at least seemingly at the time) was a normal person granted with a spiritual ability. I mean before hand we never saw a regular person Energybend.


      All that said, I respect that you might find that the positive points outweigh the negative points, but I think it might help if you did an entry going into detail on why you feel that way so we can discuss them further. I mean so far most of your comments (responses aside) have been in regard to the last two episodes.

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    10. I know Bryke gets more blame, but I still have to blame Nickelodeon for not having enough faith in the show to give it a 20 episode order. Think of all the things that could have been done in 20 episodes? But nope, we got 12, and Bryke didn't straighten out their priorities for telling the story when going in.

      I meant the villains' (Yakone and his sons) story arc was solid overall, not the plot and characterization of the show itself.

      I still think that's bullshit, though. Because if bending oppression was really an issue, then ALOT of people would feel angry and victimized. So why do the spirits single out Amon? Why him of all people in the world? There'd have to be a damn good explanation for that, and I can't really think of any. Since episode 3 first aired I suspect Amon's claim of the spirits giving him power was a big con, and that was indeed the case.

      And that doesn't wash up either. Energybending is energybending. Why would they choose to animate Amon doing it differently from the Avatar unless there was some significance in the difference? That's why we saw Aang energybend Yakone and Amon energybend Tarrlok in the same episode: to see the difference clearly shown to us but without spelling it out. Then later when Tarrlok reveals it was his brother's bloodbending grip, it all makes sense.

      I don't feel the need to do another entry on Korra until September when Book Two starts airing. I get that you dislike the show and believe me I dislike all the faults in it, but I don't want to discuss them further. The last two episodes, I think, weren't as good as the first four or even episodes six, seven, and eight. They were around the quality of episode nine. Only episodes five and ten sucked. And the third act of the last episode, where only Korra going Avatar State with all her bending back worked on an emotional level, but got sandwiched between the bullshit Aang Ex Machina and the bullshit Makorra hook up.

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    11. Amon I'll concede then, as I really can't say much.

      20 episodes would have been nice, but as Book 3 of ATLA demonstrates, they had 21 episodes and still fumbled in some areas (small example is the poor transition of Kataang between EiP and SC Part 4, or bigger example as I mentioned earlier this year Zuko's coronation not being met with some conflict or implication that some people aren't going to accept the traitorous prince being crowned). And that was with better writers at the helm, so without that we could easily have the same problems, but taken to 11.

      That said, there are some episodes better than others in the later bit, so I'll give you that. Though while I can't speak for others that I'm in the same boat with, I guess one thing that contributes to my opinion is that every time it feels like I've found every problem, without looking, something else occurs.

      Take Episode 6. Now this one I do find to be the better one past 4 as the Makorrasami triangle is absent for the most part and the one Makorra moment in the episode actually felt genuine. But one problem like the previous one is setting up a conflict that really has no point (Linzin), plus the sexist implication that Lin was hardcore, because she didn't have a man to make her happy. And a couple that came to mind later on:
      - Korra taking pleasure in the heartbreak of another person when Episode 5 should have left her feeling sympathetic for something like that.

      - Lin's dialgoue "I expected this kind of cut-and-run response from Tenzin. [Brief shot of Tenzin looking on indifferently.] But the rest of you? Come on, show a little more backbone. It's time that "the benders" of this city displayed some strength and unity against these Equalists."

      Now in a better written story, that line could be used in establishing that even the protagonists are guilty of contributing to the Nonbender oppression, but it seems like a bad oversight when a small change would have eliminated that implication (It's time that "the good people" of this city displayed some strength and unity against these Equalists.).

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    12. Now Episode 7 at first seemed better. A big problem is of course Mako's ultimatum. Now looking at it from all angles, even with the gender reverse theme and how a pushy Korro's behavior could feel like abuse. But as some have pointed out recently, Sokka and Katara were willing to ditch Aang as they were rightfully angry at him in Bato of the Water Tribe. But even before they decided to go back to Aang, they still showed some uneasyness about leaving him, whereas Mako's first scene after the ultimatum shows no such feeling.

      That said, the ultimatum isn't even the only problem in what was a good episode. Now at first glance it seems like Korra really grows in this episode by showing compassion to Asami, but:
      - There's a feeling that we're suppose to look down on Asami's girlish hobbies and that she's only worth Korra's approval if she has more macho activities. I mean even Korra's apology is more of a "I didn't think you were into cool things like me" than apologizing for putting down for having "girlish hobbies".

      - Now see, like some people I found episode 5 okay at first, because it seemed to be a necessary evil in establishing the moral that relationships based on dishonesty and selfishness are no good, but later is dismissed. Well Episode 7 seems that way, only for Korra to later accept Mako's advances.

      Episode 8, mind you isn't as problematic, though trying to act like Korra, Asami, Bolin and Mako are best buds when they aren't feel hollow. Heck, forget the problem of telling over showing, but they show us one thing, then tell us others. And another example of details that occur upon later reflection? Korra doesn't react negatively to Asami being taken and only gets mad when Mako and Bolin are apprehended.

      Discussed Nine before, and we're in agreement over 10, so to wrap this up:
      - See that near Makorra kiss is the biggest sign of the show dismissing any growth made towards Korra respecting Asami. The script reading that they showed last year established that Korra backed away only for fear of being hurt again. No mention is made of the kiss being unfair to Asami.
      - And just to sour the deal, Bryke actually did think enough to give Korra and Bolin a goodbye scene, but not a Korra/Asami goodbye? WTF?
      - Gommu's speech in retrospect seems to be an attempt at dismissing the oppression. Aside from the cheapness of it, it could easily come off as saying that even if people are feeling oppressed, they should just suck it up and get along with their oppressors.

      Episode 12, okay, despite my critique of Amon, I've never opposed the idea of Korra and her "friends" fighting against him and winning, but there still could have been a moment or two in the ending where Korra and the council discuss the status of Nonbenders and at least go over ways to help Nonbenders. And there could have been some time if you took out Korra being debent, since it never lead to any growth for her anyway.

      Anything other than just inferring that defeating the terrorist group solves every social ill until the next big bad shows up.

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    13. Ultimately though, I consider alot of the Book 3 criticisms to be nitpicking. It was still a solid season and great end to a great show.

      - The Linzin plot point was dumb and needless, I agree.

      - Korra didn't take pleasure in Lin's heartbreak. She was just joking about Tenzin being a "heartbreaker" to irritate him. I'd be more concerned that this becomes hypocritical in hindsight rather than in retrospect.

      - Why is Lin's dialogue there bad? She's not thinking of nonbender oppression there, she really just wants benders to fight back for their own side. Maybe thinking of nonbenders could come later, but at this point Lin wasn't about to have that sort of development. It's only the third time we've seen her after all.

      - In Episode 5, I could forgive Mako being a jerk 'cause everyone in that episode performed badly, not just him. Episode 7 was the first sign of true dickery from him. Then the last four episodes of the season just killed his character.

      - I don't think we're supposed to look down on Asami's girlishness so much as Korra is just looking down on it due to the type of girl she is. As for the resolution of it, that's more unfortunate implications at work. It would have been better if Asami HAD taken them to do girly things, and THEN taken them to the race track. Korra could then realize that Asami is pretty well rounded, and people can't be so easily stereotyped.

      - You mean how Korra selflessly gave Mako over to Asami, yet then later accepts Mako coming on to her when he's clearly still with Asami? Yes, that was terrible writing. Again, I blame the character of Mako in these episodes for this. It seems like everyone he interacts with are made OOC or an idiot just to accomodate his needs. By this point, he's officially a Gary Stu.

      - Episode 8 was trying to act like the new Team Avatar were going to become best buds, not that they already were. But clearly, that didn't happen due to relationship issues and Tarrlok splitting them all up. And yeah, aside from one brief funny interaction in Episode 10, Korra seems to forget Asami exists.

      - That would Korra's derailing character arc at work. She's gone in a circle and is now back to being a selfish child.

      - Again, Korra forgot Asami existed. Considering how popular Korrasami is, this really seems offensive.

      - I think what he was meaning to say is that even if people are feeling oppressed, they should find a way to get along with the oppressors rather than BECOMING the oppressors like the Equalists did.

      - In the end, the whole "benders VS nonbenders" issue wasn't the main conflict of the show, at least not to Bryke. The real point was the spiritual growth of Korra through a chakra symbolism heavy story: they only set up these compelling political and ethical issues to mask that. And yet they still botched it all up.

      - I still would've liked to see more of the Equalists outrage over Amon being outed as a bloodbender, which would show that it made their hatred towards benders WORSE rather than fixing the problem. It defeats the antagonist and stops his revolution, but the conflict behind it doesn't go away, and in fact only increases.

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  5. "In the end, the whole "benders VS nonbenders" issue wasn't the main conflict of the show, at least not to Bryke. The real point was the spiritual growth of Korra through a chakra symbolism heavy story: they only set up these compelling political and ethical issues to mask that. And yet they still botched it all up."

    Agreed that they botched up, though I'm not sure what your reasoning is, but going with the chakra theory: http://korracritique.tumblr.com/post/39800228109/lets-roast-mako-ive-been-seeing-this-theory

    But for the cliff note version, the page points out that even if she did unlock them, she did so in the wrong order, and for a few specific ones:
    - Fire Chakra: She lost her shame when gaining Airbending, but gained a whole new shame when she lost her Bending, so this one's a failure.

    - Light Chakra: Basically she never really grasped the idea people and things are seperated, when in fact they are all connected. And this is part of why I feel the the oppression issue was relevant to Korra. Mainly because acknowledging that Benders and Nonbenders are connected would be a key in helping both sides to see eye to eye.

    Thought Chakra: Because I can't really word it well, I'm going to paste this one "Korra’s decision to leave everybody was based on earthly attachments. She was grieving because she had lost her bending and she felt she didn’t deserve Mako’s love. She made no effort to remove herself from her grief; instead, she stewed in her misery so intensely that she wished to commit suicide. She did not contact Aang of her own will, either. He came to her because she “reached her lowest point” or something of the sort. Never once did Korra ever let go of her earthly attachments. If anything, she buried herself deeper in her desires and distress because of her earthly attachments. What’s worse is that, after she was given the Avatar State, she ran into Mako’s arms and kissed him. Clearly, her attachment to Mako is still very strong."


    That said, another reason I felt that the oppression issue would be relevant to Korra.

    Now you seemed to be surprised that some of us expected Korra to have to deal with a problem that didn't involve punching or kicking the elements. But I think the ingredients were there.

    1. I mean, needing to unlock the chakras works as a means to gain Airbending, but I feel the show established that her kickass mentality also contributed to her inability to get in touch with her spiritual side.

    2. With that in mind, oppression really isn't an issue that can be punched or kicked into submission. And Airbenders tend to look for solutions that don't involve fighting. Otherwise, if the issue isn't going to be dealt with, might as well just present The Equalists as terrorist who seek to debend everyone to make their goal of world domination a possible one.

    In short, the threat is brought on by a more complex problem than a group of people seeking to take over the world for giggles and an Avatar who can't bend an element from a nation where pacifism is a way of life.

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    1. They botched up because the chakra symbolic, spirtiual subtext heavy underlying story AND the Equalist story on the surface were, in the proper use of the term, pretentious. Bryke didn't seem to really know what they were talking about, thus neither did the audience. Not to mention that the story that was on the surface was a much stronger and more compelling premise that dealt with true to life political and ethical issues, while the "real" story was basically all about the spiritual anatomy of a bender. Something that doesn't really exist, and thus cannot interest people. It was a complete and total mess of a narrative.

      Fire Chakra - Are you sure that's when it was unlocked? I thought airbending was due to her unlocking the AIR chakra.

      Light Chakra - I have no idea about this one.

      Thought Chakra - I thought this one was opened when she was locked inside Tarrlok's box and had to meditate. At that point, she had absolutely nothing to lose, and thus was able to let go. You are right about the finale's events cancelling that out, though.

      1. I guess the problem there is that it's hard to have Korra change her mentality in order to get in touch with her spiritual side without changing her entire personality as well. Which should not happen, especially not so early in the series. That is rushed development. Having her keep her attitude and mentality but slowly adjust to more spiritual means that is necessary for the Avatar to use could be done, but obviously Bryke did not pull it off. Instead, the opposite seemed to happen: Korra took things from a spiritual mentality and state, and used them for aggressive means. I hope the next seasons do better, since the spirituality of the Avatar will be a key focus in all of them.

      2. The problem here is that the Equalists WERE terrorists. It's usually not possible or even wise to try to take a nonviolent approach towards them and make peace. These people might have been oppressed by SOME benders, but now they're actively oppressing ALL benders, thus becoming the bullies themselves. They needed to be dealt with by being punched and kicked around. The people who needed to be reasoned with were all the nonbenders who supported them and went to their rallies. The oppressed masses who were not in the group, but looked up to them. THIS is what the story should have been focused on: two characters, Korra and Amon, representing two different ideals, fighting for the support of the nonbending population, with benders caught in the crossfire, and only Korra getting in touch with her spiritual side as the Avatar could restore harmony and balance between the two classes. Maybe the Equalists would realize they were wrong in the end, maybe they wouldn't. But what would matter would be the city as a whole coming together in peace, benders and nonbenders alike. Obviously, though, Bryke flubbed it.

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    2. Not really much I can say to your first point, so I'll tackle Number 2:-). Now I still do wish they approached Amon's arc in a way so that his actions could be more up for debate rather than like Ozai who was wrong without a doubt.

      But your approach would work as it prevents the conflict from being just about stopping the bad guy, and yeah even having some of Amon's followers backing down (kind of like Vinnie going against John Castaway in Gargoyles) would definitely give The Equalists more depth.

      And just to deal with one more comment, yeah, my suggestion for the Korra/Asami conflict would be for Asami to merely agree that there is oppression going on and that Korra needs to look out for Nonbenders, while still opposing Amon's methods.

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    3. Too bad that's not what they were going for though. Amon's actions were unambiguously wrong. It's his ideology that should have been up for debate, not the lengths he and the Equalists went to in the name of it. Because terrorizing benders and taking their bending away by force is wrong without a doubt too. It just turns the nonbenders into the oppressors, which is no more ethical than how things were before.

      That's what I think to. Korra should have tried to tell nonbenders of the city"yes the way things are suck and we need to change that, but Amon's way is not the way to do it. Benders and non-benders can be "equal" while co-existing, without having to remove one group from the world entirely." She could only really pull that off if she became a more spiritual Avatar, though, and we all know how well THAT went.

      Yes, that's a conflict that should have come up at some point. I agree there.

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    4. Put an essay on my Tumbr that puts across my thoughts on Amon and Tarrlok, even though it's done by someone else: http://ultraericthered.tumblr.com/post/61423877552/amons-reveal-and-the-nature-of-noatak

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    5. I see why Amon still is viewed as a decent character, but I think my problem stems from mainly episode 12.

      Ok, I get that he's wrong despite having valid beliefs and I'm not looking to condone terrorism, but at least with Episode 6, he seemed to still believe he was acting in the greater good.

      Endgame has him boasting about debending children who are innocent of oppression as if he knows he's in the wrong, but doesn't care cause "he's evil".

      Now see, if he were to at least try to spin it as say believing that they would be better off without Bending as it means they wouldn't have to deal with the burden of being The Last Airbenders, I'd be able to see him still as a well intentioned extremist.

      He'd still be wrong and have to go down, sure, but at least he wouldn't feel like a deep villain derailing into the Avatar equivalent of say Cobra Commander.

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    6. In Episode 6, he also came out and said that he intended to become the dictator of Republic City and from there he could equalize the rest of the world. Sure he believed he was acting in the greater good: a lot of terrorists and dictators to be believe in their cause.

      And...*facepalm*...he wasn't "boasting", he was making the claim that he will rid the world of airbending forever. And it DID NOT MATTER if they were "innocent of oppression." You misread Amon's intentions with debending. He never said he wanted to take bending away from only benders who oppressed others. He wanted to remove ALL bending FROM THE WORLD. An innocent child with bending could be tomorrow's oppressor. So Amon was going to debend those children, and if the baby was a bender, he'd debend him too. To him, he'd be doing the kids a service by cleansing them of their impurity. There were bigger problems in that scene: Amon was staying perfectly in-character there.

      The thing about well intentioned extremists is...they're still EXTREMISTS.

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