The Legend of Korra – Episode 9 “Out of the Past” Review

Investigation at City Hall.pngHmm, I wonder what happened…

Thanks to my busy schedule, catching the show at its regular airtime just wasn’t going to happen this past weekend. I just arrived back from California (I was out enjoying Major League Gaming’s Anaheim event) and spent most of the day sleeping. Once I woke up, I knew one of the first things I had to do was to watch the latest Korra episode, not only because I had missed it over the weekend, but because if I waited any longer, I’d run into more spoilers than I had already come across.

Anticipating another awesome episode, what I got was probably my least favorite episode of Korra so far. While it’s not the worst thing in the world to be the worst of an already-amazing series, I was ultimately rather disappointed with the episode.

Continuing the events of the previous episode, “When Extremes Meet,” we find Korra has been locked up in a remote cabin stationed in the bitter mountains just outside of Republic City. Of course, Tenzin and Korra’s friends would have to find out soon enough, as the council’s meeting room was utterly devastated by the clash between Tarrlock and Korra the night before. When Tenzin arrives, Tarrlock is being treated by a healer due to a wound by electrocution. According to Tarrlock, soon after Korra arrived at his office the night before, Equalists attacked the building, took out Tarrlock and kidnapped Korra. Tarrlock, however, is a terrible liar, but without immediate evidence lying around to the contrary, Tenzin decides to begin searching for Korra elsewhere.

At the same time, Lin Beifong hears of the Avatar’s kidnapping on the radio, prompting her to retrieve Korra’s friends from jail and team up with Tenzin to go search for Korra. In the meantime, trapped inside a metal box, Korra begins to meditate on the visions she had been having about Avatar Aang, whom we find was trying to reach her to warn her about Tarrlock. This warning is obviously a bit late, but nevertheless she puts the pieces together, though not too long after Tarrlock explains that he wants to start his life anew with Korra as her hostage.

Meanwhile, Tenzin, Lin and Korra’s friends find an entrance to a tunnel perceived to be used by Equalist forces. Sure enough, their hunch is correct, and soon after Lin finds that a prison within in the tunnels is holding the officers captured by Amon a few episodes ago. Swiftly taking out guards, the squadron makes its way into the prison. On the way, however, Bolin spills the beans to Asami that Korra and Mako had kisses several episodes ago, much to her dismay. She’s also put off by Mako’s eagerness to find Korra, especially when he confronts an Equalist guard and threatens him. The guard too spills the beans, explaining that the Equalists had nothing to do with Korra’s kidnapping, but that Tarrlock had lied about the incident entirely.

Korra, still meditating on her visions, finally pieces together the mystery of the man that has been in court in her mind. Yakone, a scumbag criminal warlord operating within the depths of Republic City, was finally put to trial after Toph and Aang confront him with multiple witness and victim accounts under their belt. In court, Sokka, then the head of the council, issues Yakone a life sentence in prison. In response, Yakone bloodbends the entire room and escapes. Only Aang is able to break free of unconsciousness quick enough to catch up to Yakone, who once again tries to bloodbend the then Avatar during their fight. Just before Aang’s body is twisted in all the wrong places, his Avatar state kicks in, allowing him to subdue Yakone and remove his bending through an energybending maneuver.

Korra meditating.png
Meditating through fist-bump, the new cool and hip way to meditate.

Back at the council, Tarrlock stumbles upon the ground led by Tenzin and Lin, as well as the current police chief. Accusations are made that Tarrlock kidnapped Korra, which are immediately declined. However, the tables are turned when Tarrlock’s secretary comes out to confirm their accusations and states that she was scared to say anything because Tarrlock is a bloodbender. No explanation is needed for the group – Tarrlock immediately bloodbends the entirety of everyone in the room (except, it seems, the secretary, who’s ninja quick skills got her out of harm’s way, it seems), knocks them out and runs off.

With Tenzin and co. in quick pursuit, Tarrlock  makes his way back to the mountain cabin with Korra inside. After explaining his aforementioned plans,  Tarrlock leaves the cellar in which Korra is being kept in, only to find Amon and his forces waiting for him in the middle of the room. Tarrlock bloodbends Amon’s Equalists, even Amon himself, but the Equalist leader is somehow able to deny his bloodbending and continues moving forward toward Tarrlock, though not without some difficulty. Tarrlock is taken down and removed of his bending soon after.

With Tarrlock out of the way, Amon orders his forces to retrieve Korra. Overhearing his plans, Korra counters his forces and makes a desperate escape out of the cabin. Amon follows, but then gives up the chase after she slides down a snowy hill. Naga somehow finds her tired body aside a tree and brings her back to Republic City, where Tenzin, Lin and her friends find them wandering the streets of the city. With the reassurance of Mako, Korra is finally safe.

As I wrote up that summary, I kept thinking to myself, “I honestly should have enjoyed that episode.” And I did, as I enjoy all episodes of The Legend of Korra. But the writing kept reminding me of several instances that stuck out at me to provoke the contrary. Too many times in the episode did I find myself either completely able to predict what would happen or not at all excited by the events taking place. A good narrative should have some instances of suspense or excitement, but all I found in this episode was just…a narrative.

Most of what bothered me with this episode was that many instances in it were executed poorly or just did not live up to the potential of the situation. The most encompassing example of this is that the opportunity to finally explore outside of Republic City is completely robbed from us. All we got was a cold cabin within a snowy mountainous landscape. The environment had absolutely no character to its name, which means that not only was the place uninteresting while we were there, but also that I have no need to revisit that place once again (and it seems like that will become a reality since Amon abducts Tarrlock at the end of the episode anyway).

As much it has been rather clear that Republic City will always be the main setting of the series, being able to see places outside of this realm would help put the city in an entirely new perspective and give it more depth. One of the coolest things about the original series is that we got to explore alongside Aang and his friends and find new places just as they did. However, with Republic City, it seems like the setting has been rather exhausted. I mean, of course the Equalist forces were in some random storm drain under a bridge or whatever, where else can they possibly be at this point?

Mako threatening Equalist.pngI hope he doesn’t say anything relevant to the plot!

 And then, once again, the love thing comes into play, though recently all we’ve been getting are small references to the tension between Asami and Korra over and over again. This time, Bolin is in character, unable to keep himself from telling Asami that Korra and Mako have locked lips in the recent past. Now, I’m not saying that Asami shouldn’t be at all shocked, as she should be, but she approached the situation very oddly by just blatantly asking if Korra and Mako were, “more than friends.” The situation was predictable – once Asami and Bolin were clearly in view together walking down the tunnel and she turned to him, there was clearly only one thing on her mind. And despite all the evidence showing that there are obvious reasons why there is so much tension between Asami and Korra, as well as the brothers (in romantic terms, of course), she decides to poke at the issue anyway. Because, you know, that was obviously the best time for her to bring it up.

Then there’s the issue of the writing deciding to explaining everything that is obvious. One thing I seem to notice every once in a while is that an issue or event is explained directly in full view of the audience despite us viewers being very much aware of the situation. Now, this isn’t always a bad thing – the characters need to be explained things, too. But, when the Equalist guard just has to go out of the way to specifically say, “omg tarrlock lied to everyone he did it he did it,” when it’s probably already perfectly obvious to Tenzin and Beifong after searching the prison that that is indeed the case, it’s somewhat hard not to notice. At least have Tenzin have a sudden realization to himself, prompting them to run off for Tarrlock, as that would clearly demonstrate to the viewer that they, too, understand what is actually going on.

The episode wasn’t entirely lacking in good execution, though. Lin Beifong was certainly the star of the show this episode, from her Iron Man-like cladding of her armor to her “zipper-bending,” much to Bolin’s embarrassment, to her clever way of escaping Equalist forces in the tunnel. She’s still the stone-cold strategist and fighter that she has been shown to be throughout the series, and I absolutely love her for it. And even the smaller, character instances that show the small quirks of each character were there, such as Tenzin’s humorous facial expression given to Meelo climbing over his face to grab a phone. It’s small things like that that keep the characters in the story not only lovable and awesome, but human. Or it could just be that Tenzin is still amazing in every way (nothing implied here).

The Equalists watch Korra flee.png
We want to capture the Avatar, but let’s not go after her, I just ate dinner.

However, despite all of that, the episode just didn’t hook me in. I constantly anticipated an epic fight or a mysterious revelation or something to make me wanting more. The episode does have me wanting more, but only because it didn’t have much to offer and now I hope that the next episode is just better overall. Sometimes its good to have episodes that aren’t completely over-the-top or super-revealing, as I’ve said in the past, but if the episode does nothing at all, it doesn’t serve much of the same purpose. I’m disappointed to say that the episode just didn’t end up where I had hoped it would – we’re back in Republic City (yawn), Korra is safe (good, but yawn), Asami is still WTF on the whole Korra/Mako thing but doesn’t actually do anything about it except experience teenage angst (yawn), Amon gives up the chase of Korra after making like maybe ten steps in her direction (puzzling, yawn), etc.

Past episode of Korra made small, yet successful attempts to keep me hooked throughout the entire episode, but I just didn’t feel the same way coming out of ,”Out of the Past.” Did I really expect Tarrlock not to be Yakone’s son and possess the same bloodbending skills his father had? Not at all. But what I did expect was a bit more suspense, a bit more drama. At the very least, we need it more often – remember, this show is not as long as the original series, so episodes cannot afford to be as relatively dull as this one was. How can I cope with an episode being not that impressive when the episode count will be so limited?

If anything, this episode was just one big missed opportunity – one big missed opportunity to create sincere drama, sincere suspense, sincere danger, or at the very least bring us places outside of Republic City. We got none of that, instead a rather predictable episode that had much to do about nothing.

I shall await the next episode in the series with eagerness, not because I want to see what happens next, but because I want to actually see something happen.

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