The Legend of Korra: Skeletons in the Closet   Rewatch 
February 28, 2016 2:36 AM - Season 1, Episode 11 - Subscribe

As the war intensifies, Korra goes undercover and discovers a secret about the anti-bending revolution. Meanwhile, her teammates hunt down an Equalist stronghold.

This episode brings in the following:
  • Amon has declared bending illegal.
  • He also really likes his mask, and has made a giant one that covers Aang's face.
  • It's apparently really easy to get Equalist costumes for Mako and Korra to wear as a disguise.
  • The same hobo from "Welcome to Republic City" provides delicious street gruel, according to Bolin (and Pabu).
  • But Asami is not fond of the street gruel.
  • The hobos of Republic City live in harmony, bender and nonbender alike.
  • Amon is still working his way through benders, mostly police and White Lotus guards
  • United Forces ships are based on former Fire Nation designs.
  • The Equalists, along with airships and mechatanks, also like to use mines.
  • And biplanes! Yes, Bolin, "where does Hiroshi find the time to keep inventing new evil machines?"
  • Earthbenders use the same clay discs they use in probending as an on-ship weapon to destroy planes.
  • Firebenders have cannon-like devices, where they channel their fire outwards. Maybe it directs it better?
  • The Equalists care enough about their pilots to give them parachutes.
  • General Iroh can firepunch a missile. Sure, it still explodes, but FIREPUNCH!
  • The old hobo is also an excellent telegraph operator. How is this man not in charge of everything?
  • Tenzin has a brother, Bumi. "A bit of a wild man", "the greatest commander you'll ever met", who is the commander of the second wave of United Forces ships.
  • Iroh likes to refer to his grandfather when he tries to think of what to do.
  • Korra's only been at Air Temple Island for a few months, but she's already found all the sneak entrances.
  • Tarrlok is Amon's younger brother, by around three years.
  • Amon (or I should say Noatak) is from the Northern Water Tribe, and has the waterbending and bloodbending skills that Tarrlok has.
  • Also, Tarrlok and Noatak are Yakone's sons, who trains them to be powerful waterbenders and bloodbenders.
  • Katara is responsible for bloodbending being declared illegal.
  • Yakone comes from a long line of powerful bloodbenders.
  • Noatak masters bloodbending by the time he's fourteen.
  • Tarrlok figured out that Amon was Noatak because he remembered what it felt to be bloodbent by him.
  • Somehow, Amon is using bloodbending to take away people's bending, somehow permanently chi-blocking their abilities.
  • Now that Korra knows, she's going to tell the world.
In "I've heard that voice before":
After playing an urchin in "The Revelation", Zack Callison returns as 11-year-old Tarrlok. Boy, all this bending really helps with your gem powers, doesn't it?
posted by Katemonkey (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's really hard to decide which is better - the sheer creepy thrill of Tarrlok's flashback or the gorgeously animated action of biplanes versus ships. Both are something you completely do not expect to see, and both are just utterly fantastic.

I'm interested in how United Forces weaponry works, especially when compared to the non-bending weaponry that Hiroshi's invented, but, at the same time, it's hard to pay attention when you're going "Biplanes! Biplanes! Freakin' biplanes!" Bolin is right - when does Hiroshi get the time to invent all this awesome stuff, and where on earth is he testing it? Based on later episodes, though, you don't really see airplane technology, so does Asami just stick with airships for Future Industries' development, or can I dream that she's working on jet engines in her spare time and starts the United Republic Space Race?

(Airbenders in space. Just think about that. Yes. Good.)

Tarrlok's story doesn't have the Halloween thrill of "The Puppetmaster", but is intensely creepy in a whole different way - the abusive father, the bloodbending of the wolves, the bloodbending each other - yeesh.

But okay, so, Yakone comes from a long line of bloodbenders. I tried to figure out how it would work if Yakone did come from the Southern Water Tribe (theoretically he would be one of the younger men sent off to war and he could be related to Hama), but then I realised that since the Northern Water Tribe is so large, he could easily be from one village, learn bloodbending from his family, move to Republic City, get his face changed, and then move to a different village with no one knowing anything would be strange. Which works out pretty well, and I could totally believe that the Northern Water Tribe has a secret cabal of bloodbenders.

In fact, I bet the Northern Water Tribe has two secret cabals of bloodbenders. Since we've seen that they wouldn't let women learn fighting skills (and despite Katara, I really doubt much has changed in the past decades), I bet that there are gendered bloodbending groups, one highly ritualistic and focused on brotherhood and the other quiet and deadly and whispered by women.

Oh man. Even creepier.

So Noatak at 14 has a hairstyle very similar to Korra. I wonder if it's a traditional boys' hairstyle that Korra then decided to wear (instead of the traditional hair loopies of Southern Water Tribe girls), or if it's a unisex type of hairstyle. Then again, Tarrlok's mother wears a variation of hair loopies - they look more like braids. And from what I remember, Yue wears a variation of the wolf-tail style. I am now going to spend hours and hours looking at hairstyles.

And on a totally unrelated tangent, have I mentioned that the hobo should totally be running Republic City? Free street gruel for all, telegrams sent anywhere, benders and nonbenders living in harmony, we can't lose!
posted by Katemonkey at 2:37 AM on February 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

When this Korra rewatch was started, I was super excited to follow along. and then I burned through the series (again) in, like, a week. So, it's hard to join in the discussion because each episode isn't totally fresh in my mind, but I wanted to say that I'm really enjoying your synopses and observations! thanks Katemonkey!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:23 AM on February 29, 2016

I'm glad Amon ends up with a back story more interesting than “fire benders took my family.” The flashbacks were great. The idea that his power is all based on blood bending seems… plausible and clever, but not what I was expecting. Amon’s original claim about the spirits just seemed like a more fitting explanation for that sort of Avatar-like power. So I’m still wondering whether we learned the whole truth in this episode, even though I don’t have any concrete reason to doubt it. Either way, hoping they go deeper into this mystery.

Despite the darker tone compared to The Last Airbender, it seems the series is still committed to not killing people on-screen. Benders getting their powers taken away serves as a neat stand-in for death. Downed equalist pilots are carefully shown parachuting to safety.

Do both Iroh and Yakone have eyes that are two different colors? Is there any symbolism there, or is it just to make them look more sinister/mysterious?
posted by mbrubeck at 8:47 PM on February 29, 2016

Psychic bending! I'm guessing that it's rare enough that chi blockers haven't learned how to hit a "mental" bender in the head, like Combustion Man, and block their mental bending (except I see that's now a specific flow of chi through his body and out of his 3rd eye tattoo, not purely psychic bending).

Hiroshi Sato: Our great leader has a vision for the future. One day soon, bending will no longer exist and we will live in a world where everyone is finally equal!

None more equal than the rich industrialist who may also be a war profiteer (even if he doesn't see himself as one), or the one guy who can take away other people's bending. Yeah, they're great examples of equality of all, even if Amon/Noatak is actually a very powerful bender). But you don't become the leader of a movement by being the same as everyone else.

I'm surprised Korra hasn't tried to access her Avatar Link more, especially ahead of facing Amon alone. But I guess that'll be coming up in the final episode of this season, especially with young Noatak realizing (perhaps incompletely) that the Avatar is the most powerful person. Looking back on this episode*, that now feels like a set-up for the next episode (or later). But Noatak got it wrong - the Avatar is the most powerful not because they can take away another person's bending, but because:
1- they can access a chain of past lives and experiences, and
2- they can bend everything.

*I'm a first-time watcher, so I'm peeking ahead between my fingers.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:00 PM on March 1, 2016

We've seen airbenders maintain a pocket of air around themselves while underwater, why should space be any different? Propulsion would be tricky - they'd have to use air as their propellant I guess, which you'd quickly run out unless some clever airbender can basically figure out how to do an ion drive.

Plus, within a zero gravity environment that did have air, they can make anything go where ever they want it
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:32 PM on March 3, 2016

This was the point where the series lost me, honestly. I can see an argument that it was mostly my fault, because I'd tried to see how the plotline would go and accidentally got so into a headcanon that twigged my personal interest buttons through the roof that the revelation here was a complete disappointment.

(My thinking was that Amon was completely telling the truth. The spirits ARE mad. They HAVE empowered him. And they're taking bending back because humans are ruining it. What does it mean when your gods actually exist, and they're actually angry? And even better, what if the gods are wrong? The avatar's role as the bridge between the spirits and the physical world then becomes a huge interesting point of contention and the potential to have philosophical debates that are also cool magic fights is nearly limitless. And then instead we just get the equivalent of a Scooby Doo ending where we reveal that it was just something mundane all along, insofar as bending can be mundane.)

(Honestly, though, bloodbending doesn't strike me personally as inherently creepy per se; it's just physics. Its use is obviously super upsetting to the target, but the "wrongness" is kind of distant and philosophical; it doesn't seem much worse to me to use magic to physically move someone around than to use magic to hurl fireballs and chase them around. "The Puppetmaster" is such a supremely creepy episode because it establishes how hard you have to work to gain bloodbending, and then gives this most potentially heinous ability to snow-pure Katara and really gives her a serious temptation to the dark side, but one that she'll have to strive to achieve instead of just falling accidentally into perdition. The horror is the horror of noir, of gray morality and hard choices and sin, not of the power itself.)
posted by Scattercat at 3:56 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Did you watch the next season? The avatar as the bridge between worlds is the central idea of season 2, so it may be worth your while if you stopped watching after season 1 last time.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:43 AM on March 4, 2016

Yeah, but we already missed the chance for the fun stuff, and while I liked, for instance, the First Avatar episodes set in the spirit world, Korra's first season just had a few too many storyline whiffs for me to have gotten excited about the later seasons. I've heard that they improved, and probably someday I'll sit down and actually watch them, but meh, too much disappointment.
posted by Scattercat at 7:27 PM on March 4, 2016

Whoa, Yakone is definitely not the nicest dad. But I was right in that Amon is a bending bender! I wonder how he figured out how to bend bending. Or who his first victims were. Or was that why Yakone died just a few years later - Amon found him and practised on him?

One thing that bugs me, if Korra is from the Southern Water Tribe, how does she have a polar bear dog? Aren't polar bears just on the north pole? Or am I forgetting which tribe she's from?

All of that build up with Aang and the big reveal of taking bending away and now it is a common day thing... *sigh*

The battle scene with the biplanes and mines and torpedoes and canons was gorgeously disturbing. And violent. ATLA was so much less industrial and less violent. I think Uncle Iroh would not feel at home any more with the White Lotus group, but probably wouldn't turn down a bowl of hobo gruel.

If Amon could take bending away, would he also be able to GIVE bending to non-benders?
posted by jillithd at 12:55 PM on April 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

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