“After I take your bending away, you will be nothing.” In the opening of “The Voice In The Night,” Korra dreams of being attacked by Amon and the chi-blockers and wakes up screaming. But the voice that has the Avatar so terrified in this episode isn’t Amon’s, though he’s the character in her dream who says it—Korra’s own subconscious came up with that nasty line. Though her cloistered upbringing has made her physically powerful, it’s clearly left her with no idea who she is if not “The Avatar.”
And Korra’s now very anxious to get fully accredited. Even before she gets boxed into being on the Equalist-hunting task force, she’s blowing off Fire Ferret practice to work on the last element she needs to get down. Pretty much every time we see her this episode outside of eating, sleeping, or attending an official function, she’s running through airbending forms. Amon interrupts her practices via a radio monologue about it being time for benders to be afraid, but Korra clearly is already there. Even Bolin’s goofy impression of Amon gets a scary music cue.
Korra’s insecurity makes her easy to manipulate: Because she doesn’t know what to do, she’ll do whatever anyone tells her the Avatar should be doing, which apparently is taking on the Equalists directly like a good superhero, even though she’s not done with her training and still can’t pull an Avatar state. (Tenzin, who’s similarly without a map as the head of a culture he never experienced, is susceptible to this as well—Councilman Tarrlok manages to get face time with Korra by pointing out that real Airbenders never turn away a hungry person.)
There’s a lot of questions about why Aang would tell the White Lotus to find and protect (and, as a side effect, isolate) his successor when standard procedure is to let the new Avatar grow up normally. This episode’s flashbacks and references to some past event involving the middle-aged Aang Gang imply that he may have had his reasons for making sure Korra was hidden away on the compound—and that Korra isn’t going to be as separate from the original show as recent episodes have implied.
A few new characters were introduced: first, Councilman Tarrlok, who is both a sleaze and a dandy fop. (The airbending kids haven’t had much to do lately, but Ikki’s “Why do you smell like a lady?” and protracted glaring were funny.) Even though he’s got a weaselface, doesn’t know how to take no for an answer, and tricks her into joining him, Korra’s so naïve and afraid of the chi-blockers that she seems to trust him more after he rescues her from one. Tarrlok also drops the first hint that we’re going to get some stuff from the past: “Forty-two years ago, Republic City was threatened by another dangerous man—” Yako? Yakko? Yakov? The character’s name isn’t up online yet. Tenzin’s of the opinion that this is just another power grab, but it’s unclear what Tarrlok’s motivations are for kicking the hornet’s nest.
I kept thinking “Dude! Clearly evil!” about the other prominent new character, Asami Sato, despite no good textual reason; I realized about halfway through that that button was being pushed by how much she looks like Lust from Full Metal Alchemist. (Well, neck up, anyway—one thing I really appreciate about the design in A:TLA and Korra is how none of the female characters are saddled with huge, physically improbable racks.) Asami’s by far the most femme character to get a prominent role in this universe, with makeup, fancy clothes, and slo-mo hair out of a Pantene commercial. When she flusters Mako by offering to buy him dinner, the fraternal resemblance between him and Bolin is evident, and pretty adorable. The Asami-Mako couplehood progresses superfast, to the point where cheeseball lines like “I feel so safe with you” are being spoken. The implication that Asami, a non-bender, doesn’t feel safe most of the time isn’t explored here, but I’d guess it will be.
Speaking of love interests, it’s funny how pointedly oblivious both brothers are to the fervent Internet shipping around Mako and Korra. Both of them have the understanding that Bolin’s the one who’s into the Avatar—when Bolin went missing, Mako’s first thought was “Ugh, he’s definitely on Air Temple Island trying to make out,” Bolin’s thanks-for-rescuing-me present to Korra is the utterly platonic rose-and-a-cupcake combo, and when Asami shows up, it’s clear that Korra isn’t even on Mako’s radar. We’ll see how that goes, but as of now the writers are dedicating very little energy to complicated love polygons.
But: Let’s talk about that flashback. After making her incredibly teenage challenge to Amon and getting schooled, spared, and knocked out, Korra has what appears to be her first connection with past Avatar incarnations. She flashes back to grown-up Sokka, grown-up Toph, and grown-up Aang (if this is the event from 42 years ago, the Aang Gang would be in their 40s) in what looks like a courtroom, with a saggy-eyed guy—Yako?—on the stand. Everybody looks very serious, then Bearded Aang looks really pissed and flies at the camera. It’s guaranteed that the brief flashes will get expanded, probably as the root of Amon’s Big Plan and why Korra was hidden away at the South Pole.
Looks like we’re going to see more of the Aang Gang after all, and I’m looking forward it. I've been enjoying the show as a standalone, but I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t awesome to see that Sokka grew up to look just like his dad.
- One of the reporters at the press conference is definitely the same guy who narrates the opening newsreel, which is some fun continuity.
- That scarf is looking surprisingly good for Mako wearing it nonstop for ten years.
- The violence in Korra sure is a lot more… violent. Particularly in the raid on the chi-blocker gym, where a woman gets slammed into the wall with a giant slab of rock.
- It may just be coincidence, but the theme playing at the chi-blocker gym (I’m pretty sure it’s a leitmotif for the Equalists, I’ve heard it before) is the first five notes of the theme from the ’90s-era X-Men cartoon.
- Speaking of giant slabs of rock, it has to be really inconvenient to be an earthbender in a city if you care about property damage. Pull enough bricks and buildings are going to come down like Jenga towers, and yanking earth up from underground would undoubtedly screw up the sewage system. Maybe this is why all the cops metalbend.
- If Asami’s voice sounds familiar, actress Seychelle Gabriel played Princess Yue (subject of A:TLA’s greatest joke) in the tragic Shyamalan adaptation.
- Loving the sweet Buffy/Giles vibe between Korra and Tenzin. J.K. Simmons is great at doing warm, worried, and paternal.
- “MEELO, NO! THAT IS NOT A TOILET! Oh dear.”
- It would take a really long time to depower every bender in Republic City one by one.
- Discuss: Is Amon waiting to take Korra out until she’s finished her training? If Amon had taken Korra’s bending away, would a new Avatar be born, or would the world be stuck with a dud until she died?