The Books are following the Avatar Cycle in some manner, either by title or by theme. So far, it's been Water -> Earth -> Fire -> Air -> Water -> Earth.
The original series had Water, Earth, and Fire as its first three Book titles. These Books refer to Aang learning the respective element and the settings were also mainly based around those elements (Water with the Water Tribes, Earth with the Earth Kingdom, and Fire with the Fire Nation).
Korra has Air, Spirits, Change, and Balance as its four Book titles. Only the first Book continues the first series nomenclature with the elements, but the last three are still important aspects for an Avatar to uphold.
Book 1: Air, is next in the cycle, and Korra spends the Book learning about airbending and finally being able to do it by the end. It also takes place in Republic City, a city where people of all nations, benders or otherwise, are free to live, and Air is the element of freedom.
Book 2: Spirits, is not named after an element in the cycle. But, the Avatar is a human fused with the mighty Spirit Raava, and the Avatar is supposed to be the bridge between the humans and the Spirits. Relating it back to the elements, the setting is mostly involved with Water Tribe conflict, and Korra learns to use an advanced Waterbending technique to calm Spirits. So essentially, this Book is about Water, which comes after Air in the cycle.
Book 3: Change, is not named after an element in the cycle either. However, the Avatar must deal with many changes: the changes in their life after realizing they are the Avatar, the changes in how people will treat them, and so on. To keep the elemental cycle going, the setting is mostly involved with the Earth Kingdom, and Korra learns to use an advanced Earthbending technique, namely Metalbending. This continues the cycle as Earth comes after Water in the cycle.
Book 4: Balance, also is not named after an element in the cycle. Although, maintaining balance in the world is the Avatar's job, keeping peace and order wherever there is discord. The setting and plot are currently unknown at the time of writing, but if it would continue the cycle, it would either involve the Fire Nation (which, at the time of writing, has not really been seen in the show yet) and/or involve Korra learning advanced Firebending of some sort.
So far, each new skill Korra has learned in the Books help her out in the finale in some way.
In Book 1, Korra learns Airbending, and just before Amon thinks he has her cornered, she airbends him out of a window.
In Book 2, Korra learns how to purify Spirits, which is what she uses to defeat Vaatu after saving Raava.
In Book 3, Korra learns Metalbending, but she's not the one to use it, instead, it's used to help her: Su metalbends the poison out of Korra.
Just think about it: Zuko passed the position of Fire Lord along to his daughter, and is now traveling the world as an ambassador for peace... Zuko's been covering for Aang while Katara was training the new Avatar! Makes perfect sense, as he knows better than anyone how the century-long war originally began as soon as Roku was out of the way.
Zuko ironically takes after his father; he has more important things to worry about than the Fire Nation. It could also be a deliberate callback and contrast with his father. He gives up his title as Fire Lord and passes it onto his daughter, but unlike Ozai, he does it the right way, for the right reasons. As someone listed somewhere else, he similarly succeeds in sharing Fire Nation technology and prosperity with the world, just as Sozin claimed to have wanted to do, but again does it the right way and for the right reasons.
While Korra's Establishing Character Moment set her up as born to be Badass, it's possible that her isolated years of learning have contributed to her very confrontational personality. Her forte is in fighting because all her life she has only been taught to fight and fight, unlike Aang who was trained to be peaceful and diplomatic. She grew up believing fighting to be the most effective way to face any threat. That's why she instinctively tries to use brute force to tackle just about any problem. It also explains part of her difficulties with air - her way of thinking is actually suited for Earthbending. Water and Fire also are not problems for her - water is her native element and she has a fiery personality. But it's also because Water and Fire take a combat oriented approach, allowing for some furious and destructive fighting. It's only air that goes against fighting and violence, and that's where her difficulty lies. Bending is as much a mind game as it is physical. This is more or less confirmed in Book 2, with her dad admitting that her cloistered upbringing may have affected her development.
Why is Korra a prodigy at the age of four, bending the three elements that are more suited to combat? (As opposed to air, which is very powerful but not as predisposed to be destructive as the others?) If Aang failed and Fire Lord Ozai had his way burning down the Earth Kingdom, the next Avatar would have to be ready to take down the Fire Lord in a dreadful hurry. And if that was not enough, Harmonic Convergence could have occurred during her lifetime which could spell a winner-takes-all fight with Vaatu with The End of the World as We Know It as the stakes. As we have seen there are always madmen ready to open the Sealed Evil in a Can no matter how damaging this could be. Aang's successor might need to defeat the Fire Lord, rebuild the Earth Kingdom and be ready to throw down with Vaatu in a space of about eighty years.
Even though Korra and her friends have been in EXTREME danger several times, she has never entered the Avatar state. There are a number of possible explanations.
She has been described several times as having difficulty with the spiritual side of being the Avatar, and therefore has far more difficulty contacting or using knowledge from "past lives".
Aang went into the Avatar State a ton of times in the original series. Well he was from the spiritual nation. As his opposite, it makes sense that Korra has trouble with spirituality; it also fits into the magic vs. science theme of the show. Also, Korra's lack of spirituality may be a cause of her airbending difficulties.
Amon's chi blocking and electric tasers are good enough to block the Avatar state from kicking in. As if Amon needed to be even more terrifying.
Her personality may also be a factor. Korra's a very tough fighter and so her Unstoppable Rage threshold would be much higher than Aang's.
The Avatar state also kicked in very often for Aang in Season 1 because for most of the series Air was the only element he could handle, and very often he was thrown in places where it wouldn't work. After he began to learn the other elements, the only instances where it reflexively kicked in was when he suffered a Heroic BSOD, and when his chi block was broken at a point where he was helpless against Ozai. As the Avatar masters the elements and becomes more powerful, their dependency on the Avatar state progressively reduces. Which would explain the avatar state doesn't trigger readily for Korra.
Someone mentioned the Chakras playing a role in this series. If that is the case, then the moment Korra opened the first Chakra, she would have been locked out of the Avatar state until she was done opening ALL of them. Which makes a lot of sense when you consider the circumstances under which Korra finally tapped into the Avatar state; it's been strongly implied that she was considering suicide while standing on that cliff after being de-bended. In The Last Airbender, the guru tells Aang that the last chakra is opened by letting go of all worldly attachments, and this seems to happen for Korra on the cliff, marked by Aang's appearance. She has finally realized that being the Avatar is NOT the only thing that defines her, and the realization opens her up to the cosmic energy of the universe.
Many fans asked themselves how technology could have progressed so substantially between A:TLA and Korra.
Considering that with the formation of the Republic and founding of Republic City benders of all stripes now live and work together, it'd stand to reason that they'd be able to manage together things that they would have never managed to when separate. Not only that, but with the discovery of a whole new Bending discipline (Metalbending), the widespread learning of an obscure one (Lightningbending), and the rediscovery of a lost one (Airbending), there were many new ways in which Bending could now benefit mankind that were not available before. And this is without even pointing out that if we parallel it with Real Life, the 1920's could not be more different to the 1850's, with a similarly immense leap in technology.
The Fire Nation was already fairly advanced compared to other nations (tanks, drills battleships...) During an era of peace the funding for military research would go towards more practical areas benefiting all the nations. I'd say going from advanced military battleships and enormous mechanized drills to cars and motorcycles isn't that big of a jump.
Note that some of the technology are directly based on ones seen in the previous series; the cars use an obviously scaled down, refined engine and frame of the Fire Nation Tanks, and the electric plant that Mako briefly worked at is shown to be using Benders with Lightning in a similar way as the Fire Nation's boiler engines used firebenders. And the police's Airships are a direct descendant of the Fire Nation Warships. Even the Cannons on the United Republic Warships are based on the fire catapults of the old Fire Nation navy while propulsion seems to be based around the Water Tribe's various methods. Much of this wouldn't even need research funding if you remember the amount of stuff Sokka and the Mechanist were able to come up (and refine) alone, let alone with the backing of the entire Fire Nation's best and brightest helping with the engineering.
While it's immediately evident that they're trying to tell a story about Korra that's very different from Aang's, it seems almost as if the idea of the Avatar's job of "restoring balance" is getting lost. The elements are balanced, that isn't the real problem. But then you realize, the Avatar's job is to "maintain balance" in general, not "maintain balance between the elements." Korra's job isn't to restore balance between the four elements, it's to restore balance between innovation and tradition as the old comes into conflict with the new, and beyond that to restore balance between bender and non-benders.
Korra's status as a Shadow Archetype of Aang becomes even clearer when one ponders the nature of the show's conflict. Everything that is awry in Republic City—all the political, social, and cultural problems—are things that cannot be fixed via her usual modus operandi of kicking people's teeth in. Just as Aang had to reconcile his pacifist views with the reality of facing Ozai, Korra's confrontational nature is something she's going to have to deal with in order to bring balance to the city. This is even lampshaded by Lin. Korra basically lived as the old Gaang did when she first entered Republic City and tried to solve a problem by kicking people's teeth in, which resulted in her getting a very stern lecture.
The advertising campaign is called "Korra Nation." As in Coronation.
Why is the Order of the White Lotus going to such extremes to protect and keep an eye on Korra? Because Aang remembered what happened last time—it's mentioned repeatedly that keeping Korra in the compound is based on Aang's orders to keep his reincarnation safe. Or they completely misunderstood it. Note that they were living in an era of peace. Aang wanted them to take care of Korra and keep her safe, but it looks more like they've been holding a fugitive for years under house arrest, with the result she doesn't even know how to buy food. That was not how the previous Avatars were trained. The White Lotus has shown quite some Badass Decay since ATLA and an inability to understand what Korra really needs (those are some Ditzy guards), something that Katara understands very well.
The Uniqueness Decay seen with lightning bending is fully justified if you think about it. In the original series, the three users of it weren't just any random Firebenders. No, they were all members of the Fire Nation royal family. Sure, the rarity of the technique may have been partially because of it being difficult, but it also makes sense that the Fire Lord, having a cult of personality based on what a badass fire bender he is, would want the best powers kept to himself.
The detail above about lightning bending can also be said of Metalbending. If you notice, metalbending isn't nearly as common in Korra as lightning bending. The latter can be used by menial laborers, and indeed, Mako probably didn't have much of an education in firebending considering his background. Yet the only metalbenders are the police. Why? Simple. Metalbending was thought impossible for thousands of years until Toph invented it during the Season 2 finale, and I think it's safe to say that at least some earthbender tried during that time. Toph had a very unique style of Earthbending, on top of being extraordinarily powerful. To learn metalbending, in other words, your average earthbender would need to relearn bending entirely. Since only Toph knew it at first, it wouldn't be terribly difficult for her to make sure that the knowledge remains the domain of the police force.
Korra preferring firebending:
She just wrapped up her training in that art, so it'd naturally be on her brain after the run-up to her final examination for certification as a master firebender.
In Book 2 of the original series, we see Aang Earthbending more often as he was learning it as opposed to the latter two elements he'd mastered, so Korra parallels this with Firebending.
In the original series, Aang was reluctant, even afraid, to use firebending after he accidentally hurt Katara. Since Korra is supposed to be his opposite, it makes sense that she would be eager to firebend.
Firebending seems the most convenient element to bend—waterbending and earthbending both require said element to be present, hence why Katara always carried water in her pouch and prisoner Earthbenders were held in metal compounds. Firebending just needs oxygen/energy, so Korra can use it in any situation.
Look at where all of the episodes of the series have taken place in so far; Republic City. This means that, ironically, firebending is the least collaterally destructive bending art that Korra has available to her. Using earthbending means tearing up streets, destablilisng foundations, causing sinkholes, damaging or collapsing buildings, and otherwise collapsing the city around her ears to provide the raw material for attacks. Using waterbending means ripping it out of pipes, which disrupts the flow of water to places that need it and causes more Collateral Damage. Firebending, in comparison, is precise, minimalistic, requires no external sources of fuel, and even if Korra misses, she can extinguish the flames with her bending as easily as she conjured them in the first place. In the first episode, we see just how much damage Korra can unwittingly cause by using earth- and waterbending in Republic City. It makes sense that after she gets arrested for blithely assuming she's got Hero Insurance, Korra figured it'd be better to switch to the least inadverdently destructive element she can bend.
Amon represents exactly what Republic City desperately needs—a melding of ancient spirituality and modern technology. The Equalists use motorcycles, Satomobiles, and zeppelins; they practice the art of chiblocking while wearing gas masks and listen to the radio. If it wasn't for his Fantastic Racism against benders, Amon might have been able to bring harmony to the city.
In some respects, Amon is his own version of the Avatar. He has his own vision of what a balanced world should look like (ie a world without benders). How's that for the central theme of the old traditions in conflict with a new era?
We can all tell that the Aang statue is a Shout-Out to the Statue of Liberty. But for Bonus points look at the symbol on his staff - the symbol of air. Air is the element of freedom.
At first glance, it can seem as though the father/daughter like bond that's formed between Korra and Tenzin is happening a little fast. But then you have to consider that all the years that Korra's been in that training camp, Katara's been there with her. So every time Tenzin and his family has gone to see his mother, they've probably visited with Korra at the same time, watching her grow up, being part of her life and vice versa. Look at the way Tenzin's children greet Korra at the dock near the end of the first episode, it's a lot like how kids might welcome their favorite older cousin. Also, Korra is the reincarnation of his father, their grandfather. This comes straight out of the original series. "Some friendships are so strong they transcend lifetimes."
The first avatar series was aimed at kids around twelve, Aang's age, now in legend of Korra the avatar is a teenager that's because all the old avatar fans are teenagers now.
Airbending is all about freedom of movement. Korra's been forced to stay at the compound her entire life. No wonder she's terrible at it. She actually said something along those lines in "A leaf in the wind"
Amon. Just everything about him. The more you dig into his name and character, you find bulbs lighting up wherever you look.
For starters, read all about the Egyptian god Amun and how he rose to deity status. In particular this - "...As the Egyptians considered themselves oppressed during the period of the Hyksos rule, the victory accomplished by pharaohs who worshiped Amun, brought him to be seen as a champion of the less fortunate. Consequently, Amun was viewed as upholding the rights of justice for the poor..." That's all.
Shout-Out: This is rather subtle. Read about this particular character called Thoth-Amon. Not only is there is quite some influence of Lovecraft there, but Thoth-Amon as a villain has some unusual heroic characteristics. No wonder Amon is such a creepy villain...his character probably takes some inspiration from Cosmic Horror Story, the way he just seems to defy the effects of bending on him isn't normal.
Amon is also the name of one of 72 demons listed in ancient manuscripts, and occasionally viewed as a Prince of Hell. Of Wrath (albeit a very Tranquil Fury kind).
Amon is also the name of one of the most sadistic Nazi Commandants Amon Goeth .
The place in the back of the neck where Amon briefly touched at least one of his victims is called (well, can be romanized as) Amon.
There's much more on the Avatar Wiki's page on Amon.
Why doesn't pro bending conform to a traditional martial art the way standard bending does (i.e. waterbending = tai chi, earthbending = hung gar, etc.)? Because it's based on boxing. It also reflects in-universe differences between war and fighting in the area. For example pro-eathbenders can't defend themselves by creating walls from the ground, but also only need to attack individuals, not Fire-nation tanks or formations. Thus it makes sense for them to adopt a style that sacrifices power for speed.
The rules seem to only accommodate the three elements outside of Air. While the practical reasoning is that there isn't enough Airbenders in the world to actually participate (no team member can compete on multiple teams, and only one Airbender in the world is even at the legal age), it becomes fridge brilliance that Airbenders would not compete in Pro-Bending. Air Nomad teachings emphasis non-combat moves, especially avoidance and redirection rather than even defensive moves. No wonder Tenzin disapproves of pro-bending, it goes against his father's teachings.
Tenzin's dislike of "Pro-Bending" is an exact parallel of the dislike a real martial artist feels for "Tricking". It's a bastardization of centuries of refined discipline into something that's just acrobatics, and not really useful.
Airbending may also never make it into Probending, because you cannot see air being bent. Tahno's cheating was very hard to regulate and he was using visible water combined with rock chunks. Imagine how hard it is to prove that an unscrupulous airbender was forcibly suffocating his opponents during a match, let alone what offensive moves would be deemed legal for an airbender to use.
Why is Korra considerably older than Aang at the start of their respective series? Korra was in no rush with her training. Aang had until the eclipse, a predetermined event to master the other three elements. Korra trained in times of peace, and though she began training at a young age she still has plenty of time to complete her training. Amon's movement was developing at an indeterminate pace, and thus there was really no imminent pre-determined danger. It's mentioned in the original series that normally, Avatars are either told they are avatars or go out into the world at age sixteen. Aang had some unusual circumstances surrounding his Avatarhood. With Korra, the White Lotus probably wanted to at least try to go a little more traditional.
Relating to the above: The avatar is allowed to grow up to sixteen to be ignorant of their status so they can have a normal life and develop their social skills before they develop their bending skills. Otherwise they would be alienated and left unable to cope with others. Aang got a dose of this when his fellow airbenders thought his own powers would be innately unfair and he was shunned. Korra learned of her status fairly young as well, and ended up being so bad at dealing with people she doesn't even know how to buy food.
A little something about the character of Shiro Shinobi. It says in his bio that he's a non-bender who did in depth reporting on the Triads. Considering that background, he is probably extremely familiar with the dark side of bending, having spent years reporting on the worst that could happen. Yet what does he do when he retires from that? He becomes an announcer for a sport that, as Amon said "glorifies bending". Think of what that says about his character that he would want to have anything to do with benders after some of the things he's probably seen.
The families of Mako/Bolin, Amon, and Asami/Hiroshi being killed by firebenders. Is it Fantastic Racism, as noted in the Fridge Horror section below? Possibly, but there's another thing to consider here: As the Hundred-Year-War ended 70 years ago, we learned that not everyone in the fire nation supported the war, and they did try to rebuild the world in the time afterward. However, there had to be at least some people who agreed with the war, for whatever reason. And when it ended, they couldn't have been happy. Moreover, look a little more closely at the stories: Mako and Bolin's parents, and Asami's mother, were killed in the course of robberies. More likely, lingering resentment from the whole "take over the world" thing meant that in the new world order, a lot of people weren't willing to give work to people from the Fire Nation, which is what drove them to crime and desperation.
So Korra's Aang opposite right? It's totally justified if you look at the ways they were raised: Aang got a ton of freedom and had already traveled the world by the age of twelve, but Korra didn't leave the compound until she was seventeen. Their radically different childhoods could be a factor in way they're so different. The lack of freedom may have made her spiritual and airbending block much worse. As we see later, it's Character Development related to opening the Chakras that helps Korra connect with her spiritual side, allowing her to meet Aang, who restores her physical connections to the elements, giving her the mastery over the Avatar State.
Why are the Equalist and metalbender mooks so much more effective than the average Fire Nation soldier from the original series? Because they're all volunteers. The Fire Nation was conducting a global war of conquest and had, by mid Season 3, grossly overextended itself to the point where they seriously considered deploying their Home Guard abroad in order to put down continent-wide rebellions. The Fire Nation was basically scraping the bottom of the manpower barrel. In contrast, both the Equalists and the Republic City police force chose to join and stick with their respective causes even though they could easily hop on the next steamer out of the country, so the average mook quality is higher. Also consider that the Hundred Year War wasn't likely started by a nation indoctrinated by their corrupt leader, but a smaller portion of gung-ho believers and a larger portion of conscripted soldiers. Sozin, by way of nature and intent, applied enormous pressure on his own people; obey him and you shall be spared. Defy him and you have proven yourself disloyal to the Fire Nation.
Republic City is THE place to be for anybody who has skill. Any skilled bender has pro-bending, the metalbending academy, places that will teach you to lightning bend, everything you need to prosper. Non-benders have the advanced tech to improve their lives and plenty of non-bending related areas such as Sato industries to try to prosper. Both teams have the cream of the crop of the entire world to pick their mooks from.
At first glance, it seems the reason the Equalists primarily use nonfatal forms of attack like chi-blocking and taser-type weaponry is because a Nickelodeon show isn't supposed to show people getting killed onscreen. However, in this case, it also serves Amon's cause; his goons can incapacitate resistance without inviting the level of public outcry that might result if they actually killed, say, police officers and radio announcers.
Pro-bending is a major sport now. But take a look almost seventy years ago, to that day when the three students of Toph Beifong metal bent discs to knock out the three rival Firebending pupils. That's where it all began...
Amon's bloodbending could be seen as an analogy to lobotomy, if you REALLY think about it.
Amon's mask covers his face (obviously), but Ozai's face was also masked in the first two books, though this was just by shadow and camera-angles. Seeing as Amon is much more active than his Big Bad predecessor, it would make sense for the creators to give him a more practical way of hiding his face: the mask. So Bryke seem to like hiding their main antagonists' faces, it's a running-theme! It turns out Noatak has quite a resemblance to Tarrlok, so he would have to hide his face. Not to mention it would be very obvious he was Water Tribe. Also, Tarrlok would have probably recognized him, even though it had been years since the two last saw each other. Amon was forced to wear the mask so that Tarrlok wouldn't blow his cover and reveal him to be a bloodbender.
Look at the past few Avatars and their abilities. Roku, a firebender, was best at firebending, and had the most trouble learning to bend water (fire's natural opposite). Aang, an airbender, was best at airbending, and had the most trouble learning to bend earth (air's natural opposite). Korra, a waterbender, is best at firebending, and has the most trouble learning to bend air. Wait, what? But then, remember that the Avatar is all about balance, and with the airbenders all but wiped out, the balance would be off. This could easily manifest in her powers. Of course, Aang and Roku were raised for most of their younger lives without knowing they were the Avatar. Obviously they grew up with only one element, and grew to embody the philosophy of that form of bending. Korra, however, knew from the age of four that she could bend multiple elements, and was raised among waterbenders, earthbenders, and firebenders, so she never really grew into the waterbending philosophy.
The Order of the White Lotus went fromBadass Grandpas to what they are in Korra's day because in the original series, we followed the Grand Masters of the Order, not the average members. There were lots of White Lotus members even before, but they were mostly offscreen.
Not only is Korra herself the opposite of Aang, but the top-ranked villains of this series are all waterbenders—which is the opposite of all the villains being firebenders in the last series.
The original series ends with Aang taking bending away; the first book of this series ends with Korra giving bending.
The revelation that both Amon and Tarrlok are sons of Yakone echoes the pattern established in ATLA regarding the Avatar Cycle: that the first major challenge of every new Avatar is to deal with the unexpected/unintended consequences of the actions of the previous Avatar.
The apparent focus of the early episodes on the malfeances of firebenders, wherein everyone-and-their-mother's tragic backstories seem to involve evil acts by firebenders, serves as misdirection, when the ultimate villains turn out to be waterbenders.
On the subject of the Avatar State and Energybending:
For a spiritually immature (not fully realized) Avatar, the Avatar state acts as their defense mechanism by offering the spiritual link-up to the power, knowledge and skill of all the past Avatars and the Avatar Spirit. But there's more. If you observe closely, Aang goes into the Avatar State to energybend Ozai, Yakone and then Korra. As Aang energybends Korra you can see him and all the past Avatars go into the Avatar state, following which at the physical level we see Korra go into it, her bending is restored and she too has obtained the ability to energybend in the Avatar State. This means that true energybending is something only the Avatar can do, but more importantly the Avatar state even has defense and offense capabilities on the spiritual side via energybending just in case the Avatar's physical connections to the elements were broken, or if someone's bending had to be removed or restored. This is Batman levels of Crazy-Prepared.
This goes even further when you realize that the original Avatar, Avatar Wan, could not bend more than one element at a time and required Raava to hold the other three while not in use. The reason why only the Avatar can restore or take away bending is because a portion of Raava's powers allow the Avatar to do so. It also explains the Lion Turtle's warning to Aang; if his will is not strong enough, his spirit will be consumed and Raava will die. If that were to happen then it would be another 10,000 years before a new avatar could arise (if at all, since Raava would reconstitute in Vaatu, who was imprisoned, and neither of them would be in a position to free themselves).
Speaking of which, it seems very prudent that Energybending by the Avatar requires the use of the Avatar state. It would be impossible to overcome the spiritual power of a thousand fully realized Avatars and a spiritual force of nature acting through them.
Now that we know that Amon is the greatest bloodbender who ever lived, his ability to dodge and resist powerful bending attacks, even lightning at close range suddenly seems to have an explanation. He's been using some very stealthy bloodbending to assist him in fights. He weakens his opponents' attacks and ensure that their aim is no longer accurate, allowing him to dodge it almost everything they throw at him. That would require extensive knowledge of bending styles, which also explains why he was curb stomped by airbending. He has never seen the sole Airbending master's moves. The Equalists' fighting style also has a Logical Weakness against airbending. Air is invisible and certain Airbending moves are not like blasts of fire or lightning that can be aimed away from target.
Airbending is the most effective bending art against chi-blocking because it's no slouch when it comes to close quarters fighting. They're all about evading and using momentum to repel enemies. If you watch Aang and Zuko's earlier fights in the original series, Aang often tries to circle away from Zuko at a close distance, facing his back to easily avoid oncoming attacks since Zuko has to turn around.
An Avatar in the Avatar State is basically immune to the effects of bloodbending. Amon can walk off those same effects without too much effort. This is further proof of Amon's desire to replace the Avatar as the world's savior, by neutralizing bending in almost the same way the Avatar does (and it lent credence to the then-popular WMG that Amon was Aang). It is also subtle Foreshadowing to the fact that Amon is a bloodbender. The Avatar State simply canceled out the effects of bloodbending; Amon had to work through it for a second. Watch closely in "The Puppetmaster." Katara overcame another bloodbender by using her own bloodbending skill to slowly reclaim her own body, in much the same way Amon had to do when Tarrlok attacked him.
The chakra symbology is everywhere in this show, right from bending techniques, to Character Development, spiritual connections, gambits, politics, reveals and even Love Triangles. Look for it and you'll see there's much more to Korra's story than what meets the eye.
Amon touches the light and sound chakras and bloodbends at those points? What do those chakras deal with? Truth, lies, insight and illusion. Very subtle foreshadowing to who he is. Also which are the chakras used to restore bending - the same.
Which are the chakras that come below them in the body - Air, Fire, Water and Earth chakras - the 4 bending elements. Which chakra is opened by love? The Air Chakra. How did Korra learn to airbend? Whenever Mako was in trouble.
In yoga, the chakras go in the order from the most physical to the most subtle and cosmic. Which means that air would be the most subtle and spiritual of all 4 elements and earth the most physical. Aang is an airbender. Korra's personality is just the opposite, closer to earth.
If the Avatarverse is progressing approximately parallel to our world, unless Korra dies very, very young the next Avatar will most likely live in what would best be described as Modern Day. Perhaps Korra herself would live to the Modern Day, seeing as most Avatars (and indeed, many powerful benders) live to be centenarians at the least when not killed violently. The next Avatar could possibly be born into a futuristic world.
Amon's mask has a red circle on the forehead, the same place he touches his victims to take away their bending. The color of the circle is a subtle hint to what he's actually doing.
The double-meaning of pro-bending. Not just professional bending, but also for bending.
In his dying days, Sozin regretted what he'd done. Zuko made Sozin's dream and his latter wish come true posthumously by cleansing the sins Sozin had brought onto the royal family.
The consistent title of this show is The Legend of Korra, as a natural follow-up to Avatar: The Legend of Aang, the title that the original series was given in the UK. Why was that the title in the UK? Because "bender", which gets thrown around a lot in this series, is also British slang for homosexual. Suddenly, it looks a whole lot like the title was also a covert allusion to the inherent bigotry of the Equalist movement.
Mako being a cop confused people when one would think the better candidate would be Bolin, seeing as the police forces can also Earthbend like Bolin, as well as Metalbend. But Mako is actually the better choice. As we saw in The Revelation, he knows how to get information, he's got experience fighting benders (pro-bending) and nonbenders (the Equalists), and he essentially raised his brother on the streets, which makes him an excellent candidate.
It would also solve the Unfortunate Implications of a metalbender only police force in a city where people from all nations are supposed to be together. This also acts as good publicity for firebenders in general, as they are still feeling the heat from the Hundred Year War, and by now are essentially stereotyped as lowlife criminals.
It also makes sense that this happened after Amon wiped out the bending of the previous police. Suddenly, a major city is left with no law enforcement, because none of them can do their job without bending. A more diverse police force, with fire-, water-, and non-benders in addition to metalbenders, would most likely become a top priority, to ensure it doesn't happen again.
Not only this, but it also plugs another hole. Amon built the Equalists around the idea of fighting Metalbender cops and we saw very few non-Metalbenders (the only ones that come to mind are Tarrlok's own taskforce, who were probably his own goons anyways). By diversifying the arsenal, it becomes harder to counter the Republic City police forces. There may be some 'caste' evolving out of it due to utility (IE, Metalbenders are more rapid response while a Waterbender might hang in a support role), it would be no different than specialists in a modern military. The only difference is things are inherit traits rather than trained, etc.
Also Mako is resistant to electrical attack as shown against the mechas in Turning the Tides. This gives him a major advantage against glove mooks and the mechas the metalbenders were were being curb-stomped by.
Mako and Korra leaving the Fire Ferrets, can be traced back to their relationship. Mako likely left first because of his new job which he is presumably paid well for. He never truly cared about pro-bending and only took it so seriously because of the tournament and it's winnings. A second reason being his relationship with Korra. Mid-way through the first book we saw how disastrous it was for the Ferrets when romance came into play, so he left to avoid complicating things with her. Korra, perhaps, simply missed Mako at practices and quickly dropped pro-bending because she couldn't get used to not having him around. Makes more sense with the six month gap and that the newer Ferrets seem completely novice, so they couldn't have joined immediately.
Tenzin broke off his relationship with Lin because the latter did not want children. Jinora, his eldest child, is only 10. Korra, who was born at the time Aang died, is 16. This means that for 6 years Tenzin was the only airbender in the world. If Tenzin broke off from Lin because of disagreements with having a child, it's unlikely that after getting together with Pema would cause him to put it off for more than 6 years. Tenzin did it to avoid his father's title of "Last Airbender", both out of duty and of loneliness.
Korra's circumstances make her the perfect Avatar to represent Republic City. Not only because she started out fully able to bend the three most common elements (Earth, Fire, Water), but because of her status as an immigrant. Just like any growing city, Republic City is bound to have a large population of immigrants, in fact alot of the problems in the city are those which are common to other immigrant stories. On a more symbolic level, Korra learning to deal with the issues facing Republic City also represents the Avatar world in general learning to deal with the new reality that the city (and the United Republic) represent.
In Avatar: The Last Airbender, it's explained you are supposed to master an element before moving on to the next one. Before Aang truly mastered waterbending he had begun practicing firebending and earthbending. Could this help to explain why Korra's personality is so different from what we would expect of a waterbender; if the manner in which you master the elements affects your immediate reincarnation it makes since. Because if the way you mastered the elements truly had no effect I doubt the Avatar would be expected to learn in the specific order they are required to learn the bending arts in.
Crossing with Fridge Horror, there's yet another reason as to why Amon's solar mask symbolism makes sense. It's implied he's creating mild strokes. Thus, sunstroke...
On Mako's personality: He's over-protective with few social skills, a sad childhood and some angsty tendencies. Who else spent their first season making poor decisions? The guy Mako is sort of based on: our beloved Prince Zuko. Hopefully, Mako will also "redeem himself" (more in the eyes of the fandom) in later seasons.
At the start of Book 2, it was revealed that the whole compound was Tenzin and Tonraq's idea. Just a justification because Aang would never order something so freedom-killing like that or a way to make Tonraq and Tenzin seem less friendly so Korra falls to Unalaq for a bit, right? Consider that Tonraq has had to fight Unalaq over it for years and that Unalaq's plan was to use Korra as a method to bring the spirituality back to the Southern Water Tribe. And a SWT Avatar would be perfect for the job, because that would literally be the literal messiah bringing the lost sheep back to the flock, one who sprang from their own number. Suddenly, for all the harm it did, it doesn't seem like such a bad idea because a manipulated Avatar is all around bad, possibly worse than a dead/missing one like Roku and Aang were, respectively, leading to the 100 Years War.
The title of the show, the Legend Of Korra. The 'Legend' part might seem a bit out of place at first, but the season two episodes Beginnings Parts 1 & 2 show that Korra is the first Avatar since Wan himself to witness the return of Vaatu, the chaos spirit who only appears once every ten-thousand years. Seeing as the last time Vaatu appeared actually resulted in the Avatar Spirit itself, this alone would be impressive and would perhaps warrant an actual legend. Add to this how Bryke said there would be a new villein every season for two more seasons following this one, meaning that Korra will defeat or somehow prevent Vaatu from crossing over into the human world. Seeing as Korra is the first and only Avatar to not only meet the chaos spirit itself but manage to best it as well as continue doing more amazing things until series end, this would definitely be deserving of a legend. While not presently, Korra's endeavors are destined to become a legend in future generations.
If the portals didn't reopen during Avatar Aang's temporary death, and the Avatar is the only one who can reopen them, it stands to reason that the Avatar's permanent death would end the cycle of Harmonic Convergence, and the spirit of darkness would be trapped in the spirit world forever. If the bad guys had won in Avatar: The Last Airbender, the world would still have been safe from the really, really bad guy. This perspective potentially justifies the Fire Nation's psychotic hatred of the Avatar.
Korra shares certain character traits with the previous Avatar that came from the Water Tribes, Avatar Kuruk. Kuruk came after Avatar Yangchen, an Avatar that had ended a great war, so he grew up in a time of peace. As a result, he had a brash and arrogant personality and he spent his days showing off rather than being true to his Avatar duties. And it was not until an experience involving the Spirit World that he started to take his responsibilities as the Avatar more seriously.
Eska is the only known female from the Northern Water Tribe to practice combat waterbending. On the surface, there are two obvious explanations for this: either Eska got special permission because she's the chief's daughter, or the sexist rules were changed because of Katara and Pakku. There's a third possibility: the rules are still as sexist as ever, and Eska got no special treatment. She just attended the boys-only training sessions by impersonating Desna. They probably took turns attending the lessons, and teaching each other. This partly explains why they bend in perfect synchrony: it's not just twin telepathy, they literally learned bending from each other.
Mako's biggest character flaw is his inability to make a sound decision and commit to it. At first, this is frustrating, but what else is to be expected from an Expy of Zuko, who spent nearly that whole series jumping sides? Plus, unlike Bolin, Mako isn't as in touch with his feelings. This can be traced back to Mako and Bolin's days on the streets. Mako explicitly stated to Korra he had to do whatever it took to survive and keep his brother safe. And Mako's previous involvement with the Triads meant that he had to be a lot tougher than he was actually feeling, meaning he had to control and hide his emotions. So, when it came to putting other people's feelings into consideration, Mako is somewhatdense.
In Book 2, the southern spirit portal is blue, while the northern is yellow/orange, Raava's and Vaatu's colors respectivelynote the later's eye and prison, both glowing in amber for some reason. In Chinese thought, guess which direction belongs to Yin (dark) and Yang (light).
The conflicts faced by Aang and Korra are reflective of their native elements. Air is the element of freedom. Aang's first major task as the avatar was to restore freedom to a subjugated world that had nearly lost his native element entirely. Water is the element of change. Korra has had to guide people through a world facing major political and technological upheavals. This culminated in the Harmonic Convergence, where she chose to leave the spirit portals open, bringing about a major change to the world that hasn't been seen since the start of the avatar cycle. By doing this, Korra truly embraced her native element.
Korra has yet another way she's Aang's opposite. Despite the fact that Korra has Single-Target Sexuality for Mako, her romance with him has been ridiculously clouded. If you'll think back, despite what the Zutarans tell you, Aang/Katara was very clearly where the show was going to go and compared to Mako/Korra's rocky road, their predecessor Avatar ship went fairly smoothly.
For a few episodes in Book 2, it looks like Lin has caught the Idiot Ball and won't let it go. She doubts everything Mako tells her about Varrick being the the bad guy and, quite frankly, appears to have some kind of grudge against him. Now, let's examine the situation more closely. The obvious reason is that Mako is a rookie, being a police officer for less than 6 months. Ha may have street smarts, since he was a Street Urchin and a triad Mook, but that does not mean he's a competent detective. However, there are a few more reasons for Lin's behaviour.
First, the only time Mako are Lin are shown working together is in "Out of the Past". In that episode he displays both Cowboy Cop tendencies and a Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique to get information. He shows the same traits in "The Sting".
Second, he was a very famous pro-bending star and the Avatar's boyfriend to boot. As such, he's been on the spotlight for quite a long time. But cops are not featured in the paper every other day. He might be trying to rectify the situation by accusing a prominent businessman.
Third, Varrick appears to have no motive. He's from the Southern Water Tribe; what reason could he have to cause a civil war between his country and the Northern Water Tribe?
Then, there's his very public breakup with Korra. I know, seems irrelevant, right? Consider this: Mako may be "cool under fire", but he's still a teenager. What's the best way to get back at Korra for their breakup? Simple: accuse Varrick of terrorism. Korra swears by Varrick and thinks of him as her greatest ally in Republic City.
Adding to the above that all the evidence he presented was circumstantial at best, since anyone could have gotten the explosives, it's no wonder Lin doesn't believe him.
Change is not the only theme prevalent in Book 3: choice is. In fact, the two are closely tied together and is evident in the first five episodes of the season. Korra and Tenzin don't receive their first true batch of Air Nomad initiates until they are capable of giving them the freedom to choose becoming Air Nomads or not, especially telling as all of their volunteers were previously conscripted by the Earth Queen as a part of her airbending army. The conclusion reflects their initial attempts to recruit, which was usually attempted by aggressively persuading airbenders into joining them (and in one case, trying to force a very stubborn Basement-Dweller out of his own house). The beginnings of the Beifong family subplot also show this secondary theme of choice. Toph was a hands-off parent, allowing her daughters to choose their own lifestyles, but it resulted in two daughters competing for her affection and allegedly no satisfaction with how they turned out. This dynamic is important, as the choices Suyin and Lin made both led to choices that affected who they are: Suyin becomes an innovator after traveling the world and living all kinds of lifestyles, eventually founding a city built on a foundation of freedom of creative expression and innovation; Lin follows in her mother's footsteps and becomes an esteemed, tough-as-nails Chief of Police. However their choice, to act for their mother instead of for themselves, is what leads to stagnant or negative change. Suyin becomes just like her grandparents, subtly shown by her response to Opal leaving Zaofu. Everything her daughter needs is in the city—home—which is the same excuse Toph's parents gave for keeping Toph at home. Lin, conversely, became a reflection of her mother, but on her way to doing so she became a cold, hostile individual who threatens to push away the people she cares about (in fact, her desire to prove herself to her mother is probably what drove her and Tenzin apart when they were a couple). Choice is necessary for change, and the freedom to choose as well as making the right (or wrong) choice can affect how one changes.
In his debut Zaheer warns the White Lotus guards against the dangers of taking things at face-value. Once he shaves his head and beard, Zaheer looks very thuggish◊; nothing like the philosophical badass we know him to be. And that same 'philosophical' aspect to the character is subverted when the sheer brutality of his methods comes to light when he commits regicide, effectively causing Ba Sing Se to collapse within hours, and then when he attacks the Northern Air Temple. This isn't some abstract intellectual exercise or merely quoting ancient gurus, he has every intention of bringing about violent anarchy, and (potentially) the means to achieve it.
In WuXing, the Wood element is associated with anger and violence. Vaatu is associated with anger and violence. Guess what he can do.
Unalaq had the beginning of Book 2 planned ever since Korra was discovered to be the Avatar. When the Red Lotus members Zaheer, P'Li, Ming-Hua, and Ghazan planned to kidnap Korra, Unalaq sold them out to reveal the danger Korra was in. He then fed the idea of isolating her to Tenzin and Tonraq in such a fashion as to make them think it was their idea; he hoped that whenever Korra discovered that two of the people who would be closest to her had plotted to lock her away for her whole life, he'd be able to step in and offer her more freedom. When she accepted, he could freely indoctrinate her with the ideals of the Red Lotus.
The Red Lotus is a secret society that branched off of the Order of the White Lotus. Not once has the Red Lotus been referred to as an Order, no Order of the Red Lotus, they are simply the Red Lotus. They're trying to abolish all order in the world anyway, so it makes sense not to call themselves that.
Why would members of the Order of the White Lotus break off to form an anarchist alternative? Simple, their governments have heavily failed them. The Fire Lord for the past few generations have tried to conquer the world. The Earth Kingdom has been ruled by ineffectual or tyrannical monarchs puppeted by sinister Dai Li. The Water Tribes had sexist traditions or had no means to defend their population from aggression. The Air Nomads had been massacred. The last group might have had the most influence on the Red Lotus, a nation with leaders but little formal government (that we can see) was the most harmonious and probably saintly in the eyes of the average Red Lotus mook. Even the great experiment of the heroes who ended the Hundred Year War had devolved into anti-Bender sentiment with Benders being seen (and resented) as a privileged class. All this is the responsibility of the Avatar. The balance of the world is on the shoulders of a single person who may or may not be ready for it. Little wonder that the Red Lotus grew into what it has become.
Asami comments on how the tanks work just like a Future Industries Forklift. Any more proof needed that most of Future industries' workers were the Equalist mooks? It also means Hiroshi had a way to train his mooks in piloting the mechatanks. Just assign them as forklift operators and let them go at it.
That last image of Northern Water Tribe military ships entering the harbours of the Southern Water Tribe in 'Rebel Spirits'. It's a direct parallel to how the Fire Nation ships first appeared over a hundred and seventy years ago. It gets even better in the Book 2 finale; the Dark Avatar (a water tribe nobleman) takes the form of a giant spirit attacking a city which is defended by a fleet commanded by a Fire Nation commander and member of the royal family. Remember how Book One of ATLA ended with Aang defending the Northern Water Tribe in the form of a giant water spirit from an invading Fire Nation army led by a fire nation noble? Remember how the spirit he was subbing in for was replaced by a water tribe princess?
While Varrick doesn't elaborate, he hints at having an abusive waterbender as an ex. Unlike Bolin, Varrick is not a bender. And he admits part of the reason his ship is so fast, and has a plane, is in case he ever ends up in a similar situation again and needs to run like hell. The benefits of having a small speedboat - none of the trouble with takeoff room, or with running out of fuel in the middle of the ocean - are counteracted by the threat of being run down by a maniacal waterbender in his case.
A blogger summed up something very important to keep in mind about Raava here. Raava was missing for 100 years while protecting Aang as it got closer to the Harmonic Convergence. When she and Aang finally get around to taking care of the world, his entire culture is dead and the world is at war. This is why Aang was so destructive when he first started using the Avatar State before he mastered it: Raava wasn't just pissed at how out of control the world had gotten, she felt responsible for it as well especially as the Harmonic Convergence drew near. And she will fix it, pacifism be damned. On that note, it explains why Aang becomes so violent against Ozai in the finale despite being able to control the Avatar State at that point; Raava's definitely Good Is Not Nice when something is threatening the balance of the world, and now the source of the world's troubles is right there.
Korra's fear has been foreshadowed as her fatal flaw, way back in episode 4 of Book One: look at how drastic the lengths she went just to try and overcome her fear of Amon. Now, in the Spirit World, where one's emotions run the gamut of the one's, and the world's, state, Korra's fear overwhelms her and she inadvertently takes the appearance of herself at her most vulnerable: childhood. Now, I know what you're thinking, we're talking about the girl who could bend 3 of the 4 elements at a young age, but also consider that at that young age Korra had been groomed to believe that her sheltering was for her own protection, and that she had no friends. It was the age in which she was the most impressionable, that idea that someone—or some people—were out to get her for just being the Avatar is what leads her into thinking that her bending is equal to her self-worth; without her bending, she is defenceless and worthless. Alternatively, she was reverting to the age she was before she was able to bend (ie, a little younger than she was in her first appearance). Being completely without her bending for the first time since then (she had her air bending after Amon de-bent her), made her revert to a helpless child.
Lots of the attendees at Jinora's ceremony are wearing green clothes, which means they're Earth Kingdom refugees. Earlier in the season, most Earth Kingdom airbenders didn't come because they had lives at home. With the Earth Kingdom collapsing into chaos, these people likely don't have anywhere else to go.
Zuko is hunting down Zaheer. But why him, an old man? Because he was able to hunt down Aang from the South Pole all the way to the North Pole. He's literally more experienced at chasing down Airbenders than Zaheer is at being an Airbender...
It's been stated over and over again in that the Air Nomads were the most spiritual nation. This reflects in both of the sub-skills in airbending: Astral Projection and Flight. Jinora could project her spirit because of her affinity with spirits and Zaheer could fly because he let go of his earthly tethers. Air is the element of freedom. Both of the sub-skills also follow that theme. Jinora, as a spirit, is free from her physical constraints (body) and Zaheer can fly so he's free from the earth in a way.
Most people noted that it's almost impossible for Zaheer to have learned Airbending that fast, but note his style; it's basically firebending with air currents. His girlfriend is a firebender and when he had hair he looked like he could have been a Fire National. He's had bending training before from the closest style that can approximate Airbending. It's also why his style is much more confrontational than the other Airbenders of the series.
In Avatar: The Last Airbender, we learn that Avatars are normally informed of their identity when they turn 16. Both series demonstrate why: emotional maturity is necessary for an Avatar to handle being the Avatar. Aang was told of his identity when he was 12 and couldn't handle it, and the result was a hundred-year war. Korra learned she was the Avatar when she was 4, and thus grew up with being the Avatar being her defining trait. When that status was threatened, she became suicidal.
King Bumi and the original Iroh, Aang's friend and Zuko's uncle respectively, worked and fought together as Grand Masters of the White Lotus. Aang and Zuko first fought each other, but ultimately fought together to stop the century long war brought upon by the Fire Lord. And 70 years later, Commander Bumi and General Iroh, Aang's son and Zuko's grandson respectively, worked and fought together in the army of the United Forces. Perhaps some friendships really do last more than one lifetime.
None of the personalities of Aang and Katara's children are a coincidence; they're all a perfect reflection of their respective childhoods and their role in the family. Bumi is an eccentric, Attention Whore level daredevil because that's the only thing that stops you from being overlooked in a family chalk full of uber benders. Kya ended up as the Team Mom due to her older brother's unwillingness to act his age. Tenzin is The Stoic because he's felt pressured to be the flawless representation of the entire Air Nomad culture ever since he was small.
Book One Episodes
Welcome to Republic City
Upon a closer look, it seems odd that Katara and Korra would be taken by surprise when Tenzin mentioned he was only staying for the night, considering that he'd brought his whole family. Then one recalls that his children are the only other airbenders in the world, so he would have taken them to join Korra in training. On a related note, since Aang was the last airbender, and his son the only Airbending Master (after Aang's death), every Airbender in the entire Avatarverse is now related not only to Aang, but also to Katara, Sokka, Tenzin, Jinora, etc. (you get the idea.)
How is it that Korra could already bend three elements as a child when previous Avatars never knew what they were until they were told? After the war of the last series, there has been concerted effort on the part of the nations to draw together. One's nation of origin is no longer the absolute identity marker that it once was. Why shouldn't a bending child think "Hey, what if I'm the new Avatar?" and try their hand at other elements? It was still a stroke of luck that she discovered correct techniques for bending them without formal training, but then Katara also started bending without formal training. And like tiny!Korra, she only evinced very rough ability to start with.
Korra and Aang both started their adventures by running away from home, but where Aang was running away from his destiny as the Avatar, Korra was running towards it, leaving so she could learn the final element. Korra is supposed to be Aang's complete opposite, and this illustrates that wonderfully, especially as it's much more subtle than the obvious personality differences.
Pema mentions that she wishes for her unborn child to be a non-bender like her, so that at least one other member of her family would be a non-bender, subtly and gently foreshadowing the bender/non-bender conflict that will drive the plot to come. It also serves on second viewing as a means of hinting at just how serious and ingrained the problem is likely to be. Even in a loving, harmonious family, all of whose members of solidly among the heroes of the story, there is still an undercurrent of this conflict.
Katara understands very well what Korra really needs, because in personality they are very similar. Having taught Korra for many years, Katara's own character must have had a huge influence on Korra. Both of them also taught themselves quite a bit of bending before they found a teacher as well. Oh yeah, Korra's a chip off the old block all right.
Look at just how huge Republic City has become in just seventy years time, with many buildings being skyscrapers. Now that metalbending is commonplace, reinforced concrete and steel would have easily taken over as the choice of building construction. Rebar fabrication would be particularly simple with metalbending. Foundations would be no problem with Earthbending. Lightning bending could be used for welding. The fire nation had enough technical expertise to build a freaking Tunnel Boring machine the size of a small town! In Republic City, technology sharing would allow the combination of elements to do far more than what they could do alone. Road laying would be a piece of cake. We can go on and on as to just how bending centered the industry of the city might be, but it's clear that the bending arts must have given the industry a huge head start.
The importance of bending in the everyday fabric of Republic City life would have likely increased the prestige and privileges afforded to benders in the city, accentuating the inequality between benders and non-benders, and sowing the seeds of discontent among non-benders that later allows Amon to gather such a large following.
However, if Mako and Bolin are anything to go by, there must be a lot of benders below the poverty line as well. Only while non-benders had to make do with small jobs like selling groceries, or living on the streets, the benders with the help of their abilities could form criminal gangs like the Triads, further widening the bender-non bender divide.
And in other way, this would have definitely helped Sato and the poor Cabbage Merchant. Benders have the "technical skills" for the job, but the guy who can figure out how to harness the skill to get the business rolling and build an empire out of it, that takes something else. As Sato puts it, he had the ideas and the business sense to make them work. So the city might have an extreme wealth divide between non-benders - a few rich guys at the top, and a huge number near rock bottom. This also makes sense given the 1920s feel of the show. What kind of social unrest did the 1920s see? The rise of communist protests in the face of wealth inequality. Much like the Equalist rallies.
A Leaf in the Wind
Why was Korra so sloppy during her first Pro-Bending match even though Bolin had trained a bit with her? Besides not knowing any of the rules, Bolin taught her Earthbending techniques, not Waterbending (which she had to use).
The scene where Korra reveals to Bolin she is the Avatar seems to be a commentary on people being quick to judge mixed-race people as belonging to one group instead of both. The irony here is that Bolin is himself mixed.
Korra initially has trouble with moving like an airbender, as she tends to charge in headfirst and rely mostly on her strength to force things to dodge her. After she watches the match, and sees modern techniques for the first time, she is highly impressed, and gets help from Bolin. He teaches her how to be light on her feet, to not be so solid, and basically shows her the advantages of being able to react quickly and being able to dodge as opposed to planting herself to the ground and leaving herself open. Like Iroh figured out how to redirect lightning by watching waterbending, Korra figured out how to move like an airbender at least partially based on learning from an earthbender. The fact that both sets of elements are considered opposites probably helps, as it makes the benders look at things from a whole new perspective. Tenzin isn't the only one who "taught (Korra) those moves" when she starts moving like an airbender. As said in the episode, "Bolin's got some moves."
Korra is strong, but lacks restraint. Pro-bending, with its rules and regulations, is all about restraint. Also, now that she's on a team, and it isn't just her training, she has all the more reason to learn and practice her control.
Why does Tenzin change his mind about Korra's pro-bending so quickly? He shows the wisdom of a master airbender, when he encounters strong resistance, he changes his approach.
When Korra is trying to airbend at a photograph of Lin, she is inadvertently demonstrating precisely why she has so much trouble with it. Aggression is exactly the wrong sort of motivation for airbending, and Korra's aggressive personality is exactly why she can't grasp its principles.
At the start of the episode, when explaining how she's never been able to Airbend, Korra is wearing the sleeves of her air nomad clothing rolled up. Now while simply seems to be a bit of rebelliousness on her part, you have to remember that Korra has spent most of her life living in the South Pole. Not only must Republic City's climate (during the day) feel really warm to her, but she most likely enjoys being able to go out without having to wear clothes that cover her up.
Lightningbending is more common now? Well, Iroh seems to have made great leaps in HIS lightning bending by taking inspiration from the other bending disciplines. And since Republic City is a melting pot of the four nations and their cultures, it's likely that this free exchange of information between the bending arts has aided the spread of more specific and unusual forms of bending. It's like an industrial revolution for bending!
Alternatively, if Zuko went on to teach what he learned about the original source of firebending, then perhaps modern firebenders have an easier time using lightning because they are able to get into the proper mindset more readily. In other words, lightningbending was not as quite hard as benders of the old series thought, but rather the perversion of firebending into a rage-fueled art prevented most firebenders from being able to bend while simultaneously freeing themselves of emotion, which lightning bending requires.
Amon's tragic backstory:
If he really is lying for propaganda purposes, why does he claim that ''firebender wkilled his parents instead of a water- or earthbender? Because not only is the mental image of a fatal firebending attack that much more viscerally horrible than anything the other two can produce, but it plays on any lingering hatred people may still have toward the Fire Nation for the Hundred Years' War.
The Equalists have all been kicking bender ass rather easily. This makes sense as they are all trained specifically to take down benders, while the benders themselves, especially due to modernizing times, aren't all just focused on combat. This even makes sense for pro-Benders, pro-Benders fight at a distance and only focus on pushing back their opponents. Once a chi-blocker gets close...
Lightning Bolt Zolt runs the only pan-elemental Triad gang in the city, with other triads favoring specific elements and fighting turf wars against each other. So when Amon de-bends Zolt, he isn't just decapitating a major crime syndicate. He's depriving the criminal underworld of the only figure who has proven he can unite the various bending factions under one banner, leaving the Equalists to face a fractured underworld opposition. Furthermore, by removing a major organization, he's creating the perfect situation for the other triads to make a grab for the Triple Threats' territory, sparking a turf war between the triads that will weaken them, keep the police occupied and create more reason for non-benders to join the Equalists when there's open bender-on-bender fighting in the streets.
The brothers were rather easily taken out the Equalists lieutenant. Some have said this shows off their weakness in bending outside the ring, but if you think about it, they were hardly in top form. Mako, in addition to being worried about Bolin for a whole night and day, had been awake and searching for his brother all of the previous night, and had the fight with the chi-blockers, which probably led to a weakened state. Bolin had been kidnapped, presumably after a fight with the Equalists, and had been held captive for at least a night and a day. The conditions in which he was held are unknown, but we can assume that, at the very least, the Equalists kept their captives bound and chi-blocked. Both brothers would have been exhausted, emotionally and physically, so it's really no wonder they were taken out so quickly. The Lieutenant also had the advantage of the fight being in an alley. This makes it much harder for the brothers to dodge and easier for him to administer his finishing move by pinning them against the wall.
It seems rather convenient that Bolin is the last one in the lineup, until you realize the first one is a notorious criminal. As he's the first demonstration, the crowd is likely to give immediate support, and likely to get more supportive as the demonstration continues with the other criminals. By the time they get to Bolin, the crowd's probably so riled up that they don't have the sympathy that they would have had earlier for a poor, wide-eyed, and obviously frightened teenaged boy. This could also explain why they skip the sobbing man in the line-up after Zolt. The guy is obviously terrified, and could garner some sympathy from the audience because he would seem more humanized by his fright, and fighting him would make Amon appear cowardly.
When Korra sees Amon debend Lightning Bolt Zolt, she's terrified at the prospect of having the same done to her, and rightly so. But there's another subtle layer to her fear: Firebending is her natural/default choice of bending, and she'd just watched another firebender lose his ability right in front of her.
Why did Mako and Bolin run numbers and do "stuff" for the Triple Threats out of all the triad outfits in the city? Because they're Republic City's only pan-elemental triad. Each brother bends a different element, meaning none of the other triads would employ both of them, and if they each worked for a different triad then they might find themselves on opposite sides of a turf war.
Other than 'fairness', why did Amon give Lightning Bolt Zolt the chance to defend himself? Because he knew Zolt would demonstrate his bending before it got shut down, proving to the crowd that both Zolt and Amon's de-bending power were the real deal.
Mako and Bolin both get quick jobs in their efforts to make money for the tournament. Bolin's gang security job is one they come to him for likely because he is a bender, while Mako's electric plant job is impossible to do as a non-bender. Clearly, they took the most well-paying jobs they could...What would two non-benders do in their places? Make less money, or not get employed at all (and certainly not be pro-benders to start with). It's a subtle way the show is saying that the Equalists do have a point.
Amon says that every war in every era started because of benders, however this isn't true. Does anyone remember the story of Omashu? Both villages were at war and none of them had benders. In fact, Oma stopped the war by using her earthbending. And Amon is a hypocrite because he, a non-bender, is starting a war against benders because they apparently start all wars.
Mako gets a job at a power plant but he's only seen there once. Well, he spent two nights and a day looking for Bolin, so it possible that he got fired for skipping work.
You need multiple copies of the equalist flyer to realize there is map to their hidden location. A casual observer would pick up only one and probably forget about it, and since the police aren't after the equalists yet, they're not going care about it. People who are already invested in the equalist movement would be more likely to put the pieces of the map together because they would be the only ones who pay enough attention to notice the pattern. And its not so cryptic that someone who believes the cause but isn't in the network can't find it.
The Voice in the Night
Why is Korra so terrified of Amon and his Mooks being able to circumvent her bending? Well, consider how Korra has been a bending prodigy since a very young age, having already attained mastery of three elements during childhood. This has caused and reinforced a pretty high level of confidence, hence her cocky attitude. Now here comes along a group who can take the source of her confidence away, with a leader who can apparently do it permanently. The very prospect of losing her bending would be absolutely mind-shattering. Remember that Korra was raised in an isolated arena by the White Lotus, with no friend of her age, no social life to talk about, nothing to do or learn other than bending arts, no money, no means to sustain herself. Just like Amon told her in her nightmare at the begining of episode four, if you take Korra's bending away, she has NOTHING left. And she found out she was the Avatar when she was four years old. Bending has been her whole identity for as long as she can remember. Maybe there was a reason they used to keep the Avatar a secret until s/he was sixteen...
If Amon's power really is Energybending, then waging psychological warfare against Korra before having their decisive showdown makes perfect sense. Energybending is a contest of willpower, and a sufficiently spiritually strong target could turn it against Amon (something that nearly happened to Aang against Ozai when he used it). Which is already pretty bad for Korra since she is lacking in the spiritual aspect of being the Avatar. And the reason Amon is able to energybend modern benders' bending away so easily is because modern benders are turning away from the spiritual element of bending.
In this episode Korra deals with fear. In "Spirit of the Competition," Korra deals with Love and Grief. Is she unlocking the chakras with these experiences? So maybe these seemingly filler episodes aren't fillers and all, and Korra is going though a character arc that will allow her to master the spiritual side of bending. Yuans to noddles, that is probably one reason for the Avatar to travel the world to train, so he or she can feel these feelings and then better work on opening the chakras.
Korra challenging Amon to a duel:
Why does she seem to grab the Idiot Ball when she challenges Amon to a one-on-one duel? Because in the previous episode she witnessed him giving Lightning Bolt Zolt and the other Triple Threats a chance to duel him and save their bending. Prior to his ambushing of her at the episode's climax, Korra has every reason to think of Amon as having a twisted sense of Honor Before Reason. It's only after the ambush that Korra learns, rather than being honorable, Amon gave those gangsters a chance to duel out of a sense of showmanship and PR savvy—the same reasons he doesn't take her bending away that night.
Maybe its something different. As we see Korra take off to meet Amon, we hear Tarlokk tell Tenzin that he has officers ready to run and help Korra if anything goes wrong. Amon, being the Genre SavvyManipulative Bastard he is, he probably knew that the council wouldn't keep their part of the deal. To sum it up, Amon didn't feel obligated to follow the one-on-one part of the challenge because the city didn't follow it either, even though Korra herself did.
Possibly a bit of Fridge Horror: Note how it's possible that Amon had operatives throughout Republic City's communications that allowed him to cut down telephone wires almost instantaneously? He used those same connections to inform him of Tarlokk's dirty trick.
Why doesn't Amon take away Korra's bending? Sure, he says it's so she doesn't become a martyr to benders, but let's face it, Korra's hasn't exactly got everyone on her side. Why not just get rid of her now so she can't cause anymore trouble for them? Think about the only other known energybender; the Avatar. Amon sees himself as a new type of Avatar. And in what cases did the Avatar end a war where a group of people were bullying and opressing others by making their hot-headed leader with an affinity for fire powerless through energybending? Aang vs. Ozai. Leaving Korra for last is rife with symbolism that fits perfectly into Equalist propaganda.
The Voice in the Night throws in another blink-and-you-miss-it hint about Amon that you can only really catch after finishing the finale. Think back to Out of the Past, and how Korra's visions were a not so subtle hint from Aang about Tarrlok's identity as both a bloodbender and Yakone's son. Now look back at the end of The Voice in the Night, where Korra gets an extremely short flashback from Yakone's trial (before we really knew who he was). Seeing as Korra had just been confronted by a certain other son of Yakone/bloodbender, it's entirely possible that this was Aang's way of dropping a hint about who Amon is, and just what Korra's up against.
The Spirit of Competition
Korra is somewhat reconnecting with her Water Tribe roots. The Water tribe cuisine reminds her of home, she continues waterbending at tournaments as always, and even shows that she is a healer. This is in contrast to her usual hot-tempered firebending and illustrate her Character Development as a less heated person.
There is a double meaning behind the episode's title. It not only begins the Tournament Arc for Pro-Bending, but it also centres around the Love Dodecahedron between Korra, Mako, Asami, and Bolin.
A minor, blink-and-you'll-miss-it thing: The Buzzard Wasp's firebender wears a topknot.
Shiro Shinobi's continued narrating during the attack.
He was on live radio to the whole city. They likely heard him being attacked, after hearing his terror and him summing up the devastation. If Shiro is a non-bender, then that could have been a calculated move, to show that the Equalists will attack non-benders too and that they're not the Well-Intentioned Extremist types, but make them out as an evil organization to the public.
Even better, he used to be a reporter who covered the Triads before becoming an announcer. Intense action is something he's used to, so he wouldn't be phased when Amon attacked.
That experience makes his line about wetting himself even better. Not only is he telling his audience, bender and nonbender alike, that Amon's forces are the scary, awful bad guys, he's saying that they're worse than the triad criminals he used to cover. Convincing anyone who heard that and is familiar with Shiro's background that the Equalists are heroes is going to be a hard sell.
Look at Amon's first victim during The Revelation, Now look at who he goes after first in this episode. Notice what they have in common? They're both firebenders.
The way Amon is creating A God Am I aura in Magnificent Bastard fashion, he's clearly the Avatar Universe's version of the Antichrist, directly opposing the Avatar. And both characters were inspired from Gods in different cultures. Enough said.
The Satos were briefly shown attending the match in a private box. The next episode casts this in an interesting light. Maybe Hiroshi took that as an opportunity to help supply the attack. More importantly and more likely, he knew Asami would be attending the match and would fight back, especially if the Fire Ferrets had won and her boyfriend was being purified in front of her. An Equalist locking the Satos in was probably one of the first things to happen during the attack.
Tenzin says that Lin and Aang "got along famously". Notice that most of Lin's moves involve being in the air.
While Amon is making his escape, Korra creates a water twister that randomly collapses. Later, in Skeletons in the Closet, she is able to make another one no problem. Why? Because Amon is a waterbender—he messed up Korra's water twister to keep her from following him.
Another potential explanation for the failed water twister; look at the way the scene plays out. First we have a shot of Korra ascending to follow Amon, then she gets a look of doubt on her face, THEN her twister collapses. Why is that? Well, let's think about it: Korra's a headstrong, "look before you leap" kind of gal, we've seen that numerous times. When she jumps out into the water she almost immediately decides to chase after Amon rather than stopping to consider the ramifications: two episodes ago this was the man who had her on her knees, helpless, and told her that he was going to destroy her when the time was right. This encounter terrified and traumatized her so deeply that she breaks down sobbing in Tenzin's arms soon after. Her water twister breaking apart isn't Amon messing with her via waterbending: it's her own doubt eating away at her as she realizes "wait a minute, am I nuts?" Which makes Lin's save a moment later even more awesome when you consider the subtext: She's not just helping Korra reach Amon, she's giving her the backbone to face him. You can almost hear her saying "Quit wussing out and go knock that stupid mask off his stupid face."
The Wolfbats cheating; just them being a bunch of Jerkasses, right? Certainly by the end that's true, but refs have different levels of tolerance for certain low end and judgment call based fouls. Mako just automatically assumed the refs were bought off, but the Fire Ferrets are a rookie team while the Wolfbats were veterans. The Wolfbats might of begun the game just testing the waters like pros to see what flies and what doesn't with the particular ref in the game. Note that Shiro Shinobi doesn't call it cheating until they start escalating to icing, rocks in the water, etc., implying that there's a certain level of give in major matches to make them more exciting. The thing is, the ref never drew a line. Why? Who knows, but the end result was the Wolfbats realizing they could do their full arsenal of dirty tricks and proving themselves to be the bullies Amon calls all benders. Perfect targets to debend publically after they cheated their way to victory against the also popular Fire Ferrets.
There are a couple of stealth Call Backs in this episode dealing with metal-bending. Remember that Toph invented metal-bending by bending impurities left after refining the metal of her time. She was able to do this by 'seeing' the impurities. Lin finds the tunnel by using the exact same 'sense', because you have to be able to use that sense to metal-bend in the first place! At the same time, the reason Lin couldn't metal-bend the hidden factory gate or the anti-bending tanks is because the metal is pure - there are no impurities to bend (or at least so little even she can't spot it) because technology has made refining so good! Sato says that they can't bend it because it is platinum and platinum is especially pure. This is a neat little metallurgical reference since it is possible to find chunks of absolutely pure platinum in nature. Excellent use of Magic A Is Magic A.
More on platinum: Since the Avatar world is so dependent on bending, rather than science, they probably have no clue about platinum's greatest weakness- it is a metal and a powerful catalyst, making it vulnerable to electricity and intense temperatures (the suit won't melt, but the pilot has no protection against the heat), and it will catalyze the combustion of volatile fuels and nitrogen oxides. You throw gasoline on that thing and it bursts into flames, and firebending can re-direct the flames to do more damage.
To add to the Platinum points, it must be noted that Platinum is a major industrial catalyst for all sorts of processes, and it's mainly used in the Catalytic converters found in engine exhaust systems, as well as catalytic reforming to produce high octane gasoline - cue the Satomobile. It suddenly strikes you that given how abundant Platinum is in the Avatar verse, catalytic converters and industrial catalysts could have already been invented by that time and Sato could have go the idea for using the Platinum to make his mechs. It gives an excuse for him ordering the kind of supplies he would need to make that many mechs. Also fairly strong magnets could be made out of a platinum-cobalt alloy, though to go as far as how they worked in Episode 10 would require some Artistic License.
Asami says that her father had her take martial arts so she could protect herself. Makes sense given what happened to his wife. Further, depending on how far back his alliances go, he may have been preparing her to become an equalist chi blocker.
The Chakras, my word, the Chakras! This series is playing out the awakening of the chakras as it progresses.
Korra has dealt with fear, guilt, shame, grief, lies and probably illusion with each successive episode apart from learning Freedom of spirit since her years at the South pole. Now she's almost ready to master the spiritual side of being the Avatar. Only one more chakra to go.
It makes sense why she couldn't master the spiritual side easily. She was locked up in a cozy, cocooned world and had none of the life changing experiences or the kind of training that Aang received. But now it looks like all that might just be about to change.
Especially since the whole point of the Avatar Cycle is giving the planet's spirit a chance to experience life from a mortal perspective. Locking it up in a compound was detrimental to what the Avatar spirit wanted/needed.
The final chakra? Unlocked by letting go of worldly attachments. For Aang, it was his fondness for Katara. For Korra? She was so wrapped up in being the Avatar, that she could have very well been contemplating suicide when looking over that cliff. When she decided against it, when she decided to go on living despite being a broken Avatar, BAM, last chakra opened.
The Lieutenant wiped the floor with Bolin and Mako and is evenly matched with Korra, but Asami manages to take him out in a matter of seconds. Why? Because she's been trained in hand-to-hand combat almost her entire life. Benders usually fight from a distance, which is why the Equalists have quite an advantage over them once they get in their personal space. Regular kung fu was also very effective against the Chi Blockers' close quarters combat in the previous series itself - observe how Sokka and Suki manged to dodge or block Ty Lee's attacks. Then there's the fact that the Equalists were trained to fight benders, not other non-benders.
Notice the way that the metalbender cops move into the room when investigating Sato's secret lair? Notice how they sweep the room visually, covering each other's blind spots with their stance ready to metalbend at an instants notice? They're basically using SWAT tactics, except with bending.
Notice how Lin Beifong turns her steel cables into a type of wrist daggers to tear through the cockpit of one of the mecha? That weapon is very similar to an Indian dagger known as the Katara.
In terms of sheer offensive/defensive power, the mechs seem laughably inferior to a coordinated group of benders. It's hard to believe that the mechs could stand up to any of the serious bending seen in ATLA, especially earth and water (tip them, impale them, bury them, or just plain crush them). The thing is, they don't have to. They will be fighting mainly in the city, where opposing benders have to restrain themselves, lest they cause collateral damage. Plus large-scale combat bending probably hasn't seen much use and is probably frowned upon in the aftermath of the 100-year war. The Mechs reflect Amon's penchant for creating win-win situations. As seen in the episode, they are excellent for subduing benders, even masters like Lin and Tenzin. They also look impressive and threatening, which is always good. But they also employ 'clean' weapons that cause little to no collateral damage. Last but not least, if benders go all-out against these machines, they probably will end up damagin the city / hurting civilians, which only fuels Amon's propaganda machine.
The Mecha Tanks being Human shaped is beneficial as a PR move. If it were a regular tank it would just look like more violence and aggression, while a human-shaped tank would more resemble someone defending themself. More importantly, non-humanoid tanks are not new technology in the Avatar—who was the last one to use them, after all?
Hiroshi has two taser gloves, and offers Asami the right one. He's asking her to be his right hand.
Tarrlok's decision to put the non-benders in a curfew at first might be just a case of pure irrational paranoia and What the Hell (supposed to be a) Hero?, since it obviously will further attract Equalists sympathy and possibly more of the Equalists attacks. But Tarrlok was not shown to be an idiot, he obviously knew what the result would be, the only explanation is that he wanted it to happen. Why? Because Tarrlok's a bloodbender, if Amon ever decided to face Tarrlok, then it will be a very short fight. Amon may be able to dodge lightning, but he can't dodge that. Tarrlok already have the full force of metalbenders and his own task force, and he calculated (wrongly) the Avatar will too since he has her friends. He might be a corrupt, arrogant, bribing, rude political extremist, but he still wants those Equalists taken out. Tarrlok already has a large influence on the council, if he just wanted more power he'd take Tenzin out. And the next episode, HE FACES AMON! too bad Amon actually can resist bloodbending, which would make it a good expample of a Batman Gambit gone wrong.
In general, Tarrlok's fighting style seems custom-built to take out Equalists. He starts the fight by covering himself in a sphere of water that would stop chi-blockers and redirect electrical attacks, then shoots a stream of ice shards too closely spaced to dodge and too wide to sidestep. The blood bending is just the cherry on top.
Yakone's neck clasp/button/thingie is a crescent Moon, one the exact same shape as the Moon seen over Republic City in the episode's closing shot. That symbol ties together Yakone and Tarrlok because they are both bloodbenders who can bend at times besides a full moon, in addition to being father and son.
Tarrlok choosing attempt to put Korra on a bus instead of just killing her seems silly, and perhaps Executive Meddling due to it being nominally a kid's show. However, it actually makes sense: Kill her, and she'll reincarnate in some random earthbender anywhere in the world. Imprisoning her somewhere isn't perfect, but at least she'll be a known variable in a known location. This also implies Tarrlok is playing the long game, if the ten to sixteen years it would take for the next Avatar to grow up isn't enough time for his plans to come to fruition. In fact, the reincarnation issue is exactly why Ozai wanted Aang captured alive in the original series; if he had died he would have been reincarnated as a waterbender and they would have had to start the search all over again.
Korra was very much like Avatar Kyoshi when it comes to raw power and cracking the whip to extreme levels. No wonder air is her opposite. It also gives another Fridge Brilliance to the original series. Kyoshi has fans as her special weapon (instead something more of earthbending), to give a tribute to airbending as her greatest obstacle in training. Another thing is while she said that she did not stand down from Chin the Conqueror, she moved away her home from Chin's army instead of just destroying them. While she did kill Chin in the process, she technically ran away from battle. The airbending, with her fans, while moving the island is a nice visual touch. They also share the same temperament as Choleric too. All Korra needs to do is mature more in personality and Kyoshi would approve of her as a fitting Avatar.
In the chase of the Equalists, the chi-blockers easily defeat Bolin and almost got Mako. So why didn't they improve much in fighting unlike Korra? Unlike her, they haven't been joining in much of the Equalist investigations and they are more skilled in pro-bending style of bending while Korra has been involved since the attack, even getting some dodging skills thanks to airbending practice (even with no air produced yet). If they weren't imprisoned with Asami, they should seriously do some level-grinding.
Early in the episode, the Krew capture an Equalist truck and escaped fugitives, and she takes the time to crack a remark how Tarrlok's task force was late. If one considers that Asami noted the police channels were installed in Satomobiles, it wasn't that the task force was inefficient, but that the Equalists they are tracking down were hearing in on their commands and evading them every turn.
How many questions did Ikki Motor Mouth to Katara in the first episode? Five. How many questions did Bolin Motor Mouth to Ikki? Five. Clearly Ikki is as quick witted in her answers as her questions.
In his conversation with Korra, Tarrlok speaks of their shared willingness to go to extremes. We see this character trait recur again in the finale: murder-suicide to stop Amon permanently is quite extreme indeed, but he did warn us...
Out Of The Past
Tenzin's exasperated statement, "Being the Avatar isn't all about fighting. When will you ever learn?" way back in Episode 2 is practically foreshadowing to this moment. When Korra realizes she can no longer fight her way out of the box, that's when she starts to look beyond it and connect with Aang and the spiritual side. She thinks everything can be solved with fighting. When it can't, then she shows that she does in fact have considerable spiritual ability, on par with Aang in ATLA season 3. She isn't spiritually weak by any means, it's just that she's too proud and thinks she doesn't need it. It appears Tenzin's spiritual training was hardly a waste of time. It did sink in once life handed her a big Wham. Also her motive behind meditating was to ask Aang to suggest a way out of the box. She was thinkingher way out of the box.
Mako's reaction to Korra's kidnapping:
His intense care for Korra, while sweet, is a bit jarring considering Asami is right there. Why is he oblivious to her feelings now? Then you think about it: when Hiroshi offered to sponsor the Fire Ferrets, Mako was glad about this, and probably stayed with Asami partially to please her father (or so he thought). In other words, Mako's relationship with Asami might merely be Friends with Benefits in a way, even if it's unconscious on his part.
Mako is an orphan and only has one family member, his brother. Bolin has probably had many close calls himself. Mako is more emotional about Korra's disappearance because he can't bear to lose anyone close to him. Bolin was likely young when their parents died and probably doesn't remember the event much. Part of it was also guilt. Mako said that they'd support her with helping Republic City, they end up in jail and she's been taken by Tarrlok. He probably felt that if he'd been there Korra would still be safe.
Further food for thought: since Mako had to take care of his brother since they were young, he had to be tough and strong... so in other words, not very good with emotions, and leds to easily being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. And because he's so awkward with normal emotions, the workings of a relationship are even worse for him... and even worse, as part of that, he's unaware of the side-effects of his actions, including in "Turning the Tides".
Also, the fact that he was Promoted To Parent for Bolin, he may not act like that because he has feelings for her, it may probably because seeing her hurt activates his Bolin-raising Mama Bear instincts.
He is also more cynical and pessimistic than most of the Krew. He might have thought of the worst-case scenario immediately, and then Korra showed up barely conscious on Naga, half-frozen and covered in cuts. Without the experience and maturity of Lin, he couldn't keep his emotions in check.
Tarrlok seems dependent on a Healer for his wounds despite being an expert Waterbender. He may have been using the fact he was being healed to play up his injuries and further project his supposed powerlessness in the situation. Not to mention that as of 70 years ago, it was traditional in the Northern Water Tribe for male waterbenders to learn combat techniques and women to learn healing techniques. Katara broke through that glass ceiling, but it isn't unreasonable to think that there might still be some amount of schism between the two disciplines; at least to the point that most waterbenders would specialize in one over the other.
It is rather strange that Lin had almost no trouble breaking the team out of prison, but you have to remember two things: She knows how the system works and knows how to deal with things and it is implied she is adored and respected by her subordinates. They are perfectly fine turning a blind eye for her.
How are Yakone and Tarrlok able to knock people unconscious with bloodbending with a few hand movements? They are shifting the blood at fast enough speeds to raise it and then drop it so the victims are instantly hit unconscious with such a drop in blood pressure. Bending got scientific! Cutting off blood flow to the brain will cause someone to pass out within thirteen seconds. Conversely, it takes quite a bit of effort to kill someone this way, as you have to keep the brain deprived of oxygen for at least five minutes for brain damage to set in.
Korra manages to access Aang's memories, and promptly uses heretofore undisplayed Guile Hero skills. Tenzin was correct on how easy it gets once it clicks.
Tarrlok is a waterbender with an obsession with furthering his evil father's plans by social manipulation. He's an Evil Counterpart to Zuko, who was, as a teenager, a firebender with daddy issues who was trying to redeem himself via brute force. Zuko was bad and turned good, Tarrlok was ostensibly good and became actually publicly bad. So what does that make Amon? Mysterious, wears dark clothes, closed off, good at public speaking, charismatic, not able to bend—holy crap, he's the anti-Aang.
Yakone's trial scene. Take a look at who're the members of the City Council. Sokka, for the Southern Water Tribe and an Air Acolyte for the Air Nomads, both non-benders. So there was non-bender representation for Republic City in the past which ensured everything was well. Tenzin and Aang of course would care about the normal folk, but leaving them aside, ever since Aang and then Sokka passed away, there have been no non-benders on the board to represent the City and that's probably what gave Tarrlok his breakthrough. Every since then, only Tenzin has been around who would care about the welfare of the non-benders and Tarrlok has always ensured he is powerless to achieve anything in the Council's decision. Which explains one of the reasons why Republic City has fallen so far out of balance since the Gaang's time.
On both occasions where he removed a villain's bending, Aang has used the power of the Avatar state to overwhelm the opponent (it kicked in when he was about to be overcome by Ozai's spirit and against Yakone, you can see the glow as he energybends). It may be that Aang wants Korra to know about Energybending and how the enormous power of the Avatar State can help her out. It's foreshadowing to the moment where Amon will attempt to take away Korra's bendng and it might be the solution to stop his energy from disabling hers and reverse it, possibly purifying or destroying Amon instead.
It seems that Amon's "No Martyr" policy wasn't just an excuse to not kill of Korra. You'll realize he didn't go after Tarrlok until after he became a public enemy. Word of Tarrlok's treachery would have easily reached Amon after the crew attacked the Equalist base.
There's been a great deal of audience discussion over the differences between how Aang and Amon remove people's bending, but others have brought up the possibility that it's just a coincidence. How can the show's creator's address this without specifically calling attention to it? By showing Aang and Amon de-bending a powerful bender in the same episode. They're even under near-identical circumstances, taking out a powerful bloodbender who had just disabled their allies.
Aang was unable to resist Yakone's bloodbending until the Avatar state killed in, at which point he threw it off completely. Amon was able to resist it, but was clearly pushing hard against it the whole time.
As before, Aang enters the Avatar state and touches chakras on the forehead and heart. Amon engages in no light show, and touches chakras on the forehead and back of the neck (the Amon chakra). Demonstrating this difference in a single episode makes it very clear that it is intentional on the creators' part, without calling attention to it in dialogue. It also means that Korra is the only person who has seen both Aang and Amon remove someone's bending, putting her in a position to realize there is a difference.
It seems odd that Amon decides to carry freshly de-bended Tarrlok away himself while his flunkies retrieve Korra, though the audience has seen that taking someone's bending doesn't noticeably slow him down, and he's well aware that Korra won't just passively let herself be taken, he even warns them about it. Couldn't he just let one of the unnamed chi-blockers stow Tarrlok away? But in the finale we see that he's Tarrlok's brother and he does still care for him. Plus, his flunkies had just been bloodbent and bloodbenders are seen as horrifying even by people who don't hate benders in general; they might have 'accidentally' dropped Tarrlok or something.
When Tarrlok is is outted as a bloodbender, his first instict is to flee to start a new life. That's exactly what his father, Yakone, did decades prior. He already knew that that strategy would work.
The name of the episode is Fridge Brilliance, and a huge hint about Amon's identity to boot. Before the finale, most people would just assume that "Out of the Past" refers to Korra's visions of her past life through Aang, and Tarrlok connection to Yakone. However, now that we know Amon and Tarrlok are brothers, the title takes on an entirely new meaning. It was referring not only to Korra's visions of Aang, but to Tarrlok and Noatak/Amon's first meeting in 20-odd years. Especially poignant when you remember that Tarrlok believed that Noatak had perished in the snowstorm back when they were children.
Tarrlok tells Amon, "You fool! You've never seen bending like mine!", before trying to bloodbend him. But in fact, Amon/Noatak has specifically mastered this type of bendingand being Tarrlok's brother and training partner, he knows better than anybody about Tarrlok's abilities. Just how much stronger Amon was can be seen when he overcame it with just psychic bloodbending alone.
Also in that same episode, Sokka's statement that he's seen people with rare and unique bending abilities is Foreshadowingthe whole nature of Amon's mysterious capabilities as well, apart from the obvious connection to Tarrlok's.
Turning the Tides
The fight between the Equalists and Tenzin's kids:
While it may seem surprising how the Equalists are taken down so easily by Tenzin's kids, it becomes immediately clear of just how much of an advantage airbending has over them. Their close range combat styles, their gas attacks and their weapons are totally useless if you just blow them away from you, and an air spout can just throw them around like a tornado. Did we mention that Airbenders are very good at dodging and can still do moves with their hands tied? While the Equalists optimized their combat styles to take advantages of the weaknesses in the bending styles of the other 3 elements, they probably never had much of any chance at seeing airbending styles of combat. All one has to do is blast them into something hard because there is only so much punishment a human body can take. As Tenzin shows, a very powerful blast of air can send even a Mecha Tank flying over the roof if you hit it hard enough. The Airball (introduced way back in ATLA Episode 3) could knock down multiple opponents at lightning speed.
Even the Equalists' planes could crash if one just cut the airflow over the wings. You actually wonder just what the airbenders could unleash if they weren't trained to hold back and fight defensively. That air slice move can cut rocks and split a buzzard wasp (or even a person) clean in two!
Plus the fact that Airbenders can quickly get away on their flying bison, which themselves can pack a wallop. Or they could outrun their opponent and jump over impossible heights that could get anyone else killed.
This also directly extends from the particular advantages Korra gained by using the airbending movements had in Pro-bending.
Furthermore, it's simple logic: Not only have the Equalists all trained on how to fight Firebenders, Earthbenders, and Waterbenders, but not Airbenders, but most of the people they've captured have been teenagers and adults. But right now there are a grand total of four living Airbenders (possibly five now), three of which are children. Sounds like the Equalists didn't have their guards up.
Regular pro-bending matches at the very least, would give specific insight as to how Earth, Wter and Firebenders fight. Not to mention there are dozens if not hundreds of masters of each style around the world. Airbending? One master in the entire world, and zero pro bending representation. They may have a vague idea of their strengths, but knowing specifically how to handle them is a whole other can of worms. This is likely also why Amon could lock Korra out of the other three elements, but not air. He doesn't know what he needs to hit to take out an Airbender's abilities...which adds some Fridge Horror to what may have happened to the first of the Airbenders Amon would have tried to shut down, too.
Also, with Fire, Earth, and Waterbending, they could see what was coming and dodge. Air is invisible. We can only see it because we're the audience, and it's more visually interesting for us to see the wind. Also, without the visual cue, most of what the airbenders do would look silly.
Why is Tenzin the only council member they failed to capture? Airbending naturally counters their acrobatics and close range attacks, as well as their projectiles. Notice he also stood the longest against the Mechatanks back when they first appeared.
While it's quite clear that Lin has gone beyond her anger at being dumped by Tenzin, her last act of badassery as a bender just shows who she is under her tough exterior. She looks at Pema, the frightened kids and her newborn baby and then makes the decision to go for the Heroic Sacrifice. It was not just I Want My Beloved to Be Happy, but she also cared as much for Pema and the kids as she did for Tenzin. Before that you see the way she appreciated their Curb-Stomp Battle against the Equalist mooks, she was proud of them. It shows you just how much Character Development she's been through since that time when she tried throwing Pema in jail.
And what about her remaining Defiant to the End against Amon? She'd rather die or lose her bending rather than betray Korra. You also see how far her relationship with Korra has come along since the first Episode.
Now the Equalists have their own airships, and in the finale they have biplanes with bombs. It seems rather impossible that they should have a small nation's worth of firepower at their disposal, but if Sato's wealthy enough to process platinum like steel and built the police airships, it's not so surprising, especially when you consider that he might be spending his entire fortune only to avenge his wife.
But then comes the question of how do they build things as big as an airship in a city without it being noticed? Answer: They don't. The most likely solution is that they have a base up in the mountains far away from the city where they build all the stuff and launch from the high ground. The airships back in ATLA could cross continents, so they can be built very far away indeed. It also might explain how the Equalists found Tarrlok so fast. More than one villain sees the advantage of the the mountains. As for shipping parts, etc...we can easily see how many non-benders are on Amon's side - there are insiders practically everywhere in the city's industry. And it's certain that raw materials are shipped in from outside for manufacturing within the city. So put up a plant far away from the city and the cops and there you are. They've had the time between Aang's death and Korra's arrival to establish themselves and it's all the time they need.
The simplest explanation is often the correct one. It's likely that Republic City had those vehicles for their own defense force or some such thing, and when Amon took control of the city he gained access to those weapons. Republic City is home to Future Industries, after all, they could have been working on a new type of sleek and fast airship.
Pema's Oh Crap face. Funny as it was, she was indirectly the cause for Mako and Asami's little talk there. In the seconds between Asami's little quip, and when she nervously exits, she might be slowly putting the pieces together: that these are Korra's friends' she gave advice on a Love Triangle, and this couple in front of her is having an issue. So when she pulled her Oh Crap face, she probably realized she indirectly made things worse. Another addition is that she was in a heated love triangle herself and knew what was about to unfold. Although, she could have stayed around and consult the two.
Remember how, back in Episode 1, Pema mentioned that she wanted her new baby to be like her, a non-bender? Rohan's eyes hint this may be so. Alone among the four children, he shares the same eye color as Pema.
Tenzin dodging the three Equalist electrical weapons aimed at him. Beard senses tingling or not, he is an Airbending master: he sensed the disturbance in the air when they fired, barely allowing him to dodge.
Skeletons In The Closet
Bolin says that Gommu cooks the finest street gruel he'd ever tasted, which might have been a Overly Narrow Superlative from somebody who didn't spend their childhood struggling for survival on the streets.
Why was Amon able to resist Tarrlok's bloodbending? The same reason as the original series: Amon/Noatak was a bloodbender just like Tarrlok, only more powerful.
Why would Korra's visions about Tarrlok being a bloodbender kick in several times when Amon attacked Korra, and why Tarrlok when Amon is a more dangerous? Of course now it makes sense Aang was not just warning about Tarrlok beeing a bloodbender, it was about Amon, also son of Yakone, too.
Look at the spots that Amon touches when he takes someones bending. Amon uses his bloodbending to block the Sound and Light charkas.
How was Hiroshi Sato able to create all these airplanes and blimps under the nose of the United Republic Council's eye? Well, who's to say they didn't know. Who makes the police blimps? Future Industries. So, Hiroshi could just have brought them to the Council and billed them as updated versions of the current blimps, modernised and newly refurbished. In which case, if he got a government contract, the zeppelins night have well been paid for by the United Republic Council from taxpayer's money, under the impression that they would replace the current police airships.
It's not too hard to understand how Amon's bloodbending works. Waterbending Healing repairs and restores damaged tissues and chi paths in the body. Amon uses bloodbending to destroy the chi paths, or worse, some sort of brain damage. It explains why his victims are left so weak and depressed.
Now we know why the Yakone flashbacks kept coming whenever Korra was beaten by either Amon or Tarrlok. Aang wanted her to understand the truth about both of them.
It might seem strange at first that Noatak and Tarrlok are given so much character development in this episode only to die by Murder-Suicide in the next episode. If you think about it, though, their development is just as much a part of Korra's story as it is theirs — they weren't created as separate individuals, but variations on a theme. All three have unique bending abilities that they're raised to believe gives them purpose, and each attempts to define themselves as a savior figure — Korra as the Avatar, Tarrlok as a Councilman, and Noatak as Amon. All three attempt to become Republic City's savior using force, all three grow desperate and reckless when that identity is threatened, and all three are forced into drastic changes when those identities are stripped from them. Unfortunately for Tarrlok and Noatak, those changes lead only to suicide and death, whereas Korra is able to cope with her despair and finally understand what her Avatar identity means.
In Tarrlok's flashback, we hear Noatok/Amon tells his father "You keep saying that bloodbending is the most powerful thing in the world, but it's not; the Avatar is."Boy does this come back to bite him.
The Lieutenant began to suspect Amon when Korra called him out as a bloodbender and followed him to find out the truth. He must have realized it could be true since he saw Amon resisting Tarrlok's bloodbending and knew that was the only way it could be done. And why Tarrlok had been kept as Amon's special prisoner.
Remember when Amon said he would "destroy" Korra? While at first it seems like a case of Never Say "Die", this episode reveals it was his Exact Words. When Korra and Mako attempt to reveal Amon's identity as a Bloodbender to undermine his reputation, he completely reversed the situation with his fake scars, turning the entire audience (assumed to be the vast majority of the city's non-benders) against her. He later proceeds to take her bending away, which at this point leaves her with nothing. She has no powers, no reputation, and - under the assumption that he's just won - no hope. He well and truly destroyed the Avatar. Until Korra gains her Airbending and outs him as the liar.
Why was Korra able to air-bend, even after Amon had taken away her bending? Amon takes his victims bending away by physical means (bloodbending). As air is the most spiritual of all the bending elements, Korra's airbending potential was not affected by Amon's block.
Or it was a case where she turned to her spiritual side in another moment of helplessness. While she was not as realized as Aang that she could energybend her connections to all 4 elements, it was still enough to restore her connection to air, which was the most spiritual of the elements and which was spiritually the "nearest" within reach. Had Korra been a fully realized Avatar, she could have undone Amon's bloodbending completely with the Avatar State.
The most plausible reason is the chakras. She was able to airbend when Mako was in danger of losing his bending. Which is the chakra that is opened by love? THE AIR CHAKRA, located in the heart. The first 3 chakras deal with Earth, Water and Fire respectively. When this chakra opened, it gave Korra her spiritual connection to the air element, and that did the trick.
How did Aang get the grip of Earthbending? He was forced to hold his ground and force the moose-lion head on to save Sokka, who would have been killed if he had dodged on that run. Now that he's got the attitude, he has no more issues with it. How did Korra get the grip over Airbending? When Mako was in danger. It really doesn't take that long to get the hang of it. Seeing a loved one in danger is one of the most powerful triggers that removes all physical and psychological limits that the brain imposes on the body for its safety.
Or even simpler than that, Amon never took away her airbending in the first place. Why? Because he couldn't! He had never debent an airbender before; He never got the chance to take away Tenzin and his family's. and probably assumed that it was no different from the other elements. He was wrong.
Why does airbending seem to be the most effective element to use against bloodbending? Because it is the opposite of bloodbending. Air is freedom, and what is bloodbending if not enslavement?
Why did Amon just wear makeup to look like he was scarred? Because that way he can just wash it off and move about unnoticed. If he had surgery, he'd attract too much attention. It explains how he could appear out of nowhere in Episode 6
Meta example of Fridge Brilliance. The resolve of the finale almost seemed too easy Amon and Tarrlok are dead, Korra learns to airbend, get's her own bending back as well as the ability to return everyone elses bending. The exceedingly happy ending really is a good idea, that way the series isn't forced to end on a cliff hanger if Nickelodeon decides not to go forward with the next season.
Mako tells Korra he realized he loved her when they were looking for her back in Out of the Past. which easily explains his seemingly strange behaviour since the episode.
How did Amon take away bending? Bloodbending. How did Yakone try to kill Aang? Bloodbending. How did Aang overcome Yakone? The Avatar State. How did Korra get her bending back? The Avatar State. That vision wasn't just a warning, it was also the solution.
Amon/Noatak's single tear just 2 seconds before the boat blew up and Tarrlok's statement that "It will be just like the good old days...". He probably knew his brother was lying because there was no way that they could go back to the way they were before, and it makes you wonder if he knew what was coming.
Tarrlok blowing up the boat was shocking, but then you realize he figured Noatak's statement was exactly a repeat cut of what his father did. Besides, all of Tarrlok's hopes are now destroyed. So on one hand he got even with his brother and on the other hand made sure that that Yakhone's bloodbending legacy would never be passed on to anyone, ever.
It seems overly rushed. Aang almost becomes the Deus ex Machina when he suddenly appears and claims that Korra has connected to her spiritual side out of the blue, before restoring Korra's bending and making her a fully realized Avatar by completing the connection with all her past lives and activating the Avatar State. But when you think of it, there's a LOT that's happened in Korra's spiritual development leading up to this point. Korra's been trying to train spiritually for years and was trained by Tenzin for quite a while, and it was beginning to work very well. Her abilities at the end of Episode 9 was already on par with Aang in season 3 of ATLA. Also Korra's style and personality are like that of Earth, stubborn and unyielding. It's only when she's totally put into a situation where her current approach cannot work, does she suddenly get the hold of airbending and is able to connect with Aang's visions. That is saying a lot about chakras at work in her spiritual and airbending blocks. That's the key to explaining how the ending turned out the way it did. Korra's hitting the absolute low was the final turning point, but there was a lot of spiritual development that had happened up to that point.
The Earth Chakra was opened when Korra learnt to face her fear of dealing with Amon. The Water Chakra was opened when she was able to overcome her guilt when she got over the love triangle by forgiveness and got them through into the final, though it might have even happened before that when she got the knack of the airbending movements. The Fire Chakra was opened up when she reconciled with Tenzin over her shame of not being able to airbend or being spiritually weak, and when she finally connected with Aang. The Air Chakra was obviously opened by love, and I mean Mako. The Sound Chakra was opened when she understood Tarrlok and Amon's true identities, and Amon building his whole movement on lying over his backstory. The Hiroshi Sato reveal also definitely had something to do with it. The light Chakra was probably opened somewhere between Korra realizing that she could still airbend and Amon's makeup job and waterbending powers exposed. The air chakra was probably fully open in that moment where Mako was about to lose his bending, which is why she could Airbend. Finally the last chakra was unblocked when she was planning to leave everyone and told Mako to leave her for good, despite the fact that both truly loved each other by this point - probably she was contemplating suicide, now that she could no longer do her job as the Avatar and called Aang, likely with the intention of taking her away to the spirit world, which is when she gave up attachment. That's when all her chakras were open and her spiritual connection became truly complete. While it's difficult to often pinpoint the incident as the cause of opening her chakras, it's clear that following Character Development Korra already very spiritual by the end and had successfully opened all her chakras allowed her to master the Avatar state. All that was now needed was a little help from Aang to energybend her broken connections.
This also makes sense why Korra never went into the Avatar State despite being in danger so often. She had already begun to open her chakras, and until all the chakras were opened, she couldn't enter it.
This also suggests that Korra's restrained and cocooned upbringing in that South Pole fortress also caused the spiritual block in her owing to insufficient Character Development. Katara knew this, the White Lotus didn't. Tenzin figured it out after Korra's first pro-bending match that her spirit really needs freedom to grow.
Aang's statement that in her lowest moments, she was open to the greatest change, was just summing up the way she had unknowingly more and more spiritual by life experience. Aang's energybending was the last piece of the puzzle. Now Korra having lost her connection to 3 elements is totally helpless to solve things by her usual badassery and so has had to let go of her pride, the reason for her spiritual block. All this time she had been feeling that she never needed the spiritual side because she had been so Badass, but now she had been humbled and her spirit was malleable to Aang's energybending. All that was left for Aang to do was to energybend Korra to restore her bending.
It makes more Fridge Brilliance. Becoming a fully realized Avatar involves mastering both the physical and spiritual sides of bending. The two of them are related and influence each other. Aang could bend with his chakras closed. He was wounded by lightning, and while he could still bend all the elements, he had lost his spiritual connection to all but 4 of his past lives and the Avatar State. He regained it by a purely physical means of having his blocked chi paths opened up by a sharp rock, which spiritually unblocked him. Throughout the series there has been quite a connection between Energybending and the Avatar State, with Aang using the Avatar State to debend Ozai and Yakhone. He was shown to have mastered the Avatar State after he had successfully energybended Ozai. Korra on the other hand, as the opposite of Aang, lost her connection to the physical side of bending, but by that point her chakras were open, she had completely mastered the spiritual side and connected with the spirits of the past Avatars, thus allowing her to master the Avatar State. Aang then uses the Avatar State to energybend Korra at a spiritual level, restoring her physical connection to her elements, making Korra a fully realized Avatar.
It's already been noted by a lot of fans before that the plot is symbolic of how the chakras are opened, by dealing with fear, guilt, shame, grief (and love), truth and lies, illusion and attachment. Aang's chakras were blocked by all his experiences and the fact that he had responded in the manner that would lock them up. Korra on the other hand face similar situations but responded in the way that would open them. Maybe the writers know that ATLA fans aren't morons and don't feel the need to spell out the beautiful symbolism behind the plot, which would cheapen the effect.
How did Amon find Korra and bloodbend her out even though she was well hidden, and at the one moment where she let down her guard, but not Mako? This man is the greatest bloodbender who ever lived. That particular feat suggests that all his years of bloodbending has given him a "blood sense" like Toph's seismic sense. Similar to Toph, that give him an advantage in predicting his opponent's moves, by sensing their muscular movements, and do some stealthy bloodbending to ensure they can't hit him. It would also explain his power. He has extensive knowledge of chi blocking. He could sever the chi paths in a bender by sensing where the chi is flowing using this ability and then destroy those chi paths. He'd need the sense because bloodbending at this level would need surgical precision. What's more interesting is that this would also explain how Korra could still airbend. Every element has its own chakra and set of chi paths. Amon has never had any experience debending an airbender, so he might not know exactly where the air paths were. After using his technique he would have detected zero chi flow and concluded that he had beaten Korra. Since Korra's chi paths connected to the Air Chakra were not active, he couldn't sense them, so he would never know the difference. But then her Air Chakra opened (it's opened by love), and she could airbend with her still intact air paths.
Based on the chakra theories and how Amon missed out taking Korra's airbending, it's likely every element has its own separate network of chi paths connected to its respective Chakra. Genetics would determine which element would be active in a bender, but only the Avatar can use all the chakras. In particular, the chi path connecting all the chakras is what allows the Avatar to use the Avatar state. The bending mechanism could be that cosmic energy from the top chakra comes down to the lower chakras dealing with the elements. Opening the chakras in general allows a person like the Guru to connect with the spiritual side and in particular allows the Avatar to take control over the Avatar state.
Aang's statement that Korra becomes open to change when she hits her lowest points pretty much sums up how she got the grip over spirituality and airbending. Korra's very first lines in Season 1 suggests that her ego was far too high above the balance point and it was totally fuelled by the fact that she was Avatar. Throughout the series, she's increasingly being brought down to earth and becomes more and more spiritual. What's notable is that when she is helpless and cannot fight her way out does she end up connecting with spirituality and Aang. However, it's only when she hits her absolute low, with her very identity as the Avatar being broken and she realizes that she is truly no different from any other bender is her pride finally shattered, and then she turns spiritual. Doesn't it remind you of a certain Siddhartha Gautama, who became the Buddha after that one moment where he realized that he too was not above death, old age and suffering? Also, it's Truth in Television. A lot of people who went spiritual have a devastating blow in their lives acting as the turning point. Sometimes it really takes just one, powerful Wham moment.
Korra doesn't really seem to be that bad at spirituality. Whenever she really wants to contact Aang, or gets desperate enough, her blocks are gone and she is able to contact Aang or get the hold of Airbending moves quite easily. So it was all probably down to a big ego. Like Tenzin said, it takes a while, but the teachings do sink in.
Back in the Aftermath, Amon de-bended the Wolf-Bats at the Pro-bending stadium; when Korra ran into Tahno at the police station, he explained that he'd been to the best healers in the city but no one could find a way to give him back his bending. Now, at the end of the show, he tries to de-bend Tenzin and the airbabies at the Pro-bending stadium. Following that, Korra loses her bending too; she goes to Katara, the greatest and most famous healer in the world, but Katara can't help her. That's some great Foreshadowing.
Way back in episode 2 "A Leaf in the Wind" Tenzin told Korra, "Being the Avatar isn't all about fighting." And this is very true. When Korra finally Airbends and knocks Amon back she isn't doing to fight him but protect Mako, the man she loves, from being harmed by Amon. And protecting people is what the Avatar's duty.
Had Korra's "instincts" not told her to go after Amon personally, Tenzin and his children might have lost their Bending. That gut feeling wasn't random; it was probably Aang nudging her to go save his son and grandchildren.
Back in Episode 2, Korra got the hang of the airbending movements when she was totally cornered and her skill with the other 3 elements was no longer helping. In the finale, she gets the hang of airbending after losing the connection to the other 3 elements and in a most desperate moment to save Mako. It was really Foreshadowing.
Naga comes in with a Big Damn Heroes moment, saving Asami, Bolin and Iroh, but what about the electric fence that stopped the latter? How did Naga get through? Rather simple: using her super strength, she crashed one of the posts, creating an opening in the fence. And she might have even seen her friends get electrocuted, as staying up there didn't mean she couldn't watch from above.
In their final confrontation, Korra actually does through willpower what Amon could only fake: she overcomes bloodbending.
Once Amon is defeated by Korra's airbending and thrown out a window, his mask falls into the ocean, thus signifying that Noatak's Amon persona is gone. This ties in with the divine symbolism of his mask's color scheme and design. His divinity was just a mask; now it's removed.
There's a very, very good reason why Amon was revealed to be a bender the entire time. That reason is because the Equalists, like Amon himself, were Hypocrites. The entire Equalist movement was flawed and hypocritical in every way possible. The movement was about making people "equal" and to stop oppression of the non-benders. Instead, what we saw, if anyone fell asleep during Hiroshi's speech to the people in Republic City Park, was that in the end, they ended up being oppressive towards benders, to the point of out-right banning bending in public and capturing and imprisoning benders, and any non-bender related to them. Their movement, symbolized by the Chinese character which means either "peace" or "equal" was neither of these. They attacked innocent civilians at the Pro-Bending Arena, including non-bender Shiro Shinobi, bombed half of the city and probably killed lots of people in their final attack on Republic City. Not to mention the actual psychological factor of removing one's bending or the impact it would've had on innocent benders (children included) and non-benders who have bender siblings/parents/children/relatives and how that would've effected them. The fact of the whole matter is that Noatak/Amon and the Equalists themselves were not what they were preaching, they were just as bad, if not worse as the insistution they fought against. Noatak's revelation as being a bender only cements the whole hypocritical elements (no pun intended) of the Equalist movement. Sure, there is oppression against non-benders, but the way that the Equalists handled the situation was wrong, just as wrong as the very system they were against in the first place.
More Fridge Brilliance on the finale: Korra is supposed to be the opposite of Aang, and various elements of the show reflect that, as has already been pointed out. Another thing that makes Aang and Korra opposites? Aang's series ended with him learning to take bending away. Korra's series ended (remember that the first season was created with the intent of being the only season; the creators didn't know if they'd get more) with her learning to give bending back.
How exactly does Korra learn airbending suddenly? Some have suggested that it's her air chakra, but there's never been any specific connection between chakras and the element to be bent (Aang, for example, doesn't learn firebending because he overcomes the shame of what he did to Katara). So why does Korra learn airbending? Because of the nature of why Korra couldn't airbend and her lack of spirituality. Bending was her life; she took pride in being a powerful bender and the Avatar. Her pride is bound in her bending. For Korra, her spirit and body are one and the same. But an airbender must free their spirit from their body. Air is the the most ephemeral element; it cannot be held within the body for too long or you die. Aang even talked about how great Air Nomad monks detached themselves from the world to achieve freedom. Korra spirit, her self-worth, was always attached to her body via her bending, so she could never learn airbending. When Amon took her bending, he broke her body and therefore her spirit. But when Korra found the will to keep fighting, she finally separated her now weak body from her strong spirit. And therefore achieved the freedom she needed to airbend.
Remember the "you're oppressing yourself" incident? It's a dumb argument in context, but it actually sums up Amon/Noatak pretty well.
Going all the way back to "Voice in the Night", when Korra regains consciousness after being attacked and gets a brief vision of the past via Aang, she sees Tenzin running towards her and mistakes him for Aang. What happens near the end of this episode when Korra is finally visited by the spirit of Aang? She mistakes him for Tenzin. Could be a case of subtle Foreshadowing, if you squint; though it isn't too far of a stretch to believe that Korra subconsciously associated the two of them and that her growing bond with Tenzin helped her finally reach Aang and the spirit world.
Book Two Episodes
At first, it looked like Tonraq's sudden jerk-ish behavior could be written up as Characterization Marches On, but keep in mind that most of his Book 1 behavior was before Amon temporarily debended Korra. The reason he is acting overprotective now is because of what happened, paranoid something worse can happen. Senna likely convinced him to let Korra go to Republic City in the first place (citing Tenzin's home as a reason not to worry), so Tonraq bid farewell to his daughter. Then they start hearing more about this Equalist trouble brewing in the city, and that Korra is very involved with it (note, however, that the first time was largely unintentional as it all hinged on Bolin making a wrong decision at an even worse time. And then Amon successfully invades and takes over and Korra is forced to go into hiding. Tenzin attempts to flee with his family, but are caught, and Lin gets debended. The White Lotus sentries become quickly incapacitated, and with that, there is no one to call. Tonraq would have no idea what has become of his daughter. Then the next time he sees her she's lost 3 of her 4 bending abilities and is emotionally broken to the point of reaching her "lowest point". His protectiveness was already stated in that he allowed (read: arranged) Korra to live in a compound, away from home and sheltered from the rest of the world. After the events of Book 1, this protectiveness was taken Up to Eleven. Add in his brother's insistence on interjecting himself into Korra's Avatar training and you have a man whose world is falling about because he's losing the trust and favour of his only daughter.
The title "Rebel Spirit" has a double meaning. The first, and most obvious refers to the Dark Spirits Korra faces, a deviation from the oft depicted/interpreted behaviour of spirits in the Avatarverse; Dark Spirits are clearly stated as an anomaly. The second meaning describes an individual who is free-spirited, one who deviates from the norm—or establishment. From here it takes on several interpretations in the context of the Water Tribe: it can either mean the Southern Water Tribe, a whole nation of "rebel spirits" who sought their own independence from the Northern Water Tribe. It could also refer to Korra, who deviates from the tradition of Avatar training by cutting Tenzin off despite having incomplete training in her airbending and choosing to pass him over for her uncle for the sake of her spiritual training. Through tradition, one would expect an equal contribution of both styles instead of one particular preference. The third meaning refers to the Northern Water Tribe in that it rebels against the current establishment by seeking to "unite" both tribes under one banner... or subjugate the insurgents that broke the old order in the first place.
Tenzin's anger at Korra for abusing her Avatar State for recreation is very understandable considering Aang's early death was caused by being in the Avatar State for a whole century.
Korra's journey as the new Avatar is supposed to contrast Aang's. In this episode, we get another one: The banished prince. Both Korra and Aang are relatives to a banished prince (Zuko is a spiritual descendant, Tonraq is Korra's father), they are heirs to their own nation, their younger sibling is a prodigy, and they are Hot-Blooded.
Unalaq's invasion of the South is a terrible idea that can only lead to a civil war, the beginning of which is show in the next two episodes. Which makes perfect sense: Unalaq is trying to free Vaatu, the spirit of darkness and chaos. A war between the North and South Water Tribes will disrupt whatever balance the world has, especially if more nations involve themselves in order to help end it.
Civil War, part 1
It was already fairly obvious to many that Kya, Bumi, and Tenzin each resemble Katara, Sokka, and Aang respectively, but that was merely superficial (status as bender/non-bender)—at first. In episode 3 it becomes pretty stated just how much the kids resemble their elders, to the point that their influence has shaped their personalities, role in their family, and their stance on life. Kya, like Katara, values familial duty. She is responsible and willing to make sacrifices for the sake of her family, but the stress causes her to lash out the first sign of irresponsibility and immaturity, which do not help in keeping order. Bumi, like Sokka, values leadership, and both take on the role of a leader. Leadership, in his eyes, equates to responsibility, but the stress of being Over Shadowed By Awesome causes him to have a cynical point-of-view and may lead to him behaving in such a way that he comes off as immature and irresponsible, even if it's just hiding how much he hates beingnormal. Aang and Tenzin share the duty to their culture: reviving it takes top priority as they are the Last Airbenders. It is how they see themselves taking responsibility, and for Tenzin specifically it acts as a way of honouring Aang. His steadfast duty, however, conflicts with his familial responsibilities, causing him to grow distant from his family. Much like his father (which was out-and-out stated in the episode).
Going off that, let's look at how much Kya resembles Aang. Who's the hippie who travels around the world? That's right, Kya. And who's the one most frequently expressing frustration with her father and brothers? Oh yeah, Kya. Probably because Kya is, like Aang, a nomad at heart. Despite being a waterbender, she no doubt wanted to be more involved in Air Nomad culture (and may have been until Tenzin was old enough to understand it all or finally started showing signs of being an airbender). Kya wanted a connection with the parent she felt she most resembled, and that just makes her resentment of Tenzin so much more understandable.
Kya was scolding Bumi for acting like he was as strong as any bender (and claiming he's not). Bumi was the only non-bender in the family so he could've very easily been the black sheep and just wanted to feel as important as any other bender.
Compare and contrast Korra's fight against the Southern kidnappers with her Book One confrontation with the Triple Threats. Both involve Korra interrupting a criminal act being carried out by several adult men. Both involve brief, spectaculartakedowns, and both culminate in Korra making their getaway vehicle crash. However, whereas Book One Korra is eager for a fight, relies a great deal on brute force and causes copious property damage, her older self attempts to resolve the situation nonviolently, makes brilliant use of her environment and Lightning Bruiser skills (even displaying Equalist-style Airplane Arms while running), and only tears down a single banner in the process. Korra may still be somewhat Hot-Blooded and reckless, but it is clear that she has learned from her experiences.
Though in all fairness, she thought that one of them was her father. That and the fact that they were no doubt some of her neighbors would also go a long way into explaining why she held back so much.
The fact that Aang wasn't the best father makes perfect sense. Aang never had parents. He was raised in a monastery, probably under the expectation that he would grow up to be a monk, and probably wasn't expecting to ever be a father. All the children of his culture seemed to be raised communally, anyway. So, from what we've seen of it, parenthood wasn't something the Air Nomads were very familiar with themselves. The closest thing he had to a parent was Gyatso, and Gyatso wasn't seen to juggle attention with anyone else. So Aang was never taught parenting, never experienced it, and the nearest thing he had to a parent didn't show him how to be one to multiple people.
Civil War, part 2
Eska and Desna's elitism towards Korra makes a lot more sense when one realizes that their father Unalaq is jealous of Tonraq for being first in line to be Chief (enough to set him up to be disowned) and being the Avatar's father. The venom has to show up somewhere.
At first it seems that Ikki forgiving her siblings so easily was just something that kids do. However, that is one of the principle teachings of the Air Nomads: Forgiveness.
Bumi proves yet again that he is like is Uncle Sokka. Bumi talking to the statue of his father and his words that are the words of a "Well Done, Son" Guy, are parallel to Sokka's own "Well Done, Son" Guy situation.
A lot of people were disturbed by Korra threatening to feed a man to Naga because he had sentenced her father to life in prison after trying to sentence him to death. But look at Aang after Appa was kidnapped. Now, replace Aang's Airbender upbringing with four more years and a dose of teen rage hormones, and replace Appa with a human. Suddenly, Korra doesn't seem so different from Aang.
Mako and Korra's break up actually makes a fair bit of sense. The catalyst for the breakup was that Mako acknowledged that his duties as a cop need to come before Korra even if he loves her. Back in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang was able to open his final chakra by 'letting go', as in putting his duties as the Avatar before Katara. It's another layer of how Korra is Aang's opposite, and with a twist to boot. This time, it's not the Avatar who needs to make the choice, but their significant other and thus putting Korra on the receiving end.
President Raiko offhandedly noted Mako's talents at busting Triad members. Sounds like another thing with Mako having grinding his badassery, right? Keep in mind that as someone who did Triad work and having street smart on people who have good ears, he knows about the Triads and can counter them.
More Fridge Silliness than anything else, but still amusing enough to be worth mentioning. Lin's unusualswear word, "flamey-o", was invented by Aang as Fire Nation slang. Now why would an Earth Kingdom woman use a Fire Nation colloquialism? Of course, you could attribute it to the cultural melting pot that is Republic City. On the other hand, perhaps it's a Shout-Out to the conclusion of Colin Heck's rant: Lin's father is Azula.
Bolin starring as Nuktuk can be seen as a Take That to The Last Airbender, which sparked a bit of an outrage in the fanbase for casting white actors as natives of the Southern Water Tribe.
Only Mako wants to investigate to see if it really wasn't the Northern Water Tribe behind the bombing. So it seems like the Republic City police department doesn't do much deeper investigation into crimes. No wonder they had three significant Triads, and the Equalists were able to get so entrenched.
Why didn't Korra restore the bending of the Triad gangsters? It's not because Korra wouldn't re-bend criminals on principle, but because they would have to come forward to her to receive treatment — at which point they would most likely also be arrested for their crimes. Not all would want to take the risk of being recognised when they come to her, especially since she would most likely cooperate closely with the police to control the massive operation.
When Korra wakes up on the beach she uses airbending to defend herself. Typically Korra would attack with fire or waterbending but with her memory gone she may be defaulting to the element of choice for the previous Avatar, Aang.
Mako remarks how he hates Lu and Gang's mustaches. Lu and Gang are corrupt cops based on the styles of 1970s TV police detectives with the Asian equivalent of a Porn Stache. However the spend a lot of time touching their mustaches this episode. Why? Because they're mustache twirlingvillains.
Why was Bolin so flippant to his brother? He's been pretty kindhearted in the past. At the start of the season, we saw that he didn't feel like Mako was supporting him (since there was lots of offscreen time in between seasons, we don't know if this is a justified belief or not), and he's enjoying returning the favor to Mako. Also, Varrick's been doing everything he can to feed Bolin's ego this season. Remember, to a guy like Bolin who has been the Butt Monkey and Always Second Best, having Varrick supporting him would mean a lot, making him easy to manipulate.
Meta-example: Ping's twelve toes are most likely a reference to Toph's scenes last season where she was modeled with six-fingered hands.
The episodes concerning Wan are done in the art style of the ancient guó huà paintings (those classic old chinese style paintings) rather than the crisp and clear artwork with 3D elements used for the modern times in previous episodes:
This makes for thematic brilliance given its 10,000 year ago.
This also makes sense when you realize it's Wan recounting these stories to Korra; the only visual media he would have known would be those old-style paintings, that's the only way he knew how to convey visuals to her.
The fact that Raava fuses with Wan to become the Avatar spirit explains why killing the Avatar in the avatar state would end the cycle: Raava is the cause of the Avatar's ability to be born again and she's exposed when the Avatar is in the avatar state.
It makes perfect sense as to why the Air Nomads were the only nation in which all the people were airbenders. Word of God stated it was because they had the strongest spiritual connection—and they have that strong connection because they lived in harmony with actual spirits. And what's with airbender tattoos being arrows? Check them out in Beginnings, they clearly resemble Raava's shape. They seem to be especially connected to her as well.
Why was Fire the first element the first Avatar learned? It's a reference to Prometheus; the Theft of Fire. Fire is also the element that produces light on its own, making it symbolic of the dawn. Finally, parallel to the real world, creating and controlling fire is one of the most important key turning points in the evolution of man itself and allowed it to spread into places it never could before. Just to drive the point home, Wan steals fire from a divine being for the benefit of fellow humans. And like Prometheus, he is later forgiven by said being.
How each Avatar learned each of the elements is because of Wan learned: First he learned fire, then air, water, and earth. The cycle of the seasons and the cycle of the Avatar.
Why does each Avatar have a spirit animal? Because the first Avatar, Wan, met his animal guide in the Spirit Forests of his hometown.
Even though people were given the elements by the Lion Turtles they still had to master them from the dragons, Sky Bisons, The Moon, and the Badgermoles.
The Lionturtle being able to give Aang energy bending makes more sense now. Originally the Lionturtles just let humans borrow the powers. It wasn't till Wan that they let the humans keep them. What they know how to give, they also know how to take away.
The Avatar Cycle is Wan/Raava's eternal cycle of rebirth and reincarnation to maintain balance in a world that they are responsible (through meddling/failure) for unbalancing. It is an eternal mission of atonement. Counts as fridge horror.
Both Raava and Vaatu have eye like symbols that are very promenient in their heads. Given their symmetrical shape and location, they're refferencing the Ajna chakra.
The Avatar has always been the most powerful bender alive. Bending is known to be powered by chi, which is life energy. Seeing as the Avatar Spirit is actually the fusion of Raava and a human spirit, with Raava being a spirit of life and order, no wonder the Avatar is always so powerful. The Avatar is the spirit of Life.
The importance of what Aang and Zuko accomplished by founding Republic City has taken on a whole new level of meaning in light of "Beginnings". Avatar Wan and Raava spent his entire life trying to bring balance and peace between the bending peoples that had lived generations thinking they were the only people on earth, separated on the backs of Lion Turtles like they were before. He didn't live long enough to succeed, but the Avatar cycle was started as a way to continue that mission. Now, the four nations did at one time before Aang and Roku know peace between them, but they were still separate, still isolating themselves from each other, just in a different and more subtle way. But now, thanks to Aang and the whole Gaang, there is Republic City, the one place in the whole world were the four nations are living together.
Raava's colors are white and blue. Vaatu's colors are black and orange. That's symbolic enough in its own right, what with Orange/Blue Contrast and Light versus Dark. Now think back to the Energybending struggle during The Last Airbender's Grand Finale: Aang's soul was represented by blue, and Ozai's by orange. And what are the Order of the White Lotus' colors? Blue and white.
Wan started the chain of the Avatars when he stole fire from the Lion Turtle and used it to attack the Chou palace. His friends would later cause a war between the spirits and humans with fire. A Call Back to this famous line in the first series, "Everything change when the Fire Nation attacked."
It's fitting that the first Avatar was a Firebender. He ignited a new era and the Avatar cycle like a fire. Even more so now that the first Dark Avatar is a waterbender, emphasizing both Vaatu's role as Raava's opposite and the Dark Avatar's intention of putting out Wan's fire.
This answers a glaring meta-question: "Why is the Avatar called the Avatar? It doesn't make sense - an "avatar" is the human incarnation of a god... but The Avatar in Legend of Aang/Korra aren't." Well... actually, they are; The Avatar is the human incarnation of Raava, the Spirit of Light, through her merging with Wan's soul. The full, proper title of each Avatar would be "The Avatar of Raava," but over time - at least ten thousand years, that is - humanity forgot the origin of the name, and simply called the person "The Avatar." It also explains how each Avatar can actually BE the Avatar and have different lives/reincarnations while having vastly different personalities: While the Avatar Spirit—that is, Raava herself—remains eternal and unchanging, the soul of the human "container" changes with each incarnation. This is why the Avatar has to connect to the Avatar Spirit to speak to their previous lives.
Temporary spirit possession creates weird hybrid creatures. This seems odd...until you realize that most of the animals on this planet are weird hybrid creatures.
In the online special Escape from the Spirit World, Avatar Yangchen explains to Aang that the Avatar needs to be born a human and experience all of their emotions to better understand them and value their lives. Raava, revealed here to be the Avatar Spirit, originally thought very little of humans, viewing them as nothing more than selfish and cowardly savages. Her time spent with the more noble Wan changed her opinion for the better, and her continued experiences from reincarnating as different humans since merging with him continue to remind her how valuable human life is.
Jinora being Korra's guide makes sense. She has the study of spiritual arts, a natural spirit connection, and the emotional maturity to be one. In other words, she completes what Tenzin and Unalaq couldn't: unlike the two men, she had the natural connection, was never under the impression that only she knew what was best for Korra, and (unlike Unalaq) never had any sinister motives behind her choice to be the guide. She's like the Female Aang. Plus, in the first season episode, Leaf In The Wind, Jinora was able to cross the spinning gates with the same movements that Aang did in the first series. Not to mention the fact that she's not restricted by duties as much as Tenzin is. Tenzin can't enter the Spirit World because, like Korra and Tonraq, he is far too bound to the physical world to be able to leave it.
Why does Kya suggest Jinora is Korra's Spirit Guide? Well, aside from Jinora showing her spirit friends, because Kya doesn't want Jinora to not know or miss out on her destiny; something that happened to Kya herself.
One of the many customs of the Air Nomads, as well as a key part in Airbending was redirection. In this episode, Tenzin did a negative version. When every time he tried to get himself and Korra into the Spirit World ended in failure, he redirected the blame to someone else: Meelo, Kya, and Korra, respectively. All to evade the fact that Tenzin has never been in the Spirit World.
At the start of the episode, Kya states that Bumi is better equipped for survival because of his "positive attitude". note I would've said "acute intellect and catlike reflexes", but whatever. As it turns out, positivity is exactly how Korra conquers her hardships in the Spirit World.
Why is Wan Shi Tong helping Unalaq despite the fact that he's going to free Vaatu, who spells doom for human and spirit alike? As we saw with his ignorance concerning radios, he's not as omniscient as he'd like to think he is. Chances are he's simply forgotten or lost the information about what Vaatu is capable of, and Unalaq's charm and respectful, spiritual nature convinced him that whatever he was up to, it'd be good for the spirit world.
Alternatively, Unalaq may be influencing Wan Shi Tong using a more subtle variation on his spirit control technique. Basically a Jedi mind trick.
Korra easily transforms the Dark Spirits that confront her on her way up to the dragon-bird's nest, and it's because she has taken on the form and mentality of a young child. Young children don't over-complicate matters and they are also symbolic of innocence, hope, and light, which is the very essence that helps heal the Spirit World from Vaatu's darkness.
It does not turn Dark like the other spirits present when Unalaq appears and takes control of the situation, partly because of its being a phoenix-like, which is often represented in literature as incorruptible (and in the case of some lore, "their song is said to strike fear into the hearts of the impure and courage into those who are pure of heart."), as well as its having been touched by the light in Korra's heart, which is clearly stated as the only thing needed to heal the darkness in the Spirit World and the material.
It's also based on the Fenghuang, the chinese "phoenix", which represents light and virtue, but is Yin by nature. It's very likely that corrupting it simply doesn't work, because it is a figure of perfect balance.
The four phoenixe-thingies combined together to make a a greater, brighter being. This is both symbolic of the Avatar - four elements combined into a divine being of light -, but also recalls China's four divine beasts.
He is is wearing the Earth Kingdom clothes from his decision to reside in Ba Sing Se. Why? Because he is enlightened. To explain, being a tea shop owner was Iroh's dream. He never considered himself the genius strategist or "the Dragon of the West", he simply was Iroh the tea shop owner and lover of tea. In other words, he became enlightened when he enjoyed the simple things and not the material things.
One of the effects of enlightenment is to break one's cycle of reincarnation? The creators of the series are infamous for having done their research on the relevant cultures so yes, enlightenment is very likely a factor in Iroh's appearance in the spirit world.
On that note, why is Uncle the only one of the deceased members of the original Avatar cast that we get to see post-mortem, besides Aang? He shows up to guide Korra when she's lost and alone...but also Tenzin, Bumi, and Kya, and it's implied that he's been hanging out in the spirit realm for a long time. Is he just there to help the children and successors of his old friends? Or is he in the process of becoming (or is already) the Avatar-verse's answer to a bodhisattva, an enlightened being who sacrifices themselves and works to help others end their own cycle of suffering? If anyone would be up to the job, it's Uncle Iroh.
Bolin's spoilers of his mover is a lot like the show. Pabu is seemingly killed but comes back to life. Raava would also be seemingly killed, but is brought back to life.
The henchman giving up Varrick's name so easily seems like either a copout or pure cowardice, but consider what he said immediately after - "Don't hurt me, Nuktuk!" Varrick's propaganda was so effective that even his own henchmen bought into Nuktuk's larger-than-life story, to the point where they feared Bolin like they would fear Superman. Varrick was effectively Hoist by His Own Petard.
A minor one regarding Bolin and Eska. At the beginning of Book 2, Eska seems to have a delusional notion that they are a couple, and Bolin sort of goes along with it out of fear/necessity without ever really dissuading her. Later, he 'fakes' being in love with her so she'll release him in the penultimate episode of the season but it is heavily implied that he actually had some feelings for her. It was kind of odd, considering how obviously repulsed Bolin was by Eska. But wait...didn't Bolin have a delusional notion that he was dating Ginger? A person who never really dissuaded him, and in fact kept it up once he got more successful? Who went along with it out of necessity? Suddenly his revelation that he might have feelings for Eska makes more sense. While she's not a sympathetic character, he still experienced almost exactly what she went through and how she felt. So maybe his feelings for her stem from sympathy.
Light in the Dark
The Dark Avatar would attack on Republic City:
When you stop to consider that city is a melting pot of all four nations, where benders and non-benders are living harmoniously thanks to the past avatar. Choosing that as the first place to attack makes PERFECT sense.
An alternate explanation: Unalaq is shown to be disappointed with how the world has lost most of its spirituality (as shown in his speech to the Southern Water Tribe at the season's beginning). It's possible that he believes that the advancement of technology, as well as the creation of the United Republic, is an offense to the balance of the world (recall how Roku told Sozin that the Four Nations should be just that—- Four). Given that, it would make sense that he would start ushering in his new world order by obliterating Republic City: it stands for everything that he sees wrong in the modern era.
The fact that Korra is the opposite of Aang is hammered into the wall in this episode. Aang lost his connection to the Avatar in Season 2 and regained it in the nick of time to Curb stomp Ozai utterly using the Avatar state. Korra on the other hand gained her connection in Season 1 and lost it at the end and defeats Unalaq+Vaatu with the spiritual support of her friends and the strength of her own spirit.
When the Dark Spirits attack the Tree of Time, the camera sweeps past Mako, Tenzin, Kya and Bolin forming a defensive line. Fire, Air, Water, Earth. The Avatar Cycle is everywhere.
Granted, it's a stretch, but still. Take a look at this remarkable image. The spiral pattern of statues in the Southern Air Temple in The Last Airbender leaves room for two more statues. Korra really is the conclusion of the first Avatar Cycle.
When Unalaq becomes the Dark Avatar, if you look closely, he only seems to be using Water Bending techniques. He's the Dark Avatar, right? He should be able to use all four bending styles. However, while Wan was able to control all four elements with Raava, he was only able to do so by gaining the elements from the Lion Turtles. Unalaq may have been the equivalent of a Dark Avatar spiritually, but physically, he's still just a waterbender right off-the-bat.
Doubles as Fridge Horror. Korra was able to use the Tree of Time to be a match for Unalaq and Vaatu, even with Raava being pretty much gone. Why hasn't Vaatu been using the Tree of Time for ten thousand years in that same way? Well, he can't use bending like humans can, but who says he hasn't? While Vaatu was in there, humans were fighting each other for centuries, despite the fact that Raava was living with them and many of them either worshipped her every word or at least respected her power. As harmonic convergence approached, spirits began turning dark. Vaatu's prison wasn't as secure as Wan thought it was. With Vaatu out of the picture until next Harmonic Convergence (fridge horror), the next ten thousand years might be much smoother sailing for the world.
When Korra decides that Unalaq had a point that spirits and humans can co-exist, it fits within the whole "Find Light in Darkness" theme. Realizing that there may be a positive thing to learn from the villain is exactly the light in the dark. Furthermore, this would also stay true to the Guru Pathik's theme of "separation is an illusion."
Book Three Episodes
A Breath of Fresh Air
At the beginning, why is Bumju running away from Bumi and luring him out onto an unstable branch? It seems like he's doing it for no reason but perhaps the real reason is that Bumju can sense that Bumi is now an airbender and is putting him in a situation where his abilities would first appear.
Bumi's claim that his airbending only manifests when his life is in danger makes sense, as airbending is a defensive element.
Having spirits (who are less than friendly most of the time) and very stubborn vines all over should be devastating to a city's economy. It's no wonder, even in the face of the apocalypse being halted, that people are so mad and frustrated. This is more than just inconvenience the human population is facing, their entire livelihoods are being threatened. People also tend to dislike large changes and this is a huge adjustment. How would New York react to such changes during the roaring '20s?
That porcupine-resembling spirit was pretty angry and annoyed. Which is not out of place concerning most spirits. But we have to realize that the spirits are going through what the human public are facing as well. They're just as frustrated with the circumstances and adjustments.
At first glance, it seems far-fetched that citizens of Republic City would be so angry at Korra for failing to remove the vines. But it has also been established that the city had a numerous anti-bender movement. It stands to reason that this sentiment would not simply wither and die after Amon was exposed, and would likely add to the frustration at what was the result of actions of benders.
Zaheer was able to pick up and use airbending in actual combat incredibly quickly. But the first thing he talks about onscreen is the poetry of an ancient airbending guru. And his fighting style seems to be very acrobatic to begin with. Zaheer has probably studied airbending and Air Nomad culture extensively, and thus has a good understanding of airbending theory.
Why does Jinora get to go with Korra, Tenzin, and the others to look for new airbenders? She's Korra spiritual guide/teacher. Should Korra need advice on how to deal with spiritual matters, she would not only need Tenzin's input, but also Jinora's.
Ghazan liquefying solid rock into magma, something only fully-realized Avatars have been able to do. How does he do it? Well, at the core, when something heats up, this is the result of it's molecules vibrating at increasing speeds - Ghazan forces the rocks' molecular structure to vibrate rapidly, heating them up to magma temperature... then he simply Earthbends the superheated rock.
"Together they could take down the entire world", said by Lord Zuko. Referring to what had been (at the time), one non-bender, a lava-bender, a psychic waterbender, and a combustion bender - extravagant praise indeed. However, even not knowing their true intentions, it was a clear Foreshadowing of the Red Lotus being anarchists. Many simply took it for the usual context - destruction - when all along it literally was 'take down the entire (civilized) world'.
The Earth Queen
P'Li mentions having been locked up for thirteen years. That time-frame would explain why they had to be stored in TailorMadePrisons instead of being de-bended (which at that point could only be done by the then-deceased Aang).
The Earth Queen's extreme dislike of animals might be related, one way or another, to her disdain for her father Kuei, what with his adoration for his pet bear. At the very least, their differing attitudes towards animals wouldn't have made matters easier between them.
In Harm's Way
The Earth Queen's hatred of animals is because she's allergic to them. Thus, she uses her allergies of animals to justify cruelty against them.
The resolution of the Ba Sing Se airbenders subplot is a perfectly roundabout conclusion. The Earth Queen's conscription of the Ba Sing Se airbenders reflected at an extreme what Korra and Tenzin were initially doing, though not outright realizing it: they were trying to force people to become Air Nomads, not giving them the choice. The only difference is they didn't kidnap them like the Dai Li did. Without having to say as such (which is usually the case for storylines using roundabout methods to tell the moral of the tale), "In Harm's Way" had Team Avatar reach the correct conclusion, rewarding them with a whole batch of volunteers.
There are many parallels between the Earth Queen and many real governments from history:
The Earth Kingdom as a whole seems to be clinging to a social model (feudalism and monarchy) which one could argue was starting to get obsolete back in the original series. During the modern era, many cultures (some of them Asian) also tried this. The result in both cases is a state which becomes weaker and weaker. China was subjected to humiliation by Western imperial powers, and the Earth Kingdom hasn't been relevant to Korra until she needed to find possible citizens of the Air Nation there. Also, the Dai Li are far less powerful in Korra's day than they were when they fought Aang.
Another parallel: Mako and Bolin's grandmother reveres a portrait of the Earth Queen, and many other Earth Kingdom peasants do as well. Worship of leaders (especially leaders who lack power on the global stage) has happened throughout history, and still goes on today in North Korea.
The Earth Queen obviously has an agenda of kidnapping airbenders into her army. Well, she made it clear she doesn't recognize the United Republic of Nations, and only seeing it as stolen Earth Kingdom land. Thus, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that she wants to create an airbender regiment to take over the United Republic of Nations and annex it back to the Earth Kingdom. The Air Nomads had no military, but Airbending nonetheless has so much offensive potential. Given how long airbending characters lasted against bending or non-bending enemies, the Earth Queen figures that no opponent would stand a chance against a whole group of airbending soldiers.
Lin and Suyin never knowing their biological fathers adds another layer on why Lin and Aang "got along famously". She probably saw him as a Parental Substitute.
Notice the types of rocks Lin and Suyin were about to throw at each other before Opal stopped the fight: Lin had a concrete, perfect shaped piece use for stairs, Suyin grabbed a random, new rock with rough edges. This display matches their personality types: Lin is all about order and stability, while Suyin is all about freedom and newer things.
In her stress-and-acupuncture-induced haze, Lin briefly hallucinates young Suyin in Korra's place. A talented, headstrong young bender who feels exempt from the rules, caring little for the trouble she causes along the way? Up until now, we've all assumed that Lin's original animosity towards Korra was because of her attitude and her connection to Tenzin. What if Korra had also reminded Lin of her little sister?
Which point was punctured when Lin had her visions? The back of the forehead, which corresponds to the chakra of light, responsable for insight.
It would appear that Lin has probably had a very lonely and unsatisfying life, having apparently never had good relationships with her mother or sister, losing Tenzin to the much younger Pema due to Lin not wanting a family (among other things), and getting absolutely nothing in return for all her hard work. Is it any wonder that she tends to be a grumpy person?
Looking back at this episode, and the above comment about Guru Laghima's poem. Not only does the poem explain Jinora's Astral Projection power, but it also explains how Zaheer found out at the end of the episode that Korra is in Zaofu.
Opal "really knows how to sneak up on someone," startling Bolin. Why? She's a natural airbender - of course she'd be light on her feet.
You know the brilliance of this title? The original airbenders were Flying Sky Bison. In this episode, Jinora and Kai get captured by thugs planning to poach them. And are later saved by Tenzin, Bumi, and the new airbenders. In other words, the new saved the old.
The Terror Within
Why would Aiwei frame such an unsuspicious guard out of all the people he could have chosen? Because he's the first guard interviewed after there's talk of someone a "little higher up" committing the crime. His original plan was probably to just let everyone assume the Red Lotus got in without a guard's help, but he adjusted his plan when they started getting closer to him. He then led everyone to the guard's house and planted the clues while they were searching.
At first Bolin thinking Aiwei has the ability to becomes invisible is just his naiveté and usual comic relief moment, but take a moment to think about the things Bolin has seen: A combustion-bender who can actually curve her blasts. An earthbender who can lavabend, which is a skill that only an Avatar is capable of. A powerful airbending master who's neither Korra nor Tenzin. And an armless woman who uses water to fight and makes it look easy. After meeting such unique and amazing benders, Bolin also may believe how there are countless such people with other special skills, like the power of invisibility.
At the end of the battle, Zaheer creates an instant smokescreen to escape. Yet at the beginning he needed time to create it. The lava hadn't generated enough smoke yet.
At first, it seems like the entire Pai Sho game between Bolin and Asami is simply filler. But remember that originally, Pai Sho was the way that White Lotus members would use to identify one another. In the rule book, it talks about how throughout the centuries there have been variations of the game of Pai Sho. That's a reference to the differences between the Red and White Lotus organizations. So when Bolin tells Korra she needs to standardize the rules of Pai Sho, he's unintentionally telling her to work out the differences between the Red and White Lotus.
It also exhibits the long-term viability of both chaos and order: Bolin's fast-and-loose street style never stood a chance against Asami's more methodical and nuanced style.
The scene also explains why Iroh's Pai Sho games resembles Mahjong, while the game Asami and Bolin are playing seems to work more like Shogi: a wide variety of different rules exist for the game.
The Red Lotus are anarchists, just as the Equalists were communists. Both ideologies were quite popular in the 1920's, and both were very dangerous.
Unalaq having discovered the ability to manipulate light and darkness with waterbending makes a lot of sense in retrospect, given that he was once part of the Red Lotus, whose main shtick has been its individual members' unique bending abilities.
It always seemed a little odd that Zaheer knew Korra was in Zaofu just by meditating, this episode explains it. He and Aiwei met in the Spirit World and he told Zaheer where Korra was.
There's a reason why Zaheer studied as hard as he did in Air Nomad culture and technique. Their plan was to steal baby Korra to train her as their own, and you can't be a fully realized Avatar with just three elements.
Remember the Red Lotus's goal to abolish all governments? The Air Nomads being, well... nomads, they obviously don't have a true government of their own. No wonder Zaheer was so drawn to their culture.
Long Live The Queen
It's revealed that Pabu and Naga weren't captured when Korra and Asami were taken to the Earth Queen. Since she's allergic to animals, there's no point in capturing the Avatar's animals— all she'd want is the Avatar herself.
The title "Long Live The Queen" foreshadows Hou-Ting's death, as "Long live the queen/king" is what you say when announcing the death of a monarch. There's still a dark irony here, as it apparently (so says Wikipedia) refers to the ascension of a new monarch immediately upon the death of his/her predecessor. There is no sign of such a process here, and if there was Zaheer, would presumably take steps to prevent it.
One of the Earth Queen's solider half-dryly states to Korra that he essentially can't exactly forbid air to her. This is a comedic quip, but it foreshadows how Zaheer's assassinates Hou-Ting
Bumi clinging to Ghazan's back is him fighting pragmatically, but it's also a pretty smart maneuver. During the fight, Ghazan kept sending lava at him, so he goes to the least likely place Ghazan will lavabend on. Himself.
Why did Zaheer continually run away from Tenzin during his entire fight? Multiple reasons:
His acknowledgement of Tenzin as an airbending master implies that he knew that Tenzin was already a superior bender.
Airbenders have an inherit advantage in combat due to the fact that their fighting style is obscure to the majority of the population ever since the Air Nomad genocide. This is displayed when he fought against the three of them. Couple that with the fact that he had Bumi and Kya backing him up. Had he not separated Tenzin from his siblings, they would've had a signifigantly higher chance of winning.
Not only is Airbending an obscure art to fight against, but Tenzin knows how to fight against another airbender: He in all likelihood sparred with his father Aang during his training. No wonder Tenzin had the definitive upper hand when it was just him versus Zaheer.
He lured him out to an open area. An area in which P'li had a very clear shot of him.
How come P'li couldn't hit any of the new Nomads while they were fleeing? She wasn't trying to. For the most part, it appears that the Red Lotus avoid conflict whenever possible. They only retaliate to attacks against them; hence why she shot down Kai. Additionally, they would be citizens in the eyes of the Red Lotus, the kind of people that they believe they are liberating from a potentially oppressive government. Finally, if they had been harmed, that may hurt any argument they'd have for Korra to comply with them.
Enter The Void
We finally find out what it means to "enter the void", as Zaheer loses P'Li. She was his earthly tether, his main emotional attachment. Once she was gone, he had to let go, and he achieved enlightenment and weightlessness. It's also a Call Back to Book 2 of the original series, the airbender had to deal with the possibility of losing his girlfriend and he unlocks a greater power within himself. And the first time he touches the ground afterwards was when he had to think about P'Li again. People who experience grief often explain a "hollowing" or feeling of emptiness within themselves. Many lose their ability to perceive things previously relevant to their lives as important anymore. Zaheer thus "entered the void" from emotional loss.
Zaheer's reciting Guru Laghima's "enter the void" speech and then P'Li comes. He recites it again when P'Li dies and gains the ability to fly. The scene with Zaheer and P'Li was heartwarming, giving us information on her past, and foreshadowing all rolled into one!
Additionally, there's the symbolism that the illuminated window of "enlightenment" which shines down upon where Zaheer is meditating is eclipsed by P'Li's arrival in that chamber. She stands between him and the void... and once she dies, he is able to enter that state.
Bolin's lavabending ability makes a lot of sense when you remember that his mother was from the Fire Nation. Plus Lava's only molten rock, so an earthbender should be able to bend it. But since the only people who used it are the Avatar (using earthbending and firebending together) and Ghazan (a unique bender, ancestry unknown), Bolin's the first normal earthbender who actually tried it. It connects to Zaheer's earlier speech about you shouldn't be restricted by your earlier perceptions.
The main advantage that Bolin had in learning lavabending was probably his pro bending experience, which required him to train alongside other types of benders. Lavabending acts like waterbending, so working alongside water benders would have let them observe their forms and see them change the state of a solid to a liquid, which is what lavabending does. By contrast, Mako's fire bending is mostly composed of blasts of flame, which doesn't teach anything useful for lava bending.
Bolin wanted to metalbend so he could be like his hero Toph. If he can teach other people to lavabend, then he can follow in her footsteps in teaching earthbenders a new kind of bending.
Bolin's ability to lavabend makes sense when contrasted with his inability to metalbend. Metal is a more solid form of earth that has less overall earth in it while lava is a less solid form of earth that has more overall earth in it. Metalbending is done by focusing on the trace amounts of earth that can be found in metal which would be difficult for someone like Bolin while lavabending is done by liquefying earth and moving it like water which would come easier to a more laid back person like Bolin.
When Bolin, Asami, Tenzin and Mako are fleeing the Northern Air Temple as it collapses, they find a hidden stairway beneath the floor that allows them to escape. Now, where before have we seen such a hidden passage in the Northern Air Temple? It's likely that the passage is the same one used by the fire benders to meet with the Mechanist! Talk about a Chekhov's Gun!
Zaheer's recitation of the "enter the void" speech preceding the romantic scene he shares with P'Li, coupled with his ability to do so after P'Li's death, comes across in hindsight as though he at first was trying to force his enlightenment. Furthermore, mastering the Avatar State and unlocking flight both seem to requires a similar condition, letting go of all earthly attachments, yet unlike Zaheer, Avatars such as Aang, Korra, and Roku have been able to fulfill this condition without losing their love interests. In fact, they've even been seen tapping into the power of the Avatar State to protect said love interests. Using Zaheer's own words from his first appearance, they were able to get past the limiting perception that "clearing one's mind" from earthly attachments such as love literally meant a loveless existence, achieving the pure task-minded focus needed to control the Avatar State. Despite all his knowledge, Zaheer may not have been as spiritually strong and free as he believed himself to be, as he still relied on this perception.
"New growth (Zaheer's new ability of flight) cannot exist without first the destruction of the old (The death of P'Li)".
Some viewers have pointed out that Zaheer continually overlooked all the damage and pain his flavor of anarchy would cause in the short form. With this episode, we see that Zaheer has been cutting his ties to the material world, with the end result that he is no longer grounded. He doesn't really realize how bad his actions will make life for the common man because he can no longer see from their perspective.
Venom of the Red Lotus
The title of this episode is significant not only because of the actual venom used in the attempt to kill Korra, but also because of this whole ordeal's effects on her afterward. She's incapacitated and emotionally broken by the end, probably truly feeling like a worthless and useless Avatar. In other words, some actual venom may have nearly killed her, but dealing with all this is what truly poisoned her spirit.
Ghazan was rather quick to mentally break down in his fight against the brothers, but there's a reason for it. A few episodes ago he alluded to the fact that he might have a thing for Ming Hua. Him seeing Mako fighting him made him realize that Ming Hua is gone. He would rather die with the woman he loved.
By this episode, the four central Red Lotus members who set themselves free with their special bending met their defeat because of their special bending. The tragic irony can summed up here.
Ikki at one point asks Jinora if Korra is going to save them, but Jinora calmly states that they're going have to rescue themselves. This is actually a clever foreshadowing using dialogue of Tenzin's speech at Jinora's ceremony that the Air Nomads will help bring peace to all nations during Korra's recovery.
Pure metals can't be bent, which is why metalbending is useless on platinum. Why then, was Suyin able to extract the mercury from Korra to save her life? Answer: Because while metallic mercury is a pure metal, organic mercury is not. Mercury bonds to organic molecules readily, which is what makes it poisonous.
"New growth cannot exist without first the destruction of the old". The two picture of Jinora and Korra with the quote matches perfectly with the overall theme of Book 3. Sad as it is with Korra's emotional and physical breakdown, she's also the Avatar, a being that has existed for over thousands of years and therefore the "old". And the emerging airbenders that have not been around for almost two centuries, will now (temporarily) take her place in maintaining peace and so they are the "new".
The order of how Zaheer and his friends broke out of their own prisons (Zaheer, Ghazan, Ming-Hua, and P'Li) is the reverse order of how each one was defeated: Pï¿½Li, Ming-Hua, Ghazan and finally Zaheer.
In the previous episode, in order to learn how to fly, Zaheer has to let go of his emotional attachments, he seems to do so and so he learns how to fly. In this episode he refuses to let go of his plan to get rid of the Avatar even when all signs point to it's failure and a tornado is dragging him down. When he finally does try to let go the chain around Korra's wrist wraps around his ankle and drags him down faster where his body gets encased in stone. See he failed to realize that malice is just as much of an attachment as love is, and his malice led to him literally being tethered to the Earth!
Korra's seemingly depressed broken state actually makes sense. It's standard human reaction to go silent after suffering major bodily damage like say breaking your leg. Similarly, this can also apply to traumatizing experiences on a mental level. Furthermore. all through her life, her defining trait is that she was the Avatar. That is the single hub she has built herself around. And the point of conflict throughout the series is villains who believe the Avatar is no longer a necessary thing, rapid fired back at her in her poison induced hallucinations. She has endured attack after attack on her very identity, but when Tenzin...in an act of true kindness and reassurance, of course...tells her that the new Air Nomads will be filling her role until she recovers, maintaining balance and fighting injustice, he is confirming what they have been saying all along. She, as the Avatar, is not needed.
Remember what Avatar Aang said? "When we're at our lowest point, we're most open to change." Unless Bryan and Michael have something worse planned for poor Korra, this is her lowest point and why the season was called change.
Why wasn't Zaheer executed when it's been demonstrated that he's now more dangerous than ever before? Well, besides the fact that it's Nickelodeon show and they can't have the good guys intentionally kill a man in cold blood (self-defense is another thing). Because it's unknown how many members and sympathizers the Red Lotus has, and the heroes can't afford to make Zaheer a martyr.
A subtle one with the fight between Ming Hua and Mako: when Iroh was teaching Zuko how to redirect lightning, he made an important note of how Zuko must redirect the lightning through his arm, into his stomach and out the other arm, avoiding the heart. Because Ming Hua is a waterbender (and thus never had to redirect lightning), the lighting went straight from her "arms" and through to her chest and heart. Bonus points that it was Mako who did her in as he was named after Iroh's original voice actor.
The surprising amount of Green in the audience at Jinora's induction ceremony indicate that they're all Earth Kingdom Citizens. but note the one with the white hair sitting in front of everyone; it's Yin. Now take a good look at everyone; they are displaced citizens, but they're all family of Bolin and Mako. And note that they're all sitting in front, alongside Ikki and Meelo. They're held in the same respect as Tenzin's own family, likely in honor of what Mako and Bolin did for them.
The final battle mirrors that of Ozai and Aang: An Avatar vs the leader of a villainous group, an Airbender vs a flying Firebender. It's even featured in the same rock pillar landscape as the original fight, it occurred because of the fall of Ba Sing Se, and the Avatar entered the Avatar State because of an injury (poison in Korra's case, while Aang hit a rock that unlocked his chakra). The only differences is that a lot of the themes are reversed: Zaheer is the Calm Airbender while Korra is the raging Fire(and Earth)bender and despite this, Zaheer still held the upper hand most of the time. What's different is that neither combatants won alone; Korra was helped by the combined might of the new Air Nation. This neatly sums up the theme of the season; Korra tried to end it like The Last Airbender, but instead Jinora (a breakout character) was the one who ended it. The old must make way for the new for Change to occur.
Look at the way the air bison fly. They normally airbend with their tails, and they can also airbend with their breath, but when flying they usuallly don't do any of that. They just seem weightless (this is especially clear in Original Airbenders when the baby bison first start to fly), but can control direction with their thoughts; they only use their tails in combat or to boost their speed, especially during takeoff. Now look at the way Zaheer flies. It's much the same way. He mostly doesn't use regular airbending, except to attack and for a few times to boost speed or to catch himself when he's almost about to fall. Original Airbenders indeed.
In other sources, one of the final tests to earn Airbending mastery is to create a new airbending technique. It's surmised Aang's was the Air Scooter, and Tenzin's was the Air Cycle. What was Jinora's? A giant whirlwind fueled by group airbending. Bonus points for Jinora's airbending technique being also the first Airbending technique that involved a group.
Some of the Equalists probably have very goodreasons for hating benders. Burglars, serial killers, and even regular schoolyard bullies are bad enough. Now toss in elemental powers. Imagine how powerless non-badass normals would be against such people. Look into our own history from an anthropological point of view. The technological advancement of the Avatar world within the span of 70 years is oft likened by many fans to be like that of our own Industrial Revolution. While we're talking about a world where people can bend the elements with their own hands, mass production may not be so difficult. But then look at the first part of the Promise comic and how, in a Fire Nation colony, the non-benders serve the benders. Now look at the historical recaps of modern day anthropology, where articles state that the Industrial Revolution was built on the backs of slave labour and colonialism. Think about that for a moment. The "Welcome to Republic City" Interactive Tour adds another layer of reasoning behind the Equalists' motivations: Republic City's Council consists of five representatives, each one for the Air Nation, the Fire Nation, the Earth Kingdom and Both of the Water Tribes. There's no real political representation for people living in Republic City who doesn't have a cultural attachment for any of those nations, with said group consisting in its majority by non-benders...
Tenzin has a life of Fridge...Sadness? Growing up, he was one of only two Airbenders in the world. Then, for a few years, he was the only Airbender in the world. The age difference between Korra and Jinora is exactly how long Tenzin had his father's title of "Last Airbender". He was even more alone because Aang could at least summon the spirits of past Airbending Avatars.
Look at the weapons the Equalists have. Look at the utter Nightmare Fuel-inducing Magnificent Bastard that is Amon. Look at the political grandstanding, insecurity, and power playing that's taken hold within the Republic City government, with Tarrlok being particularly untrustworthy. Look at the sheer emotional immaturity of Korra and the Ferret brothers (largely due to being teenagers as well as their upbringings [Korra's being unhealthily sheltered and Mako and Bolin's lack thereof]) as well as the general unpreparedness of the Krew as a whole, teen and adult, to do anything about Amon's strikes and plans through the majority of Equalist appearances in the first seven episodes. The overall picture at this point is actually very clear: until more non-benders like Shiro Shinobi and Asami Sato take initiative to help stand up against the Equalists, the benders do not stand a chance.
It's pretty clear that people in the Avatar universe are much tougher than in the real world, even the Badass Normals, but even so, in a world where people have been known to live in excess of centuries, most of the Gaang are dead within the 70-year Time Skip. Toph, Sokka and Aang are long gone; we don't know if Suki is still alive and if she is, what kind of shape she's in. Lord Zuko is still alive and seems to be in decent condition - likely because he spent much of his older years in the pampered position of a Fire Lord. Katara looks pretty okay for a woman pushing 80, but (depending on what exactly the limits if waterbending healing are), it's very possible she can hold off any age-related medical conditions that she might develop over the years. The Gaang spent a significant portion of their childhoods and teen years absorbing the kind of punishment that would end a pro-wrestler's career on a regular basis, and probably took a few more good knocks as adults as we can see in the flashbacks. Rewatch some of the old episodes and look at every time a character gets smacked with a rock or a high pressure water blast or STRUCK BY LIGHTNING and imagine what that's gonna do to a ten-year old body. Then think about what that guy would look like in his sixties. Is it any wonder most of them are dead?
In fact, an interview with the creators more or less confirmed this: Bryan Konietzko commented that Aang had "burned up some of his extra Avatar time" because of his 100-year suspended animation, which has to take a physical toll on the body.
The three other members on Republic City's council alongside Tenzin and Tarrlok. We don't know much about them, but the three times we've seen it come down to a vote, all three side with Tarrlok, though notably with some hesitation. Considering Tarrlok's track record, and his newly-revealed bloodbending powers, what's to say he isn't threatening/blackmailing them so he gets what he wants?
When a person is being bloodbent, it's really horrifying to think about how it's even happening: They are not being lifted or carried externally, but rather, their own internal organs and fluids are being controlled, being lifted, fighting against the weight of the person's body. That, and, if this wasn't a children's show, the contortions of bodies would probably be a LOT more gruesome, considering who were bending them.
Chi blocking could stop bending, but only temporarily. The move Amon makes on the forehead is probably only stylish - so it looks like a mystical chakra move. Tarrlok describes it as a bloodbending grip, which suggests he is simply using it to mask what he's really doing. That move he pulled on Korra to get her out of hiding, suggests that years of bloodbending has actually given him a "blood sense" for biological water, using which he can sense energy flow within the bender's body. Once he detects active energy paths, he doesn't just block them, he uses bloodbending and destroys them from the inside. That explains why it can only be healed by spiritual means like energybending.
Just how many people have died in this show? Given the finale of Season 1 and the last few episodes of Season 2 alone, some gravedigger is making a lot of money.
Book One Episodes
Welcome to Republic City A Leaf in the Wind
The Fire Ferrets are almost forced to give up on the championship title when their waterbender, Hasook, fails to show up for their next meet after a lackluster performance in their last. One more act of ineptitude by a kid that just didn't click with his team... right? Unless the antibending activists roaming the city took him out. Hasook didn't just quit - he inexplicably vanished, and is never seen again after he leaves his last match in anger.
Mako witnessed his parents killed by a Firebender. A FIREBENDER. Just think about that for a minute. Mako must resent his firebending a lot if that is what happened. It's possible to set fire to stun in the Avatarverse. This criminal chose not to.
Even worse when you consider what kid Mako must of thinking about his firebending and that every single time he uses his firebending, he could be reminded of what happened...
Even worse when you realize Mako never went into detail beyond stating that his parents were "cut down" right in front of him. We know the one responsible is a firebender. What we don't know is if that firebender used fire or lightning, especially seeing how common bending lightning is by that time. That's right, Mako may have been saved from seeing his parents burn to death, but getting shocked full of lightning is just as bad (as Azula would like to remind you in the book 2 finale of the previous series).
When Bolin was kidnapped, he was missing for at least part of the night and an entire day. In the hands of the equalists. Who hate benders. Who believe him to be part of a well known and much hated bender gang. That much is fact. Now think on this. Would they have been fed during that time? How much did they have to interact with their captors? Were they bound the whole time? Did the chi-blockers constantly block their bending abilities until showtime? Were they informed ahead of time what was planned for them, giving them time to contemplate just what was going to happen, and how that would impact their lives? "Interest of fairness" indeed.
Bolin is kidnapped while doing work for the Triple Threat Triad, who Mako mentions they had worked for in the past. The other individuals taken, at least Shady Shin and Lightning Bolt Zolt, are members. Obviously Bolin knows Shady Shin, but it's likely he was at least partially aquainted with the others, having been with them at the headquaters. These weren't just some random strangers he met on the street, they were people he knew, who he had spent a night and day with as a fellow captive. Mako likely knew them as well. And both have to watch them get their bending stripped away.
When Mako talks to Korra about how Bolin is his only family and if anything happens to Bolin he his scarf closer to closer to him later we learn that his scarf is the only memento of his father and how it makes him feel safe.
The Voice in the Night
Based on the dialogue between Mako and Asami in this episode, at least a week's gone by in-universe. Imagine the Equalists' actions off-screen capturing more benders to de-power. Picture the amount of stress on the authorities getting increasing reports of this happening. At the moment, the Equalists are likely sticking to criminals like the Triple Threat Triads, since they want to build up support by having themselves viewed as heroes, the same reason why Amon didn't depower Korra in episode 4. Also Tarrlok's line (paraphrased) "they'll come for the rest of us eventually" suggests that they haven't attacked regular benders yet. Key word: yet.
Along with not wanting to turn her into a martyr, one possible reason that Amon might be waiting to de-bend and kill Korra is the possibility of him wanting to do it when she's in the Avatar state in order to destroy the Avatar spirit along with her. As he said, he has a plan.
The scene in where Amon captures Korra is depicted as disturbingly similar to rape. Consider: young attractive woman strolling past a monument at night is grabbed and dragged into the darkness. She is set upon by multiple attackers who overpower her and hold her down. Their leader, a powerful male, taunts her impotence before knocking her out. She wakes up later, alone, and is found by her mentor/father figure. He asks if she's all right and tries to reassure her that the "nightmare is over." She breaks down crying, telling him how terrified and helpless she felt. Just replace the word "bending" with "virginity" and the scene becomes that much more horrifying. This is supposed to be a kid's show?!
How does Amon manage to hijack the radio music channels to broadcast his threatening messages? This technology is too old to be hacked into remotely - it's only possible if he has a means to directly access the transmission stations and interrupt their broadcasts with his. So there are two ways he could do it a)He and the Equalists raid the radio stations in the city from time to time or b)There are equalists among the employees of the city's radio network, and they broadcast pre-recorded messages on his orders. Since the first option entails a risk of getting caught, the second one is far simpler and elegant. That would also explain how in Episode 10, they are able to cut all phone and radio lines at a moment's notice. He has insiders do the job for him.
The Spirit of Competition
After the wolfbats short match we see one of their opponents on a strecher, and he has a hole in the visor of his helmet. Only water benders are allowed headshots so that had to be Tahno's handiwork. People underestimate how powerful compressed water can really be, in addition to the possibility of using rocks or ice. How much damage did the Wolfbats intend to do their opponents and how many times has this happened? We see in the following episode that they have no problems bribing the ref but we don't know how often thats the case and Shiro made it sound like that was unusual, so the previous attack may have been LEGAL. Also if they do stunts like that often what does that say about their fanbase?
And the Winner Is...
You know all those clips where Amon takes over and destroys the pro-bending arena? Mako and Bolin's home is above the arena.
One of the opposing players that the Wolf-Bats beat in "The Spirit of Competition" had a hole in his visor and was being carried out on a stretcher. In this episode the Wolf-Bats use a dirty trick where they fill Tahno's water blasts with crushed rock that he threw at the Fire Ferrets' face... the guy with broken visor could have (and may have) lost his eye. Worse is that it can explain the hole because everyone else thinks water can't do that much damage to where they let them aim in the face. They aren't above sending fire in the face either. Since they won three championships prior, picture how many of their victories involved such tactics.
One of the Equalists electrocute Shiro Shinobi, the announcer for the pro bending challenges. The game "Welcome To Republic City" confirms he's a non-bender, which means the Equalists are not against harming non-benders! And that means non-benders who support bending are not safe like the Satos (Well, at least one of them supports bending...) and Pema. We also know that some non-benders have bender relatives. If that's true, it means the Equalist are fine with attacking people just for being related to benders and not hating them for bending. Imagine what that must be like for non-benders with bender children...Either they'd abuse their sons and daughters for being "unnatural", or try (and possibly fail) to hide them from the Equalists. They're ideological revolutionaries. Non-benders opposing the Equalists would be the equivalent of class traitors. Now the class traitor is what is making things more bad for Pema, who is not only married to Tenzin, an airbender, he is also part of the Council in charge of Republic City. And she already has three airbending children, with a fourth child which may or not be a bender. This would potentially put a target on her for the Equalists.
Not only is Pema in danger of Equalist attacks, but so is her newly born child. Imagine the scenario, Pema, trying to escape an attack, picks up her child, and goes to run, but gets shocked, while still holding her child. The Equalists appear to have no qualms about this.
Another big horror is Tahno and his team's encounter with Amon and the Equalists when the arena gets stormed. The supposedly best team in the pro-bending world is taken down like novices by chi blockers, and Tahno is begging in vain for Amon to not take his bending away. If that is enough Nightmare Fuel for you, the fact that Tahno knows what's about to happen to him, and pleading for Amon not to do it, means that his message to the city's benders has gotten around. And, if Amon can do that to "the best pro-benders" (cheaters as they may have been), then any other pro-benders won't stand even a snowball's chance in hell.
We see a lot of Equalists being thrown down hundreds of feet from their zeppelins. We see few of them land. We don't see most of them getting up again.
Here's a big one. Amon says that he will basically de-bend the world. There are likely millions of benders in the world, and as far as we know Amon is the only person able to permanently strip someone of their bending. Realistically he cannot do this to everyone. One guess at what the other option is.
From what we've seen in Episode 10, the equalists aren't above pursuing children and even new born infants.
When the Equalists in the crowd began arming themselves, many of them pulled out electrical gloves from their popcorn. Because the Metalbenders must have searched them prior to entering, that must mean that they were likely smuggled in through the confections stand at the arena by the employees, likely communicating with signals of some sort.
Amon says that anyone can have the power of a chi-blocker with those gloves. What's to stop people from going out and stealing from, torturing, or even murdering Benders? It's even worse because we know not all Benders are rich and corrupted - street urchins and the like will probably be targeted first, just because they're easier to get at. And that's assuming they stick to benders; those gloves can certainly hurt non-benders, too, as we see later on. Any Equalist who's just a little less scrupulous than the rest could be as bad as they picture benders to be, or at least have power over other civilians.
Because of Amon's de-bending, Tahno's chances of employment are screwed. Not only has his career felt down the drain, he lost his sponsors, has no experience in anything else due to devoting time bending, and is likely treated badly because he is essentially the poster boy for Amon's uprising. More like Fridge Sadness, but it's rather gruesome how one can have issues getting a job when the only thing you were skilled at is gone. Now scale that up to where both non-benders and ex-benders are both competitively seeking work in the same fields, making it even more hell for the group Amon promised to make life better.
When Korra's riding up to Amon's zeppelin, we get a clear shot of the arena, and the surrounding area. Look at the police forces' airships and normal ships. Think about what likely happened to the officers on them...
How did Sato secretly build a massive cavern deep underground without anyone noticing? Just about the only probable explanation is that he employed some Earthbenders in secret. Now, what do you imagine happened to them when the work was done? And the way he uses Platinum as though it were steel. Considering the difficulties of mining platinum ore and extracting the metal, what to speak of working with it, it's quite likely he used Earthbenders to help him accelerate things. And Amon doesn't mind. Now about the fate of those earthbenders...
The fact that firebenders are responsible for the deaths of several family members of several characters might be funny, but it stops being when you consider that firebenders are probably the most hated group of people in the Avatarverse, being blamed for the 100 year war. It's clear Fantastic Racism is well present.
While Tenzin was knocked out in "And the Winner is...", it was arguably for reasons of necessity. Now that Hiroshi Sato was willing to send Tenzin to Amon, we can see that the equalists have absolutely no respect for the airbenders. It's also a strategic move to put the Avatar out of the picture. Even if they shipped Korra to him, he would send her back for reason back in episode 4. With Tenzin though, Hiroshi would figure Korra would lack an airbending teacher and not be able to pose a threat because she has to be a fully-realized Avatar to damage the mechs. Of course, this is from Sato's viewpoint and not Amon's, who is less crazy and more level-headed on which people should be debended first for the correct political move.
Seeing Asami shocking her own father with an electric gauntlet was awesome, but it's also a visual reminder that benders aren't the only ones vulnerable to it. All Hiroshi Sato has done is invent new and dangerous weapons. It may only be a matter of time before triads wielding lightning gauntlets and other advanced weapons replace bending gangs.
This is the first episode where the Previously On segment is not narrated by Shiro Shinobi. Considering he was attacked on-air at the end of the previous episode... However, he's back to narrating the episode after, so he wasn't that badly hurt.
If Sato's wife was killed 10 years ago, and he's been planning revenge since, then he must have met Amon a long while before the series started. Amon must have been underground for years until Sato's finacial and technical support began to give him his breakthroughs.
When Extremes Meet
When Tarrlok enacted laws to force a curfew on non-benders and restrict their rights, this has horrific implications in 2 ways: 1) The Air Acolytes and non-bending White Lotus guards are likely under them and 2) This makes it much, much easier for chi-blockers to pick targets since most the people out at night are going to be benders, meaning they don't have to think if the person walking around is one of them or not. And since the bending triads are benders, the curfew gives them more free reign because a non-bender citizen can't leave the house and inform others their neighbors are being abused.
When Tarrlok began enacting his new laws, he started with putting the power out in one of the areas. Given the amount of people being arrested in the affected area, it's possible there are districts solely for non-benders and benders to live in. If it isn't then it is possible he is likely considering the idea of area segregation to make it easier to enforce his laws.
Considering that there is no bending done other than by Korra and the cops there were almost certainly no benders in the crowd. What is less obvious but would probably be just as impactful is that it drives home how dependent on benders they are. Not only to firebenders apparently produce most or all of their electricity but a council of benders with its will enforced by a group of combat benders decides if they get any or not.
When Korra walks into Tarrlok's office, the first thing he asks is if all the other council members have left and then orders his secretary to do the same. And there's a waterfall behind him, which is obviously for more purposes than just office style. He expected Korra would come all along and he knew that she would fight if necessary. But it doesn't end there. Looking at his actions and the fact that he started the fight, he'd already made up his mind to take extreme measures against her long before Korra had even entered his office and planned to fight her all along. He even has a police car waiting in his office so he can drive her to wherever he's planned. His actions against the non-benders was actually a cover up - his real intention was to lay a well planned trap for Korra and put her out of action when she walked into his office, and she fell for it.
Bloodbending can make you go insane. Tarrlok has practiced bloodbending and is powerful enough to bloodbending even without the moon. And it appears Yakhone is so skilled he can bloodbend multiple people with his arms tied, probably using his face. It explains Tarrlok's power hungry and Ax-Crazy extremist tendencies and his actions against innocent people as well - he's hiding under a mask of a shrewd politician, but he's a psychopath underneath. The fact Yakone was implied to be very far over the Moral Event Horizon, and we've seen what a nut job Tarrlok is. The fact these two maniacs are capable of bloodbending any time they want and just what it's capable of, and you've got a lot of Fridge Horror.
By stopping Korra from freeing the innocent non-benders, Tarrlok just wants to project how helpless the Avatar has become in modern society, and how even she can't do anything above the (corrupt) law. It is a very far cry from the days of Avatars like Kyoshi, Yangchen or even Aang, who probably were considered God in Human Form. Korra is further disadvantaged because she is just a teenager who's been forced to live in a cocooned world for a long time and is still struggling to make her presence. The Unfortunate Implications are that more and more people will place their faith in Amon instead, because his plans definitely work.
Out of the Past
Why else has Aang's lifespan been reduced aside from being stuck in an iceberg? It appears Yakone might have inflicted permanent damage on Aang's organs. Possibly similar to Jet's case where Katara couldn't heal him. Remember how Sokka, Toph and Aang are the ones most definitely known to be dead? And Zuko is still alive? What if the level of bloodbending Yakone committed had permanent effects on them afterward that caused debilitating health issues later in life?
Remember how Toph was being bloodbended? She was levitated in the air, being unable to see while she was being levitated towards Yakone with the keys to unlock him.
Knowing what Tarrlok is really like makes the scene where he invites himself to dinner at Tenzin's home — sitting right next to his children — in the third episode suddenly really disturbing.
Tarrlok bloodbent everyone to the ground and they lost consciousness. How exactly? Probably by bending the blood downward thus forcing most of the blood out of their brains - thus blacking out. How... pleasant...
Bolin caving in the tunnel. If the pursuing Equalists didn't stop in time, what happened to them? Thanks to the dust and debris, we can never be sure. But we most definitely heard a crash...
You wonder how long Tarrlok was able to keep successfully manipulating the council to pass his resolutions,. The other 3 members look like they can't think for themselves, and Tenzin cannot do much against a majority vote, and he knows all of Tarrlok's decisions are furthering worsening the bender-muggle divide. Amon's claim that the council has been corrupt and bender centric would mean he's been implementing a large number of laws and measures like these offscreen for years together that only served to de-stabilize the city. We only got to see the most dramatic and explicit ones, but to have gained so much power over the city, he must have done many tiny things whose effect began to add up over the years.
Just how could he hope to achieve all that anyway? This is KORRA, the avatar. He'd have to continuously keep Korra bloodbended or keep her in the box to ensure she would be in his control. When you think about it, a much better plan would have been for Tarrlok to flee leaving Korra trapped in the box in his hideout. He'd be far away before anyone found her. Taking her with him was a very dumb idea, when you think about it.
A meta example; the Hate Dumb revolving around Mako's behavior. His behavior mirrors the Five Stages Of Loss. To put things in context, this is the socially accepted, even expected, behavior to display after having suffered the loss of a loved one. These five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. He goes into denial about Korra being gone, however briefly, than spirals into what everyone remembers, the anger. The third stage, bargaining, is more of an internal behavior, so we wouldn't have seen it if it did happen. Taking into account what debending is meant to be a metaphor for makes the Hate Dumb that much worse; this is a guy who did absolutely nothing outside of getting upset when his friend was kidnapped by a serial rapist.
Turning The Tide
Just how many innocent people were hurt or killed in the Equalists' all out attack on Republic City?
As heartwarming it was, Pema's new child shares his birthday with one of the worst terrorist attacks in Republic City's history. It's going to be rather eerie getting used to sharing the most important day of your life with that of a terrifying historic event.
When The Lieutenant in disguise was discussing exterminating a spider-rat problem, it wasn't meant just as a disguise dialogue, but stealthly saying that is how the Equalists are handling benders: pest control.
You wonder how the Equalists were able to cut out all telephone lines and radio stations at a moment's notice. It's the same way Amon is able to hijack the radio broadcasts. This technology is far too simple to allow hacking from remote systems. So the only other option is that there are Equalists working among the employees of the communications department, who not only broadcast all his pre-recorded messages from time to time, but also took out the communication lines as soon as they realized that the police department was sending out a wire to the armed forces for help. How else do you explain the timing?
There may be Equalists amongst the mechanics who fix the military and police equipment, which is why all the boats were found sabotaged. Which non-bender can be trusted? Even the window cleaners turn out to be Equalists in disguise. How were the other council members captured? Equalists among their chauffeurs? Or the cab drivers? Or kidnapped at their home. What about Sato's employees - there would a be a lot of them and he's the backbone of the industry. The only way to explain all this is that between the 17 years Aang passed away and Amon's attack, the city has turned into one Wretched Hive.
If they can destroy connections, what if they were able to wiretap and listen in on those calls? They may have had a good warning of the United Forces coming, explaining how there were numerous ships sunk in the promo.
There is good reason to believe that missiles and rockets have been invented by Sato, there are bombs and even planes. How do they shoot down airships without Kamikaze attacks? There are also hints of mechanical sabotage there as well. After all, Future industries built those airships.
So now we see that the Equalists can go low enough to try and attack children, pregnant women and even new born infants. Seriously that airship was sending in a net to catch a sky bison in mid air at that speed. Just think for a second what would happen if an aircraft or a helicopter crashed into a giant net in mid air. Oogi would have been violently thrown off balance and would have struggled (like Appa did in "Appa's lost days"), probably ending up hanging from his tail and rear legs because of the size of the net. Look at the chase scenes in ATLA. Everyone on board would have been seriously tossed about or fallen overboard. It would have been equivalent to a human being thrown out of a car into a catch fence. If Lin hadn't destroyed the net, Tenzin would have to do some violent maneuvering to dodge it like the ones in ATLA. And did we mention that those nets could be electrified too, if the mechs are any example? Pema's just come out of the ordeal of delivery and there is a new born baby on board, and they were planning to use a tazer on them too? Or worse, if they were only targeting those on board, they just intended to rip everyone out right out of the saddle and maybe electrocute them (airbenders and Lin could easily cut through nets). It's still brutal.
The concept of taking away the bending of an innocent person is bad enough. But consider: we've seen Lin use an earthbending technique similar to what Toph used to "see" with her feet. Being raised by Toph, it's highly likely that Lin was using the earthbending sense all her life. So when Amon took away her earthbending, he wasn't just taking away her ability to move rocks and metal with her mind. He was taking away one of her senses.
Tarrlok's and Noatak's backstory plays up much like a tale of child sexual abuse, with their abusive father bringing them along with him away in "hunting trips" away from their mother and making them perform acts that Tarrlok sees as degrading and viscerally wrong. Noatak ends up chillingly stoic and seemingly depressed, being the father's favoured plaything, and ends up committing said acts with less resistence... until he violently retaliates against the father and tries to run away. Years latter, as adults, they end doing the exact same acts they thought to be degrading, much like victims of child sexual abuse become child rapists themselves.
The reveal that Amon is not only a bloodbender, but an extremely powerful one, even more so than Tarrlok. Assume that the power hunger that he displayed is his true motivation, then realize had he succeeded, he would not only be the only bender left, but an extremely powerful Bloodbender with no qualms about backstabbing his own brother to make it happen.
The reveal of how Amon can debend people becomes all the more terrifying the longer you think about it: Now that we know that he's not an energybender, we know that whatever he does to a person is strictly biological. Think about it: when he de-bends a person, he grips both their forehead and the back of their neck (in otherwords, right where your spinal cord is). If he's not doing anything to the person's spirit, that means he's probably slicing up neurons in their brain. And it gets worse; how did he learn to do that without killing the person? How many "test subjects" did he go through before he could do it right?!
Tenzin's family being caught says a lot of things: Not only they were caught, but imagine the children feeling the effects of being electrocuted for the first time. Given that the Equalists had a mountain base, maybe that is why the airship left with Lin because they knew a message would be sent to a base to ambush the Sky Bison.
The finale makes Tarrlok bloodbending Korra and the others a lot worse to think about. The flashbacks showed that Tarrlok saying that he would never bloodbend another human. Either he had to break his principles to save his life or he had fallen down a slippery slope since Noatak left. Neither is a nice thought.
When Aang appears before Korra, he says that Avatars are open to their greatest change when they're at their lowest point. But what is Korra doing before they appear? Crying and sitting close to the edge of the cliff. Could Korra have been contemplating suicide? Moreover, her tear falls from beyond the edge of the cliff and into the sea below. How is that possible? If Korra is at the very edge of the cliff, looking over. Thematically it makes sense. We know from her nightmare in "A Voice in the Night" that she sees herself as being "nothing" without her bending. And furthermore, if her access to three of four elements is blocked, she can't carry out her duties as Avatar - and we know from past experience that having a missing or incapacitated Avatar is very bad news. She might well have thought that her duty to the world required suicide, to allow the world to have a fully realized Avatar in another sixteen or so years.
When Mako confesses his love to her, it only makes her feel worse. She's not able to reciprocate his affections until after her bending is restored. If she is having suicidal thoughts, this makes sense - she now knows just how badly he'll be hurt if she goes through with it.
To bring it around to the Chakra theory, the final chakra is Earthly Attachment. She was willing to give up literally everything if it meant the world got a Fully Realized Avatar. Earthly Attachment was nothing at that point...and thus her final chakra opened. Just as when Aang was willing to sacrifice Katara to save the world.
It gets worse—remember what Amon's power to debend others is an allegory for? And Mako only confesses his love after Korra experiences that. Her claims that he pities her become absolutely devastating, on top of her possible suicidal state.
Of course Mako telling her he loved her could have been what stopped her from jumping in the end. I mean think about it: from what she says to Mako she thinks she isn't anything if she isn't the Avatar. He literally says her status as the Avatar doesn't matter to him. He loves her. What would have happened if he hadn't said it? Worse yet, who would have found her?
One reason this makes sense is that if Korra died, the Avatar would be able to bend again. Also, when Korra tries to get "Tenzin" to go away, Aang tells her that she had been calling him. She didn't seem to be aware of it... unless she was considering joining him.
Not to mention, subconscious use of the Avatar State tends to happen when the Avatar's life is in danger, or when the Avatar is under extreme emotional stress, which is certainly the case here—it could be both.
Look back at when Jinora and Ikki give her romantic "advice". Korra expressed a level of agreement with Jinora's story (well, over Ikki's anyway). Jinora's story ended with the suicide of the main character. Korra had been thinking of suicide as a viable option for a while.
It must be noted that Korra's actually displaying several legitimate warning signs throughout the last few scenes — feelings of failure ("Amon got away"), hopelessness about the future (the best healer in the world can do nothing for her), loneliness (even in a room full of people who care about her, she can't let any of them in), and — most problematically — a sense that she's a burden to other people ("I'm not the Avatar anymore. You don't need to do me any favors"). That last bit makes it especially hard to swallow any interpretation in which Korra is rewarded for sacrificing herself; not only does Korra care far too little about her life for giving it up to be much of a sacrifice, but playing it off as such would come awfully close to glorifying suicide. Fortunately, this does not appear to be what the show is implying. Korra is only able to connect with Aang after she sits down, which implicitly implies that she made the decision not to jump. And deciding to live even without being the Avatar would be a much better demonstration that Korra has started to overcome her ego-driven tendencies, which was explained to be the source of her airbending block (and therefore, presumably, her spiritual block) to begin with.
Now that Korra's declassified the secret to Amon's bending severing, sooner or later, the techniques will eventually become wide spread to a point where any sufficiently skilled waterbender will have the ability to sever another benders bending. This won't be so bad as long as a half trained Avatar is around, but what about when the Avatar is still in infancy? There's a reason why bloodbending is illegal. Yakone was given a life sentence for twelve counts of it, but there's plenty of reason to believe he'd have gotten a life sentence for just one.
Amon didn't just escape with his brother in a boat, he escaped in a boat stocked with Equalist supplies. He may have wanted to start a new life, or said that, but why would he have a boat stocked with those supplies? If nothing else, it may have convinced Tarrlok that his brother hadn't changed and killing them both was the only way to stop it from happening again.
Amon's Ironic Death. He perishes due to electricity and fire, the same elements his made-up firebender assailant would have used on him and his parents. And Hoist by His Own Petard. Killed by the same equipment he had used to terrorize the city.
Speaking of Hoist by His Own Petard, let's not forget Hiroshi Sato, who was defeated by the very mechs he had developed. His own equipment finished Amon and Tarrlok in the end. Hiroshi was defeated by the pilot: His daughter, another 'creation' of his. How high can Hiroshi's petard be hoisted?
Amon/Noatak as a boy looks very similar in appearance to Korra as a young adult. And the result of learning bloodbending caused him to cross over to the dark side. Now think back to "When Extremes Meet" when Korra and Tarrlok fought, when she nearly killed him. Not only could this fight have caused Tarrlok to cross his personal Moral Event Horizon, but it might be seen as payback for what Amon/Noatak did to him as a boy. And on top of that, a subtle hint to what Korra could become if she ever stooped to that level again.
We see that Amon had all the Airbenders tied up before the crowd, he said he would rid the world of airbending. If what we've seen of Yakone (disregarding the wife's heritage) then disabling bending doesn't stop the persons involved from having bender children. So how would he get rid of Airbending? By public execution of course, of children none the less. Not to mention how that would scar the children and how the crowd would just stand there to watch.
The boat that Noatak and Tarrlok were in was apparently pretty far out into the ocean when Tarrlok decided to blow it up - no land was visible in any direction. This means that the entire world may never know that Amon is dead.
Now we know why bloodbending was made illegal: Hama was not the first bloodbender by a long shot. Yakhone at one point claims that his family has the strongest line of bloodbending genes in history, which means this art has been around for a long time and refined to an alarming degree. And why not? A basic fact of biology is all that is needed to know how it can be developed. At some point the gaang must have discovered that there were more bloodbenders out there than they had thought and the skill was in fact well and truly around. Also the presence of all these bender gangs like the Triads gives further weight to the idea that some of them had used bloodbending on their victims, prompting the city to make it illegal.
Tarrlok is the first to figure out that Amon's bending removal is bloodbending because he's the only one who's experienced it for more than a few seconds.
Book Two Episodes
The treatment of Tenzin's family at the Southern Airbending Temple. They were trying to be courteous, but it appears to be somewhat misplaced in a sense. First off, they didn't even pay attention to Kya and Bumi and even assumed that they were Tenzin's servants rather then his siblings. Secondly, the way they referred to his children as "The next generation of airbenders", it seemed like they weren't actually valuing them as human beings, but more as a charismatic endangered species that needed saving, like pandas. In a sense, they're treated more like breeding stock rather then children.
Alternative Fridge Horror regarding the Air Acolytes: They seem to treat the kids as messianic figures, rather than children. It's plain as day that the Air Acolytes practically worship actual airbenders to almost disturbing degree. It's Pema who they may see more as "breeding stock" than a person in her own right, even if they are very polite about it.
Varrick pointing out that he can't get his ships out of the ports leads to the realization that the entire Southern Water Tribe is cut off from the rest of the world. Now remember how Unlaq wanted to send the Avatar away too. If she left, that would mean a religious extremist would have near complete control over a hostile and well-armed populace, with no dissenting voices he trusts to steer him away from anything drastic.
Beginnings makes the finale of Book 2 of Avatar: The Last Airbender much more horrifying. If Katara didn't have the spirit oasis water, Raava would have been destroyed and Vaatu would have made the world much worse.
The Avatar Cycle is Wan/Raava's eternal cycle of rebirth and reincarnation to maintain balance in a world that they are responsible (through meddling/failure) for unbalancing. It is an eternal mission of atonement. There will never be "enough time". Conflict will always rear its head and the Avatar shall always be there to re-balance the world and suffer in every lifetime like Wan did/is. The Avatar can never find peace.
Consider the things that happened to people before Wan's time, and the fact that the only bastions of human civilization seem to be on the Lion Turtles which have a finite capacity. What do you think happened to other humans when the spirits came around before they fled to the Lion Turtles?
Lion Turtles in the background materials are said to have been hunted to extinction. Considering that Lion Turtles could grant bending powers, this makes a horrific sort of sense. By killing Lion Turtles in enemy held territory, you deny your opponents access to the ability to empower more of your enemies. We know that humans fought some brutal wars after the spirits left, considering Wan died on a battlefield.
When Wan meets his old friend Jaya again, he is informed that Crazy Yao died along the way, but Jaya seems hesitant about elaborating on his exact fate. Yao is about 30% tree and therefore terrified of fire, yet helped found a colony in the Spirit Wilds with a group of people who are highly aggressive and irresponsible with their powers... their fire powers. Jaya may very well have accidentally killed Crazy Yao through sheer idiocy! It's potentially worse than that. Jaya and his colony made it clear that they were indiscriminately attacking spirits. Crazy Yao may have been seen by them as part-spirit. You do the math.
The links to the Greek myth of Prometheus' Theft of Fire has been noted with Wan's stealing fire from the Lion Turtle. However, the parallels are a lot stronger, and more horrifying if you think about it. Specifically, the fact that Prometheus was later punished for his actions. Fire sparked the progress of civilization, in both the myth and in Beginnings. However, the progress of civilization is detrimental in both Greek myth and in the Avatar world, as in Greek myth it is seen as a weak age that fails to support the gods and in the Avatar world it fails to maintain the balance between the Spirit Realm and the physical. Prometheus was sentenced to eternal torture by being chained to a rock and having his liver eaten by an eagle, always healed every time to endure it again. Wan spends the rest of his life trying to restore balance, which humans have made impossible, and thus begins the Avatar cycle and their sole duty to restore balance in the world, a task which seems impossible to accomplish.
As of Episode 10, we are reunited with Wan Shi Tong, the Spirit of Knowledge. Jinora goes there to get information and casually mentions Dr. Zei from AtLA. And we are treated to the delightful sight of seeing his skeleton up against a bookshelf when Won Shi Tong says 'he's still here'. So humans physically trapped in the spirit world die. Not unexpected, but surprising how direct it was shown. The horror part is that Dr. Zei's body was pretty much in the same position as the last time we saw him, surrounded by books, and from the look of his corpse, he didn't die of old age; Won Shi Tong let the sand mummify him. This implies that at the end of Book One of TLA, the Ocean Spirit didn't just execute Zhao, it ripped his soul from his body before trapping him in the Fog of Lost Souls.
Vaatu is destroyed by Korra during the season finale, which means that Vaatu will now grow within Raava and all future Avatars for the next ten thousand years.
Book Three Episodes
A Breath of Fresh Air
People are frustrated with the spirits and vines as they are disrupting their livelihoods. Spirits aren't exactly friendly and neither are humans during times of great change. How long before things start turning out like they did during Wan's time?
If Bumi had not gained Air Bending and had fallen off the cliff, his poor family would have found his broken corpse at the bottom of that ravine.
Thanks to the vines, many roads are clogged, a lot of plumbing is busted, buildings are being overrun, and services are non-existent. It would be unsurprising if there are people who have had sick or older relatives die as a result of the vine-mangled infrastructure.
Air Nomads were a peaceful people who were strict pacifists. Now we have a man with airbending who leads a group of ruthless criminals who could bring the world to its knees. He lacks the self-restraint the Air Nomads had. Fridge Horror in the avatar trope pages have already covered the horrific things Air Bending could potentially do if a bender were so inclined. This man just gained airbending and is already proficient, taking out trained benders with ease. What about when he starts developing advanced airbending skills? Amon and the Equalists were high-trained anti-benders but could not handle air bending as no one is experienced in its ways due to its rarity. What chance do other people have?
Speaking about the Equalists, while watching Rebirth and seeing how Tenzin and Korra are trying to force the new airbenders to go with them. Yes, force. Since bending is so defined into the culture of the different nations that just because you can bend you're instantly a part of it. Amon's anti-bending philosophy doesn't seem so far-fetched, especially since it's Tenzin that's almost dragging people away from their families.
When looked at objectively, the conditions under which Zaheer's cohorts Ghazan and Ming-Hua were imprisoned by the White Lotus are utterly horrifying. Even ignoring that solitary confinement is a method of torture condemned by human rights organization worldwide, Ghazan was locked up under the sun in a cell with no apparent door, suggesting that nobody ever intended to let him out, and Ming-Hua was locked at the bottom of a volcanic pit, surrounded by constant heat and magma. It becomes worse when you consider the logistical issues of feeding a captive waterbender who can bend without using arms-we got a look at the dehumanizing treatment that the Fire Nation employed against normal waterbenders and earthbenders in ATLA. How much worse must they do in order to contain Ming-Hua before hydrating her?
The Earth Queen
Way back in the first series, Combustion Man was originally conceived as a sort of "Anti-Avatar", though it ended up being changed in the final draft. It seems like P'Li and the rest of the irregular benders are written to be just that.
Ba-Sing-Se. Seems some corruption never dies. The Dai-Li are, perhaps, even more disturbing in how they seem to have so easily slithered back into power in the past 70 years.
The Metal Clan
Zaheer staying at Air Temple Island. He was in the perfect spot to attack Tenzin's wife and kids. Thankfully, he was more interested in finding out where Korra was than revenge.
Suyin's response to Opal leaving can be chilling when you think about it. The shift in tone is subtle, but she is totally against Opal leaving. She claims that Opal, and by extension her family and all who live in Zaofu, can find everything they need in Zaofu, thus having no reason to leave, but it's eerily reminiscent to how Toph's parents acted towards the idea of their daughter leaving home. Zaofu is a city that bolsters innovation, creativity, and achieving one's highest potential through merit and hard work, which is great and all, but we haven't been told that that's what Opal wants, never mind what she needs. Opal's personality seems to suggest that she is stuck, inspirationally and physically. Her introduction, compared to her family's, is bland. While it introduces her as a sweet girl, it pales in comparison to introduction by performative metalbending, playing a self-invented metalbending sport, creating metal (postmodernist!) art sculptures, or creating innovative features for the entire city. What Opal needs is a life-changing, life-defining journey, much like Toph had. It's jarring as Suyin herself also had a life-defining journey and is keeping her daughter from having the same experience (unwitting or no). When you think about it, it's a vicious cycle of child rearing. Toph being unhappy with the way she was raised, raised her daughters to the opposite extreme. Suyin, being unhappy with her upbringing, again raised her children to the opposite extreme (though knowing what her mother went through, not to the extent of her grandparents). Fortunately, Su realizes this same thing in the next episode, and decides that maybe Opal does need a bit of freedom and lets her go to the Northern Air Temple. Yay!
Remember the police cars that P'Li aka Combustion Woman blasted with her third eye? Yeah, those guys did live, right? And how about the guys in the cars that ran into Gahzan's lava pool.
Just how many endangered species did the Earth Queen have hunted and killed just to satisfy her own taste of fine meats? And how many animals might have gone extinct because of her? She also employs poachers, meaning she's probably always done this in secret. One can only imagine the reaction she would have gotten from either Zuko or Aang, given their respective relations to near-extinct animals.note Zuko, with the Dragons that his family hunted to near-extinction but for the efforts of Iroh, and Aang, who had thought the Sky Bison completely extinct following the Air Genocide at the beginning of the War
The Earth Queen was probably spoiled rotten by her father, if you remember the kind of guy the Earth King was. He probably doted on her all the time, she always got what she wanted and never lacked any kind of love...then she grows up, quite possibly kills and eats his bear, and utterly runs Ba Sing Se into the ground. Poor Kuei.
The implications of Aiwei being The Mole. Just how big and powerful of an organisation is the Red Lotus, and how far have they infiltrated the world's governments? Korra herself realizes that this means she isn't safe anywhere until the Red Lotus is brought down. Made worse when you remember that the Red Lotus had been locked up for over a decade. Aiwei has been a mole for a very long time, right under Su's nose.
Aiwei has been mentally and spiritually thrown into the Fog of Lost Souls, while his physical body will presumably be stuck back at the inn, stuck there until someone does something about it. Worse yet, according to Katara, a person that is seperated from their body for too long dies and since nobody's coming for Aiwei...
It's long been speculated what an airbender could do if they had no scruples about killing. In this episode, Zaheer confirms much of those theories by bending the air right out of Hou-Ting's lungs and suffocating her with it. It hammers home how utterly destructive the Air Nomads could have been in times of war. It also gives a hint as to how Monk Gyatso killed all those firebenders he was sitting on back in the previous series. On the subject, this post explains the impact and implications of just how powerful airbending can really be.
The Earth Queen had a trapdoor right in front of her throne. How many unwanted guests and political rivals were disposed of that way?
How many people are going to get assaulted, raped or murdered with the upper ring taken down and looters free to pillage?
All of Ba Sing Se went up in flames, as shown in this episode. The Earth Queen's demise probably happened within that day considering it was daytime when Zaheer made the announcement and Ghazan tore down the wall. It was sunset by the time Bolin and Mako escaped from the prison. You know what this means? It means that in mere hours, the entire city of Ba Sing Se descended into absolute madness and pure chaos.
The attack on the Northern Air Temple takes on a whole new light when you realize that the original destruction of the Air Nomads probably looked a lot like this, but with even more children involved.
Enter the Void
We find out about P'Li's backstory, about how she was supposed to be trained as some unnamed warlord's killing machine, until Zaheer saved her. While she may be a villain, that must not be an easy thing to deal with as a child. Also, her unique power can only cause destruction, and this warlord took advantage of her, most likely.
Zaheer figured out how to fly really quickly right after he recited Guru Laghima's words. He also tried this before in the temple before P'Li came to talk to him. Maybe he figured out at that point that P'Li was his earthly tether and was planning to kill her?
Suyin's mind-blowing killing of P'li. Before she can get another combustion blast off, Suyin wraps her armor around the woman's head. The result is that the blast goes off in an enclosed space. The same blast that shatters rocks. On top of that, the only escape route for the energy and blast is the hole around her neck. It's been assumed that her body was riddled with skull fragments.
Venom Of The Red Lotus
Jinora stated the poison used on Korra by the Red Lotus was metallic in nature. There is only one metal that exist at normal temperatures as a liquid: mercury◊. No wonder Korra is in such bad condition even two weeks after those events: the Red Lotus poisoned her with an extremely high dose of mercury. If the producers accurately portray the effects of mercury poisoning, Korra might never get better or even become worse.
One of the effects of severe mercury poisoning is permanent damage of the nervous system. And it was injected right into Korra's legs and arms. Early in season one, we saw how devastating the loss of her bending was to her, and it's highly possible that her bending will be permanently affected.
Further verifying that the poison was mercury, it was absorbed through the skin. Mercury is poisonous to the touch, as it can easily be absorbed through the skin.
Another effect of mercury is insanity, which is why the Mad Hatter exists (they used mercury on their hats, which overtime drove them insane). What is the world gonna do with an insane Avatar?
For added horror, here and here are lists of most of the possible ailments that mercury poison can lead to. Seriously, Korra better be getting some good treatment soon.
During the end, she's crying despite the general happiness of the ceremony, lethargic, and generally seems worn down. Emotional exhaustion is one thing, but all of those could be treated as symptoms of mercury poisoning.
That all being said, one of the reasons why mercury poisoning is so damaging is because of how hard it is to extract. Suyin managed to pull out at least the majority of it, so while the damage is done, it shouldn't progress further.
While the hallucination of Ming-Hua shifting into Vaatu is terrifying on its own, it becomes all the more frightening when one realizes that it's most likely not a hallucination at all. Remember how the cycle of Raava and Vaatu operates? When one is defeated, they are slowly reborn through the other. Now, think about how Vaatu gains strength, how he draws power from chaos and turmoil. In all reality, the hallucination of Ming-Hua shifting into Vaatu is the Spirit of Chaos reaching across his current imprisonment within Raava through the hallucinations to taunt Korra. As she grows weaker and the world descends further into chaos with the machinations of the Red Lotus, his strength grows and grows, until he is eventually free once more.
When Korra thought she couldn't be the Avatar anymore back in Book 1, she became suicidal, and she only lost three of her four elements. This time, the mercury poisoning has taken a serious toll on her body, which is as good as not being able to bend period, and left her emotionally vulnerable by making her question whether or not there even needs to be an Avatar. On top of that, depression and suicidal thoughts are side effects of mercury poisoning. Seriously, the others really shouldn't leave her alone until she's 100% mentally recuperated, which is probably going to be a while.
As the poison was metal, it implies that the benders who administered it to Korra were Metalbenders. Now think back to the first known collaborator with Zaheer; Aiwei, who was also a Metalbender. Since Suyin now has no truthseer in her city and that it's known that Metalbenders collaborated with the Red Lotus, she's going to have some major trust issues with her own city's citizens for a long time coming.
Suddenly, the Red Lotus's plans for Korra becomes downright terrifying. They wanted to abduct Child!Korra and raise into a mindless puppet that would destroy all world leaders one day. And after all that was over, the Red Lotus would kill Korra because she's the Avatar, which in some ways is technically a world leader. And, the Red Lotus!Korra would've most likely accepted her fate.
As Jinora and the new Airbenders demonstrate, enough airbenders can generate tornadoes, much easier than benders of the other elements could match with earthquakes, firestorms or tidal waves and without the Elemental Baggage. And these are relatively untrained airbenders with the exception of Jinora and her siblings; can you even imagine what a similar-sized group of Airbending masters could do? Sozin needed that comet for his armies to stand against the Air Nomads, much less wipe them out. Between this and Zaheer's talent for asphyxiation it's like Book 3 is all about the Ascended Fridge Horror of airbeinding. Which also explains why he wiped them out. It was too dangerous to let any of them live.
"Once change begins, it cannot be stopped, even by the Avatar," Zaheer claimed a few episodes ago. The Avatar wasn't able to stop the changes that the Red Lotus wrought upon the Earth Kingdom, leading to its fall. The Avatar also wasn't even able to stop the very same people that tried to kill her, seeing as how it was her teammates and the new Airbenders to do so. Finally, perhaps the biggest change that the Avatar wasn't able to stop is that the new Air Nation is basically going to fulfill the role of the Avatar, maintaining balance in service and sacrifice for her as she recovers. Zaheer was right. The Avatar wasn't able to really stop all those changes, which really just adds onto how useless and broken she feels by the end, confirming the very same fears she faced when she hallucinated the previous Big Bad villains.