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Book One: Air
- The episode where the Mecha Tanks were introduced. Having established that metalbending doesn't work and they're too strong to use cables on.
You'd Expect: Lin and her police would use earthbending (which is pretty much a prerequisite for metalbending) to at the very least upset the balance of the things and make it easier to pull them over.
Instead: They continue to try and overpower the mechas with the cables and get their asses kicked because of it.
- Hiroshi Sato is unfortunate enough to have his wife murdered by a firebender a while before the events of the show.
You'd Expect: That after a period of several years, Hiroshi would realise that a few benders abusing their power doesn't mean they all do. Hell, at one point his daughter dates a firebender who's gone through the exact same thing he has.
Instead: Hiroshi decides that all benders are evil, and throws his lot in with the Equalists, ultimately destroying his relationship with his daughter. And after the anti-bending revolution fails, Hiroshi is imprisoned, the Sato name is badly tarnished from his ties to the Equalists and many investors refuse to do business with Sato Industries, forcing his daughter to try and pick up the pieces.
- Councilman Tarrlok wants to rule Republic City, but the Equalists - an organization of Badass Normal revolutionaries seeking to get rid of bending - are causing a lot of trouble.
You'd Expect: Tarrlok to put aside his personal ambitions for the time being and focus on ending the Equalist threat. To that end, he should work on mending his relationship with Korra, and avoid doing things that would antagonize the non-bender population of the city, since logically, they're the Equalists' main support base.
Instead: Tarrlok acts like a Jerkass towards Korra, bitches at her and her friends when they stop an Equalist breakout attempt before he could, and introduces laws that target non-benders as a whole. Then, for no apparent reason, he cuts off power to a non-bender part of the city so that he has an excuse to arrest the residents when they try to protest against this. You could argue that any retaliation he got from the Equalists was self-inflicted.
Bonus Stupidity: During the episode in which Tarrlok does all of the above, he's shown to be in a very good position: The entire Republic City Council aside from Tenzin are practically his Yes-People, the new Chief of Police is loyal to him, Korra has no authority over him, and Tenzin lacks the charisma to present any serious opposition. He's practically already won by this point!
- Episode 10: Lin is fighting the Equalists using a combination of earth and metal bending. Cue the arrival of the Lieutenant, a guy she's met before and knows for a fact has an electric current running through his kali sticks.
You'd Expect: She would use earthbending or grab his ankle with her cables to take him out then and there.
Instead: She uses her cables to grab his sticks with metalbending, getting herself electrocuted in the process.
- Amon's supposed backstory is that a Firebender killed his parents and permanently scarred his face, so he always wears a mask.
You'd Expect: He'd actually burn his face to commit to what he was going to have to deal with his whole life, or explain that a waterbender healed his scars, or not even bothered saying his face was scarred, or literally anything other than what he actually does.
Or Better Yet: He could use an abridged version of his actual backstory, e.g. "I had an abusive waterbender for a father." It would demonize benders just as much as his other story, and he wouldn't have to worry about it being disproven.
Instead: He applies fake scars with water-soluble makeup. If even the slightest bit of water gets on/near his face, he'd have to out himself as a waterbender to avoid it, and/or be outed as a fraud. All of these things happen.
- Going on this, Korra and Mako find out from a captive Tarrlok all this backstory, which proves that Amon is a fraud and a Hypocrite.
You'd Expect: They would take the depowered Tarrlok with them when they crash the Equalist rally so that their story has more credibility, and that they have a backup plan when their plan fails. It's not like Tarrlok is a threat now since he has lost his bending.
Instead: Korra and Mako do none of this. The crowd doesn't believe Korra's words, especially when Amon reveals his "scarred" face, and before Mako can plan a getaway Amon reveals that he's going to de-bend Tenzin and his children, which forces Korra and Mako to stay and rescue them.
- Korra and Mako freed Tenzin and his family. Korra tells them to run and she create a diversion to draw Amon away.
You'd Expect: Knowing that he is a dangerous psychic bloodbender, Korra raise many chunks of earth to block Amon's path, making it impossible for him to follow.
Instead: Korra set the floor on fire which dissipate a few seconds later. Amon has no trouble passing and finds Korra easily.
- The Lieutenant walks in on Amon bloodbending Mako and Korra, proving he's been spouting lies to the Equalists.
You'd Expect: The Lieutenant to alert the other Equalists of Amon's bloodbending status, or at the very least perform a sneak attack on him.
Instead: He charges head on, and gets pathetically thrown into a wall.
Book Two: Spirits
- The past. Tonraq, then a general of the Northern Water Tribe, is pursuing a horde of barbarians across the tundra. He eventually manages to chase them into a forest sacred to the Northern tribe.
You'd Expect: That Tonraq would try and come up with a way of catching the barbarians without destroying holy ground, lest it damage his reputation and prospects.
Instead: He goes in guns blazing (metaphorically speaking), and pretty much destroys the area thus enraging the spirits and resulting in them coming to attack the city. He ends up banished.
- When Wan sees Raava and Vaatu fighting, Vaatu (who is the evil spirit, but Wan doesn't know that) tells Wan that Raava has been bullying him and needs help.
You'd Expect: Raava would immediately contradict him and tell Wan that Vaatu is evil and she's trying to stop him.
Instead: She tells Wan not to interfere as it doesn't involve him and Wan frees Vaatu thinking he's helping.
- Unalaq's entire plan involves bonding with Korra in order to have her open both spirit portals, something only the Avatar can do. She's already accepted him as a trusted teacher, and has opened the Southern spirit portal on his advice. All he needs is to have her open the Northern Portal before the upcoming Harmonic Convergence, and Unalaq's plan is complete.
You'd Expect: That since Unalaq's plan can only succeed with the Avatar's cooperation, he would make it his top priority to keep Korra on his side.
Instead: Unalaq invades her home, has her parents arrested, and her father sentenced to life imprisonment for a crime he didn't commit, solely because he can't stand the idea of his older brother being happy or successful. Unsurprisingly, this turns Korra against him.
Result: Unalaq still manages to force Korra to open the Northern Portal, but only because he gets incredibly lucky.
- Shortly after the Northern Water Tribe occupies the South, Tonraq is put on trial for attempting to kidnap Unalaq. Korra, who stopped the kidnapping, knows that he's innocent. As the trial plays out it becomes obvious that it's biased against Tonraq; Korra is only asked yes or no questions that implicate him during her testimony, and Tonraq isn't invited to give his side of the story, as far as we see. Eventually, Tonraq is declared guilty and sentenced to death.
You'd Expect: Korra to yell "I was there! My father wasn't among the kidnappers!" or something along those lines. She has the right to be emotional given the circumstances, but there's no reason she can't remain rational as well. Alternatively, one of the characters more versed in legal affairs could point out how unfair the trial is.
Instead: As soon as the sentence is handed down, Korra accuses the judge of being corrupt and threatens to kill him, solely because he didn't give a verdict she wanted. The fact that the judge does turn out to be corrupt is besides the point, as Korra had no idea of this at the time.
- Both Water Tribes are at each other's throats as a result of the above events, cumilating in the bombing of the Southern Water Tribe Cultural Center in Republic City. Everyone assumes that the Northern Water Tribe was responsible, save for Mako, who notices that one of the bombers was a Firebender. He tries to tell Korra, Lin and the detectives in charge of the case about his suspicions.
You'd Expect: It to occur to all of the above that Mako might be onto something. At the very least, they should hear him out and take his information into account, even if they're not convinced.
Instead: Korra and the detectives continue to insist that the Northern Water Tribe's responsible, the former seemingly having no idea of the concept of "innocent until proven guilty", and the latter being lazy and borderline incompetent. Lin meanwhile refuses to even listen to Mako, on the basis that he's not an official detective. Yes, you read that right; the fucking Chief of Police blatantly ignores witness testimony and input from someone she knows firsthand is trustworthy and capable, solely because he doesn't have a specific job.
Result: With Mako the only one actively working against him, the criminal is able to operate quite freely, steal control of Future Industries and frame Mako when he gets too close to the truth. He's only stopped because Mako had had the sense to warn his brother that something might go down at President Raiko's next public appearance. One has to wonder how Lin managed to keep her position after the whole debacle was resolved.
- After waiting for a week or two and having received no word of Korra's reinforcements to help take back the Southern Water Tribe, Tonraq decides to fight back and retake their homeland.
You'd Expect: Tonraq to remember that his side is outnumbered and outmatched, and use tactics suitable for such a force, such as sabotaging Unalaq's mecha tanks and ships, or stealing/spoiling their food rations.
Instead: He charges the Northern Water Tribe army in broad daylight with the few soldiers that are loyal to him.
Result: While they put up a good fight, many Southern Tribe soldiers are either killed or seriously injured, and Tonraq is captured by Unalaq.
- Team Avatar and their allies discover that Unalaq is trying to free Vaatu and fuse with him, in order to become a "Dark Avatar". Korra asks President Raiko for the aid of the Republic City military to help her fight past Unalaq's army and close the Southern Portal so that Vaatu can't escape.
You'd Expect: President Raiko to recognize that the world will be royally screwed if Vaatu escapes, and that he should give Korra all the help she needs. Or, if he wants to hedge his bets, send some of the military along, and keep some to protect Republic City if the shit hits the fan.
Instead: Raiko decides to give Korra no help whatsoever, figuring that if something bad happens, he'll need the whole military to protect the city. Because he can definitely defeat a world-destroying Eldritch Abomination with battleships.
Result: Vaatu escapes. It turns out battleships are basically useless against an Eldritch Abomination, and both the military and the city get a thorough asskicking until Korra saves the day.
- Following an unsuccessful attempt to seal the Southern spirit portal from within the Spirit World, Jinora's spirit is lost somewhere in the Spirit World, and if it's not reuinited with her body, she will die. However, Harmonic Convergence is happening, Vaatu is about to be released from his prison, and he plans to usher in an era of darkness for the next ten thousand years with Unalaq as the Dark Avatar. Time is short and the heroes' numbers are small.
You'd Expect: That Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi would help Korra, Mako, and Bolin deal with the more immediate and large-scale threat that Vaatu and Unalaq represent. Yes, Jinora needs help, but saving her only to have her live in an age of darkness isn't going to do her any favors, and when all is settled, they'll at least have more people around to help search the Spirit World with them.
Instead: They go on a wild goose chase looking for her spirit, having not the foggiest idea where to even start, and leaving Korra, Mako, and Bolin to fend for themselves.
Result: They find Jinora, but Team Avatar is overpowered, Vaatu is freed and merges with Unalaq, Raava is taken out of Korra and killed, her connection with all the previous Avatars is lost forever, and the Dark Avatar launches an attack on Republic City.
- The season finale has Mako, Tenzin, Kya, Bolin and Bumi making a last stand against a huge horde of hostile spirits. Despite holding their own and later being backed up by two waterbenders (former foes Desna and Eska), they're slowly forced to retreat towards a giant tree with a large hollow space inside.
You'd Expect: Bolin and the three waterbenders, the people whose bending abilities are the most limited by their immediate environment, to move away from the tree and attack the spirit horde on its flanks, from terrain they can bend on.
Instead: The four of them retreat into the tree, where there's no earth or water for them to use! As a result, Mako and Tenzin are the only ones fighting from that point on, with the other five (Bumi is a Badass Normal) unable to help them.
Book Three: Change
- The Krew, along with Tenzin, Jinora and Bumi, are travelling through the Earth Kingdom looking for the new airbenders. During their travels, they recruit an orphan kid called Kai, and learn that he was previously a thief. While travelling, Kai steals Bumi's wallet, seemingly as a way of playing around, but he initially refuses to give it back.
You'd Expect: That after this incident, the Krew would figure out that Kai has not abandoned his old habits, and that someone would take him aside to warn him, in no uncertain terms, that he will be severely punished if he ever steals again. It also wouldn't hurt to keep a very close eye on the kid.
Instead: They do absolutely none of the above. Kai subsequently abandons the group, goes on a robbing spree in Ba Sing Se, strands Mako and Bolin in the Lower Ring, and ultimately gets himself captured by the local Secret Police.
- Zuko finds out that Zaheer has become an airbender as a result of Harmonic Convergence, and used his newfound gift to escape from jail and rescue his friends Ghazan and Ming-Hua, both of whom are very skilled benders. Zuko guesses rightly that the trio will go to the North Pole to try and rescue P'li, the last member of their old group and Zaheer's girlfriend. To stop them, he assembles a team consisting of himself, Tonraq, Desna and Eska, to stand guard over P'li's prison.
You'd Expect: That any of the people involved would bring along support of some kind. After all, Desna and Eska are joint chiefs of the Northern Water Tribe, Tonraq's chief of the Southern Water Tribe, Zuko's the father of the current Fire Lord, and both Tonraq and Zuko have connections to the White Lotus.
Instead: The four of them go it alone, with only two White Lotus guards and Zuko's pet dragon backing them up. Zaheer, Ghazan and Ming-Hua are subsequently able to spring P'li with little effort.
- The past. After the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Toph went on to have two children, Lin and Suyin Beifong. Not wanting to be like her own overprotective parents, she gives the two quite a lot of freedom while they're growing up. Unfortunately, this has the side effect of leaving Suyin attention-starved, resulting in her turning into a delinquent. This doesn't do Lin any favors either and results in Lin trying to earn Toph's respect by becoming a Metal Bending Police Officer herself.
You'd Expect: That as soon as it became clear Suyin was going onto the wrong path - the first time she skipped school, for example - Toph would try and do something to get her off it. If she's not sure what to do, she could talk to the other old members of the Gaang - three of whom have also become parents at this point - for advice. And while she's at it, maybe ask for advice about how to approach Lin and her feelings.
Instead: From what we see and hear, Toph seemingly takes no action to sort her wayward daughter out and never gives her other daughter the approval she seeksnote . She just expects everything to somehow work out in her favor.
End result: Suyin becomes a getaway driver for a gang of criminals and gets arrested, forcing Toph to kick Suyin out of the city and cover up the crime, lest it compromise her position as Republic City's police chief. This also completely destroys Toph and Suyin's relationships with Lin, who got scarred breaking up the robbery and becomes completely alienated and estranged from both of them for over 30 years.
- Toph is angry at both of the girls for the arrest. Suyin is in Never My Fault mode despite the fact that she was a getaway driver and assaulted an officer of the law. Lin gets annoyed because she still is wounded from her sister attacking her and because, as she points out, she was just doing her job. Toph is worried because as chief of police she can't have a delinquent daughter.
You'd Expect: Toph would put no one above the law, not even her daughter, but keep the arrest out of the news and minimize the scandal. Suyin is only a teenager after all, and when Toph was younger than Suyin she was breaking the rules on a regular basis. A night in jail might curb Suyin's rebellious tendencies, and pacify an irate but Reasonable Authority Figure Lin.
Instead: Toph tears up Suyin's arrest warrant and exiles her to the girls' grandparents, the Bei Fongs, in the Earth Kingdom. Lin scathingly points out that this makes Suyin a Karma Houdini in that while Su will be with her strict grandparents, she's avoiding the legal consequences. Toph's coverup ends up being All for Nothing anyway since she retires after getting burned out from failing to end crime in Republic City, and Lin continually feels embittered that she threw her life away trying to please her mother as a police officer, and her mother wasn't worth pleasing.
- Years after the above events, Suyin matures considerably and tries to reconcile with Lin, but her older sister refuses to communicate with her, still blaming her for the Beifong family being torn apart. In the present day, Lin coincidentally ends up in Suyin's city of Zaofu, finally providing Suyin with the opportunity to talk to her sister face to face. Lin still refuses to speak to her sister.
You'd Expect: That Suyin's first course of action would be to apologise to Lin for her past actions, and perhaps offer to discuss how their relationship went so badly wrong.
Instead: Suyin tries to pretend that the events of the past never happened, and actually gets shirty at Lin for not getting back in contact with her and Toph, because how dare Lin be reluctant to talk to a spoilt brat and the mother who enabled her. She also seems to think that being the founder of a prosperous city and the matriarch of a big happy family will make Lin see her as a changed person, rather than as a Karma Houdini.
Also: She decides to press Lin's Berserk Button by implying that her attitude is the reason her relationship with Tenzin failed, which directly leads to a brawl breaking out between the two sisters. After this, Suyin FINALLY decides to apologise to Lin for her behaviour.
- Zaheer and company have a mole within Zaofu who helps smuggle them into the city so that they can try and kidnap Korra. They fail, and an investigation into how they got in is launched, prompting the mole to try and cover things up by framing someone else within Zaofu.
You'd Expect: That the mole would make sure to frame someone who theoretically could have been working with the Red Lotus.
Instead: The mole picks a guard who's too young to have been in contact with Zaheer before his 14 year imprisonment. The Krew soon figure out what's going on, and ultimately expose the mole.
- Ba Sing Se is in the middle of a riot after the Earth Queen's death. Entire buildings are being put to flame. Mako and Bolin's extensive family wants to leave but dear old granny doesn't want to leave the home she raised her family in, even as it burns to the ground.
You'd Think: They would get the hell outta there, forcing her to come with them (which is what Bolin ends up doing).
Instead: They just sit there, waiting to die because some senile old bag doesn't want to leave.note
Book Four: Balance
- Following the death of the Earth Queen, the Earth Kingdom has fallen into chaos, and Suyin is called upon to restore order and stability. Suyin is reluctant to do so, however, since she feels that it would be the same as her conquering the kingdom, something she doesn't want to do.
You'd Expect: Suyin to figure out that stabilising the kingdom wouldn't necessarily mean taking it by force. Hell, all she needs to do is get rid of the roving bandit gangs and provide supplies for the impoverished settlements. Once those problems are sorted and Prince Wu is ready to rule, she can just step back and let him take the reins.
Instead: Suyin doesn't consider doing anything like this, and does absolutely nothing to help the Earth Kingdom. This leads to one of her captains defecting, turning one of Suyin's sons and her security force against her, building up her own army, seizing the kingdom from Wu, and becoming a power-hungry tyrant while also tossing Suyin and the bulk of her family in jail.
- "Enemy at the Gates": Kuvira has just threatened to take Zaofu by force, in response to the city refusing to join the Earth Empire. Shortly after the scene in question, Bolin, now a member of her inner circle, asks Kuvira why she insists on adding Zaofu to the Earth Empire, since the former Earth Kingdom would still be united without it.
You'd Expect: Kuvira to give the same reason she'll give Korra in the next episode: she wants to use Zaofu's vast material wealth and superior technology in ways that benefit the Earth Empire as a whole. This would provide him with an understandable reason, and might make him more willing to co-operate.
Instead: She immediately gets aggressive with Bolin, angrily questioning his loyalty and threatening to send him to a re-education camp, prompting Bolin to defect.
- Later on, Suyin asks Korra to destroy Kuvira's army, but Korra insists on trying to be diplomatic first, remembering that whenever she resorted to violent measures in the past, it generally made the situation worse.
You'd Expect: If nothing else, Su would at least humor Korra. She knows Korra's going to fail, no harm in letting her.
Instead: Suyin doesn't even wait for Korra to come back before taking off on a mission to assassinate Kuvira, which Kuvira knew would happen and is well-prepared for. Su thus gets herself and her sons captured. On top of that, Korra negotiated a temporary truce with Kuvira, which Su has now ignorantly violated, giving Kuvira a Pretext for War and maintaining her Villain with Good Publicity status. The end result? Korra ends up dueling Kuvira and losing badly, Su's entire family save Opal is arrested, and Zaofu is taken over by Kuvira who promptly orders the domes dismantled.
- Later on, Suyin asks Korra to destroy Kuvira's army, but Korra insists on trying to be diplomatic first, remembering that whenever she resorted to violent measures in the past, it generally made the situation worse.
- In "The Battle Of Zaofu", Kuvira faces off against Korra in a one-on-one duel for the fate of Zaofu and the fight is going most decidedly in her favor as Korra is not up to full strength.
You'd Expect: Kuvira to keep her mouth shut and simply focus on the fight she is obviously going to win.
Instead: Kuvira's ego takes control of her common sense and she actually goads Korra into using the Avatar State.
Result: Korra eventually does just that and the only thing that prevented Kuvira from quite literally being a stain on the ground was a vision of Dark Korra. Thus Kuvira only won by sheer dumb luck.
For Added Points: Had Kuvira lost the fight, not only would she be forced to give up all claim to Zaofu, but would have been humiliated in front of her troops.
- In "Operation Beifong", Bolin has been duped into believing that Kuvira's cause is what's right for the world, and joined her inner circle, driving a rift between him and his friends and family, particularly his girlfriend, Opal. Only after catching wind of Kuvira's labor camps does he realize that she is more of a tyrant than she let on, and he, Varrick, and several prisoners of war make an escape. While Team Avatar is glad to have him back, Opal is not so warm, considering her family has been imprisoned.
You'd Expect: Given what he's experienced beforehand, Bolin would apologize for not listening to her and offer everything he has to fight against Kuvira and set things right.
Instead: He thinks all it takes to get back in Opal's good graces is a goofy picnic date as if nothing happened, which offends Opal even further. Only after that dumb display does he vow to help fix things.
- Lin and Toph team up to rescue Suyin and her family from Kuvira. They've been estranged for a number of reasons, one being that Toph is a really brusque person.
You'd Expect: Toph to remember why her eldest daughter didn't speak to her, and tone back on her brusque attitude.
Instead: Toph doesn't. Lin hits her Rage Breaking Point while trying to find out more about her father, and tells her mother that after they rescue Suyin they are done. Fortunately they manage to part on good terms, but Toph came pretty close to repeating her past mistakes.