The Legend of Korra Newbie Recap: “A Leaf In the Wind”

Originally posted on The Mary Sue.

In the second episode of The Legend of Korra we’re introduced to two more main characters, one of whom is the spiky-haired brooder Mako. I have four seasons left with this asshole?

But first: Korra’s airbending training has begun. Tenzin has his work cut out for him, because not only has Korra never been able to airbend before, she’s pretty much the least likely airbender ever. Hot-headed, no patience, and she just wants to break curfew and go to a pro-bending match over on the mainland.

Part of her training involves this spinning… panel… thing that encourages the use of smooth, flowing spiral motion. It’s how how Aang always went on the defense during his fight, avoiding blows instead of doling them out. Korra is… not great at it.

leaf on the wind

Later, after she tries to force herself to airbend and just fireblasts a newspaper picture of Lin Beifong instead (Korra, chill on Lin, she was just doing her job), Korra scampers off to a guard tower to listen to the pro-bending match on the radio. It’s not technically against house rules, but Tenzin dings her for it anyway. The next day during meditation lessons she goes off on him about being a hypocrite who’s restricting her freedom. None of this is working, meditation is bullshit, ARRRGH ARRRRGH ANGRY TEENAGER.

That night, Korra sneaks off of Tenzin’s island (I’m noticing a theme) and swims to the bright lights of Republic City, where she ends up in the pro-bending arena. There, she meets two of the athletes: The flirty, friendly, but kind of dumb Bolin (physical incarnation of a golden retriever) and his brother Mako, aka that love triangle guy I know about.

Mako is… sigh.

That’s not a happy dreamy sigh, though I think that’s what the writers were going for. It’s a “This is the guy? This spiky-haired fuck? Really?” sigh. Bolin’s friendly to Korra, but Mako’s a jackass to this girl he just met because he immediately assumes he’s one of Bolin’s groupies. (So what if she is, Mako? Be friendly to the groupies.) I know he turns into a main character, and I have four seasons left with him, so I’m going to try and cut him some slack and not decide I hate the dude instantly, but it’s not a good start. Maybe he’ll turn around.

We’re treated to a pro-bending match, with the Fire Ferrets (Mako, Bolin, and Some Dude) up against the Tigerdillos (I’m on their side because of the name). It’s a pretty cool sport, but I still feel like we didn’t need five minutes of it. But I just watched the ATLA finale a few weeks ago, so my standards for bending fight scenes are still really high.

Mako manages to pull out an upset victory against the Tigerdillos after his teammates are thrown out of the ring, which causes Korra to go all “Hey boy heyyyyyy.” Please. No. I get that “romantically inexperienced girl falls for brooding bad boy who’s really rude to her but maybe she can chaaaaange hiiiiiiim” is a time-honored teen drama trope, and also that I’m not exactly the target audience here, but… can we not go in that direction, please? Can we do a thing that’s not that?

After the match, Korra asks Bolin to show her some pro-bending tricks, which leads to Bolin and Mako figuring out she’s the Avatar. Bolin goes full fangirl, while Mako stands in the corner being pointedly unimpressed like he’s trying to be a cool anime hero or some shit. I do, however, appreciate his eyebrow game:

mako brows

The next day, back at the island, Korra continues to be an awful airbender on top of blowing up at Tenzin and accusing him of being a bad teacher. She sneaks off to Republic City again, this time joining Mako and Bolin’s team for the championship match after their teammate punks out on them. Katara’s not particularly good at pro-bending, a fact that Mako’s eager to point out despite the fact that she’s known about the sport for all of 24 hours and has had no opportunity to learn the rules. She accidentally earthbends, outing her as the Avatar; listening to a shocked radio announcer relate a play-by-play of the match, Tenzin discovers that his charge has gone AWOL. He goes to the arena and confronts her, and Korra loses it, saying she what she really needs to learn is modern fighting styles, not hippie-dippie spiral nonsense.

However, during the final match, that hippie-dippie spiral nonsense finally clicks, like Tenzin said it would, and she ends up leading her team to victory. Mako, begrudgingly impressed, admits that Korra is a natural. The next day, Korra and Tenzin apologize to each other–Korra for taking her frustrations out on Tenzin, Tenzin for being impatient and for not realizing that different people learn different ways.

We end the episode with Mako sitting on the top of the arena (he and Bolin live in the attic), staring across the water at the island like a quasi-cool brooding wannabe Bronte hero jackass with spiked hair.

mako

KILL ME.

All told, I didn’t love this episode: It wasn’t awful, and I think I’ll like Bolin, but Mako… yeeeeeahhhhh. And the neverending pro-bending scene. And, to be honest, HEIGHTENED EMOTIONS YELLING ALL THE TIME KORRA, which is something I hope the show cools off on. I get that it’s a realistic portrayal of how teenagers behave, and fuck, I had my share of obnoxious moments too, but there’s a reason I don’t particularly relish being around teenagers now.

On balance, though, I’m still liking it. And I had my first “OMG I LOVE THIS CHARACTER. MY CHILD. MY CHILD” moment, as I previously did with Tigh (BSG) and Azula (ATLA). JINORA:

jinora

I have no clue how big a role the eldest (I assume?) of Tenzin’s three children is going to have in the show–I suspect not much, as she’s more ATLA age–but I will relish every moment she’s standing off to the side being a quietly competent bookworm and judging everyone else’s immaturity.

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7 thoughts on “The Legend of Korra Newbie Recap: “A Leaf In the Wind”

  1. Somepersonfromtheinternet says:

    Book 1 and 2 of Korra are popularly regarded as the weakest (Book 1 is debatable but 2 isn´t), so keep that in mind, prepare for what´s coming and know it will pay off at the end of the day.

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  2. Nats says:

    I posted on Mary Sue as well, but I’ll say it here too, because I check here first for your updates; I’d give Mako some slack. Also hold on to Jinora, hold on to her hard. ❤

    Like

  3. debbie says:

    Jinora is probably my favorite character in a show of great characters. My favorite moment in all of Korra is the end of 3 x 13. i’ll say no more 🙂

    Bolin is delightful to me and Mako is ok, tho it is beyond me how 2 very different women, Korra and Asami, who are both awesome, fell for him. He is just boring. Surely they could do better…oh, wait….

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  4. Aeryl says:

    Mako is not helped by being voiced by Bud Bundy.

    It’s interesting how consistent the writers are from ATLA to here. In ATLA, Aang had difficulty learning Earthbending, in “Bitter Work” because it was against his nature. This is echoed by Roku in “The Firelord and the Avatar”, where he states learning waterbending was “bitter work”.

    Here, Korra, despite being a born waterbender with forms that relate more closely to airbending, is of a hot headed, aggressive and confrontational temperment, so despite the fact that her opposing element is fire, she actually has an affinity for it, and instead struggles with the one that is more associated with being calm and zen.

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  5. cainslatrani says:

    Can we not bash on Mako, please? Between this episode and the next, everything we need to know about him is outlined very nicely. He isn’t a broody bad boy. He’s an overstressed parent to his idiot brother.

    Look, one of the very first lines Mako has is to tell Bolin not to bring his crazy fangirls to the locker room. We learn later that Mako saw his parents murdered right in front of him, and I know you’ve seen that episode already, Rebecca. He was just a kid, for crying out loud. Instead of dressing up like a bat and punching people in ally ways, he took over the role of parent and raised his brother, while both were living as street orphans.

    By the time Korra meets them, they’ve been in and out of working for the mafia. For Mako, pro bending is a chance to actually have a real life. To get out of poverty, and actually live, have a career, and not wonder if they are going to eat today. For Bolin, with Mako’s very first line, it’s established, this is all fun, and a chance to meet girls.

    Later, when their water bender bails right before the most important match of their career, the best and most legit chance they have ever had to not spend the rest of their lives in abject poverty, Korra offers to help out. It’s a nice gesture, but she doesn’t know the rules, and has never been in the ring before, ever. Mako is, understandably, not super keen on putting he and Bolin’s future in her hands, Avatar or not.

    And this is their future we’re talking about. They live in an attic, and can barely afford to buy food, not to mention clothes. We see the arena manager take their winnings right out of Mako’s hand, symbolic of all the times Mako has tried and come up short. Even worse, it happens right in front of Bolin. It wasn’t just money, but Mako’s dignity, and any chance either of them were going to eat that day.

    The picture painted isn’t pretty. Mako has spent his entire life trying to make a better life for Bolin, and at every turn, someone is yanking it away from him. He fell in with the mob, and got out first chance he could, so he and his brother wouldn’t end up career criminals. Now, he’s got to come up with a crap load of cash to secure their future, and even then, it rests on someone who barely has any idea how the sport is played. All the while, every penny they have is literally taken right out of his hands.

    As for coming up with that money, Mako goes and gets a job, works his ass off, and spends as little as possible, just enough to buy them something to eat. Bolin goes and plays street performer with a ferret. When that doesn’t work, he runs off to play heavy for the mob. Never mind all the things that could go wrong, including getting killed, or arrested. Mako is doing things the legit way, while Bolin tries to do things the quick way.

    See, Mako is the responsible one. Bolin is the bad boy wanna be. Mako isn’t broody, he’s exhausted from trying to keep Bolin from doing idiotic things. Which, Bolin does, all of the time.

    Yet, everyone adores Bolin, and hates on Mako. Don’t get me wrong, I can totally see how Mako would be a way more likable character if he was a flighty dipshit with no sense of adult responsibility and maturity. But hey, we can’t all be perfect. We’ll just chalk up his being a grown up as a character flaw and hope he gets over it.

    Crazy, I know.

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