This post originally appeared on The Mary Sue.
The good guys are still in Metal Clan central, AKA Zhao Fu, where Lin and Su are continuing to have the most dramatic sibling reunion since… well… that time. My sibling fights were more of the “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you, you can’t get mad because I’m not touching you!” variety. The ATLAverse is harsh.
We start this episode with a low-key scene of Su offering to teach Korra how to metalbend. Opal suggests that Bolin learn metalbending, too, but he refuses–because, as we learn later, he really wants to learn to metalbend, but he’s afraid he won’t be able to. The scene is interrupted when all the metal in the room goes fucking nuts. Magneto, what did you do?! Oh, never mind, it’s just Varrick in a giant magnet suit. Metal bros high five!
Anyway. Su teaches Korra to metalbend, and she picks up the basics pretty quickly. That makes Bolin, who’s creeping on the process, sad. Turns out all his movie star bluster is a mask for some extreme insecurity issues. He drops the facade around Opal and admits that Toph was his “biggest hero,” and he’s wanted to be a metalbender forever. Awwww. Did he have Toph fan club buttons? I’ll bet he did. Opal admits that, just as Bolin is scared of trying and potentially failing to metalbend, she’s frightened of leaving her family and going to the Northern Air Temple to train.
OK. Now to important stuff, AKA Lin Beifong backstory.
The stick up Lin’s ass is so deeply embedded that it’s making her actually ill, so she consents to acupuncture as a way to deal with “repressed feelings.” Emotions and being stabbed with lots of tiny needles. This will go well.
The acupuncturist tells Lin that, wow, her chi’s really blocked–she’s like an spiritual God-damned armadillo. But, hot damn, the acupuncture makes her have flashbacks (…OK. If Zuko can have a character development coma, why not?), and we get to see why she and Su hate each other so much. As we knew from last episode, Lin was a hard-boiled sumbitch who joined the police force to please her mother, while little sister Su was more the rebellious sort. Turns out Su was also a major brat who played hookie from school to hang out with her friends, which didn’t please the more stodgy Lin.
So, basically. Su:
One day baby Lin’s chasing down some criminals when, surprise, the criminals are Su’s friends, and Su’s the getaway driver. Su, claiming the whole thing’s no big deal and Lin should just get off her jock, resists arrest, which leads to Lin getting that pair of scars on her face. The two of them are hauled before Toph, who yells at both of them before tearing up the arrest report and telling Su to leave town. Thus, the source of the monumental chip on Lin’s shoulder: Her mother irreparably damaged her career to cover up Su’s misdeeds, which Lin no doubt saw as evidence of preferential treatment. Shit. Lin is Jeanie… if Ferris had accidentally maimed Jeanie for life.
Here, we get more of a taste of Toph’s post-Avatar character, namely that she was a pretty shit mother. Not intentionally, but there you have it. We’ve heard before that she gave her kids “too much freedom”–a tactful way of saying she wasn’t particularly involved in her daughters’ lives–but her behavior here goes beyond that. Toph sticks up for Su, but the way she does it (“Well, shit. I can keep you out of jail, but you’ll have to leave town forever. Go stay with your grandparents, I guess? Do you need bus fare?”) isn’t exactly brimming with maternal empathy. Su was a teenager. She was young! And Toph placed way too much pressure on Lin. Almost certainly without meaning to, sure, but damn, Lin really needed a “Leave It to Beaver” sitcom talk at some point.
Having serious faults as a parent doesn’t mean Toph was a bad person; as was the case with Aang, I think the decision to reveal her as being not the greatest at raising children is a good one, lending as it does complexity to both their characters.
Speaking of the parenting skills of various ATLA characters: I know in my soul that Zuko was the most embarrassing father ever. Like, Sokka’s the most obvious candidate for telling dad jokes, but if you think Zuko didn’t also let a couple slip also, you are wrong. He was the dad who went to his kids’ kindergarten dance recitals, sat in the front row, recorded the whole thing, and sobbed. He didn’t give his daughters’ boyfriends the whole “If you mess with my little girl, I have a shotgun and I am prepared to use it” speech, because you know Katara, Suki and Mai gave the men in their lives many a speech about not treating women as property, but he definitely did the whole
thing once or twice behind Mai’s back. Mai got him a “World’s Best Dad” mug as a joke for his birthday once, and he burst into tears of joy.
(Zuko got married to Mai. I don’t care if it’s canon or not. I also know that a woman who’s either Zuko’s daughter or his granddaughter shows up in Korra at some point, so all this might be jossed. But I WANT TO BELIEVE.)
Back to the present day. Now that old family issues have been brought back to the surface, Lin decides it’s time to confront her sister. Lin accuses Su of being an irresponsible brat. Su accuses Lin of being a bitter old bitch, and no wonder Tenzin ditched her.
They fight, with Korra and Bolin standing by all Uhhhhhhhhhh. Lin passes out, and when she wakes up her chi is all nice and balanced. She’s happy and chill and drinking kale.
Emotional shit behind her, Lin bonds with Opal and tells her she should train at the Northern Air Temple if that’s what she wants to do; Lin cared way too much about pleasing her mom, and Opal shouldn’t make that same mistake. Lin then makes up with Su, and everything’s happy and good.
B-plot: Zaheer and his evil buds have been hanging out in Republic City. They were going to kill the President, but eh, why not go look for Korra instead? They engineer a daring escape from the city, blow up a few cars, and start the camping component of their quest. The episode ends with Zaheer figuring out through ~*~spiritual meditation means~*~ that Korra is in Zhao Fu with the Metal Clan.