[Preface: These reviews are written after having seen the first season in its entirety. Down-the-road spoilers are avoided. My focus is on the writing, not music or animation.]
In this episode, Korra realizes the true threat posed by the anti-bending revolution and its charismatic, masked leader Amon.
This episode brings to the forefront three of the major issues plaguing Republic City: poverty, organized crime and anti-bending sentiment. We see that being rich puts one in a privileged position, as does being a bender. Impoverished benders, like Mako and Bolin, can still use their bending abilities to get by in Republic City, whether as part of the bending mafia or as cheap power plant labourers or as pro-benders. Imagine, then, the lot of the poor non-benders who do not have recourse to these resources and are being terrorized by the bending mafia. This makes Amon, the self-proclaimed champion of the non-bending masses, a very sympathetic antagonist.
The episode is also a study in inducing fear and tension. We are first apprehensive about a missing Bolin. Then we become anxious about a possible turf war between the three mafia groups. When the army of Ty Lees (Chi-blockers) is revealed, we are downright scared. By going into daylight, the show takes a bit of respite but still manages to make ominous references to the eponymous revelation. Finally, during the warehouse scene, the tension reaches a fever pitch, helped generously along by the music. Upon witnessing the revelation, the bending-removal, and the fight with the electric batons, we realize that even our talented trio has met its match. When they turn tail and run, we are just relieved that they survived with their bending intact.
Assorted observations follow. Firstly, the pro-bending narrator really adds character to the show. Having him recap previous episodes is a delight. Secondly, this episode has the important consequence of drawing Mako and Bolin into the conflict with Amon. They are more likely to be involved in any anti-anti-bending antics now that they know firsthand what would happen if the anti-bending revolution were to succeed. Thirdly, the episode does a good job of fleshing out Mako and Bolin's characters. By learning about their past, we understand exactly why Mako is silent and stolid while Bolin is vivacious and a little naive. Their attempts at earning money further cements this: Mako, the realist, goes to a power plant while Bolin takes a stab at showbiz.
Overall, the episode does a great job at introducing a charismatic, powerful but sympathetic antagonist while embroiling all the major characters against him.
I was drawn into the show after the very first episode, I like how Tenzin has taken over the role of narrator during the opening of the episodes after his mother Katara. Like Grunt I also loved how The Pro-Bending Announcer did a news reel style recap of the impending conflict between Amon and Avatar Korra.
I've noticed that while The Legend of Korra is much more mature and serious than The Last Airbender series it still has plenty of goofy humor, such as Korra calling the morning evil during training, and Bolin wearing a ridiculous circus ringleader outfit in an effort to raise the necessary 30,000 Yuans in order to compete in the championships. It seems that Bolin has taken over The Class Clown role that was previously held by Sokka in The Last Airbender, Bolin who is done by P.J. Byrne even sounded like Sokka's voice actor Jack Desena when He found out Korra was The Avatar doing Sokka's trademark high pitched whisper. Also the part where Mako and Bolin discovered that Korra was The Avatar mimicked how Katara and Sokka discovered how Aang was The Avatar. It definitely wasn't as dramatic but it was as obvious, after all Korra had to spell it out to Bolin that she was a Waterbender, an Earthbender, and a Firebender and He still didn't get it. Just as Katara and Sokka didnt get that Aang was The Avatar even though they witnessed him burst out of the iceberg while he was in The Avatar State
An irony about Amon's Quest to bring equality by ending bending is that Bolin and Mako both benders lost their parents who were probably also benders to a firebender during a mugging, just as Amon claimed during his speech. Therefore Benders don't just oppress non-benders they can oppress other benders as well, a fact that was already well established in the original series. And if Amon has his way, then He will be a Despotic Dictator just like Fire Lord Ozai and Long Feng were in the last series
If I can make some speculations about how Amon removed THE TRIPLE THREAT TRIADS bending abilities let me say that He didn't do it by Energy Bending, The Lion Turtle expressly told Aang that if you don't have a unbendable spirit when you are bending another persons Energy then you will be corrupted and destroyed. Therefore it would be too dangerous for Amon to do. I could be wrong but I believe that Amon somehow was able to completely block and lock Lightening Bolt Zolts and the other triad members Seventh Chakras which gave them access to the cosmic energy of the universe and allowed them to bend their respective elements.
Last thing I'm going to say is that Lightening Bolt Zolt's voice characterization was cliched and resembled that of a typical Italian American Mafia wise guy, I do give it points though for hilarity.
Let's start at the beginning – the short newsreel-style plot recap is the perfect way to get viewers up to speed. It took me a second to realise that it was a 'previously on', but once I did, I couldn't help but be tickled at the fact that it's presented almost as an in-world artifact. It's a clever touch which draws you right into this bold new world that has changed so much since last we visited it at the end of ATLA.
Although Pabu's introduction seems inexplicable, he fits right in with the group. One can't help but feel an echo of the interactions which Appa and the much smaller Momo had in the original Avatar series. Seeing Naga and Pabu share a drink together in the park surely launched a million "d'aaaw"s.
I'm very fond of Skoochy, the streetsmart urchin. His precociousness is just too endearing, even if he seems the sort to nick my pocketbook if I were to actually pass by him. I'd love to see him make further appearances when situations warrant the latest word on the street.
In fact, I'd expect him to, as this series continues to show its cinematic, miniseries style of storytelling. There are plenty of continuity links to the first two episodes, which keeps the story at a measured pace, such as a quick trip back to Air Temple island for some airbending practice (nice to see Korra acing that challenge now), and her 'interrogation' of the Equalist protestor that she met in the pilot episode.
But let's talk about the action! Amon's henchmen, the Chi-blockers, are showcased brilliantly here. Right from the start of the short bike-chase scene, it is clear that these fighters are well-trained to counter benders. And when it comes down to fisticuffs, they hold their own with unnerving ability. The Legend of Korra's 3d scenery is put to good use here, adding that extra little bit of visceralness to a beautifully choreographed and animated fight, full of very dynamic shots. It is my hope that the show continues to treat these henchmen with respect, and retains them as credible threats to Korra and her friends, instead of gradually relegating them to mere fodder. Given the sophistication of the show thus far, I would not be surprised if this turns out to be the case.
Amon's one-sided duel with Lightning Bolt Zolt presents the Equalist leader as a formidable physical threat to Korra, instead of just an ideological one. Although Korra has yet to face him herself, we know she'll have her work cut out for her if she cannot yet defeat even one of his Chi-blocking fighters.
Indeed, Amon is the highlight of this episode for me. Although his "look's like we'll have to accelerate our plans" in the pilot episode came off just a tad cheesy, here he is legitimately frightening when he speaks to the disgruntled citizenry. Amon's rhetoric about having been visited by the spirits is particularly chilling – is he really just invoking the spirits to impress the crowd? Is it a hoax? Or is there some truth to it? How else is he able to remove a person's ability to bend without the usual chi-blocking moves? These are the kinds of questions that have been raised, and instantly make Amon a more compelling villain. Hoax or otherwise, there's an air of mystique and more mystery to him than simply not knowing his identity.
I couldn't help but chuckle slightly though that he one-ups Zuko by having his whole face scarred instead of just half. Zuko gets angsty, but Amon gets even.
The Revelation may be a fast-paced episode at times, even feeling a bit rushed, such as the ease with which Korra and Mako snuck into the Equalist rally. But the issues with pacing are minor, and I think it says a lot about how well it was put together that looking back, I was surprised at how much they fit in a little over 20 minutes. Overall, The Revelation is a model Avatar episode, seamlessly weaving exposition, lots of action, and even a pinch of romance together. I'd rate it higher, but I need to leave a little room only because I'm sure that the best is yet to come.
I have to admit that after watching the first two episodes I was a bit skeptical about whether or not I would take to liking this new series. I reserved my ultimate judgement for episode three (and probably four) to see if the most prominent sources of conflict, the Equalists and the Triple Threat Triads, would deliver for me... and deliver they surely have and then some. Three primary points of good conflict in this episode are Bolin's and Mako's socioeconomic situation as well as a little of their life history, Amon and the Equalists' quest to eradicate bending from the face of the earth, and how parasitic the presence of the Triads is to ALL the people of the city, benders and nonbenders included. It was said in Frank Herbert's landmark Dune series that a mentat judges how valuable the information he receives based on the questions it raises. If I had to judge "The Revelation" by that same standard, I'd say that this was an excellent episode and definitely set LoK on the right path forward.
The very first thing we learn in this episode is that Mako and Bolin are in dire financial straits and have been on the low end of the socioeconomic ladder for quite some time. Mako and Bolin are apparently relying on Pro-Bending to help pay the bills and put food on the table. I like this addition because it elevates Pro-Bending above the status of being a distraction or a gimmick. I guess now we know why Mako gets so uptight about people who don't take Pro-Bending matches seriously. Any notion that there is some kind of "bender v. nonbender inequality" current running through LoK should be dashed by now; clearly the Triads threaten anybody they come across. In addition, there seem to be turf wars fought between different factions of the Triads. I could tell from the very mention of turf wars that this was going to be a big step up from the last two episodes. This adds a nice touch that really makes LoK seem darker and edgier than it predecessor. Personally, I thought TLA was already plenty mature, but I'd accept the mention of the turf wars as evidence that LoK is indeed "more mature" than TLA. (Not sure it beats regular Fire Nation raids on a tiny village of less than 100 people though)
The Triads made a definite presence and established themselves as a credible threat, but the star of this episode was Amon and his Equalists. The way Korra always stomps onto the scene bashing things sort of rubs me the wrong way for some reason; I'm hoping this is part of some planned story development to her character, though that is more of a personal gripe than a substantive flaw. However, this actually makes Amon the perfect villain to go against Korra because judging by their respective temperaments, they are natural rivals. Whereas Korra is brash, direct, hot-headed, and a bit simple-minded, Amon is cerebral, cunning, charismatic, and good with words. If you think about it, Amon is a lot like Aang; he sort of shows that "approach things from multiple angles" mindset. Indeed, going up against somebody like Amon is going to force Korra to think about more than brute force if she is to stop this guy.
I think this episode proves my initial theory that in the Avatar world, the overarching question that needs to be addressed is the role of benders in a society increasingly able to get by without the need for bending. On the one hand there are good benders like Mako and Lin Bei Fong, and on the other hand there are bad benders like the triads. However, this is all really a sideshow compared to the fact that tools are being developed to help muggles deal with bad benders and do work without the need for benders at all. Note the efficacy of the Equalist foot soldiers and the tools which they employ. There is a lot more to say on this, but I don't think I have room. Just note what the Equalist toward the end of the fight involving Korra, Mako, and Bolin said, that "there is no place in the world for you [benders]".
The other interesting thing in this episode was Amon's... energybending, maybe? Somehow Amon was able to eliminate the bending of the Triad boss! Think of all the interesting questions this raises! Obviously this implies Amon is able to energybend. He also said that the spirits granted him the ability to take away a person's bending. Well last time I checked, only the Avatar could communicate with spirits... Does that mean our Avatar world has developed some sort of technology that allows them to mimic the spirit world in some way (I speculated as such over at io9)? The turtlelion from TLA said that in order to bend another's energy your own spirit must be unbendable. Does that mean Amon's spirit is unbendable, and if it is what drives him, what is he driving toward? The rules governing energybending were not explained very well, does that mean you do not necessarily need to be a bender in order to bend another's energy? All of these interesting questions make me very eager to follow this new adventure. All and all, this episode was about 1000x better than the first two, and I have very high hopes for Avatar: The Legend of Korra.