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Nickelodeon’s ‘The Legend of Korra’ (2012), the sequel series to ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ continued Saturday, May 5, 2012 with its fifth episode, “The Spirit of Competition.”
Seventy years after Aang and his friends defeated Fire Lord Ozai, Korra (Janet Varney) became the newest Avatar and is now training in Republic City to master air-bending with Aang’s son, Tenzin (J.K. Simmons). She is also friends with Mako (David Faustino), a Firebender and his brother Bolin (P.J. Byrne), an Earthbender who plays on their team called the Fire Ferrets, in a competition known as pro-bending. In this game, teams compete to knock each other out of a ring using their bending. The Fire Ferrets have made the play-offs and their first round is coming up.
However, tension between Mako, Korra and Bolin is high because there is a rapidly developing love triangle in the works. Korra has a crush on Mako, Bolin has a crush on Korra, and Mako is in a relationship with Asami, the beautiful daughter of Hiroshi Sato, the automobile titan who is sponsoring their team.
While they’re at home, Bolin asks Mako if he should ask Korra out and Mako advises against the idea because they’re friends and teammates and he cares about his brother, but it’s also obvious that he has some feelings for Korra but isn’t being honest with himself about it. Bolin doesn’t listen to him and makes up his mind to ask her out later.
Meanwhile, Korra talks to Tenzin’s daughters, Ikki and Jinora, who question her about Mako. She denies having a crush on him but still asks for their help, which is comically awful as they are both children. Pema, Ikki and Jinora’s mother, encourage Korra to tell Mako how she feels.
The Fire Ferrets win their opening match in the championship but unfortunately, right after the match Korra very awkwardly blurts out that she likes Mako and he admits that he doesn’t feel that way about her. Moments later, Bolin comes in and asks Korra out. At first, she says no but Bolin eventually convinces her to go out with him and they head to a noodle bar. Having seen this interaction, Mako starts to feel regretful about his decision.
Korra and Bolin have a fantastic first date but bump into Tahno, the arrogant leader of the pro-bending champion team the Wolfbats. Bolin tells her not to egg him on because he’s trying to instigate a fight so that the Fire Ferrets will get disqualified, but Korra stands up to him and scares him with her giant polar bear-dog, Naga. Tahno backs off and Bolin and Korra continue their date.
Korra returns to the arena for their next match, but Mako intercepts her and demands to know what’s going on with her and Bolin. She accuses him of being jealous and they both storm off angrily into the arena. Because Mako and Korra are mad at each other, the team’s chemistry is way off and Bolin steps up, just barely winning the match on his own.
Korra and Mako confront each other again and Mako admits that he hadn’t been completely honest with Korra, who takes it as a sign that he’s still interested in her. She kisses him and he kisses her back, but Bolin catches them and runs off, heartbroken. Mako goes after him and finds him overeating at the noodle shop.
Mako drags Bolin back to the arena for their next match and the team barely manages to beat their opponents. Afterwards, Bolin, Korra and Mako all apologize to each other and agree to work harder to beat their next opponents. They witness a match with Tahno’s team, who knock their opponents out in the first round, sending a clear threatening message to the Fire Ferrets.
The writers of ‘Korra’, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, are no strangers to the fandom and this episode basically serves as a clear message that “shipping”—investing in the relationships of a certain pairing—is not the main goal of the show. They basically drew a line in the sand and told the fans to back off by definitively addressing the two main “ships”—Makorra, for those who like Mako and Korra together and Borra, for those who like Bolin and Korra together.
The episode ended on an ambiguous note as all three of them apologized to each other and the audience will be left hanging to see if there is any other aftermath in the upcoming episodes.
While this was a bold move, the timing of this episode felt extremely off, in my opinion. This is only the fifth episode of the first season. We have only seen Korra and Mako spending time together in the third episode and we have only seen Korra and Bolin spending time together in the first episode. Thus, their relationships are not grounded enough for the viewer to believe that there is enough for them to start romantic relationships.
This episode starts out with Mako mentioning that Korra has been training intensely with them for several days, but since we aren’t shown any more evidence of their chemistry, it doesn’t have much of an effect. Korra’s confession to Mako feels premature and is uncomfortable to watch.
It is in character for her not to know how to talk to a boy as she is young, but it is out of character for Mako to be so wishy-washy. He hasn’t shown any romantic interest in Korra until this episode so it feels like an example of “Show, Don’t Tell” gone wrong—that is, it’s always better to show the audience evidence of something instead of having a character tell you it’s true.
The entire love triangle was resolved too soon in the series, and too quickly in the 22 minute episode. Granted, there is still plenty of show to go and these feelings may resurface, but I personally would not have taken such a gamble so soon.
‘The Legend of Korra’ premieres Saturdays at 11:00am EST. Check it out.