The Legend of Korra "The Sting" Review: Everything's Coming Up Varrick
Oh, the perils of being a multi-armed global corporation with interests in shipping, mecha tanks, and filmmaking. Naturally you want to exploit your various technologies across all of your different corporate interests because it'll save you money and strengthen the brands. But that filmmaking will sink you every time. (Just look at what happened when Seagram owned Universal Studios for a bit.) Of course, when your business and legal troubles are represented by two teenagers, it really doesn't make any difference if the filmmaking is what reveals you've likely been paying the mob to make it look like a country is attacking the shipments of a competitor, because, well, who's going to listen to two teenagers?
"The Sting" marked the culmination of Varrick's plotting, and as Derpanos put forth last week in the comments, it seems increasingly likely that Varrick had the Agni Kais bomb the Southern Water Tribe's cultural center and was also having them or another gang pose as Norther Water Tribe pirates attacking Future Industries shipments. While Mako—remaining the smartest character on the show who isn't Varrick—had it all figured out, there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.
I mean, look at Varrick. He's got the businessman version of Tahno attitude going on now:
The structure leading up to the reveal was well done. While Varrick's been a flimflam industrialist from the start, Korra has at least planted the seeds for his deception from the start. It gave Book 2 something of a backbone, as saw Varrick's manipulations play out across this first half of the season. However, compared to the larger stuff that's going on—particularly Unalaq's ability to travel into the Spirit Realm!!—it still felt decidedly like a B-plot aspect of the show had been promoted to move things along, so that we could spend the back half of Book 2 dealing with Unalaq and his Spirit Realm activities. Instead of, you know, exploring that topic across a run of the episodes. It's definitely not padding or filler; it's more like writers and producers had decided to tell these two stories, but couldn't figure out how to do both of them simultaneously, so they opted to—at least so far—split them in half. It's not a bad choice per se, but it's made for a very uneven storytelling experience.
I've maintained for a while that Legend of Korra's romantic plotting has always been its weakest aspect, feeling like the reason it's there is to round out the show, instead of just being a natural aspect of the characters and their stories. However, since the show is committed to these aspects, thinking about them is still important, at least every now and then. Mako standing up for himself last week during his fight with Korra was a decided step forward for the character, a much-needed push to the stronger personality he occasionally exhibited back in Book 1. Sure, Korra is a firecracker who tends to suck all the oxygen out of a room, but Mako was never a pushover, either, and he'd sort of fallen into that role at the start of Book 2.
So it was nice to see him taking charge last week and this week, and it was the reason—and here I eat a tiny bit of crow—that "The Sting" managed to land an honestly good emotional beat between Mako and Asami in the empty warehouse. He was focused on figuring it out, and she just needed to be comforted by the guy who ambiguously broke up with her in Book 1. Sure, the episode laid it on a bit thick with that close-up of Asami and her watery eyes, but with her learning about the break-up and the complete collapse of her family's company, her kiss was completely motivated and organic to the characters and to the moment. It felt like something two teenagers would do, and that makes all the difference.
LEAVES ON THE WIND
– Sorry for the delay posting this review! I'm on vacation this week and couldn't watch the episode until Saturday morning.
– The film geek in me, so pleased with the earlier appearances of the 'movers' at the start of this book, is now disappointed that they've already developed editing techniques and sound technology. They'll have films in glorious VarriColor by the finale, I'm betting. All the mover stuff was still very amusing, though, complete with film-version Unalaq done up in Ming the Merciless style.
– I have no idea how Mako's logic determines that Bolin's refusal to help means going to the Triple Threats. After all, Bolin, as an earthbender, is about as useful on a boat as I am. Which is to say not at all useful. I was hoping it'd be Tahno and a crew of pro-benders, but alas.
– Correct me if I'm wrong, but Mako made it sound like Shady Shin needed his bending back. I'm pretty sure that was Shady Shin inexplicably waterbending like a boss a few scenes later, though. (And I am corrected. Viper was the waterbender there.)
– The animation this week was certainly better than it was last week, but also it seemed a bit more inconsistent from act to act, which happens sometimes.
– No sign of Tenzin and his clan this week, which was sad.
– Oh, and Korra washed up on a Fire Nation island with amnesia, my least favorite storytelling device! However, given that Korra's sense of identity is one of her key struggles, perhaps the use of amnesia will be a bit more interesting than usual. On the upside, Studio Mir is back next week, and we're going to learn all about the first Avatar!
What'd you think of "The Sting"?
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