The Legend of Korra "The Sting" Review: Everything's Coming Up Varrick

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Oct 12, 2013

The Legend of Korra S02E06: "The Sting"

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. 


– 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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  • Montana_Katana Oct 14, 2013

    The character at the top of the review and on the front page looks like an animated Duke Crocker.

  • Watashii Oct 14, 2013

    So first the spirits were the villains. Then it was Unalaq. Now its Varrick? /sigh. I wonder if they are even going to finish the story in this book. I bet its going to be another rushed conclusion like the last book. And now Korra has amnesia. More story complications.

    I know its only been five episodes, but its like the plot is going nowhere. They just keep adding more surprises and suspense with very little progression. To make it worse, there is no exploration or side story that that adds to the lore. For example, last season there were tons of flashbacks of when Aang was an adult. Where are those now? I thought Tenzin's air temple plot brought all that but instead they just showed us Bolin's unnecessary film plot.

    The only thing I'm looking forward in this show now is Zuko. I hope he saves this season, and the show.

  • tdm260 Oct 14, 2013

    It's very weird. On one hand, so many things are happening, on another hand it feels like not much is happening. This is the fault of Korra's storyline or lack there of.

    For someone whose so aggressive, Korra hardly ever makes any decisions on her own. (Talking to Iroh, Varrick's idea, talking to the Fire Lord, Iroh's idea, etc) Having a protagonist who is easily manipulated and constantly being told what to do is not that compelling. I need Korra to start actively making decisions the way Mako did in this episode. Sure, the plan was poorly executed and it failed, but Mako utilized problem solving skills and MADE a decision. And if it wasn't for Varrick finally revealing his shadiness, Mako's plan would have succeeded.

    Honestly, I didn't miss Korra the entire episode. Even when Unaloq mentioned Korra, I was more interested in what HE was doing in the spirit world. It's only because of the amnesia that I'm interested again. Hopefully, this ordeal will finally correct her personality flaws since all the lessons and experience from last season were clearly erased from memory prior to Book 2.

  • vcivi Oct 13, 2013

    that whole Bolin part was stupid and too lenghty to my taste...
    I would think that Mako was strong enough and quick enough to hold off some boats, but apparently he is pretty weak...
    Korra amnesia...hmmm...maybe she will finally train normally and become the Avatar she supposed to be...
    Varrick...i knew from the first episode that something was not right with that guy and this episode just confirms that..

  • AriSky Oct 13, 2013

    Definitely a better episode this week. Without Korra, the pacing finally settled in somewhere it was manageable and the real puppeteer behind the wars was exposed (I swear, if they take that back later...). I agree that Korra suffering amnesia is a terrible, over-used plot device but one she might actually benefit from in the long run. I'm not her, though, so I don't see this working out in my favor.

  • Zelli42 Oct 13, 2013

    If this wasn't avatar, I would drop the show now. It was so clear that Varrick was the one who attacked the warehouse. And Mako hiring famous criminals for a undercover op.... really??? What kind of policeman is he? I'm not even pointing out in how many was this could have gone wrong.... plus it did...
    And now we are doing amnesia.... all of this is such a joke...
    Remember in LoA when everything made sense and even the normally most boring story elements were fun? I'm not even expecting amazing episodes like "the chase".... Or characters like Toph and Zuko.... Why do they hate us?

  • dolphin_intern Oct 13, 2013

    Not happy with this season at all. To me it seems the narrative is scatterbrained and there hasn't been much focus at all. Also what has been shown is going at light speed so stories won't get wrapped up properly. I would also like to see more focus on the spirits after all that's what the book is called. I would so like to have adult Sokka instead of Bolin ugh the characters in this show have little to zero charm. I only really like Tenzin, Lin and the kids.

  • Savvytvfan91 Oct 13, 2013

    so will the look of the show be back to how it was in season 1? because i would love that!

  • noelrk Staff Oct 13, 2013

    Aesthetically, at least. Though, they (wisely, at least at first blush) adopted a different look for the first Avatar sequence, but I'll discuss that a bit next week.

    Narratively, don't know if the show will be back to Season 1 level.

  • RaizenYusuke Oct 13, 2013

    I'm still holding out the next half of Spirits will be better, like season 3 of A: TLA got a lot better in the second half of season 3. If not I do have faith the writers can see what went wrong with book 2 and correct it for the last two books.

  • Zawman13 Oct 13, 2013

    Another thing, that wasn't Shady Shin waterbending, he was the guy driving the boat while the other guy was bending.

  • noelrk Staff Oct 13, 2013

    Aah. Right you are. I was confusing Shin with Viper.

  • RaizenYusuke Oct 13, 2013

    I liked the episode, mostly because Mako, Asami, and Bolin's stories. I'm overly optimistic that Bolin and Verrick friendship plot (that seems like filler for most) will play out in a way that will develop Bolin. He thinks Verrick is his friend and Mako abandoned him, so I think there will be a pay off where Bolin sees through Verrick is dirty and realize to look beyond appearances, which has been his theme all book long. He feel for Eske based on appearance and failed to see her character, thinking Ginger is into him when she's playing a part, and Verrick is a great guy when he has been all about profits from the beginning. I hope my optimism pays off.

  • tdm260 Oct 14, 2013

    Same. I hope this whole ordeal with Varrick leads to some great character development for Bolin and improves relationship between Bolin and Mako. As brothers, they have a lot of unresolved issues and I really hope this brings that to light. It will probably turn into a big blow up when Mako reveals the truth about Varrick to Bolin. Hopefully Bolin comes out of this with some better self esteem and earth bends the crap out of those water benders.

  • Zawman13 Oct 13, 2013

    One correction I feel must be addressed is that he wasn't paying the mob to hijack a competitor's shipment, if you recall from episode 1, Asami had the merchandise, but no ships to ship it, so she partners with Varrick. So he is actually paying the mob to attack his business partner, in order to take control of her company.

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