I swear, this show.
That comment is not about "The Terror Within"—which we'll discuss momentarily—but rather the behind-the-scenes drama that's befallen the show since we last convened. In case you missed the news, Nickelodeon has pulled Episodes 9 through 13 off the TV schedule, and will instead roll them out weekly via various digital platforms (including Nick.com) starting on August 1. For those of you who watch the series online, no big deal, whatever. For those of you who watch it on TV, well, Nickelodeon doesn't care about you right now.
What a massive mess. As you may recall, the first several episodes of Book 3 were leaked online in June, which is likely why Nick announced the season's premiere date only a week before the actual premiere date. There would be no fanfare, no marketing, and no Comic-Con goodness like there was last year; just, "Here's the show, folks." And then the network scheduled two episodes a week, an apparent boon to fans that, frankly, felt like an attempt to get the show on and off the air as quickly as possible. Add in the fact that it was nearly impossible to watch the show online legally—not only were episodes not made available on Nick.com (even though Book 2's episodes were posted one day after airing last year), they were delayed on purchasing platforms, as if Nick was saying, "Oh, no, we'd rather not have your money right now. Wait a week." Is it any wonder that the show's ratings are down?
AND NOW YOU'RE JUST GOING TO PUNT IT ONLINE WHERE YOU CLEARLY WEREN'T INTERESTED SHOWING IT IN BEFORE, GOING SO FAR AS TO ADVERTISE THAT PEOPLE COULDN'T WATCH EPISODES ONLINE IN THE NEW EPISODE PROMOS THAT AIR ON THE TV?! I DO NOT UNDERSTAND YOUR PRIORITIES AT ALL, CABLE CHANNEL OWNED BY A MAJOR MEDIA CONGLOMERATE THAT I'M TALKING TO LIKE IT'S A PERSON.
I'm trying, Meelo, I'm trying, but I'm just so very tired. This scheduling nonsense comes just as Korra has started to dig into its bigger storyline. Had this happened even last week, maybe I'd be slightly less frustrated. But with "The Terror Within" and Episode 9, "The Stakeout" (which I've already seen and liked a great deal), Book 3 was picking up some real steam, steam that it needed to keep going because it was going to hit a ceiling with the airbender search.
Anyway, let's tackle "The Terror Within." Zaheer and his gang finally made their move against Korra, and it was pretty great. Despite their screw-up in getting out of Republic City, it was immediately clear that they're a well-organized squad, even after decades of being out of action and isolated from one another. Notice, for example, how Ming Hau and Ghazan moved to defend P'Li once they realized Bolin was targeting P'Li's combustion eye. That was just good teamwork right there, with an understanding of each person's strengths and weaknesses in the context of the group. There was also no apparent bickering or showboating—these guys just do their job, and if the job can't be done, they don't make big gambles and try to force a victory. They're professional and they're powerful. That makes them very dangerous.
The bits of wire-fu at the end of the sequence, with Lin and Su rescuing the drugged-up Korra, weren't as exciting as the wire-fu sequences we saw way back in Book 1, and that brings me back to an episode note that I made two weeks back: I miss Joaquim Dos Santos's direction. The action hasn't been terrible by any stretch—it's not Book 2 awful—but it's not popping, either. The bit with the wires, for instance, would've been a great time to call back to the Book 1 sequence, or to somehow make it look more like the wire-dancing that Su choreographed in Zaofu. Instead, it was limited to just swinging and ascending in space. While it made good use of space in other instances, including Zaofu's metalbenders employing all the metal panels, there wasn't even a cheeky repurposing of the metal police barriers in Republic City that were used to contain the citizens in more ways than one.
Action aside, with Zaheer's attempt to kidnap Korra, the focus shifted to determining how the gang got into the most protected city in the first place. While Korra made it clear that it was Aiwei double-fast—he was too quick to pin everything on that poor guard—the show did a nice job of allowing the characters to realize that it didn't make sense, from the convenient evidence to the likelihood that the young guard would've been willing to help four people who'd been in prison for over a decade. Toss in the fact that there's only one person who can tell whether people are lying in the whole city, and it was easy to see where the story would come apart with one or two tugs on those dangling threads. This also meant that Mako got to be a cop—and a smart one at that—and I always appreciate it when a show allows characters to demonstrate that they're good at what they're supposedly good at.
Aiwei's betrayal, however, shakes things up in a really good way. Previously, Zaheer and his cohorts could've just been a group of disgruntled criminals or folks with some weird, nonsensical grudge against the Avatar. Aiwei being involved, however, means there's something bigger at play—he said as much—and that we're dealing with a conspiracy or an organized effort with goals that appeal beyond Zaheer's group. It's an exciting development, and "The Terror Within" was an exciting episode.
And now we just have to wait a week to find out what it all means.
– I'm sort of scratching my head at notion of lavabending, but, all right, whatever. Also: Thank goodness that the heat from Ghazan's lava didn't cause Ming Hau's water arms to evaporate or anything.
– "Every time I eat raw kale, I'm going to think of you." "That's so sweet." It is so sweet. I love Opal and Bolin as a couple. In fact, they're probably the best, most realized pairing the show's done.
– Pabu is the best. Pabu deserves all the treats and snacks.
– "It's Bolin Time."
– "I can smell a conspiracy when I see one."
What did you think of "The Terror Within"?
AIRED ON 12/19/2014
Season 3 : Episode 13