The Legend of Korra Book 1, Episode 7: The Aftermath
Last week, I talked about how the Equalists’ war is fundamentally different from the 100 Years’ War because Korra, Tenzin, and Lin can’t just look at any non-bender and know whether he or she is an Equalist. Aang and his friends had the luxury of knowing that a Fire Nation ally was the exception, and that even the friendly citizens they met in Season 3 would most likely turn them in to the authorities if the citizens learned who Aang was. The Fire Nation was an enemy embodied in a sovereign entity, and even if a Fire nation citizen didn’t believe in the purpose of the war, he or she couldn’t do anything about it. Now, the Equalists represent a threatening ideology that anyone can choose to buy into. Anyone from the poor shopkeepers who are regularly taken advantage of by bender gangs to captains of industry might be an Equalist, and no one would know until it was too late.
In the aftermath of the Equalists’ attack on the Pro Bending arena, Lin Bei Fong and the metalbending police have been running down every possible lead in order to find Amon and end the Equalist threat. They question everyone from Hiroshi Sato to Tahno, who looks like he aged 5 years after having his bending taken away. Both were present at the match, and it’s likely that the police are questioning as many spectators as possible to find that one piece of information they may have missed. Their investigation also leads them to Cabbage Corp., a research and development company similar to Hiroshi Sato’s Future Industries. The police conclude that Cabbage Corp. created the electric gloves the Equalists used to neutralize the police. As the police lead away the president of Cabbage Corp. (as he lets out an anguished “My Cabbage Corp.!”), the police, and the viewer by extension, is left wondering whether Cabbage Corp. really did help the Equalists, or whether they were being set up, and if so, by whom. Whether or not a set-up occurred, it’s clear that the Equalists have friends in high places, because someone needed to design and mass produce those gloves.
“The Aftermath” did a lot to forward the theme of “progress vs. tradition.” Korra soon overhears Sato telling someone that things are going well and soon they will be able to strike. When questioned about it, Sato says he was talking about a business plan, but Korra and Lin remain convinced that he is aiding the Equalists. When the police begin searching Future Industries, we hear a radio broadcast in voice-over, wondering whether both major technology firms could be aiding the Equalists. Last week, Amon said that science and technology will help the Equalists achieve their goal. Gloves that shoot electricity gives people the same power of “lightning” that firebenders have. Flamethrowers (which we haven’t seen yet) would do the same with fire. And when Sato’s true colors are revealed, he makes a point of saying that he wouldn’t stand a chance in a 1-on-1 fight against Lin, but with his giant mecha, the odds would be more equal. I’m wondering whether distrust of science will be the bending population’s response to this war.
Speaking of Sato’s allegiance, “The Aftermath” does a very good job of making the Equalist cause seem sympathetic, if not their methods. A few years before the series started, members of the Agni Kai gang, which is a firebending gang, broke into the Sato mansion to rob it. They ended up killing his wife. Since then, he has harbored strong anti-bending sentiments, and he truly believes that the world would be safer without them. Asami, who had been his strongest defender throughout the episode, complaining about the police intrusion into their lives, is devastated to learn the truth. He tries to tell her that he did it all to protect her, to make sure that she could live in a world in which she wouldn’t be in danger of bending thugs, so that he wouldn’t lose her, the way he lost the love of his life. And it would appear that, on some level, Asami truly understands her father’s position. She doesn’t agree with it, and she is willing to fight her father over it (and damn, is she a badass), but that doesn’t make her love her father any less. Also, the group gets their tip about Sato from a Deep Throat-esque guy, who says that he used to be an Equalist before Amon declared war. As a non-bender, he really did feel threatened and oppressed by the benders of Republic City, and he truly believed that Amon could make his life better. But he didn’t sign up to wage a war. He wanted what Amon promised: equality. Not superiority. Or genocide.
· Bolin continues to be the funniest part of this show. From talking for Pabu (which reminded me of Tom Haverford talking for Li’l Sebastian), to enthusiastically voting to get makeovers to immediately throwing his hands up when the police arrive at the Sato mansion, he always lightens the mood in this very dark show.
· Mako is probably going to have some tussle with Hiroshi Sato in the future. Sato, who is of Fire Nation ancestry, clearly hates firebenders the most out of all benders, and said that the hardest part of pretending to like the Fire Ferrets was watching his daughter date a firebending street rat.
· There were two instances of characters dealing with the “you are what you hate most” idea. Sato angrily called Mako and Bolin street rats, but he too was once “dirt poor.” And Lin vowed to leave the force to hunt for Amon “outside the law.” In “Welcome to Republic City,” she chastised Korra for being a vigilante.
· The previously on segment was a radio address by Tarrlok (the old previously on guy, who was the sportscaster for the pro bending matches, is probably in the hospital), in which he called for new leadership of the Republic City police after Lin’s failure to stop the Equalist attack on the arena.
· Asami becomes more and more awesome every week. This week, when it looked like she was going to be the Equalist instead of her father (she was much more incensed about the investigation, and she showed that she knows how to manipulate people), I thought she was going to end up being an Azula-type character. She remains a “hero” (for now), but damn does she know how to badass it up with the best of them. Even Korra was impressed.
· When Sato said his line about keeping the odds equal, my mind immediately went to Syndrome in The Incredibles saying “And when everyone is super, no one will be.”
EDIT: Upon rewatch, I realized that the tipster who said that he believed in equality but not Amon’s war was a set-up, and that he intended for Korra, Lin, and Tenzin to be captured. Obviously, he does believe in Amon’s war. But the story he fed to Korra and her team is probably one felt by some people who signed up with Amon from the beginning. Just like there are non-benders who want nothing at all to do with the Equalists (like Asami), there are likely some who want equality but through non-violent means.