Disclaimer: Last week's episode was pretty awesome in many respects. I love the living hell out of this series for so many reasons. But I'm also the type of person who also picks apart the things she loves, because I'm critical and I like to love the thin
By making Mako the only person in the whole episode going OMG KORRA KORRA WHERE IS KORRA YOU YOU KNOW WHERE THEY’RE KEEPING HER WHERE IS SHE HEY CHIEF DID YOU SENSE KORRA KORRA OMG GIVE HER SOME SPACE KORRA OMG I WAS SO WORRIED while everyone else is stone-faced and even cracking jokes and talking about relationship woes,
YOU MAKE IT SO EVERYONE ELSE’S RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPMENT WITH KORRA AND GENERAL CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT ARE COMPLETELY UNDERMINED AND TOSSED OUT THE DAMN WINDOW.
It’s not just about shipping, it is about bad writing. Bryke, I love you, but good lord. I usually defend the hell out of your choices, but knowing that you wrote all of Korra’s episodes…yeah, I’m sorry, you guys are wonderful, you’re my idols, and I love you, but…but…yeah. I have to say some things.
Let’s talk about Bolin. Yeah. What was even the point of having all of that stupid Bolin-has-a-massive-crush-on-Korra-and-then-has-his-heart-broken-drama if your intention all along was to have him ALMOST IMMEDIATELY “get over it” as far as the audience is concerned? We never saw him hurting after, we never saw him gradually get over it, we never saw him grow stronger for it, grow more mature.
His feelings were written out of the show for no reason at all except Korra and Mako need to get together not because it’s been a long time coming, but BECAUSE REASONS. At the end of episode five, as I stated before, nothing was learned about the kissing drama itself to directly bring the group back together except, oh, we almost lost our place in the tournament because we couldn’t get our heads in the game. That was the ONLY revelation they had and their only given incentive to forgive each other. WHAT.
Why didn’t Mako visibly, openly realize that he was being a cheating jackass very obviously hoarding two women and selfishly playing keep-away with his brother? He apologized for SOMETHING, but obviously he learned nothing from the experience because he’s still a cheating jackass who obviously hoards the two women he likes and is inconsiderate towards both of them. And it isn’t a character flaw, because it’s written as though Mako isn’t doing anything wrong. Bolin didn’t even need to apologize to Mako at the end of episode five, because as far as I could tell, he didn’t do shit. But of course he apologized, because he’s a nice, decent person. What made Korra suddenly realize that Asami has been generous and a huge help? She just randomly said oh hey thanks Asami without us seeing Korra meditate on this first.
But yeah, back to Bolin. So Bolin just magically gets over his crush on Korra and doesn’t give two shits about Mako’s actions just because liking Korra impedes his pro-bending performance and getting along with his brother? Obviously not, but that’s all you can really take away from the end of episode five. We’re meant to understand that everyone forgives each other because they don’t want to spoil their friendship, but it happens so suddenly and randomly in the actual episode that it’s forced. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m dumb and I missed something, I did like the episode better when I rewatched it. But this last episode, with what Bolin said, it irked me terribly becaaauuuuuuse…
This is exactly what happened to Toph in the second half of season three. All these scattered and obvious hints that she has a crush on Sokka, and bam, as soon as Suki comes back they never acknowledge her crush again. If you want to write someone’s feelings out of the show, fine, but you need to show those feelings gradually going away or the character having an epiphany of some kind, you don’t just pretend that BOOM, they’re all better, yeah, no problems here, it was no big deal to begin with. It’s not just a shipping thing, I am a multi-shipper. But literally after Suki came back Toph’s character development immediately stopped. Her arc just plain ended, with the exception of a some memorable moments on the airships. I understand that a lot had to happen in those last few episodes, but you don’t leave one of your biggest, main characters dangling like that, you don’t snip that kind of thread and never mention it again.
However, what happened to Toph is a million times more forgivable than what happened to Bolin this week. The difference? ATLA was a story spawning sixty-one episodes, and no matter how tightly the overarching plot was planned, stuff is going to get thrown in like Toph’s crush on Sokka (which yes, was not there since the beginning since originally Toph was going to be a boy). The plot has room to wander and explore, and with that much room for filler and character development you are guaranteed to not be able to wrap up everything in a four-part finale. They managed to solve the big issues and the show had a fantastic conclusion. And luckily, we even got the amazing climax we deserved to Toph and Sokka’s developing friendship anyway.
LoK, however, is different, because as we all know, it was originally planned as a twelve episode miniseries even though it now has a second season on the way with fourteen episodes (supposedly it’s going to be self-contained anyway, so for all we know Makorra is established as canon by episode twelve and season two is all about them dating and fighting some more. But as a couple. Hurray.). With so little room to breathe, with so few episodes to edit and tie together, with so little screentime to tell your story, you. do not. put in. irrelevant. shit.
Everything is complicated enough with Amon and Tarrlok and Yakone and learning airbending and making spiritual connections and fighting revolutions and political corruption and pro-bending and character development and general action badassery, DON’T YOU THINK? Why, oh gods why, throw in a complicated love square that you do NOT have room to adequately explore or solve, ESPECIALLY when you intend ALL ALONG to introduce one character’s feelings only to very quickly and bluntly cut them off just to make room for the remaining love triangle to take center stage?
Why even have the love triangle for that matter? The romance subplot in this show should have been simple as pie, because although complicated shipping and teasing fangirls is fun, the characters are being, frankly, demolished because of it. Makorra has no substance except for a lot of tell and not show in the beginning, and now forced and strangely unfounded ‘affection.’ We don’t know why Korra likes Mako. We don’t know why Mako likes Korra. We don’t even know really why Mako likes Asami or Asami likes Mako, seeing as how both characters are so poorly developed.
Mako is poorly developed because he’s inconsistent and unlikeable to a lot of fans, and poor Asami has the makings of a great character but no room or chance to shine because there simply isn’t enough time. Bolin has literally told the audience why he likes Korra…and now he is literally telling the audience that he’s over it. He started off as a solid character, and now he’s background comic relief with barely any defining moments.
If you wanted two people to end up together in a twelve-episode miniseries, you cut the bullshit and you spend those twelve episodes realistically, believably, gradually developing affection between two people. That’s it. No tangled webs, maybe like, one romantic rival or something who briefly provides some tension, and that’s it. That’s how you got me to ship Kataang, ATLA writers, and sadly, I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to ship Makorra seeing as how the show has given me some very pitiful reasons to do so.
My plan was to go and list how Mako’s hysteria over Korra short-changed each character, but I just ended up writing a whole essay about Bolin alone. This is a problem.
So, yes, Bolin. Has he had any development since his brush with heartbreak? No. No, apparently he hasn’t. He’s spent every episode after that making inappropriate wisecracks and not getting emotional or worked up about anything at all, including the kidnapping and bloodbending of his best friend and (former?) love interest. There was barely any concern from Bolin in this episode when there should have been a lot, not from a shipping standpoint, but from a character development standpoint, plain and simple. Don’t tell me everyone’s worried about Korra, freaking show me.
But no. The focus is only on Mako freaking out, because as we all know Mako - no wait, scratch that, what the hell do we even know about Mako? I mean about his personality? He sure as hell wasn’t a nervous wreck when his brother got kidnapped, not even when he saw Bolin tied up onstage about to lose his bending, maybe about to lose his LIFE. You know, his brother who is also his best friend, only family, the most important thing in the world to him, the person he has always worked so hard to protect…yeah, I can keep my cool when he’s in danger, but when my not-girlfriend crush who I haven’t shown much affection for until my brother wanted her is in trouble, look out.
So how did this also shortchange the other characters, their motivations, their love for Korra? Well, how about Tenzin. As I stated in my last post, if anyone gets to have this big change and openly freak out about Korra, carry her in the end, it should have been Tenzin.
Tenzin’s relationship with Korra is not only one of the most interesting parts of the show, it is also one of the most important and plot-rich parts of the show. One of Korra’s biggest struggles is learning airbending, he is the one working with her on it. Another of Korra’s biggest struggles is being more spiritual and in tune with her past, Tenzin is also working with her on it. Korra also struggles with being mature, patient, and rational. Who has been gradually rubbing off on her in all of these respects while providing a perfect foil for her personality? Tenzin. Then there’s also, oh, Korra is the reincarnation of Tenzin’s beloved father and in a strange twist Tenzin is now Korra’s guardian and HER acting father figure since her biological father is far away.
The beauty of their friendship is that we have seen the two of them grow gradually more and more attached to each other not just as partners in crime, not just as master and student, not just as friends, but as two members of a family. And unlike Mako’s relationship with Korra, the show doesn’t just tell us what we need to know - it SHOWS us what we need to know! Every step of the way.
When Korra got captured, this should have been Tenzin’s big moment to show the audience exactly what Korra means to him now. That part where he saves her by giving her a softer landing with his airbending in episode seven, that was wonderful. Episode nine should have been all of that coming to a head. He should have been losing face for the first time as though one of this three children or his wife had been kidnapped, because by now Korra should be that important to him.
What we got was barely anything from Tenzin. What we SHOULD have gotten was AT LEAST Tenzin shoving Mako aside when he went in to carry Korra and being like, uh, no, jerkface, I’m responsible for Korra and let me take care of her, and, uh, I’m also an ADULT, I kind of know what I’m doing and what she needs more than you do.
You know what the second next best choice would have been for most concerned character about Korra’s safety? Bzzzzzt, it’s not Mako. It’s Lin Beifong.
Because once again, you have an interesting relationship that’s been slowly building since episode one. It was put on the back burner at first, but it’s been rising ever since episode six. We saw a change in Korra’s and Lin’s relationship, and now was the time to strike when the iron was hot. We got to see Lin be concerned about her officers, and that was AWESOME. We saw what a wonderful chief she is, how she considers her officers not as subordinates but as comrades and straight-up bros, if you want to get right down to it.
Now was the time to take Lin and Korra’s relationship to the next level, to have Lin be desperate to save her as well. It would be out of character and too soon for her to be freaking out at the same level Mako was, but there definitely should have been something more, and she definitely could have been the one to bark to the others to give Korra some space when she was injured. Who knows more about a situation like that than the amazing former chief of police Lin Beifong?
So finally, Asami. But, in an interesting twist, I’m going to say that I think her reaction to Mako’s freaking was justified. Some people are saying that that was not the right time for her to be worrying about her relationship, but I disagree. Rather, half-disagree. Because, you know what? Asami, you have every right to feel concerned and a little bit hurt. Asami, you are not an idiot. Your instincts told you something was up, and you were right - and the shameful thing is, freaking Bolin of all people had to tell you, and not your jerk and half boyfriend Mako who should have been honest with you. Even KORRA could have been the one to say something. But no, you had to find out from Bolin. That would hurt like hell no matter what else was going on.
So why do I half-disagree? Because yes, they could have shown Asami being just as concerned about Korra as she was about her relationship. They could have made it clear that she was conflicted, not just hurt. Korra and Asami were just starting to become friends. And now, they can’t be until one of them gets over Mako. Good to know that we now have yet another show where two girls can’t be friends because they want the same boy and they are both jealouuuzzzz.
Just…did every single friendship have to be completely sabotaged in order to show that Korra’s kidnapping put Mako’s feelings into overdrive? No, they didn’t. But everyone was so stoic, so ready to put Mako in charge of Korra herself at the end of the episode in order to make Mako look caring that it was ridiculous, especially riding on the fact that Mako’s character thus far has been inconsistent and weak.
The only real redeeming thing about Mako is his taking care of Bolin, but honestly we don’t even see much of that.
What we see most of is Mako being jealous, Mako being angry, Mako being possessive, Mako being inconsiderate, Mako being unconcerned about Korra until WAIT SUDDENLY HE IS, Mako not even seeming to notice Korra until WAIT SUDDENLY I THINK YOU’RE AMAZING EVEN THOUGH THAT DIDN’T STOP ME FROM INSTANTLY HOOKING UP WITH ANOTHER GIRL WHEN I APPARENTLY FELT THAT WAY ABOUT YOU ALREADY, Mako having shallow reasons for sticking with Asami because “it makes more sense” [read: it’s easier to stay within societal norms and keep dating the girl who is more traditionally feminine and stylish and rich], Mako keeping two women to himself and juggling the two of them, Mako being completely dishonest to his girlfriend (seriously, what do their private conversations sound like? “Naw, baby, of course I don’t have eyes for anyone else! Where would you get an idea like that?”), Mako being immature, Mako jumping to conclusions and immediately assuming that everything Korra does is because she wants to sleep with him, Mako being entitled, Mako being selfish, Mako Mako MAKO.
And when he’s not any of that, he is straight up boring. Just dull. I have no idea what this dude might do on Saturdays for fun. I couldn’t even hazard a guess. Maybe he…trains or something? Jesus.
You’re hot, Mako and I guess you had a hard life. So…ten points for Gryffindor I guess.
All of this might have been fine if they were presented as, WARNING, WARNING, BAD BOYFRIEND MATERIAL, WARNING and WARNING, WARNING, MAKO, GROW THE HELL UP AND STOP BEING AN ASSHAT, WARNING.
But it isn’t. Not at all.
The show at this point is clearly rolling out the red carpet for Mako to be The One for Korra, her true love, her waifu. The show wants me to feel a pang of sorrow when Korra is sadly watching Mako be put in the police truck as he tragically gazes back at her. Iiiiiiii don’t. The show wants me to squee when he picks her up like her knight in shining armor and strokes her face in a scene that would have had me gushing and freaking and giggling with most any likeable fictional pairing, but Iiiiiiiiiiiiiii can’t because I was just treated to an entire episode of Mako reminding us all that he has no intentions of breaking it off with Asami until he has sufficiently hurt her.
And maybe that’s the most infuriating part of IT all, just knowing that if Makorra is really endgame, if there’s no big twist, that there is no conceivable way for this ship to happen without it being blatantly insulting to Asami’s character. Because even if they go with the “nicest” route possible, that being Asami being like, “Look…you honestly care for Korra, and I want you to be happy. Go and get her, champ,” it’s still going to be insulting. Because it’s going to be forced.
Asami has been given no reason to be that nice to Mako. She has given up her father, her riches, and her entire lifestyle to stand with him. It pisses me off knowing that there is a distinct possibility that when Asami is expected to give up Mako too, it’s going to be played off as either, “Aww, how heartwarming,” or “Stop being selfish, Asami, and do the right thing.”
That is all assuming that the completely unpredictable doesn’t wind up happening, that being Korra hooking up with someone else or her giving Mako the brush and hooking up with no one at all. At this point though, I am not holding my breath.
I love this show. I do. The animation is stunning, the music is totally moving, the environment is breathtaking, the plot is interesting, the majority of the characters are either great or have the makings to be great characters. That alone is enough to satisfy me and make me a fan.
But I absolutely hate how much the romantic subplot spoils everything every time it’s stepped up to bat since episode five with the exception of a few moments. Episode nine got me riled up because this time around the Makorra shenanigans completely ripped me out of the experience every time it showed up instead of being a part of the experience the way ATLA’s shipping was no matter what you shipped (or at least that’s how I felt), because I could not get over how poor the development for Makorra and Mako is.
Even if you hated Kataang, you would be lying if you were to say that Katara and Aang didn’t constantly, openly display affection for each other since the very beginning. Maybe you didn’t think it was romantic affection on Katara’s side, but it was affection, there is no denying it. When they got together, you had plenty to go on. Even if you hated Maiko, there is no denying there was affection in that relationship. Even if you hated Sukka, there is no denying there was affection in that relationship.
Makorra. I can only think of maybe one time where the affection was organic on Mako’s side and not completely forced because the plot demanded it, that being when he hugged her in episode six out of concern. Everything else is yelling and I like you suddenly but no one in the audience but the Makorra shippers can figure out why.
I could just go on, and that’s upsetting. I’ll leave it here, because I know I’ve ranted enough and frankly a lot of people are going to interpret this as an angry post about shipping or conclude that I only care about this show because of shipping and yadda yadda, when really I’m the type of person who can be convinced to ship anything in canon as long as canon really does CONVINCE me.
Pictured above: me being a bad fan.
Shipping is not going to ruin this show for me. But bad character development IS going to leave me feeling disappointed after an episode that I was really, really looking forward to. Hopefully this will be the only time you’ll have to see me rant this long and this ragefully about anything Korra-related, because in general my experience with this show has been great.