Life in a Glasshouse: The Spirit of Competition Recap

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I'm immortally interested in cultural/literary deconstructions, feminism, anti-racism, South Korea, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes, Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones, food (including but not limited to maple butter, tomatoes, and toast), fairy tales, parentheses, paper airplanes, films and books.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Spirit of Competition Recap

Legend of Korra: Love Square Ahoy

Recap: The episode opens with the Fire Ferrets all delighted that Korra has been spending more time at practice than the taskforce. It's led to an improvement of all of their skills. However, romantic tension is still running high. Bolin is crushing on Korra, while she smiles all over Mako, who looks rather uncomfortable at the attention. Thankfully, Asami stops by, saving him from any further embarrasment. She drops off their new team outfits and picks Mako up for their date. Bolin tries to do the same with Korra, but she turns him down. At the brothers' apartment, Bolin is simultaneously complaining and boasting about his relationship with Korra. His brother warns him not to get tangled up with a teammate.

On Airbender Island, Ikki and Jinora bug Korra for details about her crush. Pema laughs while Korra tries to understand the two's love advice and gives her own. She tells the three that Tenzin was also with someone else when she fell for him and that she was shy and scared, but the thought of losing her soulmate provided her with enough courage to confess her love. That was all she wrote.

In the quarter finals, they face off against an all female team, the Raveroos. The Fire Ferret have definitely improved with all of Korra's practice, working together "like a well-oiled bending machine". They advance to the next match, and Korra, on her victory high, confesses that her crush to Mako and tells him that she thinks their soulmates. Mako turns her down as Asami enters to congratulate them all. Bolin comes in next to see a dejected Korra. Where his pick up lines fail, his grand compliments work. He manages to win Korra over for a date, with Mako looking suspicious in Asami's arms.

If you'd like to learn how a real pro bends, I could give you private lessons.
Bolin and Korra go out water tribe food at a local noodle shop. As he tries to impress her, Tahno and the Wolf-bats, the reigning champs three years running makes eye contact with them at the back. Bolin warns Korra not to get engaged, but we all know Korra. Tahno tries to seduce Korra to their team in a way that I'm not sure I've ever seen on an eleven o'clock children's television show. Naga shows up to scare the pants off of him and it's brilliant, leaving the two to have what seems to be a wonderful date.

When Korra shows up for the match the following day, Mako is waiting to confront her about her date. It is part jealousy, part concern for his younger brother. The confrontation leaves them both high and dry, and they storm off to play. They're up against the Porcupines for the quarter finals, but are unable to pull it together. Bolin manages to win the match for them.

Mako comes out to confront Korra a second time. He can't make up his mind, so Korra makes it up for him and Bolin sees them. He runs off and his brother doesn't chase after him. The next morning, Mako finds him at the noodle shop where he has clearly spent the night (with a bottle or two?) and wakes up a massive wreck. Mako lectures Bolin as they're nearly late for the semi-finals. What they need is a serious talk and not another match.

The semi final is Fire Ferrets versus the Buzzard Wasps. Bolin loses his noodles, literally on the floor. Korra nearly loses her temper, but tries to get everyone to work as a team. Her efforts don't merit anything other than silence. The final Bolin dislocates his arm and gets knocked out after Mako. Korra is the only one left. It's three on one. But when she puts her head in the game, Korra manages to knock every single one of them out in one blow.

They talk it out after the match and all of them decide to give the romantic entanglements a rest. Asami comes in and congratulates all of them, but especially Korra on her hat trick. In return, Korra gives her that long time coming thanks, and heals Bolin with Katara's usual schtick that she's passed on. Korra then apologizes about hurting his feelings and compliments him by reiterating his usual comments about her.

Meanwhile, the White Falls Wolf-bats, who took to the ring immediately after the other semi-finals, win after only one round with a brutal knockout that sends the opposing team to the hospital. As the reigning champions, they are the ones the Fire Ferrets face next.

Thoughts: I was surprised by the focus on the romance here. The whole episode came off as a let's-get-this-over-with, which was disappointing. A:TLA was so good with combining romance and plot and character development, I think I may have been expecting that, but the format of LoK is quite different. Where A:TLA could be given more of a slow burn with all the adventuring and journeying, LoK is more concentrated and doesn't have the luxury of 60+ episodes. I'm not a huge fan of romance anyway, so if this means that's the last of the drama llama, I'll take it all in stride.

There were some problematic depictions about cheating here. While no one was particularly blamed for what happened (no slut shaming yay!), the matter seemed to be dealt with a bit trivially. Bolin has already been shown as the Innocent One, so his reaction might have felt comedic but did hit a cord with me. It was rather heartbreaking. Everything else however, like the idea that Mako could be torn between two girls, rubbed off wrong on me.

As a frequent YA reader, I'm used to love triangles -- and loathe them when they're done badly. The girl-boy-girl triangle isn't one we see a lot, but it is one that can be even more terrible than the usual. Girls are already shelved over as love interests in shows/books where that's all they're meant to be, but love triangles featuring two girls who do not feel anything for each other generally separate girls as the Good one and the Bad one. Thankfully, Asami and Korra have yet to be distinguished like this, but on the other hand, Asami barely had any development in her second episode.

Where we were treated to Mako's backstory in his second introductory episode, here Asami is regulated as the awkward fourth wheel to the trio's shenanigans. I also don't like that we didn't see whether or not Mako told Asami what happened between him and Korra. It may have been Korra who initiated it, but he did kiss back. I understand Mako is just a teenager, and this is probably his first time being in a love triangle, but I do wish that he could be given the same treatment as Bolin, who doesn't fit the typical Nice Guy mold. If you're in a monogamous relationship and you kiss someone else, the best thing to do is to confide in your partner because they deserve the truth. I hope, when the secret is revealed, that the writers did not fall back on cliches and that they don't shame either Korra or Asami. Despite their treatment of the cheating plotline in this episode, I'm fairly hopeful that that won't go so badly, but it all remains to be seen.

Next episode: And the Winner is... Korra and the Fire Ferrets prepare for the pro-bending championship as a threat looms over the arena.

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