Chapter Three: “The Revelation”
“The Revelation” may not be the best episode of The Legend of Korra so far—that distinction just barely belongs to “A Leaf in the Wind”—but it definitely has the single best moment. It’s the moment in which we see our chief villain, Amon, demonstrate his deadly ability to take people’s Bending powers away forever.
Through a complicated series of events, Korra and Mako end up going to a secret Equalists rally in order to save Mako’s brother Bolin, who has been kidnapped for this event. This rally is supposed to reveal the titular “revelation,” which is that Amon, after losing his family and face to Firebenders when he was a child, has been chosen to lead the revolution against Benders. To do this, the unseen makers of the universe gave him the power to take away Bending.
The way he demonstrates this is particular intriguing: he gives each Bender a fair chance to fight him to keep their abilities. The first one up is the Firebending leader of the Triple Threats Triads, a man who sounds and acts like he should have been voiced by Ray Liotta. Amon quickly pins him down, and, by applying his thumb to the man’s forehead, slowly removes his Bending.
This moment is extremely powerful for a few reasons:
First, the visceral impact is enormous. You can almost feel life forces draining out of the man as his lightning blasts shrink down until they dissolves into fire, and then slowly shrink down to nothing. This is excellent visual storytelling.
Second, suddenly the Equalists become a real threat. Turns out that annoying Equalist with the bullhorn was just a red herring. (Never mind that we get a glimpse of Amon at the end of the first episode, or that his Number Two is voiced by the robot from Aliens.) The Equalists are much more than some petty cult with an inferiority complex.
Third, it raises the stakes considerably, especially since all of our protagonists are Benders. I wouldn’t even want to begin to imagine what would happen if Tenzin or Korra lost their Bending.
Unfortunately, the moment is so good that nothing else that happens in the episode matches its impact. Perhaps that was by design? Maybe Butthead was right when (talking about a song) he said, “If they didn’t have…a part of the song that sucked, then…the other part wouldn’t be as cool.”
Which is not to say that the rest of the episode sucks! In fact, there’s a lot about the episode that I really enjoyed.
I particularly loved the mood and atmosphere of much of the episode, which has a distinct film noir influence. Many times, it reminded me a lot of the sci-fi noir film Dark City, and anything that reminds me of that movie can’t be all bad.
The entire episode sort of has a noir-ish feel in the storytelling as well, even going so far as to have a brief mystery aspect. The map business was neat, and I really liked the kid who wouldn’t talk without being paid first.
Many of the action sequences, from a technical standpoint, are pretty impressive, especially in the ones that successfully incorporate CGI. There’s even a neat revolving shot of a fight that really gives the impression that this is a three-dimensional world.
Unfortunately, some of these CGI-enlaced sequences give way to instances of Rigid Action Syndrome. Rigid Action Syndrome occurs when the action on-screen is rendered and/or animated slightly slower than it should, giving it a very mechanical feel that takes you out of the given moment. It often happens when they animate the CGI in twelve frames per second just like most of the character animation is done. But CGI, by its nature, is supposed to be rendered at the highest frames per second ratio possible (in this case, twenty-four frames per second). Even the sci-fi sitcom Futurama knew that whenever they used CGI (which was often).
Now, I’ll probably get flack for this, but here’s the real reason I don’t rate this episode as highly as “A Leaf in the Wind”: I didn’t really care all that much about the fate of Bolin.
I’ll admit that I like the guy well enough, but I was never really convinced that he was worth getting emotionally invested in. DiMartino and Konietzko try their best to give the back story of him and his brother Mako as concisely as possible, but it didn’t work too well. Besides, it’s not like Bolin was going to die at that Equalist rally.
Maybe I’m being unfair, but I couldn’t help that I just didn’t feel anything for the guy. Yes, it’s sad that he and Mako were orphaned and had to fend for themselves. Yes, he’s the only family Mako has left. Yes, he’s a lovable goofball. It’s just that, well, he hasn’t been developed to the point where I would actually miss him if he was gone. The emotional connection between him and me just isn’t there yet.
That said, I can still appreciate “The Revelation” as an overall well-crafted episode. I just hope that more moments in the future have the same impact that Amon’s Bending taking does. Those are the kind of hard hitting moments I yearn for in all stories, so consider my expectations abnormally high from now on.
All screenshots taken by me.