Thanks to a warning from Mako and a conveniently discarded pastry (you kindahad to be there), Bolin manages to foil an abduction attempt on President Raiko during the screening of the Nuktuk finale at the pro-bending arena. Props to the creative team for using a jelly doughnut to invoke the image of a trail of smeared blood without actually giving the network censors a reason to bitch. Bolin’s real life heroism is cleverly juxtaposed with the climax of the movie where Nuktuk is saving the day, contrasting Bolin’s fictional identity with his actual one. It’s not only nice to see Bolin earthbending again, but he kicks some serious ass in a fight that is incredibly fun to watch. In a deeply awesome bit of symmetry, his personal arc for the season ends where it began, in the pro-bending arena, succeeding in finding a new direction and future in the place where he failed in the season premiere by trying to recreate the past.
As Varrick and Zhu Li (poor girl!) are carted away, Korra shows up to tell President Raiko exactly what’s going on and why Unalaq has to be stopped. Raiko still refuses, however, on the grounds that if what she says is true, his first responsibility is to Republic City, and while he is kind of missing the forest for the trees, I do believe his sense of duty to the people he serves. He’s being short-sighted, but I can appreciate his position.
Mako is released from prison and promoted on the spot to detective in place of the two assholes whose incompetence Chief Beifong has finally wised up to now that stupid fog seems to have lifted. When Korra sees him, she runs up and kisses him because her little bout of amnesia wasn’t cleared out of every corner of her mind, and there’s still some stuff she doesn’t remember…like their break-up. And like a dipshit, he doesn’t tell her the truth. Asami looks super pissed off, and I don’t entirely blame her, because Mako has reverted to “Two-timing Dick” mode (such a popular aspect of his character from last season, writers; we’re all glad you went back to that well), but girl? You jumped on his ass like the second you found out he broke up with your only female friend and you practically painted the words “rebound girl” on your tits. Cry me a river, all right, honey?
Team Avatar shows up to Varrick’s totally fuckin’ pimped out jail cell—seriously, it’s bigger and better decorated than my last apartment—to hit him up for some help. It’s the least he owes them after everything he’s done. Varrick doesn’t deny them their gripes, but points out he did some good too. He warned Korra about Unalaq, he gave Bolin a career, and he saved Asami’s business. And even though he was planning to kidnap the president, he wasn’t going to hurt him. Use him, but not hurt him. And I have to admit, even with all the things he’s done, it is just impossible not to love this guy. He is by far the best addition to the show this season, and I will happily suspend my disbelief for any random, implausible plot twist that gets him out of prison so he can be around in Books 3 and 4. I’m giving you a freebie here, writers. Pull whatever bullshit you like out of a hat, and this one time I will look the other way. I promise. So, Varrick tells Asami all the stuff he stole from her is on his battleship (sweet lord, he has a battleship and he named it the Zhu Li) and that she can have all of it, giving our heroes some firepower to bring back to the South Pole with them. Speaking of which…
Tonraq’s forces actually seem to be making some progress when a bunch of dark spirits show up and turn the tide in Unalaq’s favor. Eska and Desna attack as well, and their whole tandem twin waterbending looks incredible. Why have we not been seeing more of this all season?! Unalaq calls them off so that he and his brother can fight, and it is beautifully choreographed. The way their bodies move, the formations of water and ice they make, the camera angles. It’s just an amazing fight. Sadly, Tonraq loses and is taken captive.
I have very little to add about “Night of a Thousand Stars.” It was very good, solid in both plot and character, and the visuals were amazing. I have only two complaints, namely the re-emergence of what I’ve come to call the “Blurred Lines” storyline.
On the red carpet, Shiro Shinobi refers to Bolin and Ginger as a couple, which Ginger once again assures Bolin they are not. Then, after Bolin’s display of real life heroics, she runs up, kisses him, tells him that she’s totally his girlfriend, and everything is creepy and weird because it all just validates his super-gross behavior back in “The Sting,” and I do not approve.
Now, an argument can easily be made that the writers’ first obligation is to entertain, not to educate or enlighten. An argument can be made that they were playing this whole scenario for comedy and to show just how clueless Bolin is. And an argument can be made that women as shallow and fickle as Ginger do, in fact, exist and would change their opinion of a guy if he just flexed a few muscles for them. You could say all those things, and they could all be true. And they are.
It doesn’t change the fact that this is where the problem starts, with cartoons and fairy tales that send messages to children, messages that more parents than not never bother to contradict if they notice them at all. And the message little boys are being sent here is that no matter how much a girl expresses her lack of interest, if you just put in enough time and wear her down, she will change her mind and like you. Respect her wishes? Fuck that. You want her, and that’s all that matters, so just harass her until she comes around. Kiss her despite her direct, verbally articulated insistence that she’s not interested in you, because it’s not a violation if you’re a nice guy. Bolin acts in ways that are completely inappropriate and intrusive, and in the end, he is rewarded for his bad behavior.
Yes, Korra is a family show and has many sophisticated layers that appeal to adults, but it’s also for kids, and it’s naïve to shirk the responsibility for what you’re filling their heads with, and nothing about this storyline was okay. It was profoundly uncomfortable, and I want Ginger to disappear with no mention of her made ever again aside from a quick throwaway line explaining her absence. I want this whole thing to be like a bad dream, so that I can keep on liking Bolin, because… ew. Ew. Just…ew.
The other problem here was Varrick’s wasted potential. Awesome as the character has been in every scene, it feels like there was so much more there to work with, especially given the whole set-up of him and Unalaq as opposing poles in this conflict between extreme spirituality and extreme materialism. I honestly thought Varrick was set to play a much bigger role than he ultimately ended up playing, which was essentially a character development plot for Mako, Bolin, and Asami that ended up going nowhere. He has a good set-up, a twist reveal, and then ramps up for some big scheme that…never happens. And again, I have to call the writers out for their inexplicable infatuation with this form of compact storytelling that just does not fit a world with the kind of scope and a cast of characters with the kind of size and complexity that Avatar and Korra have. It just leaves too much on the periphery and by the wayside, and what could be a full, multi-faceted story really just ends up being an assortment of shallow, half-baked sub-plots around one major plot that, while better developed, still won’t get the time it deserves. Alas, here we are.