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“When Extremes Meet” showed Korra finally embarking on a personal journey in becoming the Avatar and underlined a fundamental issue with the power structure in Republic City. The episode also developed Councilman Tarrlok as a villain in his own right, and singled out Asami as the most interesting young person around Korra.
The story starts with the arrival of Asami, Bolin and Mako at Air Temple Island. After the awkwardness and embarrassment occasioned by Ikki who lets Asami into the fact that Korra “likes” Mako, the young women head towards Asami’s room which is nothing like what she is used to. She doesn’t mind the modesty of the place, apparently relieved it has nothing (read nothing pricey enough) to remind her of her father.
Asami Sato is a very likable character. Her general kindness and her straightforward personality were visible from her first appearance earlier in the season. Later, her decision to stick with whatever morals and principles she was taught growing up pitted her against her father in a very dramatic way. And of course, the classy design of the attractive animated character doesn’t hurt. After the tragedy of a daughter bringing about the demise of her own father, Asami is now involved in a love triangle, and as a non-bender, is now also feeling the consequences of repressive policies by the bender elite.
I liked how she found her place in New Team Avatar, providing transportation and access to police radio frequencies as well as competent driving and some sort of leadership. I liked a lot less how using the satomobile seemed to contradict her wish to stay clear from everything reminding her of her father, and I certainly didn’t like her facial expression when she saw Mako and Korra on the backseat. Depending on what appeals to you, love triangles may or may not be your cup of tea, but we must agree on the fact that when they veer into the melodramatic and get sensible characters to make 180-degree turns away from their values, love triangles test our patience. It is of course possible that I read too much into that unfriendly look from Asami.
Tarrlok is another interesting character. He came into his own during this episode, in the sense that he revealed he was more of a villain than a hero or a hero’s companion. His ambition was palpable from his very first appearance, but moving so swiftly to set up a repressive regime against non-benders was a bold step that seemed part of a bigger plan. And about plans, although Amon the Equalist has goals that are the very opposite of what Tarrlok’s curfew represents, my mind can’t help but connect those two characters. The fact that one of them wears a mask certainly helps, but to my defense, it should be noted that the end results of the curfew, the non-benders’ protests and the general upheaval, are right in line with Amon’s agenda. Which brings us to our heroine, Avatar Korra.
The feisty young woman brought up that same argument when she met Tarrlok alone at night, trying to make him understand how his actions played into Amon’s narrative. Her visit did not end that well, but shows how far she has come. She has moved from wanting to make a difference using only her ‘raw’ skills to now trying to look into herself and into others to reach the same goal. In this episode, although she was still every bit as feisty, she seemed to be finally beginning the journey to embrace all facets of the Avatar’s potential. It started with Councilman Tarrlok deriding her as a half-baked Avatar, prompting her to wonder more seriously why airbending seems so elusive to her. The following lonely brooding brought about the ill-named New Team Avatar and its patrols, but the tipping point, the reason why she decided to try and convince Tarrlok was, to me at least, the plea from the non-bender female protester, “You’re our Avatar too!”
That plea underscores a fundamental flaw in the power structure in Republic City. The heart of the country’s power is controlled by a council made up of benders. How can such a small body with absolute power protect the rights of a “minority” that is unrepresented? By reminding Korra that she is everyone’s Avatar, the female protester reminded our heroine of her duty and that of the council in a very simple, very touching but very effective way.
I liked how her fight with Tarrlok built on her exploration of herself and her Avatar inheritance through bloodbending. If she succeeds in using her visions to unlock part of the mystery surrounding the waterbending councilman, she might get closer to reaching her own potential.
I should also mention the one moment of humor that was a gem, the metalbending police literally “rounding up” protesters…