K305 – The Metal Clan Episode Review
Second review for the week.
K305 The Metal Clan
Written By: Mike DiMartino
Directed By: Colin Heck
Animated By: Studio Mir
While the first episode on Friday was very action focused, this episode was extremely character focused, with lots of new character introductions. It was interesting to see Lin have so much of a focus in her episode seeing her family again, it really allowed us to discuss her emotions and feelings for the first time in the series really. On the other side of things we got an intriguing side plot with Zaheer going undercover on Air Temple Island to find out where Korra is and possibly more. Like episode 3 did this one does a great job at setting things up for the next episode to resolve. If the rest of the book can effectively use all of the new characters introduced in this episode we are in for a treat.
Zaheer or Yuru to use his fake name is interesting in this episode. The show does not really attempt to hide the fact that it is Zaheer, a lot of little things straight away show you that this is Zaheer. For me it was the trademark gap in his eyebrow while others may have caught on when he said he was disappointed that Korra would not be at the Northern Air Temple. I do wish the episode had told us what his exact goals were being undercover. It is clear that he wanted to find out where Korra was, but when he was in Tenzin’s study reading the poem it left me wondering if that was also something he wanted to find out about. This is the second Guru Lahima poem he has mentioned, both referencing the concept of levitation and leaving your body. I am getting a vibe that he wants to learn the special ability of Airbending, but is not sure of the nature of it yet, his first poem from episode one seemed to say that Lahima literally learned how to levitate at will, while this new one I think tells Zaheer that the technique is more of a spiritual one, not your body leaving the earth, but your spirit leaving your body. Is Zaheer’s goal to learn the technique that Jinora has already mastered, she does say in the previous episode that her ability is a high-level airbending technique based on spirituality. Zaheer is a master airbender as far as we know and seems reasonably spiritual so now that he understands the technique apparently, perhaps he will try to use it to locate Korra. That said this is just pure speculation now because as I said the episode does not make it clear if finding the poem was planned or if it just happened.
I also enjoyed how Zaheer really honestly took part in the training he was given, he does seem to really enjoy the culture of the Air Nomads as shown when he very respectfully bows to Meelo after gate training and is very nice to Ikki when she finds him in her father’s room. It must have been a big moment for him to get to take part in actual airbending training. His final involvement in the episode is of course his fight with Kya and some OWL guards. It was great to get to see Kya really showcased in a near one on one fightscene, for the first time in the series we really see that this is the daughter of Katara, one of the Â best waterbenders in the world, she really puts up a great fight against Zaheer. The fight was unique in that it was one of the first times we have seen an air vs water fight and especially with air being the villain, getting to see a more offensive style of airbending was very cool, it really showcased how powerful the element is and that if the air nomads were not a peaceful people they could really do some damage. Zaheer wins the fight and leaves knowing that Korra is not at the Northern Air Temple. I stand by what I said about this whole side plot, it is very interesting, but needed some more explanation about what Zaheer’s aim was being there.
Now onto the Beifong family drama….wait, that is too weak of a word to describe what we found out, the episode presents it as more of a family disaster as if Suyin did something so bad that it utterly tore the family apart. There is huge emotion in this event for Lin who just cannot get past what happened and is angry and later upset enough to cry about it, it is clear that the family falling apart is a huge event in Lin’s life that seems to have affected her so much that she never tried for a family of her own, this is the reason her relationship with Tenzin fell apart, he wanted a family and she did not. It is HUGE for Lin.
Back to the way the Beifong family is, we get a lot of crazy revelations about Toph and the sisters. First of all Lin and Suyin are only half sisters, Toph is their mother, but they have different fathers. I was happy to see that Nick allowed them to really spotlight this fact, it is something you rarely see on channels like Nick, a family like that with children from different parents, despite it being such a normal thing nowadays in reality, so I am sure any Korra fans who have a similar family really appreciate the representation on screen, I love it because it adds an extra layer of realism to the show. The next reveal is that the two girls never knew their fathers which for me was the big O.O moment, neither girl knew either of the fathers, this had me saying “What on earth happened in Toph’s personal life where she had kids with two different men, but neither of them were involved at all in the girl’s lives at all?”. Add to that that the girls have not spoken in 30 years and that Toph is still alive roaming the world in search of enlightenment and you have an adult Toph presented as a nearly completely different character than we knew from ATLA. Honestly it makes sense that she had the most issues with her own parents and connecting with people in general that she would have the biggest issues in her adult life, still it is tough to hear about the struggles in life for a character you know and love so much. At the very least the door is open for a Toph appearance in Korra at some stage, which based on what we know from this episode should be very eventful, she seems so changed from what we know. Though I did love the reference of why Toph’s parenting style was as it was, her own strict upbringing led her to give her own kids all the freedom that they wanted for all the good and bad that it brought.
Now let’s get started with some of the new characters, first up Suyin. I love how she is the exact opposite of Lin in basically every way. She is very friendly and positive compared to Lin who is standoffish and negative. She is all about change to the point where she uses it as an excuse for past actions while Lin is so against change she has made herself incapable of it. Lin is living in the past, Suyin in the future and neither is living in the moment where they need to address their issues, I expect this will be the key event next episode.
My favourite scene with Su is definitely her chat with Korra about her past. Again her life seems in complete contrast to Lin, Lin became a cop and is still a cop while Su has changed what she is and where she is many times in her life. She was with Pirates at one stage, a travelling circus and even a sandbender commune. All things we have heard of in Avatar before. We know our lovely pirate friends from ATLA Book 1 when they tried to kill Team Avatar over the waterbending scroll and then attempted to blow up Zuko, we know of a travelling circus from the one that Ty Lee joined and Appa was even part of one too. Then Sandbenders we know well from The Library and The Desert, plus we know we will get some sandbender focus at some point later this book. She then talks about how she finally settled down, she realised what she wanted was a family and so bought some land and with the help of an architect who became her husband she created Zaofu a place she could call home after having such a fractured upbringing, very meaningful story from Su here.
We also get to meet Su’s rather big family, again another big contrast to Lin who has no family of her own while Su has a husband 4 sons and 1 daughter. It is very interesting also her attitude that is the mantra in Zaofu, everyone is urged to fulfil their potential and urged to have as many interests as possible. She is proud of her youngest sons Wei and Wing because they have invented a game called powerdisk which involves metalbending a disk around an arena bouncing it off the walls and pillars. Her middle son, Huan is a sculptor of metal, very arty type of person and again she is proud. At dinner her husband, Baatar and her eldest son fly by having created a new idea, her husband an architect and son an engineer, she is not annoyed that they are skipping dinner as she does not want to get in the way of their inspiration. We also meet her daughter Opal, who she does not introduce as being an inventor, artist or sculptor, instead she is the new airbender the group are their to meet. This is key, we also see that Su is very protective of Opal, she does not want her to leave to train at the northern air temple and wants it done in Zaofu. You get a combination of Su being too protective of Opal and Opal wanting some excitement in her life come out her, airbending is what Opal’s talent is, it will become what her mother is so proud to introduce her as, but this can only happen if she lets Opal be trained at the temples.
I quite like Opal as a character, even though she is not the most exciting character we have ever had in Korra, it is oddly unique in Avatar to get a character who is fairly straightforward. She is simply a very nice girl who wants some excitement in her life because she is being sheltered a bit by her mother, she does not have an obvious talent like everyone else in her family, but now that she is an airbender she has something to strive towards. That is really nice set up in terms of where her character can go without things being overly complicated. Her being so nice sets up the end scene of the episode when Korra tries to use Opal to get Lin to open up about her family problems, but Lin even gets angry at Opal causing her to run off crying. It makes Lin come across as a complete monster and Korra calls her out on this saying that she will always be bitter and lonely, but we end the episode with Lin crying. Showing just how deep the emotional woundsÂ have cut, it is a soul destroying way to end the episode, but it shows such great emotion from Lin and because Lin is not very emotional it is all the more effective.
Final thing about Opal is her blossoming relationship with Bolin. I felt this was really well done throughout the episode, she basically falls for him as soon as they meet, but he is a bit clueless to how much she likes him until Mako points it out later on in the episode. He decides she is not his type and after Mako points out his unusual romantic history he decides that he will see how things go with Opal. Which leads to him trying to to really cheesily hit on her, I love her reaction because she just gets annoyed at how weird he is acting calls him out on it and goes to leave, which alerts Bolin to the fact that he is doing something wrong. She the advises him to just be himself and to stop trying so hard to impress her, but not to completely stop, which I loved. A simple but effective lesson in how to pursue someone you like. A nice extra layer to Opal as a character.
Then despite all of the Toph reveals arguably the most surprising part of the episode is the sudden appearance of Varrick and Zhu-Li. I had just not expected to see them this early in Book 3 so it was a huge surprise, but a welcome one as Varrick always adds a laugh to any scene he is in. He is not a really important part of this episode, mainly serving as a way to showcase the differences between the sisters. Lin thinks Varrick should be locked back up in prison while Su thinks that Varrick has changed and should not pay for past errors for his whole life, clearly her own thoughts on what she did to mess up the family. He does mention that he is working with magnets now and planning a high speed rail network, which is cool I suppose. I very much appreciated that Asami mentioned that she did get her company back when he was arrested, something we probably should have been told last book. Cool return, but I hope he has a role.
Overall The Metal Clan is an excellent opening part to this Beifong Family arc. Lots of new characters which Avatar always does a good job at introducing, an excellent new location in the beautiful metal city of Zaofu and a tonne of emotion. Perhaps my favourite episode of the book so far, very impressive.
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