[7.9//10] Well, this one totally dashed my theory about Amon’s real identity, both by noting that Aang’s son Bumi is a general in the United Forces, and by revealing that Amon is Tarrlok’s brother, not Tenzin’s. “Skeletons in the Closet” is an oddly structured episode. The first part of it is a very cool but empty calorie air force vs. navy fight between Amon’s unveiled dogfighters and Iroh Jr.’s ships. The animation and cinematography or great, but it doesn’t do much beyond provide some early excitement for an otherwise mostly actionless episode and reaffirm that Amon is a step ahead.
The brief middle portion of the episode feels like table setting and prelude. There’s tender goodbyes and teams splitting up to fight this squad or that squad (an Avatar tradition) and grand statements about what it all means, but it feels pretty by the numbers. That leads to the last portion of the episode, which is an extended vignette revealing Amon’s origin, his shared history with Tarrlok, and the reasons for his perspective.
The the backstory is satisfying, if not necessarily overwhelming. As I’ve said before, I like that the Avatar-verse tells generational stories, ones in which the actions and grudges of fathers and grandmothers and past lives all have ripples into the present. The story of Yakone training his sons to be weapons of vengeance to get back at The Avatar for taking his bending away is a compelling one for that reason. It shows that, in contrast to what AtLA seemed to suggest with Ozai, energy-bending doesn’t end the threat someone poses -- it just delays their ability to strike back.
But I also like that Amon’s origin is one of how abuse changes a person. We get nice characterization of Tarrlok as someone who was a bloodbender by birth, but who didn’t have the overwhelming talent or the stomach for him, making him an object of scorn from his father and of protection for his brother. Tarrlok’s been set up as an antagonist here, and his bloodbending made him seem like a real threat, but seeing the way he was warped by his homelife adds context and understanding to who he is.
The same goes for Amon. One of the most interesting things we learned about Ozai was that his father was cruel and unforgiving, potentially ordering him to kill Zuko. These bits of harshness are inherited, forcible taught, and that gives dimension and a place in history to these series great antagonist. There’s something tidy and sympathetic about young Amon being a kind-hearted child, corrupted into being a much crueller man by his father. It makes his story a tragic one, and Amon himself into a victim as much as he is a perpetrator.
But it also adds dimension to his Equalist stance. It’s this conflict among benders and the right or wrong way to do it that started his father’s obsession in the first place. It was this “gift”, one inherited, that caused Amon and his little brother to be the object of their father’s abusive instruction, that changed him from a caring father into a single-minded seeker of vengeance ready to use his own family as tools to that end. It is satisfying and horrifying when Amon turns on his father, using the heartlessness and decisiveness on the man who instilled those qualities in him, in a nice bit of poetic irony. And why wouldn’t he want to try to eliminate what he views as the cause of these troubles, of the things that turned his happy family into a broken one?
I’ll admit, there’s parts of that backstory that feel a little too pat. “Daddy never loved me” is a cliché villain origin for a reason. But this largely works as a way to tie the conflcit between Korra and Amon to the one between Aang and Yakone (and to a similar extent, Aang and Ozai), and to give Amon interesting motivations for his stance and an intriguing explanation for how and why he uses his powers.
Frankly, I wish they had dispensed with the air raid and the heartfelt goodbyes (or fit them into other episodes) and given the Amon story more time to breathe, but even as is, the story adds to our understanding of Amon considerably, making him both an even greater threat but also a tragic figure, in the tradition of many other great villains. Excited to see what comes next.
I feel like the two seemingly separate storylines (Tarloq the hypocritical and manipulative councilman and Amon whose idealism and good intentions are skewed by his means) could've been tied together better beyond just showing that one scene of Amon resisting Tarloq's bloodbending. I also just can't buy this background story of secret identities and brothers whose principles were already established acting so differently in the past with no smooth transitions from being good and righteous kids to tools for vengeance to carrying out their own beliefs through different movements. Having Tarloq recount the story after being discovered in the attic is also way too corny for my taste.
Iman and Tarlock should have just had their own movie... because it feels like their story overshadows the whole rest of the season and all the petty little drama of team avatar. Great story in and of itself, terrible timing for the series with so much already going on.
This is little far fetched. How did the equilatisgs build all these weapons & machines without anyone knowing. Doesn’t make any sense at all.