The Legend of Korra season 2 is airing at the end of the week, and we thought we’d spend a little time talking about one of the most controversial characters so far – Mako.
Mako had a hard time of it last year, both on the show and in the fandom, but we think the guy deserves a fresh start in The Legend of Korra season 2! Here are our reasons why.
He’s had it rough
Though Mako’s childhood struggles were hinted at in The Legend of Korra, the recent webseries Republic City Hustle shed some important light on what life was really like for the young firebender. Between living on the streets, getting roped into working for criminals, and trying to make sure that he and Bolin didn’t flat-out starve, it’s impressive that the pressures of survival didn’t turn Mako into a full-blown, anti-social jerk-bender.
So yes, Mako can be abrasive, brusque, and focused to the point of rudeness. But that same intensity of purpose was what kept himself and his brother alive all those years on the streets, and that kind of survival-mode is a difficult thing to un-learn. Mako isn’t great at being social, but it isn’t because he’s snobbish or angry – he just lacks the years of interpersonal experience most of us have, which allow us to respond a little bit more graciously under pressure.
He’s also a teenager – but we’ll get to that in a minute.
His life got flipped, turned upside down!
So let’s say you’re Mako, right? You’re a fledgling pro-bender, you have a roof over your head, and aren’t in danger of starving any time soon. Life is pretty predictable, which is a good thing.
And then – bam! You find yourself with two different girls laying claim to your affections. There’s Korra, strong and funny, a new but integral link in your pro-bending team; and there’s Asami, glamorous, sweet, and well-connected.
And you know what? Even though you never sought out either girl’s affections, you like both of them. (It happens, kids.)
What happened to Mako in season 1 of The Legend of Korra – from the romance story to the Equalist issue and back – is that he was forced to deal with situations beyond his control. Needing to chose between Asami and Korra, responding to Korra’s kidnapping, getting involved with the fight against Amon – these were all areas in which the actions of others (however reasonable and justified) made it necessary for Mako to act. Not being in control is something that Mako is familiar with – see childhood recap above – and it doesn’t have pleasant associations for him.
So while it isn’t really anybody’s fault that Mako felt repeatedly backed into a corner (well… maybe it’s Tarrlok’s fault for kidnapping Korra) it makes a lot of sense that Mako isn’t Mickey Mouse (Mako Mouse?) under that kind of perceived pressure.
And while we’re on the subject of not being Mako Mouse, let’s remember…
Mako hasn’t done anything THAT terrible
Mako’s crimes in Book 1 mostly amount brusqueness, kissing Korra, and letting his relationship with Asami linger on to experience a painful demise. We’ve already dealt with the first item, and the second two can be treated with similar answers. That being: Mako is not the greatest boyfriend in season 1 of The Legend of Korra.
No, he shouldn’t have kissed Korra back. Yes, he probably should have told Asami about the incident. And yes, he definitely should have been more in tune with the strength of his feelings for Korra, and let Asami go before everyone’s feelings got hurt.
But this is where being a teenager comes in.
Mako’s behavior does not come from cruelty or a desire to hurt. His insensitivity comes from the issues we listed above, compounded tenfold by the fact that – as a teen – romance is new to him. It’s totally confusing, and frustrating, and control-voiding which, as we’ve established, doesn’t make him very friendly. This is the simple brilliance of The Legend of Korra; it’s main characters are teenagers, and sometimes teenagers (even well-intentioned, intelligent, and responsible teenagers) make incredibly thoughtless decisions.
So in conclusion…
Mako is a hard character to love, but he’s also almost impossible to hate. As flawed as some of his actions are, they originate from a context that is both tragic and understandable. By understanding that context, hopefully even those among us who have a tough time with the moody firebender will be able to give the kid a clean slate in The Legend of Korra season 2.
The Legend of Korra season 2 premieres on Friday, Sept. 13 at 7 pm on Nickelodeon.