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The Legend Of Korra Filler Episode That Means More Than You Think

At only four seasons clocking in somewhere between 12 and 14 episodes each, Legend of Korra runs pretty lean. Unlike predecessor series Avatar: The Last Airbender, which enjoyed 20-episode seasons, Korra had to get its stories told quickly. Part of the series' enduring appeal is the sheer breakneck speed and efficiency of its plotting. For that reason, there's one filler episode from season 3 that's always seemed like a bit of an outlier.

With the battle against Zaheer and the Red Lotus heating up, episode 9, entitled "The Stakeout," hits the pause button on the action. For 22 minutes, the story's forward momentum appears to come to a screeching halt, but as some fans on Reddit are now pointing out, even this narrative breather serves a higher purpose. In a Reddit thread where fans discuss their favorite non-finale episodes of the series, one user surprisingly cited "The Stakeout" for all the important character and thematic work the episode is actually doing.

"This is the one thing I always craved with LOK, which was more time spent with the Krew to flesh out the dynamics," wrote u/Stephen52I. "This is something that ATLA excelled at, and my one main problem with LOK is that it doesn't do enough of this- though I suspect this is due to Nickelodeon not giving the show enough budget to have filler episodes."

The post continues to describe all the subtleties present in the episode that this fan found so appealing, and why this half hour means more than you think.

'The Stakeout' is actually a very rich episode

As this fan points out in their post, "The Stakeout" offers viewers the opportunity to see interactions between characters who don't otherwise have rich relationships related to the development of the main story. Bolin and Asami, in particular, are both principal members of Team Avatar, but their respective character arcs don't really intersect much.

"Watching Bo Lin [sic] and Asami play Pai Sho isn't super exciting, but it's one of the only times the show actually shows us the dynamic between these characters," Stephen52I wrote.

In response, Redditor u/lonyoshi elaborated on the thematic significance of this casual board game. "The Pai Sho can be taken as a metaphor for the season as well. Bolin plays fast and loose. Asami plays slow and methodical. Chaos vs Order. The Red Lotus represent chaos. But as we see from Asami winning streak, order wins over chaos everytime [sic]. So it serves as not only giving Bolin and Asami something to do while Mako and Korra are doing the actual Stakeout, but as a storytelling mechanism. And nothing in the show is not deliberate."

It's the mark of an excellent show when fans are interested enough in the characters to let the main story make room for these kinds of quieter, character-driven scenes. The fact that a whole episode of character development was also doing quality thematic work is a serious credit to the writing team. 

The moral here, of course, is that we should never question the storytelling judgment of Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. Even their rare filler episodes are chock full of rich context. Those dudes seriously know what they're doing.