Mako + Lightning bending
I’ve seen a few people express dislike for the portion of Mako’s new character bio where it says Mako’s choice of weapon is lightning given how little he’s used it lately. So I took it upon myself to track back through everything released so far and sure enough… 7 instances in Book 1 and only once in Book 2 and nothing so far in Book 3.
And then it hit me… Lightning is the cold blooded fire. According to the Avatar Wiki page lightning bending “Mentally it involves a complete absence of emotion and peace of mind, and physically it requires separating the energies of yin and yang, also interpreted as positive and negative electric potential respectively.” (x)
Now we know full well that Mako is physically capable of producing lightning. In fact, of all the people we’ve seen generate lightning, he probably does it with the least amount of effort.
So why the sudden lack of lightning from Mako?
"Mentally it involves a complete absence of emotion and peace of mind"
Think about the events of Book 2 and Book 3. Compare the stoic and restrained Mako you saw in Book 1 with what you’ve seen of Mako in Book 2 and Book 3. That’s not the picture of someone who’s absent of emotion or abundant in peace of mind at all. At least in Book 1 Mako was more in control of his emotions in the sense that he was pretty good at ultimately shoving them aside (and not dealing with them entirely at times). That ability wore off severely by the time Book 2 rolled around (I think a certain waterbender may or may not be to partially blame for this).
In full honesty, opening yourself up and allowing the avatar of all people into your life, especially an avatar as chaotic as Korra… there’s only so long you can keep your inner emotionless peace.
The avatar lives on a different level than everyone else. Who else is surrounded by the only airbenders (at the time), constantly in the public eye (for a different reason than probending), basically seen and depended on as the savior and problem solver for the world, always involved somehow in a conflict or diplomatic event (the Water Tribe Civil wars and traveling the world looking for airbenders) and is constantly under the threat of attack (and not just anyone, but literally the dark spirit of pure evil and four master assassins).
Not to mention the romantic side and how much Korra has gotten under Mako’s skin and really taken him out of his comfort zone. Mako doesn’t have a little crush on Korra. It’s not a “oh she’s pretty and nice and I like hanging out with her”. She drives him crazy. She makes him feel things he’s never felt before and it’s been proven over and over again that ultimately he doesn’t yet know what to do with these feelings or how to handle them.
Honestly would Mako have even come close to doing half of what he’s done so far if it weren’t for Korra? Without Korra, Mako would’ve probably dropped out of the probending tournament because Hasook left them, gone back to training for another year, maybe even been on the streets depending on how lenient they’d be with the brothers living in the attic for free for a while, looking for a replacement waterbender for the team and trying to scrape by protecting and providing for Bolin.
And the chances Mako would’ve became a cop probably wouldn’t have been that high. When Korra found Mako he was very much in survival mode. He wasn’t living, he was simply surviving and in that lifestyle Mako can keep his emotionless peace of mind. For someone who’s been doing it since the age of 8, he’s a master at it by now.
Because of Korra, Mako, for the first time since his parents died, had the chance to really live. For the first time he had another option. He could live at Air Temple Island. He could be fed good food. People were there who would make sure he had clothes and was taken care of. Because Korra found Mako, Mako was able to experience a life beyond survival. He was allowed to experience his emotions in a new way because it didn’t jeopardize his and Bolin’s potential safety and well-being.
Meeting the avatar severely changes your life and your destiny. We saw this with Katara and Sokka and now we’re seeing it with Mako and Bolin.
I truly believe Mako’s actual preferred choice of weapon is still lightning bending. But at the moment his emotional life is chaos and he’s dealt with almost none of it (which I really think is going to come back to get him in the next few episodes). After bottling up his emotions for so long it’s hardly surprising that he has almost no idea how to handle them. So this is the next phase of Mako’s character development - handling his emotions in a healthy way.
And I think once we see Mako find his peace while balancing his emotions (not neglecting them but not letting them get out of control), I think we’ll see more lightning from Mako. Because as I said earlier, I really think that is his preferred weapon of choice.
Ah, excellent thoughts on something I’d been wondering and asking about as well. Although on rewatching light in the dark last night, I realized he did bend lightning there…to protect Korra in the tree of time. But that’s been the last time.