In ‘The Legend of Korra,’ who is Amon? His powers and past, explained

Amon in The Legend of Korra
Screengrab via Netflix/Nickelodeon

Avatar: The Legend of Korra is full of complex villains. Unlike the Fire Lord — the bad guy in the original Avatar: The Last Airbender series and a truly evil imperialist blinded by his own power and warped sense of history — the enemies Korra comes up against operate in the moral grey area in terms of their beliefs, even if their actions are often deadly.

Nobody sums this up quite like season one’s baddie, Amon. A hugely talented fighter and, as we learn, a bloodbender of terrifying power, his crusade to rid the world of bending stems from both his own trauma and a rabid sense of fairness. But how did a waterbender end up becoming the leader of an anti-bending movement? And just how powerful was he?

Evil in his veins

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Amon’s troubled past began before he was even born. His father was former crime boss Yakone, who for years was the source of all things shady in Republic City. Yakone came from a long line of talented waterbenders who learned to use bloodbending — a prohibited practice — outside of a full moon. Beforehand, this was considered impossible, as people believed waterbenders could only bloodbend when the full moon boosted their abilities.

Yakone was a slippery customer, managing to avoid punishment for his criminal activities. However, in a rare sloppy moment, he used his bloodbending in the presence of credible witnesses and was charged with the crime. As he was sentenced to life, he bent the blood of everyone in the room and tried to escape, only for Avatar Aang to fight through the pain and overpower him, before taking away his bending.

With the help of his gang, Yakone escaped from prison and fled north into the vast tundra, assuming a new identity as a member of the Northern Water Tribe. He found a wife and became a father to two sons: Noatak and Tarrlok. His bitterness at Republic City for imprisoning him and taking away his power never faded, and he tried to pass that animosity on to his children. Little did he know that the older Noatak would one day terrorize Republic City in a way his father could have only dreamed of.

Training in the tundra

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Born in the Northern Water Tribe as Noatak, Amon had a tough upbringing. His younger brother by three years, Tarrlok, recalled that Noatak was a kind child who cared deeply about equality. However, when the brothers discovered they’d inherited their father’s waterbending abilities, Yakone began to crack the whip, training them to the point of abuse. Noatak was a natural while his brother, although talented, struggled, much to their father’s chagrin. At first, Noatak tried to stand up for his little sibling, but their father threatened both children if they ever talked back to him again. Noatak learned to stay quiet, channeling his anger into his bending.

At ages seven and ten, Tarrlok and Noatak were taken on what they thought was a hunting trip deep in the frozen landscape. However, this was just a ruse from their dad, who used the isolation to saddle them with the truth about their family’s history of bloodbending and his criminal past as Yakone. He saw them as tools, and he wanted to whet their abilities until they could return to Republic City and crush the ghost of Avatar Aang.

From then on, every full moon, the boys would lie to their mother about going on a hunting trip, instead heading into the wilderness to practice bloodbending in secret. By the age of 14, Noatak could bloodbend at will, turning packs of wolves into his personal dolls. He was a prodigy.

Yakone continued to soak in his bitterness, becoming more cruel as time passed. Eventually, he ordered his sons to bloodbend each other. Noatak did so with ease, but Tarrlok refused to return the punishment. Yakone snapped and began berating his youngest son, but Noatak’s inherent sense of fairness kicked in and he bloodbent his father into submission. While Yakone was unable to move, Noatak told him that he was weak for having his bending ability stripped by Aang, and that he wouldn’t be used as a tool of revenge by some criminal. The bond between father and son was broken.

While still controlling his father, Noatak urged Tarrlok to run away with him and start fresh somewhere far away, but his little brother refused to leave their mother. Then, Noatak showed the part of his personality his dad had given him: He called Tarrlok weak and disappeared into the snowstorm, leaving his little brother cold and alone. Tarrlok would later become a prominent politician in Republic City, where he’d run into his brother again.

Years in the wilderness

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Little is known about what Noatak did between that point and resurfacing in Republic City as Amon decades later. The only thing we can be sure of is that during this time, he learned to use his bloodbending to disrupt a bender’s chi and take away their bending ability. Some have speculated he did this by blocking chakras, but the technicalities of his methods are unknown. It’s likely he invented the technique himself, possibly after studying how hitting people in certain pressure points could temporarily block their chi, making it impossible for them to use their bending abilities.

Becoming Amon

Screengrab via Netflix/Nickelodeon

Noatak returned to Republic City as a masked anti-bending revolutionary named Amon. He fabricated a tragic backstory that played on anti-bending sentiments, claiming to be a non-bender born to an impoverished family who was being extorted by a rogue firebender. He told people that one day his father stood up to the firebender, who retaliated by murdering the rest of Amon’s family, leaving the sole survivor with horrific burns and forcing him to wear a mask to hide the scarring.

The Equalists

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Amon’s charisma meant he quickly rose to prominence as the leader of the Equalists, a radical anti-bending movement. His carefully designed backstory bolstered his anti-bending credentials. Although his true motivations are never revealed, it’s fair to say a hatred of his father’s evil abilities and his own capacity to commit great harm were driving forces behind his full-blooded belief that bending was wrong.

When he discovered Korra had moved to Republic City, he organized an event called “The Revelation,” where he first publicly showed off his ability to take away someone’s bending, telling the audience the power had been granted to him by the spirits as they no longer had faith in the Avatar maintaining balance.

From then on, Amon’s activities became more brazen. He was helped by a disproportionately brutal response by Republic City authorities, who enforced a curfew on non-benders in response to the growing violence of the Equalists. He engineered a meeting with Korra on Aang Memorial Island, where he ambushed her and informed her he wouldn’t take away her bending just yet, wary of turning her into a martyr. He ended a chilling monologue by telling her he was hoping to “save her for last.”

Tarrlok, now a councilman using the unrest to tighten his grip on power in the Republic City, believed Korra was getting in the way of his plans and kidnapped her, framing the Equalists. Amon, also hoping to consolidate power, tracked down his brother’s hideaway where he and his followers found Tarrlok and a caged Korra. Tarrlok attempted to use his bloodbending on Amon, unaware that he was up against the only person in the world who could overpower him. Amon, as he’d done all those years ago, turned on his brother and took away his bending. In the chaos, Korra was able to escape.

Enraged by letting the Avatar slip through his fingers, Amon produced his most daring exploit yet, attacking the Pro Bending final and taking away the bending of the winners. In this show of strength, he also gave a speech about the evils of bending, informing the terrified audience he would be cleansing the city of the powers before moving on to the entire world. He announced the revolution had already begun and escaped on a zeppelin.

Big battles

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Amon and his followers began their war on Republic City in earnest. He’d teamed up with the famous inventor and businessman, Hiroshi Sato — father to Asami, who was fighting alongside Team Avatar, pitting her against her dad. They eventually captured Republic City police captain Lin Beifong, but she refused to give up information about where Korra was and had her bending taken away.

Amon turned Air Temple Island into his base, also keeping his brother imprisoned there. With Republic City almost in his grasp, he went off to oversee another Equalist rally. During this time, Korra and Mako sneaked into the island and discovered Tarrlok, who revealed Amon’s origins to the pair.

At the rally, Amon launched into his fake backstory again, but Korra appeared and told the assembled crowd the truth about his origins. He refuted her evidence by finally removing his mask, revealing incredibly realistic-looking burns he’d painted on using sophisticated makeup. He then revealed he’d captured Tenzin and his family and was about to remove airbending from the Earth. Korra and Mako attacked, saving the airbenders and setting up Amon’s last stand.

The trio of fighters went into the guts of the arena, where Amon managed to incapacitate both Mako and Korra. After taking away Korra’s bending, he was nearly bested by Mako, just about managing to hold off the talented firebender. However, as he was about to take Mako’s bending away, Korra, who had yet to airbend, finally unlocked her ability to do so and was able to slam Amon out of a window and into the sea surrounding Republic City.

Out of instinct, Amon used his waterbending to shoot out of the water. His makeup now washed away, he was exposed as a bender, angering those who’d organized under the Equalist banner. He escaped to Air Temple Island and picked up his brother, hoping they could finally begin the life Noatak had wanted for them both when he first escaped.

A Biblical death

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After commandeering a speed boat, the reunited siblings shot off into what Noatak hoped would be obscurity. However, Tarrlok, having seen the damage his bloodline had wreaked on civilization, used an electrified chi-blocking glove to ignite the boat’s fuel tank and kill them both, thus ending their father’s curse.

A repertoire of powers

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Amon wasn’t just an expert water and bloodbender, but an incredibly versatile fighter in general. His excellent abilities in hand-to-hand combat meant he didn’t have to use his bending to beat many highly talented benders, doing so with grace and ease. His ability to quickly react was also second-to-none, allowing him to evade attacks like a ghost. He was also an incredibly charismatic leader and effective manipulator, able to commandeer people’s anxieties and prejudices to build a base of power. His strategic mind was also second-to-none, nearly managing to take complete control of Republic City despite the United Forces coming in to protect the city.