Aside from the fart bending, this was definitely the best episode of the series. I have never seen a show like these that improves this much so quickly after each episode. And we finally got a look at Zuko
The first is it's been almost a century since the original show. Lightning bending was rare back then and by now it's become more common place as the few taught the many.
The second is the lightning benders we see aren't masters of it. Mako works at an electric plant, he lightning bends to do his job. He hasn't mastered all the crazy redirecting or other moves you can do with it. He knows how to shoot it at most.
Also regarding the new episode: HOLY FUCK HOLY FUCK BLOODBENDING HOLY FUCK
Up until this episode, we've seen a very interesting dynamic in seeing the bad guys win for a change. It's not often you'll see the good guys be both incompetent and lose so frequently.
Also, it's nice to finally see some real ass earthbending. Long overdue.
Final note: the Avatar state is meant to be a defense mechanism. Korra has been knocked out/put in potentially life threatening situations several times and nothing. I understand that the show creators don't want to overuse the avatar state and that they want to emphasize Korra's lack of spirituality, but I think we're going to see Korra unleashing 100 lifetimes' worth of fury soon.
Just read The Promise part 2. I have to be honest, I did not expect the Zuko/Suki moment. The hell did that come from? Mai just gives up on him and Suki swoops in, meanwhile Sokka and Toph are hanging out together? It's shipping insanity.
So I remember saying that I wanted Lin to be Toph's kid with Sokka, but now that we've found out about the history between Lin and Tenzin? That would be fucked up.
I know the whole "kissing cousins" thing is a modern-day taboo (mainly because of genetics and things), but IN THEORY dating one's cousin could be a perfectly normal thing in the Avatar world.
THAT BEING SAID, there's no way Nick would allow for cousins to date on a "kids'" show. The only way Bryke could slip this past the radar is by never revealing the identity of Lin's father and TBH I don't think they'd risk the fallout from having Lin and Tenzin being cousins AND romantically involved. This is an issue where speculation for everyone (ha! ME3 joke!) is definitely a bad thing.
THAT BEING SAID...I still want Tokka to happen, even if it means that Sokka is no longer Lin's father by blood.
So remember the ATLA season 2 episode "The Guru" where Aang learns about his chakras from Guru Pathik? There's a popular theory amongst the (Tumblr) fandom that Korra's been unknowingly unlocking her chakras throughout the current book. Once Korra has unlocked all her chakras, not only will she be able to enter the Avatar State but she will also finally be able to airbend.
The following is a rough outline of how things might be progressing:
Earth Chakra (Survival) - Blocked by fear (fear of Amon); dealt with in "A Voice in the Night"
Water Chakra (Pleasure) - Blocked by guilt (guilt over feelings for Mako/hurting Bolin); dealt with in "The Spirit of Competition"
Fire Chakra (Willpower) - Blocked by shame (shame of losing [for someone who definitely likes winning]); dealt with during "And the Winner Is..."
Air Chakra (Love) - Blocked by grief (grief over losing Mako to Asami?); dealt with during "The Aftermath"
Sound Chakra (Truth) - Blocked by lies (lies like Tarrlok's character and his intentions); dealt with during "When Extremes Meet"
Light Chakra (Insight) - Blocked by illusion; dealt with during next episode
Thought Chakra (Pure cosmic energy) - Blocked by earthly attachments; dealt with during episode 10, and the Avatar State will be accessible from this point onwards
I don't think Maiko is on a permanent break. It's likely just a temporary hiccup until Zu-Zu gets his ship together. And while the thing with Suki does come off a bit shippery, I think it was intended to be friendly concern and nothing more (it's the posing that makes it seem otherwise).
So Tarlok triggered a flashback just like Lieutenant, and the old dude (probably Yakone) seemed to be bloodbending, (Sokka distressed, Toph stopping mid attacking, Aang trying to reach out but failing), and I notice some resemblance between that guy and Tarlok, so I think that dude is Tarlok and Lieutenants father, and Tarlok is working with his brother which is why he is so blatantly helping the Equalists.
Those are the steps required to willingly enter the avatar state. It's not necessary to master them in order to go ape shit on everyone, as Aang demonstrated many times.
Except that Korra can't enter the Avatar State consciously OR unconsciously due to her spiritual deficiencies (and if there was ever a time for her to go apeshit it was definitely during the ambush in "A Voice in the Night"). The chakra theory is basically a model for experiences that are (un)consciously making Korra more in touch with her spirituality, and will thus enable her to access the Avatar State (reflexively and intentionally) as well as airbend.