right, expansion of my "bolin is an insanely good earthbender"
bolin is an earthbender of legendary skill and the thing is-- he doesn't even realise it because for some reason no one in the show points it out??
lets start with his earthbending education or rather his lack there of. there is very little indication that bolin is anything but a self-taught earthbender, he and mako grew up on the streets which never really gave them the opportunity or money to have a formal education in such things, meaning bolin had to create his own way of bending, a way to help him on the streets and in the pro-bending arena-- even toph was taught by the badgermoles but living in the city, bolin didn't have that.
[Two GIFs. The first depicts Bolin doing a front flip and as he flips back onto his feet, he uses his momentum to bend a rock out of the earth and hurl it at his assailant. The secong GIF shows Bolin doing a back flip, pulling a small stone pillar out of the ground as he falls backward bcak onto his feet.]
look at those flips!! i've never seen earthbending like it before!! bolin's way of bending is uniquely his and i don't see anyone else move like him.
quickly looking at metalbending, i think it's his lack of formal training that makes it so hard for bolin.
his entire life, bolin has had to be adaptable. this completely goes against earthbending in its traditional sense. everyone we know to be a metalbender, even the nameless republic city policemen, have been trained in traditional earthbending. as stated before, bolin never had that and i don't think it detracts at all from his skills as a whole. i do like reading fics where he learns how to metalbend but i liked that he didn't in the actual series.
onto the next point, bolin has also managed to teach himself how to earthbend without touching the ground. watching atla and lok this seems to be quite a rare talent but this just tells us that bolin is incredibly sensitive to his element which is!! amazing!!
[One GIF. Bolin is riding on an underground tramline with Mako and Asami and as he speeds down the tunnel, he is able to pull the tunnel roof down to block their pursuers.]
you can see this elemental intuition in other scenes as well, particularly in fights, but for bolin the earth just seems to jump to his command
[Two GIFs. The first, Bolin very quickly earth-bends a wall to block his assailant in an alleyway. The second one shows him doing some fast jabs and as he does so, little boulders jump from the ground and fly at his attackers.]
he's an incredibly fast bender, able to pull earth from the ground and form barriers in seconds-- and not just pebbles, these are boulders and huge slabs of earth
the only time we see bolin have to take a moment before bending is when he topples the skyscraper in the finale of season 4
[One GIF. Bolin takes a few moments to plant his feet, mimicking Lin and Suying Beifong and, as if he were cleaving something in half with a sword, creates a huge fracture in the adjacent skyscraper to topple it.]
and when it comes to lavabending??
bolin is a way better lavabender than ghazan and that is the hill i will die on
ghazan seems to have this "start-up" stance that he does before bending large quantities of lava which slows him down a few seconds. bolin? he can lavabend pretty much instantaneously
[One GIF. Ghazan takes a few moments to get into position and begin trying to Lavabend the base of the Ba Sing Se walls.]
here, ghazan only lavabends enough to weaken the bottom of the wall of ba sing se which you could argue is all he needed to do but if we look at bolin, he can lavabend more lava and do it much quicker-- even without his hands!! as shown in the first gif below
[Two GIFs. The first GIF shows Bolin with his hands tied but he jumps and kicks his legs out, making a sweeping motion and as he does, lava leaps from the ground and creates a sort of moat to protect him and Varrick from some prisoners of war. The second GIF shows Bolin bringing both his fists down onto the ground and lava erupts to bury some mecha suits.]
and this is a talent that very, very few people have. it's not like bolin had a teacher to help him, he had to master a very volatile and dangerous skill by himself, and he did!! in just 3 years!! can you imagine?!?!?
and not only is he an incredibly skilled bender, he also has a heart of gold
[One GIF. This GIF depicts Bolin jumping in front of the prisoners of war to lavabend and block their attackers from following after them, soldiers from Kuvira's army running away from being burned.]
given the opportunity to escape, bolin instead goes back to save the people who threatened him into helping them (granted they were well within their rights to do so but ya know) and bends the lava with ease. its not hard to find more examples of his loyalty and devotion to his friends and even strangers. he's compassionate, optimistic and a veritable badass!!
i just wish he'd gotten more recognition for his talents instead of constantly playing the role of comic relief.
also @polyglottishthings yes to everything you said!!
tldr; bolin is an earthbender of legendary skill and no one in the show seems to notice.
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