The more I look at it, the more I think that this look:
is almost exactly like this one:
Now, I’m just as disappointed as anybody at the fact that Bolin’s attraction to Korra was just completely skipped over in the later episodes, but judging by that look he gave her after they hugged, I’m guessing that those feelings didn’t just ‘vanish’.
Hear me out here.
While Bolin has been shown to look up to his brother, it was also stated in his bio that he feels inferior to Mako as well. This makes sense because while Mako has raised Bolin, comforted and cared for him for his entire life, he isn’t really that supportive of his brother. Mako is used to taking charge and having Bolin follow him, he’s so determined to make sure Bolin doesn’t get hurt that he doesn’t let Bolin go out on his own and make his own decisions.
So Bolin’s never had the chance to believe in his own judgement. He’s always depended on Mako to help him.This led to a certain amount of insecurities, which he seems to have originally dealt with by being outgoing and charming, soaking in the praise of ‘fangirls’ to supplement his own low self worth. It worked for a while.
But then Korra came.
Korra, who Bolin fell head over earthbending piggies for, who he loved and admired for her drive and confidence. Which are both things he lacks. It makes sense that he’d fall for her because of this. He wants what he doesn’t have, can’t have. Yet, for one dizzying moment, he had her.
That isn’t the look of someone who had just a fleeting crush. He was falling for her harder than he ever had before. Even more than any of those fangirls, because it appears that they seemed to be after Mako more than anything else. Remember when Bolin snapped at Mako to ‘leave some girls for the rest of us’?
It seems like all those fangirls whose praise and cheer that Bolin depended on to soothe his own insecurities were more interested in Mako than they were in him.
So it crushes him two-fold when Korra—the girl he fell for because she was so different from anybody he’d ever met, the girl who was ‘one of a kind’—still fell for his brother instead.
Now all those little hidden insecurities, those little doubts and fears about who he was and whether he would ever be good enough, they all came to a head when he saw Mako kissing Korra. He wasn’t good enough again. He’d messed up somehow, it had to be his fault, he must have done something wrong because everything was so wrong now when it had been perfect just moments ago.
Any other person would have been furious at Mako for kissing a girl who he knew his brother liked, and would have taken quite some time to forgive Mako for betraying him like that.
Not Bolin. He had a small moment of anger—‘You’re a bad idea’—but then it was gone. Because Mako is not only his brother, he is Bolin’s caretaker, guardian, mother, father, and best friend all rolled into one. That’s a lot of dependency.
Bolin wouldn’t have confronted Mako in any serious way. And he didn’t.
Bolin just covered everything up with smiles and optimism, the same way he had dealt with everything else in his life. He never had any closure with his crush on Korra and it never got resolved. So it sat there and it festered.
He watched Mako and Korra grow closer and closer, and didn’t say a damned word because he was trying as hard as he possibly could to make himself believe he didn’t care.
But in this scene, his strange affection comes to light yet again, but it’s changed now. That look isn’t the same content, loving look he gave to Korra during their date. It was sadder, worn down and weary from the struggle to keep everything down, to keep his feelings manageable and in check.
It didn’t work. I think he finally realized it in that one cap. It. Didn’t. Work.
Borrowing a little (a lot) from my liveblogging experience, you can just see it all from the hug he gave her.
It’s in the way he holds out his arms and waits for her to come into them, like he wanted her to to be the one who came to him this time, or like he didn’t trust himself to let go if he did it. He doesn’t even wait for her to come the entire way, he pulls her closer and just slumps down so quickly, like the strain of waiting for her was too much to bear.
And that look is not a platonic look. It’s not. He didn’t even look like that when he was hugging his own brother.
That is the look of a man that is embracing someone he cares for very, very much, but knows that this could be the last time he ever does so. Because even if she came back alive from fighting Amon, he would probably never get this close to her again. Not the way he wanted to.
And look at the way he’s hugging her. She’s giving him a simple, friendly hug, but him? He has his arm wrapped around her waist, something that was not necessary in the least. It’s almost like he was intent on pressing her as close to him as humanly possible.
And Bolin just looks sosad. Almost like he finally realized exactly how deep he was in, how impossible this situation was.
He couldn’t forget her, not like this, not by ignoring every reason why he had to. He’d messed up again, but this time it was worse because he didn’t know how to get himself out of this one. All his previous ways of dealing with his issues weren’t working anymore. He couldn’t force a smile and pretend nothing was wrong.
Because loving Korra was something he didn’t know how to stop doing.
Batty, what are you doing to my feelings.