After the stunning and amazing journey that was Avatar: The Last Airbender, I decided that I might as well dive straight into The Legend of Korra. Unlike The Last Airbender, I knew nothing about Korra before diving into it. I didn’t know if it was a sequel, a prequel or another type of quel. In the end, The Legend of Korra was a refreshing, exciting but also frustrating experience that offers a lot but also stumbles.
The Legend of Korra starts off extremely strong by not only appealing to the nostalgia and love audiences have for Avatar: The Last Airbender but also proving us with something entirely different with its’ core characters, who we shall get to later.
ASSESSING THE CHARACTERS
Before we get into specific characters and throwing a small sentence long review for each one, I would like to take a moment to talk about my biggest issue with The Legend of Korra. I understand that this isn’t The Last Airbender, the two shows have completely different tones, but why try to fix something that isn’t broken. For instance, the love and relationships in Aang’s series were peppered throughout the seasons and done very tastefully. Sokka had his moments, Katara and Aang had theirs, and even Zuko had his moments. But they never overpowered the strength of the lore or the main storyline.
The problem with The Legend of Korra is that it went a different and more infuriating route. It went for the Twilight route. We start the series with a Bolin/Mako/Korra love triangle that only made me dislike Mako from the get-go. He was so obviously modelled on Edward from Twilight that I couldn’t invest in him. The show then transitioned into a Asumi/Mako/Korra love triangle that made me hate Mako even more. Anyone that doesn’t see how disrespectful and bordering horrible Mako is to Asumi doesn’t understand how to act when in a relationship. So when the season ends with Korra and Mako kissing, trying to throw back to Aang and Katara in the original series, I could only scoff and frown at this horrible arc.
However, I understand that some sections of the audience love this. Some people love the will they/won’t they narrative done in this manner and they love theorising who someone will end up with. I don’t like that. Having said that, The Legend of Korra has a lot of stuff that I did like and let’s get into them with the characters.
Korra: I love how Korra is both the same as Aang and completely different. The first time we see her she is accepting her role as the Avatar and she is gung-ho thereafter. I like the change, the difference and the character, even if I don’t like how the first season handled her character both romantically and tying up all loose ends and perils in a rapid closing two minutes.
Mako: Mako is basically the Katara equivalent in this series – playing of Korra as Katara did off Aang – but he doesn’t really have that much depth to him. When he is introduced, it’s pretty by the book. He’s the dark and brooding good-looking guy that Korra chases after, he only has his brother in his life and that’s about it. There’s no foundation there for me to like him. And the way they made him into a selfish cheater only makes me dislike him even more.
Bolin: Bolin is the Sokka of the group. He’s the comic relief but I was hoping that the show would flip it around and make the comic guy one of the dependable ones from the get-go. He can hold his own but I would have rather had Bolin break out in some of the amazing moments that were otherwise reserved for Mako. He’s just more likeable than his brother and I think the next few books/seasons need to bring him to the fore.
Asami: When Asami was initially thrown into the show I thought she was going to be the token love-interest for a few episodes and I immediately rolled my eyes. In the end, Asami was one of the most layered characters in the show (due to her paternal conflict). Sadly, she was wasted with a love-triangle (I hate to come back to it, believe me)
Tenzin: J.K. Simmons’ smooth and commanding voice transforms an otherwise opaque character in Tenzin into someone that is genuinely magnetic whenever he features. I adore the attention given to his past and his family, who remain one of the best aspects of the show.
Lin Beifong: Characters with intimate ties to The Last Airbender already have a great foundation for them to build off of. Lin is no different. She has some awesome moments in the first book/series and her arc with Korra is admirable but I have to come back to the ending – she should have stayed powerless for a while before Korra went all Ex-Machina on us.
Amon: But the highlight of the show is its’ villain Amon. Seemingly modelled after Darth Vader and a few more classical villains, I loved the menace and mystery Amon brought to the story. And whilst I wasn’t a fan of his identity reveal and what that meant thereafter, I was a fan of its effects on the show. Namely, how it elevated the character of Tarrlock and how it ushered the show towards a morbid and frankly explosive finale for the character. I don’t know if we’ve seen the last of him but I can say that I was pleasantly happy with Amon.
Right, so that’s characters done. Let’s jump into specific episodes and deliver a single sentence review of each one before my final thoughts.
Welcome to Republic City: An interesting introduction to the Korra, the antithesis of Aang, that builds a beautiful and fun world that is ripe for the picking.
A Leaf in the Wind: Exhilarating action, stunning animation and a solid continuation of the series premiere.
The Revelation: A genuinely engrossing plot-dump that introduces a mysterious villain, Amon, and brings our core group of characters together.
The Voice in the Night: Pushing a pseudo-PTSD narrative on Korra jumps the shark but more Amon and surprisingly smart political sub-plots keep this episode afloat.
The Spirit of Competition: Standard narrative friction that enamours the audience to Bolin whilst blurring our admiration for Mako and Korra.
And the Winner is …: The mystery around Amon continues to shine whilst the slick animation refines with each and every episode.
The Aftermath: A twisting and surprising episode that moves the main story forward and highlights Asami’s role in the show.
When Extremes Meet: Team Avatar is formed and it poses a really fun dynamic whilst Tarrlok’s past and role in the narrative finds itself in the mix as well.
Out of the Past: Utterly enthralling watching the post-The Last Airbender lore through flashbacks whilst the Twilight-level love triangle is beginning to annoy.
Turning the Tides: Even the tween-angst drama can’t deter from the stunning fight animation, the emotional weight behind it and the introduction of General Iroh.
Skeletons in the Closet: Whilst the reveal of Amon’s identity is a lacklustre one, building Tarrlok and his connection to Amon is an emotionally heavy one.
Endgame: A goose-bump inducing finale that wraps everything in a neat little bow … perhaps too conveniently.
Ultimately, The Legend of Korra is not as good as any season or book of The Last Airbender but it isn’t bad. There is a lot wrong with the show and a lot that needs to be fixed but it is by no means a failure. Some of the characters have me hooked and will make me come back for Book Two but I’m not sold on some of the core characters, which is a shame.
Up Next: Book Two of Korra!