Because fans should be critical, too

Random Thoughts on “The Legend of Korra” Finale and the Series as a Whole

(Note: Yeah, I pretty much failed to keep up with my The Legend of Korra reviews, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give a few first impressions. Except spoilers.)

  • I’m still on the fence as to whether The Legend of Korra is actually better than Avatar: the Last Airbender or not. It certainly has Avatar beat in terms of technical aspects and consistency. But then, no episode of Korra really reaches the emotional highs of, say, “The Southern Raiders.”
  • Korra has not changed at all throughout this series. It can hardly be called progress that the only reason she is finally able to Airbend is because the rest of her Bending was taken by Amon.
  • “Skeletons in the Closet” is probably the episode that comes closest to reaching the greatness of Avatar‘s best episodes. Isn’t it strange that the villains are always the ones with the most interesting and moving back stories?
  • Bloodbending remains the most horrifying aspect of the Avatar universe. Watching these characters in such agony under this evil power is really nauseating.
  • It’s nice to hear Dante Basco’s voice again.
  • Is the lieutenant dead? Is Asami’s father dead?
  • Isn’t it strange that the villains have the most tragic—and most emotionally affecting—ends in the Avatar universe? First, Azula’s mental collapse breaks me down, and now here’s Tarrlok killing himself and his brother.
  • When I saw Tenzin and his three children tied up on stage at the Equalist rally, I literally freaked out. And then they were freed and they escaped so easily that now I feel cheaply manipulated. That’s really low, guys.
  • DiMartino and Konietzko come pretty damn close to finally making a large-scale action sequence that works. The battle between the planes and the ships may not be that exciting, but it is so well-crafted that I don’t mind too much.
  • We never do find out how Amon (his real name escapes me at the moment) knew how to take people’s Bending away.
  • There’s a great line about hobos that needs to be itched in stone for all to appreciate (if only I could remember it).
  • Asami has become extremely passive-aggressive. Some “strong female character” she is!
  • General Iroh’s take down of those planes is probably the most ridiculous action sequence in the entire series. I felt like I was watching Iron Man by accident.
  • That idea to put the Amon mask on the Avatar Aang statue’s face is just silly.
  • Finally, the very ending of the finale–in which Avatar Aang appears to give Korra back her Bending–infuriated in a way that hasn’t happened in a long time. Not only did it feel like a deus ex machina, it totally ruins what could have been a great storyline for Book Two, as well as a much deeper meditation on equality and pride.

Bottom line: I’m glad I watched it, but that ending…

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11 responses

  1. JMR

    The ending is basically a continuation of a problem I had with the series as a whole: a willingness to raise the possibility of some really great conflicts and questions, but then not the courage to follow through with them.

    June 24, 2012 at 11:11 am

  2. Eugene

    Can anybody tell me how Korra compares to most cartoons broadcasted on TV in the past few years. I haven’t watched any cartoon networks in the past, oh, ten years. The reason why I’m asking is because I thought that the Legend of Korra was relatively weak. But then I’m comparing it to Last Airbender when perhaps I should be comparing it to the general collection of cartoons out there. Bolin, Zuko, Iroh (the second) and numerous other characters felt flat. The plot did not feel very gripping until perhaps the last two acts of the finale. I understand that most of Last Airbender’s episodes were stand-alone, adventure of the day sort. By all means, I should be glad that there’s a cartoon series out there with a continuous plot. Yet I found Aang’s adventure-of-the-day episodes more exciting, even when considering his first season.

    Maybe it’s a personal preference thing?

    June 25, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    • Thanks to Korra‘s ending, I’d have to say that Avatar was better, for the reasons in my first bullet point, and because the stand-alone plots actually worked in the show’s favor: instead of one crappy plot element affecting the entire series, it usually only affected that particular episode. With Korra, that ending very well destroys the entire series.

      As for how it compares to other cartoons, I can certainly say for a fact that Korra was the most ambitious–so at the very least it’s a “noble failure,” I suppose. Regular Show and Adventure Time are two of the best “normal” cartoons on television now. Also, in the best ten years, Invader Zim and Kim Possible were good-to-brilliant shows. Those four shows are definitely worth your time.

      June 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm

  3. Eugene

    Heh. I said Zuko. I meant to say Mako.

    June 25, 2012 at 11:47 pm

  4. JS

    Just saw the last episode today and I have to say, Marshall, that I think you were too kind in your review of Korra. To me, the horribleness that was Episode 12 was just the final straw and so completely expected given the 11 previous installments. The entire show was 1) a bad idea (and I have a feeling that the creators only made it to make up for the live-action Shyamalan disaster), and 2) the perfect example of how not to write, which is the complete antithesis of the origan Avatar. Somehow forgiving them for this hack job by saying “Well, they only had 12 episodes in which to tell the story” is a load of bunk. They knew they only had 12 episodes to work with going into this. If they couldn’t tell the story right in that amount space but went ahead anyway is only a reflection on their own motives. From a writing standpoint they did everything wrong. If I’d known they would do this bad a job, I would have suggested they hire the writers they had in the first show.

    Characterization was minimal/non-existant. Character motivations were vague at best, insane at worst. Korra was hands down the blandest one of the lot (the voice actress wasn’t too good, either, but she had nothing to work with). Aang was the Avatar/the focus of the show. Korra was an extra, and an annoying one at that. Relationships were handled with the sophistication of a Twitter poke. People fell in and out of love with each other for no apparent reason, not learning anything from the so-called “experience.” Near the end, Korra loses most of her bending powers and tells Mako to “go away” even though he tells her he loves her. But wait–a minute later she gets her powers back and tells him “yay–we can be together now.” The message here? That teens are or should be one-dimensional? In “upgrading” the show to a “darker, teenaged feel,” the usual happened: script intelligence was downgraded. Harry Potter was literature for kids and was well-written (in the beginning, anyway) — Twilight was mindless pap for teens.

    So many characters had no reason for being there. They’d appear briefly, disappear for several episodes and come back, maybe. Worse, characters were pulled out of the proverbial hat at the last minute. Characters like Amon and his entire pointless backstory and power explanation (which, btw, turns original continuity on its head). The ability to take away bending is something Aang had to learn from the lion-turtle and can do because he was the Avatar. Blood bending is not an inherited ability; it is something that can be learned by powerful water benders (like Katara and Hama) and can ONLY be done under a full moon. That is the accepted logic behind bending and a good writer knows not to mess with a show’s premise and the “science” they invented. When I first saw Amon stop bending, my mind raced with trying to solve his “mystery.” Was he also the Avatar to be able to do this? Meaning, was Korra just a red herring, OR were he and Korra twins who were separated at birth. (That is, it made me wonder: what if an Avatar were reincarnated into TWO bodies–twins?) But no–what do I get for all my enthusiastic sleuthing? He’s a water bender but “the blood bending runs strong his his family” B.S.

    As for his identity and past, I expected a masked character to be masked for a reason. That’s the basics of storytelling. He’s someone we’d know. Again, my thoughts ran rampant … Is he Zuko covering his telltale scar? Is he secretly one of the new characters we’ve met? For one episode I was sure he was the squeaky-voiced assistant to Tarlac because a) he was the last person you’d suspect the deep-voiced Amon to be, and b) he put the finger on Tarlac and blew his cover. And again, nothing like this. The “pay-off” was that he was nobody and in an backstory presentation about as satisfying as a (appropriately enough) frozen meal, we are told he’s Tarlac’s brother. What is his motivation? Because his father told him to be like that. What is the gentle Tarlac’s motivation? Because his brother told him to do what he does. Why does Amon get beaten at the end and just when you were expecting maybe a — I don’t know — a climax? Why does he do a 180 and skip back to Tarlac and say “Hey, Bro, let’s go away and start over!”? Why does Tarlac say, “sure thing, Bro,” and then blow the two of them sky high in what I thought was anything but emotional. It was yets another WTF Korra moment and I just laughed and shook my head. And the whole “his scarring was only makeup” business doesn’t even make sense, since a few minutes earlier we see that his face is deformed as well (his left upper lip is all curled in and shrivelled, and I’m pretty sure THAT shouldn’t “wash off” so easy!)

    And then, as you point out so well, Marshall, the whole “bending’s gone, bending’s moment” and everyone get’s patched up. This resets the world back to square one and thus proves that the entire series was pointless and achieved nothing. Zip. Korra cries like a spoiled baby on the edge of a cliff and Aang apprs teao tell her that she’s now deep and spiritual enough to become the Avatar? Again, WTF? She learned NOTHING. As a viewer I got NOTHING out of this show but annoyance and disappointment (with the very first episode, so I had time to get used to it). It’s the Shyamalan curse, or something, as this new series is a steaming pile without the necessity of being turned into live-action. I’m glad this whole debacle is over now. I taped all 12 eps thinking I might rewatch them but that idea is now as laughable as it is painful to bear doing. Furthermore, I won’t waste any more time to any future Korra episodes/seasons. There’s only one Avatar show in my mind and it stands complete and alone as the finest animated series in history. By complete contrast, Korra is the worst. Hard to believe both came from the same people, huh?

    September 2, 2012 at 7:07 am

  5. Jennie

    I had a friend tell me “Expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed”. Perhaps I was expecting to much from this show to see it for what it was: something just pretty much thrown together with the intent to be a one-season shot just to appease the fans, just because they expected SOMETHING. After seeing the first couple episodes, unlike the original series, I had to force myself to watch KORRA hoping it would get better…or at least more interesting. Seems that after getting through most of the season, the creators and writers may have had a change of heart and felt this could become something more. But everything got crammed into the last two episodes, again, the season was way too short, and although one or two questions were answered, a whole ton of others are raised. Just as Taarlok and Noatok became interesting, POOF! They’re gone. If Noatok (Amon) was a bloodbender, wouldn’t word have gotten back to Katara, would she not have been involved since she banned this years ago? if Korra’s Bending was “restored” did she truly lose those abilities in the first place, or did the bloodbending just make this inaccessible kinda like the chi-blocking does? Next season rumored to have some answers or maybe just opening a whole new can of worms. I’ll force myself to watch, this time i’ll have to stop making comparisons with the original series. They’ve given this show a very different look and maybe we need to see this as a whole new show.

    March 1, 2013 at 12:52 am

    • You and I are pretty much on the same page as far as Korra goes. With Book Two fast approaching, I’m getting more and more inclined to watch it, at least for the wonderful animation and direction.

      March 3, 2013 at 3:49 pm

  6. Jennie

    Ha! You’re not the only one who’s made comparisons of Iroh and Iron Man.

    March 1, 2013 at 1:00 am

  7. Nathan

    if you didn’t like season 1, you’re gonna love the evil flying mattress of destiny

    July 12, 2014 at 2:19 am

    • I’m afraid to even ask what you’re referring to.

      July 12, 2014 at 8:47 am

      • Nathan

        Vaatu in season 2

        July 12, 2014 at 3:42 pm

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