So Nick decided to release the rest of season two of Korra for some reason; you can go check it out on their website. Anyway, having watched it, it’s pretty easy to say that this season was by and large terrible. It had some neat moments, and the Wan two parter is in the top ten of episodes between Korra and Avatar easily. But otherwise, this was bad on so many levels. Let’s break it down
BEWARE OF SPOILERS FOR KORRA AND AVATAR YE WHO ENTER
Nothing is explained: The more the season got in, the more it relied upon writer fiat instead of actually explaining how anything worked in show. The why of Unalaq’s plan,almost anything related to Jinora, most of the Spirit stuff in the finale, why dark spirts were cropping up in the first place, why no one knows about Wan until they do, Republic City’s role in relation to other nations, the political structure of the Water Tribe are all the big ones.
It’s like most of season 1 didn’t happen: So the Equalists are just swept under the rug and never come up again. The character development that the main cast go through doesn’t seem to be there. Tenzin is treating Korra like it’s early season one, Korra doesn’t seem to have learned from season 1. It’s just grating and everything starts from there.
And then there are the other characters: Bolin and Asami are just there. Yes, Bolin does have his moments but there’s also the tripe with Eska and him being a dudebro. Asami is just there for Mako and Varric to do stuff. It’s hard to care about anyone on “Team Avatar” when they’re not really a team and the show doesn’t want you to think about them.
A problem that the new characters also have: Eska and Desna for most of the season are a poor version of Mai, who only break out of this mold in the last two episodes. Kya is at best a balancer between Tenzin and Bumi. Bumi is character relief except for his one scene towards the end, he doesn’t even do anything in the final fight. Even then, that one scene is more stumbling into a solution than doing much to be proactive.* The only way in which he lives up to his namesake is being a goofball, not the hyper competence. Sokka was a nonbener who was still allowed to be awesome, this show doesn’t let anyone do that. Hell, it even kills off Sokka.
Why can’t I watch other characters?: Is the question you’re ultimately left wondering. Adult Aang or Wan, both of them are far more compelling. Tenzin and his family stuff was more interesting than the main plot. Even the mention of Zuko got me more excited than anything else had and seeing Iroh, no matter how briefly was awesome. On that same note, this ensemble approach in the middle of the season didn’t really interest me, the stuff in Republic City was flat.
The Avatar State is not a shonen power boost: For most of Avatar, the Avatar State is more of a survival mechanism than anything else. It’s only in the finale that Aang appears to have any control over it. Korra is somehow able to use it whenever as a power boost. Aside from the Wan episodes, the idea that being the Avatar means you’re connected to thousands of previous incarnations is more or less never brought up. No Aang giving advice or anything equivalent.
The villains are dumb and transparent: Unalaq was clearly evil from the beginning and the conflict only started because everyone was made to drink a big ol’ glass of stupid juice. Never mind that fusing with Vaatu would really not do anything except serve as a power boost apparently. Or that Vaatu’s goal apparently changed from destroying the world to recreating the world. Varric was certainly one of the more interesting characters but he was just a war profiteer. And it’s entirely possible he’ll be back, goody.
The pacing is terrible: I have no idea how time actually passed in this season and any mention to time was jarring. Avatar didn’t have this problem since the timeline was rather broad and the show had plenty of time to just breath.
The ending is horrible: First, we already did the whole Korra is no longer the Avatar thing at the end of season 1. Here it doesn’t have any sort of emotional investment. What does is by destroying the Avatar past lives it conventionally sidesteps the possibilities of bringing back any past Avatars as characters and making us wish that we were watching them. On the other hand, it wasn’t like they were using the past Avatars at all to begin with, so it doesn’t really change anything. Also, “logically” speaking, there is no more Avatar, fusing with Rava doesn’t do anything except restart a new cycle of reincarnation. I don’t think bending all four elements would be possible anymore. And seeing as how Korra saw what it was like when the spirit world and human world intersected, a death world where humans lived in fortress cities so as to not die. But no, Unalaq had a point apparently so let’s see if we can recreate that. Or rather, it’s going to be all out war between human society and spirits. This doesn’t even take into account the existence of things like Koh. Also how is that Vaatu is now growing inside you thing going to work? Did Rava quickly reform cuase Harmonic Convergence was still happening? Yes this does shake up the status quo of the setting, except ti does so in a way that’s nonsensical and has no build up for. Nor is there anything inherently wrong with preserving the status quo.
Alright I feel like that’s all of my gripes with this season; now in an attempt to be more positive or at least a bit more constructive, let’s also look at how it could’ve been better.
More episodes: This is the big one, and it’s the same problem that season 1 had as well. The story is rushed and we’re not invited to explore the world or the characters. The thing that made Avatar work was that it had filler and it had the opportunity to advance the plot in small ways each episode. The writers are good at that format, not so good with this one.
Rework the premise: This means two things. First, acknowledge that season 1 actually happened, the characters had growth and there was a major political movement that was trying to overthrow the government. Neither of these things just go away. The second, Unalaq doesn’t work as a villain. His initial plan only works cause stupid and his long term plan is nonsensical. Doing a Spirit focused season isn’t out of the question, it just needs more exposition.
Whereas as season 1 was acceptable in the way that many first seasons are, I also expected the writers to grow into the characters and setting in the second season. Instead, they failed, and it shows. This one season arc doesn’t work in creating something that’s enjoyable. And the odds I’ll watch the next season…are pretty low. The best way is to throw out the main cast, and tell stories set in the past of adult Aang, or Wan after Harmonic Convergence, or Tenzin doing his own thing, or Bumi doing his own thing etc.
*I’m interpreting the hook grab on the central tower as fumbling for the eject instead of being deliberate. I could be wrong but that’s the vibe I got.