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One Last Look at Legend of Korra

Well the series finale of Legend of Korra aired last week so let’s talk about the whole series. While I’ve spent a good amount of time talking about the first two seasons when they first aired, I’ve said very little about the last two seasons. Now that it’s all over, I’m going to look at the series as a whole as well as season four. There’s a lot to cover so let’s not waste any time and jump into it.

In case it wasn’t obvious, spoilers, all the spoilers.

First, quick recap of each season and my thoughts as it progressed. Season one was rough, it had to break in a new story, not be overshadowed by its predecessor and had do it in 12 episodes. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a fun enough ride. Season two did what a lot of fans wanted in focusing on the spirit world, in the worst possible way. I wrote the show off with the season finale and only went back to watch the rest of it on the word of peoples’ opinions who I trust in these matters. Season three did a good job of salvaging the show and had lot of elements that made Last Airbender such a strong show. Season four was much the same.

That being said, the show had a number of flaws that it never did fix. The biggest one was how it was stuck in the shadow of Last Airbender. While the comparisons were going to happen, I’m referring to the fact that the characters, especially the main four, just weren’t as strong. The flashbacks to Aang in S1 hammered this home. It was something that would be continued in later seasons with quick uses of Iroh and Zuko. Toph was actually used in a manner where she got to be a part of the story, be herself and logically exit the story. While I liked most of the characters, they never got a chance to just be. Filler is important because of the character and world building. Speaking of characters, LoK very much wanted to be an ensemble show and could never pull it off well. In particular, I never really felt like Korra, Mako, Bolin and Asami were any sort of gang. The closest we ever got was the sequence of them hunting Equalists in season one. By season three the damage had been done but it was a good attempt to salvage it nonetheless. Either it meant focusing on plots that just weren’t very good or it contributed to poor pacing. The writers never really figured out how to make everything fit into 12 episodes seasons. The result is a feeling of being rushed.

I think that at its core, this was the main problem with LoK. The first seasons was written as a one shot, with no guarantee that they would get a second season. As a result, the ending of season 1, while being emotionally charged, was also very rushed in order to fix the setting. This quick fix was partially ignored in season two and from there it all went downhill. If the writers had been able to leave things unresolved, then it’s not inconceivable to think of a world in which the beginning of season two looks a lot like season four’s. Korra, as a character wasn’t allowed to be impacted by her experiences until season four. The fact that the show did focus on the trauma that Korra had gone through in a respectful manner also speaks to one of the show’s high points. Its ability and willingness to handle serious topics in a serious manner.

While I’m talking about things I wasn’t a fan of, the villains were very underwhelming. Amon and the Equalists weren’t wrong about bender oppression and the main characters are made accessories to that oppression. Unalaq made absolutely no sense. Zhahir was a Darwinian Anarchist who made a certain amount of sense until he was tied back to Unalaq. Kuvira was the Earthbender version of Sozin/Ozai. The last two were also right in that the Earth Kingdom was a rotting, reactionary, oppressive structure that had to go. Again, there just wasn’t enough time for them to really grow.

Now, these criticisms don’t mean the show is bad, just that it had its problems and as much as I wanted it to, it’s just not on the same level as Last Airbender.  That being said, let’s move onto season four itself.

Bearing in mind what I said earlier, I enjoyed season four and thought it was really strong. The worst thing I can say that’s specific to it is that the clip episode was a pale imitation of Ember Island Players. Kuvira was a good villain, the story and emotional beats were what you expected, but they were all good. While I only half expected for the show to turn into a mecha series, I’m not really surprised. I’m just disappointed that all, or at least, most of this stuff should’ve been there since season two.

Now let’s talk about the last five minutes of the ending. First, Korrasami is canon, I can’t conceive of any other interpretation based upon the text. Not only was that scene romantically coded, but their interactions throughout the season when death isn’t imminent only make sense in a romantic context. Their reunion and the restaurant scene stand out in particular. I can’t say if I would have had the same reaction if I had watched the show as it aired/hadn’t had the ending spoiled, but the main hurdle in not reading the scene that way is heteronormativity. Which, in a word is homophobic. Second, they’re bi, saying otherwise is biphobic. Third, while the text itself is very clear about this, it also has authorial intent. All in all this is a good thing, and hopefully it’s a precursor to more queer characters and relationships.

Legend of Korra was fun. It’s strange to think that a universe that has been on the air for the better part of the past decade is finished. I’d recommend it to fans of Last Airbender with the caveat of just outright skipping season 2 sans the first avatar two parter though. Till next time

 

 

 

 

 

 

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