Avatar: Legend of Korra tells the story of the next Avatar, a water tribe girl by the name of Korra, as she fights a nonbending underground revolution called the Equalists, learns the powers of the Avatar line, and deals with typical teenage drama. I haven’t liked this show as much as I liked the first series, for a number of reasons, but I have still liked it. Today, though, we’ll be discussing the two part season finale. There will be spoilers.
The theme of this review is consequences. But first, some things I liked:
Bumi! Iroh! I like these characters, even if the former was only on screen to remind us of his namesake. I hope both make a return in Season 2. I also liked that Amon was the son of Yakon for one small, simple reason: Korra had visions of Yakon after encounters with Amon. Before, this seemed… odd. Out of place, were they related to Tarrlok (or at least, specifically Tarrlok). But having Amon be a bloodbender gives these earlier scenes a bit of retroactive clarity. I appreciate that. Amon is also incredibly attractive. That’s an irrelevant point, but I just wanted to make it. Asami is fierce, and her fight with her father in a mecha suit made her the greatest. Mako, you are factually wrong to leave her for Korra. Just sayin’.
Now onto the problems I had. This will be a bit more than one paragraph.
Amon. I never supported his methods, but I was open to his views. In a world where Mako’s firebending aids him in his factory job and the elite police force is made up entirely of earthbenders, it is clear that bending, even in an industrial world, is advantageous. There are jobs for nonbenders, but there is a divide. There are jobs that only benders can do, and there are jobs that benders can simply do better. While some might argue that technology evens the divide, as we see with Hiroshi Sato’s many devices, it is clear that in many ways, it creates new splits between the two. A single firebender is more efficient than two or three nonbenders shovelling coal. Sato’s mecha suits were designed with a metal unusable by metalbenders… but now that he has been captured, what are the odds his designs will be reused to create sleeker, metal creations for the metalbending law?
There is a divide between benders and nonbenders, and nothing illustrated this better than the betrayal Amon’s Lieutenant felt when he learned that Amon was a bloodbender. Because he genuinely believed Amon’s rhetoric. He wanted the world that Amon promised. A lack in a charismatic leader might hurt the movement, but those feelings aren’t likely to fade.
But where can they go in Season 2? Amon and Tarrlok’s death, while stunning and questionable for a Nickelodeon show, is an end to an arc. There are unanswered questions about their motives. Amon’s origins explain his power, and they explain the roots for his feelings, but there is a missing step. Tarrlok’s reluctance to bloodbend in his youth seems in direct contrast to his willingness to do so in the last few episodes. But they’re both dead, so where can their stories go? With Amon dead and Korra fully capable of restoring everyone’s bending, what did Amon accomplish? His movement died with him and there are no consequences to his borderline genocide, since it can simply be reversed. The potential for the next season to revolve around restoring bending both to Korra and Republic City is lost.
The people are angry, but without Amon to lead them, they are disorganized. A few chi-blocker attacks, no worse than the bending crime lords we saw at the beginning of the show, angry protesters in the park, and nothing being done. In other words… right where we started. Perhaps Amon’s Lieutenant will reign in the Equalists and reform the movement. Perhaps the benders who lost their powers will feel resentment towards nonbenders and justify the discontent of the Equalists. Many things could come from this, but with the season finale, many of the consequences of season one were resolved in the final five minutes. Those last five minutes solve everything.
Korra. Introduced as a talented bender of three elements, with a lack of spiritualism, a necessary tool for airbending and activating her Avatar state. Her arc has been a bit lacking, as the love triangle between her, Mako, and Asami, and the actions of Tarrlok and the Equalists dominated the story, to the point where her training to be an airbender bordered on an incidental, abandoned plot line. Her unlocking her airbending works well for me, though the reason for it (Mako’s endangerment) is perhaps a bit contrived. Her bending being restored and sudden spirituality, however, is another rushed out plot point that needs to be addressed.
Aang was raised as a monk. Spirituality may as well have been his last name. The idea that hitting your lowest point is functionally the same as ten years living in a monk society is… questionable. Unless, of course, we must assume that Aang also must have hit that low point, at which case I ask, when? Was it him drowning in that storm, one hundred (and seventy) years ago? That’s really the only point it could have been, but there is no hint of that in either series..
But let’s be honest, the problem here is that everything is too easy. The second season could have been a spiritual journey for Korra, unlocking her chakras, speaking with the Avatars of the past, and making sacrifices. Do you remember when Aang was told he had to give up Katara to unlock the last chakra and control the Avatar State? Imagine that Korra had to go through the same journey, with her own Guru Pathik expy, to restore her bending and perhaps the bending of Republic City. Imagine if she made the opposite choice, imagine she decided to let go of her feelings for Mako.
Instead, we have Korra handed energybending without the spiritual journey Aang had to go through to find it, and her bending restored by means of depression. It’s too easy. And speaking of easy, let’s talk about our final player in the finale:
Mako. What a truly terrible character he turned out to be, beginning as a cold yet loving brother and turning into… Mako. The tension between Mako, Asami, and Korra came to a boil in the episode before the finale, then fizzled out with an awkward good-bye between Mako and Asami that I can only assume was meant to be a break up and a kiss I think was meant to echo the series finale to Avatar: The Last Airbender, though it did so quite poorly. This love triangle has brought the series down significantly for me, consuming entire episodes in a relatively short season and dragging everyone in it through the mud in the process.
But Mako… in this episode, he went from that guy all the girls like even though they’ve got better men all around them to a Mary Sue. Able to break Amon’s bloodbending when nobody else could, able to bring out Korra’s airbending, and able to get away with being in love with another woman, a woman his brother also happened to be in love with, without having to really apologize. Heck, he can even use lightning, and in the original series, that talent seemed to be a bit rare. Mako’s entire character degraded in quality over the course of the series, but in this episode, he became… poorly written. His actions before now could be chalked up to him being a jerk, the actions of his character, but now he is simply a series of poor choices by the writers of the show.
He didn’t have to suffer for a day without bending, because Korra learned to airbending just in time to protect him. His love life just sort of set itself straight in spite of Asami having vocalized problems with him (which he ignored and they went away) and Korra never lost interest or went after Bolin. Amon just happened to lose his focus, something he’s never done before, and Mako just happened to be strong enough to fight it, even though Korra could have used that chance to go into the Avatar State (as we know Aang did with Yakon) or even do a bit of bloodbending back, as she is likely a skilled enough waterbender to have used it. Mako didn’t suffer, and frankly, I just kind of wanted him to.
As I said, the theme here is consequences. What are the consequences of anyone’s actions? What are the consequences of this entire season? Korra has a boyfriend, a couple of nice friends, and has learned to airbend and energybend. Asami will presumably take over the company. Tenzin has a fourth kid. But when season 2 starts, what else is there? Korra, Mako, and Bolin going back to probending? The villains are both dead. The revolution is going to be subdued to at least the point it was in the beginning, if not to even less. Wouldn’t be surprised if Lin Bei Fong gets her job back, too, given how easy everything was in the end. It all just seemed… pointless.
It was disappointing, but hey, at least Season 2 won’t be plagued with episodes about the love triangle.