Avatar: The Last Airbender is a show comparable in quality to Batman The Animated series, both shows gave us the viewers deep and engaging stories, likeable and very real characters and some of the finest animation work done by a team in North America, a place that has mostly abandoned traditional animation in favor of a CGI one which almost always looks like a low budget rip off of the Incredibles.
But all good things must come to an end and so did Avatar: TLA in 2008 however even before the show reached its mostly satisfying conclusion, rumors of a sequel series were all over the place and several major plot points were left unresolved after it was all said and done.
Turn the clock to April, 2012 and The Legend of Korra premiered and set the Avatar community on fire receiving critical and fan acclaim and some of the best ratings ever for an animated TV series, I resisted doing a review of this particular one for quite a while simply because I wanted to properly convey my thoughts on the show all Avatar fanboyism aside.
Upon seeing the finale for the first time almost 7 months ago I thought the show was for the most part another master piece that transcended the original series in every conceivable way, now that I’ve given a LOT more thought about it and after watching it in its entirety several times, LOK is a good but severely flawed show that was kind of doomed from the beginning, more on that later.
The basic premise is that after the 100 year war that ravaged the Avatar world, Aang and Zuko transformed the Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom into the United Republic, a joint government where all the nations worked together for the good of mankind, think the European Union post WW2.
Now its been 70 years since this event and Aang passed away due to his life span being cut in half for being on ice for a century, now the new Avatar Korra, a 17 year old water tribe girl must travel to the capital of the United Republic, Republic City to complete her mastery of the 4 elements and master Airbending from Aangs son Tenzin.
However this simple quest quickly grows into a battle for the very existence of benders as a anti-bending revolution is going on in the city lead by the enigmatic Amon, a man with unknown and dangerous powers and an army equipped with everything with a fighting style specifically made to counter bending.
It’s up to Korra to save the city from this terrorist movement and fulfill her destiny as the Avatar.
Right from the outset the show has promise to be something very dark and thought provoking, Amon is not just a bad guy just for the sake of being a bad guy, he wants to liberate the normal humans from the benders who are oppressing them because they can control water, build stone castles with their feet and shoot fire from their hands, needless to say ordinary people are helpless.
The main plot dealing with the Equalists had me hooked until the end as it dealt with things like oppression, terrorism, genocide, Nazi style propaganda and many, many more themes that could have made this a show a step above its predecessor.
Korra herself is a much more likeable character than Aang for me (at first) who just seemed like an incompetent, spine less and indecisive moron who’s no kill rule just made me want to kick his ass (even more so after the Promise which proved he’s a moron).
Korra is more rebellious, she’s spent her whole life in the South Pole training to master the elements and cut off from the outside world, she isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and several times throughout the first season she shows that she is a resourceful and clever person.
However story wise this is about as good as it gets and it goes all down hill from here, initially the show was ment to be only a mini series of about 12 episodes so you’d think that the creators would entirely focus on the main plot and maybe throw in a small sub plot like the Airbending training.
Sadly some one got the bright idea of having this big, thought provoking main story and bog it down with 5 sub plots! All of which end up being pointless, a waste of time and episodes or just wasted potential, I will now give you a detailed description of all of these and why they are all generally awful.
This is an analysis so I will go into heavy detail into the story, characters and animation and this will be full on spoilers so be prepared.
The Airbending Training=Retcon
The main reason Korra even goes to the city is because Tenzin can’t train her in the South Pole because he’s a high ranking government official and the Equalist threat demands his immediate attention and he can’t train her, so she leaves her home and after a lot of convincing manages to get him to train her.
What’s the problem with this you may ask? Well after the first two episodes the training is barely seen and/or mentioned and it’s pointless because Korra never learns anything! The excuse the writers made is because Korra is so unlike an Airbender she can’t properly control the element; this is a lie and an obvious retcon just for the sake of adding a little more drama.
Aang in his personality was a carefree, pacifistic nomad who avoided and dodged attacks, this made Earthbending difficult for him but he adjusted his thoughts and managed to learn and master the fighting form, same with Firebending which is the most violent of all the bending arts he managed to master by the end of the show, so why cant Korra?
She does learn to dodge like an Airbender but again this goes no where as she only magically uses it out of nowhere and just as magically forgets it immediately afterwards, and the way she learns it made we want to kick my TV screen and throw it out the window, more on that later…….
The Bro Bending is Pointless and Boring
I knew it was going to hate this one from the outset because the rules are so incredibly constrictive, they allow for no creativity or imagination in the bending arts themselves and it all amounts to people throwing fireballs, water balls and stone tablets at each other until the other team falls of the arena.
Bending is fun because of how diverse each of the elements are and the thrill of seeing this abilities constantly being applied in new and creative ways was half the fun of a battle, here this whole sport is used as an excuse to give Korra to do something for 5 episodes, waste a shit load of episodes which should have been used for the main plot and to introduce Mako and Bolin, her side kicks.
Not only do these characters have next to no bearing on the overall plot, they are simply there to give Korra a quasi new Team Avatar and a love interest which results in the second world romance story I’ve seen since Anakin and Padme from the SW Prequels.
By the 7th episode it gets dropped completely and the only reasoning for even including it was that the writers were either to incompetent and/or lazy to think up something compelling to do with the main plot and they decided to throw in Quiditch: The Boring Bending Edition in to fill up the time.
The Tarrlok Story is a Wasted Opportunity
Tarrlok is a high ranking official in the government of Republic City and serves as the representative for the Northern Water Tribe, he also vehemently despises non benders and has a general agenda to use this rebellion to get himself power over the city at the cost of making Korra his enemy and making a whole bunch of innocent non benders suffer, sounds like an awesome bad guy for Korra and Amon to fight right? Too bad it goes no where!!!
The first problem is that the Council that oversees this whole United Republic is a bunch of clue less morons (at least its consistent with what Aang and Zuko were doing) and they give Tarrlok a massive amount of power ala Palpatine from Star Wars.
Pretty soon he has his own anti Equalist task force that goes around breaking into people’s homes, cutting off power from entire districts of the city inhabited by non benders and puts into jail everyone from women and children to the elderly.
He is the bender version of Amon and considering the state in which the city is in the last few episodes it would have been amazing to see a No Mans Land type story happen in the Avatar universe, too bad Tarlok gets taken out by at episode 9 and his whole pro bending movement is never fleshed out the way it should have been.
This, the Airbending training and the Triad stories were the only subplots that should have even been in the show and this one in particular could have been used to enhance the feeling of there are no good guys and bad guys, its just warring factions with different ideologies battling it out in the city.
The Criminal Triad is Tossed Aside
This is a too fold flaw as Amon and his followers constantly say the Council oppresses the non benders, we never see this happen and they simply seem to ignore these people and leave them be to their own devices, the only benders we actually see oppress the non benders are the criminal Triad members who are basically the mobs from Godfather with super powers AKA scary shit.
In the first episode we immediately see people running in fear and being extorted for money from Triad members, this is a great way to show how the Council doesn’t care about the non benders and proves Amons point that while no all benders are against them, there is a group of benders that is oppressing the ordinary non super powered people.
And since Mako and Bolin already have a history of working for these guys, the Triad could have been used to introduce them in a negative if more interesting light and it could have given us yet another argument for why Amon is right to a degree, thus enhancing the main narrative.
What do the oh so clever writers do?! They toss it aside of course! I mean I wouldn’t give them way too much screen time myself but it would have at least been a much more interesting story to tackle than the bullshit romance and the boring Pro Bending.
Yet again, a sub plot that could have enhanced the main plot is tossed aside for the two that are unbelievably awful, especially this next one.
The Love Story is Fucking Bullshit
This one made me genuinely angry as much of the show focuses on it but it’s so badly done and so poorly written it just…. It IS the worst love story I’ve seen since the Anakin Padme crap from the SW Prequels and no you cannot argue with me on this one, it’s awful, end of story and here is why it’s that bad.
It’s a love square and since franchises like Twilight and Smallville have given me and instant phobia of such stories I was already high skeptical from the outset however the characters that end up together, Mako and Korra have no goddamn reason to be together!!!
They have no chemistry, Mako doesn’t even show an interest in her and ignores her until she confesses to like him then he’s suddenly all in love with her while cheating on his current girlfriend and he’s a despicable, selfish, man whore that should have had his balls cut off, shoved down his throat and have him choke on them.
These two never even have a normal fucking conversation! Mako knows nothing about Korra, nothing at all! What she likes, what she dislikes, what’s her family like, what was it like being raised in the North Pole you know general knowledge you have to know about the girl you’re supposedly in love with, his reasons are as follows: she’s cute and she’s the Avatar, that’s it!!!
And why she even likes this guy is beyond me, he treats her like crap and pretty much ignores her until she confesses to him and so we get a bunch of stupid teen romance drama bullshit that is so cheesy and so poorly written and I wanted to go on a killing spree.
But Makos ultimate douche bag moment, the moment where I was proven right is when Asami, his girlfriend confronts him about kissing Korra and not telling her about it as any sane and angry girlfriend would do, what is his response? Well the scene kind of goes like this…..
Mako: My god Asami! Why are you so angry?! I only kissed a girl behind your back and didn’t tell you about it, instantly forgot you even existed the second she got captured and im pretty much emotionally cheating on you after you found out your dead is a racist, genocidal psychopath hell bent on killing all benders, wow Asami! You are such a bitch!
This guy can go fuck himself and he better die next season or im gonna stop watching the show, I honestly can’t take 3 more seasons of this douche bag. Oh and Korra unlocks her Airbending when her man whore almost losses his, what does this have to do with freedom you may ask? I don’t know but who needs logic right?!
And im not done! These are just the reasons why the sub plots are horrible, we still have the ending to tear a new one in, the consequences or lack there of the ending and the nearly non existent character development.
Character Development?! Blasphemy!!! Horrible Romance FTW!!!!
This is the mentality of the writers as no one except maybe two characters in the ENTIRE show actually develop as characters and actually grow as people from these experiences and its not Korra and the ending section is going to explain why in greater detail but here is the short version, everything gets handed to her just because we need a nice, happy ending which robs any and all potential from future seasons.
Mako is a piece of shit douche bag who deserves to die as I already explained above, Bolin his brother is completely pointless as his Earthbending is painfully sub par and his attempts at comedy just made me want to cringe, so who did develop in the end? Asami and Tarrlok of course! The only characters I genuinely gave a damn about once it was all over.
Asami was a very hated character because she was a foil for Korra and people for god knows what reason like Makkora, Asami is a character that goes through a lot by the end, her father is revealed to be a racist, genocidal madman hell bent on murdering the benders for the death of his wife and her companies name is left in the gutter due to them supporting the Equalists, leaving her to clean it up after Season 1.
She is also the Batman of the group, she saw her mother die at a very young age at the hands of a criminal, she doesn’t have any powers and relies on her gadgets and martial arts skill to compensate for this and she is an expert when it comes to driving a car, motorcycle, mecha tank and later a plane AKA she is a badass and I always like seeing normal people beat super humans in fiction, oh and shes also rich and very beaiful so yeah she is the offical Batman of the Avatar world, instant win in my book.
Tarrlok actually learns the full extent of his foolishness and the big reveal in the second to last episode gave me a shred of sympathy for this generally power hungry man and his sacrifice in the end to rectify this mistake did feel right in line with what he learned and tragic.
Why isn’t Amon on this list? Well the reveal does make Tarlok more sympathetic it completely and utterly destroys Amon as a villain and as a character, his motivations instantly makes no sense what so ever and its so contrived it feels like they made it up last second just to create a cheap way for Korra to beat him without making him a martyr to the non benders.
This shows that the creatures basically had a cool villain idea but had no clue as to how to conclude his story in a 12 episode time span so they think up the most contrived explanation ever so that Korra has a way to beat him without actually resolving any of the social issues that we were presented with previously.
The Terrible Finale and No Repercussions
So in the last episodes of LOK Amon and his army pretty much go all TDKR on us by taking out almost every important government official, force the benders into the underground tunnels beneath the city, take away the bending of those not lucky enough to get away and pretty much occupy the city with the Republic Navy and Team Avatar planning an attack on Amon.
Now if all the issues that I just spent a long, long time explaining were cut out and/or altered, we could have had a proper No Mans Land type story happen across 4 or 5 episodes instead of it being crammed into the last two episodes giving the creators a little over 40 minutes to finish off the entire main plot and the 30 billion pointless sub plots already setup.
So we have a boring CGI fest of a battle between the Republic Navy and the new air ships created by Hiroshi Sato, needless to say their inexperience with battling such vehicles results in the Navy being completely defeated with Iroh (Zukos grand son and commander of the Navy) barely escaping by the skin of his ass.
What happens to the members of this navy you ask? We never find out and Iroh is pretty much the only one of them that got away so I assume they all died at the hands of the terrible CGI airplanes, so after saving Iroh, the entire team gets together and decides that they need to take out the air ships before going after Amon which is a smart move, then Korra decides she wants to fight him alone because her gut tells her too.
Now since Korra doesn’t learn anything or develop at all she does what her gut tells her completely ignoring the fact that her utter lack of forethought which has gotten her into trouble this entire season and she still does the same damn thing, but oh wait man whore Mako is coming with her! Is he going to die?! No because then the finale would have left an infinitely better taste in my mouth.
So they prepare to ambush Amon at Air Temple Island, they have some more sappy and cheesy dialogue and Asami breaks off with Mako and a high note thus proving that douche bags can get away with everything because they are pretty and emo, upon sneaking onto the island the find Tarrlok who reveals that Amon is his brother and is a blood bender.
So we get about 10 minutes of exposition that makes us care about Tarrlok more and consequentially completely destroys Amon as a character and subverts everything he’s said and done throughout the whole season thereby making him just a pissed off Waterbender with serious daddy issues, goddamn it Mike and Brian!!!
After that assault on my nerves they finally go to the arena and Korra being the genius that she is calls Amon his real name and says his scars are fake, he takes his mask of revealing hideous scars and makes Korra look like a dirty liar oh and Tenzins family that got away is now magically captured without any explanation what so ever.
So a big battle erupts, the Equalists get knocked around while the separate group battles Hiroshi and his forces over the air ships, Iroh does some kick ass Firebending and disappears from the story altogether and Asami gets a very tragic scene with her dad where he actually tries to kill her and she has to take him down, the only good thing to happen during this whole mess of a finale.
Amon blood bends Korra, kills the Lieutenant and takes Korras bending away, Mako shoots some lightning at him but gets blood bent himself and in her man whores time of need Korra can now magically Airbender because….. Because the writers are imbeciles who have to make the story as contrived and non sensical as possible.
Amon is hit by the air blast and goes through a window into the water below and again since characters have stupid dipshit disorder, he literally comes out of the ocean with a giant vortex of water bending at his feet in front of every non bender in the city, he gets called a liar and swims away with Mako shooting fireballs at him, why he didn’t just shoot lightning at him I don’t know.
So Noatak (Amon) goes to his brother and they sail off into the ocean and away from the city then Tarrlok blows them both up in murder-suicide style, Korra and her friends all go to the Southern Water Tribe to Katara so she can try to heal Korra and Lin who both lost their powers but fails.
Mako tells her he loves her, I shoot myself in the head because my brain just really couldn’t take the bullshit anymore; she goes to the edge of a cliff and contemplates suicide but wait, its not over! Aang shows up and tells her she’s connected with her spiritual self and gives her back all her former powers, the Avatar State AND Energybending!!!
Yes folks, the most irresponsible Avatar of all time and the one that doesn’t put a shred of thought into anything she does just has all the power in the universe, then Mako shows up and they kiss, she restores Lins bending back and everyone lives happily ever after! Except me and anyone with a brain that knows that this show is pretty bad.
I mean its not Ultimate Spider-Man bad, far from it but it’s a show that has so many huge issues that really, really bothered me and the fanboys who defend it soley on the basis of OH IT ONLY HAD 12 EPISODES!!!! LEAVE IT ALONE!!!! Well here is my counter argument, if you know that you’re only going to have 12 episodes then focus on the main story and don’t put in 30 billion horribly done, bullshit sub plots that take up your episodes, seriously if half the sub plots I mentioned above were cut out and the ones that could actually enhance the story were left in this would be a totally different review.
But I can say everything in the shows bad, I like Korra a lot as a character, Amon was pretty good until the end, Asami just got me completely off guard and I look forward to seeing her the most in the second season and the show has the best NA animation I’ve ever seen in my life, the 6th episode in particular will make your brain stop from sheer awesomeness.
The fight scenes could have saved it some what and while there are a few good ones, most of the bending arts have been butchered and have completely lost their appeal, Mako and Bolin’s new, modern style is so bare bones and predictable it sickens me too see those bending arts be so butchered.
That’s all I can say good about it, it’s definitely not the sequel to Avatar: TLA I wanted to see done and the fanboys that defend it with a burning passion (especially the Makkorra idiots) are either too blind to accept the fact that this show is really flawed or they don’t care in which case good for you! Too bad I won’t turn my brain off and let horrible writers ruin my series.
FINAL VERDICT: F+