They always find a way to pull me back don’t they?
My twitter followers may remember a while back when I ranted and raved about the ending to the first season of Korra, where they stripped the villain of any back story or motivation they had thoroughly established for the sake of a less than satisfying plot twist and how the civil movement pushing for equality for non-benders in a world run by benders is immediately dropped upon finding out that the villain was a bender. Which is kind of like if a white person spoke up in defense of civil rights, all African Americans realize that hey things aren’t so bad and immediately dropped it. Yes, Amon’s motivations were sinister but no one in the movement knew that. They just said “Oh, he’s a bender. So I guess it’s back to happily living in fear of fire-bending mob bosses. Oh well.”
Suffice it say, the ending left me a bit irked. But I had hope. Maybe season two would continue the equalist storyline in some way as the Avatar works to restore balance between benders and non-benders – a very interesting issue in the world they inhabit. What’s that season two premiere? Six months later you say? Everyone’s talking about Mako and Korra dating? No one is talking about equality? Well &%$* me. So I walked away from Legend of Korra and decided it just wasn’t worth trying to get excited again only to be let down. But then they tease bringing Toph back. Toph. My favorite character in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Drat. Now I have to catch up.
So I sat down and binged my way through Books Two and Three, praying that maybe they improved from the ending of Book One. I mean, everything up to the ending was pretty good. Downright awesome at times. So did the rest live up to my hopes? Well… kind of? Let me explain. The absolute worst thing about seasons 2 & 3 of Legend of Korra is quite honestly Korra herself. The villains are more interesting than our hero, the side plots are more interesting than the main plots, and Korra seems to be there to carry us between the better storylines while she is just trying to not die most of the time.
In Book Two, we’re treated to the history of the very first avatar. It’s a great story that quite honestly could have been its own season. The season is also book-ended with the start and end of a civil war between the Northern and Southern water tribe which we barely get to see any of. Also the reconciliation of the three children of Aang and facing the truth that maybe Aang wasn’t the greatest dad. In Book Three, you have the reformation of the Air Nation, the world of humans and spirits learning to co-exist for the first time in forever, and the reunion of the Bei Fong sisters – all of which are far more interesting than a group of anarchist benders trying to kill Korra because Avatars are a force of balance and not chaos. Heck the spirit/human relations thing is only mentioned for like two episodes and then Korra leaves and we get no additional resolution until the prologue of Season Four which mentions that 3 years later and everything is fine and dandy between humans and spirits. It goes from everyone hates spirits and wants them gone to peaceful coexistence in 3 years AND WE GET NO EXPLANATION AS TO WHAT CHANGED.
The villains are equally baffling in some regards. In season two, the villain seems to be motivated by a clear power grab under the influence of a dark spirit, but then in Book Three its revealed he was also a member of the anarchists who broke away for his own goals. But even before that when they were younger, he made a power grab for the Northern Water Tribe… so was he an anarchist or not? “I’m against governments and order except when I’m not.” The book three villain at least is fanatically driven by his beliefs, but out of his team of four he is the only one to get any kind of personality or development. Making claims like “Just one of these four can overthrow a nation, all four can destroy the world” seem a bit of an exaggeration when there appears to be one threat and three flunkies. Queen Beryl’s minions got more development and their entire purpose was to unleash the monster of the week.
But as I said, there are some great stories in these two seasons. It’s just unfortunate they’re side plots and not the main course. Instead we get Korra who spends her time shouting about how she’s the avatar, having extremely forced romance troubles (honestly, some of the fights she has with Mako can only be the product of bad writing. No one argues like this in real life) and acting without care of the consequences of her actions. She serves as a bridge to the better stories without offering much herself. Even worse is that when all is said and done in the main plot, Korra’s lot in life is to just suffer. Book Two ends with her connection to the past avatars destroyed leaving her without guidance of her past lives, and book three is just a straight ‘kill the avatar permanently’ mission that leaves Korra in a wheel chair. Which is a shame and something I’m hoping season four actually fixes with a lot of previews showing Korra striking out on her own and abandoning the avatar identity and hopefully will be a chance for Korra to actually grow instead of just being repeatedly broken.
So would I recommend it as someone who felt burned by the first season? Sure. Just go into it knowing that there are diamonds in the rough that make the rough worth it. Here’s hoping the final season has a bit less rough to it.
Final Thought after seeing the first episode of season four: What is with the Earth Kingdom having TERRIBLE leadership?