What’s Popping (or not) – Legend of Korra Review

Kaylyn Schuh, reporter

Welcome to What’s Popping (or not), the column where I have hard opinions on your favorite movies, games, TV shows, and books, and decide whether it’s popping or not after an in-depth review.

Earlier this year, specifically May 15, practically everyone was going insane over the fact that all three seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender were being added to Netflix. I remember being especially excited about this because growing up, I was exclusively a Disney and Cartoon Network watcher, meaning I had never watched the show before. While most people were overwhelmed with nostalgia, I was experiencing the show for the first time, and, to be completely honest, it was well worth the hype. 

If you haven’t seen Avatar, please go watch it because it’s definitely popping. However, I won’t be reviewing Avatar because I would like to go over a more controversial topic, Legend of Korra, which was added to Netflix on August 14. This should be a given, but there will be spoilers ahead. 

I admit I wasn’t going into this show entirely blind. I mean, yes, I had no idea what it was actually going to be about, but I had heard that it was incredibly horrible compared to Avatar: The Last Airbender. 

(If you don’t know, bending is basically the control over one of the four elements, earth, water, fire, or air, and the avatar is a person who has the ability to bend all four elements. Only one avatar can exist at a time because each avatar is basically a reincarnation of the previous one.)

While I can agree that Legend of Korra will never be as good as Avatar, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a horrible show altogether. There are those little moments that really made Legend of Korra unique and pretty enjoyable; however, most of those moments are completely overshadowed by awful characters and poor writing. What I noticed, though, is most people trash the show over its differences from Avatar.

It needs to be understood that Legend of Korra was written for an older and more mature audience because it was written for the kids that grew up watching Avatar. That’s why it dealt with darker and more mature themes than Avatar did. 

In the first season, we’re immediately introduced to the protagonist and Aang’s successor as the new avatar, Korra. I thought it was very interesting how she already had a basic grasp on water, earth, and fire bending because that meant the show’s focus would be different from Avatar: The Last Airbender’s. I really like how it focused more on Korra’s development as a person rather than the growth of her powers. I also enjoyed that each season was like a different story rather than building up to one big conflict. 

Of course, I do think the show could’ve been much more enjoyable with a destined “final boss,” but the creators of Legend of Korra didn’t think it would go beyond just one season. It would’ve been sloppy to suddenly introduce this bigger threat halfway through the series, so I agree with how they organized the show. I also think that excuses the rushed finale of season one, but more than that, it gets way more hate than it deserves. After facing season one’s antagonist, Amon, a powerful bloodbender with the ability to take away one’s bending abilities, Korra loses all of her powers, but it does awaken her airbending to its full potential. This sends Korra to her lowest point and in the last episode, we see her run away and stand on the edge of a cliff. This scene gave me chills because even though you know it won’t happen, the fact that Korra gets that low is so devastating. This is what connects her with her spiritual self and how she regains her bending abilities again. I can see how this could come across as rushed or sloppy, but I don’t think the way she connected with her spiritual self is rushed at all. Overall, season one was a decent way to start the show.

Now, season two is when the show itself actually hits its lowest point.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really see how bad most of the characters were until this season and it made me realize how awful the relationships within the new Team Avatar are. In season two, Korra sets out to learn more about the Spirit World and try to connect it to the Southern Water Tribe like it was to the Northern Water Tribe. The main antagonist, Unalaq, happens to be the leader of the Northern Water Tribe and Korra’s uncle. During the first half of the season, Korra works with Unalaq, unaware of his true intentions to … destroy the world … I guess? Honestly, Unalaq is one of the worst antagonists in any show I’ve ever seen and even the show calls him out in season four episode eight. Anyway, during that first half, Korra is extremely aggressive toward her father, her airbending mentor, and her boyfriend, Mako, but let’s be honest, Mako lowkey deserves it. 

I also thought it was weird how the show tried to parallel Aang’s Team Avatar to Korra’s. Sure some subtle things would be cool, but when they’re being forced, like they were with Bolin, it comes across like they’re trying too hard. Bolin, Mako’s brother, is basically just the show’s comic relief, just like Sokka in Avatar: The Last Airbender. That would’ve been fine, but in season two, it’s clear that his conquests with love will continue past season one, only his first girlfriend doesn’t turn into the moon. He just sort of comes across as a cheap Sokka knockoff in this season. The only character, of the main four that is, that I actually enjoyed was Asami. She was more defined as an actual person with talents and strength rather than just Mako’s girlfriend. Oh yeah, Mako first dated Asami then realized he liked Korra and ditched Asami which broke Bolin’s heart because he loved Korra … it’s horribly written and honestly, the show focuses more on that than it does the actual conflict.

The finale is just… utterly confusing, to say the least. Unalaq morphs with some evil spirit that looks like an emo kite, and he’s stopped by giant, blue Korra and a literal child … okay.

Honestly, the only good thing that came out of this season was the introduction of Varrick, who is literally the best character in the entire show. He’s this amazing inventor with a crazy switch up at the end of the season, and he delivers some of the best jokes with great comedic timing. 

After season two, I was honestly debating whether or not I should finish the show because it was going so bad, but then I figured once you hit rock bottom, the only way you can go is up.

Boy, oh boy, I am so glad I continued Legend of Korra because season three was my favorite in the series by far. I appreciated the growing bond between Asami and Korra and definitely felt that tension between them. I also really enjoyed revisiting Ba Sing Se for the first time since Avatar and seeing how it changed. I was a little unsure about the sudden resurgence of airbenders, but then I remembered the absurd events that occurred in the previous season and brushed it off. It was also the perfect event to set the stage for a new antagonist, Zaheer, who was one of the few who gained the ability to airbend. His ideas and methods are so impactful and utterly bone-chilling which definitely makes him the best antagonist in this series by far. I mean, that scene between him and the Earth Queen literally made my jaw drop. I especially loved how this season’s ending was fulfilling, but not necessarily an entirely happy one. This was the first finale with consequences that would majorly affect the next season. 

Season four takes place three years after season three, and while a lot has changed, Korra still struggles to live life the way she did before facing Zaheer.

Zaheer had beaten her almost to death which left her completely broken and defeated. She had to learn how to be the avatar again while simultaneously trying to stop another Hundred Years War from starting. If season three had the best antagonist, season four had the best villain since Azula. Kuvira was introduced in season three as a very minor character, and in the three-year gap, she managed to take control of the Earth Kingdom forces and work toward uniting the entire kingdom under her reign. It may have seemed like season four was basically copying Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it’s not. It’s a compelling and terrifying parallel that reminds everyone that history will more than likely repeat itself.

I have to say, though, that the final battle isn’t entirely fulfilling. I think the reason why I enjoyed Amon and Zaheer so much more is because they feel more real. When Kuvira busts out the giant robot suit, yeah it’s cool, but it also defeats the impact of the battle. However, I find the little things in this season to be much more endearing than the actual conflict. Little stuff like discovering Prince Wu’s worth or Varrick proposing to Zhu Li is what made season four so enjoyable. The heartwarming ending is really what ties the entire season together. Korra and Asami agree to go on a vacation to the Spirit World together, and as they gaze into each other’s eyes while traveling through the portal, they realize that the feelings they share for each other are much stronger than anything platonic. 

 

Even though the first two seasons weren’t the greatest and it definitely isn’t as good as Avatar: The Last Airbender, Legend of Korra was still a fairly enjoyable experience.

 

Overall, I would give it a solid 7/10 which means this show is popping.

 

Definitely give it a watch when you get the chance, and let me know what you think. Thanks for tuning in, and make sure to come back in two weeks to see what’s popping (or not).

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