The Legend of Korra: a TV show recommendation
6 out of 5 stars. Maybe even 10 out of 5. Or 20.
With only one episode left to wrap up the season, I am actually having pain in my chest at the thought of having to wait a year for more.
This story follows the adventures of the Avatar after Aang – a passionate, rebellious, and fearless teenage girl from the Southern Water Tribe named Korra. With three of the four elements under her belt (Earth, Water, and Fire), Korra seeks to master the final element, Air. Her quest leads her to the epicenter of the modern “Avatar” world, Republic City – a metropolis that is fueled by steampunk technology. It is a virtual melting pot where benders and non-benders from all nations live and thrive. However, Korra discovers that Republic City is plagued by crime as well as a growing anti-bending revolution that threatens to rip it apart. Under the tutelage of Aang’s son, Tenzin, Korra begins her airbending training while dealing with the dangers at large.
I love Avatar: the Last Airbender. Prince Zuko is possibly one of my most favorite characters of all time (I have a weak spot for redemption stories). I adore the dynamic between the characters (though, c’mon, who else is a Zutara fan?) not to mention the characters themselves. Sokka remains one my fave comic relief and I will never stop wishing I could have a sky bison.
The Legend of Korra is nothing like that series. Sure, it has the AMAZING BENDING (I think I’m a waterbender at heart, though firebending is my favorite to watch) and stays true to the whole avatar premise. But other than that, it’s very different. And honestly, I think the creators were right to take the storytelling in a new direction. Kind of like JK Rowling can probably never top Harry Potter if she wrote another fantasy kids’ series, the original Avatar just cannot be beat.
So enter stage left: an older cast of characters, almost no standalone episodes, high-high-HIGH action, and a new setting (the events of Korra take place 70 years after Avatar) with totally different technology and a totally different kind of society. From pro-bending tournaments (omg, it’s like quidditch but BETTER. Whenever stories introduce new “sports”, I’m elated. It adds so much depth to world-building.) to council meetings to nights on the town, Legend of Korra gives us a lot of subplot diversity…while staying true to one, primary plot: the growing problem of Ammon and the Equalists.
This is, perhaps, the biggest change from the original Avatar series: the chronological nature of the episodes. You can’t really skip any and still follow all that’s going on–which probably explains the introduction of a little announcer at the start of each episode. In his 1920s-style-radio-host-voice, he catches you up to speed so you can follow along with the current 20-min episode.
And WOW, guys, do they pack a lot in 20 minutes. It’s so deftly done that–as a storyteller–I’m left me slackjawed every week. Each episode (or chapter, really, for that’s what they are) follows a very clear 3 act structure ending with one HECKUVA climax. The action scenes in each episode leave me breathless, and for the last five episodes, I would say I was even moved to tears*–not because something bad happened, but because it was just so darn epic.**
Plus, have I mentioned that Korra is a GIRL who is A BADASS? She’s flawed, still finding herself, and driven to do good–a real YA heroine, if you ask me… Yet, she isn’t even my favorite female on there. Lin Beifong is just so tough but kinda gooey underneath. And then you have Asami, who–despite her overly pointy chin ;)–is an incredibly three-dimensional character who can kickbutt without bending. Her life ain’t great, and I find myself thoroughly invested in her personal journey.***
Oh, and let’s not forgot the power of the musical score. The Last Airbender was incredibly well-complimented by the music, but I think Legend of Korra might actually have it beat. Like I said–those action scenes are just so darn epic and the music behind it all is just so mindblowingly epic.
Well, I think I’ve gushed enough for one review. All I can say is, if you haven’t already, watch The Legend of Korra–BUT ONLY if you have already seen Avatar: the Last Airbender. While you can certainly start with Korra, I think it’s much more satisfying with some Avatar-love under your belt.
You tell me: Do you watch this show? What do you think?
*Also: At the end of episode 10 when something Really Bad happens to Lin Beifong, I COULD NOT STOP CRYING. Or shouting at the TV “NO!”.
**Also, also: When that incredibly hot General Iroh showed up shortly after Lin’s tragedy and spoke with ZUKO’S VOICE (actor Dante Basco, a.k.a. Rufio from Hook), I literally started screaming behind my tears. My husband was very concerned as I shrieked over and over again: “It’s Zuko’s voice! It’s ZUKO!” In my mind, this instantly sets up a new love interest option for Korra, and I am ALL FOR love triangles…or squares…or pentagons, even. BRING IT.
***Also, also, also: Can I just say Asami is totally BAMF with that electric-glove-thingy? Oh, and I adore how the story set her up initially as Korra’s competition only to spin that on its head and make us LIKE HER.
June 18, 2012 @ 11:30 am
Thank you for making a recommendation post of Korra! <3
First of all, OH MY GOSH ZUTARA. That pairing was definitely my favourite in ATLA. I wanted them to end up so badly I… um, I kind of emailed Nick a link to a Zutara fanfic to convince them that they were meant to be after season two (so much secondhand embarrassment just from the memory of that, haha).
I actually have a lot of issues with the storytelling though– for one, the pacing is so off. It figures that they have to hurry up because it's only twelve episodes, but sometimes things aren't set up properly that it's shocking when they suddenly put an emphasis on it. The Makorra romance for example. Neither of them even seemed attracted to each other, then episode 5 came and we were suddenly told that Korra liked Mako and Mako is in denial about liking Korra despite having a girlfriend. From the set up of the previous episodes, that just came out of nowhere.
Another is the characters. They've left main characters underdeveloped. Mako and Bolin are pretty much just THERE. They're not even doing anything, and they're not very helpful in the fights. Mako's characterization in particular is messed up. In the second, third, and fourth episodes, he's shown as an aloof, suspicious, but ultimately sympathetic character who would do what it takes to protect his brother. Then from episode five onward (I have a lot of ire reserved for episode 5– the only thing I liked about it was Tahno) he just came off as a jerk. The latter episodes in particular have given me an automatic eye-roll reaction whenever he was onscreen. He got mad at Bolin for telling Asami about the kiss (thankfully she called him out on it both times) and didn't even bother apologizing. Now he fawns over Korra in such a romantic-suggestive manner WHILE HIS GIRLFRIEND IS THERE WATCHING. He is definitely on St. Clair-level cheating right now and that is not a good thing. At this point I don't even want him to end up with anyone because he doesn't deserve either Asami or Korra (Iroh x Asami is the new thing on Tumblr though, haha! It's so funny how he became everyone's hero despite only being shown for ten seconds)
Third is the plot itself. For a twelve-episode series, Korra has a lot of things going on. Usually, that wouldn't be a problem but in this case, it's really bogging the story down. Korra's original purpose of being in Republic City (airbending training) is completely ignored because of Amon and the Equalists, pro-bending (which I love, don't get me wrong. It did give me Tahno), and flashbacks of Aang's previous life. And for all of those, they're not really related. It might be that they will intersect in the final showdown, but right now they're just a bunch of incidences thrown together for no apparent reason. It would be a letdown if the Yakone incident wasn't somehow related to Amon because that alone took up two episodes. If they had left out the romance too it would've woven a tighter plot because they'd have more space for development. I had problems with episode nine as well because it had so many deus ex machinas. Korra magically being able to meditate and connect with Aang, the secretary witnessing Tarrlok's crime, Amon being immune to bloodbending (which was the most unexpected part and gave me hope that his plot is somehow related to Yakone) were all so convenient as to be contrived.
But despite all of that, Korra is a really fun watch. I won't even bother putting in the positive points anymore because you've got it covered– especially with the BAMFs that are Korra, Asami, and Lin. And the airbabies! Tenzin's children are amazing!
Okay wow, I did not expect that to be this long. I am so sorry for putting a wall of text in your comments, Susan!
June 18, 2012 @ 1:06 pm
Wall of text totally forgiven–especially since you bring up some really gooood points about character development and relationships.
I totally agree that the Makorra romance came out of nowhere, and that definitely bothered me…and I’m not even sure how “into” Mako I am anymore. He’s one hot cartoon, but the instant he moved from grumpy/aloof to love-triangle-boy, I lost a little interest (probably because it wasn’t set up). But I have high hopes for Iroh. 😉 If he isn’t there to add some romantic spice, I will be sooooo disappointed.
And, like you said, Bolin just isn’t around enough. Even Korra seems a bit 2D. But I also feel like I have to forgive the creators since they are cramming SO MUCH into a shorter season time. There were sooooo many episodes in which to develop the original Avatar gang, and I think that comparing the two series just isn’t fair. They are very different beasts.
That said–even without comparing–development for some key characters does fall short. I noticed a lot of development shoved into the more recent episodes–mostly with regards to Tenzin, Asami, and Lin. In fact, that emphasis on their characters is PROBABLY why they are all three suddenly my favorite people in the story.
And…sadly, I’m not sure we’ll ever see more Mako/Bolin development. They seem to be relying very heavily on the drop-in-troped-familiar-character tactic so that we “know” the characters already. 🙁
Re: plot. I’m not sure I have all the same issues with it as you do…in fact, I have to admit that the mash-up of plots or deus ex machina haven’t really stood out to me. Plus, it doesn’t bother me if things (such as Yakone) aren’t wrapped up since I know there’s a second season. If they aren’t all tied up nicely at the end of THAT….it will infuriate me. (Kinda like WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ZUKO’S MOM?) I guess I view it as a first book in a series in which you have to introduce all those threads in order to weave them all together and wrap them all up in later books. And, like I said they have done with episodes, I really don’t think they’re trying to make anything about this series (from episodes to seasons) standalone.
That said, if the Korra series really does last only 2 seasons…well, then I could end up having a lot of problems with all these same plot issues you mentioned. I don’t see how they can wrap it all up with a nice dollop of resonance in only 2 seasons. Then it will be a case of biting-off-way-more-plot-than-you-can-chew. But until the series is over, I’m definitely open to wherever the plot will take me.
PHEW. No I gave you a wall of text. HA. There is just so much to discuss and analyze about this show!!
June 18, 2012 @ 2:01 pm
Here’s the thing: having marathoned A:TLA in like…three days, I see absolutely no textual basis for Zutara. None. (Also, HUGE KATAANG SHIPPER LIKE WHOA.) Kataang is well set up from the very beginning, with Aang’s instantaneous crush, and Katara’s gradual response (from her realization of how powerful his bending is in 1×08 The Fortune Teller, to her adorable blush in 2×02 The Cave of Two Lovers, and of course, like…all of Book 3). Zuko and Katara have two meaningful interactions throughout the entire show. Plus, Maiko! I love how perfect Mai is for Zuko. (“That food was for my cranky girlfriend!”)
I love Korra, but it’s one of those cases where “When it’s good, it’s very, very good; when it’s bad, it’s…kind of terrible.” That SDKLF;3ERWT49RE0FDGDF love triangle. First, Mako is a douchehound. Second, none of the teenagers get much character development beyond their romantic storylines. Korra is the most developed of the four (as she should be), but compare this to A:TLA, where we had such complete understanding of who everyone was by the end of Book 1.
On the other hand, the adults are AMAZINGLY characterized. (Except possibly Pema, who is perpetually pregnant except in the most recent episode!) Tenzin is FANTASTIC, and probably my favourite character in the entire show, although Lin is VEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERY close. If they can get that sort of characterization down for the adults in such little time, why does the characterizations of these Krew (Team Avatar 2.0) suffer so much? Poor, poor Asami. She deserves better. Korra deserves better too. THEY NEED TO HAVE A TALE OF KATARA AND TOPH STYLE DAY OUT.
I think we spent way too much time in the pro-bending arenas, and in some respects, I feel Korra is paced like A:TLA, until they realise in the third act that that “Crap, we gotta fit all the rest of the plot in!” I wish this show had 20 episodes instead of 12–it could have been so amazing!
BUT. I have to say, the show’s strength is the character of Korra herself. First, I love that she’s a character of colour. Second, I love she’s built like a brick-house. (No waif-fu for my girl!) Third, I love that she’s fully rounded; yes, she’s a tomboy, but it doesn’t mean she’s not curious about feminine things (God, how much do I love that scene with the powder puff?). Fourth, she has feelings AND THEY DON’T MAKE HER WEAK. How much does my heart break for her whenever she cries? T_T In a funny way, as much as I love Aang (and I got all verklempt when I got the flashback of their older selves), I think I identify with Korra much more.
June 18, 2012 @ 2:04 pm
Also, move aside Mako, General Iroh is the new hottie in town. (Especially as YOU ARE ON NOTICE FOR YOUR SHITTY BEHAVIOUR, MAKO.) Did I cry when I heard that his name was Iroh? Did I sob when I heard Dante Basco’s voice come out of his mouth? YES AND YES.
Also, Lin Bei Fong is perfection and totally my hero too, Meelo.
June 19, 2012 @ 3:41 pm
Yes. YES. TEARS at Zuko. And lots of tears at poor Lin. My husband literally had to console me by saying, “Maybe Korra can return her powers. She IS the avatar.”
June 19, 2012 @ 3:39 pm
Dude, I also LOVE how jacked Korra is. HER ARMS. THOSE DELTOIDS. And like you said, she’s not weak…but she does have weaknesses.
And YES, Korra and Asami need a Toph/Katara make-over day on the town. They kinda had that with the race car scene, but not quite. Fingers crossed things develop more in season 2. Fingers very tightly crossed, in fact.
Re: pacing–hahaha “Crap, we gotta fit all the rest of the plot in!” I can definitely see how that might have happened because I have to say that the more recent episodes are just downright BAMF. Yeah, they might’ve spent too much time in the arena, but I have to say: I LOVED those scenes. The first time (when we saw Korra finally get the airbending moves right), I actually got misty-eyed.
Thing is, I had no idea the season was about to end, and it came as a real shock last week when someone told me… It feels like it JUST started (and I suppose it really did). So that definitely suggests there might be some issues with the season pacing, but I feel like on an episode-by-episode scale, pacing is pretty well-done. Only the Mako-Korra-Bolin love episode left me bored…
Oh, and when Korra had her flashbacks in the episode about Yakone, I lost it. Seeing Sokka and Aang and Toph–whoooooaaaa. Chills as I type.
June 18, 2012 @ 2:35 pm
YESSSSS!!!!! Someone else who watches this show. I. adore. it. I absolutely love it and think it’s one of the best cartoons ever and the next best thing besides sliced bread. The pacing of this season was just ridiculous amazing. The plot was great. The action was thrilling. World building and magical system freakin fantastic. The characters were all so real and lovable and hilarious. It was just many levels of EPIC AWESOMENESS. *sigh* i could go on forever.
AND HELL YES ZUTARA!
P.S. *spoiler warning* are omg! i was just going to mention what looks like the appearance of zuko’s offspring (been waiting so long!) and noticed you already mentioned it in your footnotes. but seriously, wonder what he’s like!!! and what you said was so ridiculously true, i was hoping for a new love interest for korra who was just cooler. i was getting fed up with mako and his indecisiveness.
June 19, 2012 @ 3:42 pm
Iroh + Korra…or Asami. I’m cool with them both leaving flaky-Mako behind. He’d better develop more of a spine in season 2. Such a face should not go to waste.
But YAY! Glad to see you’re also a hardcore lover of this show.
June 18, 2012 @ 4:08 pm
Everything about both Avatar series rocks my socks off. And Lin Beifong is my hero.
June 19, 2012 @ 3:42 pm
Lin Beifong is my hero too. I never thought Toph could be topped in terms of hardcore-ness…but Lin is as close as it can get.
June 18, 2012 @ 5:34 pm
Yes YES FOR ALL OF THIS YES WITH THE YES AND THE SUPER YES.
June 19, 2012 @ 3:42 pm
Hahahaha, everytime Meelo does that, I roll my eyes…and then giggle insanely.
June 18, 2012 @ 8:02 pm
I’m hoping that Asami dumps Mako and goes for General Iroh. I really love Mako but I hate the way he’s treating her. She basically just lost her entire life and will probably never have a home to go back to. When she confronted Mako about the kiss that would have been the perfect moment for him to apologize about it. Instead he did his best to deny it.
I still have faith that Mako will learn from his mistakes with Asami and become a better person though. He’s had a rough life and no role model to look up to so he doesn’t make the best decisions. I hope that at the end of season 1 Asami and Mako will split. Asami deserves better. But if Mako decides then that he wants to get with the Avatar, I hope that Korra says she’s not interested at the moment. She’s gotta make Mako work for her!
And can I just say that the scene with Mako holding Korra’s hand while she slept was so cute! It was really adorable and I can totally see a pairing between the two. The only thing that ruined that scene was seeing the hurt on Asami’s face. I feel so bad for her right now.
Also I can’t wait to see what happens with Amon next week. I really want to know how he can energy bend and how he was able to resist Tarlock’s bloodbending. Amon is a badass villain and I really want to know more about him!
Also I hope we still get to see Lin Bei Fong kick some ass even though she lost her bending. I think she’s my favorite character on the show as well. Plus Tenzin!
June 19, 2012 @ 3:45 pm
For. SURE. Mako has some major growth. I really wish they had just left him as the silent, aloof guy who we slowly get to know… But, instead, I suppose we’re going with the kinda asshat guy who has room to grow? (Oh, they had BETTER make him grow. If he stays this way, I will be so disappointed. Indecisiveness is NOT sexy.)
Re: Amon. YES. YEESSSS. He is such a terrifying villain. At first, I was like, “Meh. He takes bending…that’s scary, I guess.” Now, I’m like, “NOOOOO! DON’T TAKE THEIR BENDING! OH GOD, THE HEARTBREAK AND IDENTITY CRISIS!!!”
They made a fantastic villain with Amon–to say nothing of his chi-blocking, electrocuting army.
June 19, 2012 @ 1:15 am
WHAT?! I had no idea about this show! Will watch immediately. Thanks, Susan!
June 19, 2012 @ 3:45 pm
You absolutely must! It’s SO good! But be sure to start with Avatar: the Last Airbender. 😀
June 23, 2012 @ 1:34 am
I’m a HUGE Avatar fan which is why I don’t know how I missed this! Maybe a lack of having cable… whatever, I’m watching this ASAP!
June 19, 2012 @ 9:03 pm
Oh! I love the “Legend of Korra” so darn much. I feel like it’s so much MORE epic than “The Last Airbender” which I didn’t think was possible because that series was so totally epic as well. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the plot IS so much more faster paced and the fact that the characters are all adults / teenagers.
As for the love triangle thingy… I feel like they did set it up really well. Mako was very aloof with Korra at the beginning, but you could see that she was definitely into him and that in some way he was into her as well he just doesn’t know what to do about it. And as for him being all concerned about her now… yes well doing it in front of Asami is a bit of a douche-baggy move however sometimes it takes characters to lose another character before they realize what they’re missing. Mako is clearly one of these characters for me.
As for the whole Yakone / Tarlok / Amon plot thingy… I have no idea where they are going. As someone on the Korra facebook page pointed out, maybe all Amon is doing is blocking their last chakra, the one that connects people to the spirit world and in essence their bending. This would mean that it’s not really gone (Yay for Lin!) and that as the Avatar, Korra would be able to save these people.
I hate the fact that the series is so freaking short, and I also hate the fact that we are only going to get two seasons of 13 episodes which is really like one season of ATLA but either way, as sequels goes, it’s pretty darn awesome! And I am counting down the days until the two-hours season finale on Saturday. ^_^
Edit to add: I marathoned ATLA a while ago too (got all three seasons for Christmas, score) and I’ve got to say that there really is no contextual evidence for Zutara other than the few meaningful moments that they had. Sure I think that they did HAVE potential to be a couple, but Katara and Aang are just so much more better suited for each other and I just love how Zuko was with Mai so I didn’t want her to be left in the cold.
And as for Zuko’s mother apparently it’s being answered in the comic book series which details the lives of the original team Avatar after the events of the series finale.