The Wannabes’ Definitive Deep-Dive Into ‘The Legend of Korra’

By definition, The Wannabes have opinions — lots of opinions — on pop culture in all its forms. But that doesn’t mean we always agree. In response to Andrew Darowski’s post, “Reincarnation and diminishing returns: Nickelodeon’s ‘Avatar‘ series,” Maricela Gonzalez had thoughts. Then Chelsey Saatkamp had other thoughts. As a result, we three Avatar: The Last Airbender fans decided to share our varying yet equally valid opinions, thoughts, and FEELS on Nickelodeon or more accurately Nick.com’s The Legend of Korra with our readersThese are our thoughts. *Dun. Dun* Warning: Abandon hope (of not being spoiled) all ye who enter here.

Andrew Darowski: Here’s my basic take on Legend of Korra (based on having seen all the episodes at least once, having more than a few conversations, and sometimes thinking about it when I’ve got nothing on my mind): LoK is sort of like a younger sibling of a really good high school athlete. If you did athletics in high school, then you probably knew at least one person who was a legacy because of an older sibling. I ran track and cross country a bit, and I was the youngest of a family of runners. I was LoK in this metaphor, and my older brothers would be the Last Airbender series.

The upside is that there is a lot of positive faith in the younger sibling. The major downside is that the younger sibling might not work as hard and it is hard to definitively say if he/she is as good as the siblings. I’d say that LoK’s Freshman and Sophomore years were a little disappointing; like the younger sibling not impressing the old coaches. But Junior year really got some stuff together and now we can all see that LoK might actually be a legitimate legacy to a series that we love and recognize as great. So, I’ve never been more optimistic about LoK than after the season 3 finale. But it feels like there were two (and maybe a little bit more) seasons of failing to meet my hopes and expectations.

Maricela Gonzalez: Legend of Korra is not Avatar: The Last Airbender. Get over it. This is the truth all A:TLA fans must face and accept before truly immersing themselves in the spinoff animated series. What many fans, including myself, mourned when first watching LoK was that it lacked to exuberant joy and hope underlying A:TLA, much of which stemmed from Avatar Aang. With a new Avatar comes a new vibe: LoK is more of a drama than a comedy. That’s jarring…at first. And yet it’s a highly effective action dramedy. Plus, a sometimes unlikable (an awesome development on its own) but always engaging female protagonist of color anchors the series. As such, the series matures and grows just as Korra does. Captivating, diverse characters round out the cast from the small (my personal favorite, the grotesque Meelo) to the large (Naga the polar bear-dog you didn’t know you wanted).

What sets LoK apart from A:TLA the most in terms of basic structure is the inclusion of distinct, challenging villains for each season. These formidable villains drive the plot to consistently lead to gripping season finales that push the envelope to what animated series can achieve. The first season finale portrayed a murder-suicide. The second season finale featured an epic, apocalyptic boss fight reminiscent of The Big O, Akira, and Godzilla. The third season finale is a triumph of animated action that emphasizes the power of “good” may win the day, but life is so much more complicated than good versus evil. What other series, animated or otherwise, does that?! LoK does, and it does it well.

Chelsey: I loved Avatar: The Last Airbender, of course, but when Legend of Korra was announced I was so excited because a) it would feature a female lead, and 2) be set during the turn of the industrial age, an era I find fascinating in our own history. I had some fairly big issues with the first two seasons, including the silly love triangle, weird villain motivations, the whole first half of season two’s pacing and animation, and that it took a while to really dimensionalize Korra’s character. That being said, the things it did well it did really, really well, and the premise was different enough that I could distance it from ATLA in my mind. The two-parter of “Beginnings,” for example, is the best thing I think the creators have ever done. I’ve watched that more than any other episode.

And the third season, well, I just loved all of it to pieces. If we ARE going to compare, I’d definitely say it’s on par with ATLA’s last two seasons and better than its first. The pacing was solid, the villains were believable and suitably threatening, there was no romance junk, Korra was likable and kickass the entire time, side characters got their due, jokes, and of course, ASPHYXIATION AND MERCURY POISONING leading to a self-identity crisis for our poor Avatar (as Maricela said, this show isn’t as afraid to get daaaark). I still can’t believe the next season is already upon us, but going by that trailer I have nothing but the highest hopes the Avatar universe will end with a bang and that Korra will be remembered fondly.

Andrew: I would say that the one things that trumps all my other concerns for LoK is the abbreviated seasons. By the end of the series we’ll have just a few more than half of the episodes of TLA. That’s not really fair to Korra and her posey. While I don’t like Korra’s crew as much as Aang’s Gaang, I might have warmed up to them better with some “Tales of Ba Sing Se” moments. The worst thing that came from the shorter episodes is that we don’t know some great characters as well as we should (Asami) and we ended up with an abundance of not awesome background (how did Bolin have two background stories in season two?). I hope season 4 has enough episodes to make things right, or at least a tightly structured pace that won’t waste a moment.

Chelsey: I agree that some of the secondary characters could be better served. I love Asami, but she gets the shortest end of the stick for sure. I hope season four sees more of her ingenuity, like in that season 3 episode where they were captured and she basically saved everyone with her mechanic skills. Mako I think is best when he’s being a good detective and kind of a doofus, and Bolin is my favorite. After Tenzin and his family of course.

Really my hope for season 4 is that it keeps up the momentum of the previous season. I LOVE that they’re skipping ahead three years, and it will be interesting to see how Korra’s dealt with her injury and depression during this time. I think this season’s gonna really focus on whether or not the world still needs an Avatar, and I’m excited for this discussion.

Maricela: As much of a Korra Nation evangelist as I am, I agree that the characterizations of the secondary characters could have been stronger. This feels like a byproduct of the circumstances in which they’ve created the series. The creative team has so much story, so many ideas, and let’s be real, too many characters, that it’s difficult to fit it all into the streamlined seasons. That being said, the sacrifices made have been to make way for equally strong material like the “Beginnings” two-parter. For every missed opportunity into learning more about how Asami deals with being a non-bender surrounded by benders or a flashback episode of Tenzin, Bumi, and Kya’s childhood, we’re instead introduced to Zaheer and his formidable Red Lotus crew. Still, I really, really want an entire episode told solely from Meelo’s perspective.

Chelsey: Meelo the Man.

Enjoy that deep-dive into animated geekery and wonderfully diverse use of show acronyms? Tune in for more animated looks at pop culture to come! Share your thoughts on Korra, Aang, and all the extended Gaang in the comments.

Originally published on The Wannabes Buzz Blog.

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