The Legend of Korra
The Legend of Korra (2012-2014) series review
A sequel-series to the popular and perfect series Avatar: The Last Airbender (2003-2008), The Legend of Korra follows the titular Avatar immediately after Aang. The series sees Korra, a water-bender, deal with a changing world following the original series. This summer I finished Avatar for the first time, and immediately started on Korra, which I have also finally finished. Seeing as my review for Avatar was fairly long, my Korra review might get a bit long too… So here’s the takeaway. If you saw Avatar and didn’t see Korra, I highly recommend it, even if its not quite as good. If you haven’t seen Avatar, you should stop what you are doing and watch it. It’s incredible, and Korra’s pretty great too!
One of the major differences between Korra and Avatar is the overall narrative, with Avatar following one story across three seasons, and Korra following one story for each of its four seasons. While that is one of the things that does make Avatar more compelling than Korra later on, this series did not know how many seasons it was going to get, if I am not mistaken. Now as each season focuses on something different, I’m going to talk about the highs and lows per season in this series! So if you want to know nothing about the focuses of the season, I’ll be vague, but you should probably stop and just watch the show.
The first season of Korra deals with the state of the world after the original series and the way the world begins to change through industrialization and freedom. While the series never focuses on being political, incorporating politics as a counter-culture idea with a stubborn-headed Avatar is a smart and compelling way to show just how much the world and its characters should develop. The more self-contained stories allow the show to approach these ideas tactfully, offering unique ideas and events that work for expanding what we think about the world as well. Korra somehow manages to do this without bending over backwards for nostalgia either, allowing its characters to deal with new situations in new ways! The focus on themes, especially in the first series, brings a layered approach to what could have easily been good vs evil in a lesser show. The humor and content grow up a little more too, as it did throughout the first series. The nuanced approach to both its story and its characters allow the series to make bold calls throughout, significantly altering the way Korra and the other characters have to see the world, as it does how we have to see the show. Honestly, while the first season of Avatar is solid, Avatar hits its stride in Season 2, and doesn’t let up. Korra hits the ground running with a pretty great first season! 8/10
The second season of Korra shows off what this series does best, its worldbuilding and its themes, as Korra finds herself dealing with both physical and spiritual threats. While Avatar acts as both an introduction to the world and a guide to how it works, Korra takes the opportunity to dive in, taking what would have been a detour in Aang’s story and integrating it into the plot, like the Spirit World. Now, this does leave some pacing problems. In both the second and third season, t is hard to see where the show is going. However, when it gets there, it gets incredible! The bold choices, deep themes, and worldbuilding are more complex and exciting. This season also holds some of the most emotional moments in the series, or even both series for that matter. The larger stakes, internal character conflict, and imaginative action make season 2 like an unpredictable roller-coaster ride. You are excited, then unsure, then equally wowed and scared. 9/10
Opposite of Avatar however, Korra’s third season it the weakest of the four. While the supporting characters in the series are fun, interesting, and dynamic, there are times where some of them have nothing to do. By the end of the season, they somehow turn nothing into character development through the unique nature of the antagonists and changes in the peoples in the world though. Speaking of antagonists, on average in the series, they are good. Season 1 leads with a strong villain grounded in ideals; Season 2 ups the stakes, but arguably lowers the depth; Season 3 uses the world, but honestly has formulaic threats, and Season 4 means very well with motives, but lacks sympathy. I am not saying Avatar’s villains are all amazing either, and there are a few that rival each other in the series. However aside from the lasting effects, Season 3’s villains are interesting, but not great. That said, one thing that absolutely made this season good was the action. In part because of the unique uses of bending, Korra overall features some imaginative fights with stellar visuals! 7/10
However while Season 3 was the low-point, Season 4 picks up the slack and sends the series off strong. A solid antagonist, great pacing, a strong focus on themes and story, and even more worldbuilding and development. The final season also brings up some of its more minor characters and gives them solid change and growth as well. However if it’s one thing Korra does best, it’s Korra. Now as a character, Korra is probably the only one who truly rivals the first series. However if you put Korra and Aang head to head, I not only think Korra is a better Avatar, but a better character. That’s not to put Aang or Avatar down, as it’s still a significantly better show in most aspects, but Korra’s character arc across the four seasons is compelling, intricate, emotional, and always reflects the tone the series needs. The character of Korra is constantly faced with hard choices, and often makes bad calls. However they are always calls that are relatable, and often reflect choices that the antagonist was also faced with. While the series’ villains are not the greatest, they always reflect Avatar Korra, making the series consistently engaging even when it is not amazing. I really loved this last season, but if I had to pick out why it isn’t as good as Season 2, it does make a few calls that feel a bit big, as if it were trying to be better. Close, but you can’t beat the Spirit World. 8/10
All in all, The Legend of Korra is a great series! When compared to The Last Airbender, it doesn’t stand quite as tall. The supporting characters are not as strong, the antagonists and story are good, but not as steady, and it is hard to beat Appa and Momo. I think Korra is a bit underrated though. It rivals Avatar with its self-aware humor, action sequences, voice performances, and visuals. Korra even manages to stand above Avatar with a perfect lead, mature themes, fantastic worldbuilding, and one of the greatest television scores I have heard. It may not be a perfect show, but as a companion-piece to The Last Airbender, it is just a little step down and worth the attention! 8/10.