The Legend of Korra finally came to the end of its two year / four season run last Friday night and the result has sent fans on the internet into a rip roaring frenzy as we all try to reconcile “Korrasami” in one way or another. But before I throw my two-cents out into the interwebs to become totally skewered by the commenting machines of controversy, I really want to applaud the series on never compromising its vision of pushing the limits of what could be done on a children’s network.
Living up to the quality and success of Avatar The Last Airbender was no small task, but when Nickelodeon asked creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartinoto return for more episodes, they stepped up to the challenge and began production on an entirely new series based in the same world. When the news broke, most of us were hit with mixed feelings despite the exciting things on the horizon. After all, how could we ever possibly watch an Avatar series without Aang, Katara, Sokka, Zuko, and Toph? Could it really recapture the same magic and whimsy we all loved about Nick’s crown gem? Wouldn’t it be distracting or even a bit contrived to revisit the same world through a new set of eyes?
We all waited anxiously to see what the next step in the Avatarverse would look like even without our favorite characters front and center. Korra debuted and quickly established itself as something entirely new thanks to an older cast of characters, the one stop setting of Republic City, and villains who were far more complex and shrouded in ambiguity than Fire Lord Ozai ever attempted to be. This may be set in the same universe, but the world Korra had become something entirely different and more complicated. It may not have been the show we fell in love with all the way back in 2005, but it sure was something special!
Throughout the series Korra battled a number of villains including Amon, Unalaq, Zaheer, and eventually even her former ally Kuvira. Each of these villains were interesting in their own right and it wasn’t just because they had their own fleshed out back stories. Early in season 4, Toph highlighted just what made these villains so dangerous: their ideas. Equality, spiritual harmony, freedom, and order. None of these ideas were wrong in their own right, but these men and women took these ideas to the extreme and became fanatics hell bend on fulfilling their agendas.
The evils of the fanaticism in Korra are especially relevant to the evils we’re battling our own 21st century world. Avatar the Last Airbender was a fantasy that swept us away on a grand adventure, but Korra was a mirror that reflected our society filled with complex evils that could only be beaten by balance. Whether it was dealing with the haves vs the have nots between the benders/non benders, fighting Unalaq’s religious fanaticism, taking down the anarchist terrorist sect of the Red Lotus, or stopping the birth of Kuvira’s totalitarian Earth Kingdom, Korra was truly fighting for balance in a world full of extremists from all walks of life.
More than any year in recent history, the battle for equality has been a hot button issue on everyone’s mind with the Michael Brown controversy in Ferguson, MO or the non-ruling on gay marriage in the states of Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin. We’ve seen riots, protestors, and all of those who seek to exploit the issues of inequality which is exactly the story Korra started telling in 2012. These aren’t issues that exist in the past or in some sort of fictional vacuum, they are real and we’re still dealing with them today.
Yes, other TV shows have tackled issues like this before, but those are ADULT TV shows on primetime TV. The Legend of Korra originally started airing on Nick’s Saturday morning block before being deemed to risqué for younger audiences. This show pushed the limit of what could be expected in our “children’s” programming by raising the bar on quality, maintaining the playful humor, and never talking down to its audience even when the evil in the show felt all too real.
The Legend of Korra‘s series finale was absolutely epic! Team Avatar’s take down of Kuvira’s mech was one of the most visceral things I’ve seen in any show or movie all year thanks to its continued tradition of exceptional choreography, high emotional stakes, and trademark sense of humor we all love(Using paint balloons to take out out a mech? Only in Korra!). It was a climatic battle, but the scene that brought Korra’s growth full circle was her one on one talk with Kuvira in the spirit world. Our heroine was no longer up in arms, but rather filled with compassion, love, and an understanding that monsters like Kuvira are only products of the damaged world they’ve been raised in. This wasn’t the hotheaded Korra we met in the southern water tribe, but the next Avatar who was finally growing into her own. Her love and compassion brought balance to Kuvira’s wrath. Once again, this was not a simple battle of good vs evil, but rather our hero coming to terms with how to solve issues in a far more complex society.
The conclusion to the battle brought a sense of emotional completion to Korra’s arc, but the moment that will go down in history is Korra’s final bit of self discovery. Even though the seeds of a Korra/Asami relationship had been planted early on, it wasn’t until our heroine went on a journey of self rediscovery in book 4 that she was able to figure out how she felt about all of her friends…including Asami. The final shot of the two of them holding hands in preparation for an adventure together in the spirit world was a moment that both defined and highlighted exactly what Korra has always been all about. Balance, growth, love, and finding identity in a world filled with crazy. It looks different for each and every one of us and at this point in Korra’s life, it looked like Asami.
The Legend of Korra has been a show that has consistently pushed the envelope and challenged viewers and even the the studio over the last two years. The reveal of our hero walking hand and hand with another women into her next adventure is a really ballsy move and will undoubtably influence the lives of millions. But after everything it’s been uncompromising on, could this series have really have ended in any other way? Before the finale The Legend of Korra was a great series that would have been remembered. But after its final moments, it’ll be a real legend passed down through the generations as it’s impacts is sure to be felt in the years to come.