The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - Thoughts on the Finale of Legend of Korra
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Thoughts on the Finale of Legend of Korra|
So! After twelve grueling episodes, we come to a big-ass end! With big explosions! And romantic cruxes! And lots and lots of bending battles!
But I did have some problems with it, which are presented here in helpful brief rantings.
Okay, now I liked the big "The Avatar state undoes all the unbending done by Amon." Great! But that works, I fear, because I've seen Avatar: the Last Airbender. Where it was a plot point several times.
If I was a new viewer, this would be the biggest deus ex machina cop-out in history. Which is a rare example of poor writing on this show. I mean, it would have been so easy to fix this, because everyone in this world must know that Aang can go super-powered on everyone's ass. Why has no one asked Korra why she can't go supernova against Amon? You could have seeded this revelation very well by saying, "I can't access the Avatar state!" and then making it that much more critical for her to get in touch with her past lives, and setting up the impression that the way Korra is going to beat Amon is by supernovaing out. And she tries, and fails, and then when he takes her powers away and she doesn't go ballistic, we go, "Oh, crap."
Instead, we have this plot point which will make people happy because who the fuck wants to see a mostly-depowered Korra and a completely depowered Beifong? Audiences will buy any old carp if it gets them the ending they want. But it felt mildly out of nowhere for Korra, and I imagine it'd feel very out of nowhere for a new viewer.
The other thing that makes me not like the ending is that it's dependent on the idea that Mako is the One True Pairing. And Mako's a douche! He's a cheating jerk, he's a liar, and he's not even particularly a well-drawn character. So to have us rooting for the Big Handsome Guy to go charging in and take Korra is just irritating, because as we all know, you can't be funny and get the #1 girl.
Why not Bolin? Accepting, caring Bolin? Bolin who isn't, you know, cheating on his girlfriend before he dumps her for someone cooler? Jesus. I dig you want a romantic triangle, it's all the rage in YA, but the triangle is the weakest part of the series.
On the seriously plus side, you made me feel bad for Tarrlok. Tarrlok. That kind of emotional whiplash is so fucking rare, I have to give props. And I cannot believe that they went with a double-suicide for an ending to that storyline, which is emotionally fitting and beautiful and sad and holy shit did they just do that on Nickelodeon?
Also, Iroh is another aspect that seems kind of out of nowhere. His goal is to show up, get destroyed, and have all of his plans go awry. He's the Worf. I suspect he'll play a bigger part in Season 2 - but again, unless you watched Avatar: the last Airbender, Iroh's purpose was very vague here. It felt uncomfortably like fanservice.
And why is Iroh talking exactly like Zuko? Why is a general of a great fleet sounding like a fourteen-year-old kid? It's distracting, man. I'm glad to see Zuko's voice actor getting work, but it was weird having the great fleet captain sound like the guy serving me fries at McDonald's.
That said, Iroh's big sky-battle? NOTABLY AWESOME.
Also, it kind of saps my rooting for Korra when her big plan is, "We'll jump in and tell the world that Amon is lying, with absolutely no proof! Surely, in the absence of evidence, they'll take my word against his!" Come on, Korra, you know better. But at least you got to save the Airbending family, which made me hella-scared.
That said, I did love the ending where she gets it all back because of the Avatar state. It worked for me. I just wish they'd done more to make that a part of this narrative.
All in all, I still don't root for Korra as much as I did Aang - but come on, man, that's three seasons of love. For a single season (and especially compared to how weak the ending of S1 was for the original series), this is pretty decent. 8 out of 10. The problem is, the series has been 9-10 out of 10 on a weekly basis, so the ending to me feels like a bit of downfall.
Still worth it, though.
They parallelled and seeded the Avatar state at the beginning.
Korra started with episode 1 having fire, water, and earth covered but no air. And no 4 elements = no Avatar State.
Butting heads with Tenzin only increased her blockage. And only when she'd been knocked nearly unconscious was she able to even glancingly touch the spirit realm and connect with Aang at all.
Korra started with episode 1 having fire, water, and earth covered but no air. And no 4 elements = no Avatar State.
...maybe. I'm not entirely sure Aang knew how to firebend come Season 1, Episode 3, but by god he was entering the Avatar state then.
But even leaving the show logic aside, it was mentioned vaguely, but not enough of a major plot point that the entire ending of the show should rely on it. It's big to us because, well, we're Avatar fans, but seriously. When you're fighting for your life, and everyone knows you could have ripped Amon's airship from the sky by entering the Avatar state? Wouldn't people be asking more questions like, "Say, why don't you do that then"?
Aang only knows airbending when we first meet him. He has to learn all three of the other elements from experts - it's a big part of the quest. Pakku for water, Toph for earth, and then Zuko for fire.
Mind you, he's not in control of his avatar state - it only kicks in when he's in massive danger or emotionally out of control. He has to learn how to do that along the way too.
Aang didn't know firebending in S1, but it was explained in his show that it triggers instinctively when the Avatar feels threatened at a subconscious level.
we know Korra had something of an overconfidence problem except for when she met Amon. Between her lack of spirituality and her lack of feeling death-threatened, it just didn't trigger for her. But of course, she's 16 and Aang was a little bitty twelve year old, so that would also contribute, don't you think?
|Date:||June 25th, 2012 06:29 am (UTC)|| |
Don't forget, Aang was raised by MONKS. I've a feeling that put him two steps ahead of every other Avatar in recent history when it comes to spirituality.
he avatar states pre episode to survive freezing.
also it felt a little too neat an ending but I think they weren't sure if there was going to be a season two or not.
You don't need to have all four elements to get to the Avatar state, just contact with the previous Avatars.
Totally with you on Mako. I'm supposed to be happy she ended up with him?
I haven't felt nearly as invested in this as I was with Ang's lot in The Last Airbender - and I think it's down to lack of character growth, and the way the bad guys have been handled.
In TLA it was about Ang accepting who he was, and learning to grow as a person. Korra's done none of that. We had a tiny bit of her learning how to be an airbender, and then "Pow" she suddenly gains the power at an opportune moment in the last episode, for no readily discernable reason. The love-triangle meant that everyone spent the whole season orbiting around each other without ever talking about what they were feeling or what the right thing to do was, and without ever having to make any tough decisions - except for Asami, who I was rooting for a lot more than anyone else by the end.
On the flip side - we got a lot of Zuko and Iroh in TLA, watching Zuko grow up, make some really fucking stupid mistakes, and we developed empathy for him because he came across as a person. A really stupid mess of a person a lot of the time, but still, someone with depth. Whereas the whole Tarlok/Amon thing was completely out of left field, didn't kick in until nine episodes in, and the history we got in the final episode didn't fit in with Tarlok's character from the earlier episodes at all.
Oh, and after earlier episodes started highlighting interesting questions about the relationship between benders and non-benders, and whether benders should be running everything, it would have been nice to have that play into the ending in some way, rather than just being dropped.
To be honest, I'm not convinced that Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko are actually great writers. Most of my favourite episodes from TLA were written by Aaron Ehasz or Elizabeth Welch Ehasz, who could actually put together decent characterisation.
All of which isn't to knock the show entirely. It's still fun. It's just not working for me as well as TLA did.
I'm with you. I love TLA. This one? I like it, but it doesn't even come close.
|Date:||June 25th, 2012 06:30 am (UTC)|| |
It isn't a given yet. There's two more seasons to go, I doubt that triangle's been done. He still has to tell his actual girlfriend. ;)
|Date:||June 24th, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC)|| |
I liked the way things shook out, but I don't feel that same compelling hook to watch S2 the way I did at the end of A:TLA S1. At the end of S1, our heroes have won a climactic battle, but they've all undergone some personal change - Katara learning her destiny as a healer, Sokka having lost someone he loved, Aang tapping into the Avatar state again - and there are still big threats on the horizon. Now: what else is there?
But I'm patient. Think of the awesome characters we had yet to meet until S2 of the first series: Azula, Mei Lin, Toph, Head-Boom Explodey Man, the rest of the Order of the White Lotus.
Part of the reason for a lack-of-hook is that they originally thought they were just going to get one season, and found out they were getting a second one while one was already in development. So the first season was written so that it could be a series-ender. I suppose they COULD have gone in, edited the finale, and slapped some hook-ish stuff into there, but I respect their decision not to.
(Initially I thought that Amon and Tarrlok were making an eye-rollingly cliche escape in a motorboat to return as S2's villians, and that was how they'd decided to shoe-horn a hook into there. Then. Uh. They dropped that scene which knocked my socks off.)
I have been seething all the way through this season because the treatment Korra gets is so frigging different from what Aang got, and it feels like most of that is because she's a girl. The character treatment feels like they were grabbing for young girl fans without actually having any clue that even young girls want good stories and consistent, believable characters.
Aang got to be frightened with good reason, journey through it, and come into his own. Korra's gotten -- what, precisely? Petting and protection and petulance and OMG the world is against me teenage girl angst without much real progress or growth. It's hard to care what happens to her when fully half the time I'm thinking Shakespeare had it right: "I would there were no age between sixteen and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest..."
I really wish they'd placed this series in the time when she was Aang's age in TLA, or right around the age when we first meet her; they could have left out so much of the nonsense if they'd taken her when she was that brilliant, super-confident child and written her like she was a powerful kid who happens to be female, instead of a girl who happens to have a few shiny powers.
The LoK finale hit on many feels for me.
1)Not gonna lie -- Iroh was one of my favorite parts of the finale. This might have something to do with me being a sucker for high wis/low intelligence characters and he seemed to be that to a tee. Ultimately not that bright but with a shocking amount of instinct that gets him through situations. See him: Punching out a bomb, just... jumping into an airplane and figuring out how to fly it on the job, and his entire "Well, grandad always trusted the avatar's hunches. Seems like a good plan to me."
2) My boyfriend and I were convinced that Tarrlok was lying and spinning some complex fabrication re: Amon's past. There had been no HINTS in the show, whatsoever, that there might be some connection between the two characters. And Tarrlok, after a season of dickbending, was perfectly happy to just blurt out to the whole thing to Korra... who wasn't suspicious in the least. I think that entire story sequence would have benefited with some cuts back to Tarrlok -- maybe see how bad sharing the story is shaking him up.
Basically Amon's story arc felt incredibly, incredibly, dissatisfying right up to that scene on the boat which basically redefined everything that had happened before it.
3)I understand some things -- like, that being able to airbend was a prerequisite to being spiritual enough to get in contact with her past lives. I get that the situation she was in there at the end -- where she feels desperate, and powerless, and someone she deeply cares for is about to be hurt, and she's full of so many feelings would push her spiritual/emotional buttons way more than pretty much anything we've seen so far.
I felt though that it was incredibly dissatisfying that she didn't avatar state the fuck out right there and sink the entire pro-bending arena.
It's also weird that no-one had even mentioned the avatar state directly up until now, or gave a concrete definition of it. All a new viewer would have to go off of was Aang in the flashback when he took away Tarrlok's dad's bending (I'm pretty sure that's the only time the avatar state got shown in the series up to the finale?
4) A huge problem of the series was the rushed pacing which sacrificed character development in favor of plot. I went back and rewatched the first 6 episodes before the finale, and A) they ran better when watched together and B) the premiere was paced SO MUCH BETTER than the rest of the series. I feel pretty strongly that the series would have massively benefited for being 45-50 minutes an episode. If they did 6 45ish minute episodes, then the continuity and flow of the plot would feel less broken up which would help support the plot-centered story and keep the pace snappy enough that it might help hide the lack of characterization.
If they'd gotten 12 45ish minute episodes (my Perfect World scenario) then the season would have had as much screentime as AtLA, but, it would have been less episodically chopped up: allowing them more time to focus on plot and to have a more adult and complex plotline while STILL leaving room for some of the sorely missing character development.
Ultimately the characters who suffered the most for the lack of 'filler' (read: episodes that could focus on them) were not secondary characters like Lin Bei Fong or Tenzin. They were 'main characters' (Mako, Bolin, and Asami) who got LOTS OF PLOT CENTERED APPEARANCES but we got to see very, very little of them doing their own thing. Since the plot was basically All Korra All The Time this left them feeling one dimensional, shallow, and hard to identify with, and at times made their actions seem non-sensical and without context. Bolin, of the three, probably got the most scenes where he was able to do his own thing, and thus felt the most developed. Mako, and especially Asami, got kind of given the short end of the stick. In the case of Mako that gives his jackass behaviors no context -- it's hard to see the human element in them -- which makes him all the more unlikable. In the case of Asami it makes her almost impossible to understand or to predict.
(Continued, with lurve triangle rants)
5) That love triangle and its end-game were terribly set up. THEY HAD AN ENTIRE EPISODE WHERE THE POINT OF IT SEEMED TO BE THAT BOLIN WAS MORE COMPATIBLE WITH KORRA THAN MAKO. Throughout the series he TREATS her better than Mako. Which, well, this doesn't mean that Bolin should "get" Korra - maybe Korra's just not that into him outside of being a friend. (I don't particularly want to see this show devolve into a Nice Guy Parable) And it doesn't mean that Korra shouldn't go after her feelings for Mako.
However, it would have been nice if Korra had realized that despite her feelings for Mako it's a bad idea to try and get into a relationship with him, citing how he treated Asami (and herself! He's a complete asshole to Korra for most of the season) as evidence. I realize that that's probably unrealistic -- at 17, with no romantic contact before, feeling alone, horny, and desperate I totally would have jumped at the first guy I was attracted to who batted his eyes back. I would have happily ignored any evidence that he might be an abusive jerk. I can see Korra totally doing the same thing and being convinced that it is Twoo Wuv.
But I'd like to see the show call it out. I really don't want to see them play Korra/Mako straight. IDEALLY how I'd like to see the show go in the second season is:
- Korra and Mako date, Mako keeps being a jerk, Korra realizes this and struggles with whether she should stay with him or not.
- It comes out that Bolin hasn't yet gotten over Korra. Korra explains that he's an -amazing friend-, but she just isn't that attracted to him. Bolin goes 'Okie dokie', and is disappointed, but doesn't fly into a Nice Guy Rage. Eventually he DOES get over her and maybe hooks up with Asami or something? I dunno.
- Korra dumps Mako after he does something assholeish. She struggles with getting over him. She eventually meets someone new (either a character we haven't yet seen with much screen time, or someone TOTALLY NEW) and begins to click with them.
|Date:||June 24th, 2012 11:33 pm (UTC)|| |
I liked it well enough, better than expected
nothing will compare to the original, but its not a fair comparison.
and i'm not sure where you're getting your info from, but you do know there are plans for a second season, right? it's being storyboarded now but has no release date.
I think my biggest complaint is that the whole thing felt rushed. Not just this episode, but the whole season. The main plot moves along so quickly there isn't time for much else.
The Hiroshi Sato reveal could have been set up much more over a period of episodes. Let Korra's accusation be wrong and leave it for a couple episodes, dropping in more hints and distrust by Korra. Instead it was done with a single misstep combined with a bullheaded Avatar and a defeat in battle all in a single episode.
The love triangle, whether you like it or not, was also hurt by the rush. If Korra and Mako and grown closer more gradually, through the course of working together a long time (maybe a couple missions alone), it would have been more believable.
Tarlok's behavior at least was set up a little bit, but he also went from "slightly power-hungry" to "oppress all non-benders and capture the Avatar with unknown blood bending" quickly, then one episode later he is rendered a non-threat because Amon took his bending.
The inability of Korra to reach her past lives and the Avatar state *is* actually set up, but the resolution is so rushed it does feel like a deux ex machina. She discovers her spirituality and suddenly it all comes to her. Aang was a spiritual as they come, and even he struggled quite a bit to come to grips with it all. The outcome is believable (to anyone who saw Aang, at least), but the timeline is not. She should have a serious talk with Aang (more than a throw-away line about being most open to change at the lowest point), but not be given the answer right away. Then commune with him again later to replay the final battle with Ozai. This would provide a great foreshadow to a follow-up battle where Amon tries to take away her remaining bending, but Korra defeats him by having a stronger spirit (as the lionturtle warned about and as Ozai almost does with Aang). In that process, she regains access to the other elements and figures out how to use it to restore everyone's bending.
|Date:||June 25th, 2012 04:13 am (UTC)|| |
I'm just sad we didn't get to see more of Crazy Uncle Bumi and of Tenzin heaving great sighs and going "Welcome to my childhood."
Also, so much for the fan theory that Bumi is Iroh's father. Probably would have come up if that were the case. I'd love to find out more about Bumi next season...it can't have been easy growing up as a nonbender in the Avatar's household with two bending siblings.
I was also really distracted by Dante Basco voicing Iroh. It sounded really teenagerish and inappropriate. I think they got a good voice actor for Grownup!Aang, though.
I honestly couldn't care less about the stupid love triangle. I never rooted for those two (or any two, really) like I did for Aang and Katara. Asami deserved better and so does Korra. I admit that I got kinda choked up at Katara's face when she saw Korra in the Avatar state. I cannot imagine how weird it would be to be interacting with a teenage girl who is the reincarnation of one's dead husband.
Oh, Dante Basco. That's just his voice. Even grown up, he will always sound like Rufio.
They set up the Avatar state being the key to undoing Amon's removal of people's bending abilities in the flashback where we saw Aang free himself from being bloodbound by going into it, and then in Tarrlock's story by having him reveal that it was a special application of bloodbending.
Having finally watched the whole series over two days...
The finale was simply a letdown. Not much of a way around it.
Things I disliked:
The "brother" angle came out of nowhere, and felt like an uninteresting cliche. I would have been less annoyed if Amon had turned out to be Tenzin. Plus, there'd already been one "OMG YOUR FAMILY IS THE VILLAIN" twist this season. It was a massive letdown. And after some frankly really great stuff with the whole movement. If this had been a revelation, I would have liked it halfway through a season - then you can have the movement either moving past it or falling apart, both of which can be interesting. Other notable cop-out moments include the Avatar state making it ALL BETTER and Korra's development of airbending.
While I don't despise Mako quite as much as you (I think his jerkishness was mostly confined to the first and last few episodes), the romance with Korra feels arbitrary as all get-out. Not going for Bo-lin is fine, for all that he'd make a lot of sense, but she has no reason to want Mako other than him being attractive and aloof and a little bit dangerous. Gah.
I was absolutely infuriated in the previous episode when Korra rescued Iroh - and left hundreds or thousands of sailors to die in the water. It's the most indefensible thing she did through the whole season.
If this had been a full-length season, I think it would have been better. But I still like it a lot. :)