Avatar: The Last Airbender is my number-one favorite television show of all time, and not just in animation. It had incredible writing, beautiful animation, and characters that stuck with us when we saw those tragic words “The End.” So when I heard about The Legend of Korra, I was nervous. Spinoffs are more likely to fail than not, and it had a major name to live up to. But of course, I watched it. Sadly, my fears were justified.
Don’t get me wrong, Korra had some really good points and I’ll address them throughout this list. But I can’t deny that the bad far outweighs the good, and I think it’s time we fanboys admitted the truth: The Legend of Korra had a laundry list of problems.
10. It Could Be Surprisingly Dull
This is low on the list because it’s only half true. Korra had some pretty awesome fight scenes and some intense moments, especially in the last two seasons. However, even then, it could get boring. Ironically, the non-action sequences rarely got dull. I like learning about the characters, the world, etc. Believe it or not, it’s the fight scenes that could be the most boring in a given episode.
Part of this is lack of creativity. In so many fight scenes, it’s punch, kick, repeat. Throw rock, punch fire, smack with water, all direct physical attacks. It got very repetative. The worst example was the end of season 2. A giant spirit Korra fighting a giant dark avatar in a massive showdown. And it was so DULL! How’d that happen? Because it was all punches and lasers. Rinse and repeat.
I think it’s also because the story got so familiar that you could predict the outcome without even trying. Let’s see, episode 3? Good guys get their butts kicked. Episode 5? Minor victory. Episode 10? Major defeat. Final episode? Good guys win. The circumstances didn’t have to change. The same fight would have different results depending on how far along in the season it was.
9. Worst. Avatar. Ever.
I liked Korra from the get-go. “I’m the avatar! You guys deal with it!” That’s her motto and her first line. It instantly told us who she was and how she differed from Aang.
And then she stayed that way for four seasons. The show kept trying to tell me Korra was growing, but I didn’t see that at all. She always punched first and asked questions later, even by the time she really should have learned a thing or two. Watching her shrug off the advice of he elders and fall for pathetic traps really got old after a while. At some point, she stops being quirky and starts being an idiot.
A brash, immature character can be a good starting point, but they have to grow in some way. Or, you have to go all the way with it, like Toph. Korra wanted to have its cake and eat it, too.
And why, why, WHY didn’t she use her Avatar State more often?!
8. The Avatar Itself Got Kinda Lame
In season 2, we learned just what the Avatar is. But as often happens, explaining the magic kills the magic.
Right off the bat, it made the Avatar look more vulnerable. It’s not his power, but a spirit’s. It can be taken out and destroyed. Hmm, let me guess what the bad guys are going to do in this season…
And you know what? Outside of that season, explaining Rava didn’t really have any ramifications. Everything stayed the same except that she couldn’t contact her past lives. Of course if you go that route, you’re kind of destroying the avatar, which is whole reason the show exists, isn’t it?
All in all, going deeper into the mythos of the avatar proved to be a bad idea. It gave an explanation, but killed the wonder. Darn you, science!
7. Team Avatar SUCKS!
Remember how Bolin disappeared for most of Season 2? That tells you how important he is. And while he’s a funny guy, the writers didn’t have anything else for him. Because of this, no matter what happened, he tried way too hard to be funny and after a while, I was actually screaming at the TV, “STOP BEING FUNNY!” which I’ve never said before. Sokka was funny, but he was also a human being.
Asami was better. I liked her chemistry with Korra (didn’t see that series finale coming, though) and I liked how she was smart and could defend herself. Yet despite all this, Asami was really good at sitting around and doing nothing. I kept asking why she didn’t fight more. When she did, she was awesome. What happened?
Mako…Mako. Mako is the most useless character on the show. He had no character at all. Remember when he told his background about losing his parents and growing up on the street? Take away that background. Does it change his character at all? No, it doesn’t. He’s the same bland, blank slate. He did okay with the detective schtick, but that dried up. Nothing about him stands out and his relationship with Korra was so forced I almost cried.
And the worst part was how all these characters got their butts handed to them regularly. Neither Bolin or Mako were especially good fighters and if the show had taken an underdog approach, I might have gone with it. But no, they just suck…unless the plot says otherwise. When that happens, suddenly all of these guys whip out their inner badass and take charge. That’s bad writing.
6. Poorly-Written Villains
Name this villain: a stoic madman who gained power and a personal army which they used to hurt and destroy while claiming altruistic goals. He/she could easily defeat the Avatar in a fight, but only until the plot said otherwise. Korra finally defeated this person, but learned something from them and changed the world anyway.
You can’t figure it out, can you? That’s because it was ALL OF THEM! Every villain could be boiled down to the same basic makeup. The only difference between any of them is one had boobies. A good series has a variety of villains. Avatar had a power-mad overlord, a repentant prince, a cold and powerful warrior princess, non-bending henchmen, an admiral more interested in personal glory than his nation, and traitorous Earth Nation leaders. That’s variety.
Even the side villains were lamer. Combustion Man had no character, no dialogue, and only one trick. And he was awesome. Combustion Lady had a love interest, a voice actress, and emotional depth. And she was boring. How do you do that? Simple…
5. It was too Fanfic-y
But it wasn’t a fanfic of Avatar, it was a fanfic of itself. I call that the Doctor Who effect.
Stuff just happens. There’s often little buildup, little reason, and little reward. This show wanted to have awesome moments without really earning them. You want an example? *deep breath*
Amon has a brother? Awesome, now we can force some sympathy for him! How did Korra air bend after Amon took her bending? If spirits are running wild, why haven’t we seen them til now? Korra lost her memory? Seriously? Vaatu can take Rava out of Korra? How did he know that? Why couldn’t she do it? If Rava and Vaatu cannot truly be killed, how did Korra do it? Spirits and humans are going to coexist? What effects will this have? *crickets* Airbending is back? How? How did Zahir know so much about air bender culture if he wasn’t one before? Was he just studying it all in hopes of gaining bending someday? How and why did Mako get saddled with Prince Wu? How’d Koriva make that giant mech without anybody noticing?
But most of my qualms have to do with Korra. She learned that air bender evasiveness on a dime. When Amon took her powers, it was an identity crisis for Korra, but one instantly resolved by Aang. Who she never talks to again for whatever reason, even when she can. After Rava is defeated, Tenzin tells Korra to sit in a spirit tree to learn more about herself, not as an avatar, but as Korra. She instead learns about absolutely nothing, but still gets to grow into a giant. And all her season-three PTSD is resolved with metal bending and a single conversation with Zahir.
Stuff just happens. That’s bad writing. And speaking of being fanfic-y…
4. The Cameos Suck
Look! Katara is in this show! And boy is she bland! Seriously, she grew up to become a wallflower. But look! Iroh is here! Even…though…he’s dead. And not voiced by Mako anymore. Ooh! Ooh! Zukko! He’s still alive! And doing absolutely nothing to the progression of the plot. My. I’m so glad we included these guys.
I’ll admit that Toph was perfect. And the flashbacks of Aang were good, especially that photo of and older and being just as goofy as his younger self. Even that one scene with Sokka showed he was still himself (one time, me and my boomerang…).
Still, half of the cameos were just that: cameos. They were there for fanservice, not because they had anything to do. Now that’s fine, except that the story tried to actually use them in some way and proved the writers didn’t know how. Cameos are fun, but either keep it simple or use them well.
3. The Show Killed Bending
Bending was dying out long before Amon came in. In Avatar, bending made the world go round. It pushed trains, flew balloons, opened doors, built fortresses, and so much more. How does the world go round in Korra? Technology. You no longer have to bend to do anything. Just grab a car, flip a switch, or whatever.
Can I just say, “LAAAAAAAMMMMMEEE!” Bending was awesome! The creativity the writers displayed was unparalleled. It defined the whole world. There were four cultures built around bending. And you replaced that with America? You suck!
When I saw Zaofu, the metal city, I rejoiced because once again, bending made the world. Other than that, benders have nothing to do but fight. Pro Bending actually seems like an insult to benders everywhere. “Here, we don’t need you anymore, but we can exploit your efforts to make millions in entertainment.” Cars, dynamite, electricity, what happened to the rich and colorful world we used to love?
Oh, no! Amon took Korra’s bending away! Oh, but she can air bend now. Was it because she learned the principles of air? No, she just punched like anything else. If only she’d tried that before…wait…
Oh, no! The evil Vaatu has escaped! And he killed the Avatar spirit! But it’s okay, Tenzin just happens to know that this tree Vaatu was in is super-spiritual and can help Korra become a giant spirit with the power to fly at light speed to find and fight Vaatu. Neat!
Oh, no! The dark Avatar is about to eliminate Korra! But look! Jinora is here! And she’s…doing…some kind of spirit thing. I don’t know what she’s doing. And she isn’t explaining herself. Okay, the episode’s over now and there was no explanation. But the dark Avatar is dead and the light spirit is back…so…who needs explanation, right? Wait, I thought the light spirit said neither of them could be destroyed…
Oh, no! Air nomad culture is down to four people. But wait! Spiritual mumbo-jumbo means air bending is back! No generations of effort required! Whew!
Oh, no! The good guys are surrounded by Kovira’s goons! That’s okay, Toph is here! When in doubt, send in the old show!
Avatar may have been sprinkled with deus ex machinas, but Korra got baptized in them.
1. The Wasted Potential
Korra had the same creators as Avatar. They had a great new avatar who stood out big time and captured my heart. Team Avatar seemed natural. We got to see air nomads doing their thing. There were some really good fight scenes. It was often quite funny. There were some genuine threats not only to the cast, but to the world of Avatar. They even pulled it together for a satisfying series finale.
But they still botched it. This show had incredible potential, especially for a spinoff, but for all the reasons listed above, it fell apart. To me, that’s sadder than a show that just sucks through and through. Seeing what a show could be and then seeing it fall short is like seeing the oasis just before you die of thirst in the desert.
Yeah, the show did have good parts, a lot of them, actually, but it had way, way, way too many bad ones for me to say that it was a good show throughout. I own Avatar and want watch it at least once a year. I have no plans to watch The Legend of Korra ever again.