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Bending in the Modern World
June 22, 2012 2:13 PM   Subscribe

The season finale of The Legend of Korra is upon us - airing in the United States tomorrow on Nickelodeon. Korra creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko answer questions at the Wall Street Journal about the show and the finale (season spoilers) ahead of time. It's not too late to catch up by watching all 10 previous episodes here.

posted by Atreides (130 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can't. Fucking. Wait.
posted by kmz at 2:18 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can I just say that I'm really glad that Asami's superhero power seems to be that she can drive, and that's actualy a really useful superpower to have in this world?

I'm impressed at how well they make the non-benders in this world still be useful to the group: it's one of those things I appreciated about Avatar: The Last Airbender, too.

Korra is my favorite thing on TV right now, bar none. I'm a Korra evangelist, and I'm not eve sorry.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:20 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Did this ever get as good as the original? I watched the first 4 or so episodes and didn't mae it past "meh".
posted by zengargoyle at 2:21 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can I just say that I'm really glad that Asami's superhero power seems to be that she can drive, and that's actualy a really useful superpower to have in this world?

I laughed out loud when the Batmobile Avatarmobile was unveiled and the whole team piled in and took off to fight crime.
posted by curious nu at 2:21 PM on June 22, 2012


I actually like season one of Korra more than season one of Avatar. But then, season one of Avatar was probably my least favorite season: it definitely took time to grow.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:22 PM on June 22, 2012


I'm impressed at how well they make the non-benders in this world still be useful to the group: it's one of those things I appreciated about Avatar: The Last Airbender, too.

The level of kickbuttery that Asami unleashed in the most recent episode made some of the bending look weak.
posted by Atreides at 2:25 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]




I'm not reading the thread and closing my eyes for spoilers, but I just wanted to say THANK YOU! for informing me that every episode is available online. Nick.com is not one of my regular stops, believe it or not.
posted by Think_Long at 2:26 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


We can all agree that Aang's grandchildren are AWESOME, though, right?
posted by maryr at 2:29 PM on June 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


I could do without the fartbending. Still, it’s my favorite show, too. Chief Beifong is the motherfucking BOSS.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 2:45 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, zengargoyle: If you didn't get excited by the first four episodes, my honest appraisal is that you probably won't like the rest. There's less pro bending stuff after the midpoint, if that was a sticking point for you.
posted by Sokka shot first at 2:45 PM on June 22, 2012


YES, a Korra thread. Another place for me to fangirl over Lin Beifong.

(I'm hoping the eventual resolution of the Mako/Korra/Asami thing is that Asami and Korra become best buds and Mako is left in the dust, because dude, you are insensitive and tone-deaf and undeserving of these kick ass ladies.)

Sokka shot first - I was totally going to just stick my fingers in my ears and go LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU but those are actually some pretty legitimate criticisms and I'm glad they were brought up. I don't agree with all of them (Benders are not inherently bad even if the social infrastructure favours them and proposing to get rid of inequality by stripping away other people's natural-born talents is pretty de-facto villainous), but they're thought provoking to say the least.
posted by Phire at 2:48 PM on June 22, 2012


So...can we or can we not discuss potential spoilers here? Because Amon's abilities are freaking me out. And some of the fan theories about him are hilarious.

Not everything's been awesomecakes with this series, but when I rewatched the first season of Avatar, I found it kind of ploddy and meh also. So I'm willing to give it another shot.

Also: Tenzin is Best Dad.

/fangirl
posted by emjaybee at 2:49 PM on June 22, 2012


Also, re: whether or not it gets as good as the original - there's a tendency for ATLA watchers to judge the first 10 episodes of Korra against all 3 completed seasons of the original Avatar, and to romanticize what the original series was actually like in its early days. If you watch all the episodes of S1 of ATLA back-to-back and then watch all of the currently available Korra episodes back-to-back, there are a lot of improvements in terms of pacing and characterization. I think Korra is worth sticking with, though obviously other opinions are available.
posted by Phire at 2:52 PM on June 22, 2012


1. The central conflict creates a situation where the heroes are actually on the side of oppression, counter-revolution, and perpetuating inequality.

6. It’s too late to fix any of the above.

I have full faith that the creators know exactly what they're doing in this regard.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 2:52 PM on June 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


Some reasons why Legend of Korra is a Bad Show. Some more reasons. Some reasons why the treatment of romance in the show has been a huge disappointment.

Interesting links (I think the third is the best thought-out and argued) - but I'd take issue with the notion that the ethical/societal aspects of Bender/anti-Bender conflict is simplistic. There are repeated instances where Korra and others are brought face to face with the problem - her inability in the first episode to adequately argue with the anti-Bender polemicist in the park, for example, or Tarrlok's flagrant fearmongering and abuse of power, and his own pointing out of Korra's double standards when she confronts him in his office.

One of the few problems I had with the first series was that the ultimate big bad (Firelord Ozai) was just a mustachio-twirling supervillain, although the fact that the lower-level opponents (primarily Zuko and Azula and her friends) were more fleshed-out in terms of internal conflicts helped a lot. Seems like this series is, thus far, a move in a more complex direction.

Disappointed in how Tarrlok evolved, though. Seemed like a waste.


So...can we or can we not discuss potential spoilers here? Because Amon's abilities are freaking me out. And some of the fan theories about him are hilarious.

He wears a mask. We never see his face. He claims access to the spirit world. Remember this guy?
posted by AdamCSnider at 2:55 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the things I've enjoyed is watching adults get folded into the show as actual characters instead of talking set-pieces. The audience is older, the characters are older, the world is older, and that's been treated intelligently and with no small amount of deftness.

As for the series itself, I had serious doubts that they could bottle that lightning twice, but Korra has not disappointed.
posted by lekvar at 2:56 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did this ever get as good as the original? I watched the first 4 or so episodes and didn't make it past "meh".

I have many friends who are really enjoying the show, and have been since the beginning. Most, but not all, of those friends think that it's a step up in animation quality and step down in terms of depth of character and nuance of story, although opinions on the latter vary quite a bit. Some people who found the first half of ATLA kind of slow and boring seem to prefer Korra, because if nothing else it's extremely fast-paced.

For me personally, Legend of Korra has been a heartbreaking disappointment, and an object lesson in why creators shouldn't try to write an entire season of television by themselves instead of hiring a team to collaborate with them. The lack of a writers' room (or even a separate head writer) has been painfully evident for me and has made me very sad.

If you're not enjoying the show so far, it's likely you won't enjoy the second two thirds of the season any more than the first. Episodes one through three were by far the strongest for me, but my initial excitement has only waned since then.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:57 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, and double-super thumbs-up to the people involved that decided to make the series accessible to those of us without cable.
posted by lekvar at 2:57 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


MY CABBAGES! MY CABBAGES!!
posted by Fizz at 3:06 PM on June 22, 2012


My girlfriend and I have reached an understanding that, should we ever have a daughter, her middle name will be Beifong.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 3:13 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


6. It’s too late to fix any of the above.

I have full faith that the creators know exactly what they're doing in this regard.


Yes, it's totally within imagination that Korra has some sort of epiphany about the Bender-v-Nonbender iniquities over the broader arc of the series. It seems to me that Amon is just manipulating the situation, and when his big reveal inevitably occurs, he'll continue to be a villain without the cover of the Equalist ideology.
posted by briank at 3:14 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


and when his big reveal inevitably occurs, he'll continue to be a villain without the cover of the Equalist ideology.

Well, yes, obviously there will be something that conveniently delegitimizes Amon's platform, and once his true villainy is made clear, the audience can safely dismiss any nagging worries they might have been having about how maybe the Equalists have a really seriously good point.
posted by Sokka shot first at 3:35 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Did this ever get as good as the original? I watched the first 4 or so episodes and didn't make it past "meh"."

I encourage you to go back and watch the first 4 episodes of Last Airbender, I loved that show, but they aren't half as good as the first four episodes of Korra.

My biggest complaint might be that it moves a little too fast, but that could also be seen as a strength especially since Korra isn't wandering around the world like Aang.
posted by PJLandis at 3:39 PM on June 22, 2012


  • Don't know much about the world established in Avatar: The Last Airbender?

Then you're in luck, because so far it has not mattered even a little bit! They live in the real world with slightly niftier outfits. (I hope this thread flourishes, because I'm going to read the heck out of it. I love griping about this show.)

Also, re: whether or not it gets as good as the original - there's a tendency for ATLA watchers to judge the first 10 episodes of Korra against all 3 completed seasons of the original Avatar, and to romanticize what the original series was actually like in its early days. If you watch all the episodes of S1 of ATLA back-to-back and then watch all of the currently available Korra episodes back-to-back, there are a lot of improvements in terms of pacing and characterization. I think Korra is worth sticking with, though obviously other opinions are available.

The problem is there's just not a lot of sticking left to be done. Wherever they're trying to go with the story, we're halfway there already, and that's kind of sad. I'm left wondering why so much of this season was spent on Korra's brief and meaningless foray into professional sports, in particular. In fact, I think the comparison you recommend actually highlights LoK's inferior storytelling quite nicely. Here's AtLA's episode list. You can look at only the first 10, or everything up to the season finale, for comparison. That show had its flaws, certainly. The first two episodes just weren't very good at all, and the dialogue relied a bit too much on everyone mocking each other. But even at the early stages, I still say AtLA comes out on top. Each one of those episodes was so packed with delicious fantasy worldbuilding, memorable new characters, and just vital basics like character development (arcs, not mood swings) and consistent progress toward a known goal. I find LoK lacking in all of these departments.
posted by jinjo at 3:40 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


The first two episodes just weren't very good at all

Fun and relevant fact: the head writer, Aaron Ehasz, and his staff weren't brought on until episode three. Among other things, this is why there's a huge shift in how Iroh is characterized after episode two, as that character was a particular favorite of Ehasz and largely reworked.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 3:46 PM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Bless him then. Iroh is one of my favorite characters in all of fiction.
posted by jinjo at 3:52 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just to respond to one criticism linked to above:
"Tonally, LoK tries to do too much and it is a mess. For example the kids’ show antics of Meelo are very unsettling - in the sense that they kill the mood and destroy tension - when they are interrupting scenes that are, in context, incredibly dark."

Korra is a kids' show, airing on Nickelodeon Saturday mornings. It certainly appeals to adults but I'm pretty sure children, under the age of 18, are the core audience.
posted by PJLandis at 3:53 PM on June 22, 2012


Well, yes, obviously there will be something that conveniently delegitimizes Amon's platform, and once his true villainy is made clear, the audience can safely dismiss any nagging worries they might have been having about how maybe the Equalists have a really seriously good point.

Unlikely, given that already on the show Korra has fought against the crackdown on non-bending protestors, telling the police they have no right to corral and detain people without due process of law. (Excellent message for kids to hear, by the way.) The show so far seems to have the message that while the Equalists' complaints are valid, their methods aren't. (Amon is supposedly modeled after Mao.) Probably a large part of the second season is going to be Korra learning to respect non-benders. I think Lin Beifong might be involved in this.
posted by vogon_poet at 3:53 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


once his true villainy is made clear, the audience can safely dismiss any nagging worries they might have been having about how maybe the Equalists have a really seriously good point.

That's a really shallow reading of the text.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 3:55 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm hoping that Korra's powers will be taken away. It seems, to me, to be the gun on the mantlepiece of this season of Avatar - it would certainly teach Korra to respect non-benders, and force her to get in touch with her spiritual side.

I'm not going to hold my breath though. Whilst this season has looked (and sounded) far better that ALTA, it hasn't been as engaging to watch. I don't expect them to pull any Whedonesque moves tomorrow.
posted by The River Ivel at 4:14 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't wait for the season finale. A couple friends/fellow fans and I have started up our own podcast to float around crackpot theories. I won't self-link (unless people really want me to!), but when I saw this...

I'm hoping that Korra's powers will be taken away. It seems, to me, to be the gun on the mantlepiece of this season of Avatar - it would certainly teach Korra to respect non-benders, and force her to get in touch with her spiritual side.


We speculated on the show that Amon could still essentially win even if he's beaten in tomorrow's episode - if Korra's powers aren't taken away she almost certainly will take a lot of joy in taking this guy down, particularly in light of last week's events. If the people of Republic City see a bender smacking down a "normal human" (which I highly doubt Amon is) they could turn against the benders even faster. Amon still wins, even by losing. So now, Korra is effectively dealing with the worst PR problem imaginable, which is going to delay her training even further. She may even have to go on the run.

In a lot of ways, that seems like a more complex idea than simply taking the bending away. But that doesn't mean it's likely to happen.

Anyway, this show has been fantastic so far. I like it better than Last Airbender personally.
posted by HostBryan at 4:33 PM on June 22, 2012


the audience can safely dismiss any nagging worries they might have been having about how maybe the Equalists have a really seriously good point.

Except for that one scene where the nonbender citizen cries out "You're OUR Avatar, too!" and then Korra sets the kettled protesters free...and threatens the metalbending cops with two giant levitating earth chunks.

And the constant not-really-subtle commentary by Pema (and in the earlier series by Sokka) about how it sucks to be a nonbender sometimes. And the whole benders-as-gangsters storyline.

But other than that, yeah, they are totally glossing it over.

The show has the potential to go some really interesting places--what does it mean to have so much power you can bloodbend or take bending away, how can benders retain their supremacy in a world where nonbenders can arm themselves with chi-blocking and tazers, is bending even a good thing or a bad one in the long run, etc. etc. We see things from Korra's POV, but she is flawed and sheltered. There are lots of good nonbenders and bad benders. That's a lot of thoughtfulness for what could be just a POW LET'S BLOW STUFF UP kid's show like most of the crap out there.
posted by emjaybee at 4:35 PM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


For my own theories, I want Korra to meet up with the Lion-Turtle and learn how to re-energy people. Then she can give Amon bending abilities and turn him into what he hates...that would be awesome!!!
posted by PJLandis at 4:39 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was a real smack in the head for me when a friend of mine pointed out how Korra's story parallels that of the Buddha's.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 4:39 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh also, the blogs of the two creators: Bryan Konietzko and Michael Martino.

Bryan's blog is where I saw this hilarious take on ATLA shipping using some fan art.
posted by emjaybee at 4:41 PM on June 22, 2012


but I'd take issue with the notion that the ethical/societal aspects of Bender/anti-Bender conflict is simplistic

Bender: BITE MY SHINY METAL ASS!
anti-Bender: BITE MY SHINY GOLD METAL ASS!

Couldn't resist. Also somehow the show fell off my radar after the 4th episode and I LIKE it. A lot.
posted by PapaLobo at 4:55 PM on June 22, 2012


My speculation is that Korra will lose her powers and will then get to take some kind of Aang journey of her own in search of regaining her powers. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if Amon turned out to be a bender. A lot has been made about the death of Aang and the increasing importance of Korra touching/accessing Aang's experiences. This may grow in importance tomorrow.

As for the show overall, I think what it's missing as compared to the first series, is an overarching world threat. There's no fire nation threatening world domination. However, it seems very possible that the finale tomorrow will help launch that background for Korra. The tenth episode pretty much was the first domino falling.

I thought the pro-bending was a bit of distraction, but it does help establish another aspect of where bending exists in Republic City / the world. What we know is that bending in Korra is 1) held by some in the same manner as Aang's time, a practice that should be honored by its practitioners; 2) used for criminal means 3) used for competitive sports and 4) used in industry to law enforcement. The pro-bending helped to bring in two characters, but also to show the place of the avatar in Republic City. In Aang's time, the avatar was someone who inspired statues and was a great spiritual/mythical leader. Now in Republic City, it's taken as only slightly shocking that the avatar wants to participate in a competitive bending sport. It's a sign of the diminishing of Korra's position and bending.

Going off that list of six problems....

So to answer your question: Every time you’ve seen any Bender doing anything at all, they’ve been representatives of the privileged class. Every time.

Not true. Mako is seen with other fire benders in a crap job shooting electricity into generators in a factory. I'd also argue the criminal benders don't represent an elite class, either.

1) The central conflict creates a situation where the heroes are actually on the side of oppression, counter-revolution, and perpetuating inequality. At no point is the ideological justification for opposing Amon revealed by any character, it is simply taken for granted that the status quo ought to be maintained.

The story has obviously been in part about benders coming to terms with the inequality. If the characters/even benders as a whole, are to transform as all good characterizations insist, then they have to start at one point to move to another. The show has pretty much spent the last nine episodes placing bending in a bad light - there is a reason for this.

2) Instead of taking advantage of the inherent dramatic potential of the protagonists being on the wrong side - starting by acknowleding, even for a second, that the above just might be true - Amon and the Equalists are just lazily drowned-out by ominous music. That the show is lacking in any sort of self-awareness on this front is pretty much unforgivable.


As the has advanced, it has slowly started to reveal more about the Equalists. It was noteworthy the switch they pulled on Hiroshi Sato, a representative of everything successful about Republic City. I expect that with the finale and the next season the Equalists and Amon will be developed a lot more. Likewise, one doesn't have to look far to see an enemy that isn't dramatically explained in the Fire Nation. While Iroh and Zuku are given a little character at first, their development took time as well.

3) It portrays events that escalate the central conflict in wildly inappropriate ways. Until the latest episode, the Equalists exclusively target Benders who abuse their power and this is seen as extreme. The Benders/police conduct searches and seizures without evidence, launch paramilitary raids on people just learning how to defend themselves and this is seen as business as usual.

How is this a bad thing when the show is obviously setting up this dynamic?

4)The show draws arbitrary standards as to what constitutes abuse of authority with Tarrlok seemingly going too far, despite his actions being much closer to things Korra, Tenzin, and Lin had already been doing than the characters in the show, and soundtrack, would lead you to believe.

Are they arbitrary standards? What difference is that Tarrlok (I hate that extra 'r') represents the government. It's his excessive desire to quash the Equalists that illustrates a line to Korra of going too far. She initially teamed up with him, but by the second to last episode so far, Korra was starting to understand the unfairness being applied against non-benders. I think this point is overstating the similarities between the two groups to try to make a criticism, but it doesn't quite work. Nominally, Tarrlok has been acting in the interest of exclusively benders, while Tenzin, Lin and Korra have worked for the most part in the interests of Republic City as a whole.

Arbitrary justifications, ad-hoc powers of authority, vague standards of evidence… and we’re not supposed to buy it when Amon says the Benders are oppressive? Seriously, bring on the damn revolution. Where can I sign up to help throw these clowns out of power?

Uh, no, we're supposed to agree with Amon and the Equalists, that's the point! They create a conflict which our protagonists are being challenged against. They may represent the radical solution to a bending problem in Republic City, but it's a real problem and the characters are already beginning to evolve an understanding, awareness and sympathy to it. I will guarantee that by the end of the show's run, there will be a redefined relationship between benders and non-benders and likely created/made into existence by Korra.

7) It’s too late to fix any of the above

If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

I think the folks are also harsh on the characters. Korra, in the end, is an incomplete Avatar. She can be amazingly strong, but she has her weaknesses be it from inexperience or be it from bending ability. She hasn't even finished her training. Despite that, all her life she has been strong and known herself to be the heir to an amazing legacy. When faced with events that are humbling, it will take affect on her.

Romance...at times I'm sort of irritated by the romantic triangles, but at the same time, I recognize that for the most part, we're dealing with teenagers. Love can be strong, flippant, and jealous, all at once or one after another in a heart beat or for months at that age. To that degree, I don't mind the romance or the disruption it causes.


[long exhale] Yeah....been itchin' to say something!
posted by Atreides at 6:09 PM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I read that list of concerns about how the show is handling Amon and I gotta wonder if I've been watching the wrong LoK somehow.

Dude, the reason they have to play ominous music and hype up how Cobra-Commander-evil Amon is is precisely because they're building toward a reversal of some kind. (I personally suspect it will be Korra losing her bending so she can have a spirit journey to unlock spirit bending for herself, but I like the idea of Korra winning too hard a lot better.) This is classic misdirection. Sort of like how Hiroshi's bland reasonableness made it blatantly obvious he was an Equalist (though I admit I uncharitably assumed the show would go with the "Pretty girls are mean" trope and make Asami one, too.)
posted by Scattercat at 6:38 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


(though I admit I uncharitably assumed the show would go with the "Pretty girls are mean" trope and make Asami one, too.)

I confess, I was honestly surprised when it turned out she was clueless about and repulsed by her father's actions. I enjoyed it.
posted by Atreides at 6:46 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


My daughter (age almost-10) and I have watched every episode. She adores it. I love what it can be and occasionally is. The last three episodes have had about a ton of "Occupy vs. 1%" stuff in it, with the Benders playing both roles at different times.

For people complaining about Pro Bending: It was an amusing use of a few episodes to bring a group together, to expose Korra's personality outside of to context of her being the Avatar, to show many background characters' reactions to Korra doing what she wants (rather than what she should), to display a normal part of the world without things blowing up or being destroyed or being in danger.

In trading card games, commons make the rares look good. In LoK, Pro Bending makes the heroic uses of bending look great.
posted by andreaazure at 6:50 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


We got into the original Avatar via the daughter of some friends. At the end of that show, she suggested that a fourth season could be made of Aang and the gang just traveling around helping people with small problems. So far, I think Korra is even better than that idea.

It would seem that restoring bending may be likely at some point, particularly after what happened in episode 10. If Amon takes Korra's bending, maybe it is important that it happens before she learns air bending, because maybe he can't take that from her because she doesn't have it yet.
posted by snofoam at 7:08 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, a little known fact: Dr. Bronner's made a limited edition All-One-Avatar-State The Last Soapbender's Magic Soothing Jasmine-Mint Pure Spirit World Soap.
posted by snofoam at 7:12 PM on June 22, 2012


Really? It seems pretty obvious to me that the political structure of Republic City has been portrayed as corrupt and incompetent to varrying degrees, and fixing the mess that the previous generation created is likely to be a key theme of future episodes. Republic City and the Equalists are likely to be revealed as Aang's failure, in the same way that the previous war had its roots in Roku's failure.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:18 PM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


One thing that has left me curious is the state of the world beyond Republic City. Are we to presume the four nations are still independent? Are their capital cities much like Republic City? Obviously, we have a "united" military, a UN as the creators stated, but that's all we do know. I hope we get a larger world view.
posted by Atreides at 7:40 PM on June 22, 2012


Pro Bending is also hardly new - remember, Aang met Toph in the equivalent from their own time period. And it struck me then (and now) as a perfectly reasonable, and quite likely, adaptation of a skill set to public games, something that we've seen with martial arts of all sorts across the world. People like to show off their capacities, other people like to pay money to watch (and gamble). I really don't get the distaste for it.

I kind of presume that the next season will be Korra reclaiming her bending/getting in touch with the spirit world/learning airbending, while Amon leverages his control of Republic City and its industrial potential to try to take over the world.

Or, if Amon is defeated, we'll see that used to bring in a new Big Bad (as when the defeat of Zhao and Zuko's defection in Season 1 led to the first appearance of Azula). But I think that's by far the less likely option.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:59 PM on June 22, 2012


The theory that Korra or Team Avatar are supportive of the oppressive politics of Republic City doesn't make a lot of sense to me given that:

1) Korra was arrested in the very first episode for standing up to the gangs.
2) Mako and Bolin are living hand-to-mouth in poverty.
3) Tenzin as the voice of reason on the council is repeatedly outmanovered by Tarrlok.
4) Korra was manipulated into joinging the task force through a media ambush.
5) Mako and Bolin's dreams of using sports as a means of upward mobility are dashed by the corruption of the pro-bending system.
6) Tarrlok and Police Chief Fink hold Team Avatar hostage to keep Korra out of the way.

Up to episode 9, I had strong supicions that Tarrlok and Amon might be cooperating on some level. Now, I suspect that Amon has been manipulating Tarrlok through means not yet revealed.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:44 PM on June 22, 2012


I've been skimming the thread because I haven't seen a thing, but the first episode is in our iTunes as a freebie and if we like what we see we may get the whole series. I'm glad to know that it gets better starting at episode three because I may watch it anyhow even if my husband doesn't.
posted by immlass at 8:49 PM on June 22, 2012


Up to episode 9, I had strong supicions that Tarrlok and Amon might be cooperating on some level. Now, I suspect that Amon has been manipulating Tarrlok through means not yet revealed.

Really, given Tarrlok's personality, the inherited chip on the shoulder, short of getting him placed on the council, it may just be that Amon had the perfect canvas to paint rather than arranging the easel.
posted by Atreides at 8:54 PM on June 22, 2012


LIN BEIFONG MARRY ME

that lady is my hero
posted by zennish at 9:39 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I suspect I would like the series a lot better if I had never seen the original. In a lot of ways, I like the new version. But I get hung up on continuity issues. For example, they present blood bending without a full moon as very surprising to the original crew, but Katara used blood bending without a full moon in "The Southern Raiders." (And where was Katara in that trial scene, anyway?)

Overall, the feel is very different. The comedic elements are much more forced and out of place in the new series. And I for one don't think the basic premiss of the new series is a believable outgrowth of the original series. Do you really see Aang building a great big city as a solution to world problems after his experiences with Ba Sing Se? I don't. Do you really see Toph as a police chief? I don't.

But the biggest difference, I think, is that there really isn't any travelling for Korra and company, which was an integral part of the original series. By the tenth episode of the original run, we had seen the southern water tribe, the southern air temple, Kyoshi island, Omashu, several random earth-kingdom villages, and a fire-nation prison facility. Almost every episode was a brand new setting with new background characters and a new, small problem for the avatar to solve, often having to do with natural settings. I feel like the new series is stuck in the slowest part of Season 2 from the original series -- the worst part of the original run, in my opinion.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:40 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jonathan Livengood: I don't think Aang built the city, I think it built itself around him.

The comic spin off of the original series "The Promise" goes into that a bit. It deals with the fate of the fire nation colonies, many of which were old established communities by the time the 100-year war ended.

Currently in the comic everyone's set up to have a war over it, the Earth kingdom wants the colonies gone seeing them as continuing occupation by the Fire nation, the colonists want to stay in what they see as their homes, Zuko has decided to protect the colonies rather than evacuating them, and Aang is wondering if Zuko's gone Ozai on him. Aang striking a compromise that sees the Colonies become an independent state, with protection for the earth benders who live there strikes me as a fairly plausible outcome.

Of course, having helped found a new nation, even though his original plan was just "Send everyone back where they came from", Aang has to help keep it going, eventually he winds up with a statue in the Harbour.

I can also see Toph winding up as chief of police in a similar way, with the metalbenders she's started training in "The Promise" becoming first an unofficial police force, then an official police force.

That said, I'm willing to forgive Korra almost anything on the strength of "Holy shit it's a magic kung fu adventure in jazz age Hong Kong/Vancouver with a female protagonist who actually looks like someone who spends her time running around and punching things!"
posted by Grimgrin at 10:22 PM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Season finale? It only started like 2 months ago and there's only 9 episodes so far that I count. WTF?
posted by DU at 2:46 AM on June 23, 2012


Katara never bloodbends without a full-moon, I'm sure, so go back and watch that episode again. As for Toph not being a police chief and Aang not building a city, it should be noted that they were 14 at the time of the original series and may have grown up into adults.

People are hating on Korra for the weakest reasons...
posted by PJLandis at 4:06 AM on June 23, 2012


Season finale? It only started like 2 months ago and there's only 9 episodes so far that I count. WTF?

It's a 12 episode run this season, next, if I recall the articles I linked to, will be a 14 episode season. The creators likened it to the short runs by shows on HBO or AMC, etc, which allowed for tighter, better storytelling. To a degree that people have complained that it's really progressed quickly, that's somewhat by design. The limit on episodes also means they have more time to increase the quality of the animation, music, and everything else.



ZOMG - two more hours to go!
posted by Atreides at 6:04 AM on June 23, 2012


I've loved this season so far, expecting to be a incoherent mess after I watch the last two considering what happened with episode 10.

Anyway Bryan Konietzko has a Tumblr with lots of delicious Korra by him and the fans which you may enjoy.

Also here's a collection of backgrounds to show just how gosh darn pretty this show is at times.
posted by invisible_al at 6:19 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]




Oh my god, I never noticed this before.

There's an amazing amount of detail in the art direction and character designs: I love the metalbender's uniforms, for one, and the way that Bei Fong has retractable metal shoes so she can be selectively barefoot for 'seeing'. And then there's stuff like the cabbage corp statue, which wasn't reallly lingered on (I don't think), but still incredibly delightful.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:41 AM on June 23, 2012


I think one of the endearing traits of both shows is the desire to be mindful of just small even random things. To me, that's a sign of high quality and care when something is done that isn't necessarily required of the plot. Pixar (will be seeing Brave almost immediately after Korra) is a company that does this a lot.
posted by Atreides at 6:50 AM on June 23, 2012


Well. The finale has taken a rather dark and twisted turn.
posted by Atreides at 8:53 AM on June 23, 2012


Must run...but have to say that there's disappointment in the miracle ending. Meh.
posted by Atreides at 9:01 AM on June 23, 2012


For people watching on the West Coast, the episode runs about 3 minutes long. Adjust your DVRs, you don't want to miss the last bit.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:05 AM on June 23, 2012


That was awesome!

The Tarlok/Amon brotherhood story was a great twist, with a seriously dark ending.

Hitting the Avatar-State and resolving her loss of bending in a few hours wasn't ideal, but thats a small thing compared to how fantastic the ending to the Equalist/Amon plot was.
posted by PJLandis at 9:07 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Atreides: I've felt like this story needed to be between half again and twice as long throughout the run, and the ending was no exception.

I don't mind that the Avatar state is able to undo the bloodbending hack, but I would have liked to have had a few episodes before Korra gets her bending back.

Actually pretty much everything I didn't like about the series can be explained by time pressure.
posted by Grimgrin at 12:09 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I liked the finale, but the events of the last few minutes happened way too fast. It could have been an epic cliffhanger.
posted by snofoam at 12:31 PM on June 23, 2012


I guess since the events are already spoiled above, I will also 2nd Grimgrin: the restoration of Korra's powers and her ability to restore bending to others were both inevitabilities, as is the resolution of her relationship with Mako, but going from can't have bending restored, can't love you to the opposite in two minutes was a real shame. There wasn't time to really show Korra bottoming out, there was no quest to regain her power and there were no spirits involved. Bah.
posted by snofoam at 12:36 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess since the events are already spoiled above, I will also 2nd Grimgrin: the restoration of Korra's powers and her ability to restore bending to others were both inevitabilities, as is the resolution of her relationship with Mako, but going from can't have bending restored, can't love you to the opposite in two minutes was a real shame. There wasn't time to really show Korra bottoming out, there was no quest to regain her power and there were no spirits involved. Bah.

I concur. I still enjoyed the finale, but Korra having to make either a spiritual or real journey to reclaim her powers, etc., would have made for a better conclusion to those events.

I really did like the Amon/Tarrlok conclusion, though.
posted by Atreides at 12:45 PM on June 23, 2012


It was like if Return of the Jedi were just three minutes tacked onto the end of Empire Strikes Back.
posted by snofoam at 12:48 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Something I was really hoping for was really more of an inversion of the themes from the original series.

In AtLA, Aang starts out as a very morally-centered, mindful individual, and his plot arc is really based around the idea of experiencing the physical; he knows himself, he knows airbending, he has the Avatar State, but he needs to learn earth, water, and fire-bending in order to defeat the Fire Lord.

Korra starts out in completely the opposite way: She knows earth, she knows water, she knows fire... but she's not a mindful person who engages in contemplation, and that conglomeration of mindfulness/spirituality/airbending that Aang had is what she's lacking at the start of the series.

When I started watching Korra, that was the distinction that I first noticed... and when you add in that the movement for bender/non-bender equality does have a lot of validity, I was really expecting Korra's arc to be about developing the mindfulness you see with Aang, and developing the openness and empathy that seem to be part of becoming the Avatar, as well as maturing into adulthood.

After watching the finale, I'm a little sad. There's so much they could have done with this story and the setup they've built, but it feels like it's been cut off in favor of 'yay, let's beat up all the mans'. I would've loved to see Korra have the epiphany that non-benders are people with agency as well... and not defeat the Equalist movement, but rather co-opt it.
posted by mikurski at 12:52 PM on June 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


This leads me to wonder what IS in store for the second season? In two episodes, they supposedly wrapped up the Amon threat, Korra finally got in touch with her inner-Avatar and her abilities to bend all elements, the relationship between Korra and Mako was resurrected, and everything was basically set to right.

The only thing I can think of is that the pot that Amon stirred keeps stewing. He revealed an ugly truth about Republic City/World and even if he was a fraud, there are still those who recognize that things need to change. Perhaps that would allow for Korra to co-opt it, as mikurski desired above?

Really, the only loser in the otherwise happy endings for all was Asami. She loses the boy, she loses her father, and other than finding herself with the Republic City equivalent of a Fortune 500 company to oversee....she got short end of the stick.

I'm also puzzled by the capture of Tenzin and the kiddos. Just as Korra said, we watched them get away. Was Beifong's sacrifice all for naught? I half expected to see them next in one of the abandoned temples of the air benders. It's a nagging question.
posted by Atreides at 1:00 PM on June 23, 2012


I thought the scene with Tarrlok and Amon on the boat was a great scene, but they hadn't done enough to earn it. It's hard for me to see Tarrlok's motivation there. Was it revenge, or did seeing Amon's equalist weaponry cause him to conclude that Amon wasn't going to change and the suicide was an act of heroism on Tarrlok's part?

I really like the show but the lack of a writing staff has really hurt it, and it kind of pales in comparison to ATLA. I'm still holding out hope that they can fix its problems in season 2.
posted by zixyer at 1:02 PM on June 23, 2012


I would've loved to see Korra have the epiphany that non-benders are people with agency as well... and not defeat the Equalist movement, but rather co-opt it.

Maybe I need to rewatch, but it wasn't clear to me that they had resolved this, besides the reveal of Amon. I can see the next season starting with Korra having to restore balance between benders and non-benders in Republic City. Of course, they could just sweep it under the rug and start with everyone happy, but it's not obvious that they are going to do that. I could see them spending a couple episodes on that before revealing the next antagonist.
posted by snofoam at 1:05 PM on June 23, 2012


Hopefully, the 14 episodes will give them a little extra breathing space next season.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 1:08 PM on June 23, 2012


She loses the boy, she loses her father, and other than finding herself with the Republic City equivalent of a Fortune 500 company to oversee....she got short end of the stick.

I think young Iroh will help her get over Mako.
posted by snofoam at 1:09 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


did seeing Amon's equalist weaponry cause him to conclude that Amon wasn't going to change and the suicide was an act of heroism on Tarrlok's part?

It certainly looked like this to me.
posted by snofoam at 1:10 PM on June 23, 2012


Maybe I need to rewatch, but it wasn't clear to me that they had resolved this, besides the reveal of Amon.

I definitely agree it wasn't resolved. However, season one did set up a strong tendency to go 'Equalists = Amon. Amon = Bad. Bad = Punching. PUNCH!' which doesn't inspire me with hope for future development.

It's entirely possible the only resolution I'll get here is via the kumbaya-fic I'm writing where everyone gets together and bakes cookies and grows together as one big family.

(No scowling, Lin. Just because you can make the cookie sheets does not mean the cookies are yours.)
posted by mikurski at 1:18 PM on June 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think young Iroh will help her get over Mako.

Good golly, Iroh really got the "certified bad ass" award for the finale.

did seeing Amon's equalist weaponry cause him to conclude that Amon wasn't going to change and the suicide was an act of heroism on Tarrlok's part?

It's an interesting question. Tarrlok basically said that the brother he loved died during the Blood Bending tutelage of their father. I don't know how much of it was a realization that Amon was not going to change, so much the decision that the man who had been his brother needed to be stopped and he didn't much care to keep on living, either. He took the only path left before him.
posted by Atreides at 1:30 PM on June 23, 2012


It might be interesting if they had an integrated police force in Republic City in the next season. Perhaps The Lieutenant, if he is alive, would be amenable to cooperation after his disappointment with Amon. After Amon, he certainly doesn't seem powerful enough to be the next villain.
posted by snofoam at 1:39 PM on June 23, 2012


did seeing Amon's equalist weaponry cause him to conclude that Amon wasn't going to change and the suicide was an act of heroism on Tarrlok's part?

I read that scene as Tarrlok figuring out that Noatock had set it up so that Tarrlok could kill him and Tarrlok deciding he had nothing to live for.
posted by Grimgrin at 1:41 PM on June 23, 2012


Well, that was disappointing, to be honest.

I was really hoping that Amon would not turn out to be a bender, but he did - as if ordinary people somehow cannot lead themselves.

And Korra gets spiritual development without having to change or mature in any way because apparently being really miserable is enough to punt you to a heightened spiritual state.

And bloodbending does everything now, including interfering with people's spiritual connection to the elements.

And Amon's decision to let Korra live (un-equalized) in Episode 4 makes no sense, because how was he to know she wouldn't achieve the Avatar state the next day and therefore be immune to bloodbending?

And the big revelation about Amon was that he had exactly the same power as the other guy there was a big revelation about recently, generating not so much surprise as a sense of "oh him too, huh?".

And for some reason they decided the best way to tell us about Amon's past was a massive exposition dump from a character sitting in a box.

And General Iroh did nothing of any significance that couldn't have been done by another member of the cast, but he did suck time away from characters we had already established.

And how does getting in touch with desperation and aggression work to give Korra airbending? It seems inconsistent with everything we have been told about airbending up till now.

That wasn't terrible, but it was so much less and so much clumsier than I was hoping, I'm just... really gutted. I felt like all along I kept giving this series a chance and it kept not quite living up to it. Which is a shame because the animation and world-building were absolutely superb and the voice-actors were good and the music was inventive and I liked the pulp-radio-drama style... But... no. That conclusion just didn't work for me and I think that basically it was because it wasn't very well done.

Too rushed, perhaps, or too compressed, as the show was throughout: the characters were never given enough time to breathe or to develop and the situations relied on constant shocks, not "Hitchcockian" suspense (as the first series did with Zuko's good side, keeping us waiting two seasons for the main characters to learn what we already knew) - and where THE LEGEND OF KORRA had suspense (e.g. we know Tarrlock is a bloodbender! we know Amon can over-power bloodbending!) they just blew the revelation almost immediately in a damp squib.
posted by lucien_reeve at 3:05 PM on June 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm also puzzled by the capture of Tenzin and the kiddos. Just as Korra said, we watched them get away.

Boy howdy.

I don't know, I guess the fast-moving planes could serve as an explanation, but fundamentally, I find it a bit weird that a family of airbenders would be anything but *very* difficult to catch in the air.

(I also still don't believe the northern water tribe was vulnerable to the fire nation at the end of Season 1 of ATLA... nothin' but water for miles and miles, lots of talented waterbenders, I don't understand why the fire nation ships weren't all at the bottom of the sea in minutes.)
posted by weston at 3:08 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know, I guess the fast-moving planes could serve as an explanation, but fundamentally, I find it a bit weird that a family of airbenders would be anything but *very* difficult to catch in the air.

That's the closest thing I could gather, myself.

(I also still don't believe the northern water tribe was vulnerable to the fire nation at the end of Season 1 of ATLA... nothin' but water for miles and miles, lots of talented waterbenders, I don't understand why the fire nation ships weren't all at the bottom of the sea in minutes.)

I'd just assume that to use water on that scale you just have to be an avatar.

Too rushed, perhaps, or too compressed, as the show was throughout

I think that's a fairly good judgment. The writers said they liked the shorter episodic format, as it let them focus more on quality. Though, it seems they haven't quite mastered tailoring their ambition to match the arc of the storyline and their character development.
posted by Atreides at 3:23 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm in the unhappy state of being both wrong and right at the same time - Korra's de-bending state happened so quickly that it almost didn't count.

Side note: why does everybody who has their powers taken away do that weak punch at Amon afterwards?
posted by The River Ivel at 4:25 PM on June 23, 2012


Side note: why does everybody who has their powers taken away do that weak punch at Amon afterwards?
Failbending.

The ending hit most of the notes I expected it to; the twisty character development was nice. Only thing that really fell flat to me was the shipping, which seems to be a common complaint.
posted by NMcCoy at 4:42 PM on June 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Failbending.

Somehow that has to turn into a meme.
posted by Atreides at 5:11 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


GAH! My DVR cut off the very last bit after Korra restores Beifong's bending. Someone please MeMail me the details of the last couple of minutes!
posted by briank at 6:12 PM on June 23, 2012


Worry not....unless I skipped out on the ending....that WAS the ending pretty much. Beifong shows off her returned powers and then the "camera" pulls away.
posted by Atreides at 6:30 PM on June 23, 2012


Okay, whew! From the comments, I got the impression it went beyond that.
posted by briank at 7:20 PM on June 23, 2012


"The writers said they liked the shorter episodic format, as it let them focus more on quality."

I've also read that Korra was pitched as a fully plotted mini-series (which makes sense if you tihnk of the series as a long mini-series rather than a short season), and there is a sense in the interviews that Nickelodeon wasn't asking for, or perhaps willing to invest in, another series as long The Last Airbender.

Not that a greater focus on animation and tighter storytelling weren't ideas the writers/creatorsn wanted to pursuse, but it's not clear that they had the option of doing a longer series.
posted by PJLandis at 7:38 PM on June 23, 2012


I read the boat scene as Tarrlok recognizing how screwed up he and his brother had become, and how the only ethical thing left to do was to end Yakone's bloodline once and for all. And it seems that Amon recognized this as well and let him do it.

I definitely don't think it was an act of revenge or heroic sacrifice.
posted by archagon at 10:31 PM on June 23, 2012


What I said just a couple of days ago:

Well, yes, obviously there will be something that conveniently delegitimizes Amon's platform, and once his true villainy is made clear, the audience can safely dismiss any nagging worries they might have been having about how maybe the Equalists have a really seriously good point.

Between the "wise hobo's" infuriating speech about they had benders and non-benders living in harmony down in the underground shantytown, and Amon's subsequent reveal, I think I can safely say that I totally called this.

Claims to the effect that perhaps they will deal with institutional inequality in the second season are beside the point. This season was always meant to stand alone as a miniseries, and we're meant to consider the Equalist position Dealt With.

Which it most assuredly was not.
posted by Sokka shot first at 5:17 AM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have been thinking about LEGEND OF KORRA since yesterday and the more I think about it, the more I dislike it. Partly, it's that little niggling questions keep popping up - why did Amon come flying out of the water in a way that made it obvious he was a waterbender, when he was previously so controlled and strategic? why did Amon choose to become an Equalist - we just aren't told... why didn't Mako's lightning kill Amon, when a half-redirected bolt in the original series was enough to almost kill Zuko? and so on and so forth...

But there are deeper moral issues that I have with it, because it seems to have fallen into an old and repulsive tradition of right-wing propaganda and I really thought that the creators of Avatar were better than that.

I feel like all along I have been giving the show the benefit of the doubt - whenever anyone raised questions about the treatment of the Equalists, for example, I argued to myself that no, it was okay, they were showing wrongs on both sides and recognising that a revolutionary group might well adopt morally dubious methods (as has often been the case with real world revolutionaries).

But my biggest fear when I heard that the bad guys were called "Equalists" was that we would get another horrible American piece of anti-communist propaganda: something that would suggest that the very attempt to combat inequality must be inherently hypocritical, against "human nature", prone to oppression etc. No acknowledgement that social structures might cause people misery or cost them chances in life. No recognition that the status quo might not be perfect. And that, in the end, was exactly what we got.

And the thing is, that's pretty vile. Most of the things that all of us in the West enjoy - including America - like reasonable working hours, tolerable working conditions, any movement towards racial and gender equality, any form of social safety net or any kind of art that doesn't relentlessly praise a ruling class... These things were obtained by social reformers with their roots in left-wing thought. Look at this series of lectures, for example, on the massive struggle between light and darkness for the soul of America that occurred in the early twentieth century, between those who wanted genuine freedom of speech and those who were prepared to murder union organisers and terrorise black voters to retain their power. You don't have to go abroad to find communists who have done amazing things that still benefit us.

So, the idea that any philosophy of "equality" always leads to the horrors of Stalinist Russia, Pol Pot or Mao's China is simply not true. But there is a long tradition of American propaganda that claims that it does: to take an example off the top of my head, in ENEMY AT THE GATES, which is otherwise a terrific thriller, the hero's rival - a Communist party aparatchik - has to have a moment where he says: "We tried so hard to create a society that was equal, where there'd be nothing to envy your neighbor. But there's always something to envy... Something you don't have and want to appropriate." It's a line that comes up again and again: communists are just motivated by envy, their whole philosophy is fundamentally flawed.

Except, the societies with the highest social mobility on earth are comparatively socialist ones. One of the most successful education systems in the world is the one in Finland, which set out to achieve equality. There are all sorts of social problems that are connected with high inequality.

I'm not saying that communism is always right and capitalism is two-dimensionally bad. That would be rubbish. But the arguments in favour of equality, or at the very least taking the idea of equality of opportunity seriously, are real. They are well thought out. They have data behind them. They are sincerely held by people with honourable intentions. And there is a fundamentally creepy lack of respect in a lot of American art for an intellectual and moral tradition that - whatever you feel about it - has done a huge amount to benefit the world, drawn the attention of a great many intelligent people and has a lot of insightful things to say about society.

So with that in mind, let's look at Korra: here, a movement for Equality has a strong leader who appears to be absolutely sincere. We see a council where all the members are benders (at least in Korra's time) and an oppressive all-bender police force. Except, of course, the leader of the movement is really a lying two-faced weasel - a bender himself, who specialises in the creepiest and witchiest form of bending. It's a complete cliche. Yes, the lieutenant protests, but having the leader of the movement exposed as a liar makes everyone in that movement into a dupe, rather than a citizen with a legitimate grievance. It makes me wonder, in restrospect, if we were supposed to see the Equalist in the park as nothing but a ridiculous figure deserving of the beating that Korra gives him.

How much more real and electrifying would it have been if Amon had been sincere? He could still have been a bad guy: he could have been a fanatic, a person who thinks his answer is the right one for everyone. But to dispose of all that dramatic energy and moral complexity so crudely and so simply... to say, in effect, that it's just a few bad apples, the children of a magic gangster, the criminal element trying to pass itself off as political or spiritual leadership... That's pretty disgusting.

The thing is, I still don't think they meant to say that. I think they were just trying to tell what they thought was an entertaining story. And they didn't do a very good job because, although they are (like George Lucas) good high-concept people and spectacularly good designers and artists, they are not that great at writing.

Look at this list of episodes in Korra. They are all written by "Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante Dimartino". Now look at this list of episodes from the original series. Notice how many of the best episodes were written by somebody else: The Storm, Bitter Work, The Seige of the North, Zuko Alone, Sokka's Master, The Beach, The Day of Black Sun Part 2... Are we seeing a case of Lucas Syndrome, where a creator with limited writing talent (although possibly great talent in other areas) decides to "go it alone" and winds up making something that seems full of potential but is ultimately deeply flawed? And frankly, kind of stupid?
posted by lucien_reeve at 9:06 AM on June 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


If the premise that equality, not connected to socialism and communism, is bad, then I could somewhat agree with you.

The Equalist movement in Korra is similar actually to the villain's intent in The Incredibles. The difference is that instead of giving everyone without special powers such abilities, we're taking them away from those who have them. I can see an argument that equality is bad in the reference that no one should have anything about them be more special than the other, but I don't think stretching it to the left is an accurate premise.

For example, the most powerful Equalist is actually the most powerful industrialist, man of capitalism, Hiroshi Sato. He lives a life of luxury. While the show definitely presented Republic City as a place with contrasting levels of wealth, it never made wealth part of the equation other than to recognize that it existed. Thus, I don't see it as a typical attack in American media on economic or social equality.

I also saw Amon, both before and after his reveal, as a true believer. He was a hypocrite in terms of hating benders but being a bender, but the persona he adopted would appear to be one designed to best gather followers. Who would you follow? A bender who is calling for an end to bending or someone just like you, a non-bender, who has some how been imbued by nature with the ability to bring an end to bending? I felt that through Tarrlok's explanation of Amon, Amon developed a hatred for bending precisely because of how his father trained him to become a blood bender. Blood bending is terrible because it is virtually a weapon against free will. Amon was forced to use this power over one of the few people he loved the most and at the order of his father. That's pretty dark and as such, unsurprising that he might develop a self-hatred for his abilities and also benders in general. That he was revealed as a fraud isn't a disappointment so much as a tragic fate. I had every expectation that he would have re-started his campaign against bending had Tarrlok not killed him, again and again, until he would be left a deranged bender attacking other benders to silence them one by one.

Perhaps I missed something in the final moment of Amon's life, but I thought he was driven by ideology up to the end.

And then to respond to Sokka Shot First...

Claims to the effect that perhaps they will deal with institutional inequality in the second season are beside the point. This season was always meant to stand alone as a miniseries, and we're meant to consider the Equalist position Dealt With.

I am not completely sure if we are meant to consider the Equalist position is dealt with so much as the Equalist leadership and the threat they caused has been dealt with. The finale wrapped itself up so quickly, remote from Republic City, that it was the equivalent of as someone said, the end of Return of the Jedi. We don't know the consequences of an Empire that has suddenly lost its leadership (and second super weapon), we just know that the antagonist was defeated. The idea of Equalism is only dead if you accept the rationale that Amon represented it completely and his rejection was a rejection of the idea. The best argument that THAT is the case might be how the Equalist lieutenant responded when he learned that Amon was a bender. He obviously lost hope in the cause, but I'm not sure if we were given enough to understand that he had lost hope in the idea.

Again, this all goes back to the time allowance and the skill of the writers to cram the story they wanted to tell into the time they had. I think a great deal of good criticism of the show or the finale or both arises from this issue because it helped create much of what is being complained about in this thread.
posted by Atreides at 9:41 AM on June 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


After Amon, he certainly doesn't seem powerful enough to be the next villain.

Actually, I could definitely see the Lieutenant reacting to Amon's betrayal by re-creating the Equalists in the second season - either as another version of their original paramilitary form (and now led by a true non-bender) or as a sort of political force angling for a seat at the council table for non-benders. I much doubt he'll be an Amon-style supervillain, though.

why did Amon come flying out of the water in a way that made it obvious he was a waterbender, when he was previously so controlled and strategic?

I had much the same issue with Tarrlok's sudden turn from carefully manipulative politician to sociopathic kidnapper who shows off his bloodbending technique in front of the entire governing body of Republic City.

I, too, was rather disappointed by the ending of the series. After all their talk about wanting to have a tighter, shorter season, I was left with the feeling that this could have more profitably been a full 26-episode series. You could have had multiple episodes at the end with Korra rediscovering her bending, rather than a handful of minutes. You could have given the Tarrlok-Amon relationship the time it deserved and fed out their backstory more slowly.

There's just so much rich stuff that could have been mined. The Lieutenant - who is he? How did he hook up with Amon? Often secondary 'villains' (think Iroh in the first season) have proved to be just as powerful as the main characters in the Avatar universe, but nothing significant was really done with him or with Asami's father.

Speaking of which - Asami and her father, whose resolution I actually found more insultingly simplistic than the handing of the Equalists. All that stuff about being a loving father with complex political views and motivations? Naw, he's just a murderous daddy-tyrant, let's beat the shit out of him.

That throwaway line by the hobo about equality at the bottom of the social ladder - you could have seen Korra and company exploring that in a couple of episodes spent hiding in Republic City. Bolin and Mako's underpriviledged background, their only touched upon connections with criminal bending gangs....

But instead, we get twelve rushed and incomplete episodes. Beautifully artistic and tantalizing episodes, but still. And while I can't help but agree that there were likely other factors involved in deciding how much screen time to give this series, the fact that the two main writers seem so enthusiastic about the twelve episode format suggests that they probably didn't argue about it.

The first two episodes offered a lot of possibility for moral complexity and character growth which just never came to fruition - because there was never the space or, I guess, the artistic will on offer for it.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:19 AM on June 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am not completely sure if we are meant to consider the Equalist position is dealt with so much as the Equalist leadership and the threat they caused has been dealt with.

I suppose it is unsurprising at this point to say that: I disagree. The non-bending hobo is clearly speaking as a representative for his class ("we") when he goes to great pains to distance himself from the Equalists, pointing out that down here in shantytown everyone gets along. It's clearly meant to suggest that Amon is a rabblerouser, and that there aren't any legitimate reasons for the members of the classes Amon claims to speak for to be flocking to him in the way they are.

That this scene exists shows that the creators are at some level aware that there could conceivably be tension between the haves and have-nots of this world, and their solution is to invent a have-not that claims to be perfectly happy with his lot.

More to the point, at no point does any main character so much as mention the idea that any of Amon's constituents might have a legitimate grievance, nor is their alternative to revolution ever suggested or depicted until the wise hobo arrives to tell us that good, well-behaved, non-uppity non-benders support the status quo (and thus the alternative is, presumably, doing nothing).

I also disagree with the assertion that the story's faults result from its brevity. For its shortness, Korra is astonishingly uneconomical with its storytelling. Effective scenes in fiction accomplish more than one thing at a time, (i.e. telling us something about the world, giving us more information about a character, advancing the plot), but scenes in Korra are monolayered and straightforward—characters doing one thing for one reason.

Just as an example—I was stunned that the reveal of Asami as a capable race driver was accomplished in the way it was. She goes out on her family's racetrack with Korra and races against... some random guy? And then Korra gets to be impressed with her driving skill. So that scene accomplished one thing: We already know Asami can drive, this merely establishes that Asami can do something Korra finds impressive. It doesn't move the plot forward, it doesn't tell us anything else about the world. How much better would it have been to integrate this moment into a plot-advancing car chase? There were plenty of chases, why not have one be the one where Korra learns to respect Asami? But no, we wasted probably two minutes of episodes time on a pointless, meaningless racetrack scene. Similar examples abound. (See also: The entire episode devoted to establishing a frustrating love triangle/square.)

Contrast this with the best scene in the entire series—the end of episode 2. It's the culmination of two plot threads—Korra joining Mako and Bolin's pro bending team, and Korra's conflict with Tenzin. She's had trouble mastering the basic airbending forms, and against Tenzin's orders has come to compete in the match with her friends. Mako and Bolin have been knocked out of the ring, and Korra's about to lose—except the intensity of the moment causes her circle-walking to click, and in that moment she realizes the truth of Tenzin's airbending teachings along with coming from behind to win the match. And—because Tenzin is secretly watching the match, he both starts to see the appeal of pro bending in general, and is on hand to witness Korra make her first major airbending breakthrough, which leads him to realize he may have to take a different approach with teaching her airbending than he has with his own, more naturally-inclined children.

It's a great moment—a perfect combination of visual storytelling and efficient writing. Given the rest of the series, it's also a bizarre and frustrating anomaly. Korra should have—and could have—been chock-a-block with moments like that. But it wasn't.

The "they tried to do too much" refrain is becoming increasingly common now, but that isn't the cause of the series' faults, thought it is a serious symptom whose consequences cascade disastrously throughout the narrative. The source of the problem is is that the creators are incompetent writers of television, and should not have been given carte blanche to write an entire season of it on their own.
posted by Sokka shot first at 11:09 AM on June 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


Look at this list of episodes in Korra. They are all written by "Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante Dimartino". Now look at this list of episodes from the original series. Notice how many of the best episodes were written by somebody else: The Storm, Bitter Work, The Seige of the North, Zuko Alone, Sokka's Master, The Beach, The Day of Black Sun Part 2... Are we seeing a case of Lucas Syndrome, where a creator with limited writing talent (although possibly great talent in other areas) decides to "go it alone" and winds up making something that seems full of potential but is ultimately deeply flawed? And frankly, kind of stupid?

To build on what you're saying, it's not just that a variety of writers worked on the original series, or that ATLA had a head writer who coordinated and directed those efforts. The writing credits on any room-written series are deceptive, and the larger the writing team the greater the deception.

For context, I worked as an animation writer for a few years and once sat in on a pitch meeting in the ATLA writers' room. (Interesting note: neither Konietzko nor Dimartino were at that meeting.)

If the process was anything like what I remember from my own job (and it seems to have been from what I've seen and heard) then the creation of an episode script would go something like:

- Core writing team discusses broad strokes goals that need to be accomplished that season.

- Individual episodes are pitched by writers. At my job, we did this via one-sentence "loglines" but it may have been a little different on a more dramatic show like ATLA.

- Once an episode is given the green light to move forward, the team sits down and figure out the basic beats of the story. (Sokka feels useless and wants to train to be a swordsman. Sokka finds a sword master, and though he initially refuses he's eventually worn down by Sokka's obvious intelligence and creativity. Training montage. etc etc etc)

- The main writer for that episode takes this vague outline and fleshes it out into a full pitch. Usually this involves all the scenes in the story, including most of the dialog, written in outline form and then copied onto index cards.

- The index cards are hung up on a wall in the writers' room, and the episode writer pitches the story aloud. The other writers then tear the story to bits. This may or may not involve physically removing or rearranging the index cards right then, or writing entirely new cards -- we didn't do much of that, but our room was a lot smaller. The team will suggest jokes, make changes to the dialog, or even decide that whole scenes just aren't working and need to be completely rewritten.

- The episode writer goes off and makes some changes. At ATLA, it seemed like further pitch sessions would be held for reworked scenes, with the more locked-in parts of the story kind of skimmed over in a "yadda yadda yadda okay and then after the airship crashes, Zuko turns to Aang" sort of way.

- This process of revising and re-pitching continues until the everyone's happy or they run out of time in the schedule.

- The polished script is handed over to the lead storyboard artist for the episode, who's called the director on ATLA. Further changes to the story often happen at this stage, particularly little jokes or asides.

- The finished storyboards are broken down into a script to use when recording the voice actors. Again, more ad-libbing might happen at this point as the VAs mess around, and even more changes might be incorporated into the dialog. (NOTE: We did script > storyboard > record on my show, but they MIGHT have done it as script > record > storyboard on ATLA? Apologies if I'm mistaken.)

- The final storyboards and voice acting are edited together into video called an animatic (or boardamatic) which is like watching a black-and-white semi-animated version of the episode without any music or sound effects. This is packaged up with other design materials and sent over to Korea to be animated.

Obviously I'm simplifying a little bit so that this doesn't end up being absurdly long, but this is the gist of how these things work.

Which is all a preamble to my actual point: even the episodes that Konietzko and/or Dimartino are given writing credits for on the original show were actually collaborations between them and a larger staff of writers, who workshopped and added to those scripts in order to polish them to the production's standards. As I said above, the real tragedy of Legend of Korra in my eyes is that Konietzko and Dimartino apparently didn't value that process or the contributions of their collaborators enough to recreate the system for their new show. Either they had limited financial resources and decided that a writing staff wasn't worth a slice of that pie, or they are unaware of their own shortcomings and genuinely didn't see the value-add of collaborating with writers. I assume the former when I'm feeling charitable, but I'll admit that the term Dunnin Kruger effect was bandied about quite a bit in our household these past few months.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:35 AM on June 24, 2012 [16 favorites]


For context, I worked as an animation writer for a few years and once sat in on a pitch meeting in the ATLA writers' room. (Interesting note: neither Konietzko nor Dimartino were at that meeting.)

Wow. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have Metafilter! Seriously, that is very cool.

And I want to stress that - even though I am going to post something longer in a moment that will also be critical of KORRA - I have immense respect for the evident talent of all those involved in creating these shows, including the very obvious and considerable ability of Mike and Bryan. I don't want to come across as an entitled fan who is disappointed in the service he has received from his "underlings". I was just genuinely disappointed with the finale and I wanted to explain why.
posted by lucien_reeve at 11:40 AM on June 24, 2012


Hi Atreides - thanks for the politely expressed response. Civility is rare on the internet and much appreciated!

My point was not that I think that the Equalists (as presented) were completely good. It's that the revelation that Amon was a bender all along turns everyone who followed the movement into, first and foremost, a dupe. Also, it's lazy, cliched writing with an ugly history and bad associations that dodges an argument that they should have had about whether or not the Equalists were right.

As it happens, I do think you could make a quite good case that what the Equalists wanted to do was bad. But I don't think that LEGEND OF KORRA made that case - I think (as one of the links Sokka Shot First posted says) Mike and Bryan just assumed that we would be on the side of the status quo and never actually explained why. To be honest, they came across as not having thought about the issue much at all.

As for whether or not Hiroshi Sato's being a capitalist means that the Equalists are not somehow reminiscent of important left-wing movements (of the equivalent period in our world to the one in which LEGEND OF KORRA is set)... well, I'm not sure I buy that for two reasons. First, it seems like another way of discrediting the Equalists, by presenting them as hypocrites who are ignoring a real inequality of wealth in favour of the much more artificial and complex inequality of bending. Second, it ignores the fact that the rich and powerful historically supported right-wing gangsters and fascists rather than movements for "equality" of any kind. So it just rings really false to me. And since Mike and Bryan control every aspect of the world and could make it be any way they wanted, I have to wonder why they chose to ignore history and do something that would show the Equalists as two dimensional villains.

Plus, Hiroshi Sato is really shallowly written - he's just a "horrible father"? That's it? Really? Compare Ozai.

Personally, I think the problem is lazy or incompetent writing, more than any conscious attempt to malign progressive movements. I think they thought Amon being a bender would be a cool twist, and they didn't think through the implications. They left it to the fans and the audience to do the work for them. Meanwhile, they also neglected all sorts of riskier, more interesting, more exciting story telling choices.

And that's my real beef: bad writing. There are two basic problems with the series, in my opinion, and they both come from the shorter amount of space and the creator's self-described focus on 'plot'.

LEGEND OF KORRA was lacking in two vital things that the first series had in spades, namely:

1) Suspense
2) Character

The first series was actually quite strongly driven by classic,Hitchcockian suspense or dramatic irony. Zuko was the "bomb under the table" in Hitchcock's terms. We learn, in the double-whammy of THE STORM and THE BLUE SPIRIT, mid-way through season 1, that Zuko has a good side and the potential for redemption. And from that moment on, until about mid-way through the third series, we are waiting for the other characters to catch up. We are waiting for the moment when Zuko makes the moral evolution that we know he is capable of, and when the characters who once thought of him as a monster come to see him as we do, as a good man. The final eight episodes of the series are a kind of sustained "revelation", a fulfilment of that massively built-up potential, as we see just how much good he can do on the right side. (And it's a lot: he manages, sometimes accidentally, to turn everything around).

The two moments when LEGEND OF KORRA was most exciting for me were both moments of dramatic irony: when we learned that Councilman Tarrlok was a blood bender and when Tarrlok tried to blood-bend Amon and Amon just kept walking. In both cases, we, as the audience, learned something that the main characters did not know and I expected that it would be a much bigger source of anxiety and drama waiting for the heroes to find out. Instead, in both cases, the revelation was handled in quite a perfunctory way. In fact, the second revelation, that Amon is a blood-bender too, was really just the first revelation all over again.

The other great thing about the first series - although it took time to build up - was that almost every major character really was a three-dimensional character. They had virtues, flaws and a point of view. The series was at its worst when it tried to moralise or hit us over the head with the virtues of a particular character - THE PAINTED LADY is a much weaker "Katara" episode than THE PUPPETMASTER because it hits us over the head with how great she is, whereas THE PUPPETMASTER shows us a villain who exemplifies the temptations of Katara's controlling qualities taken to a horrible extreme.

Instead, the LEGEND OF AANG was at its best when scenes did more than one thing at once. Remember that wonderful scene where Ozai welcomes Zuko home? And we see for the first time that Ozai is... handsome. And he gives a completely chilling speech about how much he admires Zuko's ferocity in striking down the Avatar - something we know Zuko did not do, all juxtaposed with Sokka and Katara's father saying to them the things that Zuko obviously wishes his father would say to him - and Katara's anger at her father, which she obviously feels safe expressing when Zuko cannot... There are very few scenes in LEGEND OF KORRA that work on more than one level.

There have been so many comments about the missed opportunities with the LEGEND OF KORRA's characters that it would be silly for me to attempt to sum them up here. But overall my impression is one of wasted potential. Mako and Bolin - what is driving their story after the pro-bending stops? what happened to their connection with the triads? What if they tried to turn to the criminal benders to deal with the Equalists? Hiroshi Sato - why doesn't he have a better reason for what he is doing? what if he actually quite liked Mako and offered to give him Asami's hand in marriage and set him up for life - if Mako would just allow Amon to take away his bending? Asami - she loses everything... it would be crap for her to betray the good guys, but she deserves the chance to struggle with that issue or recognition for her heroism in getting past it. And Korra... she is likeable, but profoundly flawed. And yet, unlike all the characters in THE LEGEND OF AANG, she does not grow or have to get past her flaws. She just gets the two things she most wants handed to her on a plate because she needs them sufficiently badly. And being given something because she really, really wants it is exactly the kind of expectation of the universe that makes Zuko a villain.

And why does Amon have to be a traditional villain at all? Why couldn't he be a jerk with an interesting and dangerous point of view? They managed some wonderful drama out of making Zuko - even Azula - into three-dimensional characters. Why couldn't they have done the same with Amon? Why - if they were imitating HBO - could they not have ended on the same note as THE WIRE season 1, with some things changed, some things unchanged and some things unchangeable?

Perhaps that is expecting too much of something that was fundamentally conceived of as a children's drama. But I would argue that it is not expecting enough. Some of the best stuff I have read and watched in recent years has been children's fiction. Also, as a parent I want to be able to talk with my kids about the fiction they see. The original series is a wonderful jumping off point for conversations about why Zuko does what he does. I just don't think KORRA offers the same opportunities.
posted by lucien_reeve at 11:50 AM on June 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


I don't want to come across as an entitled fan who is disappointed in the service he has received from his "underlings". I was just genuinely disappointed with the finale and I wanted to explain why.

You know, here's the thing -- I ALSO am often hesitant to be vocally critical of fiction that's disappointed me, because people are so ready to put me into the "entitled fan" penalty box and I loathe getting anywhere near the "Good Fan / Bad Fan" binary in any of its numerous forms. The fact that I sometimes have tangential professional connections to such things only makes the whole situation that much more awkward.

But I just wanted to say that while I understand not wanting to be "ungrateful" for the work that creative professionals have done, at the end of they day the key word is "professionals." Creating narratives for public consumption is their job, and people at the level of showrunner or creator are paid pretty well to do that job. These aren't struggling independent webcomics artists with super-limited resources and time; they have hundreds of people working for them and hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent to realize their vision.

And if you think that a creative professional has done their job poorly, you have every right to say "Wow, that was disappointing" and then go and spend your time and/or your cash on something else.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:03 PM on June 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Fun and relevant fact: the head writer, Aaron Ehasz, and his staff weren't brought on until episode three. Among other things, this is why there's a huge shift in how Iroh is characterized after episode two, as that character was a particular favorite of Ehasz and largely reworked.

But... but... but... Iroh is the moral centre of the show!

That really explains quite a lot.
posted by lucien_reeve at 12:04 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


why did Amon come flying out of the water in a way that made it obvious he was a waterbender, when he was previously so controlled and strategic?

Well, he was controlled and strategic when he was in control. Korra had just airbent after having her bending taken and then broke through his bloodbending to throw him out of the building. Both things would have been surprising to him and also indicated that he was much more vulnerable than he had previously thought. Maybe it was a mistake to show he was a bender (and it certainly was convenient for the plot), but maybe he made the decision that his survival was at stake and he needed to use all his power to live to fight another day.
posted by snofoam at 2:16 PM on June 24, 2012


That bit where Amon used waterbending actually made sense to me. Amon had just been blown out of a window, fallen 50 feet into the ocean, and been knocked unconscious by the impact. After ~20 seconds underwater, he woke up by breathing in ocean water, at which point his main thought was probably "oh shit I'm drowning." Water bending at that point was a pure instinctual reaction.
posted by Balna Watya at 3:11 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, I confess, y'all have helped me admit that writing skill was a principle reason for at least some of the flaws in Korra. To a degree, I'm a bit cushioned from direct comparisons to Last Avatar since it had been a couple years at least since I last watched it. Incidentally, the end of Korra has inspired me to start re-watching the original. I wonder if this helped buffer my expectations.

I think one point made, which is poignant, is the lack of Korra undergoing any type of transformation or learning process. The only time this flickered was when she tried to protect the Equalist protesters from Tarrlok and the police force. There was a modicum of struggle when she first faced Amon and completely failed, but I'm not sure if it amounted to much growth.

I'm still not convinced about the role of wealth in the show, unless you want the bending to stand in for wealth, but I don't think that's an accurate comparison.
posted by Atreides at 4:43 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just finished watching the entire season (what, I had the house to myself for the weekend), and it felt like the show was finally gathering steam in that last episode, despite everything about Amon and Tarlok's background being clunky and somewhat disappointing, especially after the excellent antagonists in Last Airbender. The suicide scene? Damn. But then the resolution. I was expecting Korra to find out she could still use her powers in the Avatar state, and have to spend season 2 working out how to parlay that into a complete fix. And then they undo everything that happened during the episode, tie off the romance subplot and we only get one shot of Bumi. Oy.

It's still enjoyable as an action show, and it's damn pretty to look at, but the narrative keeps getting in its own way.

I was expecting Korra to end up at least agreeing with the Elqalists morally, if nothing else, after the scene at the police barricades. Hopefully that's what they're leaving for the next arc. But along the same lines, this is not what I'd call a charitable portrayal of democracy. The council sucks.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:54 PM on June 24, 2012


Oh, and for the record, the exact instant the writing goes to hell is when Lin Beifong declares that she's going to fight Amon "my way - outside the law." Not only is that a terrible line, it makes no sense at all to have it come out of the mouth of a second-generation police chief who's shown nothing but pride for her job up to that point.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:48 PM on June 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


"For its shortness, Korra is astonishingly uneconomical with its storytelling. Effective scenes in fiction accomplish more than one thing at a time, (i.e. telling us something about the world, giving us more information about a character, advancing the plot), but scenes in Korra are monolayered and straightforward—characters doing one thing for one reason."

I really agree with this. I'd add something in support: the character writing itself is uneconomical. Take the Asami-racing scene. Asami races, then Korra gives a little speech about how this was not what she'd thought Asami was like, then Asami gives a little speech about how yes, she is in fact a daredevil racer. This is low-quality writing on the most basic level: every writing teacher in the world teaches the 'show, don't tell' rule. Characters just talking about what kind of people they are or how they feel is just not very dynamic.

But that's most of the series. In AtlA, the writing was much better: people didn't announce their thoughts and feelings, they acted on them. Compare, for instance, Korra's reactions to being unable to tackle Amon with Aang's reactions to losing Appa. Korra just keeps saying 'I'm frustrated,' which isn't interesting. Aang never says 'I'm upset': he gets uncooperative and short-tempered and refuses to pull his weight, all of which is extremely unlike him and so makes his distress dramatically clear.

AtlA managed to pack tremendous amounts of character writing into very short scenes for a simple reason: the characters didn't communicate their thoughts and feelings but their reactions to those thoughts and feelings. That's much more how real people behave, and creates a greater depth and complexity. It's much harder to care about a character when you don't have to put any empathy into them, and when they just announce their feelings right out, you don't.

So the result was that there were few characters written with the tight-packed economy of AtlA. The closest, really, was Amon, who acted on what he appeared to feel ... and then it turned out he didn't feel that way at all.
posted by lucien_reeve at 11:45 PM on June 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm becoming retroactively disappointed with the series the more you folks deconstruct the writing. Meh!

I hope that there's someone with the creators or the creators themselves who re-watch their product and decide they need to either amp up their game or call in more help to overcome the writing weaknesses. They have some great characters, I hope they bring out the most in them.
posted by Atreides at 6:53 AM on June 25, 2012


Skimming through this is convincing me to wait for it on DVD and if we get a 30-minute series, look at more DCAU stuff.
posted by immlass at 6:57 AM on June 25, 2012


Watching more DCAU stuff is always a good idea.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:13 AM on June 25, 2012


I guess I'm a victim of comparatively low expectations here. TLA struck me as a pacing train wreck with half of a first season that went nowhere and did nothing, and a truncated third season that included such things as god-as-dragon-turtle and Azula's fall compressed into a montage. Some of the third-season terseness can be attributed to the death of Mako, but still it was a series that was also plagued by trying to wrap up far too much in season closers.

Compared to just about everything else on my TV series list, I'm happy to grade Korra on a bit of a curve. There are things I really like about it, things that don't quite work for me, but it's a show I'm choosing to make time for on a weekly basis, which I can't say for anything else at this time.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:50 AM on June 25, 2012


The narrative in this first season of Korra was definitely better than the low points of TLA, but even the first halves of seasons 1 and 3, which were pretty terrible plot-wise, did a way better job of establishing characters I cared about and who grew and matured as they faced new challenges.

Although it's probably telling about the creators of the show that Korra's getting her power back by Avatar State magic (and learning spiritbending too, just because) is pretty similar to Aang getting the Avatar State back in the TLA finale because he got hit in the back with a funny-shaped rock, instead of through any kind of character growth related to what the guru was trying to teach him about letting go.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:09 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's definitely telling!

You can really see, in retrospect, which parts of Aang's story were the creators' idea, filtered through a staff that tried to make some kind of sense of them. I wonder what the Lion Turtle episode would have been like if Aaron Ehasz hadn't written it. As it was, at least we had some really great, interesting moments of conversation between Aang and his previous lives.

Atreides, you might be interested to know that they brought on at least on writer from the previous series to help them with the second season of Korra. I THINK it's Joshua Hamilton, but I could be wrong.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:49 AM on June 25, 2012


I am interested and thank you for the info!
posted by Atreides at 9:51 AM on June 25, 2012


he's just a "horrible father"? That's it? Really? Compare Ozai.

...what? Ozai was a cartoon villain by any sense of the word. He was nothing but a menacing shadow until almost the last season, and even then, appeared to have little to him except a lust for power and glory. Sato at least had a backstory; his wife was killed by a bender. It's a cliche, though, so I did roll my eyes at that a bit.

For the record, I do feel this all was rushed, but I don't think it's fair to compare one season of Korra to 3 seasons of ATLA. I'm ok with seeing what they do in the next season, and whether they expand on this world.
posted by emjaybee at 12:48 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ozai was a cartoon villain by any sense of the word. He was nothing but a menacing shadow until almost the last season, and even then, appeared to have little to him except a lust for power and glory. Sato at least had a backstory; his wife was killed by a bender.

I'd argue that Ozai has a much deeper and more naturalistic backstory than Sato; it's just that, being more economically written, it's hidden better.

Season One, we see the interaction between him and Zuko in the flashbacks of 'The Storm'. He's villainous, but he's better written. He doesn't, for instance, burn Zuko out of nowhere: he demands that he fight, repeatedly, and burns him when Zuko won't cooperate. Which is to say, he reacts violently whenever his son embarrasses him in public, be it in a meeting or a duel, by failing to conform with the image he wants to project. It's melodramatic in action, but in terms of emotional dynamics, well, I know parents like that.

Season Two, though, we get 'Zuko Alone' ... and there we see Ozai's backstory interwoven with Zuko's. Ozai presents his children to his father dressed in their best clothes, showing off their lessons and their bending, and Ozai makes a big deal out of how much his 'best' child resembles his father and how he named her for him. Azulon treats him with suspicion and contempt, and clearly considers Iroh the favourite son - and when Ozai fails to accept Iroh's rights over his, Azulon punishes him by commanding him to kill his own son.

Which is to say, Ozai is the son of a father who prefers his brother, finds him irritating and punishes him with emotional torture when he won't accept his inferiority. Ozai is an adult and puts a smooth face on it, but his behaviour is that of an emotionally wrecked individual whose life is a constant performance to please an unpleasable father. And a man whose life is a performance naturally treats his children like trophies, not people.

And that makes sense of the 'lust for power and glory': when your father is that cold to you, that's how impressive you think you have to be to be worthy of his love. It's sketched in only a few strokes, but the whole tragedy of Ozai and Zuko is that love flows backwards in their family: Ozai is still under his own father's shadow and so passes the abuse down the generations, producing another overshadowed son. To me, it looks very much like the portrait of a family that gets more and more damaged with each generation, until the fourth generation completely falls apart and only one of them is able to put himself back together.

You can also see a lot of Ozai's personality in what other people do in relation to him. For instance, Season One: he's sent Zuko off to find the Avatar at a time when this is clearly equivalent to sending him down the shops for a can of tartan paint - but when it turns out that the Avatar is back, Ozai doesn't let Zuko have a clear run at him, but in fact promotes Zhao, a rival who genuinely endangers his son. That gives a much more graphic picture of a neglectful parent than all Sato's posturing. Or even the fact that Zuko's so obsessed with him: he's a 'shadow' in Zuko's memory, but that conveys character information, which is that Zuko doesn't remember him clearly - but at the same time, we know all along that he must be charismatic, or he would have the effect on people that he does.

Or ... well, you probably get the point. The writing in the original series was uneven, sure, but at its best (and I'd argue that this includes some moments in Season One) it had an ability to pack plausible human motivations into very tight corners.
posted by lucien_reeve at 1:29 PM on June 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


The season finale is now online for viewing.
posted by Atreides at 10:04 AM on June 26, 2012


I actually don't think that it's blood bending cuts spiritual connections is that big of a leap. I think he's stroking whatever part of a bender's brain allows them to bend. Korra is able to use air bending because she hasn't developed that skill yet so there's nothing to stoke out and when she heals she's just restoring blood flow to and repairing damage to whatever part of the brain got damaged. I do agree not enough character or world building as compared with the first series.
posted by edbles at 9:55 AM on June 28, 2012


Two more essays discussions the problems with Legend of Korra, for those who're still checking in on this thread and interested in such things:

Abigail Nussbaum on her blog, Asking The Wrong Questions

"How You Can Have a Bunch of Great Ideas but Still Fuck Up Real Bad: A Korra Essay"
posted by Narrative Priorities at 3:05 PM on June 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


Thanks for the essays. Made for good reading and appeared to reflect pretty much most of what was hashed out in the thread (Metafilter for the win!).
posted by Atreides at 6:59 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Those two essays were both pretty good - thanks. I think they do a good job of calmly explaining the moral and spiritual problems that, for me, are at the heart of my dislike of the finale of LEGEND OF KORRA.

The second one also does a good job of laying out the ways that KORRA failed to live up to the potential established in the first few episodes. I think that's one reason why I found the finale so disappointing - and I still find it disappointing, even a week later. The show had such a huge amount of potential and yet it's resolution was just...

Sigh.

Ah well.

It did do some things very well.

I wonder how many other people are discontented with the finale, how big a section of the audience they are, and if they are sufficiently numerous that the creators will wind up noticing.
posted by lucien_reeve at 8:19 AM on June 30, 2012


It seems the creators do take some notice of their fans, based off the joke comic one of them created that I posted earlier in the thread.
posted by Atreides at 10:56 AM on June 30, 2012


Link, Atreides?
posted by weston at 2:53 PM on July 1, 2012


Here ya go.
posted by Atreides at 4:44 PM on July 1, 2012


Just got around to watching the last three (well, 1 + double finale) episodes.

Conclusion: I'm pretty sure IIroh (he's the 2nd, y'know) as The Rocketeer would fit PERFECTLY in this universe.
posted by maryr at 8:01 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


For hopefully good, Korra has been renewed for a 26 episode Season 2. However, we apparently have to wait until February for the second half of Season 1.
posted by Atreides at 1:45 PM on July 11, 2012


Yeah, and just cause I'm on a Korra kick, I discovered this from one of the creator's blog. "Legend of Korra discovers shipping!" (fantastic)
posted by Atreides at 2:03 PM on July 11, 2012


Lots more Korra coming, apparently. Four seasons, supposedly.

While I was disappointed with the finale, I still think Korra had some very impressive elements and I hope that, with better writers and more space, it will live up to its promise.
posted by lucien_reeve at 1:18 PM on July 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look's like "Book Two" aka the second half of Season 1 will involve Korra mastering the spirit angle of being the Avatar. They've released some artwork (some quite pretty) on the work they're doing. It also appears to involve folks from one of the Water Tribes.

Though, given all the space they've been given, potentially as many episodes as the original, I'm still a bit peeved on how they tied everything up at the end of the last book. I actually wouldn't mind if if the first new episode started with Korra waking up from a self-induced dream concocted by her mind to cope with the loss of her bending.
posted by Atreides at 7:24 AM on July 16, 2012


Thanks: the artwork is very pretty. I particularly like the little tree-spirit thing with the flaming eyes.
posted by lucien_reeve at 5:23 AM on July 20, 2012


I am about halfway through re-watching the Last Airbender at the moment. A few observations, based on the fact that I had watched Korra with quite a bit of time between it and the original.
  • The artwork in Korra is definitely a step above, but not a gigantic leap forward from the original. As the series has progressed, I am actually repeatedly surprised by the quality of the animation for a weekly animated show.

  • The characterization in Airbender is superior to Korra, hands down. Granted, I have now watched twice as many episodes as Korra, but the characters are more fleshed out, multi-dimensional characters than our current show (for the most part), so I definitely better understand some of the disappoint with how the characters are currently being written.

  • Professional Bending - There is precedent in the original! I had completely forgotten how Toph was introduced, which was an underground professional wrestling like atmosphere that had essentially the same rule as Korra bending, the loser is whomever is knocked out (but more refined). This sort of makes the presence of the professional bending a little more tolerable, wherein it simply grew in popularity.

  • I really want to see Korra explore the Avatar world. Watching Airbender has reminded me how vast, interesting and complex the setting is for the Avatar world. I definitely want to see how the Earth/Fire/Water kindgoms/lands now look 100 years into the future and how it compares to Republic City.

  • And I'm still upset with the decision to give the first book a "Love Conquers All" type ending. I will accept everything up until the last two minutes of the show when the Avatars/Deus Ex Machina solution kicks in to return everyone their bending powers. In a perfect world, Book 2 should have started with a Korra who only has access to air bending and starting on a journey to recover her other lost abilities; additionally, perhaps also focus on those who lost their bending and the ramifications of the failed Post-Equalist coup in Republic City. It would have somewhat then mirrored the original series, what with Aang only possessing air bending on his quest to master the other elements, but only so much. It could definitely still pursue the approach of Korra needing to master spiritual bending, so to speak, as the solution she seeks versus simply re-learning the other elements. I would like to think that in planning the next three books, the writers/creators will adopt a larger arc that allows for a deeper look at the struggles, growth and development of their characters.
At the very least, re-watching the original is also gonna make me long for the new stuff to return, and as I mentioned, also certainly has helped me to understand the stronger criticisms and disappoints voice in this thread by people who were not nearly as removed as I was from the original material.
posted by Atreides at 8:53 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


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