I've only been a real, hardcore, tumblr-scouring fan of the Avatar universe for about 2 months, but in that time I've come to realize how amazing the writing and creative direction is for both shows. Like other viewers, I was left with mixed-feelings as Tenzin congratulated "Avatar Korra" and the credits began rolling. Should I be happy or sad that things wrapped up so well? Is it good or bad that the presumably lengthy wait for Book 2 will not be spent in worry and what-if's? What can be expected as Korra's journey continues?
All of this is subjective, of course. Reading the comments here and on other sites, it seems that opinions are dichotic and generally tend toward the negative side. In this, my first post, I want to humbly offer the Avatar community my review of the finale and, having rewatched it several times now, reflect on why some of the criticism leveled at it should be tempered somewhat.
I'll come out and say it straightaway: I enjoyed the finale. It was funny, emotional, well-written, well-animated, and insert some other nice words here. There isn't much to be said about what took place, since I'm sure we're all clear on those points. The fight scenes were as epic as LoK has come to make us expect, the script mostly nailed the dialog, and events unfolded with clarity but still briskly enough to keep me on the edge of my seat throughout. Personally, my favorite scene was Tarrlok and Noatok's own finale: it was incredibly handled and full of feeling, more than I imagined could be stuffed into 5 or so minutes. Yes, it's a good example of how hurried the finale felt, but that doesn't change the fact that it was fantastic.
Okay, so I do concede that Book 1 definitely seemed as though it were hurtling toward a nice, stress-free conclusion. It should have been a "choose one" sort of situation: for example, Korra could have entered the Avatar State, gotten her bending back, or been able to energybend, but not all three. Aang (oh man was I happy to see Aang) was a deus ex machina, sure, but it you're going to have one in your show, it might as well involve one of the world's favorite fictional characters.
At the end of the day, the most important question in entertainment is: did I enjoy this? As I've already mentioned, I liked "Skeletons in the Closet" and "Endgame." I'm probably at least partly blinded by my fanboy goggles. See, ATLA isn't just a show I think is good. It's the new standard by which I measure everything else I watch. It provided, and still provides, me with an irrationally good time whenever I rewatch any episode. In a way, I jumped into LoK having already decided to love it.
However, I objectively still think the finale was well-done. If you're one of whose who think otherwise, please here me out. Bryke went into The Legend of Korra not knowing how many episodes Nick was going to give them to develop the new avatar's saga. First, it was a mini-series. Then, two books. We only got 52(!) episodes relatively recently. It's important to keep in mind that, while writing this season, Bryke had to work under the assumption that they might need to wrap things up nice and neatly sooner than expected or desired. Of course the story will feel rushed if that's the case, and of course a deus ex machina would be thrown in. With regard to the speedy resolution of Book 1's conflicts, Bryke truly did a commendable job.
BUT, you might say, surely two luminaries such as DiMartino and Konietzko could have reworked the script once they found out how much additional leeway they were getting. And yes, that's true. But in interviews, the dynamic duo stated that they had ideas planned beyond Book 2. This means they've fleshed out how Korra's legend (see what I did there?!) will turn out, and if that's the case, this whole deus ex business was part of the plan. I'm no writer, but I imagine it's better to turn out a slightly too-good ending if it flows with the bigger picture rather than reworking everything and muddling up what comes next.
So, my argument basically is that, given the circumstances, LoK had an amazing finale and a great season. Heck, even without that caveat, I still think Korra was superb. It brought a familiar-yet-new universe to life in ways that few franchises can, gave us a slew of entertaining if controversial characters to vigorously debate and ship (in and of itself an impressive accomplishment), reignited for some of you that old last airbender flame, and it did this all in 12 beautifully-executed and gloriously animated episodes. I will mention, too, that something should be said about a cartoon series that can compel me to write a review when there exists actual, real-life work piled up next to me.
I'm excited for what comes next, and I'll bet you are, too. Bryke and the writing team are taking Korra in a direction that clearly breaks with what Aang and friends did so many years ago. It'll be great fun, and intriguing fun at that, to see where this storyline takes us. The Legend of Korra gave us reasons for legitimate gripes throughout Book 1 (enough so that I won't go into them here), but I still enjoyed it overall. And in the end, I have faith that, like ATLA, things will only get better.
Final Grade: 8.9/10
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