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Well, this is it. This is the season that nearly killed The Legend of Korra for me. Nearly. If it weren’t for Book 3, I would’ve just written the whole thing off. It may not have been the right decision, but nearly everything about Book 4 pisses me off, and I have to get it off of my chest. However, I will start with what worked, because it did have moments of awesomeness.
Korra Alone and Toph:
This story arc for Korra was phenomenal. Starting off at the end of Book 3, we get a real look into depression through the eyes of our titular character, and it is an excellently written journey. It was the highlight of Book 4, no contest.
Seeing the Blind Bandit return for some Avatar training was epic, and her denouncement of Kuvira was equally impressive. I found nothing wrong with her portrayal, and it had me grinning every time she was on screen.
Now, onto everything else.
Kuvira could’ve at least been passable. I’m not a fan of her character arc, as some of you well know. I felt that she was far too on the nose, and her plans were exactly Hitler: “I will take back the lands stolen from us” is exactly what he said about the Rhineland. History lesson aside, I did appreciate her no-nonsense attitude, but the finale pissed me off. It left us with “boohoo, I’m an orphan so I did bad things.” All possible development was condensed into a two-minute revelation devoid of any emotional weight, and it detracted from what little good her character had. On top of all of it, she was boring. I could predict her biggest moments, like betraying Bataar. Her antagonism wasn’t nearly as interesting as that of the Red Lotus. Speaking of Bataar…
Not only was Kuvira and Bataar’s relationship never dealt with in any meaningful way (seriously, not one scene of them after the betrayal?), but it shows how much of a freaking hypocrite Suyin is. Lin might be a stick in the mud, but she isn’t a failure in any sense of the word. Suyin got progressively worse as the series went on. Kuvira uses her armies to conquer former Earth Kingdom territory and builds a superweapon? “You’ll pay for what you’ve done!” Bataar aids her in building the superweapon, helps conquer Zaofu, and puts people into concentration camps, and what happens? “We’ll work through this as a family.” She completely shoves her basically adopted daughter to the wayside, while excusing her son’s behavior, even though they did the same things! You could argue that it’s a flaw that makes Suyin complex, except that no one ever addresses it. No one calls it out. Everyone acts like this is all okay. She has become one of my least favorite characters, to be honest.
The Giant Freaking Metal Robot with a Death Laser:
Does that sound stupid to you? It should. Does that sound like the world of Avatar to you? It shouldn’t. This abomination should not exist. Some users on the wiki had complaints that the Equalist mechs would ruin the series, make it too futuristic, and I disagreed. They weren’t going to go any further, and it gave things a steampunk feel. They surely wouldn’t jump the shark, right? If I had known that we would get this giant mess of a plot device, I would’ve denounced them in the same way. This giant mechanical piece of junk killed any legitimate action for the last couple of episodes, for one, as it had our heroes just trying to stop the stupid thing. Not to mention (and I’m not sorry about harping on this point) that it’s a metal robot…in Avatar. With a death laser. That massive thing shouldn’t have been able to stand under its own weight, much less get back up after falling over. I had an inkling of disappointment when they started talking about a superweapon, but I didn’t think it would be this…awful.
What Time Forgot (and other assorted issues):
While I understand time constraints, to a degree, this Book left out some serious plot points and/or development in favor of things that didn’t need to exist. For instance, what the heck happened to Kai? It was as if he was introduced in Book 3 as a romantic foil for Jinora. That’s it. All because he had maybe three stinking lines of dialogue in the beginning of Book 4 and was never seen again. And what about our resident prince? I actually liked most of Wu’s development, save two things: He should’ve never sung to badgermoles…ever (he’s not Sokka, no one can or should replace Sokka), and his decision in the end to make the Earth Kingdom a democracy made no sense, especially considering that the idea of a democracy has no known basis in the history of the Avatarverse. That last part just comes off as the writers putting western sensibilities into places where they don’t logically fit. He does this without any indication that this was where he was attempting to go with it. And then there’s Bopal. Bolin and Opal had the least chemistry out of the bunch, I think, but at least their time together did not take up too much of Book 4. Back to the subject of forgotten plot points, Avatar spirit, anyone? Past lives? I mean, sure, Korra reconnected with Raava, but as far as we know, her past lives—Aang, Kyoshi, Roku—are gone. No attempt is made to address this, and it’s a fairly big hole. It infuriates me that the response is often “oh, we might get comics to answer it!” First, there is no guarantee of it. Second, it’s such a big thing that you’d think they would’ve devoted time to it; the major unanswered question of A:TLA was “where is my mother?” There is a major difference between the two. Third, I have no love for the comics as they are, and I’d rather see the series end than continue in that way (that last one is more my personal opinion than anything). As for forgotten characters, Bolin’s treatment was simply unjust. Sure, he got plenty of screentime, but in the end? No one on his team even cares about him. It’s all about stupid relationship drama. Oh, and Varrick and Zhu Li’s wedding, which came out of freaking nowhere. It was incredibly out of character for Varrick to act the way that he did in the finale, and to focus the end of the series on their wedding, further taking away from plot points that sorely needed to be addressed, is just no good. Add to that a poor final message, and you have the worst season finale of them all. Oh, I should probably explain that last point. Yeah, Tenzin and Korra’s talk at the end was so unbelievably wrong. Basically, they come to the conclusion that Korra went through everything she did so that she could learn to show compassion?! Are you serious?! Here we have a character who—while brash and straightforward at times—is already compassionate, and we get the message that she suffered because she wasn’t compassionate enough. Disgusting. That’s probably not what Bryke intended, but that’s what I heard from the protagonist and her mentor.
And now for the kicker…man, this is gonna be fun.
I’ll be honest, I hated the very ending of the series before it was even confirmed, back when I thought it was still ambiguous. I hated it because, as it was ambiguous at the time, the shipping wars eclipsed everything else in the finale and the series. I also hated that maybe a minute and a half of screentime was all that anyone outside of fans would ever know about. When it was finally confirmed, I knew I didn’t have any other recourse; I had to finally admit that Bryke had messed up. Not only would a series with interesting characters, a beautiful world, and a rich history be remembered for that one half-statement it made (that had to be clarified), but now I had to deal with the idea that people I’d respected had given us poorly communicated shipping where any confusion was put on the viewer and not the fact that it was poorly written and executed. Seriously, if the only excuse for the flimsiest of foundations for a romantic relationship is “they could only do so much,” then it proves they sacrificed good storytelling to make a statement (a big no-no according to my creative writing profs). I’m not going to get into the particulars of that second-to-last statement unless I have to, because I feel like other areas of this convoluted shipping fiasco need to be brought to light. You can argue over how well you thought it was done, and I will likely disagree with you. However, you cannot argue that it was the final nail in the coffin to the idea of Korra, Bolin, Mako, and Asami as a team (well, I suppose one can argue anything, but I digress). Let’s look at this: Korra suffered after being poisoned and crippled, Asami lost her father, Mako nearly died stopping Mr. Giant McStompyshoot, and Bolin was very nearly sent to a concentration camp after narrowly escaping an egomaniac. But who deserves a vacation? The lovely new couple, of course! And no one else! This is not a team. These are loosely connected individuals that seem to have more interest in romantic involvement than anything else. Sure, they fight together, I guess. But when it comes down to it, the only interactions they seem to have with one another involve romantic undertones (courtesy of the writers) or will eventually explode into that sweet, sweet romantic tension.
I guess I could find more wrong if I went and rewatched Book 4, but I don’t feel like torturing myself. Instead, I’ll go and rewatch Books 1-3. Too many things collided poorly in this season, and all of it is compounded by the fact that this was the last season. This was Bryke’s last chance to give us something truly epic in the vein of Book 3 of A:TLA, and they didn’t do that. Instead, we got a season that dropped the ball in so many ways that it made the overall finale unsatisfying. I know a lot of people will disagree; I guess I’m just airing my disappointment.
TL;DR: It sucked. But hey, at least we have Avatar: The Last Airbender and three pretty awesome books of The Legend of Korra to watch.