Loading Posts...

The Highs and Lows of the Avatar Franchise

Julia

Julia

Julia is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals with far too many hobbies and complex emotions. She may or may not be an actual Martell.
Julia

Latest posts by Julia (see all)

Has this ever happened to you? You fall in love with a piece of media and are filled with the zeal of the converted. You want to tell the whole world about this awesome new thing that will surely change all their lives, so one brave friend takes you up on the offer, only to come back and say; “I don’t know dude, it was weird…”

“Oh no! You watched that one?”

You know, when you want to get them into Star Wars and they, bless them, decide to start at the beginning with Episode I? It’s something a friend shouldn’t let a friend do. When it comes to the Avatar franchise, the goal-posts are not set nearly so far apart as The Empire Strikes Back  and The Phantom Menace, but even so, there are moments that are certainly not the universe’s best foot forward.

In an attempt to be of constant service to our readers, I’ve compiled this short list of the highest and lowest points of quality in the Avatar franchise. Though, to be real, these two shows’ sub-basement is another show’s stratosphere. If this is a rabbit hole you think you may want to dive into, these points are something to keep in mind.

Water

While many shows take a while to gain their footing, Avatar: The Last Airbender started very strong and remained so for the whole first book. I could easily consider the two-part pilot “The Boy in the Iceberg/The Avatar Returns” as a high point, and almost all of the more episodic entries are invariably fun (who doesn’t love “The Fortune Teller”?) but the first book peaked with “The Storm”. Hell, many consider it to be the peak of the franchise.

“The Storm” is structured around establishing parallels between the protagonist and the antagonist (or is he!?) by using a, well, storm as a metaphor for the past they’re trying to escape from and atone for. Its tone is mature, yet more than accessible to the show’s target audience, who can probably all relate to the hurt of having people misunderstand their intentions.

There is an obvious contender for the low point of Water, though: “The Great Divide.” Truthfully, it isn’t bad so much as it’s a little generic and predictable. A newbie watching it might think the show was a little average, but I doubt it would turn them off. The only episode where I think that is a possible danger is “Bato of the Water Tribe.” This story contains a contrived problem that leads to an over-dramatic reaction by the characters, and is wrapped up in a neat little bow at the end.

Again, it’s not bad, bad. But this show can do so much better.

Earth

The second chapter of ATLA is probably my favourite. Mostly because of Toph, but also because this is where the show really begins to show how seriously it takes its young audience by offering a subtle and not at all overly simplified view of the consequence of war. Seriously, I’m still amazed at how they pulled this off.

The most exciting and emotionally intense moments of this book come in the final chapter “The Crossroads of Destiny”. I just cannot say enough good things about this episode. The animation, especially of the super-powered bending battles, is outstanding, the plot is tight and character-driven, and perfectly motivated, and just perfect. It ends with a tone that is sad, the darkest moment of this show certainly, but also hopeful for the future. I think I may take a break from writing to rewatch it.

Alright, I’m back…

It’s a literal struggle to find a low-point for Earth, but let’s be honest; “Avatar Day” was a bit weird. As much as I enjoy the sight of Sokka cosplaying as an Avatar-verse Sherlock Holmes, the whole thing is just…silly. These villagers really need to get over the whole Kyoshi thing. And find a less dumb legal system. The Wheel of Punishment is a great joke I guess, but you can skip this one and lose nothing.

Fire

Stuff’s got real!! The Gaang is in the territory of the enemy and they will need all of their skills and all of the relationships they’ve formed to prevail and save the world from the evil Fire Lord!

The main plot is masterful, with the heartbreaking false climax in “Day of the Black Sun” and the finale, which tied together many loose thread while still teasing the future of the franchise. But the last book also made time for several stand-alone episodes that focused on particular major characters and the progress of their own arcs.

“The Boiling Rock” two-parter is by far the best of the side trips, and for me has always been the most memorable part of the final book. It might not be comparable the the juggernaut of “Sozin’s Comet”, but what can be? The finale can be a little too intense for me sometimes, frankly. “The Boiling Rock” is just damn fun. Who doesn’t love a character driven prison break?

On the other hand, the two other side stories, “The Painted Lady” and “Sokka’s Master” feel a little less successful. They feel much more like jarring asides the the main plot— which is supposed to have an urgency to it, after all— and they both kind of strain suspension of disbelief. (Sokka made a katana in an afternoon? Seriously?) Neither are bad episodes, but they’re not representative of the quality of Book 3.

“The Blind Bandit” was awesome, though.

Air

New Avatar, and a whole new world to explore. The Legend of Korra couldn’t boast ATLA’s bump-free opening book, but I was sucked into Republic City the moment I saw it. Where the first series existed in a timeless world that emphasized the cyclical nature of time and eternity (though the analogy with Meiji-era Japan and the Qing Dynasty isn’t meaningless,) Korra’s world is dynamic and always looking for the next thing that will bring progress and change.

The world-building of Air is engaging enough to somewhat distract you from the half-baked nature of the Equalist plot and it’s attempt to comment on social inequality. (How was that issue magically solved by finding out Amon was a fraud again?). And the world building is best on display in the opener “Welcome to Republic City/Leaf in the Wind.”

It just looks amazing. The city is lived in and complicate, even if its government structure makes no sense. We feel exactly what Korra is feeling when she wants to bust out of her glorified prison and explore.

Speaking of Korra’s feelings… you know what never works? A freaking love triangle. Also bringing your plot with magical terrorists to a grinding halt so you can talk about sports for a whole episode. “The Spirit of Competition” is entertaining enough on its own, but taken in the context of the season, it’s a little infuriating. Still, I suppose it got real at the end, and then the plot finally kicked into high gear, so it’s not all a loss.

Spirits

Oh, Book 2 of Korra. This is one case where the highs and lows thing really does apply.

The high of this book is so high: “Beginnings” is one of my favourite hours of television. The animation is distractingly beautiful, I adore the percussive Chinese Opera inspired soundtrack, I am a sucker for wacky creation myths, and who could be sad to see lion turtles? The story of Raava and Vaatu added a good deal to the mythos of the Avatar-verse, and really put all of Korra’s actions throughout the series into perspective of the awesome scope it has.

14/10 would watch again.

The rest of Book 2, though…it’s mediocre. The main plot, the conflict between the southern and northern Water Tribes, makes no damn sense. Unalaaq is a boring villain, and poor Tenzin just spends the whole season failing at everything. And why is everyone blaming Korra for starting a war? Ugh! If I had to choose a lowest moment, it would probably be the 693th time Bolin’s clearly abusive relationship with Eska was played for laughs.

A few of the new characters, Bumi, Kya, and Varrick especially, are a light in the dark, and “Beginnings” means you can’t just skip the book, so… we have to suffer through this one, I guess.

Change

Book 3 is pretty much perfect. To be brutally honest, if the show had ended after Book 2, The Legend of Korra wouldn’t ever be anything particularly special. Passable, sure, but it would leave few people as puddles of feels all over the floor. Then Change came along and there we were. I still may not be over it.

For a high point I was torn between my eventual choice and “The Metal Clan,” because the introduction of the Beifong extended family was just a seminal moment for the show. In the end, however, “Long Live the Earth Queen” is a better microcosm for the whole book. Not only is the title almost cruelly macabre, given the events of the episode, but those very events also let us know that this will be a show that pulls no punches with its audience, even if the writers really broke out the thesaurus to avoid using the word “kill”.

There’s also the airship that launched this site’s favourite ship, and Mako and Bolin just bro-ing it up in jail. What a wonderful episode.

This season is so great that I can’t think of an episode to be less than in love with. The only thing I could find to complain about what the voice actor who voiced the main antagonist. I’m sure Henry Rollins is the most wonderful guy in the world, but he plays Zaheer in a way that never lets you forget that it’s an aging punk rocker standing inside of a booth with headphones on reading off of a piece of paper.

It doesn’t break the book, not even close, but I do wince every so slightly every time he speaks.

Balance

Book 4 was clearly rushed and took many risks, but the end results are so emotionally impactful that it’s hard to even see the flaws in the story. (What flaws, anyway?) In this book, Korra heals from trauma (and it takes her longer than two days,) Mako gets a new boyfriend, and Zhu Li gets to tell Varrick to stick it.

The high point could be anything, but my favourite is “Operation Beifong”. I just love this crazy family. I love Suyin and her self-centred myopia. I love Huan and his banana statue. I love how Bataar Sr. does not care about gender roles. I love how much they love each other. This episode is their time to shine. The story is fun, the emotional beats work, and the fight scenes continue to knock my socks off.

Then there is “Remembrances”. Which is not bad. It’s little other than clips of really good episodes, after all. But a clip show is never going to be the most impressive thing ever, and only one of the three framing devices was even a little bit interesting. Not that I don’t appreciate Asami giving Korra a hot beverage… There are perfectly understandable reasons that this episode ended up the way it did, but you can only judge what you see on the screen.

***

And so there is the best and the worst. If you disagree, or have your own thoughts on the ups and downs of the franchise, head over to The Fandomentals forum.


Images courtesy of Nickelodeon
11
HeartHeart
3
YayYay
0
HahaHaha
0
LoveLove
0
WowWow
0
SadSad
0
PoopPoop
0
AngryAngry
Voted Thanks!
 
  • Jack

    I love Imprisoned, Zuko Alone, like any of the Ba Sing Se episodes, and The Puppetmaster scares the shit out of me. In Korra, Venom of the Red Lotus has my favorite action sequence and Korra Alone stabs me in a deep place.

    Bolin’s whole love plot in season 2 is the low point of the whole franchise tbh

    • Korra Alone is maybe the highest of the high for the franchise, in my opinion. And yeah, that Bolin plot is just…awful.

  • Fish Driver

    I’ve always had a soft spot for Spirits. It has its share of flaws but most them really don’t bother me all that much. Korra and Mako’s relationship finally starts getting on track to where it should have gone to start with, the Kataangs always hit me with the feels and I’m a huge sucker for the Avatar world’s lore and history. The Civil War plot and even Unaloq are fine IMO, not amazing but they get the job done.

    Air is a mess though and I very nearly gave up on the show after it, even though I was (and still am) a huge ATLA fan at the time. It had some nice ideas but not enough time to explore them properly with only 12 episodes and the pro-bending tournament getting in the way. Also, the love triangle (or square? Korra and Bolin dated for like half an episode I think?) was a bloody disaster. (It all worked out in the end but that doesn’t improve Air all that much).

    If LOK had ended after Air, I don’t think I would have been all that sad to see it go. I never felt I was wasting my time watching it or anything but all its problems dragged it down into the “Glad I watched it, not likely to check it out again, now I’m off to binge watch ATLA again” category. If Spirits had been the series finale then I would have been really sad though. It wasn’t a perfect season but I feel the show really started to hit its stride in Spirits and it would have been a real shame for it to end there.

    • Bo

      I’ll take Spirits over Air. Spirits may have some really rough low spots but the highs are amazing and I love the general concept they were going for. Plus it did a very good job setting up why Korra herself was special and why we should care about her journey. Air has some great moments but overall left me feeling meh about Korra (the show).

    • Mytly

      I agree. Though Spirits easily has some of the worst single episodes in the whole franchise (The Sting, I’m looking at you), it also has some of the best. The civil war plotline in the first half of the Book was terrible, but the change in focus to the harmonic convergence plotline in the second half did wonders for it. Nothing beats Beginnings, of course, but any season that features that and A New Spiritual Age can hardly be the worst the franchise has produced. Add to that the Kataang family drama (among both the younger and older generations) spread out across the season, and I’m willing to overlook even egregious stuff such as the Eska-Bolin relationship, Mako’s detective drama, and Korra’s amnesia (well, no, I can’t quite overlook the amnesia; but I can grit my teeth and get past it).

      • For me The Sting is so bad that it passes into pure, unabashed, ironic enjoyment. 6-toed Ping. Of course.

        • Fish Driver

          I love The Sting just for how silly and weird it is but it feels kind of out of place in Book 2, especially coming right before the much more spirit focused Beginnings. The undercover operation plotline would have fit in a lot better in Air IMO.

          • Don’t forget how like 10 minutes of it was devoted to watching the Nuktuk mover.

          • Fish Driver

            Heh, I’d honestly watch an entire series of Nuktuk movers. It’s Adam West’s Batman starring Bolin. What’s not to like? 😛

        • Mytly

          Eh. I almost quit LoK because of The Sting. The first half of Book 2 is just so bad, and The Sting was the moldy icing on the terrible cake. The only reason I stuck around was because I knew the next episode had some sort of Avatar origin story (yay for spoilers!), and after that … well, let’s just say that I never questioned my decision to keep watching after Beginnings.

          • I almost quit like… 2×04 or 2x05ish, so just before The Sting. It sat in my DVR for a really long time because my rpommate and I actually stopped caring enough to watching it, but then the previews for Wan’s episodes looked intriguing. I honestly can’t remember if I even watched The Sting after that, or if it was way down the road after I finished all of Book 2.

    • My ranking is officially 3,4,2,1, but I can sometimes be persuaded into a 3,2,4,1 depending on my mood. There’s something really fascinating to me about Spirits, and I think the flaws are part of the charm.

      • Bo

        Okay, I’d never agree to 2 over 4 but I can see the allure of Book 2. The direction they took LoK in was a complete, resounding success. Korra as the first Avatar of a new cycle, the origin of the cycle, tearing down Aang’s perfection, it really could have been the best of the LoK Seasons. It’s just too bad the actual content didn’t match the incredible concept.

        • Book 4 is a bit of a mess in some ways, but that gets down to production issues.

          • Bo

            It has some iffy aspects, but the rest of it is so freaking good and those flaws are easily overshadowed.

            Both Book 2 and 4 have the same source of their flaws, though, which is trying to fit too much into a single season. Both could do with cutting entire subplots out.

          • Thematically, there’s really no topping Book 4, and the conclusion to everything was just so damn good. I think what it is is that Book 2 interests me more in some ways because of the way Bryke more or less blew up the entire framework within it. You can FEEL them fighting the narrative, and that fascinates me.

            Yeah, so it’s more of an intellectual engagement. Book 4 is better quality TV, no question.

  • Harper

    Aw, come on, I love Henry Rollins performance!
    I think it fits perfectly with his character, he gives the Zaheer an almost a twisted spiritual mentor-type voice

    • Bo

      He’s usually good IMO, but he has some really weak moments.

      • Harper

        I kind of think everyone had their weak moments, the voice direction for the series was never consistent.
        I really think Zaheer was the best LoK villain by far partly because of Rollins’ performance

        • I agree with the direction inconsistencies. Asami was so wonky in the final book.

    • My biggest gripe was that he over-enunciated everything. “Don’t you think…the world…would be a better place…if leaders like them were…eliminated?” I think it worked mostly, but the vivid image Julia’s paints is hard to ignore.

      • Harper

        I definitely have to rewatch the season, but most often I felt like the actor genuinely believed what he was saying, ans that’s what you need for a character like that

  • Morty

    You’ve linked my article, so that’s my opinion on what the “low” is for the franchise. The high points are Earth and Change, I agree.

    The first book of ATLA really was much more traditional than anything that came after, though. It had plenty of episodes with a “problem of the week” format, and a band of villains who showed up, got beaten off and returned with another plan to capture the Avatar.

  • Bo

    Sometimes I feel like the only person who doesn’t recoil in horror at “The Great Divide.” Thank you for helping me feel a little less alone in the Avatar fandom. However, this didn’t make me feel less alone about loving “The Painted Lady.” That’s one of my favorites of ATLA and most seem not to like it at all.

    I tried to think of a low point episode for Book 3 of LoK and…I can’t. I cannot think of a single episode that I start and think “nah, I’d rather not.”

    Also, Suyin spinning that sheet of metal to deflect Kuvira’s projectiles, then morphing it into armor is my favorite minor bending moment in either series. That entire fight is incredible.

    • Mytly

      Well, I don’t ‘recoil in horror’ at The Great Divide, I just think it’s a very forgettable episode that could easily be excised from the series with no loss. Aside for the (admittedly hilarious) 3-second joke in The Ember Island Players, there’s absolutely nothing in The Great Divide that ties into the rest of the series in any way. No new information is learnt that becomes important later on; no new people are introduced that we meet again or are even referenced again; ditto for new creatures; and so on. It’s just a weirdly standalone episode in a series that’s otherwise very tightly knit.

    • Fish Driver

      I really enjoy The Great Divide for the goofy, fun filler episode it is. Same for Avatar Day. No idea why those episodes get so much criticism.

      • Bo

        I’ve seen a lot of criticism because Aang lied, and they think it was OOC for him. I don’t agree with that at all, though.

      • “Yeah I murdered Chin, he was an asshole, wut?”

    • I like the Great Divide, actually. A super pudding-deprived Aang makes up some bullshit story and hilarity ensues. It’s so…unnecessary, but it’s just also like “what the hell is happening here.” Painted Lady is fine, but I’d call it a little heavy-handed. I don’t mind it for Katara though.

      • Bo

        It was definitely heavy-handed, but it was so Katara. Like, that’s her in a nutshell and since she’s my favorite ATLA character, I loved The Painted Lady for her. Everything good and bad about Katara fit in one self-contained episode.

    • Jana Wolf

      The Painted Lady is one of the best Katara-centric episodes, period, there is so much SYMBOLISM and I adore it to little pieces. I’m not sure whether it would make my Top 10 episodes, but it’d be close.

      • the symbolism of her donning a fake identity like another anger-prone individual?

        • Jana Wolf

          Oh, shush you. I have to stay on brand somehow, and that’s not the ONLY thing I enjoy about this 😛

  • Maidens&Mules

    I think this is the first time I’ve seen Operation Beifong rated higher than Korra Alone. Operation Beifong is a fine episode, but Korra Alone is the best single episode of Legend of Korra IMO.

    In general, Legend of Korra is more uneven than Avatar the Last Airbender. Air had a good set up, but the payoff was somewhat disappointing. In enjoyed the Avatar Wan flashback and the final battle in Spirits, as well as everything to do with the spirits themselves, but I feel like the entire Water Tribe Civil War arc could have been left on the cutting room floor with no negative consequences. Change was probably the most even season, though the villains were somewhat lacking: only Zaheer had any personality; the others could be summed up entirely by their powers. Balance was ambitious and when it was good, it was very good, but it also felt unfinished in places. I think they used their best villain idea in Air. Amon was the perfect adversary for Korra and after he was unceremoniously killed, it felt like they spent the next three seasons trying, with varying degrees of success, to recapture what it was that made Amon great.

    It feels almost wrong to break AtLA down into three seasons, as Bryke did such an amazing job of making it a coherent whole. As a concept, it’s much less ambitious than LoK (it’s basically a fairly standard hero’s journey) but Bryke took full advantage of the fact that they had 61 episodes and a relatively small cast to really develop their characters. To this end, the smaller “problem of the week” episodes were just as effective as the episodes that tied directly into the broader arc.

    • Morty

      I’m not sure if they knew /what/ made Amon good, though. The things that made him a perfect adversary to Season One Korra turned out to be a big fat lie, for the most part. But I think it might be true they tried to recapture his essence afterwards. Zaheer is the closest here.

      • Bo

        Yep, the entire reason Amon was a good villain vanished in Book 1 with Amon’s backstory IMO. Also because of the way his “revolution” just randomly ended.

      • Fish Driver

        I like the idea of Amon a lot better than the execution (kind of a running theme with Air for me) He could have been really interesting but he launches into cliche melodramatic pronouncements way too often. “The Council has declared me public enemy number 1 but they cannot stop us.” “I am the solution.” “Prepare to be equalized.” “Your bending is gone forever.” “You will now be cleansed of your impurity.”

        I would have much rather had Tarrlok as the main antagonist, with Amon either reduced to his subordinate or be revealed as the same person as Tarrlok ala Palpatine/Darth Sidious (except, y’know, well written). Tarrlok’s smug, manipulative personality is at least fun to watch while Amon just makes generic, inflammatory speeches.

        It really doesn’t help matters that Amon didn’t have anything to do but stand on the sidelines for the first half of the season. And the twist at the end really undermines what little he had going for him up to that point. His and Tarrlok’s backstory was excellent though and deserved its own episode a la Zuko Alone a lot more than the probending tourney and the tepid love triangle nonsense.

        • Morty

          Love the idea, hate the execution is Book One in a nutshell, yes. I think Amon’s reveal ruined him, and the article where I explain why is linked up there.

          Aside from that, though, you’re right that he’s a lot of bluster and flash without much actual substance. He struts about, makes speeches and succeeds by the virtue of everyone else failing to do anything about it. Kind of like the whole season – impressive on the surface, but it peters out into nothing.

        • Mytly

          I think that the story would have been much better if Amon and Tarrlok had turned out to be the same person. (In fact, until Out of the Past, I was convinced they were the same person.)

          Amon and Tarrlok’s backstory was good in itself, but it was very clumsily used. IMO, it didn’t really work as adequate motivation for either of them – more so for Amon, of course. And it turned what had been a political story into a personal one at the 11th hour (or to be precise, in the 11th episode of a 12 episode season).

  • Will113

    Comic ranking (I won’t include North and South because it’s not done yet)
    1. The Rift- A well put together story, which manages to give Aang and Toph the main focus. Toph gets nice character moments.
    2. Smoke and Shadows- A good story which builds on a lot of the previous comics. Only real problem is that the ending is pretty much just setup for the later comics.
    3.Attempts to satisfactorily deal with long standing plot threads, with years of hype and speculation all ways end up so well don’t they. Also the “Ozai ISN”T Zuko’s father” mess distracted from more interesting concepts.
    4. The Promise- An alright story which attempts to deal with colonization and imperialism and end’s up saying “imperialism was pretty bad, but this is a complex issue with no easy solutions”. In addition to not really dealing with that satisfactory, it has an unnecessary will Zuko turn evil plot.

    • Mytly

      My rankings, based on the comics I’ve read so far:

      1. The Rift: Definitely the best. A good story about finding a balance between the old ways and the new, about the importance of both traditions and progress (you so rarely see this even in material aimed at adults, nevermind stuff aimed at kids). Aang and Toph both get moments to shine. My only criticisms are that Katara has practically no role beyond generic waterbender/Aang’s girlfriend, and that Toph can get a little too nasty at times.

      2. The Promise: I actually enjoyed this one quite a bit. The second part was a little weak because of the extensive focus on Toph’s metalbending academy (the students are just not very interesting), but it did provide plenty of cute moments of bonding between Sokka and Toph (a very under-developed relationship on the show), so all is forgiven. The Zuko-may-turn-evil fakeout is silly, but on the whole, the main story is pretty good, and I really liked Aang and Katara’s talk about the mingling of the Four Nations and what that means for their own future.

      3. The Search: A very promising premise and an ambitious format (loved the interspersion of the flashbacks of Ursa’s life), but it was all flushed down the toilet due to the truly horrendous B story (the Mother of Faces) which, frankly, just made me wonder what the writers were smoking. The (non-)twist about Ursa’s present situation (spoilers: that she’s living in the same village she used to and married to the guy she was originally in love with … yeah, what a surprise) and the even worse fakeout about Zuko all added to the feeling that this comic invoked in me, which can best be summed up by the word ‘huh’.

      I haven’t read Smoke and Shadow yet, and won’t read North and South until the third part is out. But I’m currently reading The Lost Adventures, which I rarely see mentioned in any discussion of the ATLA comics. It’s a lot of fun. (For those who don’t know, it’s a collection of short-to-medium sized stories based during the run of the original series.) The stories range from forgettable two-page gags to a few fairly long and enjoyable ones that flesh out some of the antics of the Gaang between episodes. And then there are a few that are absolutely heartbreaking, such as ‘Relics’ (Aang finds a place where Air Nomad refugees were lured to their deaths at the beginning of the 100-year war), or hilariously funny, such as ‘Private Fire’ (Wang Fire joins the Fire Nation army and ‘dies’ in service), that could easily have been episodes of the show itself.

  • Alright, my take no one asked for..

    Water high point: The Blue Spirit. It actually felt like a twist at the time, and it was sort of intensely depressing to see Aang asking if he and Zuko could have been friends. Low point: I agree with Bato, especially because it threw a wrench in the pacing.

    Earth high point: City of Walls and Secrets. It’s when the show got real, and it was just so…smart and adult. Like holy crap.Classic Tim Hedrick too. Low point: Cave of Two Lovers. It was painful to sit through, and I’ll take Kyoshi being horrible over it any day.

    Fire high point: it’s really just Azula’s plotline and the way that was handled with the very somber “defeat” and all. Low point: in general I thought the pacing was atrocious. A lot of Book 3 didn’t work for me, actually, and I think “Nightmares and Daydreams” may have been one of the worst ones to sit through. Or Footloose.

    Air high point: “the Aftermath.” I’m predictable. Low point: Endgame. The narrative equivalent of spilled milk.

    Spirits high point: agreed on Beginnings. It’s also what stopped me from quitting the show. Low point: Night of a Thousand Stars. Which shouldn’t be a surprise: http://lokgifsandmusings.tumblr.com/post/134954908128/definitive-ranking-of-book-2-episodes-1313

    Change high point: God, this one is hard to rank. I’m in love with “Long Live the Earth Queen” for Reasons, but I might still give the edge to “Venom of the Red Lotus,” just because of how dang impactful that ending was. It was very difficult to watch, and not in a bad way. Plus Korra went full force like some Super Saiyan. Low point: uhhh, in general I’m actually not the most thrilled with how Asami was incorporated, but it’s hard to complain too much because her developing relationship with Korra mattered a lot. If you had to twist my arm, I’d say that the Lin expo-dump was very contrived in the framing device they chose.

    Balance high point: Korra Alone. The nonlinear storytelling, the focus on her trauma, the very…idk how to explain this–queer vibes, but in a more academic sense, really. It was just a really good episode and one that connected the central themes of the series, while setting the stage for what was about to come. Low point: I won’t hammer on Remembrances too much, so I’ll just pick the rather unbelievable politics surrounding Kuvira.

    • Morty

      I feel like “The Sting” is the absolute nadir of Spirits. Everything bad about that season comes to a head there. The political subplot, the love triangle redux absolutely no one asked for, everyone acting dumb for the sake of drama… Korra and what was supposed to be the actual plot of the season lie forgotten. Then again, the same kind of applies to Night of a Thousand Stars. Damn, it’s a tough choice.

    • Maidens&Mules

      With Kuvira, I felt like parts of her story were missing. They were clearly trying to draw parallels between her and Korra, and it could have worked, but they gave Kuvira way too many extreme and unjustifiable actions.

      The circumstances surrounding Kuvira’s rise are a bit muddled too. It’s clear Suyin isn’t being entirely forthright when she says Kuvira was like a daughter to her, but that doesn’t tell us what their relationship actually was. Raiko is even more confusing. If I turn my head sideways and squint hard, I can sort of imagine a scenario where he supported her in exchange for her guaranteeing the United Republic’s supply of raw materials. He covertly supported her coup because he didn’t think Wu had it in him to lead. Perhaps they had an agreement that she would leave Zaofu alone and respect the United Republic’s borders. He only turns on her when it becomes clear she has no intention of being a puppet. I realize that there’s little direct support in canon for any of this, but it’s the only scenario I can think of where Raiko’s actions make any damn sense.

      Also, is it just me or should the chaos in the Earth Kingdom have caused a refugee crisis on the Earth Kingdom/United Republic border?

      • Mytly

        The refugees should have started pouring in during season 3 itself. Mako and Bolin’s family can hardly have been the only ones fleeing the chaos in Ba Sing Se after the Earth Queen’s death.

        • They got a nice airship ride I guess. But yeah, this is totally right. It could have even been integrated into Asami’s infrastructure where she kept the Wilds. Cheap real estate for refugees, and not just Gommu living alone there.

      • I remember thinking she was too mustache twirly from the start, and I do think the weirdness surrounding her rise is a big part of that. She was appointed by an international council from what I can tell (Tenzin and Raiko had to both have been talking on the authority of *someone*), but then the moment shit got bad, they were both like “eh this is an internal issue for the EK??

  • Timothy McLean

    I have some strong opinions about Legend of Korra.
    Out of the four villains, I found Amon and the Equalists the most interesting, followed by Zaheer. The Equalists were a concept that begged for more exploration, and I can see me really liking Zaheer if his philosophy were expanded on more. (I’m a big fan of powers being used creatively, and Zaheer’s murderous airbending qualifies.) Kuvira had something interesting at the core of her character, but it was covered by what felt like a generic conqueror shell. Umalaq…yeah.
    I generally don’t like the spirity stuff in Korra, either. On its own, it wouldn’t be too bad (if a bit generic), but it suffers when contrasted to TLA’s spirity stuff. Koh, Hei Bei, Wan Xi Tong…they were all inhuman, mysterious, distinctive, and at least a bit creepy. LoK’s spirit world feels a lot sillier and more generic. The same goes for the Avatar’s backstory; while it brought the old “feel” of spirits back a little, and backstory is always neat, Vaatu and Raava felt dreadfully generic and a bit out of sync with the rest of Avatar, and I personally liked the Avatar as just being a fact of the world. (The association that both Wan and LoK’s spirits have with Umalaq’s arc doesn’t help.)

d
c