On Korra – Finale Thoughts

Note: I posted this review/incoherent ramblings on Tumblr, reposting it here now… Brace yourselves, this is a long one…

When I saw the season finale it completely blew me away!! I knew that since this was the series finale, things would certainly build to crescendo and boy did they ever! The series finale was epic and I couldn’t have been happier with the way things ended. I can’t even begin to sum up all the random thoughts buzzing in my head, but I will try. I have a sinking feeling that a lot of this will read like incoherent babble.

I love this show and seeing its end was a bittersweet moment. I love it for the stunning animation, superb storytelling and its extraordinary characters and I want to especially want to thank Bryke for never short changing the viewers, for always staying true to their characters and the story sometimes even at the cost of possibly annoying the general fandom. And finally for being brave enough to give us Korrasami when it would have been so much easier to give us just another run of the mill heterosexual couple (even though it wasn’t an especially healthy relationship to begin with (yes I am looking at you Mako.)

Through the course of the season, things were a little slow to build up. Sure there were some amazing action sequences, most featured Kuvira, but there was more than enough heart which was what we really needed at this point. Three years later, everyone has grown up and they seem to have moved on in their respective lives, everyone except Korra, who is stuck in the Southern Water Tribe, trying to recover from the severe injuries she sustained while fighting Zaheer. She keeps hitting a wall and finally decides to strike out on her own.

Let’s talk about the krew. In the time that Korra was absent from Republic City, the rest of the group seems to have drifted apart. Mako is a detective but when we meet him, he’s playing bodyguard to the heir of the Earth Kingdom, Prince Wu. Bolin has joined Kuvira and while she has good intentions, her methods are dictatorial from the very beginning. And finally Asami, she’s rebuilt Future Industries and has become one of the top inventors in Republic City. They are doing well individually. It was very obvious that Korra was the glue that bound them together and without her they all just lost touch with each other. It was a pleasure to see all of them together once again and how easily they fell into the old rhythm, fighting, bickering but throughout it all, always having each other’s backs. I really missed that old camaraderie in the initial part of the season.

And can I just say what a pleasure it was to see Toph! And she hadn’t changed a bit.

When Korra realised that staying at home wasn’t helping her, she decided to leave to see if she could figure things out on her own. She needed someone like Toph to knock some sense into her head. Toph’s tough love approach was exactly what Korra needed. Maybe she didn’t even realise that while she told herself that she needed time alone to get better, she was actually hiding from the world because it was easier this way than to get out again and risk getting hurt all over again. Zaheer’s attack really shook Korra in a way that none of the previous attacks did. Perhaps it was because it was the closest she ever came to truly dying and having the Avatar cycle end with her. But whatever it was, she was still carrying her old wounds. She didn’t even know that pieces of the poison were still in her body. Toph made her realise in her own signature way that unless Korra let go of her past, she would never be able to face her future and it worked. Korra’s not especially a gentle/soft person so she needs some tough handling occasionally. Toph was definitely a favourite in ATLA and I was very happy that she hadn’t mellowed with age and that she was just cranky and abrasive as always.

Now, onto the other characters. Let’s start with my least favourite: Mako. I never really warmed up to Mako. He was a bit of a jerk from the very beginning. I don’t even want to get into all the relationship stuff he had going on with Korra and Asami. Of all the characters in the show, I cared about him least. In the final season and in the finale, he improved but as far as character growth goes, I don’t think he grew all that much. But I was glad to see that he and Korra remained friends and there was no more romantic tension between them. I was dreading that they might get together in the end, and in any other mainstream show, they definitely would have. But this is BRYKE’s show and they do things differently. Korra and Mako were a bad fit and they brought out the worst each other. It was an unhealthy relationship and I was glad to see it end. Both Korra and Mako had reached a place where they did love each other but it was purely platonic.

Bolin was a bit more problematic this season, at least in the beginning. When we meet him, he has already joined Kuvira but it is also glaringly obvious that she is not what she claims to be. He joins her so he can help the Earth Kingdom people but he remains blind to Kuvira’s tactics even when they’re right in front of him. He was infuriating and there were times when I wanted to shake him in the hopes that perhaps that would knock some sense into him. I was glad when he finally ripped off his blinkers and set about correcting his mistakes, notably among them his relationship with Opal. Sure, he’s older but he’s still the lovable Bolin we all fell in love in the very first second we saw him. And I was happy to see him back with the krew once more. It was also a pleasure to see Mako and Bolin work together and openly display brotherly love.

I always liked Asami but in the third and fourth season I loved her. When she was introduced in the first season, I thought she would probably end up being a vamp and a possible rival to Korra for Mako’s affections. But she ended up being so much more than that. She was an inventor, rebuilt her company through sheer dint of hard work and still managed to help save the world and the Avatar. All in a day’s work for Asami Sato. I liked that she resolved her issues with her father and found it in her heart to forgive him. I think everyone knew what was going to happen with Hiroshi the minute we saw him but it was still nice that they could enjoy some father-daughter time. She was perhaps the most balanced character on the show. I love Asami!

I know that a lot of people really liked Kuvira and when the season started I liked her as well. She was an excellent villain, someone who knows exactly what she wants and does not compromise. She was fighting for a noble cause, to bring stability to the Earth Nation, which was in shambles following the assassination of the Earth Queen. She sought to make it a nation of unparalleled power. But somewhere along the way, she became exactly like the Earth queen, a tyrant, a dictator. Someone who doesn’t tolerate dissent of any kind and any ruler who can’t take disagreements and criticism is headed down the wrong path. But I also felt that she was more than a little naïve and delusional in her vision of a united Earth Kingdom. She actually expected people to simply surrender to her and swear loyalty to her and she was genuinely shocked when they didn’t. What she says to Korra in the Spirit World is indicative of this. She acted like it was everyone else’s fault for not surrendering to her, like they had somehow wronged her. In the end, she seemed like someone who had lost touch with reality and lived in her own little world. I was grateful that Su wasn’t too impressed with her apology at the end; it was too little too late.

My absolute favourite character in the series is obviously Korra. In the beginning, she was headstrong, reckless, quick to anger but as the series progressed, all of these traits started getting chipped off. Unlike Aang, who always had a more peaceful disposition, Korra was the exact opposite. Her default approach was fight first, ask questions later which often landed her in a heap of trouble. When Book 4 begins, Korra is in a dark place, not only can she not move her lower body; she also can’t feel Raava or enter the Avatar state. She has always been so secure in her identity as the Avatar and she suddenly found herself in a world where she wondered if she was even required any more. I loved Korra because despite all the knocks that life dealt her, she always found the courage and strength to get up and keep fighting. Even with the Red Lotus venom running in her body, she still managed to fight Zaheer and with the help of the Airbenders, she brought him down. But this season was more about her learning to see her opponent, not simply as evil but as someone who has very human desires. With Toph’s help she begins to see all her past adversaries in a new light. Amon wanted to live in a world of equality, Tarrlok wanted to unite the human and the spirit world and Zaheer, wanted freedom. These were very reasonable pursuits, noble even, which were corrupted because the method to attain these ideals was deeply flawed.  In the finale, I wanted Korra to enter the Avatar state and teach Kuvira a lesson and the Korra of old would have done precisely that. She would have entered the Avatar state and defeated Kuvira but it would have been a hollow victory because she would have had to kill Kuvira, nothing less than that would do. This wiser and more mature Korra chose to fight Kuvira one on one (in the finale) and the only time she entered the Avatar state was when Kuvira was about to die at the hands of the weapon she created. This marks a significant shift in Korra’s modus operandi. She sympathised with Kuvira and even understood her pain and the motivation behind her actions. She also had a deeper understanding of Kuvira because of how similar the two of them were, they were both strong-willed, stubborn, fierce and determined. Korra reached a stage where she could recognise that and not be in denial, the way Kuvira was. I am glad to see just how far Korra has come and how much she accomplished in such a short period of time. Do I like her better than Aang? Definitely. Plus I loved the new hair.

There were the usual recurring characters; Varric and Zhu Li, Tenzin, Bumi, Jinora, Opal, Su, Wei and Wen, Ikki, Meelo and Lin Beifong. Opal was a little more prominent along with her family this time since they were involved in the main struggle with Kuvira and it was nice to see the entire Beifong family as one cohesive unit, with the absence of Bataar Jr. I cannot even begin to tell you how annoying he was. I wanted him to get blasted to bits. He was wilfully ignorant and it took Kuvira firing her super weapon at him for him to come to his senses. He was easily the dullest person in the entire season. Ignoring him, the entire Beifong family is really kick ass. Lin was amazing as usual and I realised that we’ve never seen Lin outside of her uniform and so it was a pleasant surprise to see her in civilian clothing. It was good look on her.

Varrick and Zhu Li were among the key characters this season and it seemed that Varrick finally developed a conscience. He was funny and irreverent as always and definitely one the few characters who lightened the mood. I was happy that Zhu Li finally stood up for herself and demanded that Varrick treat her better. And the icing on the cake was when they got married.

Let’s talk about the other big relationship this season: Korra and Asami. Wow! I was shipping these two but I thought it was very unlikely that we would get it considering that Korra is a mainstream show and they normally shy away from anything that even remotely veers away from the norm. So it made me ridiculously happy to see these two walk into the spirit world hand in hand. And even better when Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko confirmed this on their respective Tumblr pages. For those of you crying false, I can’t see who else Korra could possibly end up with. Her relationship with Mako was clearly unhealthy and her short-lived relationship with Bolin was never going to set sail. Asami was someone whom Korra came to rely on, both to unburden herself and also for moral support. There are also plenty of people saying that this relationship is forced and there weren’t any signs. Well, there were signs as early as season 3 when they got close and didn’t let their friendship get awkward despite everything that happened with Mako. And you only had to look at their interaction in the final season to see that there was more than simple friendship blooming between these two. It was very gratifying to see them come together. I only wish that it had been a little more overt, was it too much to hope for a kiss, somehow I feel like these characters have been a little short changed.

But that one complaint notwithstanding, I was very happy with the way Korra ended. It resolved most of the pressing issues and also left us with the clear impression that Korra’s adventures are far from over. Most importantly, I am most thrilled about Korrasami and the way the creators handled that (perhaps it was a little too subtle) I am hoping that we will learn more about their adventure in the form of graphic novels. I am saddened that this series has come to an end. The way it was going, I could have continued watching it. But I guess all good things come to an end and Korra was no different and rather than see this amazing show suffer from bad writing and plots stretched too thin, I’m glad it ended with a bang and left us clamouring for more. What better way to end this truly extraordinary series….

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