Korra’s finale is a wild ride, even if it is better suited to end a season rather than conclude a series.
The two-part series finale for Legend of Korra pits the expanded Team Avatar against invading dictator Kuvira and her towering mecha-super-weapon. The massive explosions padded with heartfelt moments are immensely satisfying, but even amid all the destruction, tears, and laughter, Korra never faces the global and emotional stakes Aang did at the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
When The Legend of Korra first began production, it was intended as a single season spin-off of the incredibly popular ATLA . Sometime before the last episode aired, Nickelodeon decided to extend the series, which left creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino in a bit of a difficult position. ATLA began with an established antagonist and plans for Aang’s development (along with his friends), enough to carry the show for multiple seasons. With Korra, from the beginning the show restricted itself to a Big Bad each season, and as such its finale doesn’t have the impact on the universe ATLA’s did. This has been a problem the show has faced since its first season, so if Korra’s finale feels a little underwhelming, it’s not something we didn’t see coming.
Still, “Day of the Colossus” and “The Last Stand” are a fantastic pair of episodes. Studio Mir almost always knocks it out of the park with its animation work, and these episodes are some of its best work yet. On top of that, the music is perfect, as usual. Two tracks in particular stand out – one for Mako and another to close out the finale.
Fans of the fight choreography in LoK and ATLA might be disappointed by this finale. While almost every fight sequence is epic, none are as masterfully laid out or precise as earlier confrontations, such as Suyin facing Kuvira in “Operation Beifong.” However, while Kuvira’s super-weapon may be over the top, none of the combat reaches DBZ levels of ridiculousness. Mostly, it’s small strikes against a massive enemy, supporting the narrative of fighting an authoritarian power.
The final portion of the episode provides a quiet conclusion to the series, and while not everyone gets to say their goodbyes, those that do are fitting. Some of the “surprises” of the episode were telegraphed moments before they occurred (or weeks ago, in some cases), but there should be a couple moments that catch you off guard.
The final two minutes of the episode are so far the most talked about, and rightly so. Legend of Korra and Nickelodeon did something unprecedented in Western children’s animation in those moments. It’s obviously a huge spoiler, so we’ll save discussion of the topic for the next page.
Episodes of Legend of Korra: Book Four are released on Nick’s website on Friday mornings, with all of the previous episodes available to view now. The first two seasons are available on Amazon, with Book Three on Vudu.
“Korrasami is Canon!”
Tweets, Facebook statues, tumblr tags, and forum thread titles across the web have proudly made the above declaration. Given that #LegendofKorraFinale was trending (on and off) in the US even twelve hours after the episodes released online, commentary is likely to come out of media that doesn’t even cover stuff like Korra. It’s fantastic this conversation is happening and networks might start to feel more comfortable exploring LGBTQ representation in children’s media.
To recap, throughout the series, Korra’s romantic interests haven’t remained in the spotlight as much as Aang’s did in ATLA, especially after Book Two of Korra. She was in a relationship with Mako early on, who has been similarly involved with Asami Sato. Some fans have interpreted romantic undertones in the interactions between Korra and Asami since the first season (disclaimer: this reviewer is among them). However, as the series approached its end, the common expectation was that Korra and Mako would end up together. After all, the hero has to end up with someone, right? And neither Nick nor the showrunners would be brave enough to pair up Korra and Asami.
Apparently, they were up to the challenge. The series ends with Korra and Asami holding hands and walking into the spirit world, and turning to look into each others’ eyes before the camera pans away. There are already plenty of debates going on about whether this was a romantic or platonic moment, but that’s not a conversation happening in this review. Feel free to do so (politely) in the comments.
What is worth exploring is the implications for the narrative. As satisfying as it was to see the couple come together in the end, it does, in a way, come out of left field. Korra and Asami’s romantic relationships have not been a matter of importance for two seasons (over three years in the show). The pairing works rather well thematically, though. The show always examined the spiritual world and advances of technology and seeing two leaders of those worlds walk away together hand in hand may be one of the better examples of Book Four’s title, “Balance.”
Toppling the Colossus
The extended Team Avatar (now including a bunch of Airbenders and almost all the Beifongs) fails after every attempt to take down the colossus. Things steadily escalate from dropping paint on the windows to lavabending under the feet to dropping buildings on it. Each plan seems like it might work, but Kuvira’s machine shrugs off every attempt. The team only comes up with a successful plan when Asami’s sad dad arrives with a plan to help the team infiltrate the machine. Of course, he dies in the process, but everyone saw that coming, right?
There are some technical issues we could pick at regarding the machine – for instance, the heroes travel through its limbs while it moves, yet everything looks motionless from their perspective. Overall though, every moment of the fight against Kuvira and her weapon is exciting.
The show never really slows down as the team works to stop her. They dodge blasts from the massive gun and buildings explode beautifully in the background (once again, great animation and sound work). Once inside the machine, the battles are smaller, but still high risk. Mako has a dramatic moment which actually serves as one of his best scenes in the series and Korra’s fight with Kuvira is stunning.
Unlike most previous finales, the most prominent use of the Avatar State is defensive, with Korra protecting herself and Kuvira from explosion caused by Kuvira using the weapon (powered by spirit energy) in the Republic City spirit wilds. It’s a deviation from the standard formula of getting the hero to go Super Saiyan to stop the bad guy, and given Korra’s change over the series, it’s appropriate that her final moment of action is protecting someone. The explosion tears through reality, creating a new portal to the spirit world in the ruins of Republic City.
Kuvira has been a fun antagonist to watch, but she never really developed directly on screen as much as she could have. In the end she has her little outburst about not having a real family and just trying to protect the world, but the best moment of their final verbal confrontation is the Korra’s recognition of how similar they are. The result of this conversation is touching: Korra’s final foe willingly surrenders. The Korra from Book One may have never gotten to a point where surrender seemed like an option.
Doing the thing, forever.
Not that thing. Well, maybe that thing.
Surprising no one after their reunion last week, Varrick proposed to Zhu Li, and the episode ends with their wedding (apparently Bolin can officiate weddings?). While the direction they took isn’t surprising, the entire subplot is flavored with Varrick’s personality, making it far more entertaining that it would be with any other characters. Although, if one more person said a variation of, “Do the thing,” the joke would officially be dead.
Previous seasons of ATLA and LoK have had the benefit of being named after whatever element (or theme, in the case of “Change”) dominated the story. The problem with Book Four’s title, “Balance,” is both series have been about balance. While the concept is definitely explored throughout this season, it isn’t really done much more than in the past.
There are areas to explore on the topic though, such as Korra’s internal struggle for control and Kuvira’s quest to control the Earth Empire. Similarly, Korra’s journey is through all the spiritual hot spots (spirit swamp, spirit wilds, spirit world) while Kuvira builds an overpowering force from technological advancement. There’s also something to be said for the modernized Republic City being nearly destroyed as a result of new weapons and a new spirit portal appearing in the city, bring the spirits back to the world.
Bottom Line: A fantastic end to everything that has happened in Book Four, but it also works as a finale to the series. It’s sad to see the world of Avatar go, but the last two episodes are beautiful and exciting. And a huge shout out to the showrunners for putting Korra and Asami together romantically. It’s a big step for media and brings much needed representation to children’s television.
Recommendation: The Legend of Korra isn’t Avatar: The Last Airbender, and it doesn’t need to be. Korra is its own, wonderful series with appeal to diverse audiences thanks to its fun characters, exciting action, and gorgeous animations. Go check it out.[rating=5]