Legend of Korra: Thoughts on season 1 aka Book 1: Air (Spoilers!)
If you haven’t seen the first season of Legend of Korra, you should go do that and stop reading this, because this is not a show you want spoiled. Feel free to come back afterwards, of course.
If you have seen the first season, please stay with me as we delve into my thoughts and feelings on it.
I will start off by saying I think it’s a shame it was only 12 episodes long. I would have liked to see more of this world, and having what we did see a bit more fleshed out. A short and sweet season can undoubtedly work, and I would even say it did so here, I just wished for more, you know? I guess that’s a sign they really hooked me. I do have to wonder if the creators thought at the beginning that they’d get more episodes, because it felt a little bit like they were rushing things towards the end.
And here’s a warning to you: I will probably misspell character names. I haven’t seen many of them in written form, so my spelling is based on how they sound to me. With that said, let’s move on.
I will admit I wasn’t immediately drawn in by the new series. I quite liked the setting; with Aang now dead they’re out looking for the new Avatar, finding her among the Southern Water Tribe (showing that she’s already a bender at toddler age) and then fast-forwarding to her late teens in order to start her adventure. The adventure of discovery was a major part of the first Avatar series, so that they decided to go for that again is understandable, and the slight twist of making the Avatar a bit older and a girl hopefully enough to keep things fresh.
I did not warm to Korra in the first few episodes. It was probably a combination of her not being Aang and just how different her personality is from mine. I have never been the brash, headstrong type, and I haven’t typically gotten along well with them either. The more I got to see, the more I was drawn in though. I had to remind myself she is only 17, and that kind of overconfident behavior to mask all your inner uncertainties is really not uncommon. I appreciate how much she feels like a real person rather than a generic badass action girl, though I never expected anything generic from the Avatar team to begin with. She is young and does stupid stuff I don’t agree with, but that’s fine. If everyone was like me it’d be a dull world indeed.
When it comes to Naga, I loved her from the very beginning. I mean, a polar bear dog, how awesome is that? (The answer is very awesome, in case you didn’t know.) She’s big, strong, fiercely loyal and a softie at heart. Like Appa, she is mostly a background character or plot device, but that doesn’t stop her from having some really awesome scenes. So much love goes to Naga. ❤
Tenzin strikes me as someone who used to be really rash as a youth, but who had to learn how to be very patient later on. I would have liked to have seen more of him, but he’s a supporting character, so he’s not there to grow much. I enjoyed the moments where his calm mask was broken and the temper underneath was exposed. Also he demonstrates to be a very competent fighter. Aang didn’t really use airbending offensively a lot, if I recall correctly, so seeing that side of it here is a nice touch.
Tenzin’s family add a certain something to the series. His wife Pema is patient, kind, caring and always there with a wise word. His kids… well… the eldest daughter Jinora is calm and reasonable, her younger sister Ikki more impulsive and rash, while their little brother Meelo is absolutely crazy. Though fartbending is kinda funny.
Bo Lin seems to fill the role of Sokka in this show, and I adore him. Like Korra’s overconfidence, he uses humour to mask his uncertainties, and he’s a very caring soul. He has a big heart, and doesn’t seem like he could say a mean thing about anyone, even though that’s not entirely true (but even then it’s only when they really deserve it). And I shouldn’t forget to mention that he’s a very capable earthbender, and a good team player. Partnered with Pabu the rascally fire ferret, these two make an awesome and adorable team.
When it comes to Mako, I don’t really like him all that much. Like a friend of mine said, he’s a prat. He is consistently a prat though, so at least the writing is strong. He’s the aloof pretty-boy with “issues” that all the girls are supposed to love, and I’ve never liked the type. Especially how he falls for Asami, and then seems to turn right around and go “um, I seem to love Korra instead, sorry babe”. I really don’t know what Korra sees in him and wish she’d given Bo Lin a chance instead. However, he is a good firebender and team player, and a loyal friend, and has a certain bravery to him, so he’s not all bad. I still think he’s a prat, though.
Speaking of Asami, I was very suspicious of her when she first appeared. The clothes she wore looked very Equalist to me, so I was 100% sure she was an undercover agent sent to infiltrate the Fire Ferrets to get close to Korra. I’m glad I was wrong. She was mostly a supporting character, but her role got bigger towards the end. She is sweet and strong, and though she has her own issues, I felt she deals with them well. She was served a raw deal when it came to her father, and then Mako and Korra, and I feel sorry for her for it. I feel it would have been better if Mako had realised that he loved Asami, and then Korra could get over it and find someone else, like Bo Lin or Iroh. That would have broken his pratness though, which I guess just couldn’t happen.
Iroh only showed up in the finale, but what an entrance. We didn’t get to see a whole lot of his personality, but I’m certain he’ll play a bigger role in future seasons. His skills can’t be doubted though. I mean, using firebending to fly? The “Iroh Man” meme that spawned from that was well-deserved. I did find how he so casually used lightning, just like Mako, to be a little strange. Lightning-bending was a big thing in the original series, but here it seems to have been relagated to “fairly common”. Which is cool in one way, but a bit of a shame in another. Considering he’s another pretty-boy, it is inevitable that he’ll become a romantic interest of some sort. Not sure for whom yet, but kinda hoping it’ll be Mako who falls for him. If the show actually did a gay romance thing, that would be awesome.
Chief Beifong is pretty awesome, let me be frank here. And for a supporting character, she had quite the arc herself, leading to a tragic end. While I’m glad Korra was able to heal her, I did feel that it maybe diminished the arc a little. Maybe I’m wrong.
Hiroshi Sato did a pretty good job as the “I am secretly a villain” character, though that he’d be so damaged he’d be willing to kill his own daughter for not siding with his mad schemes surprised me. I expected him to see reason when forced to fight his own child. Bo Lin was right when he said Hiroshi is a horrible father. And that he was supposed to have invented all those weapons and vehicles they used was a little ludicrous, but fair enough.
Councilman Tarrlok had quite the arc himself, showing off how good intentions can lead to bad places. He went from annoying figure of authority, to extremist, to proponent of a fascist state, to dangerous enemy, to stricken down and resolute, to redemption and finally the ultimate sacrifice. I was really angry at him at times, but once more was revealed and he told his story, I understood how things had gone wrong, and how he was really repentant about what had happened. He never meant for things to spiral out of control, he just tried to do the right thing as he saw it.
Which brings us to Amon himself. The main antagonist. Equalist leader. Possessed of strength and skill most people couldn’t even dream about, and with a terrifying power to take people’s bending away, which struck terror into the hearts of many, including Korra. He hung as a shadow over everyone’s lives and was the source of most conflict in the season. He also showed he was quite clever, laying elaborate plans and rallying a horde of followers ready to do his bidding in a revolution that I think he actually did believe in. He serves a supplement to Tarrlok’s way of enforcing order, only Tarrlok wanted to preserve the state, while Amon wanted to tear it down. The mask was a great way of enhancing his mystery, and also quite necessary, what with the reveal that he was Tarrlok’s big brother and a waterbender with an expertise at blood bending. Which actually turned out to be how he took people’s bending away. It was merely a block, a severing of the connection with the elements, and not a complete removal like what the Avatar can do. After being found out, it seems like he tried to redeem himself by taking his brother with him to flee, which was a truly sad moment to me. I have to wonder whether he actually survived the boat explosion, but I guess we’ll see.
As for the Equalists themselves… I kept thinking of them as people who went “We want everyone to suck like us!”. I may be a socialist, but I don’t believe that everyone should be exactly the same. Have the same rights, yes, but just because someone else can do something you can’t, it doesn’t mean they need to stop doing it or have it forcefully taken away. Sure bending can be used to gain an unfair advantage over others, but so can any skill. Argue for equal rights between benders and non-benders, that is fair enough. Argue that all benders should be turned into non-benders, that’s crossing into extremist territory.
Getting a different look into the world of Avatar was quite interesting. Seeing the growing pains of a nation going through industrialisation, trying to figure out where magic fits in with technology, how to best deal with modern crime when both bending and tech can be used, how to work out a democracy when certain people are born with gifts others can’t get. To me this is all fascinating, and getting to see Katara, and also Sokka and Aang via flashbacks to see what happened to our former heroes adds a nice flavour to the whole universe.
I also found it really interesting how bending itself had changed. Things that were rare or invented during Aang’s adventure, now seemed entirely commonplace, like firebenders using lightning and a whole police force now being metalbenders. And of course Mako and Bo Lin being different types of benders despite being brothers. I assume that’s because of the mixed bloodlines that have resulted from such a big city full of people from all tribes. It would be really interesting if this eventually paved way for something like dualbenders.
As for the main story arc itself, I think they did a good job with the pacing and delivery. Even though I said it started to feel a little rushed towards the end, they had built up to it nicely, starting with just briefly letting us see hints of the Equalists in the first episode while Korra explores Republic City for the first time, and expanding from there. Her struggle with airbending slowly built up as well. Amon was introduced, and the whole city started to fear he could show up at any time. The pro-bending arc dragged on for perhaps a bit long, and then ended very suddenly, but it was a squee moment the first time Korra mastered airbending movement. Her improved connection with the spiritual manifesting in visions of Aang was also a neat touch. The romance stuff did feel a little bit forced, like it was too fast, but honestly that kinda fits with how things are at that age. And then we came to the final conflict, a war between Equalists and benders, with the best new tech facing off against the best benders, and it was spectacular. Amon was explained by a repentant and resigned Tarrlok, and they tried to expose him, though he was ready for that (he even had me doubting for a bit there), and then the final battle where he took Korra’s bending, but she unlocked her airbending when she saw Mako about to be de-bended as well. I whooped at that, at first thinking she had overcome the block altogether, then seeing she now only had airbending. I wondered if she’d have to go on a journey like Aang to get back the rest, but it turned out the Avatar state fixes all. I had expected that, but it still felt a bit like a copout. Though admittedly a kinda awesome copout.
I think I can best sum up my feelings on season 1 as such: It started with “this is pretty cool.”, went up to “this is really good!” and ended on “this is friggin awesome!!!”. It had moments I loved, moments I disliked, moments I appreciated and moments I despised. But in all of it, the show made me feel. Happy, sad, angry, shocked and more. While I have many questions left, the main one is… what are they going to call Book 2 now that she knows all the elements?
And those are my thoughts and feelings on Legend of Korra: Book 1 Air. I probably missed stuff, but those were all the things that came to mind. Here’s looking forward to next season, and hoping it comes soon.