Legend of Korra Finale And Series Thoughts

WOW it’s been a while since we’ve had an actual blog post here that wasn’t just reblogged stuff, eh? Yeah, sorry about that, but when you’re a news writer and reviewer as well as a college student, a lot of that stuff takes up your energy and time.

But last night, something big enough in pop culture happened that I feel I had to fire up the ol’ blog editor and talk about it here. I speak not of The Colbert Report endingwhich I haven’t watched yet–but of The Legend of Korra, the beleaguered spinoff of Avatar: The Last Airbender that ended its four season run by premiering the final two episodes online at midnight last night (it’ll air on Nicktoons Network tonight).

Let’s clear things up first: unlike the vast majority of nerds my age, I didn’t really care for Avatar as a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the world and the concept was interesting, but the show just never clicked with me, even when I was in its target age range. It just seemed too episodic and same-y most of the time. Granted, thanks to the entire show being on Amazon Instant, I’ve come around on it, but it’s still a slog for me to get through at times (near the end of Book 2: Earth as I write this).

It was the stellar first season of Korra that made me want to get back into its predecessor. But at the end of the day, I still prefer Korra over Aang simply because her setting–1920s Shanghai/Beijing with steampunk elements thrown in–are more interesting than globetrotting from Village of the Week to Village of the Week, the comic relief, villains and pacing are all very well done, and Korra as a character is far more interesting and sympathetic–a headstrong and confident teenage girl somewhat cocky about being the most powerful person on the planet who grows, changes and deals with great struggle over the course of the show–then a century-and-change old kid who’s always pacifistic. Not to mention she’s very of-the-moment considering we’re living in an age of female main characters.

Now, Korra has not been without its problems. Let’s be clear. The first season, which I like a lot, is rather rushed in spots. The second season is a couple episodes longer than it needs to be and overstuffed with plot. Zaheer, the villain of the third season, is a huge threat but has his menace undercut by a stiff vocal performance from Henry Rollins (yes, the Black Flag guy).

And throughout, the show’s various romance subplots–which, like it or not, are kind of an essential component of a story about a bunch of young adults–have ranged from believable and heartwarming to really undercooked and awful (I maintain that Mako is very much this series’ equivalent to Jason Biggs’ Larry from Orange Is The New Black). But despite all that, the show still holds together for me because of its largely efficient attitude towards self-contained arcs, its gorgeous animation (yes, even in the Seasn 2 episodes by Studio Pierrot that everyone hates) and its dynamite voice cast (the show won a Daytime Emmy for casting for a reason).

It’s a real shame then that, when given a show as entertaining and kinda groundbreaking (like Avatar, Korra takes place in a world entirely composed of People of Color) as this, Nickelodeon dropped the ball and hard. This wonderful post by Carrie Tupper at The Mary Sue dives into it far better than I can, but even I can tell that yeah, maybe taking your critically acclaimed and beloved show and a.) offering basically no merchandise to support it b.) not promoting it at all and then shunting it online and c.) even going so far as to slash the final season’s budget, forcing the creators to make a clip show that nobody wants just so their people can have work is a pretty gross, awful thing to do.

But to their credit, the show’s creators and production crew have always done the best job they can with the hand they were dealt. Nowhere was that more evident than last night’s two part finale, “Day Of The Colossus/The Last Stand.” In capturing the final battle between Korra (Janet Varney) and the crew and Big Bad Kuvira (Zelda Williams) and her giant mecha suit, the animators of Studio Mir went all out in making things as big, explosive and awesome as they deserve to be.

The writers too–the credited ones are Tim Hedricks and franchise co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino–do their best, giving every one a Big Damn Hero moment and, when all is said and done, providing lovely codas to every character’s personal arcs. Combine this with the cast’s typical top-tier work–in particular, comedian John Michael Higgins as goofball Tony Stark Verrick and anime dub veteran Todd Haberkorn as Kuvira’s fiance-turned-pawn Bataar Jr. deserve awards recognition for their work here and this season as a whole–and you have a damn great series finale.

The final minutes of the show, in particular, are amazing.  I know not everyone watched it right at midnight (or couldn’t if the show crashed Nick’s site at one point which it may have), but if you haven’t seen it yet, don’t highlight the following text:

Okay, so the final minutes of “The Last Stand” in the composition, the dialogue, acting and execution, particularly the last shot, indicate that yes, the long hoped-for romance between Korra and Badass Tony Stark Asami (Seychelle Gabrielle) is in fact canonical. Given that–nominally anyway–this is still children’s television, we don’t actually see them kiss. But literally every single thing about these last scenes indicates that yeah, these two are in love.

Is that awesome? Yes. Is that groundbreaking? Inspiring? HELL YEAH. However stupid it is that the scene’s intent can’t be made more explicit, the fact is that Korrasami–as the shippers have called it–is definitely real and that is a great, bold, powerful statement to make.

Heck, between this and the character of Nathan Seymour being canonically confirmed as transgender in Tiger & Bunny: The Rising, similarly the last thing for its franchise, animation has been really damn progressive so far this decade. Could more steps like this follow? And maybe actually be not restricted by nonsensical guidelines? Let’s hope so.

So yeah, great ending to, all things considered, a great television show. Not just animation, but in all of TV; good stuff well worth seeking out. (Also, I still stand by what I wrote here. Deal with it.)