Season 1 Rewind: The Legend Of Korra


Editor’s Notes: The Legend Of Korra Season 2 premieres tonight at 7PM on the Nickelodeon television network.

When Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino concluded their critically-acclaimed and highly popular series, Avatar: The Last Airbender in 2008, they left behind a universe beloved by kids and adults alike. By carefully balancing humor, action, and drama, it resonated with everyone who watched it. The strong, well-balanced characters, universal themes and great animation also showed a great deal of respect from the creators for its audience.

Then, this shit show happened…

Somehow, in some way, that M. Night Shyamalan film was actually an honest-to-God attempt to adapt the TV show I just described above. The movie had none of those amazing qualities that made the original endearing and popular, and it only managed a 6 percent on the Tomatometer.

Perhaps, the only good thing to come from the movie was a larger exposure to the Avatar world. Most reviews that loathed the movie lauded its source material. Then, less than a month after The Last Airbender bombed at the box office, Konietzko and DiMartino announced a new series based the in the same universe, set roughly 75 years after the journey of Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph and Zuko. They called it The Legend of Korra.

The New Crew
In The Legend of Korra, we follow Avatar Aang’s successor, Korra (voiced by Janet Varney), a girl from the Southern Water Tribe. Immediately, we see that she’s a great bender, able to manipulate the elements of water, fire and earth extremely well, but she has yet to undergo airbending training, and she has a block when it comes to that art. She’s been bending the other elements since she was a toddler, but she can’t quite get a knack for airbending.

That’s where Aang’s airbending son, Tenzin (J.K. Simmons), comes in. He’s supposed to stay at the South Pole with Korra and teach her to airbend, as well as help her develop her skills as a spiritual being, something else she has trouble picking up on. However, he visits the pole for only a short while to visit his mother and Korra’s mentor, Katara. There’s trouble in Republic City, the new world capital established by Aang. As one of its Councilmen, Tenzin has to be there to lead it through these times. After feeling disappointed and angry that Tenzin won’t teach her yet, Korra decides to run away from her home and seek out Tenzin in Republic City.She jumps ship and we finally get to see Republic City. It’s a steampunk fanatic’s muted dream: steam powered cars, early Industrial Era machinery and buildings and a street crime syndicate that uses bending to intimdate the non-bending populace. Korra gets into some shenanigans with some of gangsters, and she gets hauled off to the police station. There she meets Lin Beifong (Mindy Sterling), the daughter of Toph and police chief of the city. Tenzin bails her out and after an argument, he reluctantly agrees to train her in the ways of airbending.Korra stays cooped up on Air Temple Island (where Tenzin lives with his family) for about a week before she gets bored with it. Frustrated by her inability to airbend, she escapes the island for a night to attend a probending match, a sport based around bending. As she wanders the arena aimlessly, she finds herself in the training gym with Bolin (P.J. Byrne) the earthbender of the Fire Ferrets. Bolin introduces her to her brother, Mako (David Faustino), the team’s firebender. And then their waterbender quits. Korra becomes the waterbender for the Fire Ferrets. And that just about covers all of the important protagonists for now. Except for Asami (Saychelle Gabrielle), whose mental and emotional well-being is as much an after thought on the show as her presence was on this list.


Something Wicked This Way Comes

Remember that trouble Tenzin was worried about in Republic City? Apparently, he’s worried about an alarming movement that’s anti-bending. Led by the mysterious Amon (the incomparable Steven Blum), this group called the Equalists believe that benders have too much power within the government of Republic City and that they abuse their power by lording over non-benders. Tarrlok, a representative on the council from the Northern Water Tribe, wants nothing more than to quell this movement before it gains too much traction. Oh, and here’s the thing about Amon. Somehow, he’s figured out a way to take away a bender’s ability to bend: a power only ever used (reluctantly) by Avatar Aang.

Eventually, Korra gets “recruited” (read as “forcibly coerced”) by Tarrlok to hunt down Amon, but he’s far more powerful than anyone could have ever realized. Tarrlok and Korra never get off on the right foot, especially because of Tarrlok’s manipulative nature. Shortly after she makes the pronouncement that she’s going to catch Amon, Amon meets her and easily subdues her. He doesn’t take away her bending though, but his message is clear: she’s absolutely no match for him. Her fear of Amon keeps her from trying anything against him for a while. After the Pro-Bending Tournament is invaded by Amon and the Equalists and Amon declares war on benders, Tarrlok fires Lin from the police force. This action heightens tensions between Korra and Tarrlok.While Korra, with the help of Mako and Bolin, root out Amon, Mako meets Asami Sato, the daughter of super-wealthy industrialist Hiroshi Sato. Mako and Asami start dating, and Korra gets jealous because she’s after Mr. Super-Hunky Fire Guy. After a little snooping around, she gets suspicious of Hiroshi. Her suspicions are well-founded though, and it turns out that Hiroshi’s working for the Equalists, building them machines of war designed to capture benders. Why is he working for them? Because a firebender killed his wife when Asami was very young. Poor Asami.Meanwhile, Tarrlok’s influence over the city grows ever more dictatorial. He sets a curfew on non-benders, makes any association with the Equalists illegal and has Asami arrested (Poor Asami). Korra confronts Tarrlok in his office, and things get heated. The two end up dueling, and just as Korra’s about to land the finishing blow, she seizes up. Tarrlok’s bloodbending, a forbidden form of waterbending. Using his bloodbending skills, he captures Korra and takes her to a lodge outside of the city. As her friends search for her, Korra reaches inward to Aang, whose spirit along with all of the previous Avatars, resides within her. Aang shows her some of his time in Republic City prosecuting and capturing a dangerous bloodbending gangster named Yakone. Aang took away Yakone’s bending abilities after a bold attempt by Yakone to escape.When Tarrlok checks up on Korra, he’s confronted by Amon. Tarrlok easily dispatches of Amon’s lieutenants with his bloodbending powers, but somehow, Amon can resist his efforts. Amon handily defeats Tarrlok and takes away his ability to bend. During the fracas, Korra manages to escape.With Tarrlok gone, Amon launches a full assault on the city, specifically targeting Tenzin and his family (By the way, Tenzin and his children are the only airbenders in the entire world. Tenzin’s wife is a non-bender). Lin manages to hold off Amon’s troops for long enough so Tenzin and co. can escape, but she does so at the cost of her earth and metalbending abilities. With Amon in control of the city, Korra, her friends, and any bendder that wants to keep their abilities are forced underground, and the United Forces are called in to restore order to the city.


After some deliberation, Korra and Mako decide to infiltrate a rally that Amon’s holding while Bolin and Asami destroy her father’s airbase that they learn could cripple the United Forces fleet. Asami confronts her father, who then tries to kill her (Poor Asami). She’s saved by Bolin and they destroy the airfield. While all of that’s happening, Korra and Mako learn from Tarrlok the identity of Amon. His name is Noatak, and he’s Tarrlok’s brother. The siblings grew up in the Northern Water Tribe and learned to bloodbend from their father, Yakone. Somehow, Amon’s learned how to use bloodbending to permanently block the chi in a bender’s body so that they can’t bend anymore.At a huge rally to celebrate the Equalists’ victory, Korra calls Amon out on his lie while he’s giving a big speech. Amon refutes her claims and then reveals that he somehow captured Tenzin and his family. Korra and Mako both start fighting Amon to act as a diversion for Tenzin and co. to escape. When they get to a storage room unseen, Amon uses his bloodbending to subdue the pair. However, his top lieutenant sees Amon use this power and calls him a traitor. Amon then turns his attention to Korra and takes away her bending ability. As he’s about to do the same to Mako, Korra unleashes her airbending ability and knocks Amon away from Mako, out a window and into the ocean. To save himself, Amon uses his waterbending abilities in front of all of his supporters. Shown for what he is, Amon escapes, releases his brother Tarrlok and the two go off into the sunset on a speedboat. Until Tarrlok uses the electrical charge from an anti-bender glove to ignite the fuel tank and blow the two to kingdom come.Everyone else returns to the Southern Water Tribe where Katara deems that Korra will never be able to bend fire, water or earth again. She can’t find a way to heal Korra. Distraught and upset, Korra goes outside to let off some steam and cry for a bit. Suddenly, Avatar Aang appears to her and grants her the ability to bend again as well as releasing her block to the spiritual world. Korra unlocks the Avatar state and becomes Avatar Korra. Korra first returns Lin’s bending powers back to her and then she returns to Republic City to restore the abilities of every other bender in the city.

What to Watch For

The next season of The Legend of Korra, promises to continue the trend of Korra unlocking her spiritual side as Korra, for some mysterious reason, has to combat dark spirits that have begun showing up. This season marks the first time we’ll get to see a fully capable Avatar for an entire season. We saw only a brief snippet of it with her in the finale, and Aang always seemed to have problems controlling the Avatar state (aside from his finale fight against Phoenix King Ozai). It will be interesting to see how the writers handle presenting challenges to someone who can basically control most of nature with virtuoso.

The burgeoning romance between Korra and Mako will make the fanboys and fangirls happy, but I have a feeling the relationship will take a backseat to whatever’s going on in the real world. Just as the writers were considerate enough not to bog us down with love stories in The Last Airbender, I doubt they’ll have a lot of fluffy, fan service episodes.

Speaking of Mako and Korra’s relationship, I really hope that (Poor) Asami gets a break or two this season. Apparently, her father’s company, which was the main arms supplier for a terrorist organization, is going down the tubes, and she’s the only one really trying to save it. Will she succeed? Probably not, because the writers seem to have it out for her.

I hope we get to see some more adult Aang flashbacks, or at least a few continued characters from that timeline. Toph, Aang and Sokka have all passed away, but we’ve seen Katara and apparently Zuko is still the Fire Lord. Regardless, seeing those familiar characters all grown up made for one of the better episodes of the series. Finding more opportunities to provide backstory with a look at the Gaang would be more than welcome.

The pacing will probably improve, as well. Originally, The Legend of Korra was only supposed to be a miniseries. Instead, Nickelodeon decided to expand it into a full multi-season series. As a result, that original 12 episode run proved extraordinarily fast compared to Avatar: The Last Airbender whose epic saga made Korra feel like a small blip. Make no mistake though, The Legend of Korra and the universe it inhabits is a proven product. It will stick around for as long as Konietzko and DiMartino want it to. Hopefully, they don’t decide to stop making shows like this anytime soon.

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Travis Zimpfer

Staff Television Critic
Travis loves movies, TV and visual media so much that he almost became a paleontologist based solely on the masterpiece that is "Jurassic Park". Instead, he writes about video games on his Kinja blog, Hubris, aspires to become a published author and is one of those assholes who will tell you the entire reason why the "velociraptors" in Steven Spielberg's sci-fi epic should actually be called "deinonychi.

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