Thu
Jun 28 2012 1:00pm

And Now, Avatar Korra: The Legend of Korra: “The Endgame”

A recap and review of The Legend of Korra finale The Endgame

True to what the creators of The Legend of Korra said, the finale wrapped up the season; at least, the narrative arc closed, though I think we’re still in the middle of the character arcs. “Skeletons In the Closet” laid bare Amon’s secrets, and “The Endgame” gives the characters a chance to do something about those secrets. I don’t think we’re done seeing the repercussions of the first season either, for that matter—the inequalities in Republic City haven’t disappeared, and I am curious to see what people intend to do to fix the grievances laid out in “The Revelation.” As before, this is the season finale and the mysteries of the last dozen episodes are out in the open, so the standard spoiler boilerplate applies.

It starts with Asami, Bolin and General Iroh going in to take down the airstrip that the Equalists are using to keep the United Forces at bay—having the earthbender tear up the airstrips is the kind of proactive thinking I value in this show, much like when Tenzin asked Lin to stay behind to protect his family in “Turning the Tides”—a plan immediately cut by them getting zapped by a Tesla fence. Hiroshi Sato, you have wireless electrical fences? Bolin’s right; where does he find the time to keep inventing new evil machines?

A recap and review of The Legend of Korra finale The Endgame

Meanwhile, Korra and Mako head to confront Amon, knowing that he is Noatak, the bloodbending brother of Tarrlock…at least, according to Tarrlok. There is a great moment of doubt when he takes off the mask…and has a vicious scar across his face. Still, Noatak could have been burned by a firebender at some point in his life, and of course Amon would deny being a bender, but…you can see the war of doubt and certainty on Korra’s face. No time for second gussing, Korra—Amon has Tenzin and his family captive, and is about to succeed where the Fire Nation failed and destroy the art of airbending once and for all. It seems that swarms of biplanes trump a herd of sky bison…

A recap and review of The Legend of Korra finale The Endgame

Polar bear dogs, at least, trump prison cells…and, for that matter, mecha. After Sato shows up to gloat in front of General Iroh and his daughter—Bolin is right again, you are a terrible father, Mister Sato—Naga and Pabu bust them out of the slammer, and then things get awesome. Ever since we saw those mecha-tanks in “The Aftermath” I’ve been waiting for this moment, for the glorious wonder of…Mechasami! Screw your ‘ship, I ‘ship Asami and combat robots! I like her “just like a Future Industries forklift” line a lot—like her similar line about the police scanners in her father’s car in “When Extremes Meet,” it is a nice minimalist explanation for how she can pilot the mecha, without getting too bogged down in specifics. When Asami finally confronts her father—in the heat of a mecha battle—I was pleased to see that, against expectations there is no temptation…and no redemption. There is, instead, a reckoning.

A recap and review of The Legend of Korra finale The Endgame

In “…And the Winner Is” we got Spider-Lin, which was followed by WolverLin, and now we can add Iroh Man to the list, as a red & gold General Iroh spits jets of flame from his hands and takes flight, Azula-style. Hiroshi Sato has intercepted his message to the rest of the fleet and is sending his fighter planes to make a sneak attack on them—and General Iroh can’t let that happen. What follows is a rousing dogfight involving firebending, bombs, stalled motors, and more than one leap of faith…and culminates into a biplane crashing into the iconic Aang statue, destroying the Amon mask on its face, with Iroh saying “thanks for looking out for me, Aang.” It is…pretty fist-pumping and heart-string tweaking.

A recap and review of The Legend of Korra finale The Endgame

How dark is that image: Tenzin and his kids tied to stakes, on the cusp of disaster. Of course Korra has to intervene. Finally we get Korra versus Amon, in real, physical terms. Bet you regret not debending her back in “The Voice in the Night” when you had the chance, huh Amon? Or well…maybe you don’t regret that, since while Korra is able to rescue the airbenders, she and Mako seem to be reeling and on the run from Amon, slasher movie style.

A recap and review of The Legend of Korra finale The Endgame

Amon has defeated Korra and taken away her bending; it looks like game over. The Lieutenant—who was shooting some dubious looks at Amon even when Korra initially accused him—enters while Amon is in the midst of bloodbending Mako and a now de-bended Korra. There is real pathos in his look of betrayal, as the Lieutenant is tossed aside—literally—by Amon. I don’t know if the nameless Lieutenant lived or died, but if he lived, maybe he can be the moderate voice of the Equalists in the upcoming second series.

A recap and review of The Legend of Korra finale The Endgame

Luckily, Mako is able to struggle free of Amon’s bloodbending…with the power of lurve. Huey Lewis and the News was right! Korra, on the run from Amon, just as he is about to take Mako’s firebending away…discovers she can airbend. It seems predictable, but it is a testament to the skill of the show that the tension is preserved. Clearly not prepared to handle her airbending—you’ll note that Tenzin’s airbending was the one thing that knocked him off balance, previously—Amon is knocked out the window and into the drink. Splash! The scar on his face washes away—if the scar was fake, why even wear a mask in the first place?—and Amon is revealed as a waterbender, as Noatak.

A recap and review of The Legend of Korra finale The Endgame

Amon escapes and we get…what is surprisingly one of the most touching parts of the whole season. Amon—Noatak—goes back to Air Temple Island to see his brother Tarrlok. Both of them are survivors of the brutal Yakone we saw last episode and in “Out of the Past,” and now they start acting like brothers again. They’ve been—somehow—given a second chance, despite all their wicked acts. They head off on a small ship—as Lonely Island would say, “Amon a Boat”*— heading off into the sunset. Noatak is beaming, but a single tear spills down his cheek as Tarrlok says “it will be just like the good old days”…and uses a taser glove to ignite the ship’s fuel tank. Is this…what kid’s shows are like? Bittersweet nihilism culminating in a bleak murder-suicide and a mushroom cloud?

A recap and review of The Legend of Korra finale The Endgame

Things shift back to the Southern Water Tribe for the first time since the very beginning of the series. All of the cast from Republic City are there along with Korra’s parents as Katara—the greatest healer in the world—tries to undo Amon’s unbending of Korra. She fails, as you know she must…and Korra is heartbroken. Mako says he loves Korra, and she rejects him and runs away to break down in tears on the edge of an iceberg. There, in the nadir of despair, when things are at their worst…she has her spiritual awakening. We see legs clad in orange, but they aren’t Tenzin’s…they are Aang’s.

A recap and review of The Legend of Korra finale The Endgame

Aang heals her, touching his hands to her chakra points in front of all her past incarnations. I want to know the stories of those Avatars! Kyoshi, you’re my favorite! Now that Kuruk isn’t in the front row, does he have more time to pursue his ghostly hobbies? Who is that tall Fire Nation Avatar woman or that Fire Nation Avatar with the hat? Who are those weird bearded Air and Earth Avatars? Never mind that: this is Avatar Korra’s story, and she rises into the air in the Avatar State demonstrating her mastery of the four elements. She tells Mako that she loves him too and restores Lin’s ability to bend.

A recap and review of The Legend of Korra finale The Endgame

Is that deus ex machina? No, that is deus ex anthropos, and that is sort of the point of the Avatar! She is the hand of divine intervention in the world of the Four Nations, the bridge between this world & the spirit world. No, this finale isn’t “Sozin’s Comet” level, but it certainly is the equal of “The Siege of the North.” You remember, the first season finale where the Avatar went into the Avatar State, turned into a blue Miyazaki Godzilla made of water and smashed the Fire Nation fleet? Another nice example of deus ex anthropos. I talked about how The Legend of Korra is the inversion of Avatar: the Last Airbender & in many ways this finale is the opposite of "The Crossroads of Destiny”—faced with spiritual awakening or disaster, this time the Avatar chooses satori.

A recap and review of The Legend of Korra finale The Endgame

Is this the end of the romantic triangle set up in “The Spirit of Competition”? Not by a long shot, I’d imagine. True, we don’t see a nice ribbon wrapped up around it, but I think that the vast gulf between “I care about you” and “I love you” shows that things have radically changed. People complain that we don’t see Mako and Asami break-up, but when did we see Mako and Asami get together? We don’t see either. It is back to being a matter of the medium, of long form versus short form. The Legend of Korra is paced in a much more cinematic style than the much more episodic Avatar: the Last Airbender, which means there is more fuzz at the margins. That is a feature, not a flaw. The story of Mako and Korra’s relationship isn’t over; I agree, I’m not satisfied with it either. They need a Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers “get our acts together” storyline. Things need to be fixed…which is why I’m glad that there is a whole ‘nother season coming.


*There is literally no way Mordicai Knode could have resisted making an “Amon a boat” pun. You couldn’t, if you were in his shoes either, because it is funny as heck. He’s pretty sure “deus ex anthropos” is bad Latin or bad Greek or both, but he doesn’t mind. Besides bad puns and being bad at dead languages, he also likes Twitter and Tumblr.

67 comments
ViewerB
1. ViewerB
My DVR stopped recording just as Korra was giving Lin back her bending. Did anything happen after that? I want the next season to start now!
Fade Manley
2. fadeaccompli
I have to admit, this episode had the most touching murder-suicide I've ever seen on screen.

And it wasn't where I thought it would be going! At that point I really thought Naotok was going to reveal that he could undo the blockage via blood-bending, and fix Tarrlok, and then... I don't know, they could sail off into the sunset or become complex and interesting recurring villains next season. (And meanwhile Korra could find that out from Katara, and there'd be all sorts of struggle with whether or not it was okay to do bloodbending For Good Purposes.) So I'm all the more impressed that they managed to go in an utterly different direction than I expected, and still make it plausible and logical and satisfying.

Now I'm wondering what Asami will be up to next season. With a whole lot of assets (unless plot device locks them away), effectively no family, and maturity working against romantic angst... I am hoping for mentoring from Lin or the like. She's got so much potential, and I really want to see where she goes.
Fade Manley
3. fadeaccompli
ViewerB @1: Mine did too, but I tracked down the last thirty seconds or so on YouTube. Lin did a Totally Rockbending Woo demonstration, and said thanks; people looked impressed; Tenzin said, "I'm so proud of you, Avatar Korra"; and then it pulled away into a nice landscape shot.
Mordicai Knode
4. mordicai
1. ViewerB

Other than Aang & the rest of the Gaang physically incarnating so that they could have a meet & greet with Korra & her friends, & Aang giving Tenzin & Bumi a hug & crying & kissing Katara, no, you didn't miss much.*


(*JOKES)
Mordicai Knode
5. mordicai
2. fadeaccompli

Correction: I have to admit, this episode had the most touching murder-suicide I've ever seen on screen a children's television show.

I am just fooling around, obviously-- these shows having enduring & touching stories outside of their age demographic, but when you stop & look at it as a Saturday morning cartoon, it is...pretty crazy. Good on Nick for giving them free reign (at least, so it seems).

I think I'll probably do a "my theories, wishes & expectations for Season Two" post at some point in the interegnum.

1. ViewerB
&
3. fadeaccompli

Oh what, really? I set my DVR player to record an extra minute before & after the series just because I'm paranoid like that, but hey! Score a point for paranoia; just because I am doesn't mean that they aren't out to get me...
ViewerB
6. wcarter4
Naga hates mecha-tanks NAGA SMASH PUNY MECHA-TANKS!
Like I said in the earlier post, I feel like there were plot threads they wanted to wrap up and others they wanted to leave open.

Too many series have sequel hooks for seasons/movies that never happen. Others wrap of everything a little too neatly so it doesn't even feel like the characters' lives coninue past the point the credits role.

Both options are cheap and unworthy way to end an installment in the Avatar verse. Leaving the characters room to grow while still showing a "turning the corner' point in each of their lives is a much better way to end a season. Especially one where the writers aren't (at the time at least) garunteed another crack at the series.
ViewerB
7. anechoic
"Ignore" the fuel tank? LOL! That would have been a much different ending...
ViewerB
8. J Mccaffery
The real dramacraft, if you ask me, is having Korra rescue Mako's bending at the last split-second with heroic airbending-- if he'd ALSO lost his bending, I think the toll on the heroes would be so great as to make the viewer suspect that the bending loss is ultimately temporary.

But pulling the tension taut on Mako's bending (after Korra loses her bending in a scene that feels inevitable), the viewer totally figures that Korra's an airbender only and that all the other characters to lose their bending are gonna have to find a new way to be cool.

My big regret is that they never found a less-dumb way to say "take X's bending away." Seriously, nothin'? How about "stole his bending" even. "Severed her connection."
ViewerB
9. Classic Appa
@8

Maybe they should have called it "straightening."
Mordicai Knode
10. mordicai
6. wcarter4

Well, wait, I thought season two was a "for sure" but the details just weren't solid yet...right? I mean, if Bryke are available, Nick would be crazy not to take them up on it & let them write their own ticket...besides critical acclaim it drew lots of viewers, right?

7. anechoic

I know! J Mccaffery pointed out my typo as well. I freely admit; I over rely on spellcheck. I wrote "cheese stakes" this morning, which is hilarious & belong in a Joss Whedon joint.
Mordicai Knode
11. mordicai
8. J Mccaffery

I agree, the episode has subverted your expectations to the point where-- will people get bending back? Will Amon escape? What is even going on?-- all become legitimate questions. Which is quite a coup, if you ask me. Plus, that boat sequence...that was some pretty solid & intense drama.
Scott Silver
12. hihosilver28
After going back to read my comments on the previous post to see what I was delaying to this post, here goes:

Korra's nadir- I thought this was one of the highlights of the entire season. Watching her come to the realization that all of her strongest bending was taken away with "no" hope of restoration was devastating.

Which brings me to the point that has upset quite a few people over ze intervebs. At Korra's emotional nadir, Aang shows up to offer her comfort as well as using his experience as the Avatar to restore her bending. Instantly the cries of Deus Ex Machina pop up all over. My views on DEMs in general is that they can only exist if there has been no foreshadowing of it at all. If there is foreshadowing, it's not a DEM. Which brings us to the comparisons of how this is so different from Avatar:The Last Airbender and not like Bryan and Mike to "mess up" like this. In Book 1 of A:TLA when Aang goes to meet up with Roku during the Winter Solstice, Zhao and a large group of firebenders are waiting outside of the shrine room to ambush Aang. Roku realizes this and literally possesses Aang and unleashes a powerful and specific blast of firebending to take care Zhao as well as release the Gaang. Later in Book 2, it happens again when Kyoshi literally possesses Aang to speak her defense at the trial. The most valid complaint of DEM in the original show was the Lion Turtle and energy bending, and even then, Bryan and Mike had planted the seeds for that all the way back in the original unaired pilot, and then from The Library in Book 2 onward. They had laid the ground work for the Lion Turtle if you pay attention.

So, when Aang appears to Korra when she is most spiritually in tune and uses his powers as the Avatar to restore her bending, it is has a huge precedent in the previous show. It was also foreshadowed throughout the entire season with the visible differences between how Amon removed bending vs. how we had seen Aang and the Lion Turtle with energy bending. That said, I do wish that Korra had to experience not having her other bending powers for a little longer than they decided. BUT, that doesn't lessen the emotional power of either moment for me. When Amon removed her bending, when she pushed through the block to airbend, and when Aang restored her bending and she gained access to the Avatar State were highly emotional moments for me and I felt they worked extremely well. I wouldn't have had the finale play out any other way in these aspects.

That said, I really feel sorry for Asami. Girl cannot catch a break. So, the Mako-Korra moment didn't really hit me as much as I wanted, but it didn't really bother me that much either.

All told, I thought it was a masterful finale and easily holds its own against the finales to Book 1 and 2 of the original series. Bring on Book 2 of The Legend of Korra!
ViewerB
13. Zephyr Stone
My main question about the series -- which was pretty darn cool -- is why there was so much time spent on pro-bending in the first half of the series (5 or 6 episodes?) when, ultimately, there was little to no pay-off in the rest of the series? Surely there were better, or more expedited, ways of introducing Sato, Asami, and the like without the pro-bending angle -- or at least devoting so much time to a plot line that seemed to hold nothing thematically relevant for the latter half of the series.

Should I take from it that Korra learned the foundations for air-bending in the form of dodging/moving like a leaf in "A Leaf in the Wind"? And that pro-bending was the only manner in which she could learn the *potential* for air-bending? Or were her mastery over the other three elements -- water, earth, fire -- somehow blocking her capacity over air when Amon took away her other bending abilities; thereby allowing her to suddenly bend air?

But that's a bit of a divergence from point.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed The Legend of Korra, and feel that most action and plot developments were sound, if not a bit rushed toward the last two episodes. Incidentally enough, though, I feel that the fine developments of last week's season finale could have been a bit more properly paced if only less time had been focused on pro-bending -- an admittedly bada$$ sport that didn't really seem to contribute much to the latter half of the show.

So, por favor, help me out with this sport's significance.
ViewerB
14. wcarter4
Based on what I've read I think season 2 is green lighted now, but wasn't necessarily when production of seaon 1 was going on. That's what I mean't by "(at the time)."

*Musters up a year's worth of sarcasm* I have a better idea than a season 2...A live action movie! Ooh ooh and it can be directed by Michael Bay (I hear he's working on a TNMT reboot only this time they're aliens!) and there can be lots of explosions and characters randomly showing up at locations hundreds or even thousands of miles away from where they were two minutes ago in story time.

Wouldn't that be awesome? Much better than of all that unnecessary plot and characterizations...and Oh I Know!--He could make Korra a brainless sex symbol instead of a strong, leading protaganist. Then Mako can resue her whenever she gets into trouble since she's just a silly girl.

Someone quick pitch this to a producer...
M O
15. shydra
I'll be the first to say I thought the ending was a little too "fast," but that it was unavoidable since they initially planned for only one season.

It would have been a really cool ending for a one-season show had they chosen to have Korra just go on and be the Avatar as solely an airbender, and had the losses be real and tragic but bearable. I mean, Korra could set out to define, for herself, what it means to be the Avatar, and Lin Beifong would demonstrate that she does not need bending to kick ass in a policing role, etc, and have it end there, second season or no. I was slightly disappointed that the whole thing had to wrap up with "phew, got out bending back, narrowly avoided being like the muggles." However, having bending loss be irreversible may have been a bit too dark of an ending for a kids show I think, especially on the heels of the Tarrlok/Noatak deaths. Given the choice between one or the other (bittersweet ending or bittersweet finishing of the villains) I think the right choice was made at the time.

I imagine if Bryke had known in the planning phases that there would be two seasons it might have turned out different, but as you say: there's really ample material to make a second, and dare I say even a third season.
Scott Silver
16. hihosilver28
@8. J Mccaffery
I thought that at the very end Katara said something like "Her connection to the other elements has been severed" or something like that. It was a more purposeful statement than just "lost her bending".

I could have sworn that the series had been greenlit for 26 episodes from the start. I remember reading that Korra was going to be 26 way before the show aired, even before they announced that the 26 were going to be split into two seasons.

@13. Zephyr Stone
Pro-bending wasn't pointless in the show. It showed Korra a new method of learning besides the traditional training. But more than that, how would Mako, Bolin, and Asami ever been introduced into Team Avatar 2.0 without the equalizer of pro-bending? I felt that pro-bending was utilized to show how bending had changed over the 60 years as well as provide an arena for character growth as well as world-building. I loved it.
ViewerB
17. percysowner
@10 Season 2 is a for sure, but it wasn't picked up until the final episode had already been shot. So the producers wrapped it enough that if they didn't get season 2 no one would be left hanging, but there was still room to grow in season 2.
ViewerB
18. wolflahti
"Tarrlok… uses a taser glove to ignore the ship’s fuel tank."

And the fuel tank got so pissed at being thus slighted that it blew up in spite.

I was disappointed primarily by the too-easy manner in which Korra's bending was restored. She should have had to undergo a quest (covering the entire second season) to get her powers back.
Chuk Goodin
19. Chuk
I figured they wouldn't take Korra's bending away and then when they did I was a little surprised, so I figured she'd be able to get it back, but I also thought it'd take longer. I was surprised at the way she did get her bending back, but I like being surprised sometimes, and it did fit in with the rest of the series. (I didn't watch the old Avatar series. I figure I'll just watch the movie.)
Mordicai Knode
20. mordicai
12. hihosilver28

Korra sure had an emotionally punishing "few months." Aang was dealing with issues like genocide & imperialism, but they were so big that they seemed impersonal, or abstract, on some level...everytime something bad happened in Republic City you could see it take a personal toll on Korra.

I agree with what you have to say about deus ex machina. I mean, the Avatar actually is the divine intervener! That is her job, right? I find it a little strange to be like "oh so the Avatar just used superpowers to make it all better?" Well...yes, that is...the premise of the show.

Like you, I feel like this competes with seasons one & two of Avatar: the Last Airbender. I think we'll see Asami catching more than a break; I predict she'll be the Toph of this show. I think we can expect Asami to be a grease monkey techhead building fighting mecha & such...& that is radical.
Scott Silver
21. hihosilver28
@19. Chuk
GAAAHHHH! Please tell me you were just being sarcastic about the movie. For the sake of Pete and all that is holy and good in this world DO NOT WATCH THE MOVIE! Trust me, it will leave you with a rotten feeling in your gut wondering why it was so terrible. Just watch the original series. If you liked Korra, you will like Avatar: The Last Airbender.
ViewerB
22. Lsana
I'm of two minds as to the Deus Ex Machina at the end. On the one hand, I didn't like the idea of bending being restored so quickly. I did feel that it ought to have been harder to undo what Amon did, resulting in quests into the spirit realm and the like. However, then I sat down and contemplated the alternative. Does Korra go on being the Avatar with just airbending? I don't think so. Her comments to Mako about how she wasn't the Avatar anymore combined with the fact that she rode off to a cliff suggests to me that she was planning to move on and let the next Avatar be born into the Earth Kingdom. And despite how much they have gotten away with on this show (I liked the comment about "most touching murder/suicide ever seen on screen"), I don't think you can end a kid's show with the suicide of the main heroine.

One question, though, can Korra now enter the Avatar state at will? It seemed like it when she healed Lin (I just can't imagine her saying to Jinora, "Would you read me a passage from one of those tragedies? I need to get really depressed so I can become the Avatar again.") However, that seems a big jump from pretty much no spiritual abilities to being able to get to the Avatar state at will. Aang, despite being much stronger at the spiritual side, took 3 seasons to figure out how to do that.
Fade Manley
23. fadeaccompli
I'm actually pretty happy that Korra got her bending back the way she did. It made perfect sense--I was chanting "Avatar state! Avatar state!" for a while now--in the whole 'balancing the elements' nature of her role, and...well. Okay. Petty, selfish reason?

I watch these shows partly for their nuanced worldbuilding and complex character dynamics and great plots and clever writing, but I also watch them to see COOL ELEMENTAL MAGIC WOAH stuff. And the Avatar is the only person, by the nature of the setting, who can do multi-element effects all on her own.

That is awesome. That is something I want to watch. That is part of what draws me to the show. And I don't want my super-cool high-action excitement-and-adventure show to make the one character who can do that really cool thing give it up for a full season (though I would've been okay with, say, two or three episodes) because "realism" or "more drama" or...whatever. I don't mind some dark moments, because they are awesome too, but I do not come to this show for grimdark slogging through the depths of despair. (At least not for more than an episode or two at a time.)

And especially with Aang's air-focused bending of the previous show? Doing a full season of "And now, the Avatar does more airbending, just like the last three seasons, but less competently than that one!" is the exact opposite of what I would've found fun. I am happy to let Tenzin get his airbending awesome on, and Lin to be super-awesome metalbender again, and to let Asami do all the really cool non-bending stuff.

There are plenty of really cool shows out there where characters are impressive and competent without elemental control. But those are other shows. I would be unhappy if the really cool stuff of this show got reduced to prove some kind of point.
ViewerB
24. Quaroian
Loved it except for the very last twist with the bending restoration. I was so intrigued by where they were going in the finale. Korra losing her bending but finally making spiritual progress and connecting with Aang as a result of hardship. Next season Korra coming to terms with what it means to be the Avatar if she can only bend one element. Lin goes back to the police and suddenly understands the Equalists a lot better.

Great way expand themes touched upon this season. And then poor it's all better. Korra is just right back to being super awesome. I read that they wrote this one season before knowing they were going to do a second and I think that really hurt it. That ending would have been pretty solid if it had been at the end of season 3 or something -- I could buy that Korra had a super spiritual breakthrough and figured out how to restore everyone's bending and it might have felt earned.

Aang could have still pulled Korra out of her downard spiral, reminding her that she's the Avatar, without actually fixing everything. Korra overcoming her despair and carrying on despite her loss would have been so much more impressive.

Before the reset I was thinking how brilliant the writers were for pulling off a sense of true loss in kids show... without actually killing or physically harming any of our heroes! They even found a way for Korra to plausibly retain enough bending to keep things interesting.

Lastly I was a bit disappointed that the Korra was still essentailly able to punch her way out of the problem with the equalists. The upside however, is that they still have plenty of room for season 2 to show us that just knocking off Amon doesn't actually solve the problem and knocking up a bunch more people with awesome bending won't help any more.
Fade Manley
25. fadeaccompli
Lsana @22: I suspect that if Korra can enter the Avatar state at will, she's going to rapidly discover the drawbacks to it that Aang did: namely, the avatar personally is not hugely in control of priorities and collateral damage once s/he pulls out the big guns. It has always read to me as the sort of thing where, once someone has stepped in, all they can really define is their Goal, and how that goal gets reached may well be...messy.
ViewerB
26. Zephyr Stone
@16. hihosilver28
Gracias, sir. You'll help me see the sport in a new light yet.

Your "equalizer of pro-bending" remark, though, has me anticipating what season 2 may hold. The fact that there's a sport where non-benders are not, and cannot, be allowed to play, combined with the lingering realities of bender gangs and that there was no non-bender on the city council has me waiting in anticipation as to how the characters will address these inequalities in Republic City. Perhaps the only prominent non-bender, Asami, will have some pertinent ideas regarding the matter?
Mordicai Knode
27. mordicai
22. Lsana

Her comments to Mako about how she wasn't the Avatar anymore combined with the fact that she rode off to a cliff suggests to me that she was planning to move on and let the next Avatar be born into the Earth Kingdom.

That is a nice way of putting it, & I agree. Much the way Lo & Li were the former court concubines (though it was never even slightly addressed) I thought it was a nicely telegraphed struggle for the adults watching along; Korra was thinking about...well, short cutting to the next phase of the Avatar cycle.
Fade Manley
28. fadeaccompli
mordicai @27: ...Lo & Li were... woah. I never picked up on that! I thought they were just very old ladies-in-waiting, essentially, who'd been with the royal family for some time. Maybe from the time of Azula's grandmother.
Mordicai Knode
29. mordicai
28. fadeaccompli

I find the A:TLA Annotations argument particularly compelling in that regard; they do seem to hold a very nebulous place in the hierarchy-- babysitting royal teenagers, sitting in open court, addresssing aristocrats in familiar terms-- & they do go out of their way to point out how hot they used to be. Those are totally Grandpa Azulon's girlfriends.
ViewerB
30. Magess
Here's my thing about the finale. All the things that happened were fine things. But I think the writing was actually pretty weak. The whole thing was "And then, and then, and then, and THEN, and then!" It was all crammed together with no time to breathe. And lot of the actions and resolutions that happened could have been so much better if they'd had the first couple of episodes in the new season to really develop in.

Korra cries one emo tear of despair and has "reached the bottom" and gets deus ex machina healed? Maybe. But it doesn't *feel* like the bottom and it doesn't feel like she earned her magical healing. She didn't have to deal with being "not the Avatar" for more than the 10 minutes it took her to ride up the cliff.

I'm not terribly convinced that blood-bending should have been Amon's power. Why can blood-bending take away anyone's bending? Are you popping blood vessels? It would have made a lot more sense to me if he was a freak energy bender, like the Avatar has learned to be. But... can't change that now. I guess blood benders can chi block. I just don't see how it really makes much sense given everything we already knew.
Mordicai Knode
31. mordicai
30. Magess

I dunno, I don't think she "reached the bottom" over the course of just this episode; it has been building from the "A Voice in the Dark." The cocky Korra of the first few episodes is broken down piece by piece...until she finally does hit bottom.
ViewerB
32. franksands
Mordicai, I have to wholeheartedly thank you. I started reading your reviews around the end of the season, from "out of the past" I think, and I have to say that I waited and cherished each review almost as much as I waited each new episode. I felt I was having a real dialogue with you after reading each text. I would love to have a box with the complete season one and all your reviews in one place. Again, thank you.
Mordicai Knode
33. mordicai
32. franksands

That's high praise.

I'm just happy to have a place to talk endlessly about Korra with people who have smart things to say about it!
Ashe Armstrong
34. AsheSaoirse
My biggest complaint about the ending wasn't deus ex so much as I feel like Korra would've still been getting in touch with her spiritual side. But considering the show is only two seasons and 26 episodes long, this big long "life after bending" thing that we were all looking forward to is a bit unfeasible.

Also, Mako and Korra getting together still annoys me just because Mako is so boring. He's sort of like vampire Bill.
Mordicai Knode
35. mordicai
34. AsheSaoirse

I agree about Mako, but I think this is the begining of the Makorra story, is my point. The triangle, the tension, I think those aren't the bulk of the story, those are the set up to the story.
Scott Silver
36. hihosilver28
@35. mordicai
I certainly hope so. I really enjoyed Mako through "The Spirit of Competition" before he started to get on my nerves. So, I definitely have hope that he will regain ground as a character during the second season.

Speaking of which, I'm really glad that they are already in production on Book 2. I just kind of hate that I'm a greedy bastard who wants it all now. :)
ViewerB
37. kvfinnaa
>She didn't have to deal with being "not the Avatar" for more than the 10 minutes it took her to ride up the cliff.

And a minute of screen time. I was dying to know how she'd deal with it. And seeing Lin deal with it too would have been awesome.

Leave and wonder the world a bit as an airbender in disguise, as she no longer considered herself the Avatar? Suck it up and return back to the others and keep going despite the loss? So much potential there.
Scott Silver
38. hihosilver28
@37. kvfinnaa
I wonder what that kind of story would have been like as well. I also wanted her to deal with the loss of her bending in a more complete way. Truthfully, it's one that I think I would have preferred. The "lone samurai wandering the world" kind of story just jives with my sensibilities and love of those types of stories. Which I guess is why I love "Zuko Alone" so damn much. That said, it wasn't the story that Bryan and Mike wanted to tell, and I thought the way that they chose was masterfully done, so I'm not torn up about that. It's more of a "huh, I wonder what it would have been like if..."
Fade Manley
39. fadeaccompli
I am so, so glad that they didn't keep everyone who'd lost their bending depowered. Not least of which because of the "wandering the world in disguise" thing.

I mean...that's what ATLA was! Wandering the world! Often in disguise! I am deeply glad that they're going for something different, and also that I'm not going to have to sit through a half dozen episodes of grim unfun.
M O
40. shydra
Above, brought up a couple of times: So, those seconds on the cliff before Aang showed up: was she contemplating suicide?

When I first watched "Endgame," I think it occurred to me sort of passively, but the moment was gone so quickly that I didn't really register it, and I didn't feel fully satisfied with the lack of emotional weight which Aang said was her hitting her lowest point.

When I read the AVClub's review of it later, though, the reviewer convinced me that all the visual symbolism and tropes were there, and that adult viewers were supposed to implicitly understand by the posture, her rejection of Mako, her denial of her Avatar status, and the glittering tear dropping over the edge that the "lowest point" was indeed contemplating ending her life, and that what called Aang to her was the fact that she did not do so. By pulling away from the cliff, sitting back, and accepting the grief she felt, she nevertheless affirmed that there was something of her, of Korra, of the Avatar, worth saving and living out, even if she did not have her bending. This was the important spiritual step that helped her make contact with her past lives. None of this could be directly given to the viewer because Nick would not have been down with it; it was a way of getting a suicidal title character under the radar of a kid's show. But the symbols are there. Why have that tear go over the edge of the cliff, otherwise? Why have her push away Mako so rudely (even if his timing was just adolescently awful)?

Or so I thought. When I listened to Republic City Dispatch, however, they completely tore apart and mocked that view, as if it was something that a certain small, foolish percentage of viewers read into the show because they were not emotionally satisfied with the ending. None of the three reviewers even remotely allowed the possibility of it being intentionally constructed as anything other than Korra's sadness, which I found a little... odd.

I watched it again, and really, the whole thing goes by so fast that I'm not sure what I think, and how much of it was intended to give that idea. I mean, it could just be read that she really had had all of her identity stripped away and she just went up to the cliff to mourn her loss by herself, and the sense of hopelessness and loss called Aang. And I really *don't* find that to be an emotionally satisfying solution, I guess is the thing. Despair isn't sufficient enough of a spiritual development for me. I need the idea of her grappling with that despair to make the ending fulfilling and rewarding.

I think that is the problem a lot of people have with the end. They feel that Korra's despair is fully rewarded without her conquering that despair. You have to read that end narrative as Korra consciously deciding that she, broken bendingless bits and all, is going to keep on keeping on as the Avatar, in order to feel fulfilled in the rest of the ending.
David Goldfarb
41. David_Goldfarb
Can I just complain about the way the phrase "deus ex anthropos" starts out in Latin and then takes a sudden left turn into Greek? Deus ex homine would be better.
ViewerB
42. realmcovet
What "franksands" says. Even if when I don't comment I feel as though I'm having a great convo about the show with somebody who genuinely cares about the series... You are a plausible voice for the older fanbase generation of this show. All the puns are hilarious, & the mechasami ship had me giggling & clapping. I wish that you could have found a way to incorporate your lj post about General Iroh & the whole "Call Me Maybe" bit here. That was the best, ever. No, wait. Your closing signatures are pretty great too. SHAME ON YOU FOR YOUR LACK OF AMONABOAT PUN RESTRAINT! A good way to lighten the load for such a heavy ass scene. I seriously got something really big in my eye when I saw Amon's tears. No lie.
Dash Cooray
43. dashdidntdoit
Did anyone else feel that the characters in Korra lack the well rounded development and depth that Aang and the gang had?

Maybe Asami could go into a jealous rage and become the new villain in the second season :)
Mordicai Knode
44. mordicai
41. David_Goldfarb

I know, I even ran it past a Classics scholar buddy of mine who was like "no, deus ex machina is a Latin term" & I was like "but...about Greek plays?" & he was like "Romans like doing litcrit on Greek stuff" & I replied "well I think it sounds better & I don't mind butchering everything," & then I added a little disclaimer in the author bio & did what I was going to do, anyhow! Britta for the win!
Mordicai Knode
45. mordicai
40. shydra

I am fully a subscriber to the "suicidal thoughts" school of interpretation. I don't think it is just a matter of depression & defeat-- though that factors in-- but mostly a question of failure &...well, ruin. I think Lsana (22) put it as "...move on and let the next Avatar be born into the Earth Kingdom." That is what is driving it, what is excusing it, what is behind her contemplation; she's thinking that she failed the world & lacks the defining powers of the Avatar & that the world would be better off if the next Avatar had a shot.
ViewerB
46. Chantizeli
I dunnoe, but i was disappointed with how fast and easy Korra got her bending back. The whole purpose was to allow her to get in touch with her spiritual side and then she shreds a tear and Aang just restore her bending? Too easy.Compared to the Aang and the gang, i think didnt went through much characther development.Heck she just had to cry while Aang had through rounds and rounds of self discovery.
I was also hoping for some guidance from the previouse avatar or flashbacks of Zuko, he's the only one without a flashback .
ViewerB
47. J Mccaffery
@40, 45, 46, etcetera

Receiving guidance from the past Avatars is an ironclad trope of the previous series-- right? The notion that the Avatar can do it all herself (or that doing it on her own is in somehow the most worthy way) is like the exact inverse of Avatar thing. plus, I think "suicidal thoughts" is not only a fair interpretation but maybe the best interpretation. What's a better way to signal to the audience that Korra's grown into the spiritual responsibilities of being the Avatar than to establish that she's willing to sacrifice everything to restore balance?

If anything, my dramatic foible -- that the ending came too quickly -- is something I also felt about the last season of The Last Airbender. I felt that the groove the show hit in the early third season was abruptly cut short, although maybe I just dug the Zuko field trips.

Here, I felt it was a little odd to spend the lion's share of an entire episode revealing Amon's past in order to tie his storyline up in a neat, fiery, murder-suicidal bow in the next.
Mordicai Knode
48. mordicai
46. Chantizeli

Here is my core problem with the "compared to Aang & the gang..." complaint: we've got what, a dozen episodes? Compared to...sixty? That isn't a fair comparison. Look at where Aang & the Gang were at 12 episodes in. "The Blue Spirit" hadn't even happened! It is a difference of genre, of medium; this is cinematic, is strict serial, not longform serial with an episodic structure. Apples & pears.

As for Zuko, we get a "flash forward" in the person of General Iroh...but I do want to see me some "Uncle Zuko" like woah.
ViewerB
49. StrongDreams
Here's a random thought...

Amon is a bloodbender, and apparently powerful enough that he doesn't have to wait for a full moon. But that doesn't necessarily mean that he can bloodbend all the time. Maybe he is restricted to certain phases of the moon (more than half-full, for example) or maybe he can bloodbend on a waxing moon but not a waning moon.

Now, at one point he had Korra captured and declined to bend her. Maybe it wasn't a mistake, or the old supervillain trope of letting your enemy live when you could easily get rid of him. Maybe he couldn't bend on that day. So my question, for those who have the episodes DVRed, do we get clues about the phases of the moon in episodes involving Amon? Even the apparently random shot of the night sky as it transitions from one scene to the next might have clues, now that we know what to look for.
Mordicai Knode
50. mordicai
49. StrongDreams

In Yakone's court case there is a line about him bending "every day except the full moon" which I thought was significant but others though was just Yakone avoiding bending that day so no one could say that he was a bloodbender; since it didn't come up when he was training Tarrlok & Noatak, & he said something to the effect of "bending without a full moon" without qualifying it, I think that it probably isn't significant.
ViewerB
51. StrongDreams
So, Amon committed a basic mistake from the Evil Overlord's list for no reason? That's disappointing. I was hoping there was something we missed the first time around that would make sense on re-watching as to why he let Korra keep her bending.
treebee72 _
52. treebee72
It actually would have been a mistake if Amon removed her bending too early. Even with the growing anti-bender feelings, there still might have been a backlash if he eliminated the Avatar, who is much more to the world than just another bender. He needed to wait unit the movement had literally taken over the city & anti any & all benders feelings were pretty much universal.
ViewerB
53. wcarter4
@51 I don't know if it was the classic Overlord list hubris mistake so much as it was a calculated risk.

The Overlord list states avoiding elaborate death traps, throwing them off a cliff where "no one could survive that fall", or letting them come back more powerful when you could have killed them before.

Amon defeated Korra quite easily and was confident (and rightly so it turned out) that he could do it again. Two months story time wasn't enough for her to even begin to airbend, and he knew that he had instilled a crippling fear of him in her.

Moreover her powerbase was eroded with each passing day while his grew. Amon didn't wait to take her bending away because he was genre blind, but because he needed her and Tarlok as symbols of opression for a little while longer.

What makes Amon so dangerous isn't his bloodbending, it's that he understands the power of symbols. People need something to hate--benders--and something to love: Amon (what with his "tragic backstory").

What better way to do that than to take down the former symbol of power incarnate in front of thosands? Of course hindsight is 20/20 and he might have been better off dispatching her the first time but that's what risks are cost benfit games.
Mordicai Knode
54. mordicai
51. StrongDreams
52. treebee72
53. wcarter4

See, I thought Amon's goal was the break the Avatar cycle. I thought it was the wrong time...because she hadn't gone all blue eyed & epic. I figured Amon was waiting for a chance to get rid of the Avatar forever. Then things sort of...happened outside of his control. At some point, when the Avatar is chasing you, you don't want to make the...well, the Evil Overlord mistake of being like "well I'll let you live...for now!"
ViewerB
55. Lsana
@40,

It wasn't just Korra's actions that convinced me she was contemplating suicide, it's also the nature of the setting and what we know about the Avatar.

The Avatar is supposed to be able to bend all four elements. Korra cannot and will never be able to do that, thus she cannot be a functional Avatar. However, as long as she lives, no one else can be the Avatar either. Under those circumstances, it would be strange if she weren't contemplating suicide. Under those circumstances, you could make a good argument that suicide is the right thing to do*. She's saved Republic City, there's no immidiate threat that needs her to deal with it, better to let the next Avatar be born and start training so s/he will be ready as soon as possible.

* I hope I don't need to add that this applies only to the fictional world laid out in Avatar. In the real world, suicide is never the answer and is an extremely selfish act that devestates those left behind.
ViewerB
56. wcarter4
@Mordicai
That could have been part of his motivation, but I'm not so sure .
Do most people in universe even know how the Avatar state works? Not to mention attacking any Avatar while they've gone all Glowy Eyes of Doom is roughly akin to harrassing a fully grown, hungry tiger with a stick. If Yakone told Noatok about his past, he certainly told him this.

On top of that, we don't even know for sure that taking her bending away while she was in the Avatar state would break the cycle (Assuming its even possible).

Killing her in the Avatar state would work, but as Katara showed even that's dependent on their not there's healer with spirit water within the immediate vicinity.
Mordicai Knode
57. mordicai
56. wcarter4

Huh, you make a lot of good points. If Amon was really serious about that, he'd need to get like, an entire army of people who had anti-bending fighting training. A bunch of weapons wouldn't hurt either. Wait a minute! I'm joking! You are right about the "death of the Avatar in the cycle" thing being a secret, but that could have been explained away-- Yakone in a backstory being all "I studied & learned everything I could about the hated Avatar!" or something. Regardless, it didn't happen-- that was just what I thought was going down.
ViewerB
58. Ikkin
Here, I felt it was a little odd to spend the lion's share of an entire
episode revealing Amon's past in order to tie his storyline up in a
neat, fiery, murder-suicidal bow in the next.

I'm not sure Amon's past could be revealed in any other way, for two reasons.

First, Amon's past is his weakness. As soon as Korra learns about his past, the endgame is bound to be initiated, because it's the key to his identity and therefore the key to taking him down.

And, second, Amon's past is necessary to explain how that murder-suicide is connected to Korra. Without showing that Amon and Tarrlok are defined by the roles they created in reaction to their father just as Korra is defined by her role as Avatar, the deaths of the two brothers would just be a particularly heartstring-tugging method of tying up loose ends rather than a counterpoint to Korra's own struggle with her identity.

I can see why it would be preferable to know Amon's past sooner, but I'm not sure there's any way that could have been implemented without weakening the show in other ways.
Mordicai Knode
59. mordicai
58. Ikkin

For me, given the fact that the "Amon a boat" scene was actually as heart-touching as it was is all the evidence I need that things had been handled correctly. All this season I've been playfully critical of people letting their headcanons & 'shipping preferences get in the way of actually enjoying the show-- & I think that applies to Amon's identity, too. People had all kinds of ideas-- heck, I obviously had wrong ideas-- & I think it is hard to let go of those preconceptions, so people fall back on structural criticism.

Or, heck, maybe I'm just kneejerk defending it? I don't know, obviously it is weird to have half of an episode devoted to a flashback with all new characters, stemming from a character...only seen in flashbacks. That said, I think even people who are critical of the finale liked the Tarrlok & Noatak bits, right?
ViewerB
60. Kingtycoon
If the Avatar can give and take people's bending power- then why doesn't she give everyone bending? Old conversation, but it's out there now, it has to asked.

Future series of the world of benders?

And were you, like me, a little disappointed that all the ghost avatars seem like they are people? Gorilla Avatars!
M O
61. shydra
Oooh, a point I think I keep coming back to in the "suicidal thoughts" bit at the end is this:

Which decision on Korra's part exactly calls Aang? What are we supposed to read into the ending?

Because I read it as Korra *rejecting* suicide: going up to the point of the cliff, poise to jump (the tear falls over!), but pulling back and sitting back down. The critical part there is her NOT going through with it. Note: Aang doesn't come and stop her from jumping. Aang comes once it's clear that her intention is no longer to jump.

However, from the thread above I get the idea that many thing the cornerstone of this moment was the suicidal ideation itself, and not the rejection of it; that by being willing to kill herself to restore balance to the world by restarting the Avatar cycle, that she made a fundamental connection with her past lives because of that willingness to sacrifice life for the balance.

I'm not sure I side so much with the second, though it's not out of the question. Bryke have shown pretty clearly in the past that they are not wed to the philosophy that underpins some of the concepts they use in the show; Aang not giving up on worldly connections via the advice of Guru Patik and having his decision reinforced by the words of Iroh, for example.

Plus, it seems like it sort of goes against the show's stated purpose of the Avatar: that the Avatar, as the protector of life, is incarnated as a living, breathing, feeling being in order to learn how valuable and beautiful life is, and to cherish it and protect it with ferocity.

Furthermore, the show is involved in breaking down Korra's identity, but not to the end of some some Monophysitistic "I am the Avatar and that defines my being" but "I am Korra!" You know, fully both at once, one dependent on the other. It's of note that Korra's first action after she gets her bending back is to state the one thing that's most important to KORRA, not the Avatar: "I love you too ."

So I guess what I'm saying is that I think that key moment is more about her coming to the brink of suicide, but recognizing that, for all the pain she is in, there is something of the life of one girl "Korra" worth preserving , even without the gifts that the Avatar state gives, and this is her defining moment.

(I also think that kind of jives with the emotional underpinning of the whole seeason, "If not the Avatar, if not all powerful, if not the best, if not capable, if not able to protect, then who am I?")

She makes a spiritual connection to her Avatar lineage because of that. Had her (willingness to) sacrifice triggered it, per se, I think we would have seen her enter the Avatar state after she jumped -- or at least while standing and ready to do the act.
ViewerB
62. wcarter4
@60 pure speculation here but it could be that the Avatar doesn't "give" people bending because there is something fundamentally different about the non-benders physiologically, genetically or whatever.

In that case taking someone's bending away would be like unpluging a TV. You cant turn it on until you plug it back in. A nonbender would be like a tv without any power cord at all. You can't plug it in. Period.

Or it could just be a plothole.
Mordicai Knode
63. mordicai
60. Kingtycoon
62. wcarter4

The "The Avatar gives everyone bending" solution is one I thought might be possible; that said, I'm not sure it has the best long standing ramifations for the show? I dunno, it has been on my mind as well.
Benji Cat
64. benjicat
Off topic: Is there a reason why the Avatar: The Last Airbender rewatch here on Tor.com did not continue past mid-season two?
Mordicai Knode
65. mordicai
64. benjicat

I don't have an answer for that, alas; that was before my time!
Fade Manley
66. fadeaccompli
mordicai @65: Clearly, you should start it up again. From the beginning, for consistency!
ViewerB
67. Tesh
@43 "Maybe Asami could go into a jealous rage and become the new villain in the second season :)"

I think that's a legitimate story direction, actually. We've seen redemption stories aplenty (my favorite kind, incidentally), but we haven't see one of Team Avatar fall into villainy. I'd hope she finds redemption in the end if they go that way (not like Jet, though), but having "One of Our Own" go sour, as it were, could prove to be interesting.

...I suspect it's unlikely in this case, though. Silly as it may seem, I think it may be more likely they make Asami into that "AsamiBatman" sort of technohero, maybe even complete with some sort of "techbending" either to mimic element bending or complement it in some way. There's plenty to play with there as well.

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