This defense of the final episode of LOK has always bothered me and I think I’ve finally figured out why. It’s because the creators knew that that was how many episodes they were going to get going in. It wasn’t that they had planned out a big three season story like ATLA and Nickelodeon came in half-way through production and said sorry the show is only going to get this many episodes and that’s it. And then the creative staff had to scramble to condense everything they wanted to do and the plot ended being rushed because of it. No they knew how many episodes they had, that Nickelodeon wanted a shorter arc format even if the show did get more seasons, and they choose to plot this out this way; and to put emphasis on the aspects and characters that they did.
This frankly leaves me even more disappointed with this show than if they had gotten cheated out of more episodes, because it means this is how they wanted the story to be. This was their vision. They were totally okay with having everybody basically be static despite the idea that this would take on more adult ideas than ATLA did.
Honestly this was a great plan on paper. The original fans of the show would be older and tastes would have changed for them, and the different atmosphere and location could bring in new fans like myself without us getting totally lost in continuity. I mean we started out in such a great place with everybody and everything in this series. We had Korra who looked at being the avatar as purely a physical thing. Being able to bend and overcome any opponent by out bending them was how she dealt with problems. This was a great chance for character growth as she would have to learn to get in touch with her spiritual side. To have to learn patience and to hopefully discover that she herself was a person beyond just being the avatar. That it wasn’t her bending that made her the avatar it was her being herself that was what mattered.
There was a great back drop for this character growth too because she was going up against an enemy who appeared to be a non-bender. Whose threat was not physical but ideological in nature. Simply punching out Amon wouldn’t be enough to defeat him, and he did have legitimate support for his ideas in that benders were seen oppressing non-benders, at least once anyway. So simply bending him away wouldn’t work because people would see it as her oppressing him just like he said, or at least that was how it seemed at the time.
We also had some great and fun side characters that could grow and change too and the stage was set for a real epic adventure…and then it all went to hell.
The first big problem is all the love triangle stuff. With it in place everyone just got dragged through the mud. And it the worst part for me is that this really could have been a great place to tackle those adult themes the creators said they wanted to deal with. Korra has grown up in a sheltered environment and is really learning to deal with a variety of different people for perhaps the first time. She has feelings for Mako and isn’t really sure what to do with them. Then she takes Pema’s, in my opinion terrible advice, and just blurts them all out to him and he rejects her. This was actually okay. Mako said that he doesn’t feel that way about her and Korra was disappointed of course and Bolin took her out to cheer her up and let her have a good time. It was true to life in many ways. Just because you feel something for someone doesn’t mean they will always feel the same way, and that sometimes things just don’t work out and you have to deal with it and move on. This was something that isn’t touched on very much in programs for younger children and falls in line with the idea of treating things in a more adult way by not having the happily ever after ending. Until we get to the last episode and Mako and Korra kiss and say they love each other.
Now again this was the ending we were supposed to have. This was going to be the final curtain call for this relationship. This means the creators were totally okay with showing Mako as a guy who emotionally cheats on his girlfriend, both behind her back and then directly in front of her. Who when confronted about it gets angry at her and blames his brother, and who accuses Korra of being petty and jealous and never apologizes for any of it. And no the whole I’m sorry things got so messed up between us thing is not an apology in my book. That is shifting the blame to Asami or ‘fate’ by saying stuff happened. Not saying that he is responsible for the stuff that happened. That he’s sorry he kissed Korra. Not saying that he’s sorry that he went after her and brushed off their relationship or that he’s sorry he put Asami through all that and that he should have broken up with her if he thought he had feelings for Korra and wanted to pursue them. This is why I also don’t buy the defense of Mako is just a teenager and that excuses his actions, no it does not. Yes teenagers are often self-centred and immature, but we’re not talking about a thirteen year old with his first crush. We’re talking about a guy who lost his parents at a young age and had to take up the ‘responsible caretaker protector’ role for his brother. At eighteen I expect him to be far more aware of how he treats other people and their feelings because he has had to be the mature and responsible one for so long. And even if that’s not the case the point of making stupid mistakes when you’re young is to recognize those mistakes and learn for them. Instead Mako rushes off into his next relationship days after ending the last one with no reflection on his behaviour there. And apparently being with Korra will work better because he ‘loves’ her I guess.
Korra doesn’t get away clean in this whole thing either. She was all ready to go through a great character arc and 12 episodes later we have nothing to show for that great start. Korra learning airbending and using those techniques in pro-bending matches is dropped pretty much after the second episode. At the end with Amon she doesn’t use airbending techniques she just punches and kicks air when Mako is threatened and that’s it. And I hate that this revelation for her came when Mako was threatened. It didn’t come when Amon was taking her bending away or when he was threatening Tenzin and his family, nope romantic love is the be all end all here. Losing her bending didn’t help her struggle and grow so she realizes she has worth as a person beyond her bending either, or even that Mako likes her because she is an awesome person not just the awesome avatar. She is just handed her bending back by Aang no personal growth required, and this was the ending we were going to be left with.
This was also the ending we were going to be left with for the whole equalist conflict too. After setting up that the equalists do have legitimate points. After showing that taking a person’s bending and throwing them in prison oppresses people just like non-benders claim they are being oppressed, and that the equalist movement is being hypocritical Korra defeats Amon with bending and that’s the end of that. Airbending Amon out a window and showing him to be a waterbender, and I hate his backstory on that, was apparently all that was needed to make the equalist movement collapse. What a let down.
That’s what LOK has been so far for me: a let down. Instead of building up the Korra versus the equalists conflict we had to spend time with a love triangle that made everybody, except Asami, look like awful people, and not even explore the adult ideas that can be talked about in relationships like that. Instead of having Korra grow, even in the final episodes she is still complaining that she hates being patient, we just hand her airbending, the rest of her bending, and the jerkbender boyfriend all in go. Instead of letting Mako realize that yes he was a rotten boyfriend he just drops Asami with barely a goodbye and hooks up with Korra and the audience is expected to cheer. Well I’m not cheering. When you claim that you wanted a more adult themed show and yet ATLA had better themes, and more character growth, and with characters at a younger age no less something has gone very wrong.
All of this! I also feel like talking about the part I bolded since this is a rant I wanted to make since foreva
except then she doesn’t take away his bending. Because when Aang did that with Yakone, that didn’t go too well. (and this would leave open for some good development for Amon if they were to get more seasons)
And then in the midst of fighting they end of outside where everyone can see and thus Amon’s true identity is exposed (and also a “whoa cool Avatar state we have the real Avatar no more half baked Avatar in training” response) and Amon can prove Tarrlok’s statement about Amon believing bending is the source of evil RIGHT (Tarrlok says that and we’re supposed to just accept it wha. The finale honestly created more questions and answered none :/) by going into the shame cube.
BAM THERE Korra discredits Amon’s legitimacy as a leader for the nonbenders, but doesn’t step on the Equalist movement itself. And also with nonviolent results ur a big girl now Korra.