By: Joshua Hamilton (story)
The Story: Once someone invades your metal utopia, you can never feel safe there again.
The Review: By now, I’m sure most of you have heard about Nickelodeon’s plan to shift the remainder of Korra‘s episodes (after this one) to strictly online streaming. It’s a move that stops just short of canning the show outright. AV Club’s Oliver Sava has a sophisticated theory about the why and wherefore that has much to do with leaks, promotion, imprudent business decisions, all of which sounds very reasonable and I’m sure he has the right of it.
Personally, though, I think he doesn’t emphasize what I see as a critical factor for this ill treatment, which is that for most of its lifetime, Korra just wasn’t that great a show. Even if it didn’t have to compete with the glory days of Last Airbender (the ratings of which only grew with each season), Korra often failed to find compelling storylines or characters, or even a consistent direction. The tepid first season destroyed much of the confidence the show gleaned from its predecessor, and the second season reached a gruesome low of quality from which Korra never really recovered.
Even now, with the show resurging on a streak of rock-solid episodes, you can’t really say it’s a must-watch series. You enjoy your time with it, but you wouldn’t miss it if it wasn’t around. I certainly didn’t! The absolute biggest reason is because the characters themselves, with one or two exceptions, have no hold on your heart. Korra is the most likable she’s ever been, but you don’t genuinely care about her—and she’s the star! Her supporting players are by and large similarly bland: Mako, Asami, Lin, etc.
In fact, the only characters you might have taken to heart at this point is Bolin and Tenzin’s family, probably because these are the characters who have the most heart themselves. There’s a sweetness to them that’s definitely lacking in the others, and which recalls the innocent warmth of Last Airbender. Bolin’s the perfect example. He may be a little dim and immature by turns, but that gives him a childlike quality that, combined with his easy affection and happy-go-lucky personality, makes him as lovable as one of the original Team Avatar members. Plus, his jokes have really improved as of late. He pretty much kills it with his weak-sauce attempt to explain to Aiwei why they broke into his quarters:
“We actually knocked on your front door, and we thought we heard you say, ‘Come in! I’m in the bathroom!‘ [a most pregnant pause] I don’t even know why I’m saying that. You know I’m lying. And you don’t even sound like that.”
The lack of childlike wonder from the largely adult cast is a major problem, but a close second is a persistently weak plot. Zaheer’s vendetta for the avatar remains as flat and vague as ever, even as his scheming grows more sophisticated, and frankly, his goals just seem narrow after the world-shaking conspiracies of the second season. Unless the writers pull out a truly novel reason why he wants to go after Korra so bad, you’ll be hard-pressed to respect the man.
On the plus side, Zaheer and his buddies, with all their unique bending capabilities, guarantee some magnificent bending sequences, which by themselves make the episodes worth watching. The characters’ movements have a flow like river rapids; sharp and agile individually, but pulsing smoothly in the aggregate. The choreography is also superb, involving nearly a dozen characters and all four elements, bending in ways that no live-action film or series could possibly mimic.
Conclusion: It’s unfortunate that the show is very quickly coming to a rather degrading end after turning itself around, but it can’t be said the news will inspire much outcry.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Anyone notice that Asami does absolutely nothing during the whole Zaofu battle except look pretty in her nightgown? Have the writers completely accepted her as purely eye candy?