Avatar: The Legend of Korra, Book 4: Change may be the last animated entry into one of the best television shows of the past decade. In honor of this milestone, Channel Surfer is providing a retrospective on each Avatar season, from starting the original series to the latest. This is meant to be an overview for Avatar veterans, and hopefully an introduction for anyone interested in the show. This week we start the sequel series with The Legend of Korra, Book 1: Air.
Original Run: 2012
No. of Episodes: 12
Premise: Avatar takes place in a world where humans can bend the fire, water, earth, and air. Set 70 years after the events of The Last Air Bender, and 17 years after the death of Avatar Aang, the new series follows his successor, Korra. With the world changing rapidly in terms of technology and outlook, it’s up to the new Avatar bring a new balance to the world.
Book 1: Air
The series opens with the discovery of the latest Avatar incarnation, a tough and brash young woman from the Southern Water Tribe named Korra. Trained in all the elements expect for Air, Korra moves to Republic City to study under Avatar Aang’s son, Tenzin. However, she discovers a growing discontent against element benders, lead by the mysterious demagogue Amon. Korra must also contend with the ambitious city councilman Tarrlok. Making new friends and facing new enemies, Korra takes it upon herself to bring the so called “Equalists” down.
Watching the Show
The first season of Legend of Korra is more of a prologue than an actual freshman entry to the series. This season was originally supposed to be a miniseries, which is why it’s called “Air,” it bookends the previous Water, Earth, and Fire chapters of The Last Airbender. In fact, you could probably argue that this serves as an epilogue to the original series as well. The pilot is choke full of references and allusion to the original series: we get to meet Aang’s son, his airbending grandchildren, and Toph’s daughter. Later on in the season, we’re even introduced to Zuko’s grandson (named “General Iroh,” which admittedly made me squeal like a school girl).
The plot itself is pretty tight and insular, taking place almost entirely within Republic City. Unlike her predecessor, Korra is much more aggressive and arrogant, so she makes it a priority to fight the Equalists. This attitude backfires on her, a lot of times actually, which is what makes the Legend of Korra a very different animal than The Last Airbender. Apart from being set in the equivalent of the 1910s-1920s, the new Avatar doesn’t think before she leaps. The only real gripe I have is with the Pro Bending scenes, but whatever. With everything so new, but with a strong foundation, Book1: Air is arguably the perfect season for veteran Avatar fans and those wishing to get on board.
Welcome to Republic City
This episode gets a lot of props because it managed to build an entire new world and status quo in the span of one story. This is the episode that introduces the new Avatar, Republic City, the turn of the century setting, and the antagonist. We’re immediately caught up on what’s different, what’s the same, and how time progressed. There is that one line where Katara says all her friends are dead, which is proven false in subsequent seasons, but hey, she’s 80 and a war hero, so I’ll give her some slack. If you’re only going to watch one episode of Legend of Korra, make it this one.
Turning the Tides
Think Empires Strikes Back. Oh! Did I spoil it? No, wait, no one loses their forearm in this one. This is the episode where the Equalists make their move and take over Republic City. The good guys are on the retreat, literally in some cases. But most importantly, this is the episode the gives Police Chief Lin Beifong her defining moment (you know the one I’m talking about).
I tend to include the Avatar finales in the Beset Episodes list because it has really good last episodes. Up till the very last moment, you never quite know how it’s going to turn out. Will the good guys win or lose, and was it even worth it? This episode also has one of the darkest moments in Avatar to date (rivaling even LOK Book 3).