“I’m the Avatar, and you gotta deal with it!” announces a potbelly-sporting-toddler as she successfully bends three elements in front of the flabbergasted members of the White Lotus society.
Eight years after its television debut, the beloved Legend of Korra was finally released on Netflix this month, allowing fans to enjoy all 54 episodes of The Last Airbender sequel. The animated sequel follows Korra, Aang’s successor, and the world’s new Avatar.
In the last episode of The Last Airbender, 12-year-old Aang and his friends remained optimistic about the future, having defeated Ozai and effectively ending the Hundred Year War. 70 years later, it is revealed that the Fire Nation colonies transformed into the United Republic of Nations. Avatar Aang and Firelord Zuko hoped it would become the center of peace and harmony.
As Korra progresses in her Avatar training, she finds herself in Republic City, the capital of the sovereign state created by Aang and Zuko. The hotheaded young Avatar faces her first adversary in this great city.
Unlike The Last Airbender franchise, a new antagonist is presented every season (book), with every ideal based on real-world situations. Amon, the antagonist of season one, incited tensions between benders and non-benders by leading the anti-bending group known as the Equalists. His ultimate goal was to wipe out all benders so that everyone was considered ‘equal’.
Most importantly, viewers are introduced to technology far more advanced than the ones during Aang’s time. While benders rely on their bending, non-benders rely on technology, often hiding behind robotic machinery.
Season three was the darkest of all, displaying the all-powerful Avatar Korra as a helpless adversary against Zaheer, the leader of the Red Lotus. While all antagonists of The Legend of Korra pushed boundaries to the extreme, Zaheer was perhaps the most dangerous. He sought to rid the world of the White Lotus, the four nations, and even the Avatar, claiming that the natural order of the world was chaos and unbalance.
In one gruesome scene, Korra is tortured using metallic poison. This event takes the largest toll on her, both mentally and physically. For the next few years, she continuously envisions her weakest point during her face-off with Zaheer, causing a ‘broken’ version of herself to haunt her. The presence of her ‘twin’ symbolizes ongoing internalized struggle as she continually refuses to accept her traumatizing experience. Though the show never directly addresses PTSD and depression, they drop multiple signs of her deteriorating mental health until she eventually overcomes her demons.
“I needed to understand what true suffering was so I could become more compassionate to other… ” Korra later explained to her mentor.
Season three was so unsuitable for children, Nickelodeon pulled the last two seasons off-air back in 2014, streaming nearly half of the last part strictly online. In doing so, they began targeting teenagers as their main audience.
While fans of the franchise often criticize Korra for being a poor Avatar, it’s important to note that her adversaries were far more powerful than the ones Aang faced in his teenage years. When the chips were down, Korra’s successful character development proved that being the Avatar wasn’t simply about wielding power. In the end, it was her compassion for others and unyielding determination that helped her better the world.
“And like the cycle of the seasons, the cycle of the Avatar began anew.”