Joey Sack ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The Legend of Korra finished stronger than you can imagine in this week’s series finale, “Day of the Colossus” and “The Last Stand,” which will likely be the final two episodes of the Avatar franchise to be aired on TV. The army of the Earth Empire, complete with their giant mecha-Colossus, stomps around Republic City as Team Avatar, the Beifong family, the Air Nation, and a couple of unexpected allies work to take the Great Uniter down once and for all. Great action, touching character moments, and great music abound in this finale, and features an ending that is both unexpected and unbelievably fitting for this series. Full spoilers ahead. So, if you haven’t seen the series finale, what are you doing here? You want the short version of this review? The finale’s great. Go watch it. Scroll to the bottom for the grade, watch the episode, then come back. Avatar fans around the world have become master tearbenders; read on to find out why.
Day of the Colossus:
The first part of the finale, “Day of the Colossus,” is, for the first half, mostly set-up for the rest of the finale. After the devastating attack on the warehouse they were all in, Korra (Janet Varney) and the rest of Team Avatar escape the wreckage with Baatar Jr. (Todd Haberkorn) being the only one to sustain injuries. They plan to try and take down Kuvira’s (Zelda Williams) spirit-cannon-armed mecha giant while Asami (Seychelle Gabriel), Varrick (John Michael Higgins) and Zhu Li (Stephanie Sheh) work on getting some of the hummingbird mecha suit prototypes flying to provide some more air support. From there, Korra, members of the Air Nation, along with some of the Beifong family and Bolin (P.J. Byrne) try to either take the mecha giant down or at least slow it down. When that doesn’t work, they retreat to Asami’s office to regroup and try to come up with a new plan of attack.
While Team Avatar is on the front lines against the armies of the Earth Empire, Prince Wu (Sunil Malhotra) and Pema (Maria Bamford) try to keep the remaining citizens of Republic City safe while they work to get them out of the city to avoid capture. In yet another display of how much he’s changed this season, Wu actually comes up with a very good plan to escape right under the Earth Empire’s nose; by using badgermoles (the original earthbenders, for those of you who don’t know), they can tunnel their way from the train station and out of Republic City. Not only is this scene funny, since Wu uses his less-than-stellar singing abilities to control the badgermoles, but it also shows how well Wu thinks on his toes and how much he has come to care about others; he could have, with incredible ease, left the people at the train station to fend for themselves, but he came back to save them and he protected them from being captured as well.
Varrick and Zhu Li’s story arc finally comes to a bit of a close this episode; realizing that they may not make it out of this situation alive, Varrick proposes to his former assistant, asking if she would “do the thing for the rest of [their] lives,” a proposal that she readily accepts. It’s great to see these two finally acknowledge the connection they share and to take the next step to spend the rest of their lives together, especially since they may not survive Kuvira’s attack on the city.
The biggest shock from this episode is the sacrifice made at the end (again, spoiler alert); to have as many geniuses working to stop Kuvira as possible, Lin Beifong (Mindy Sterling) breaks Hiroshi Sato (Daniel Dae Kim) out of jail, and he and Asami work to modify the hummingbird mecha suits to have plasma saws to cut into the platinum skin of the mecha giant, which will allow Team Avatar to sneak in and take down Kuvira’s superweapon from the inside. While cutting into the leg of the mecha giant, Hiroshi ejects Asami from the hummingbird suit just before Kuvira crushes him; his sacrifice, however, was not in vain, as he was able to cut a hole into the mecha giant to allow Korra, Mako (David Faustino), Bolin, Lin, and Suyin (Anne Heche) to get in and set up the next part of the finale, “The Last Stand.”
“Day of the Colossus” may be more set up than anything else, but there is still great action and great character moments that go into Korra’s penultimate episode. You are fearful for our heroes because you know that, at any moment, someone that we care about could die by spirit ray or by giant robot hand. “Day of the Colossus” is a solid beginning to a solid finale.
Overall Episode Grade: A-
The Last Stand:
There’s a particularly big part of this episode that everyone is going to be talking about, but we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s talk about the other important stuff. And, again, if you haven’t watched the finale yet, we cannot stress this enough: SPOILER ALERT!
In a first half that is somewhat reminiscent to the Avatar episode “The Drill,” Korra and her friends have made it inside Kuvira’s mecha giant and plan to split up to take down key structures within it to render the Earth Empire’s superweapon useless. Su and Lin head to the spirit cannon itself to take it down, Mako and Bolin head to the engine room to shut down power to the suit in general, and Korra heads straight to the head of the giant to take on the Great Uniter herself. What’s great about Korra’s rematch with Kuvira is that it’s not a case of “I got rid of the poison and my past traumas so I’m automatically better than you now;” Kuvira still isn’t a pushover, and in this fight, these two women are much more evenly matched. And what’s immediately clear is that Korra wasn’t at 100 percent until she was able to move past her traumas, and even at 100 percent, she still has to focus to stand a chance against Kuvira.
Mako and Bolin’s part in this episode is exciting and shows how much Mako is willing to do to save his loved ones and his city; when pulling an emergency shutdown lever doesn’t cut the power to the mecha giant, Mako gets the idea to zap the spirit vine power source with lightning to cause them to explode, even if it means sacrificing his life (spoiler alert, it doesn’t. He survives). But this is one of the problems with the finale: no one in the main cast of characters dies. They build up this giant spirit cannon as being powerful enough to blast a hole through a mountain, but then nobody dies as a result of its blast, at least not onscreen. It takes away from the tension that should be there when you’re dealing with the Avatar World’s equivalent to nuclear weapons.
But Mako’s contribution does lead to the final confrontation between Korra and Kuvira; using the detached spirit cannon, Kuvira attempts to kill the Avatar once and for all, but ends up agitating all of the spirit vines in Republic City’s Spirit Wilds. Korra, using her newly-discovered ability to bend spirit energy (which she learned that she had from Raava a few episodes ago), blocks and redirects the spirit energy away from herself and Kuvira; the resulting explosion rips open a new portal into the Spirit World and blasts the Avatar and Great Uniter into it. Once there, Korra and Kuvira have a bit of a heart to heart that explains once and for all why Kuvira took things as far as she did with the Earth Empire; she didn’t want her people to feel vulnerable like she did when her parents abandoned her when she was little. On the one hand, this is a bit of an underwhelming conclusion to a very interesting villain, but on the other hand, it’s also very fitting; not all villains need a large, epic backstory to justify what they do; sometimes, just wanting to help others because of past traumas is enough. It shows the audience that only a few things have to go wrong for someone to set them on a certain path for the rest of their lives. And Kuvira’s stance is perfectly understandable; she has had to work to ensure that she isn’t vulnerable or seen as vulnerable by anybody, and she wants her people to have that kind of peace of mind. But she realizes that what she has done is too much, and resigns herself to whatever punishment that the world leaders see fit for her.
And so many of aspects of the the series wrap up on Air Temple Island, where Varrick and Zhu Li finally get married and where Wu announces his plans to abolish the Earth Monarchy and allow the various Earth Kingdom states to be independent and have elected officials, like the United Republic. It shows how the world of Avatar has changed in only a few years, and how it’s only going to keep changing as the seasons do. Even Tenzin (J.K. Simmons) acknowledges how much the world has changed by saying that Korra has “transformed the world more in a few years than most Avatars did during their lifetimes.” Korra has been the Avatar in a time of great social, political, and spiritual change in the world, and the fact that Korra has been able to see a lot of these changes through is indicative of how much she’s grown as a person and as an Avatar. Korra is also finally able to understand why she had to go through so much trauma after she was poisoned: for 17 years, she was sheltered in the Southern Water Tribe, never knowing what true suffering felt like; in order to work with mankind, the Avatar must be able to relate to the people he or she is tasked with protecting. By going through great suffering, she can finally understand what it means to be the Avatar. The series finally wraps up with Korra and Asami deciding to go on a vacation through the new spirit portal to visit the Spirit World.
Oh yeah, we should probably talk about the one thing that everybody is going to take from this finale, so, for the last time, spoiler alert: KORRASAMI IS CANON! Probably. They made it ambiguous enough so that fans and critics alike can debate it from now until then end of time (or if and when someone from the show confirms it one way or the other). But if you really look at it, it’s very clear: they hold hands when the go through the portal, they turn to face each other, and they gaze right into each other’s eyes as the cross over into the Spirit World. Very few friends would gaze at each other in that way; Korra and Asami have romantic feelings for each other, thus verifying the previous statement: KORRASAMI IS CANON. This is big, not just for a Nickelodeon show, but for children’s programming in general; we are seeing cartoons starting to embrace the idea that love can be between anyone, whether it be a man and a woman, two men, or two women, and that that love is just as beautiful regardless of the gender of those involved. Of course, they didn’t go all out and have Korra and Asami kiss at the very end, but the way that they imply it makes it very clear that they have a connection that goes beyond just being friends; it may be a sisterly bond (if you ask a 5-year-old), or it could be the beginning of something new for Korra and Asami and perhaps children’s animation in general.
And, in a lot of ways, that’s what The Legend of Korra’s finale feels like; the end of one journey with another one just about to begin; with the finale to Avatar, it felt like pretty much everything was wrapped up in a neat bow, but with Korra’s finale, they wrapped most things up, while also leaving things open to the possibility of new stories. If it shows anything, it shows that each Avatar’s life is a journey with great peaks and valleys, with great successes and failures alike. Avatar and Korra may be done on TV, but with news of another Avatar graphic novel trilogy expected to be released next year, it’s pretty clear that this franchise will continue its story for many years to come.
“The Last Stand” is a great finale The Legend of Korra. Great action (without too much reliance on the Avatar State), great character moments (even though some characters appear adept at cheating death in this finale), and some of the best animation and music that the series has ever seen. It’s definitely a series finale that people will be talking about for a long, long time.
Overall Episode Grade: A-/A
Final thoughts on Book Four: Balance of The Legend of Korra, and some quick thoughts about The Legend of Korra in general:
This season of The Legend of Korra is great; we’re just getting that out of the way at the beginning of this. “Book Four: Balance” of Korra is great; a great season of television (even though it was released online), and a great sendoff for this wonderful series. But that doesn’t mean that it’s completely devoid of problems. The animation, while absolutely beautiful 99 percent of the time, had a few missteps; there were a few quirks in the animation that distracted a little bit from the story and could’ve used a retake or correction of some sort. The voice acting was pretty good throughout, mostly from the main cast; some of the best performances by these characters come from this season. With that said, though, some of the supporting characters’ voice acting left a little bit to be desired, particularly Opal and Suyin’s voice actors.
The characters in this season were great, though some of their arcs were a bit streamlined in order to get them all set for the big finale; Mako, in particular, was pretty much sidelined throughout most of this season, and only had a big moment when he almost sacrificed his life to stop Kuvira’s superweapon. In addition, it seems that the only reason that Hiroshi Sato was brought back was so he could die a hero’s death in the finale. Then again, it makes sense for Asami to try and reconcile with her father at this point in her life; she’s 22 years old, and she’s been the CEO of the company that Hiroshi created for three-and-a-half years. Those circumstances are bound to make anyone think of the only living relative that they have left.
But enough about where this season stumbled a bit; how about where this season was amazing? To list a few things, here they are: Korra’s story of recovery and self-discovery, the inclusion of Toph Beifong, Kuvira and the Earth Empire, the spirit vines, the music, and, most importantly, the way the season and the series ends. You feel like cursing Nickelodeon for rushing the creative team, for slashing their budget right out of nowhere, for creating so little merchandise that fans make their own, for moving the show online, only to put it back on TV on its sister network, Nicktoons. But at the same time, you want to thank Nickelodeon for giving this show the freedom it needed to create one of the most mature and engrossing animated shows since Avatar, the series that started us all on this journey almost 10 years ago. But most of all, you want to thank the co-creators, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, as well as the creative team behind Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra for creating two timeless TV shows. Avatar and Korra are two unique shows with engaging characters, an amazing mythology, superb animation, emotionally charged music, and relatable themes that resonate with children and adults alike. For these reasons, above all, the Avatar franchise will continue to be enjoyed by fans around the world for generations to come.
Book Four: Balance Overall Grade: A/A+
The Legend of Korra Overall Grade: A-