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There are spoilers for Avatar and Legend of Korra in this review. Duh.

Oh boy. So as I discussed in the season one review, they originally intended to only do one, and then they were renewed and had to figure out what they wanted to do next. Right away I was psyched that Legend of Korra went with different titles for their books, a clear indication that they were trying some new things. And trying new things leads to iffy storylines, but I always encourage risk taking with writing. They took major risks in this season. Previously on Legend of Korra, we’re introduced to the new Avatar. She’s always been good at the physical side of things, but she struggled with airbending and with the spiritual side of her position. Korra’s a hot tempered character, and part of that I think is due to how sheltered she was. It doesn’t seem like she got told no very often. She met new friends, probending teammates and brothers Bolin and Mako, and Asami Sato, the non-bender daughter of a wealthy tech genius. Asami and Mako started dating, and Korra had a crush on Mako, which caused conflict that ended with Mako and Korra getting together. They fought against a rebel named Amon who claimed that non-benders were treated like lesser beings and bullied by the benders, which wasn’t altogether wrong and unfortunately never got all the credit it deserved. However he was just a bender himself who wanted revenge for his father, and he had the ability to energy bend and remove other people’s bending. In the end of the season he took away Korra’s bending, and she was only able to use air. Because they decided to hurry the ending, she achieved Avatar state and got all her powers back. Just because. There were a lot of other things, so I’m assuming you know about the rest. If you don’t, go watch the show!

Season two was a little shaky, although by the end it did turn into an epic story. In the first half, Korra’s now comfortable with air bending. It’s been six months since season one, and Mako’s now a policeman under Lin, and Bolin’s struggling with being a pro-bender without his team. Asami’s inherited her father’s company now that he’s in jail for working with Amon, but she’s having trouble saving her business with the black mark attached to it. Korra starts rebelling under the strict and almost suffocating behavior of Tenzin and her parents. Like any teenager, she’s starting to feel like she should be trusted more, and she’s frustrated by their protectiveness. She’s drawn to her uncle Unalaq, who treats her with respect, but he’s so obviously a bad guy that it’s irritating she didn’t see this one coming. Yes, yes, as the audience we’re more aware of genre clues, but that guy just oozed evil. He does have a unique connection with the spirits, and since dark spirits started attacking everyone, Korra needed to learn how to soothe them. Spirits are obviously the main focus of this season, and we delve into the spirit realm more directly. Korra quickly realized that her uncle wanted unification of the Southern tribes but only through conquering. Yikes. I think it’s important to note that she learned a lesson about trusting her real friends and family, but also that eventually Tenzin and the others recognize she’s growing up. She’s not a half-baked Avatar anymore. We will get into why they were so overprotective in the next season, so spoilers. As usual it’s extra fascinating to watch this show as a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, since the Northern and Southern water tribes were wrecked there.

the-legend-of-korra-season-2-final-watch-onlineKorra and Mako break up in a spectacularly violent fashion, with her confronting him in his office. I rather like that they had these two not work out. By the end of the season they have a more mature break up, but it’s clear that where they are now is not compatible. I was always worried they’d go back to the relationship, when I felt their break up and awkward attempts to just be friends were very interesting and out of the norm. There was a particular bunch of ugliness where he and Asami briefly got back together, which was a bad idea on both of their parts, and he let Korra think they were still together when she had amnesia. Which no. There’s also a creepy storyline with Bolin being in a relationship with Korra’s cousin Eska, but she basically controls him and threatens him with violence a lot. I really hate the trope where it’s funny if it’s done to a man; no it is not funny. He also got weirdly Nice Guy-ish when he became famous as a movie star and wanted his costar to love him. It’s like they’re having trouble figuring out what to do with Bolin, and he always feels out of place for me in the show. Plus Sokka was a lot funnier in my opinion, so he feels like a poor man’s Sokka, at least by this point.

This season introed Varrick, one of my favorite and most ambiguous characters in the series. He’s a savvy businessman who is also something of a villain in this season. He’s a war profiter, and honestly he reminds me of Tony Stark in the beginning of Iron Man. I feel like this isn’t an accident. He’s charming, bizarre, fast talking, brilliant, and doesn’t seem to have a moral code to speak of. He stole Asami’s company from her and intentionally was war mongering, but he still made me laugh every time he was on the screen. We also got to meet Katara and Aang’s other children, Bumi and Kya, who both had issues with their father and with Tenzin. It was really interesting to get this glimpse into Aang’s family, and that even our sweet little airbender could make fairly large mistakes. His favoritism toward the son who could air bend isn’t that surprising! Then we have the major new characters, Wan, Vaatu, and Raava. Wan is the original Avatar, and their exploration of his journey is done in a completely different artistic style. Raava is the embodiment of light, and Vaatu is the embodiment of the dark. The story explains how the roguish Wan became a hero and was gifted with the power of all the elements, and his particular relationship with the spirit realm. I was alone in the fandom by not being super into those episode. It’s okay, I just felt it introduced more questions than answers. That’s not always a bad thing, but I feel like it’d be pretty easy to poke holes in the story here, and wonder at logic leaps. But it was grand and it was creative, so props to them for that.

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Jinora also takes center stage toward the end as someone who is capable of connecting deeply with the spiritual world. She is like her grandfather Aang that way. I like that Tenzin has moments of jealousy for that, since he isn’t capable the way she is. This is a character arc that remained through the end of the series for Jinora, and it’s a great one. I loved seeing the spirit world and all that entailed. It’s very creative. In the end, Korra gets her ass soundly beaten first, and it always goes that way, doesn’t it? The hero has to be beaten down so they can rise up, because we all love underdog stories. She’s not an underdog since she has all this power, but if she loses first, then she is. Vaatu takes over and he bonds with Unalaq, preparing to turn all the spirits and realm dark. He also destroys Korra’s connection to her past lives, which was very shocking. She believed Raava was dead, but she was simply weak and hidden, because one could not live without the other. Korra has a fight with Vaatu as a giant version of herself, and they have an epic battle over Republic City. After defeating him, Korra decides to leave the spirit portals open and to take the changes that might mean. Wan originally closed them, and he did it for a good reason, to protect the world from Vaatu. But Korra decided that creating balance in the world also could mean balance between everyone and the spirits.

I thought this was a daring decision on the part of the writers. I criticized them in season one for not allowing real consequences to season one. Korra just got her powers back, no big deal, and it didn’t seem to have much lasting damage on her this season. In this one, there is a permanent change to the Avatar world in total, with the spirit portals opened and new options coming in. This was true balance, or the start of it, and it opened exciting new doors we got to explore in season three. While I wasn’t ultimately that impressed with the character relationships and arcs, the general plot was ambitious and interesting. I didn’t have to like the Wan story to appreciate what they were trying to do. I think it was daring of them to serialize the show, allowing a major storyline to have implications for the future again. And that Korra and Mako ended their relationship on a mature note, which isn’t normal in teen shows. Legend of Korra is consistently more of a teen (or young adult) show than one for kids, and I appreciate that edge of darkness. The violence in the animation is rough at times, but always beautiful to watch.  I ended season three being excited to see what was coming ahead, but I wasn’t certain how they were going to outdo Giant Avatar Korra vs. Giant Vaatu.

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