"Legend of Korra" is Getting Ridiculous

Avatar Korra standing in a tornado of water and fire.

Image: Korra looking super awesome. 

I wanted so badly for Legend of Korra to be good. The animated Nickelodeon series follows the adventures of Korra, a magical “Avatar” who has the power to "bend" all elements—earth, water, air, and fire—as well as connect to the spirit world. Legend of Korra is a spinoff of the wildly successful show Avatar: The Last Airbender, which took a few episodes to hit its stride but wound up being an incredibly rich and complex show about young people fighting a war (then came the awful movie, which is a whole other story). I’ve been holding out hope for Korra despite warning signs that the show would revolve entirely around Korra’s love life, but the show keeps getting more and more ridiculous.

Korra is a smart, independent woman of color who loves her magical skills and has been tasked with keeping peace when her world is on the edge of civil war. This is a position of enormous power. She has to make life-and-death calls on how to handle crises and when to use military force versus negotiation. She’s also on her own personal journey—she has to learn the less forceful technique of airbending and how to connect to the spirit world in order to complete her training as the Avatar.

But the show derails itself by filling each episode with pointless, melodramatic romantic plotlines. Avatar: The Last Air Bender was great because it was incredibly thoughtful for a childrens show and gave the avatar Aang a lot of big issues to work through. There were love stories, but they evolved over time and didn’t take up all of the screen time. With Legend of Korra, it feels like the writers decided that now that there’s a girl at the center of the story, the show has to turn a high school gossip session over who-kissed-whom. Instead of spending time on character development, Legend of Korra mires its characters in absurd, round-and-round fights over who gets to date one another.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m down with a good love story. I’ll admit that sometimes love stories are the only reason I continue to watch a TV show (case in point: I watched all five seasons of Angel solely for Buffy cameos). But the love plotlines in Legend of Korra are over the top, detract from the actual plot, and make Korra’s political and world-saving skills seem less important than her powers of seduction. 

[Spoiler alert!] 

In its first season last year, Legend of Korra established a pretty annoying love rectangle between Korra, the non-bending character Asami, and brothers Mako and Bolin. Bolin likes Korra, Korra likes Mako, and Mako likes both Asami and Korra. The season one plot can be summed up in one sentence: Mako dates Asami, is kind of a terrible person, and ends up with Korra (the audience is supposed to forget that both Korra and Asami are way too cool for any of this ridiculousness and should go run away and have their own adventures!). Meanwhile, the potential for talking about the conflict between benders and non-benders is underexplored.

Season two starts six months later, seemingly right at the end of Korra and Mako’s honeymoon phase. They spend every scene fighting with each other. That’ll be fun to watch! (It’s not fun to watch.) Eventually, one of their fights ends up in Korra breaking Mako’s desk, and Mako breaking up with Korra. What could possibly happen next? You guessed it—Asami kisses Mako! Why are they bringing this love triangle back? It was not fun to watch the first time, and I don’t think the audience wants to watch it a second time. 

Korra and Mako from Avatar Legend of Korra Argue

Image: Korra and Mako argue. For a change. Ugh. 

Then there is Bolin. Bolin does not have luck with the ladies, but the joke that he does not have luck with the ladies is getting really old. First he had a crush on Korra, who chose his brother over him. Then he started dating the character Eska, who is verbally abusive and manipulative (yet it’s supposed to be funny). Now he is crushing on his film co-star Ginger. He keeps on hitting on her, not understanding that Ginger is only into him on screen and not in real life. What? Even socially clueless Bolin should understand that. The writers could be focusing on so many more things than this pointless story. It shows that they have no idea what to do with Bolin so they’ll give him another plotline about unrequited crushes rather than evolve his character past a sidekick who provides comic relief.

Bolin from Avatar Legend of Korra is confused about how Ginger feels about him.

Image: Bolin doesn't understand what acting is. 

While the show is focusing on these pretty annoying love stories, they’re missing out on so many more fun plotlines. This season, the audience has barely seen the awesome characters Tenzin, General Iroh, or Chief Beifong. Korra isn’t getting any better at airbending or connecting with the spirit world. They haven’t had any pro-bending (pretty much the best part of the first season). They’re barely focusing on the civil war between the Northern and Southern water tribes. Korra herself was only even in the latest episode for the last twenty seconds.

I think Korra has a lot of potential. She’s not a perfect “Mary Sue” character: She’s stubborn, doesn’t always listen to others, and likes to solve problems by force. She has a lot of trouble connecting to the spirit world, makes mistakes, and often ends up apologizing to people. But the show’s focus on romance is not giving her enough time to work through her issues. Instead, she is only ever working on dating. It seems like the writers feel that a show’s audience—even for a children’s show—can only relate to a woman through her love story. And that’s just not true. So let’s please have Korra and Asami ditch Mako, develop as people, and save the world together. Thank you. 


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Comments

21 comments have been made. Post a comment.

UGH.. totally agree

I keep watching HOPING that more about the spirit world will be revealed, that Bolin will begin to grow as Sokka did and show that he has strengths OTHER than comic relief, and I REALLY want to see Asami and Korra kick butt together. Honestly Mako should be sidelined I really don't see him adding much to the show. The original matches were sweet in the first series, these are just toxic!

I hurts my avatar's pride.

I hurts my avatar's pride. but I think you're right :-(

I hate last episode, it was full of melodramatical issues. And hate how Bolin saw the actress, and how he kissed her, we can't see a woman defending her rights.

And also Eska represents the "bad woman" figure.

Korra gets better

Korra gets better soon!

Believe me, I understand how frustrating Korra and the love triangles/stories have been, since they've been at the forefront of the show off and on. I have been annoyed at times at how these relationships have panned out -- obviously, Asami and Mako had a smooth and very pleasant, natural relationship, whereas the Makorra ship was forged out of mismatched parts and smooshed together by sheer Korra-teen-drama.

But I think overall, these relationship issues have been very important to the storyline and character development for each of them. Mako has finally said "enough" with the Korra Drama Train, and is off doing some awesome stuff with his job. Korra is not sidetracked by a relationship that didn't seem to be what she really wanted or could handle at the time. Bolin, well, he's pretty silly as it is, and he's just starting to soak in the perks of the fame and it's going to his head. Asami? She's probably the weirdest but not least important of the gang, since her connections to "Team Avatar" and the story overall are pretty twisted up at this point.

I think it's pretty inaccurate to pinpoint the relationship drama on the fact that she's a girl -- it seems like the Avatar story has progressed to account for the time within the Avatar world but also to keep its original audiences on board. That is to say, the show is geared perhaps for a little older audience, such as teens who are in the throes of such drama. Also, the themes and problems it tackles are more complex than ATLA often chose to bring them up. It was quite something how quickly ATLA resolved conflicts -- the only storyline that seemed to take a significant amount of time to resolve was Zuko's.

It just seems to me like you might've missed the last few episodes (at the very least, "The Sting")... A lot of these issues are starting to get the attention we all have been waiting for. While I ultimately agree that the relationship drama has gotten a bit old, I think it's served its purpose and things are really about to crank up once Korra comes back out of the spirit world, or whatever she's exactly in.

(Everything in this comment

(Everything in this comment is going to be a spoiler if you haven't seen The Legend of Korra or Avatar: the Last Airbender)

Yeah, I really couldn't stand how Eska, and "Boleska," if I may use the irritating shipping term, were portrayed. First-off, I was disappointed that Eska's twin Desna wasn't given more of a role, since I was hopeful that we'd get another character (like Smellerbee in Avatar: the Last Airbender) who defies gender expectations. Second, in ATLA, we had numerous portrayals of characters from baaaaad families who either ended up being good (Zuko, Iroh, Mai, Ty Lee), or who were villains, but whose actions were understandable to a degree (Azula). Yet Eska wasn't drawn in either of those ways, she was just used as comic relief. (And often interpreted as such, judging by some of the comments I've seen about her on various Avatar-centered Facebook fanpages.)

Part of the problem here is that the Powers that Be (writers? network?) are trying to cram everything into 12-episode seasons rather than the 20-episode seasons we got for ATLA. They can't let romantic subplots develop gradually, everything has to be rectangled in immediately and Mako's barely broken up with Asami before deciding he loves Korra. And barely broken up with Korra before kissing Asami. And we never see the two characters in a happy relationship, or gradually realizing they aren't right for each other, they just skip from fight to fight to fight.

As for Bolin...I don't like the Ginger storyline, either. One of the commenters at The AV Club mentioned that he's pretty much in the first movie ever, so maybe deserves some slack for not understanding how acting works, but still. He's being a jerk, and he's also being untrue to the Bolin of Season 1.

I'm pretty frustrated too, yeah. I'm holding out hope because of the younger Iroh character, maybe he'll break the story out of its stifling romantic rectangles.

"One of the commenters at The

"One of the commenters at The AV Club mentioned that he's pretty much in the first movie ever, so maybe deserves some slack for not understanding how acting works"

uhhhhh movies aren't the first instance of acting in the world ever...we know there's theater in Avatar, and he knows he's not really Nuktuk sooooo it's not that he doesn't understand acting, he just doesn't understand BOUNDRIES

I think one of the underlying

I think one of the underlying problems with the series is that the seasons are so short. The Last Airbender had almost double the amount of episodes per season than Korra does, which doesn't provide much breathing room for the characters to interact with one another or develop as characters. Can we just have some episodes of the group fighting Northerners , Spirits or just interacting with one another as friends and not cringe inducing arguing couples or romantic rivals? So far in season two it just seems character personalities just bend to the needs of the plot.

-- Spoilers --

Korra, Lin and the entire police force get to carry the idiot ball this season so Mako's character can become a maverick detective out of a really bad crime movie. You don't build a character up by having every other character come down with a case of plot-induced stupidity. Seriously, no one goes to bring in the guy Mako identifies at the scene of the crime because he is a member of a fire bending gang? No one else has the tiniest amount of critical thinking skills needed to even consider that the Northerners didn't do it or maybe they just hired someone else do blow up the building for them?

We also have Bolin turn into a really narcissistic creeper who refuses to help Asami or his brother, just to have him out of the way so Mako can come up with the brilliant (not really) plan of hiring a bunch of gang members to help Asami and him. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Bolin's behavior towards Ginger (forcing a kiss when she was tied down and restrained) isn't going to be addressed in any meaningful way other than possibly acknowledging he because a jerk because of the "movie business".

As an ATLA fan, I want to say THANK YOU! (beware of spoilers)

Thank you for writing this post because it needed to be said!
In my humble opinion, LOK is the biggest let-down in pop culture since the Star Wars prequels.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is the best TV series I've ever seen: the level of attention to detail, writing, character development, artwork, and story arc is unlike any other show I've watched (and I've watched a lot of TV lol).
LOK, on the other hand, is a hollow, lackluster shell of a cartoon. Like you said, the melodramatic plot lines are over the top and detract from the story.
I think that Bryke (show creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko) focused too much on fans' shipping and thought "How about we create a ridiculous 'love-square' between LOK's Team Avatar and give our fans all the shipping bait they could ever need!!" (see this meme: http://fc02.deviantart.net/fs70/f/2012/171/5/b/who_bryke_ship_by_i_wuv_b...).
I feel like LOK is missing a strong writing team. The dialogue in the last couple of episodes has made me literally cringe. I actually stopped watching an episode halfway through because it was just too painful to watch.
It makes me sad. The people running this show are wasting the potential and possibilities it could have had.
Maybe my standards are too high because I'm comparing LOK to ATLA.
The best thing about LOK is the flashbacks in season one where they show the original Team Avatar when they're all grown up. And I need to give them props for casting Chris Hardwick as Adult Sokka because it was literally PERFECTION.

My problem with the show is

My problem with the show is how way too many characters are carrying the idiot ball. Korra wants to start a war and EVERYONE is on board with her? Even Iroh who was willing to bring a ship down to the southern water tribe! I understand that Korra is upset with what happened to her parents but couldn't one character (preferably Asami or Lin) tell her that it wouldn't be a good idea?

It feels like Mako is becoming the main character. He is the only one with any sense and that really worries me. I am happy that he is getting character development because he was the most boring character in season 1. I will say that I prefer him with Asami because he and Korra just... didn't feel right or interesting. I enjoyed the date Korra had with Bolin in season 1.

And what's with all the abusive relationships? Korra knocking over Mako's chair, Lin implying that she destroyed Air Temple island after Tenzin broke up with her, Eska and Bolin, and now Bolin and his co star. (I hope Bolin's co star ends up being a badass fighter putting him to shame. But I fear that he will save her life and then she will be falling all over him.)

And what happened to Lin! She was awesome in the first season and now she is just mean. Why would she refuse to listen to Mako who saw the bomber? Couldn't there have been too many eye witnesses and she just didn't want to just focus on his? Or something other than "you are a rookie cop!"

Asami is still awesome though now I am worried that she is being tricked by Varrik. I want to see a friendship develop between her an Korra.

"the writers" dude, there are

"the writers"

dude, there are no writers, it's just the creators - they fired everyone else

wish they'd bring back the airbender writers, they were awesome

Amen to Bring BAck the Airbender Writers!

I couldn't agree more with the comments about how the depth of Korra in all ways is sub-par compared to the original Airbender series. I so wanted to love Korra as much as I loved Aang! Unfortunately, she keeps making the same childish mistakes over and over, she's like a caricature. And the romance (if you can call it that) with Mako is just ridiculous. Mako has a turning point moment, realizes he loves Korra and 6 months later is back with his old flame? There was no sense of Mako realizing he made a mistake, he wants less drama, he values Asami more...it was all so slip shod and he just comes off as a jerk with no sense of loyalty or what he wants out of a relationship. So many great story line possibilities rich with meaning and they choose to focus on absolute drivel. I'm still watching--mostly out of loyalty to Aang. I hope it gets better!!!

....

I totally agree that this show is getting ridiculous but for other reasons....I mean Korra is the freakin Avatar and she NEVER uses the Avatar powers....NEVER. Its like the harmonic convergence was so easily canceled if someone fro mthe ''team Avatar'' or the avatar herself tried to DO SOMETHING!! Also the action is like ....0? And where there is its boring as hell.....no cool bending...no inner searching like Aang used to do and get his awesome powers... NO COLL AVATAR POWERS!!! Aang when he was 10 he made that giant water thing and he was powerful....Korra cant even beat an evil spirit an the size of a tiger... What are the people that writing it thinking? WHAT? Its like in every episode Korra has her mouth open from despair and do nothing but have her butt kicked...its really sad and lame....

So true!

Really great look at how the Legend of Korra is failing thanks to its insistence on really bad romance. With the season behind us, I think it's gotten even worse since your article was published. Now, the relationships feel completely toxic: Mako and Bolin never realize some of their actions were flat-out disrespectful and harmful, and the writers never let Asami, Korra, Ginger, or anyone else tell them so.

I talk a little bit more about it in an article I wrote here, if you're interested in reading: http://www.princessvsperil.com/2013/11/18/lok-girlfriend-worse/ Definitely spoilers for the entire season. Some of the comments have been particularly insightful and are worth a read, too!

Eh. I like the show, a lot of

Eh. I like the show, a lot of "fans" are so hypercritical when it comes to this show. Not to mention always comparing LoK to AtLA. I love both series but I view them as their own stories, which they are. What's getting ridiculous about this show would be the "fans". People become so pissed and hate Korra, that's how I feel for the fandom.

Ditch Mako...

It'd be best if Asami and Korra ditched Mako and started dating each other... Then i'd start watching it again...

So is it worth watching? Or

So is it worth watching? Or will it be a let down? I never finished TLAB as a kid, and finally at 22 started watching it again, sad part is... when its on tv it takes years to finish, but with the internet, i finished in under a week. Those 61 episodes were just amazing in my opinion.

I am glad it had a beginning and ending, I like shows where MOST problems end resolved, but I cant help but be sad its over. It was a great show. And after that awful movie in 2010, im sure they wont continue a trilogy.... but maybe another director will pick-up making movies of these avatar "books" and do it proper, 2.5 hours a movie, or 4-5 movies. IDK I just am really hoping this isnt the last I see of aang.. I really did enjoy the show, even more now that I am older.

It's up to you, but....

It's up to you if you want to try Korra, but let me tell you this: If you loved TLAB and hail it as a masterpiece, you will probably hate Korra from the bottom of your soul. She is the worst Avatar ever, and I hardly even consider her to be an Avatar because of how bad the writing was and how stupid the decisions that she made were. Literally zero character development so far. Or we'll get something that looks like character development, but then the next episode it resets as though it never happened. Nothing like the sophistication that was TLAB.

The Legend of Korra always

The Legend of Korra always annoyed me, and there are multiple reasons. First thing I want to say before I start my little rant. I had really high hopes for this, because I love plots like this. One problem is as everyone has been saying with all the romance and idiotic decisions, as well as Korra's refusal to listen to everyone else. Maybe it's because I'm used to Aang and she's his exact opposite, but seeing such a cocky Avatar who's older but much less mature honestly makes me wonder how she has respect. The character development isn't there, unlike TLAB. It's all romance and terrible bending when suddenly BOOM, Korra suddenly can bend.

Along with that, the skills in LoK confused me. The benders weren't nearly as strong, but they could use things only masters could, like lightning bending. And Korra was the biggest problem in this category. How did she keep accessing the Avatar State when she had no spiritual knowledge? Unless mastered, the Avatar State is only a last resort defense mechanism. And for someone as rash and imbalanced as Korra, how did she do this? Not to mention, how did she create the projection? No balancing her chakras or any of that. Just BAM, and now she can create a big blue Korra. Same with her airbending. When Aang learned elements, he slowly developed himself. After he learned earth bending he was more confident(not cocky, mind you). But Korra was learning air bending while still acting the same. I could go on and on, but you all get the point.

LoK disappointed me, mostly because of the unrealistic and unnecessary "development", if you can call it that.

How The Heck?

The Legend of Korra always annoyed me, and there are multiple reasons. First thing I want to say before I start my little rant. I had really high hopes for this, because I love plots like this. One problem is as everyone has been saying with all the romance and idiotic decisions, as well as Korra's refusal to listen to everyone else. Maybe it's because I'm used to Aang and she's his exact opposite, but seeing such a cocky Avatar who's older but much less mature honestly makes me wonder how she has respect. The character development isn't there, unlike TLAB. It's all romance and terrible bending when suddenly BOOM, Korra suddenly can bend. Along with that, the skills in LoK confused me. The benders weren't nearly as strong, but they could use things only masters could, like lightning bending. And Korra was the biggest problem in this category. How did she keep accessing the Avatar State when she had no spiritual knowledge? Unless mastered, the Avatar State is only a last resort defense mechanism. And for someone as rash and imbalanced as Korra, how did she do this? Not to mention, how did she create the projection? No balancing her chakras or any of that. Just BAM, and now she can create a big blue Korra. Same with her airbending. When Aang learned elements, he slowly developed himself. After he learned earth bending he was more confident(not cocky, mind you). But Korra was learning air bending while still acting the same. I could go on and on, but you all get the point. LoK disappointed me, because of the unrealistic and unnecessary "development", if you can call it that.

The romance just isn't the

The romance just isn't the worst of Legend of Korra.

This series has to many characters deceiving each other.

Korra is not a smart and independent woman.

Independent: Since most of Book 2 she's been shown dancing to the puppet strings of Unalaq. Mako, Tarrlok, Amon, Tenzin, and Tonraq have been trying to control Korra at times.

Smart: Korra is very easily deceived by Unalaq for most of Book 2. Tenzin and Tonraq tricked Korra to live on a compound for most of her life. She's never been a thinker.

In season 2, Bolin's arc was

In season 2, Bolin's arc was LITERALLY that he couldnt tell the difference between fantasy and reality...........AS AN ACTOR???? They mean to tell us that his story was that hes an actor and he thought what he was acting was real?

....what?.....WHAT?? That......thats the most pathetic writing I have ever seen in anything in my entire life.

Did the dumbass writer think "Duuuuh well Bolin has never seen a movie before SO OBVIOUSLY HE'LL THINK THEY'RE REAL DESPITE BEING THE FUCKING ACTOR IN THE VERY FUCKING SHOW"

Bonus points for how he sexually harassed the female lead with no consequence, then proceeded to hook up with her whilst acknowledging he was in a relationship with somebody else.

So glad some one write about this!

Thank you so much for posting this! This is exactly why I love Bitch media!