The Legend of Korra: And the Winner Is…

Hi there. Sadly, what with my sudden hiatus, I haven’t had the time to do any formal reviewing of the first five episodes of The Legend of Korra, but that doesn’t mean for a second that I can’t jump right in and start some reviewin’ right now. You die-hard Avatar fans will already be caught up, and for those who aren’t on the Avatar bandwagon, you should probably start with the original series, formally known as Avatar: The Last Airbender.

That should about do it for introductions. Let’s move on to the good stuff.

I’ll admit, I was initially hesitant about a sequel to Avatar, but what swayed me (besides, you know, the incredibly high quality of the show) was the fact that creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko conceptualized The Legend of Korra as a single twelve episode miniseries. Technically, that’s now been expanded to add a fourteen episode second season, but the point’s still the same- with a much lower episode count than the original series (which averaged at around twenty episodes per season), the point was to have a streamlined story with none of the filler that occasionally plagued the original Avatar.

And that’s exactly what we’ve gotten with The Legend of Korra. While the first half of the season hasn’t focused solely on the “Korra mastering her airbending to take on Amon” path established in the first episode, every half-hour we’ve seen so far has had a clear, defining purpose, whether it be solidifying the relationships between our lead characters, establishing the rules of Republic city, or, you know, actually moving the whole “Amon vs Korra” plot forward.

And with the end of “And the Winner Is…,” it looks like we’ve definitively moved into the second half of the season. Especially when we’re treated to lines like “the revolution has begun” and “Republic City is at war-” lines that act like a neat little dividing line between the teen angst and sports drama-laden first half of the season, and what I assume will be the mayhem, destruction, and climactic battle-filled second half.

You’ve got to hand it to writers DiMartino and Konietzki for just how easily they’ve cleared all the other secondary storylines out of the way to deal with the show’s main conflict. Pro bending’s probably on hiatus for the time being, considering that the season’s over and the stadium was just destroyed in a fiery explosion, and that comes after all three Fire Ferrets agreed to put their tangled romantic feelings behind them for the good of the team. While all of these subplots seem to be reaching an end, none of them feel like they’re being thrown out of the way at the last minute, and none of them feel like they weren’t important to the show. They were.

But now bigger things are at play

Plus, “And the Winner Is…” works on its own, even when taken out of the big picture. We introduce a new conflict in Amon’s threat on the championship game. Then we move on to the pre-established championship game. Then both conflicts come together in the end. It’s simple, and it works. Plus, we’re treated to the first morsels of Lin Beifong’s backstory, and that makes her just sympathetic enough so that it’s totally believable that she’d come around to help Korra in the end. Add in some extraordinarily well-choreographed fight scenes (both in the ring and on top of the stadium, but especially on top of the stadium), and you’ve got a dynamite half-hour of TV.

Although while we’re on the subject of that last fight, I have a couple of minor worries about our villains. Number one is that Korra now seems super adept at taking down multiple Equalists in hand-to-hand combat. Early on, we saw her struggling in this regard, but in the span of a few short episodes she’s apparently got that down pat, and even has no trouble dispatching that higher ranking mustachioed Equalist with the twin electricity sticks. That fight was fantastic, but if Korra no longer has any trouble defeating the main enemy force of this series, then future battles might not have that same edge.

Presumably, though, if the Amon has the ability to mass-manufacture weapons like that, then he’s probably got some other tricks up his sleeve. And this is total speculation, but… just how does Amon have the means to make those weapons? The second I saw those electricity-spewing glove things, I figure he’d need some kind of large-scale industrial backing to make so many of them. And as far as I know, there’s only one real captain of industry in Republic City. Hint hint. Wink wink.

But again, this is just me speculating, and I’m open to being completely off on that one. Although we never do see what happens to Sato and Asami once the Equalists take over…

Anyway, one more minor grievance about our villains- while Amon’s certainly no stranger to a long and evil speech, we cut from his tirade at the championship to Korra, Mako and Bolin escaping below while he’s still speechifying on and on in the background. When Amon’s words become less important than some other aspect of the show but he continues to blather on anyway, it makes him seem a little less menacing and a little more like a blowhard. And blowhards aren’t particularly scary. Which is a shame, because everything else about Amon happens to be particularly scary- especially that close-up of Tahno as he loses his bending. Yikes.

But otherwise, “And the Winner Is” was yet another in a long string of standout episodes, which is especially impressive when you consider that we’re only six episodes in to a brand new series. Frankly, I’m a little sad that we’ve only got six episodes left until a long, long break.

And with that, I’ll leave you with a handful of closing thoughts about this week’s episode.

  • So with the end of pro-bending, what becomes of Mako and Bolin? Do they simply remain as Korra’s sidekicks? Maybe they’ll join some kind of all-bender army to fight the Equalists. Maybe they’ll discover the secret, seedy world of illegal underground bending. Who knows.
  • This episode marks one of the first times we’ve ever actually seen a real display of power from Tenzin (with that ultimately futile air blast he launches at a stealthy Equalist). For an airbending master, his go-to mode seems to standing and walking slowly, and I hope that’ll change as he’s thrust into combat.
  • With our second glimpse at the adult-Aang flashbacks comes our first look at a shaggy-looking villain. I’m sure we’ll learn all about him later on, but here’s my question: what’s triggering these flashbacks in Korra? My guess is that when she’s close to unconsciousness, she triggers some kind of semi-Avatar state and connects with the memories of a previous Avatar- in this case, Aang.
  • While we may have seen the last of pro-bending for a long while, I hope we haven’t seen the last of the pro-bending announcer. “I’m currently wetting my pants” remains my favorite line of the episode.
  • Something else I hope we haven’t heard the last of- Cabbage Corp. Deep down in my heart, I knew there’d be cabbages. I just knew it.

Thanks for reading! I’ll see you next week with another The Legend of Korra.

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10 responses to “The Legend of Korra: And the Winner Is…

  1. I remember seeing an episode of Avatar after M. Night Shamalayan’s awful The Last Airbender came out. I was surprised it the base for the movie. The show was actually pretty good.

    I didn’t know they made a spin-off, so I might try to watch that now.

  2. I’ve been hearing great things about this show coming from all angles, but havn’t seen a second of Avatar and given the size of it aren’t all that tempted to. Is it really a necessary first step or with a bit of effort can I step straight into Korra?

    • I wouldn’t quite say it’s necessary. You’ll lose some of the backstory, and a lot of the big climactic events that happened at the end of the original Avatar are thrown around like common knowledge (so those might be inadvertently spoiled for you), but I don’t see any reason that you couldn’t start with Korra.

  3. I thought Korra’s initial struggles in fighting the Equalists were due to her paralyzing fear of Amon and his ability to steal her bending. Facing off against one Equalist with taser-like weapons would take a similar amount of skill to the display she gave in episode one, dueling two firebenders for her firebending “final exam,” in my opinion.

    Thanks for reminding me of the “I’m currently wetting my pants” line! I laughed so hard at that.

    • That actually makes a lot of sense. Although it seems that the Equalists are continually upping their game, weapons-wise, so Korra may need to keep up with that training.

  4. So glad you’ve started reviewing Korra. It definitely deserves an adult following, and you made my day with “For an airbending master, his go-to mode seems to be standing and walking slowly.” My closing thought on this episode was that Tarlock is setting up Lin Beifong for something. What’s up with that guy?

    • I’m not quite sure what Tarrlok’s deal is at this point, but there’s got to be some kind of game he’s playing. Maybe it’s for the Equalists, maybe it’s just to further his own power, but he’s definitely got some kind of agenda.

  5. This show has been fantastic. The characters have got some meat on them now, and the plot is moving nicely. You make a some great observations about where the story will probably go from here, and the relationships that will develop between Korra and the others, particularly with Beifong. Nice review brother B.

    Anybody that is interested in Legend of Korra should probably watch the first series, but it may not be crucial yet. Just don’t see M. Night’s movie, stick to the source.

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