Weekly Watch: ‘The Legend of Korra’
Jimmy Kemper | Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Editor’s note: This article is part of a weekly column in which a writer introduces an online-streaming film or television show each Wednesday, then gives critical analysis each Monday. Be sure to check out “The Legend of Korra” and check back on Monday for a closer look.
Back in 2005, Nickelodeon first released “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” a unique cartoon combining American and anime influences to create a mystical world in which some people are able to manipulate the four classic elements, earth, water, fire and air, by using martial arts variants known as “bending.” “Avatar” follows the adventures of Aang, a 12-year-old boy who, as Avatar, can control all four elements along with his friends as they worked to end the reign of the evil Fire Lord Ozai. The show went on to be a massive hit, garnering 5.6 million viewers on its most-watched episode, winning a Primetime Emmy and spawning even better second and third seasons. It also resulted in a movie by M. Night Shyamalan, but viewers do not like to talk about that.
After the initial run of the show ended in 2008, the show’s producers went quiet for a while. In 2012, however, it was announced that a follow-up miniseries, “The Legend of Korra,” would be released soon. Taking place after the death of Aang (spoiler alert), the miniseries follows the next Avatar, Korra, as she encounters spiritual and political turmoil in an industrializing world. The show was so popular that Nickelodeon ordered a second season — and eventually third and fourth seasons. The third season has just finished, and the fourth season is set to premiere online on Oct. 3.
Season one of “The Legend of Korra” is an excellent place to get started with the world of Avatar, as you don’t need to have watched “Avatar: The Last Airbender” to understand the story. Producers Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko have done an excellent job ensuring the story focuses on new characters for new fans but also gives the occasional nod to the diehard fans of the original series. “The Legend of Korra” is also a more mature show than its predecessor, engaging in issues such as terrorism and modernity.
“The Legend of Korra” interweaves these issues into a framework of themes such as friendship, sacrifice and independence experienced by compelling, multifaceted characters. The series’ villain, Amon, a political revolutionary, is one of the most complex, terrifying characters to emerge on television over the last couple years. Korra’s conflict with Amon and other characters creates some of the most exciting, engaging fight choreography in television that could exist only within the realm of animation. “The Legend of Korra” is more than just intense fight scenes and political drama, though. Part of the excitement of the show for some fans derives from “shipping” characters, that is, rooting for relationships to develop in certain ways and then being crushed when everything doesn’t unfold according to expectation (Is that another spoiler? You’ll have to watch and find out).
However, despite the promises of excitement and adventure, we still must ask, “Is this show worth all of this hype?” To find out, check back for our follow-up piece Monday that will look at the entire first season with heavy focus on the two-part finale. In the mean time, participate along with us here in the “Weekly Watch” and catch “The Legend of Korra” on Nick.com between now and then.