The Triumphant Return of "The Legend of Korra"

By Brian Frosti on July 4, 2014

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“Avatar: The Last Airbender” was one of Nickelodeon’s most popular shows ever to air. Fans and critics alike praised the series for its lovable characters, beautiful animation and impressive world-building. The series concluded its three season run in 2008 but has lived on in the hearts of fans who still watch reruns on Nicktoons and collectively try to erase the memory of M. Night Shyamalan’s horrendous live-action adaptation.

But now, fans are treated to a new series from the original creators, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, “The Legend of Korra”. Korra, the newly reincarnated avatar, is now in her third season, which premiered with three new episodes this past Friday.

Korra, as well as the rest of Team Avatar, begin season three struggling to deal with the fallout of last season’s climactic battle with Unalaq/Vaatu during Harmonic Convergence. Korra, despite saving the world twice already, now has to face new challenges from both the spirit and human denizens of Republic City. Vines have overtaken a large portion of the city causing the young avatar’s “approval ratings” to plummet.

But despite these frustrations life is calm, until the full effect of Harmonic Convergence is felt. New airbenders have been created, causing Korra, Tenzin and the gang to leap into action to find and recruit these new benders in order to reform the air nomad society. This proves a tall order, yet this is the least of Korra’s worries as a group of powerful benders have broken free from prison to, for reasons yet unknown, attempt to kill the avatar.

“The Legend of Korra” has had its ups and downs, with the middle third of season 2 being the lowest point, but each season has started stronger than either of its predecessors. Everyone’s favorite characters are back to partake in the action and engage in the typical “avatar” brand of comedic banter, but it’s the new additions that will, hopefully, make this season a success.

This season, the whole gang is together and travelling outside of Republic City (and the South Pole) for the first time. One of the disappointing parts of last season was how long Team Avatar spent separated from each other, so it’s nice to see the gang back together and exploring some new dynamics as the characters pair off for minor story arcs, like Korra and Asami kicking ass against Earth Kingdom bandits or Mako and Bolin reuniting with their long lost family.

One thing I’m looking forward to this season in Tenzin and Bumi taking bigger roles. The brothers are two of the series’ most interesting and funniest characters. Now with Bumi’s newfound airbending ability and Tenzin’s desperate race to save his family’s way of life the two are ripe for intriguing storylines and drama this season.

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But of course, no season would be complete without a proper villain. Season 1 saw Amon take the fight to all benders, something new to the series that captivated fans right off the start. This was followed by season 2 upping the ante by pinning Korra against the embodiment of darkness. That finale was arguably the best couple of episodes “Korra”, or even the original “Avatar,” has had yet. That leaves season 3 with a tough act to follow, but so far it seems up to the challenge.

Super max prisoner Zaheer breaks free with Harmonic Convergence gifted airbending abilities and immediately begins freeing his friends, all of whom happen to be immensely talented benders. The new group presents a diversity Korra has yet to face, from an evil airbender to a woman with the same powers as Combustion Man (or Sparky Sparky Boom Man).

Unlike “The Last Airbender,” “The Legend of Korra” seems to favor a new “big bad” for each season. Each antagonist has been unique and interesting but all have shared one common theme: they believed they were doing the right thing. This is the mark of a truly engaging villain; Amon honestly believed benders were a threat to the world, Unalaq truly thought the world needed to be remade in his and Vaatu’s image and now Zaheer is convinced his “path is a righteous one.” He may prove to be the series’ best villain yet as he is the first that was created due to Korra’s actions.

In addition to new villains, “The Legend of Korra’s” premier made a few key additions to the protagonist’s group. Kai, a young thief with airbending powers, is the first to join Tenzin’s new nation. He provides some fun new dynamics for Team Avatar as they split on whether or not they should give him a chance (best exemplified with Mako “keeping an eye on him” and Bolin proclaiming him his new adopted little brother).

The other new addition is actually an old favorite: Zuko makes his return to the “Avatar” universe. Now the Fire Lord, Zuko brings back his patented brooding charm and unintentional humor. Not much is revealed about his time between the two series, but hopefully more will be revealed as he races to stop the criminals bent on destroying the avatar.

With all these moving parts, the season 3 premier manages to remain grounded in the stories it wants to tell and thus is an immensely satisfying beginning to the new season. The first three episodes strike an excellent balance between drama, humor and action to deliver the series’ best premier yet. If the rest of the season follows suit, “The Legend of Korra” may be just hitting its stride, so get ready for another exciting season of adventures with Team Avatar.

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Tinker. Taylor. Writer. Spy. My mom thinks I watch too much TV

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