I don’t think I’ll be getting over the series finale of The Legend of Korra for a while. It was a powerfully satisfying end for a series that hit some snags but gathered strength for the remaining two seasons that only grew despite being on a channel that was actively screwing them over. It ended on a note so subversive and so poignant that I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness that it’s over. I’ve been a fan of the Avatar series for nine years now: I’ve adored the world building, the sense of epic adventure, and the general political and historical allegories all filtered through an eye full of childlike wonder. What The Legend of Korra does that puts it above and beyond the original series (with no loss of love) is turn the focus toward the female characters, including them in a genre that’s often been seen as a boy’s club. I’d say that the series, and these past two seasons in general, haven’t just been two of the best seasons for female representation in children’s cartoons, but for television in general.
The two part finale deals with the falling out of Kuvira’s use of her mecha suit, and the first part is essentially an extended battle sequence where Korra and the gang attempt to take the machine down to little avail. Watching the team strategize and work together is a fulfilling moment. From Bolin teaming with Suyin and Lin to crash a building onto Kuvira; to Asami, Varrick and Zhu Li work on getting miniature flight bots into the air to cut a hole through the tank; to the Airbenders causing distractions or Korra standing at the center of it all using all of her might to be a roadblock between Kuvira and more destruction, it’s the group working as a unit.
The direction in the finale is done beautifully, and a moment that showcases just how much you can do to evoke an emotional response through the use of well-directed animation is when Asami’s father sacrifices himself to let her live and ejects her from the bot. The direction allows a split second of slow motion to allow us to transport ourselves into Asami’s moment of panic and distress. It’s a very effective tool, granting us the same style of tunnel vision that she’d be experiencing.
The first episode ends with the group inside the mecha suit and the second picks up with them deciding to divide and conquer. Su and Lin go off to destroy the weapon in the arm of the bot, Bolin and Mako to the source of the power, and Korra to face off directly with Kuvira, certain that this time their fight won’t end with her losing. All three sequences get wonderful moments. Su and Lin have become such an integral part of the show over the past two seasons and there’s been much discord between them throughout, so any moment where they’re acting in uniformity is satisfying considering how rocky they were when we first met Su. The inside of the machine is metal so they’re able to perform more destruction in the inside than they could on the out.
Mako and Bolin also get some fine bits of action, where Mako finally gets to prove his worth again, conjuring up some fantastic looking lightning bending. I’ve made it known that Bolin has been one of my favorite players this season, but it’s nice to see his brother get something to do as well, all the while reminding us that he, like Bolin, is pretty powerful. His use of lightning and his near sacrifice makes for some exciting entertainment (the scene where his sleeve bursts from his arm is pretty cool), but in the end I’m glad they didn’t kill him off. It would have made sense within the context of the show, and the way his narrative has been written and the musical cues at the end certainly led me to believe they were headed that way, but it was just as nice to see Bolin return to retrieve his fallen brother.
And then there’s the fight between Kuvira and Korra, which was simply fantastic. It was everything I love about the action sequences on this show plus it had the added glory of seeing Korra rebuilt in morale, strength, and confidence after her shaky first encounter with the dictator. The two use everything they have in the control room of the ship and it’s wonderful to see two incredibly powerful female characters face off in such a way. The fight is staged in a way that ups the ante of the stakes and provides a thematically rich usage of the space. They are both forces of nature in their own ways, but in the end Korra proves that her power is far greater. The mecha has crash landed and Kuvira has wandered off and found her spirit weapon, which she loses control of. But just before she’s hit, Korra steps in front of the blast, saving her. The force creates a second spirit portal in Republic City and the two are transported into the spirit world.
The imagery is stunning as Korra awakens, staring at herself and soon molding into Kuvira, laying it straight just what the two are to one another. They’re more alike than either would like to admit, but Kuvira pushed her fear of vulnerability out, turning her doubts into an unruly dictatorship while Korra internalized her pain and dealt with inner demons. Kuvira is intelligent and sees sense in Korra’s words, and when they return to the real world she turns herself over.
The series ends in a sequence of moments. Varrick and Zhu Li marry in the kind of extravagant setting you’d expect from Varrick. Korra has a touching moment with Mako where the deep friendship and respect is felt for both, and then another with Tenzin. Tenzin tells her that she’s done more in a few months than Avatars have done in their lifetimes, and despite this Korra still realizes she has more to learn. It’s a full circle moment for the two and their dynamic remains one of my favorites from the show.
The big moment, however, comes right at the very end. Asami and Korra sit in their wedding attire, both tired from the past few months and wishing for an escape. Asami says she’d love to go on a vacation and Korra tells her why not, the two of them should go somewhere together. So they do and they pick the spirit world. The two walk hand in hand up to the portal, turn and face one another, and stare into each other’s eyes. I won’t lie: I was mildly emotional. I’ve been a fan of this series for a long time and despite the fact that they’re still limited by the boundaries they’re allowed to push on the channel they’re on, showrunners Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartin really go for it. This is a pairing that didn’t come out of thin air; it’s been steadily and subtly built for a while now, which makes their ending moment so natural. The music swells and the animation and lighting becomes more romantic and peaceful and it’s just awesome.
I loved this show by the end, and I can’t tell you how happy it made me to see such a strong lineup of female characters, led by the strongest who was a woman of color. Women can be anything they want to be and can face any problem head first with power, dedication, passion, and missteps, and this show went out of its way to prove that.
What a phenomenal way to end the show.