In what may be the last Ember Island Airwaves podcast ever, Josh and I take some time to look back on The Legend of Korra as a series. We discuss Korra’s arc from a more brazen and hot-tempered to a more peaceful and diplomatic Avatar. That journey starts in Book One: Air amidst Korra’s conflict with Amon and the Equalists.
We also talk about pro-bending and how sports-driven Air really was until “And the Winner Is…”, as well as how that fits in with the romantic triangle subplot that season. Then, just as Amon and the Equalists take center stage halfway through the season, our conversation turns to the non-bender plight and Amon’s hypocrisy as he vies for control over ever other bender. I conclude our retrospective on Book One: Air with a comment on how gender bias has influenced bending sub skills in Avatar: The Last Airbender as well as how the creators rectify this in Korra.
Book Two is arguably the most controversial season of the show. Josh contends – as do many other fans – that Book Two is the weakest point in the series. I counter that while some of Spirits doesn’t work, some small changes to Mako’s character and “Beginnings” keep the season from being totally missable. This is the point where we see major changes in the Avatar universe as well, as the spirit portals are opened, spirit vines invade the United Republic and Korra loses her connection to her past lives.
After a heated debate about Mako and the romance in that Book, Josh and I transition into Change and he talks about how much he enjoys the symbolism of the Red Lotus as an obvious and necessary counterpart to the Order of the White Lotus. We also reexamine the spirit vines in Republic City as symbols of resurgence. I talk about Zaheer’s spiritualism and how the spirit world is utilized in Change versus Spirits.
We agree that the two best episodes of this season are “Long Live the Queen” and “The Ultimatum.” The former raises stakes in a way I haven’t seen since “The Puppetmaster” from Book Three: Fire and “The Ultimatum” swiftly follows, delivering one of the most precarious cliffhangers in franchise history: Tenzin’s showdown with Zaheer and his gang. We analyze this moment in the context of Tenzin’s path from mentor to sibling to leader.
For Book Four, Josh and I disagree on which episode stands out the most. I throw “Kuvira’s Gambit” in the ring as my definition of a “perfect episode” and he sticks with “Korra Alone,” which we both loved. We do come to consensus that “The Last Stand” is an excellent finale, however. As we approach that last episode, Josh and I try to figure out who the best character is in the series: Asami? Korra? Suyin?
The conversation moves behind the scenes from here. We talk about the writer/director pairs from the first season and how that may have limited the scope of the series at first. I lament the lost of Aaron and Elizabeth Welsh Ehasz and Giancarlo Volpe from Avatar: The Last Airbender while we isolate the best writers and directors from Korra.
Talking about the quality of the writing brings us to a lengthy back and forth about Phantom Korra and what she meant in the context of Book Four. We also delve into the combat in Balance which both Josh and I contend is the best choreography in Korra (and maybe the whole franchise) – IGN disagrees.
Josh and I also talk about following the creators from here to see what projects they’ll come up with next. Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino have both proven themselves to be socially conscious and capable showrunners while Jeremy Zuckerman has outdone himself constantly with his soundtrack work. That’s to say nothing of Jae-Myung Yu, animation director on The Last Airbender and head of Studio Mir, who’s helped make Korra into the best looking animated series on television
Returning to Book 4 begs an interrogation of the “strong female character” buzz phrase that seems to get a lot of play in pop culture. Josh and I talk about “Trinity Syndrome” and “female stuff” (as presented by The Dissolve) and strong feminine characters (as presented by .Mic). From Korra we jump to Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and Agent Carter (minimal spoilers) before returning to Korra, Asami, Lin and Suyin. We conclude our podcast by ranking the best villains and seasons of The Legend of Korra.
Note that this podcast contains spoilers for the entire Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra series. As always, you can subscribe to Ember Island Airwaves using iTunes. Alternatively, you can check out the episode online or download it here. Happy listening!
We mentioned that Studio Mir had signed a deal with DreamWorks to produce four new series. It turns out that may or may not be true, according to Cartoon Brew.
As we said in the podcast itself, thank you for following us on this journey. It’s been a distinct honor to talk about this incredible franchise with and for you all. May the Avatar world live long into the future. For now, let me leave you with my favorite GIF from this magical world.