There are lots of things to like about the Avatar series. I find it hard not to like excellently conceived and delivered all-ages content, especially when it does little to dumb down what it has on offer just because kids will be watching. Both Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: The Legend of Korra have ultimately delivered that, and at this point I’m definitely a fan (*careful, that link goes to Nickelodeon’s streaming site, and there’re potential spoilers on the page*).
I’ll admit that for a while I was much happier with the first series than with the second, but Korra has been growing on me. Most of all, I’m really happy about season three and very excited for season four. Please be aware that I’m going to spoil bits of seasons one and two for you here. If you haven’t seen them, I’ll put it like this: they’re not as good as they could have been, but they have their own wonderful moments. Better yet, they set the stage for excellent things to follow in their footsteps, and I would certainly say that they’re worth watching because of it. And because, you know, there really are some good moments in there.
Now that I’ve warned you, my thoughts thus far are as follows:
The first two seasons of Korra were a crapshoot for me, with the characteristic excellence of the Avatar series occasionally marred by moments that didn’t live up to the show’s promise. Season one had wonderful world building, fun characters, cool villains, and a number of other good things going for it; but somehow the writers failed to notice that some of their central character dynamics were trite, drained of meaning by virtue of being so clichéd. Even as I enjoyed large parts of the show, watching the characters play out their terrible little love triangle held no fascination for me. It was like watching a train wreck that I’d seen too many of times before: the first time I saw one I was captivated by the terrible crashing horror, but by iteration one thousand and one it’s just bad news, without any of the magnetic draw that turns bystanders into rubberneckers. It’s not like that was enough to ruin the show for me, but something that could have been great was “good-enough” instead.
Season two suffered a similar fate, and the moments where things felt poorly thought out looked worse by comparison with the gems that made up much of the rest of the show. The character dynamics felt as though they’d been salvaged, some of the main characters changed in interesting ways, and the new side characters were simply wonderful, but this time it was the central villain that felt trite and insufficiently complex. Sorry, not insufficiently complex, I meant that the villain felt almost wooden. The villain’s identity was obvious to me from the start (which is ok), but I never felt like they went beyond simply being a baddie (which is not-so-ok… if I just wanted baddies I could have watched G.I. Joe). As I said above, this was only disappointing because the Avatar series has done such a good job in the past and did so well on other fronts in the same season, but it was still a problem. So again, the show could have been great (and some of the episodes and characters were), but overall felt “good-enough.”
Season three, however, feels like it’s really firing on all cylinders. I haven’t yet finished it, but… yet again there are moments that are laugh-out-loud hilarious, the heroes all feel like real people with their own interesting imperfections, and the villains seem to make sense (though I reserve the right to change my mind when I finally find out what the hell their deal is). I suppose it’s possible that everything will fall apart in the last few episodes, but that seems tremendously unlikely. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it feels to me like Korra has finally hit its stride, and is back to providing some of the best “children’s” television that I’ve seen, just like the first series managed to do. All of this leaves me super excited as I finish up the season and get ready to watch season four. Am I ready?