This is part 6 of a transcript of two friends of mine, Emily Rich and Rachel Goosen discussing Avatar: The Last Airbender. The video is 50 minutes long, so I’m cutting up the transcript into different posts.
How do you feel about Sokka?
E: Oh my gosh, I love Sokka. I talked a little bit a while ago about how great bending is and how I watch the show and want to be a bender, but the show doesn’t treat non-benders, and Sokka is the main example of this, it doesn’t treat them as anything less than a bender.
R: Even if…in the story line, Toph says “There’s three of us,” and Sokka expresses his own insecurities about being a non-bender in this group of incredibly powerful benders. The Avatar, the greatest earthbender who invents metalbending, and then his sister who is the greatest waterbender in the world. He expresses his own insecurities, but the show doesn’t treat it as a negative or as a flaw.
E: Yeah. He’s as necessary as Toph or Katara is to this journey, even without his bending. Even before he becomes a swordmaster, even.
R: Because he’s very good at strategies as well. And that’s a really important…
E: We love Sokka.
R: We love Sokka.
Why is Avatar: TLA so far superior to LoK?
R: Okay, before we start this discussion, I am very pro- Legend of Korra.
E: Me too.
R: I think most of the criticism directed at Legend of Korra is dumb. (Both laughing)
E: I think the vast majority of it is dumb. That being said, I am open to criticism.
R: Yeah, I’m not like, “It’s the best show in the world!” because it’s not. But I think that so much of it is overly critical.
E: I feel like a lot of it is because it’s not Avatar: The Last Airbender.
R: Yeah. One thing that always makes me so angry is when people bring up Aang giving her bending back at the end of Season 1. They’re like “One: She hasn’t sacrificed anything,” and I’m like, “Okay, no, she sacrificed her literal entire identity. Since she was a tiny baby, she was like “I’m the Avatar. This is literally what I’ve always wanted to be.” She…her bending is gone. And even though it’s like two minutes for us, it’s weeks in the show and she’s had to deal with it. So, whatever. Also, “Aang just came down and magically fixed everything!” Have you seen Season 1 (of TLA) when Roku is getting Aang out of stuff all the time?
E: That being said, I think Legend of Korra primarily suffers in a way that Avatar: The Last Airbender never did because it started out as one season. This is going to be twelve episodes, and that’s it.
R: Yeah, because they didn’t know if they were going to get renewed. Which…please. Of course. (Laughing)
E: And so we have twelve episodes to tell a story that is akin to something we’ve made before.
R: Even Season 1 wasn’t perfect, narratively. There was so much with the nonbending revolution in Republic City that could have been handled better and closed differently.
E: It’s one of those things where Avatar was pitched as three seasons. They said “It has to be three seasons because this is the story arc.” Whereas Legend of Korra, they were like “We want to do it again” and they were like “We’ll give you a season.”
R: Which is why I think Season 2 is much better than Season 1 was, because they know that they now have three more seasons, so I feel, even though there were a lot of problems with Season 2, I feel like there will be a bigger overarching theme that will actually work well.
E: That actually segways well into my initial point. In Avatar: The Last Airbender, every episode has an arc, and then every season has an arc, and all three seasons have this ultimate arc.
R: God, it’s so good.
E: And it’s so good, and it’s clearly meant to be a unit.
R: If you want to watch the story, you can’t just skip a season, and not just because it’s so short, it’s so essential. Everything is so important.
E: And Legend of Korra doesn’t have that because they said “Okay, we need to create a season of television that can stand alone, but also, potentially, if we have more seasons, we can add to it.” And when you don’t start with “This is the unit of this season, this is the unit of the next, and this is the next.
R: When you have to tell a whole story while also…there’s so much to Legend of Korra and what had to happen in between them and the characters, especially with Aang’s kids. There’s just a lot of stuff to fit in such a short package.
E: And they clearly wanted to fit it all. Which maybe was a mistake, but it’s also understandable to say “I want to visit Aang’s kids, I want to tell that part of the story,” and just not have time to devote the right amount of time to them.
R: It’s a hard balance to strike between completely new characters and people who you care about from…
E: Yeah. But Korra as a character to me is just…
R: Love her.
E: I love her.
R: Not about people who criticize her for not developing because, guess what, she does. “She didn’t develop at all in Season 1!” What Season 1 did you watch?! (Both laughing) Because I definitely watched a Season 1 where she grew as a person. And especially in Season 2. She got so much more spiritual as opposed to the first episode where she’s firebending the crap out of everybody at the Southern Water Tribe and they’re like, “You’re really good at the physical side, but you’ve completely ignored the spiritual side,” and now she’s the Avatar who has opened the spirit portals and is allowing spirits and humans to intermingle.
E: And I’ve read some criticisms on Tumblr that are like, “They’re trying to make her special.”
R: No! I didn’t take it that way at all.
E: Neither did I.
R: They’re like “Oh, by severing all of her her past connections to the Avatar…”
E: “They can start over! She can be the new Avatar!”
R: First of all, I feel like they’re going to restore it…
E: And even if they don’t, what makes you think that they didn’t view Korra as special from the beginning? She’s a different person from all the rest of the Avatars. That’s the point.
R: Well, that’s their criticism, that they’re like, “Well, why is Korra so special? Why are they trying to make her more…”
E: Because she is a different person! This is the way she’s dealing with the problems of the world and it’s legitimate and it’s actually kinda cool.
R: It’s nice to see an Avatar who’s flawed like that, because as much as Aang is my forever-girl (Both laughing), he handled everything very spiritually and very diplomatically…
E: Because he was taught that way, and he was exposed to different cultures from a very young age, which is something that Korra wasn’t.
R: Whereas Korra, she got angry at that judge and shoved his head in Naga’s mouth.
E: That’s not diplomatic!
R: That’s crazy. (Both laughing) It is, it’s not something the Avatar should do. The Avatar is supposed to bring balance. Being that rash and that emotional…
E: I love her for that.
R: I love her for that. She’s so different from what Aang. Aang never wanted to be the Avatar and then grew into his role. Korra had literally always wanted it.
E: But she’s never completely understood what that meant.
R: She just wanted to be powerful and…
E: That being said, I do think that Avatar: The Last Airbender is better, but I think it is because it feels like a unit. It feels like something that is a whole, whether it’s an episode that you’re looking at, or a season, or the whole thing.
R: Legend of Korra also has Mako. (Both laughing)
E: I don’t want to talk about Mako.
R: And if Mako was in Avatar: The Last Airbender, that show would have been crap.
E: Katara would have killed him.
R: (Laughing) Katara would have killed him. However, Legend of Korra does have Asami, who is so beautiful and perfect.
E: I just wish she were around more.
R: I just wish that she were given the agency she deserves and that when Mako is a dick about breaking up with her and getting back together with her and breaking up with her again, she’s given more than just a (makes face) in the background. And I’m like, “Are we going to revisit this…?”
E: “Are we going to discuss this at all?” Apparently not!
R: I also feel like Legend of Korra has a little bit of an issue with grey morality in some places.
E: Yeah. It doesn’t know how to handle it very well.
R: They try, and then they fall short. With Amon, it’s like “Okay, we were given this backstory, but he’s still done all these terrible things up until now, and I feel for him, but also…
E: And I liked his backstory because I love backstory.
R: Yeah, me too. I was hoping Varrick would be a good guy. But…
E: I like that Varrick was a bad guy. But again, it was like the nonbenders trying to rise up in the first season where it was like, “It’s there…”
R: It’s like, “Yeah! This makes so much sense!”
E: “Yes, please, please, talk about this!”
R: “Please explore this storyline!” And then it was like one episode…
E: And it was like, “This is happening and this is important, but we’re going to talk about this.” Varrick was the same way. Varrick was so solidly grey, morally. Because he’s warmongering.
R: Yeah, he’s doing it for the profit, he’s like, “We should go to war, it makes me money!”
E: That’s a legitimate problem that happens in our world. And instead of discussing it and saying “This is something that happens and this is the way that this should be viewed and these are the reasons that Varrick is doing something that’s important to Varrick. But it’s morally, probably very wrong. Because war is not good ever. But instead, they put Mako on the case and he was like, “Varrick bad. War bad. I good.”
R: (Laughing) “I good.” And Unalaq. What’s your motivation here? Why are you listening to this dark, scary kite-spirit in a tree? (Both laughing)
E: If you don’t think the Avatar is doing a good job…
R: And if you think that spirits and the physical world should intermingle…
E: Just say that!
R: You don’t have to be like, “I’m going to become the Dark Avatar.” (Both laughing) “You know what I’m going to do instead? Cast the world into eternal shadow forever.” I don’t think that’s the solution, Unalaq. Unalaq, please.
E: We spent a lot of time talking about Legend of Korra. I apologize.