Feb 26, 2015

[TV] The Legend of Korra - Book Three: Change

This is where I have my usual discussion related to forgetting to review a season of a TV show immediately after watching the finale. In the case of The Legend of Korra, I guess I've been generally unimpressed with the show as a whole, and so I've rarely ended a season feeling that rush of excitement about getting a chance to talk about a show in this format. It's not that the show is bad, mind you. It's just that the original Avatar series was just so much better, that it set a pretty high standard.

This third season of The Legend of Korra was called Change and tried to introduce a larger plot about shifting priorities in the Kingdom and potential freedom fighters / terrorists trying to bring about change. As has been the patter  of every season of the show, it introduced a new set of antagonists who round counter to the peace that Korra has been trying to enforce with her powers as the Avatar.

In some ways, this season felt a little better than the first two. But in other ways, it suffered a lot of the same issues in those prior seasons as well. But I think on the whole it was generally better.

Synopsis: The Legend of Korra - Book Three: Change is the third season of the Nickelodeon animated series created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. Majority of the season aired on the official Nickelodeon channel, however the final few episodes were only released digitally due to declining ratings at the time,

The season begins with a dramatic new element in the status quo - the return of airbenders. In this case, random people across the different nations suddenly discover that they are now capable of airbending. This inspires Tenzin (J.K. Simmons), Korra (Janet Varney) and a few others to find the new airbenders and formally welcome them into the Air Nomads. But one of those who have gained airbending abilities is the criminal Zaheer (Henry Rollins), who uses his newly discovered abilities to escape from his prison resume his old agenda.

But I don't think anyone could have predicted what might result from the search for the new airbenders. One such roadblock involves the Earth Queen Hou-Ting (Jayne Taini) claiming that none of her Earth Kingdom citizens have become airbenders despite the fact that pretty much every other nation has resulted in a few airbenders. At the same time Zaheer works on freeing his colleagues in this little rebellion, thus releasing the earthbender Ghazan (Peter Giles), the waterbender Ming-Hua (Grey DeLisle), and the rather special firebender P'Li (Kristy Wu).

The initial "mission" of sorts - to seek out the new airbenders - seemed noble enough, but it also felt like a weird long "road trip" of sorts that didn't have a particularly clear sense of direction or purpose the further out they journeyed. And at around the same time we have a bunch of criminals running loose around the kingdoms with few folks able to stop them. So that gets a little silly really fast.

In addition, it's more than a little frustrating to have the Avatar get beat up so often. It seems she has no true proficiency with any of her bending abilities despite her potential control of the four elements. it was slightly forgivable in the first season or so, but this is the third season and we really expected more from her by this point. But really, everyone seems to get a chance to beat up the avatar, with the big finale seemingly all about restraining her.

The season also really pushed bending away from it being some sort of a power manipulated through martial arts moments and instead it's simply a mutant power. Just look at Ming-Hua, who literally has to arms to bend with and yet is able to create diverse limbs using only water with ease. Then you have the mostly silent P'Li, whose fire bending skills is focused into what can only be termed to be a laser. There are no martial arts movements that tie to the use of her powers. She merely stares and sort of like Cyclops of the X-Men, she then fires a laser beam out of her forehead. And this just seems to cheapen the whole consistency of bending so carefully built-up in the first installment of this franchise.

And in terms of the story, the Red Lotus terrorist organization may have been a generally new idea (not counting Amon and his Equalists), but big trouble in the Earth Kingdom is a page lifted directly from the first Avatar series. Seriously, can't the Earth Kingdom ever get a break? Why do they get weird crazy rulers that somehow inspire secret police state like actions?

Animation was still good and fight scenes are generally fun (except for the loss of martial arts related bending) and voice acting pretty good as well. It's just a lot of weird twists and turns with the writing and it has never been all too clear to me what kind of a story they wanted to tell in terms of the avatar. Each season has her facing a new strange threat to the peace of their current status quo and her getting beaten up or humbled repeatedly seems to be a requirement in this process. And I don't necessarily feel like this was a key character-building experience, especially since it keeps happening. And that's rather sad when it comes to the Avatar.

Plus we never really tied all that well to prior seasons. Whatever happened to the anti-bending sentiment encouraged by the Equalists? What about the whole loss of knowledge and wisdom of all the last Avatars - why didn't that seem to have as much of an impact as you'd think given the loss of such a significant legacy? And the questions just keep piling up.

The Legend of Korra - Book Three: Change is a decent enough addition to things, but it repeats a lot of the mistakes of the prior seasons and pushes into some weird directions in other ways. I really wanted to love this seasons, but instead I think I was only generally okay and then I was surprised that Season Four was being released so quickly. And thus this season gets a good 3 strange bending evolution powers out of a possible 5.


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