If you go back and look at my posts, you’ll see that in the general I was actually quite pleased with Korra S1 and thought that in many ways, it was better than much of the first series, Avatar (though I admit that this is partially by not having “grown up” with A:tLA so it didn’t have some the impact on me it apparently did on others – much like how I can’t ever really look at Batman: the Animated Series objectively). I had been hearing (despite some of my efforts) that Korra had continue to trend downhill in later seasons but wasn’t sure how accurate that was or how much that judgement might be skewed by nostalgia glasses.
Well I can certainly see WHY people were complaining, though from what I’ve read/seen so far, the complaints about Korra S2 are of a manner where nobody likes it, but nobody can seem to put a definite answer on why. To me the answer is obvious: it’s a repeat of S1, only without any of the growth or acknowledgement of what happened in S1 which is one thing that A:tLA did very right. Consider:
- Main villain sells to everyone what at first seems to be a noble goal, only to later reveal a more sinister aim behind it all.
- Bolin gets with a girl early in the season (Korra/Eska) but ends up apart from her at season end.
- The gang runs into a very rich, powerful figure (Hiroshi/Varrick) who turns out to be morally ambigious.
- One of the brothers falls for a woman connected to the aforementioned rich guy (Asami+Mako/Ginger+Bolin).
- Korra must struggle with learning an aspect about being the avatar, only to master the problem at the very end (air bending/spirit stuff).
- At some point in the 2nd half, Korra is isolated and alone from everyone and must go through a vision to uncover the truth about what’s going on.
- Korra and Tenzin end up having an fight and separating whereupon Korra is “seduced” to the dark side by a villain.
There’s even more that I know I’m forgetting and that’s not counting the little touches (like the leadership not listening to Korra and General Iroh ending up not doing anything) that might be excusable as parallels or echoes if the season wasn’t such a repeat.
And that is why S2 is ultimately a failure: because in many ways it makes no use of anything from S1 and doesn’t bother learning the lessons of what S1 did right. Had Amon lived, his quest to unlock the spirit world and become a “dark avatar” might have worked given that it would flow understandably from an escalation of his previous plan. The close of S1 (past avatars “fixing” Korra) should have been retconned (a vision is the obvious fix) so that this season could have been the one where Korra worked at restoring her powers. One thing I have seen agreement on is the 2 part flashback to the “1st avatar” in this season was the high point of the season. So spreading out the story over the season as Korra works to regain her power and learns about it would have undoubtedly improved the season as a whole. It was certainly annoying to have Korra start out the season having mastered the Avatar State, something that took Aang far longer to do (and cementing Korra as full on Mary Sue). At the end, Korra ends up becoming master of… something (I guess spirit) for no discernible reason other than “she’s the protagonist.”
In the end I think the problem with Korra S2 is largely the same as the one in Star Trek 3 as pointed out by Chuck. All the pieces were in place for the season to be really, REALLY good, but in the end they utilized none of them instead falling back on well worn tropes that didn’t elevate the story, but lessened it.