The Legend of Korra:”Day Of The Colossus” & “The Last Stand” REVIEW
For the last nine years, Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko have been at the forefront of American Animation, pushing the boundaries of what is often considered to be children’s programing. Perhaps only Pendleton Ward and his Adventure Time could be described as sharing the ability, as Avatar, to appeal to viewers of all ages. Even with all their subversive elements, mature situations and complex characters, it would seem Mike and Bryan saved their biggest card for last.
The Legend of Korra is a show about progression. How people from around the world try to learn from the tragedies of the past to work towards a better tomorrow. It is a show about family. How family isn’t exactly perfect, that people can grow apart, but love of each other can heal even the bitterest of wounds. It’s a show about action. Action that at times can suspend audiences in wonder or cringe from its brutality. It’s a show about women. How when not treated as just the objects desire for men, women can be police chiefs, politicians or villains. But mainly, The Legend of Korra is about Korra, a woman who starts out as a brash teenager and becomes a heroic compassionate young adult. This is Korra’s story and the two part series finale proves why she will become legendary.
This will not be so easy for Korra, as the power hungry Kuvira stands in her way first. “Day of the Colossus” features some of the largest scale battles the series has seen, with Korra and her team trying to take down Kuvira’s massive super weapon. With such an expansive cast, it’s amazing how many characters get their big action moment throughout the episode. Even better, these are not just random action beats, but playoffs to character traits and events planted earlier in the season. Meelo’s ingenious idea to blind Kuvira’s Mecha with paint, the Beifong sister’s tag team, Varrick’s EMP, each are clever call backs.
Most impressive is the scale of the battle. There are many wide shots showing the destructive power of Kuvira’s Mecha and how Team Avatar has to combat it. The Beifong sister and Bolin drop a building on it and Kuvira is still able to continue her assault. The destruction of Republic City is reminiscent of the Angel attacks on Tokyo 3 of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Everyone from Studio Mir, for their superb animation, the storyboard artists, for their crazy plans and director Ian Graham for transferring that vision on screen, needs to be saluted for their work here.
On the other side of town, Prince Wu has been working with Pema to evacuate the remaining citizens of Republic City. Pema is adorable in her method of trying to baby the evacuees by singing old Airbender songs, which does calm them down, but also leaves them very perplexed. It is Prince Wu and his wonderful nonsense that gets everyone to safety. Securing a pair of Bargermoles, Prince Wu leads the group underground to escape Kuvira’s troops. Prince Wu has come a long way from the selfish guy from the beginning of the book. He’s still very ecstatic; however, his time in hiding among the people has made him more aware of their needs and if the lyrics to his song are too believed, he had some help from Grandma Mako as well.
With some help from Baatar Jr (slightly heart broken his lady tried to kill him) and Hiroshi (Freed from prison by Lin) Team Avatar comes up with a daring plan to cut into Kuvira’s Mecha with the two remaining Humming Bird-Suits. Before the final attack, Varrick gets on one knee and asks Zhu Li if she’ll “do the thing together with him for the rest of their lives,” While Hiroshi has one last moment working with his daughter again. Hiroshi finds his redemption protecting Republic City, enabling Team Avatar to enter Kuvira’s Mecha, but at the cost of his own life.
This is where “The Last Stand” picks up. Inside the Mecha, Team Avatar comes up with a plan to destroy it from inside. Lin and Suyin head to the arm cannon, Mako and Bolin to the power core, while Korra heads up to the command deck to face Kuvira. The emotional work of Jeremy Zuckerman’s score throughout is episode breathtaking. The way trumpets and percussion explode when Korra bust in the cockpit highlights how tense their fight is or the way the music becomes very melancholy during Mako’s big moment, it makes the audience believe maybe he won’t make it out of there.
The action inside the cockpit is tight and fast, a great contrast to the wide open field and methodical pacing of Korra and Kuvira’s first fight. However, their real confrontation comes after the Mecha blows up. With her super weapon seemingly destroyed, Kuvira runs off into the spirt wilds, not willing to surrender to Korra. There she finds the arm cannon tangled in spirt vines. Kuvira fires a shot but the spirt vines super charges the weapon causing it to spin out of control, throwing Kuvira off it. Just as it appears Kuvira is going to be taken out by her own weapon, Korra jumps in from of the blast creating a shield with her own Avatar energy. The clash of energy causes a giant explosion leveling downtown Republic City, but also creating a new spirit portal in the process.
Here in the spirit world, Korra and Kuvira can truly hash it out. Unlike her previous foes, Korra never truly understood what they were fighting for. Here for the first time, she tries to relate to one of them as any great Avatar would. Yes Kuvira has been a little undercooked; however, it is still easy to see her as that brash – smash first ask questions later Korra from the beginning of the series. As one can guess, that does not make for a good world leader. Kuvira was looking to create security, not for the people of the Earth Kingdom, but herself. Suyin stepping away from Ba Sing Se was all too familiar with her own personal tragedy and she didn’t want others to experience that same pain. Kuvira may have started out nobly, but with no one to offer any checks and balances, she lost her way.
This heart to heart is all great, fleshes out Kuvira’s character nicely, answering many lingering questions about her true motivations, if only a tag bit info-dumpy. While Kuvira is in awe to by Korra’s raw power, it is the Avatar’s compassion that causes her to surrender. Once the two women come together and relate to each other, by sharing their lowest moments, does Kuvira see the error of her ways. More so, she is willing to repent for her crimes.
The final minutes of Korra are perhaps the most memorable. Varrick’s and Jhu Li’s wedding is fun, with plenty of cameos of characters from all four Books. Bolin gets one last leading role, officiating the ceremonies. Prince Wu will be working to turn the Earth Kingdom into independent states instead of a monarchy. Mako pledges is undying loyalty to Korra. One of the first images of The Legend of Korra was Korra looking across at Republic city, so it’s fitting that once again we find Korra doing the same, now looking at the new spirt portal. Republic City was created for all the nations to live harmoniously together, to strive past their differences. With the Spirts now returning to the world, it’s great that the city will can serve as a bridge between nations and spirts as well.
Much as been said about the ending: Korra and Asami walking hand in hand, staring lovingly into each other’s eyes as they enter the spirt portal while the most romantic rendition of the ending theme plays in the background, it’s hard to see the show ending any other way (beside an added kiss.) This wasn’t a shoot decision, but the seeds for this have been planted over time. Korra and Asami’s friendship grew throughout Book 3, but by Book 4 it was clear feelings were growing deeper. Letters from the South Pole, blushing glances, and conversations over romantic sunsets, if Korra and Asami’s relationship caught you off guard, repeated viewings of Books 3 and 4 will clear up any of that; so any ambiguity of their union is not “are they really?” but more “what happens during and after this spirit vacation?”
And it’s great! It takes some bold moves to make your protagonist a woman on a major network program. It’s even bolder to make that woman a person of color. But to end your series — one of the most celebrated programs of the last decade- with your lady protagonist of color, walking off into the sunset to start a new loving romantic relationship with her lady friend, the word “bold” does not do enough to describe it.
This is why Korra will become legendary, because of balance. The last Book may be called Balance, but it’s a fitting thematic descriptor for the series as a whole. There is a balance of action, comedy, suspense and tragedy. There is a balance of characters, men, women, children and even the elderly, each complex in their own way. Finally, there is a balance of representation across ideologies, cultures, spirituality, families and now love. The first two Books may be bumpy at points, but as a whole, you will find few shows that do it better than The Legend of Korra.