Creating Mythology: The Search for Zuko’s Mother Continues…

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As most of you know by now, at the end of The Search part 1, Zuko finds a letter from his father that suggests he may not be Ozai’s son after all.

This cliffhanger seemed to leave people either excited or angry. Like I wrote about in this post when The Search was released, the expectations for this story were such that no matter what happened, I figured more than a few people would be upset with the way it all played out.

But that was just the first of a three part story. (Part 2 is out now, part 3 released in November.) And a story’s job is to throw a wrench into the character’s and the reader’s experience. The reader stands in Zuko’s shoes when he finds that letter and is left to wonder along with him, “Is Zuko’s whole life a lie?”

This question won’t be answered until part 3, but I love that it brings up so many emotions and questions for people (and for our characters).  As part 2 begins, even Aang is upset and, echoing many of you out there, says: “It can’t be true. Or at least, it shouldn’t be!”

I find it fascinating when readers or viewers are upset by an unexpected turn of events in a story, because this is the very reason we like to read them — to be surprised, to find out what happens next, to have a vicarious experience through another’s eyes. When stories don’t deviate from the expected, they become boring. And no one likes a boring story.

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What I love about the revelation at the end of part 1, is that Zuko finds a sense of freedom in his new knowledge. If he’s not Ozai’s son, that means he’ll be unburdened from his past and all the horrible things that happened to him. He thinks he can start fresh. In fact, Zuko seems to be the most relieved of his friends to find out this news — they’re all looking at the big picture and wondering what it means for the world if Zuko isn’t the rightful Fire Lord. Meanwhile, Zuko just smiles and says he feels hopeful.

This story is not just about the external plot of Zuko searching for his mother, but also his internal search for who he is (or who he thinks he is). And that’s what makes this particular chapter in the Avatar saga much more than just a mystery to be solved.

From a storytelling perspective, the facts of Ursa’s whereabouts was never as interesting to me as what this search means for Zuko.

When stories balance a hero’s external quest with his or her internal one, the tale resonates. I love trying to find that balance in storytelling. I enjoy coming up with plot, action, and the “what happens next” of it all, but if the character’s emotional needs and wants are missing, the story falls flat.

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Bryan and I have been asked many times how much of the Avatar world we knew when we started. Did we already have the idea for Korra when we were making The Last Airbender? (No.) Did we always know where Zuko’s mom was, and were we just keeping that juicy information to ourselves? (Again, no.)

The truth is, there would be no way we could’ve known every detail or character in the Avatar world. When we pitched the series, we laid out a lot of the groundwork for books 1-3 of A:TLA, but characters like Zuko, Zhao, and most of Aang’s adventures had yet to be created.

As J.R.R. Tolkein said in the foreword to Lord of the Rings, “This tale grew in the telling.” Even the godfather (grandfather?) of fantasy didn’t know everything about his own creation.

In developing each book of Korra and the Avatar comics, I have advocated creating the mythology to suit the story and its characters, rather than conform a character’s story to some pre-determined mythological encyclopedia.

When I look at sites like Avatar.wikia, I’m amazed at the volume of characters, places, and creatures that now exist in the Avatar universe. And to be honest, I’ve had to consult it now and then to fact check. Bryan and I may have established the building blocks, but many other writers and artists have helped us construct this growing, living mythology.

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Me and Bryan with Gene Yang, the writer of the Avatar comics

The Avatar tale has grown so much in the telling, and I hope will continue to grow for many years to come.

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91 thoughts on “Creating Mythology: The Search for Zuko’s Mother Continues…

  1. The creator of the web series Red vs Blue, Burnie Burns, has remarkably similar things to say about “fans wanting creators to know what the world is” before the story is written – for some reason, fans really latch on the the idea of the world being set before it starts being told, he says. Main characters that die have to be planned out from day one, major plot points need to be mapped out by day two, and the settings all need to be fabricated by day 3, in the fan’s eyes.

    And a part of me is totally along with that? Like, assume that Aang wasn’t written to be the avatar until after episode 1 was made, how weird would that be? I might even feel cheated that the show writers just kinda hacked in that Aang is this ulimate-bender, when I was all excited about him being the last airbender! The avatar was missing, why would you just like add a mega-powerful member to the party, thereby changing the plot, AND then reverse it by saying the avatar wasn’t powerful, thereby invalidating your thoughts… But the episodes could be the same, exactly as is, and I would be more annoyed by it! Is that, is that ok?

    I dunno what the answer is! But it’s sure interesting to think about. Because you’re right, the tale grows in the telling – but more than that, the tale is told in the telling! Why in the world would people care about, to make something up, an island off the coast of the earth nation that doesn’t affect the story in any way? BUT does the mere existence of that new information thereby change the story? Does it matter if the Avatar Motion Comic between seasons 2 and 3 of the original show is canon, if the episodes hold true and all is forgotten by aang at the start of S3 anyway?

    It’s a weird narrative thought-game! But as always, interesting topic, thanks for bringing it up!

    1. Thanks for commenting! You raise great points, and it is tricky — for Avatar, we tried to work out as many of the ‘big picture’ character and plot stuff as we could, but I believe it’s actually impossible to know it all up front (especially with an ongoing TV series or series of novels where deadlines and budgets are involved).

      1. Yeah, and I mean, I’d think it’s not only impossible to know it all, but also sometimes a good thing! Looking at tolkien, he had no idea that Bilbo’s ring would be The One Ring, but one he got writing the Lord of the Rings, it really took off and it makes a very neat cross-story arc that highlights the loss of the old days that’s so very Tolkien.

        Or, to keep it in Avatar, Jet’s character was very much a one-off thing in season one, but he really resonated (both on an art and a writing level), and so his character became the perfect polar counterpoint for Zuko in late S2, so his “death” was really poignant, something that probably never could have been a thing planned out from day 1. Zuko, Sokka, Aang, and Katara all had very different lights cast on their arcs when Jet died – something that couldn’t have been planned out discretely but really was a product of truly organic character growth!

      2. A common complaint I’ve seen with The Search is that apparently many people feel that if Zuko is not related to Ozai, it cheapens his entire character arc — I guess I can sort of see that but IMO it doesn’t matter what is or was because Zuko STILL made the decisions he did under the belief that Ozai WAS his biological father, and Zuko’s character choices/growth are what matters most in that situation, in my mind, not Ozai or Ursa (basically minor supporting characters).

        I actually think it’s less the employment of plot twists in and of themselves and more the execution that counts. A story with a predictable character arc/plot (most Disney movies, for example) are still respected and adored, not because they “surprised” people but because they were just well put together and effectively told their stories.

        Red vs. Blue is an interesting case because the big plot twists that the series started working in retroactively after the Blood Gulch arc actually added an extra layer to everything — it doesn’t matter if it was planned or not, because it still had an intriguing effect that brought a new sense of meaning and depth to everything, all without undermining what had happened. This worked well IMO, since most everything that had happened up until that point was basically a dark comedy without any real weight to it.

    2. I understand how people get excited when something was planned out in advance. I do it too.There’s just some kind of visceral satisfaction from a complicated plan coming together, that’s one of the reasons why Amon & Azula are comparatively the most popular villains in the Avatar world.

      I do think that sometimes people take it overboard. To me, the end result is more important than the method used to get there. A lot of successful stories have planned a great deal in advance, but near as many have winged it for most of their run, & often, they do a bit from Column A, & a bit from Column B.

      Of course, there is also a dark side to each. You can overplan so much that the story becomes stagnant & boring. You can also wing it too much, & end up grasping at straws, throwing things in that don’t make sense.

    3. This is the best to know for what they are doing with the missing links also. Kinda see A Lot of people DISLIKING leaving it off to Prince Zuko’s mother not being found. This is going to be a Nice series to watch again. the legend of Korra was kinda throwing me off. i think i can foreshadow this but i hate messing things up. I hope this series is good and would kinda be sad if it’s true. <3 Yay for another season!!!!!!!

    4. why don’t you guys turn that into a show like i’m fourteen i need something to watch because no offense but the legend of korra sucks compared to to the last airbender

  2. Great post Mike. I remember reading that you and Bryan pitched doing an animated version of The Search before Korra got picked up. Of course I’m very happy we’re now getting 4 seasons of Korra, but it would’ve been great to see you guys dive back into those beloved characters again.

    Your description about making these big revelations that shock people into 2 separate camps really rings true. Reminds me of the reveal that Darth Vader is Luke’s father in Empire Strikes Back. In Return of the Jedi, who can hear the audience speaking through Luke when he asks Yoda, “Is Darth Vader my father?”

    And like you mentioned, they dive into what this means emotionally for the character. Even though everyone’s telling him to kill Vader, Luke can’t bring himself to murder his father. He believes Vader can be redeemed. One of my favorite scenes in the original trilogy is when Vader and Luke talk in the Imperial Base on Endor before he takes him to the Emperor. They discuss their father/son relationship and Vader ends the scene with the tragic line “It is too late for me, son”. By diving into that kind of emotion, big reveals like Zuko’s lineage in The Search have much more of an impact on the audience.

  3. “When stories don’t deviate from the expected, they become boring. And no one likes a boring story.”
    Except it’s not as simple as all that, now, is it? You yourself even expressed in an earlier post the significance of stories that resonate with us and can bring us something we can take away from them — but isn’t that sometimes undermined when you just toss in plot twists just for the sake of “excitement?”

    “Stories are a particular type of human communication designed to persuade an audience of a storyteller’s worldview.”
    “Stories are delicate machines that need to be fined tuned to get the perfect resonance. And if a story resonates with us, we tend to like it, remember it, and possibly learn from it.”

    In order for stories to accomplish this consistently, however, there needs to be some ‘fine-tuning,’ some actual purpose behind the plot twist. A film like “Inception” or a game like “The Last of Us” or the season finale of Book 2 of ATLA all employ shocking plot twists, and whether or not those twists were planned from the beginning or not is irrelevant, because they contribute to some kind of consistent messages or ideas — something for us as the audience to take away and think on.

    Just throwing wrenches into the mix for the sake of shock-value can undermine the carefully laid out structure a story sets up. The finale episode of Book 1 of LoK is unfortunately a very good example (in my opinion) of this phenomenon, where an entire story arc is cheapened and left without any real growth or change in the “hero” character, and thus no consistent message to take away from what was experienced.

    It can be flashy and poignant on first reading/viewing but repeated viewings make its inconsistencies more apparent, which I have been seeing more and more peers realizing when re-watching Korra since its disc release, expressing disappointment in the story “dropping the ball” on the fascinating dynamic regarding the very valid points Amon’s character brought to the table. I actually don’t care whether or not his true identity was decided or known from the get-go — that is unrealistic to expect of serialized stories, and it IS a very good good thing to let the story grow in the telling. But when the smoke clears and what is left is very much the same as when the story started, it can devalue things.

    For example, what was the “message” of Book 1 of Korra?
    Because earlier episodes seemed to set up a pretty clear set of ideas, only for “shocks!” and “surprises!” to show up in the finale and completely undermine a lot of it. :(
    (“When someone starts a valid political movement in defense of innocent, oppressed people, the solution is to kick their leader out of a window, dismiss the entire problem because benders are just BETTER than non-benders, and steal a friend’s boyfriend while you’re at it! And then let someone else (ie Aang) clean up the mess you made for yourself!”)

    So if you guys really just like to JAM in plot twists just to shake things up, I would strongly recommend you consider WHY you employ certain plot twists, and how you’re using them to communicate or explore the themes and ideas you, as the storytellers, are intending for us as the audience to take away.

    And I DO have faith that future Books of Korra have been more carefully constructed to actually develop the characters and the world rather than just try to shock and “wow” people just for the sake of doing so — I am also patiently awaiting the end of The Search to see what the purpose of these “twists” pays off as.

    “From a storytelling perspective, the facts of Ursa’s whereabouts was never as interesting to me as what this search means for Zuko.”
    THIS I totally agree with, actually, and it is how I felt ever since I watched the show — though we do live in a culture where the audience for shows like Avatar is a lot more savvy, and we expect details from the storytellers.

    That just means we come to expect great things, I suppose, so I hope it doesn’t discourage you guys. I know it can be hard to hear criticism about things like Mako as a character, but when enough people are complaining, I hope it’s eliciting some reflection — I know in my own experiences even just writing Avatar fiction I have had to face some things like that on a much smaller scale, and taking consistent criticisms into consideration has helped me grow as a writer.

    I’m sorry if I sound very critical, but I critique out of love of yours guys’ work — you have usually done such a good job of not relying on cheap “shock value” tactics in the past, and it’s disappointing to see both the comics and the TV series relying more and more on that sort of thing, instead of just developing the characters through difficult situations.

    People fell in love with Avatar so universally not because it was a “shocking” story (Save the world from an evil dictator! End a war!) but because it was executed with such thought, so many valuable messages, and such endearing and varied characters that we saw grow over time.

    I know Legend of Korra has the potential to do that, as well, and these comics are at least adding some new ideas to the world, but I just hope that when you guys genuinely do feel tired out from this universe, you allow it to rest peacefully.

    Keep up the great work! I eagerly anticipate future seasons of Korra, future Avatar comics, and the many stories and creative works this fandom will come up with all the while.

    1. I agree with most of your post, except that the Equalists were NOT a valid political movement. Certainly not in the way Amon led them.

      We never actually saw any oppression towards the non-benders. Not one case of systematic oppression on screen. Yes, Tarrlok’s measures were overly harsh and unjust and oppressive towards non-benders – but that was only AFTER Amon started causing unrest in the city, rallying people against all benders. Yes, all the members of the Republic City Council are benders in TLOK – but, as we see from flashback, this is not a rule! We saw at least two members of the Council who were not benders – Sokka and the unnamed Air Acolyte (the only Airbenders at that time were Aang and little Tenzin). They just happen to be all benders during Korra’s arrival to RC – and it doesn’t surprise me that Amon waited until that particular time to start the Equalist movement, in an attempt to spin the situation to his advantage (because people usually have a short memory for important details like this).

      I repeat, we never saw non-benders being actually oppressed (and by that I mean systematic oppression by the government and society as a whole). Being a bender doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be successful in life – heck, Mako and Bolin grew up on the streets and were very poor, and they’re both highly proficient benders (especially Mako, who’s able to bend lightning). On the other hand, the richest man in the city is a non-bender (Hiroshi Sato). Plus, we saw that there are both benders and non-benders in the community of homeless people. Bending is just like any other talent a person might have – the person’s success depends on how he or she develops it.

      I’ve seen “arguments” by some people that “non-benders are oppressed because they can’t become policemen/work in the power plant like Mako/whatever” – well, guess what, majority of BENDERS (waterbenders, earthbenders and firebenders who can’t create lightning) couldn’t do what Mako does, because the ability to create lightning is kind of in the JOB DESCRIPTION. Same goes for metalbending cops (though I would like to point out that there were other people working for the police – the radio operators – who don’t need to be benders in order to do their job. In fact I believe most of them are non-benders, since they needed Tenzin to defend them when the Equalists attacked the police station). Similarly, a firebender couldn’t become a healer (only specially skilled waterbenders could) – though he or she could certainly find other job in the hospital. I would imagine that most jobs do not require any specific bending skill.

      He also very conveniently forgets all the benefits bending brings – firebenders who can create lightning provide electric power for the city (hah, I wouldn’t be surprised if those Equalist gloves weren’t powered by electricity created by benders), there are waterbending healers, earthbenders were used in construction… In fact, the whole technological progress of Republic City could be put down to different benders and non-benders joining their skills. The benefits of the benders’ existence greatly outnumber the downsides. If all the benders lost their bending, EVERYONE, including non-benders, would be worse off.

      Amon’s tactics are not unlike typical Communist demagoguery – twist little truths and half-truths and a whole lot of lies in order to convince people that they’re oppressed and have it bad in life – why? Easy – because people who believe they’re oppressed are easily manipulated. He antagonized a whole group of people not because of their actions, but because of who they ARE. He very quickly went from “some benders are oppressive and abuse their power” (the triads, the ancient rulers who started wars) to “ALL benders are oppressive and abuse their power”. It’s generalising in its worst sense. He built his whole ideology on envy and hatred, and that’s why it’s WRONG. What about the innocent benders who simply lived their lives and did their jobs? Amon didn’t seem to differentiate between them and the bending criminals. The irony that he himself is a highly skilled and dangerous bender is just cherry on top, and his reveal did not suprise me one bit.

      (It’s just like Communism – everyone who was talented or intelligent was considered suspicious at best, dangerous at worst. The Commies wanted everyone to be “equal” – what happened was that everyone was EQUALLY POOR, with the small class of party leaders who enjoyed all the riches and privileges. Been there, done that – no, thank you.)

      So yes, it’s a little frustrating how many people on the internet fell for Amon’s demagoguery and ideological bull****, when we actually saw very little evidence that the Equalist movement had any credibility.

      1. Well, I actually didn’t make any of the arguments you attempt to deflate here. Though I would point out that most everything you’ve mentioned is all theoretical, as that’s kind of this whole situation — you can’t actually prove or disprove one way or another whether or not systematic oppression was going on. Just because we didn’t see it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. We didn’t see how on earth Amon still captured Tenzin or his kids (another example of shock value that I felt was just there to be shocking), and yet that apparently happened.

        What we DID see was some instances of oppression — Korra herself calls Tarrlok out on this. Plus, the entire Equalist movement simply would not have taken off the ground were there not some valid reasons for it, and likewise, Amon’s rallies would not have attracted so many people. Amon’s actual actions were of course the wrong way to resolve things — that’s what makes him the villain figure. But even Mike and Bryan expressed in the DVD commentary that their whole purpose with Amon’s character was to present a villain who actually had a good point — and they even mention that one of the big figures who works on the show (I can’t remember exactly who, either Ryu or Joaquim, as I recall) actually agrees entirely with Amon’s perspective on things.

        So regardless of whether or not there was technically systematic oppression, the INTENT of the narrative, expressed in multiple ways, is that there WAS oppression of some consistent nature going on. Did that call for weaponized machines? Probably not. That’s what made Amon a villain instead of just a political figure — his use of force. Which, by the way, was the SAME tactic Korra employed. And yet she got rewarded for it by virtue of hazy plot details, and the entire political movement evidently just completely giving up the second Amon disappeared.

        Now, as I said, all of this is theoretical, so you could really go back and forth about it all day.

        But it’s neither here or there in regards to my primary point, which was that Lok’s Book 1 finale relied on shock value and plot twists that were thematically inconsistent with what had presented through the majority of the season, whereas previous season finales, while they did rely on similar deus ex machina plot twists, at least promoted the themes and ideals that the story arcs of their respective seasons were all about.

        My main issue is that Korra resolved the problem of The Equalists the exact same way she solves all of her problems: through violence, and by NOT listening to Tenzin (or everyone else), and NOT practicing patience, and NOT actually doing anything spiritual. For a Book entitled “Air,” Korra did not do very much at all to show that she understands what airbending is about, how it works, where its energies come from, etc. Aang’s story involved him actually needing to learn, adapt, and take in different aspects of philosophies from the different bending practices, as Iroh advised in the episode “Bitter Work.”

        Korra, however, doesn’t do anything to show actual growth or change as a character, and instead solves her problems the same way she did in episode 1: punching. She even literally PUNCHED to airbend, which is not the kind of motion that bending utilizes to function, further illustrating the idea that she really hasn’t changed or learned much at all.

        Side characters not having much development is understandable in such a short run of episodes, but if the series is Legend of KORRA, I would very much like to see the plot focusing on KORRA as a character. She really is such a fascinating and likeable character with clearly established strengths and flaws, which were expressed brilliantly in the first four episodes in particular. Korra’s actions and choices really did not affect much of what happened in Book 1, whereas the real climax and heart of storytelling (for me, at least, personally) is seeing the protagonist(s) make meaningful choices. Korra has yet to do that.

        She has a LOT of potential to grow, even if it’s in more subtle ways, and so I’m glad there are 3 more seasons left. I have faith that now that the production process has been worked out and the team knows exactly how much space they have to tell their stories, we’ll see future seasons of Korra actually promote that general theme of balance more efficiently.

      2. My main issue is that Korra resolved the problem of The Equalists the exact same way she solves all of her problems: through violence, and by NOT listening to Tenzin (or everyone else), and NOT practicing patience, and NOT actually doing anything spiritual. For a Book entitled “Air,” Korra did not do very much at all to show that she understands what airbending is about, how it works, where its energies come from, etc. Aang’s story involved him actually needing to learn, adapt, and take in different aspects of philosophies from the different bending practices, as Iroh advised in the episode “Bitter Work.”

        Korra, however, doesn’t do anything to show actual growth or change as a character, and instead solves her problems the same way she did in episode 1: punching. She even literally PUNCHED to airbend, which is not the kind of motion that bending utilizes to function, further illustrating the idea that she really hasn’t changed or learned much at all.

        I think it’s important to remember that there’s a difference between “Korra fails to learn to be less violent and impatient” and “Korra fails to learn anything,” as much as being less violent and impatient is her expected character arc. She’s not Thor from the Marvel movies, the sort of irresponsible hero who needs their power taken away to learn to respect that power. Her character arc is something else.

        The tricky thing about Korra is that she’s not nearly as functional as she seems — she looks like a normal, if impulsive and aggressive, teenager, but her social development is all but nonexistent as of Welcome to Republic City. Her experiences over the course of the show basically function as a “Remedial Humanity” class, which makes her character arc easy to miss if you assume she already knows that stuff.

        It’s true that she doesn’t learn patience and non-violence and obedience… instead, she learns how to care about and understand other people, both of which, I might point out, are vital to her success in Endgame. She’s able to airbend because she cares about Mako enough to stop thinking about herself; she’s able to defeat Amon because she trusted Tarrlok and came up with a plan of attack using the insight he offered into his brother’s character. It still ends in violence, of course, because she backed Noatak into the same corner in which Tarrlok had trapped her in A Voice in the Night, but the reason she’s able to unravel Amon’s identity is because she allows herself to understand him.

        And that, I think, is both airbender-like and a much bigger change than a normal impulsive hero learning to be patient. Korra learns to connect with other people, and, in so doing, learns to fully connect with her own spiritual self. There’s nothing disappointing about growth like that!

      3. Lol the blogger totally owned you with superior logic for your failure to understand what is easy to see for anyone who isn’t uneducated.

      4. What a complete and utter failure at discourse Tauriel is. I suggest reading some collegiate level books on the matter.

        We never actually saw any oppression towards the non-benders. Not one case of systematic oppression on screen.

        *Power-outage followed by labeling them all Equalist and then attempting to round them up.

        Yes, Tarrlok’s measures were overly harsh and unjust and oppressive towards non-benders:

        *Government officials legislating such measures ARE the definition of systematic oppression.

        – but that was only AFTER Amon started causing unrest in the city, rallying people against all benders.

        *Previous statement still stands true. The “no he did it first” argument is what is called a logic fallacy. It goes on forever and has no real value in determining the root of the problem.

        Yes, all the members of the Republic City Council are benders in TLOK – but, as we see from flashback, this is not a rule!

        *Rather it WASN’T, and may not still be a RULE. But it is the way it is now. It’s rule without representation.

        We saw at least two members of the Council who were not benders – Sokka and the unnamed Air Acolyte (the only Airbenders at that time were Aang and little Tenzin). They just happen to be all benders during Korra’s arrival to RC –

        *There is nothing to assert that it just “happened” to be that way. In terms of politics, there are no coincidences. A lot happens in 42 years.

        and it doesn’t surprise me that Amon waited until that particular time to start the Equalist movement, in an attempt to spin the situation to his advantage (because people usually have a short memory for important details like this).

        *Again, heresay that is no way validated or even implied by the information given to us. You have no way of knowing when in the last 42 years that shift happens, thus asserting Amon “waited” is invalid.

        I repeat, we never saw non-benders being actually oppressed (and by that I mean systematic oppression by the government and society as a whole).

        *See earlier comment.

        Being a bender doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be successful in life – heck, Mako and Bolin grew up on the streets and were very poor, and they’re both highly proficient benders (especially Mako, who’s able to bend lightning). On the other hand, the richest man in the city is a non-bender (Hiroshi Sato). Plus, we saw that there are both benders and non-benders in the community of homeless people. Bending is just like any other talent a person might have – the person’s success depends on how he or she develops it.

        *Financial wealth =/= equality. There is a often a correlation, but not a universal law. This is the concept of Micro-freedoms that you are no informed on. While there may very well be both benders and non-benders who are homeless, it is no way inferred that they fell to such status the same way.

        I’ve seen “arguments” by some people that “non-benders are oppressed because they can’t become policemen/work in the power plant like Mako/whatever” – well, guess what, majority of BENDERS (waterbenders, earthbenders and firebenders who can’t create lightning) couldn’t do what Mako does, because the ability to create lightning is kind of in the JOB DESCRIPTION. Same goes for metalbending cops (though I would like to point out that there were other people working for the police – the radio operators – who don’t need to be benders in order to do their job. In fact I believe most of them are non-benders, since they needed Tenzin to defend them when the Equalists attacked the police station). Similarly, a firebender couldn’t become a healer (only specially skilled waterbenders could) – though he or she could certainly find other job in the hospital. I would imagine that most jobs do not require any specific bending skill.

        *Very conveniently missed the foundation of the argument. It’s not about a particular bending discipline. It’s about societies divisions of Benders vs. Non-Benders, which is re-articulated throughout the series. The establishment doesn’t care if you bend water or fire. Society didn’t just build itself based on the contribution of bending, it then used bending to secure that power. While there may be non-bending individuals within the police force, they themselves are not the ones we see on the street arresting people. Black cops next to white cops: that doesn’t stop white cops from racial profiling.

        He also very conveniently forgets all the benefits bending brings – firebenders who can create lightning provide electric power for the city (hah, I wouldn’t be surprised if those Equalist gloves weren’t powered by electricity created by benders).

        *That’s a really dumb statement. It presumes electricity doesn’t exist in it’s natural form as well know (ie created & sustainable through technology)

        there are waterbending healers, earthbenders were used in construction… In fact, the whole technological progress of Republic City could be put down to different benders and non-benders joining their skills. The benefits of the benders’ existence greatly outnumber the downsides. If all the benders lost their bending, EVERYONE, including non-benders, would be worse off.

        *They’d live in our world. We do just fine.

        Amon’s tactics are not unlike typical Communist demagoguery – twist little truths and half-truths and a whole lot of lies in order to convince people that they’re oppressed and have it bad in life – why?

        *Democratic leaders do this as well. Often. You should read the news. You’re kind of doing it right now.

        Easy – because people who believe they’re oppressed are easily manipulated.

        *Dismissing someone as only “believing” they’re oppressed is an element of oppression itself. It diminishes there claim as a person and presents yourself as above dealing with the assertion itself.

        He antagonized a whole group of people not because of their actions, but because of who they ARE. There are benders who did bad things. Therefore, it is actions. The actions of benders were executed by an aspect of themselves.

        He very quickly went from “some benders are oppressive and abuse their power” (the triads, the ancient rulers who started wars) to “ALL benders are oppressive and abuse their power”. It’s generalising in its worst sense. He built his whole ideology on envy and hatred, and that’s why it’s WRONG.

        *No. That’s why Amon is a VILLIAN. That doesn’t make the entire movement invalid.

        What about the innocent benders who simply lived their lives and did their jobs? Amon didn’t seem to differentiate between them and the bending criminals. The irony that he himself is a highly skilled and dangerous bender is just cherry on top, and his reveal did not surprise me one bit.

        *See previous comment.

        (It’s just like Communism – everyone who was talented or intelligent was considered suspicious at best, dangerous at worst. The Commies wanted everyone to be “equal” – what happened was that everyone was EQUALLY POOR, with the small class of party leaders who enjoyed all the riches and privileges. Been there, done that – no, thank you.)

        *Again, could see parallels in democratic institutions.

        So yes, it’s a little frustrating how many people on the internet fell for Amon’s demagoguery and ideological bull****, when we actually saw very little evidence that the Equalist movement had any credibility.

        *It’s more of your incomplete of the discourse that makes you mad. You choose to see Amon and “Equalist Movement” as completely interchangeable. And they are not.

  4. I love the growing that went on through the stories in Korra and Avatar. When people get so shaken up from a plot twist, you know you’re doing something right.

    I agree with you 100%. My questions have always involved how Zuko will change when/if he finds his mother, not so much where she’s been or what she’s been up to. Sure, that stuff is interesting, but I want to know what’s going on internally.

    It upsets me when fans seem to claim that writers and creators don’t understand what they’ve created. You go Mike, I’m along for the ride!

    1. While it can be hard for some of us Avatar fans to hear things like the series creators not actually KNOWING what happened to Zuko’s mom, or not even CARING who Lin Beifong’s father is, I personally find certain questions like this better left unanswered sometimes — it allows the creative fandom to fill in their own blanks and expand the universe in their own ways. And sometimes it allows the creators themselves to go back later on (as they are here) and present their own ideas after the fact, which are often more thought-out than they would’ve been had they been planned from the get-go.

  5. I always enjoy reading your posts Mike. You, along with Bryan, have really been an inspiration to me, ever since I saw your short excerpts on Nick when I was young. I’ve always loved to write, but never really found anything to back it up, but after rediscovering A:TLA going into high school, I realized how passionate I was for it. Watching the episodes then, and Korra episodes now, it reminds me how everything starts with a central idea. As an established member of Avatar wiki too, I really just wanted to thank you for providing one of the most well-written, heart-felt stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

    I love the point you made about how the story “grows in the telling.” From the opening episode of A:TLA, to the debuting of Book Two: Spirits, and even the new The Search additions, Avatar has most certainly evolved into something amazing.

    And as for The Search cliffhanger, I loved it. It made me think multiple “what-if” questions and had me guessing at possible scenarios. I love the way you guys characterized Zuko in A:TLA, so having him be from technically “not-royal” blood wouldn’t affect my view of him. But when the cliffhanger first began to gain momentum, it was crazy to see the division between sides on who liked or disliked it.

    It is interesting though, to work with others to bring an encyclopedia to the public for everything Avatar, because you see everything that you and your team has created over the years. It honestly astounds me. Please, keep up the awesome work.

    1. “And as for The Search cliffhanger, I loved it. It made me think multiple “what-if” questions and had me guessing at possible scenarios.”
      I actually don’t mind these sorts of things as much as many other people seem to — I like it sometimes when a story takes details that are technically not relevant to its primary plot, and allows the audience to interpret from them. That’s the sort of thing that keeps fandom activity alive.

      Also, props to you guys at Avatar Wiki. I reference the site all of the time for my own fiction projects, and likewise find the site’s compendium as an expression of just how rich the Avatar world has grown to become!

  6. Everything in the Avatar world is so developed, you and Bryan did a great job of defining even the small details. It really makes it seem so much more real and relatable, to the point where people have been able to do things like make Pai Sho into a playable game. I’ve wondered for a while, what with the incredible mythology you’ve created, how much freedom you give to people like Gene Yang. How much is he allowed to come up with on his own from the world/mythology standpoint? Do you give him a plot outline and let him go from there?

    [SPOILERS]
    Things pop out to me when I read the comics, like the reference to the giant wolf from A:TLA episode 01-20. I read the reference and can imagine that Gene Yang added that little throwback in on his own, but wonder if you and Bryan had the Face Spirit storyline in mind while the comic was being written, or if Gene came up with it by himself. Adding a new spirit into the mix can have a big impact on the lore surrounding the Avatar’s world, it would be interesting to know how closely you and Bryan are involved when a big character like that is being created in a non-television media.
    [END SPOILERS]

    Either way, I love the way the comics are turning out. They’re engaging and thought-provoking, everything I’d expect from Team Avatar!

    1. I’ve wondered that sort of stuff myself!
      I know that with The Search, Yang has said that the plot of this story arc has involved not just his own ideas but ideas from Bryan, Michael, and even Nickelodeon executives.

      It makes sense, really, since most of the Avatar story is in fact told in a collaborative fashion, I would imagine, given just how many different writers worked on ATLA.

      I think Yang has done an admirable job with the comics, though I personally want to see more about Toph/Aang/Sokka/Katara rather than even more Zuko stuff — which gives me reason to be excited for The Rift.

      Gene Yang does even better work in his original comics! So if you’ve liked what he’s done with Avatar, I highly recommend giving some of his other pieces a go — American Born Chinese and Level Up are his best so far, in my opinion, and I bet his upcoming Boxers and Saints will be really good, too.

      1. Oh, same here. I always cared more for the original members of Team Avatar more than Zuko. I’m completely ready to admit that Zuko’s growth was more complicated and such, but I just found the main heroes to be more enjoyable to watch. And I loved seeing the bonding between Aang and Katara and how their relationship grew into something much more than that. It was sweet, but there were also many morales to be learned from it. I liked all the awkward moments between them, and the obvious hints that they both had feelings for each other, and I wanna see more romance :D I just don’t want it to go overboard and take up a whole comic haha. I just think that I’ve had enough of Zuko and Azula’s interactions, and Azula’s constant psychotic outbreaks and visions of her mother where she tells her that she loves her and she refuses to believe it. I liked the scenes where Zuko tried to stop Azula everytime she suggested something horrible like cutting off the head of that girl Kiyi’s doll.

        I especially liked the scene where Aang and Katara was clearly thinking about marriage, and when embarassed when Noriko said that she thought they were too young for it, and changing her mind because loves leads where it does. That was sweet, especially considering the scene afterwards where she tells Azula that she and Aang are definitely as happy together as Noren and Noriko were. That’s just not something we get to see from their relationship, or Katara in particular, very often, as a trait of her personaltiy is that she’s very emotionally guarded. So it’s nice to see her open up like that.

        Mike, will we ever get to see some more fluffy-mushy-gushy-lovey-dovey stuff between them? :P I mean, not to a point where it’ll replace all plot.

      2. I forgot to add:
        In my opinion, A:TLA were the greatest modern hero’s journey story, and greatest modern love story. As a whole it is in fact a great fictional epic legend and love story, which I know was what you and Bryan wanted to acomplish. I believe the series should be viewed as a whole :) I don’t mean anyone should sit and watch the series straight for 26 hours, but it’s very much like one big story, which is one of the things I love about it. To me it feels like an epic poem put to moving pictures and conveyed to our young generation, and in a great way.

        Stay creative,
        Best,
        - Lukas

  7. This article somehow seems to imply that Zuko’s search for who he is is irrelevant of his actual parentage. That I strongly disagree with. Eddy Fettig makes a very good point that surprises just for the shock value are not good storytelling. In fact, making Zuko not to be Ozai’s son completely undermines and destroys his character development in Book 2. He already went through the internal battle between his two heritages (Sozin’s and Roku’s), even before he knew that Roku was his great-grandfather – as evidenced by his dream of two dragons. Genetics can’t be easily handwaved away. Mike seems to argue that “oh, Zuko still believed he was Ozai’s son” – yeah, no, that doesn’t quite have the same impact as the battle of his two heritages within him having a PHYSICAL effect on him. Giving Zuko the heritage of some random actor dude instead of Sozin is incredibly tension-destroying and cheap. It handwaves away Zuko’s struggle in Books 2 and 3 by saying “it’s all in the mind, anyway”.

    And it also undoes the effect of “The Avatar and the Fire Lord”, as well as diminishing the scale of how awful and horrible Ozai’s treatment of Zuko was (it doesn’t have the full impact of “how can he do that to his SON?” – now you can say “oh well, it’s because he knew Zuko wasn’t his son”).

    In short, making Zuko not to be Ozai’s son is cheap, controversial for controversy’s sake, and very much out of character for the series. I’m still hoping that that letter will turn out to be fake in Part 3, that it was all some kind of trick, because otherwise I’d be very, very disappointed in how my favourite character’s development was completely undermined and cheapened – with the creators’ blessing, to make it worse…

    1. You know, I have to agree with you on that point — I actually often forget about Zuko’s “internal, physical” conflict in regards to the energies in his body fighting with one another (which Iroh specifically cites as his reason for falling ill, and which seems to be symbolized by the two dragons in Zuko’s vision), plus there are other implications you point out that would be lost, reotractively, if Ikem if Zuko’s biological father.

      I think the reason it doesn’t bother me as much personally is because I don’t care as much about those “physical” (ie spiritual/magical) aspects of character development in Avatar (ex. Korra somehow being able to airbend despite not doing anything spiritual), but I also do not put much stock in biological heritage, due in part to the fact that I have never met my own biological father.

      But yes, either way, in regards to this particular aspect of The Search I am waiting to see how it plays out before I really decide how I feel about it. I will confess, though, that as of right, I’m much more interested in the more subtle but IMO more effecting foil of Zuko/Azula’s dysfunctional sibling relationship against Katara/Sokka’s.

    2. THANK YOU, I agree wholeheartedly! I also think that there’s another important message from the original series that gets undermined if Zuko is not in fact Ozai’s son, and that is that your heritage does not define whether you’re good or bad. This was originally presented in the sibling dynamics of Zuko and Azula. They have the same genetic make-up but are completely opposite from each other – Zuko aspires to do the right thing despite losing his way several times, whereas Azula, equally desperate for her father’s acceptance, does whatever she can to impress Ozai and stay in control with little to no regard for the ethical side of her actions.

      This kind of narrative is very important and empowering in a world full of racism and inequality and it would be absolutely devastating to see it all go to waste. After all, if Zuko isn’t Ozai’s son, that would leave the window open for the interpretation that Azula is the way she is because of heritage, not because of her traumatic childhood, insecurity and inability to form meaningful relationships with others.

      So basically if the letter and the information on it is legitimate, both Zuko and Azula will lose tremendous amount of character development, depth and relevance, and the world will lose yet another inspiring narrative that resonates with so many modern issues.

    3. I agree. And Zuko not being Ozai’s son, in my opinion, gives a rather misguided message I think the very conflict within Zuko, and the series in general, tried to avoid: that your goodness can be indicated by your bloodline.

  8. Hey Mike I’m very happy with how the search is coming along. To be honest I think when zuko said he found himself hopeful at the fact that he might not be ozai son it was a really sad moment. He didn’t even feel sad or angry which shows how much ozai hurt zuko in his life to the point that he is relieved at this news. But I also can’t believe how far zuko has come in this universe. If this was the zuko in book 1 or 2 it would have been a different story how he took this news. I love how much he has grown up and handles whatever comes his way with good grace.

    P.S. I hope you leave who zuko wife will be a mystery ^_^ you know just to get the fans relied up ^0^

    Keep up the good work guys and I hope you get some much needed rest after legend of korra.

  9. For me, it’s not even about plot twists, but suspension of disbelief. A lot of things surprised me in Last Airbender. Jet dying, Aang getting shot by lightning, the Avatar State being sealed for a while, Ozai planning to kill everything with fire, etc. But importantly, it was all (A) cool & (B) believable.

    Now, I want to look at a plot twist that predated The Search: Noatak. That really relied on heaps of retcons, Bloodbending that didn’t need a full moon, Bloodbending that could be done without someone noticing, Bloodbending being able to take away Bending permanently. Plus, there was this idea that he was something we’d never seen before, a non-bender that didn’t take orders from any higher authority. Were there some things that were interesting about the twist? Sure. But it was still jarring, & in my opinion just wasn’t as interesting. Because I was legitimately on the edge of my seat wondering how Korra would deal with such a complicated situation. When it turned out to be as simple as, “Lol, Amon’s a bender,” I was disappointed. The payoff wasn’t as good as the setup had promised.

    Now, I tell that story so as to set up the Ikem thing. Many people say that it would somehow cheapen Zuko’s arc. I don’t believe that. I’ve stated many times that my problem is that Ozai is so obviously Zuko’s father. I’ve broken down the physical similarities before, & just how few of them that Ikem shares, & of course it has been stated that it was intentional at least on the part of Ozai.

    Does the story ask some interesting questions? Sure. But there’s just not enough groundwork for me to find Ikem believable as Zuko’s father. There isn’t even anything in the show that I can squint at & pretend is a hint that Ozai is anyone other than Zuko’s biological father.

    Now, I think it’s fair to note, that was not the only twist in the first part of The Search. Pretty much all of Ursa’s background was a roller coaster, & my attitude was one of basically unconditional excitement until the infamous letter. So, like I said, it’s not so much about being anti-twist, it’s more about “is this twist both believable & interesting?”

    1. I have to agree here; I thought this “twist” at the end of the book was, well… just not very good writing. As you said, a twist has to be “both believable and interesting” and this one is not really either, at least for me. The wording is deliberately ambiguous, but its meaning is only ambiguous if you are Zuko and have serious confidence issues and are kind of an idiot.

      From an adult perspective, it is pretty clear that “our son” refers to Ursa and Ozai’s son. Ursa is unhappy with her life at the palace, but her one consolation is Zuko, her son. This is a super common thing– maybe being unhappy in marriage but sticking it out for the sake of the kids. Teenagers could easily misinterpret this (which I guess makes it work for this comic) but the truth is that if Zuko is not Ozai’s son it pretty much ruins the entire point of his backstory/struggle throughout AtLA AND throws his legitimacy as Fire Lord into question. We know that Zuko didn’t get deposed because of Korra, so… there’s no real mystery here.

      My problem with the comics has consistently been that there is not enough development and set-up for the plot. Especially post-series when there are a lot of political issues at stake. I know the comics are written for teenagers and children, but… so was AtLA, and the show was much better at implying the political details while still keeping things simple. And comics are way cheaper to produce than animation, so I’m puzzled as to why the comics are so bare-bones, like the plot has to happen as fast as possible so no one has time to talk or think about it.

      And of course, I suppose I’m also disappointed because so far none of the comics have been as interesting as my headcanon– that Ursa was a noble or high-born girl who went to the same school as Mai, Ty Lee, and Azula, and therefore had awesome ninja assassin skills. (Because you don’t assassinate a reigning leader and escape cleanly without them.) And then hid out with the Order of the White Lotus afterwards.

      1. Haha, well, headcanons aside, I agree that the comics have been fun but yea, for me they’re lacking in character development. And it’s not even just because the plot needs to be rushed, I mean…The Promise offered a couple of awesome bits of character development for Ozai and Toph, each not really taking up that much printed real estate. And The Search draws occasional but effective comparisons between Azula/Zuko and Katara/Sokka, it just leaves them on the surface level when it could be digging deeper, rather than trying to introduce more and more characters that maybe don’t bring a lot to the table.

        But that’s my frustration — I feel like the stories would be so much more interesting if they just picked a character or two to focus on and developed a story with them rather than trying to sweep quickly over plot that ultimately doesn’t REALLY change up much or offer any new grand plot revelations or backstory (Yang said in an interview at SDCC that he basically couldn’t really do anything gamechanging, after all).

        So yea, you end up having these weird instances where a year goes by, and about 200-250 pages across 3 comic issues…and not actually that much HAPPENS in any of them, and yet there’s also not really much character development, either. It’s a weird combination. I love seeing some callbacks to characters like Smellerbee, or meeting Toph’s metalbending students, but pretty much everything I’m loving about these comics are just side things, ironically.

        But I totally agree with you — just because they are written with a younger audience in mind doesn’t mean they still can’t be effective. Some of the one-shot comics that premiered in Nick magazine are a handful of pages long and yet manage to do something neat and interesting (I especially liked the one where Katara and Toph went to a bar together, haha).

        I mean, I like these new comics well enough, for sure. It’s fun seeing the Gaang doing new stuff, and occasionally they deliver some really fun moments that I love a lot. I’ve bought them and have even gone to a couple of lectures/book-signings that Yang has had in my area. He IS a good writer, and I love his work — I think he just does better stuff when he’s building his own stories from scratch.

        That, and I felt that Zuko’s character arc was so thoroughly completed in the series (moreso than even Aang, really) that MORE time on him and his family just seems gratuitous — I want to learn more about Toph, or Aang, or Katara and Sokka. I want to see more of those guys making each other grow — especially Toph, whose character arc was essentially left incomplete in the show to the point where the show calls itself out on it. So I’m definitely interested to see where The Rift goes next year. But that’s a long way away, haha.

    2. “Because I was legitimately on the edge of my seat wondering how Korra would deal with such a complicated situation. When it turned out to be as simple as, “Lol, Amon’s a bender,” I was disappointed. The payoff wasn’t as good as the setup had promised.”

      YES, this. I was disappointed, too — not quite as much about Amon being a bender but because his being a bender evidently led to “how Korra would deal with such a complicated situation” in a much more simplified “PUNCH THE BAD GUY!” aaaaand…yea, it wasn’t a good payoff after the brilliant setup that had been promised.

      It was shocking and surprising, but once that feeling wears off I’m still left wondering, “So, what did Korra learn? What was the point?”

      @Ikkin
      “She’s not Thor from the Marvel movies, the sort of irresponsible hero who needs their power taken away to learn to respect that power. Her character arc is something else.”
      Except at his point, she IS the sort of irresponsible hero who, as Tenzin puts it in 2×01, doesn’t appreciate the power she has. So no, she doesn’t need it taken away, but she needs to learn to understand and appreciate it, which means not busting a fireball out at everyone she disagrees with.

      And I will agree with you that Korra DID learn to be more sympathetic toward others and that’s very important — but she didn’t seem to grow or change in HOW she deals with her problems. Sure, she exhibited patience — for all of like, the last 5 minutes of episode 10? And then by the end of episode 11 she was right back to her old mistakes, and she paid for it by having her bending screwed up (because she tried taking on Amon with force, directly). I would’ve loved this, actually, were it not for Magic Jesus Aang descended out of nowhere despite any real spiritual effort on Korra’s part and just fixing her problem for her (in an unexplained fashion, BTW). I wanted to see KORRA resolve the problem of the Equalist movement. What I actually saw was Amon undoing himself and running away, and Korra having someone else clean up her mess. It just wasn’t thematically satisfying and undermined the ideas set up in episodes like 1-4 or 8.

      So I suppose I will concede that Korra DID learn some things, sure. She just didn’t do the best job acting on what she theoretically learned. She resolved her problems the same way she did in episode 1. And to me, THAT is “boring” but also ironically “unexpected.” It also just wasn’t believable in the way that Yue’s fate was, or Zuko’s betrayal.

      Again, not at all trying to hate on the series as I DO love most of Legend of Korra so far, especially the production values.

      But that 12 episode arc was written with the intent of the story ending there (they didn’t know more episodes would get made until after Book 1 was already written, correct?) and if developing your villains MORE than the titular hero was the intent for a single spinoff season, it’s just…confusing to me, is all.

      Korra’s “Legend” has yet to transpire. And I do believe it will in time. But only if the missteps of Book 1 were kept in mind — and even better, if they are actually USED in some ways and built off of. The promise I’ve seen of Korra being magically granted the Avatar State without earning it means she has power she doesn’t really know what to do with (other than cheat against kids half her age, apparently), so maybe we’ll see some growth as a result of that.

      1. “It was shocking and surprising, but once that feeling wears off I’m still left wondering, “So, what did Korra learn? What was the point?””

        Exactly. After the first few episodes of Korra, I assumed that around the midpoint, Amon was going to take her bending away, and that would force Korra to think up new ways to deal with problems. Instead of simply punching things in the face with fire all the time, she was going to have to take a more indirect approach– in short, she would have to think more like an airbender, which would have been a great set up for her to eventually connect with her spiritual side and figure out airbending… and perhaps in a moment of clarity, realize that the other elements weren’t lost to her after all. It would have been a real exploration of her character and how she functions when she can’t just rely on the easy solution (her bending talent.)

        Only instead of exploring that interesting conflict over several episodes, we got like 10 minutes of it at the end amid all the battles and then Aang showed up and magically fixed her before she had time to do more than feel sorry for herself. It was such an easy out that I feel like it really cheapened the story. I mean… this is the “Legend of Korra” it should be about her, and instead it felt like we spent way more time on Mako moping and being the worst boyfriend ever.

        You can’t just hand characters a solution; they have to work out their problems on their own. For all that it was super frustrating watching Zuko flail about through season 2 and 3 of AtLA, he had to do it, or his eventual breakthrough wouldn’t have felt real.

        I do hope that Book 2 of Korra addresses some of these problems and gives us a chance for real character development rather than just the surface stuff and flashy action sequences.

      2. (For some reason it’s not letting me reply directly to the comment above, so consider this a reply to that.)

        “Haha, well, headcanons aside, I agree that the comics have been fun but yea, for me they’re lacking in character development.”

        Indeed. I don’t expect my headcanons to always match up with canon– that’s why they’re headcanons!– but I always hope that the canon will be better than anything I can come up with. (So far with the comics, that has not been the case.)

        I agree that the comics would be more interesting if they were a bit more focused, and that Zuko’s arc has already been thoroughly explored. It would be nice to see more on the other characters for the change.

      3. Except at his point, she IS the sort of irresponsible hero who, as Tenzin puts it in 2×01, doesn’t appreciate the power she has. So no, she doesn’t need it taken away, but she needs to learn to understand and appreciate it, which means not busting a fireball out at everyone she disagrees with.

        Accusing Korra of not appreciating her powers requires a pretty significant misread of her character, to be honest (and, yes, I’m extending that assessment to Tenzin, who’s clearly not an expert when it comes to understanding Korra given… pretty much all of A Leaf in the Wind). Her problem isn’t that she takes her powers lightly — it’s that she defines herself by them. That she misuses those powers is more of a sign that she lacks perspective regarding her own needs and wants than a sign that she doesn’t get how big of a deal her powers are; the big lesson she needs to learn is “you are more than your powers,” not “you must not take your powers for granted.”

        With that in mind…

        And I will agree with you that Korra DID learn to be more sympathetic toward others and that’s very important — but she didn’t seem to grow or change in HOW she deals with her problems. Sure, she exhibited patience — for all of like, the last 5 minutes of episode 10? And then by the end of episode 11 she was right back to her old mistakes, and she paid for it by having her bending screwed up (because she tried taking on Amon with force, directly). I would’ve loved this, actually, were it not for Magic Jesus Aang descended out of nowhere despite any real spiritual effort on Korra’s part and just fixing her problem for her (in an unexplained fashion, BTW). I wanted to see KORRA resolve the problem of the Equalist movement. What I actually saw was Amon undoing himself and running away, and Korra having someone else clean up her mess. It just wasn’t thematically satisfying and undermined the ideas set up in episodes like 1-4 or 8.

        So I suppose I will concede that Korra DID learn some things, sure. She just didn’t do the best job acting on what she theoretically learned. She resolved her problems the same way she did in episode 1. And to me, THAT is “boring” but also ironically “unexpected.” It also just wasn’t believable in the way that Yue’s fate was, or Zuko’s betrayal.

        If you think Korra’s change has to be demonstrated through patience or non-violent solutions to problems, it’s no wonder you’re disappointed. The way she deals with problems definitely changes between the beginning and end of the series — if the Korra we see in Welcome to Republic City was at Amon’s victory rally, she’d probably a) have gone by herself and b) decide to fight the Equalists and Amon instead of freeing Tenzin first, and therefore would have had her bending taken on-stage and lost her chance at forcing Amon to reveal himself. =P Endgame Korra is still forceful and impatient, but she’s got a newfound understanding of teamwork and an appreciation for clever tactics that she didn’t have at the beginning of the series, and that’s exactly what saves her.

        The idea that Korra didn’t resolve her problems herself likewise operates on the assumption that her development needs to be simple and obvious. She undoes Amon by unmasking him as thoroughly as he undoes her by taking her bending, and then she goes on to survive to prove herself the winner in their conflict of identities. And, as far as Aang is concerned, he was only able to show up because Korra herself made the spiritual connection that she’d lacked throughout Book 1 after moving past a “lowest point” in which she was convinced she had no worth if she couldn’t bend (and therefore wasn’t the Avatar). She’s not passive in any of this; much of it is indirect (which in and of itself is a huge change in her!), but Korra’s the one who sets it all in motion, and I don’t see any of it as unbelievable.

  10. Shit. All these comments look so amazing and I just won’t have time to read them until monday. That blows.

    All I can say (or have time to) is two things:

    1. I really love the idea behind what happens to Ursa. From what I’ve seen, I’ve got a theory as to what happened to her now, and I’ve just got to say if this is what happened to her. Wow. That’s amazing, I’ve got to applaud what you’ve done. A lot of bad things have happened in Zuko’s life, but this is by far the most tragic, because what we’re talking about isn’t just someone getting hurt or dying. We’re talking about someone’s identity being erased and replaced. His mother is alive, and he has actually spoken with her, looked into her eyes and neither of them can see each other. Powerful stuff.

    2. Not to offend you, but I take issue with this paragraph:

    “I find it fascinating when readers or viewers are upset by an unexpected turn of events in a story, because this is the very reason we like to read them — to be surprised, to find out what happens next, to have a vicarious experience through another’s eyes. When stories don’t deviate from the expected, they become boring. And no one likes a boring story.”

    I don’t think people are angry about the surprise. I don’t believe anybody is. People like a twist, but people don’t like change. The difference to me being one provides new prospective places for the story to go by cohesively introducing new perspective of everything that has transpired, and the other introduces new story elements by erasing of everything that has transpired. One is planed out and informs on everything the author chooses to do, and the other is the author trying to rewrite something long since put to to print, so to speak.

    Amon being a bloodender is a twist. Ozai not being Zuko’s real father is a retcon.

  11. My only issue is that one of the most powerful conflicts in the entire story was the conflict within Zuko between the side of him from Fire Lord Sozin and the side of him from Avatar Roku; one side strove for peace, and one side committed genocide, so there was this battle within him almost between the fundamental principles of war and peace, plus the legacy of Sozin betraying Roku. If it turns out that he isn’t related to Sozin, it takes away from that particular aspect, but I wouldn’t necessarily be angry about it. It would be liberating to know Zuko doesn’t come from that heritage of cruelty. Whatever happens, as long as it is well-done and the characters continue to develop like they have in the past (which is to say, wonderfully and brilliantly), then I’m happy.

  12. I’m really loving what’s going on in The Search right now. Not only are we exploring Zuko’s character through this crazy plot twist but we’re also exploring Azula and even Ursa’s characters in this story too.

    Giving Ursa her own story arch allows us to see her as more than just a 2 dimensional character, she’s no longer just Zuko’s mom and I personally began to empathize with her as her story unfolded. It also questions her treatment of Zuko versus Azula. Is Azula warping her perception of her mother to find a solution to her own mental suffering? Or did Ursa seriously emotionally neglect her own daughter?

    Similarly, Azula’s relationship with her parents (in contrast to Zuko’s relationship with them) and her collapsing mental state brings to mind the question of nature v. nurture. Did Ursa’s neglect contribute to Azula’s psychosis and similarities to her father? Or would Azula’s character have been the same no matter what?

    The conclusion of The Search part 3 will certainly change Zuko’s future, but the question that Zuko and Aang seem to ask is how this will effect Zuko’s future as Firelord. Can he still be Firelord? Will Zuko want to be Firelord? What about his “destiny”? I’m not so worried about Zuko since we already know the answer to these questions because we learned during LoK that Zuko is now a newly retired Firelord. I’m more interested in how this will end for Azula and Ursa’s characters since we really know nothing about their futures. The Search has me not just emotionally invested in Zuko’s character but also in Azula’s and Ursa’s characters. Although some people may think the big twist in The Search to be an example of poor writing or just too dramatic to be taken seriously, I think that regardless, this has given fans of the ATLA a chance to explore and question the relationships between Zuko and his family and examine Zuko, Azula, and Ursa on a much deeper level than we could have in the show alone.

  13. I’m really going to have to buy these graphic novels now, huh? I gather that there’s still a slim chance Ozai is his dad? For me, whether the person Zuko wanted to please is his actual father or not doesn’t matter as long as they had that dynamic. If Ozai was known to have adopted Zuko from the get go, I don’t think that the power of his arc would be affected. Everyone’s just afraid of change. (And if Ozai himself thought he was Zuko’s dad, then that changes much less, but I don’t know if that’s the case or not.)

    I admit that at first, I agreed with Brian Benavidez above. The only thing that this potential twist really ruined for me was that genetic factor to his inner conflict. But after a few hours, I actually think it works. Even though there was a perceived conflict of good and evil inside of him, in reality he was good all along.

    One more thing. Eddy Fettig above was arguing that you guys need to stop throwing things in for sheer shock value. But I don’t think that any of the shocks that were in Legend of Korra or what I’m hearing about were that bad. For me, it’s all good as long the story still flows together. Everything in Legend of Korra seemed to flow very well almost to the point of being paced as a long movie. I personally felt it did have an underlying theme, even if it was a bit more subtle than Korra becoming a peaceful nomad. (Did Aang entirely reinvent himself into a strong, head-on fighter to learn earthbending?) And this possible change for Zuko factors well in to his character, even if at first we all hate changes. Especially if said changes occur in a different medium from the source material, oddly.

    Part of me bets that it turns out Ozai still is Zuko’s dad, so his new found relief and optimism all comes crashing down.

    By the way, I’m loving this blog, Mike. Your other non-Avatar related posts are good reads.

    1. Nick’s old web site and The Art of The Animated Series book described Ozai as older scarless version of Zuko. In the show, Zuko looks like him. Even Katara in “The Phoenix King” found a drawing of a baby Ozai and thought it was Zuko. Some parts of Zuko’s personality are like Ikem’s, especially when he was young. Regardless of who was Zuko’s father, he was the only qualified Fire Lord.

      1. Tim Bumpus can give a different answer if he wants, but allow me to offer mine:

        “Identity.”

        Or, more specifically:

        “Isolating children and raising them to fulfill a specific purpose — whether for good (being the Avatar) or evil (revenge on the Avatar) — inevitably causes severe identity issues and leads to desperate violence when that identity is threatened. A strong connection to one’s community can mitigate the damage (if not undo it); a lack of such connection leads to despair.”

        The finale supports that theme through practically every scene involving Korra, Tarrlok, Amon, or any combination of the three. ;)

      2. Heheh. I was trying to avoid going in to this, because I’m afraid I’ll do a bad job of explaining it. But here it goes.

        To be honest, I can’t take the whole series and say “Hey! The whole thing was all about freedom/spirituality/societal issues!” because this show wasn’t based around anything that simple. I think you would have preferred that, but in reality it doesn’t water down that easily.

        Rather, the underlying theme was much broader: Korra’s coming of age and learning what the real world is like. This might sound a bit weaselly to say, because you can shoehorn coming of age on to near any story. But that doesn’t make it a bad theme to pick, because it fundamentally resonates with everyone and their experiences growing up.

        The critique that people such as yourself have is that there are too many conflicting themes in Korra and none of them are individually resolved. Korra’s spirituality and the issues of fairness between benders and non-benders being two of them. But this is blind to the fact that these are really more of sub-themes in Book One, while Korra’s growth takes the front seat.

        Those two sub-themes can each be traced to something fundamental to growing up: that the world is a big, diverse, and imperfect place. She’s grown up her whole life immersed in bending and how great it is, but now she’s discovering that for some people it only seems to cause harm. Not everyone sees the same way we do. Korra learning to be spiritual and airbender-like is about her learning there are other ways to live, think and fight, not fully embracing those ways. (That’s being covered in Book Two.)

        The finale covered two other aspects of this theme, when Korra unlocked her airbending and when Aang gave her the other three back. More convincing, however, is the latter. I for one take the interpretation that at the cliff, she was contemplating suicide. (If not, then, uh… Death of the Author!) When she pulls back, Aang comes in with his “When we are at our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change.” The lesson here is that no matter how bad things are, it will all be alright if you just keep the strength to keep going. Aang’s line also reflects when Korra got her airbending; she had no bending and the guy she loved was about to be stripped of his powers. She was open to anything if it meant she could stop Amon, teaching that in life, you’re going to have to (and want to) pull from anything you can get to get back up if you fall down.

        So, rather than making the whole show about one of the subthemes it covered, they worked with bildungsroman to get the most they could out of their characters. If they were only going to have twelve episodes, they wanted to pick something they could cover a world with, and coming of age was it.

        Although I suppose whether that was a good choice is your opinion entirely. :)

  14. Mike, I love Avatar and I think you have great ideas but I couldn’t disagree more with this post.
    That is not how drama works. You can’t throw twists and stuff like that and expect people to care if they don’t care about the story or characters. People doesn’t care about a character because bad things happens to them, people care about the bad things that happens to characters they actually care about.

    I’m a big fan of Film Critic Hulk(even if I don’t always agree with him) and he wrote a fantastic article about drama. He says:

    “LET’S GO WITH A HYPOTHETICAL. PRETEND YOU ARE… WELL… YOU. THIS IS TOTALLY REAL LIFE. NOW PRETEND SOMEONE SUDDENLY SHOWED UP AND SAID “HI, I’M YOUR LONG-LOST BROTHER. QUICK, THERE’S SOMEONE AFTER ME! HELP!” … WHAT WOULD YOUR REACTION BE?

    ANSWER HONESTLY. MOSTLY YOU WOULD BE CONFUSED AS ALL HELL. YOU WOULDN’T KNOW IF YOU WANTED TO TRUST THIS PERSON. YOU MIGHT GO ON INSTINCT IN EITHER DIRECTION. THE ONLY THING THAT WOULD DRAW YOU IN IS A SENSE OF MYSTERY AND THAT IS IT. NOW, WOULD IT BE A RUSHED AND CRAZY SCENARIO? SURE! WOULD IT BE EXCITING? SURE! BUT AS FAR AS YOU, THE PERSON YOU ARE, AND YOUR MOTIVATIONS ARE CONCERNED,WOULDN’T YOU MOSTLY JUST BE ALL “WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!?”

    WELL GUESS WHAT? THAT’S EXACTLY HOW AUDIENCES REACTS TO NEW INFORMATION TOO. “REVEALS” JUST DON’T HAVE THE SAME EFFECT AS A PREVIOUSLY-ESTABLISH LEVEL OF INVESTMENT. HOW COULD THEY? WE MAY LIKE SOMEONE AND BE INTRIGUED, BUT IF WE’RE NOT EMPATHIZING WITH SOMEONE, THEN WE’RE NOT SO WILLING TO GO OFF ON A CRAZY JOURNEY WITH THEM. WHICH, GUESS WHAT, IS EXACTLY WHAT WE DO WHEN WE WATCH MOVIES.

    AS A COUNTERPOINT, IMAGINE IF YOU HAD LONG-STANDING, GREAT RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR HYPOTHETICAL BROTHER. AGAIN, THIS IS REAL LIFE. AND THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN HE SHOWED UP AND SAID SOMEONE WAS TRYING TO KILL HIM. WHAT WOULD YOUR REACTION BE THEN? WHEN IT WAS SOMEONE YOU GENUINELY LOVED AND HAD BUILT TRUST WITH? WHY, THEN YOU’D HAVE MOTIVATION TO HELP. YOU’D EVEN HAVE UNDERSTANDING AND CLARITY ABOUT YOUR MOTIVES. YOU’D WANT TO HELP HIM AND CARE WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM, BECAUSE YOUR RESPONSE IS BASED ON SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN BUILT AND EARNED.

    WELL GUESS WHAT? THAT’S EXACTLY HOW AUDIENCES REACT WHEN THEY HAVE BUILT A RELATIONSHIP WITH A CHARACTER IN WHOM THEY ARE INVESTED.”

    The article:
    http://badassdigest.com/2012/04/08/film-crit-hulk-smash-hulk-vs-the-john-carter-script/

    I really recommend you to read it, the caplocks are annoying but is a great analysis.

      1. Personally,I don’t care about Ikem and his relationship with Ursa, sorry if I didn’t make myself clear

      2. Not everyone cares about the story and characters. Many still don’t care about Mako, for example, and he’s had 11 episodes to try and get people to care about him.

        I don’t care about Ikem, and I barely care about Ursa or Ozai for that matter — they are all minor supporting characters whom I’ve hardly seen. I’ve seen more of Ursa in this comic than I ever did in the show, so there’s that, at least. And within a mere few pages of the comic, Yang managed to get me to understand why Ozai ended up insane in a way the show never really tried to do (though it did try to do with Sozin, so that was neat).

        Of course, people could go back and forth over whether or not they care about the characters — some people STILL don’t care about Aang, for example, despite, like, 70+ episodes of the series.

        But I think the point is more that, normally, the audience caring about a character develops from the story actually doing things to encourage us to care about them, which requires consistency.

        When you have a person who you see every day at work, and they act consistently, you may develop familiarity with them. Even within a week you might feel companionship. But if they completely change attitudes every day, even after a month you may not feel a connection with them because there is no “base-line,” no consistent defining traits. This is one of the more common complains people have with Mako — it’s unfortunate that his bad dating decisions overshadow this, since I think it’s less his bad decisions (which Zuko also made PLENTY of) and more that he hasn’t acted in any consistent way, leaving the audience without any evidence as to WHY he made the decisions he did, other than “Korra and Asami are hot, I don’t like having to choose.” Or something. >_>;

  15. Good point well made as usual. All i’ll put to it is lack of planning can destroy everything later. Take the love it till it ended tv series Lost. I recently read in Empire magazine that they started filming the pilot with absolutely no idea where the story was going and look at the mess it ended in, I was actually amazed that it was so good for so long but the ending killed the whole series. How can I enjoy re-watching a series when I know i cant stand the end?
    Another ‘universe’ I have a love/hate relationship with in story terms is Warhammer 40k. Huge, dam near unlimited possibilities but no one seems to know of any solid back story. And this irritates the monkeys out of me because I would like to know some back ground so i can write a some fan fiction with detail and actual connections to help make it real.
    I also recently read a great piece at the start of the Pacific Rim Year One graphic novel about the little unexplained details in stories that hint at a larger universe but dont go into detail. Its fine in lesser stories it makes things seem deep, interesting (briefly) and more real but when the stories really good all of a sudden those little details become important to the fans.
    Looking ahead to open up any universe is essential to good story in my view. Even if it never gets seen by the public.
    Much love! (This is like public therapy)

    1. Yea, I agree that even if the audience doesn’t KNOW or doesn’t SEE it, at least having some idea in your head — even if it’s an idea that you end up changing later — is still much better than just not even considering it.

      I think that’s part of what throws me off about Lin, for example: Michael openly stated at a panel earlier this month that he doesn’t know who her father is, doesn’t care to think about it, and doesn’t understand why anyone would care. While it’s fine if you don’t KNOW or didn’t think about it, the active desire to AVOID thinking about a very important facet of Lin’s backstory (and Toph’s adult story!) is just a very strange thought to me, as a writer, myself. I can’t comprehend creating a character without at least considering their origins.

      As for LOST, I actually didn’t mind the way it ended, BUT I have never re-watched it, and care more about characters than plot (which is what LOST’s ending focused on) and bet that if I did re-watch it, I’d be left disappointed in many respects…And I totally understand why many other fans felt disappointed.

      1. “While it’s fine if you don’t KNOW or didn’t think about it, the active desire to AVOID thinking about a very important facet of Lin’s backstory (and Toph’s adult story!) is just a very strange thought to me, as a writer, myself. I can’t comprehend creating a character without at least considering their origins.”

        It’s apparently tough thing to learn, but I know that a lot of writers actually advise not caring about backstory that isn’t going to affect the story that’s told. A lot of writers go in to writing without being able to resist writing those details, but the pros all seem to say that if it’s not going to be shown in the story, it just doesn’t matter. Although I don’t think I’d be able to resist coming up with her father myself, really.

  16. I’m curious to see Azula’s role in the transition between the avatars. I have a few questions about her character development: Does she find her own inner peace? Does she have children or grandchildren? Does she help with the development of The Republic?

  17. I just came to say that I love this comics as I loved the original series, the story telling is really not flat at all, and those are the characters that I grew up with, is amazing to keep hearing, and reading stories about them without making them boring, or just not interesting at all… They remain the characters that I love, and I just want to thank you, Bryan and this time Gene, for this amazing journey.

    Waiting for part 3 to see what happens with the (incredibly designed) Mother of faces! And I read about a new trilogy called “The Rift”, waiting for that as well!

  18. I’m stunned people actually fell for this “Zuko I am NOT your father” gag, let alone got upset by it.

    Although, I would have thought that a storyteller would prefer people to be upset about what a new twist means for the character, rather than whether a twist has ruined the franchise forever. But then, I haven’t been listening to most of the wailing and gnashing of teeth on tumblr.

    1. Yea, I immediately questioned it and still do. I would like to think it’s leading somewhere rewarding. Guess we’ll see soon enough!

      And also, I totally agree that a plot twist’s potential good to bring a story is in regards to its characters. But this is actually the core of why people on Tumblr (and elsewhere) seem to be actively angry.

      The consistent issue I’ve seen, which is also expressed in these comments, is that people feel if this twist is “true,” it undermines Zuko’s entire character arc, and also creates inconsistencies with technical plot elements. I guess I can understand where they’re coming from, but I also haven’t put too much thought into it because A) Zuko is my least favorite of the main characters and B) The Search story arc isn’t over yet, and I tend to not analyze a story too heavily under its arc is concluded. So I think people may be jumping the gun a bit when the story’s not done.

      It would be like judging who Amon is or what he is about before you found out about his past — before the story arc involving his character is concluded.

      For the record, avoiding the wailing and gnashing of Tumblr is probably just in general a wise choice, haha. ;)

  19. The only real problem is that a big deal is made of the fact that blood doesn’t determine your destiny, when Aang and co learn the history of Azulon and Roku. If every one of Azulon’s descendents is nasty and evil (except for Iroh who had to have his son die before he saw the light), it carries with it a rather unsettling undertone, that the only reason Zuko is not evil is because his blood is untainted, never mind that he was raised by Ozai it’s nature not nurture that matters.

    However I think it will be revealed that Ozai is Zuko’s father in the end (but then in another comic book, i was so sure that Zeus being Wonder Woman’s father was a feint, so we’ll see I could be wrong.)

    I disagree that a story has to subvert our expectations to be good… someone can tell an excellent story and we can correctly guess where it’s going and still be entertaining and even powerful… Everyone who walks into a Shakespeare production can tell you that.

    But you certainly peaked my curiosity and I will be picking up the whole series, so kudos there.

    1. “I disagree that a story has to subvert our expectations to be good… someone can tell an excellent story and we can correctly guess where it’s going and still be entertaining and even powerful… Everyone who walks into a Shakespeare production can tell you that.”

      Or so many Disney films and classic novels!
      I completely agree. Shock value is shocking, but only ONCE.

      A meaningful and effecting message or story, even if it is predictable (See: Zuko’s character arc) can be appreciated and valued over and over again.

  20. Just glad the leaders of such a successful and growing franchise ARE concerned with melding emotional resonance and breakneck plotting. All too often, either/or is sacrificed without realizing that one really compliments the other.

    Glad to hear Mike echo my own sentiments about the whole Ursa search thing: I still find myself totally confused as to why so many people seem obsessed with WHERE Zuko’s mom is. I mean, who cares? As it’s been said, it’s the going there that makes a journey, not always the destination. I just enjoy watching Zuko continue to struggle internally and change and grow instead of actually finding her.

    1. Yea, I’ve actually always been confused as to why people cared so much about Ursa, but I guess it’s just that western culture in particular has come to care more about technical plot details than character development, ie. what affect the plot has on the characters and what they do to react to it. LOST, for example disappointed lots of folks by not resolving its technical plot stuff — but this didn’t impact me much because I never cared about LOST for its plot. I cared about the journeys the characters went on together.

  21. Any chance we can see the background story of when Uncle Iroh was younger? I’ve always wondered what struggles and adventures he went on to became the peaceful warrior that we see on screen.

  22. According to the art of the animated series book and Nick’s old site, Ozai is designed to look like an older, scarless version of Zuko. Zuko looks like Ozai in both series and comics. Characters in Avatar noticed the resemblance like Katara in The Phoenix King.It is logical that younger Zuko reminded Ursa of Ikem because of some similarities in their personalities but physically Zuko resembles Ozai. Now, everyone knows Zuko’s daughter is the current Fire Lord.

    Jinora, Aang and Katara’s granddaughter like the majority of the fandom was interested in what happened to Ursa not what the search for her meant to Zuko. :)

    1. Jinora is also a young child, I should point out. ;)

      I guess I would ask, then — why care about what happened to Ursa? She was a minor supporting character that we hardly know anything about or know as a person. Why would you care about her fate outside of how it affects Zuko (and/or Azula)?

      1. You are right. I only care about how her fate will effect Zuko and Azula. The Search for her is about finding peace for Zuko and Azula as Iroh said in The Search part 1.Aang thinks the same too.

        In the first panel of part 1, it looks like Zuko is asking Ursa in person or her spirit to know everything.

      2. I actually do care about Ursa and not just because of her connection to Zuko and Azula,to a certain extent, though it is a part of the reason. We knew little about her before the “Search” but it was enough for me to feel sympathy for her. I felt kind of angry at Ozai and Azulon for the situation she found herself in. It made me want to see Zuko and Ursa reunited. The “Search” has made me feel even more sympathy for Ursa, in spite of anything she may have done.

      3. @ Dana Ursa deserves sympathy,that is true. She is also Azula’s mother and they need reunion. When Zuko and Ursa reunited, it will clear up everything for her children.

  23. @Tim Bumpus
    “I think you would have preferred that, but in reality it doesn’t water down that easily.”
    I think you are making incorrect assumptions. This isn’t about “watering down” ideas, it’s about actually EXECUTING on the ideas a story presents. Which LoK didn’t do very well in Book 1, in my opinion. It presented a myriad of wonderful ideas, then didn’t seem to know what to do with them and just tossed together some plot twists and shock value drama. Oh, and some romance forced in there, too.

    “The critique that people such as yourself have is that there are too many conflicting themes in Korra and none of them are individually resolved. Korra’s spirituality and the issues of fairness between benders and non-benders being two of them. But this is blind to the fact that these are really more of sub-themes in Book One, while Korra’s growth takes the front seat.”

    It’s not blind at all — the PROOF of character growth is best represented through character choice and action And Korra’s character was robbed of meaningful choices to make, and her action was simply the SAME action as in the first episode — except it didn’t really do a good job of justifying this identity, she simply did it because that’s what she always has done.

    I totally agree that looking at any single conflict and judging it on that is not good. But Korra didn’t really deliver on ANY of these conflicts, which raises the question, “Why focus on them?” Why spend an entire episode and then some on romance drama if the message conveyed at the end of your romance drama episode goes completely ignored after the fact? Why spend so much time trying to paint an interesting villain figure and an interesting conflict if Korra is just going to use the same old tactic of force to resolve it?

    I would LOVE for Korra’s growth to take a front seat, but unfortunately the narrative doesn’t make the strongest argument for it. The entire reason all of these sub-themes are frustrating is BECAUSE they all could have been utilized to incite choice and change in Korra’s character — but none of them do. This isn’t to say Korra doesn’t change at all, it’s just that she doesn’t change in any meaningful way. She is changed in that now she has all of these things given to her that she by and large didn’t need to sacrifice anything to achieve or earn (airbending, friends, ability to give back bending to others, a boyfriend).

    “Not everyone sees the same way we do. Korra learning to be spiritual and airbender-like is about her learning there are other ways to live, think and fight, not fully embracing those ways. (That’s being covered in Book Two.)”
    Yes, exactly. But the story has yet to actually cover this. So I’m hoping to see it in Book 2 — however, what we’re discussing is Book 1 here.

    “When she pulls back, Aang comes in with his “When we are at our lowest point, we are open to the greatest change.” The lesson here is that no matter how bad things are, it will all be alright if you just keep the strength to keep going. Aang’s line also reflects when Korra got her airbending; she had no bending and the guy she loved was about to be stripped of his powers. She was open to anything if it meant she could stop Amon, teaching that in life, you’re going to have to (and want to) pull from anything you can get to get back up if you fall down.”

    I actually did like the idea of Korra airbending to protect someone else, but plotholes aside (which there are a number of), it didn’t feel very satisfying that the way she USED airbending was exactly how she used firebending (even the same martial art motions), and the way she used it was forceful, with the intent of harming another. It just promoted this idea that she hasn’t really learned anything, and all of the things she wants just being given to her is what you will get if you just sit around and mope when things don’t go your way, or punch people you disagree with.

    I’m not saying Korra didn’t grow at ALL, more that the narrative wasted time on all of these sub-themes and plots that it didn’t make good use of when it COULD have either used them for Korra’s character development. So regardless of whether one thinks that X or Y sub-theme or primary theme is important or non-important, my point is that Book 1 did an inconsistent job at using those tools. I’m not saying things needed to be spelled out or blunt, but the creators themselves (based on the DVD commentary) seem like they went into the finale not even sure themselves what they wanted to do with it, and when your story ends on a mish-mash note without a consistent message, it can be frustrating.

    Korra’s slight coming of age is, however, definitely something I did like, and really hope to see more of going forward. I would just like for that growth to be the result of her own actions/choices, rather than the actions/choices/plot-twists of things around her.

    @Ikkin
    “Identitity.”
    I definitely agree that this was one of the intended themes and messages of Book 1. And it certainly tried — it makes complete sense that the idea with bending vs non-bending for Korra’s character was for her to grapple with her identity. The problem presented early on was that Korra associates physical strength (bending) as her entire identity. That is who she thinks she is, and without it, she thinks she is nothing. That was brilliantly shown.

    Unfortunately, the way Book 1 ended ENCOURAGED this unhealthy type of thinking. Korra had a breakdown (which made some sense) because she felt she had lost her whole identity. Instead of using this as an opportunity for Korra to realize that she, as a person, has more to offer the world than physical strength — to look INWARD and consider the question, “Who are you? And what do you want?” as Iroh once put it — she was instead magically given back her bending without consequence or questioning.

    Thus, is Identity is a theme of the season, the expressed message per the narrative is, “Being physically strong and powerful is more important than respecting your own internal personality traits.” Or something to that effect. Mako is praised not for being a good person or making good decisions, but for being a good bender. Korra is rewarded not for tapping into her spiritual side or learning to discover her INTERNAL identity, or anything which actually brings about real change in a person — she was rewarded for being a good bender.

    Amon? He was shown to be a strong villain not for being smart and manipulating the political climate around him, but because…he was a good bender.

    It’s just disappointing to see a show deliberately throw into question this very big-scale idea of “Non-benders are JUST AS WORTHY as benders are” only for the narrative to conclude, “Nope, just kidding — being a good bender is all that really matters.”

    And again, I do have faith this sort of thing won’t repeat itself in the future, especially since more writers are involved in future seasons.

    1. “Identity.”
      I definitely agree that this was one of the intended themes and messages of Book 1. And it certainly tried — it makes complete sense that the idea with bending vs non-bending for Korra’s character was for her to grapple with her identity. The problem presented early on was that Korra associates physical strength (bending) as her entire identity. That is who she thinks she is, and without it, she thinks she is nothing. That was brilliantly shown.

      Unfortunately, the way Book 1 ended ENCOURAGED this unhealthy type of thinking. Korra had a breakdown (which made some sense) because she felt she had lost her whole identity. Instead of using this as an opportunity for Korra to realize that she, as a person, has more to offer the world than physical strength — to look INWARD and consider the question, “Who are you? And what do you want?” as Iroh once put it — she was instead magically given back her bending without consequence or questioning.

      Thus, is Identity is a theme of the season, the expressed message per the narrative is, “Being physically strong and powerful is more important than respecting your own internal personality traits.” Or something to that effect. Mako is praised not for being a good person or making good decisions, but for being a good bender. Korra is rewarded not for tapping into her spiritual side or learning to discover her INTERNAL identity, or anything which actually brings about real change in a person — she was rewarded for being a good bender.

      I think you’re overlooking the ways in which Korra really does confront her mistaken belief that physical strength and bending prowess defines who she is as a person just because she didn’t completely overcome that conflict before getting her bending back.

      You seem to expect that Korra should only have gotten her bending back as a reward for discovering her authentic identity, which didn’t happen. The problem is… that was never a reasonable expectation to have of her to begin with. Given the devastation of her inner landscape, simply getting as far as “even if I can’t bend, that doesn’t mean I’m a worthless burden” is revolutionary, and that’s what we see in that scene on the cliffs before Aang shows up.

      Being a good bender has nothing to do with what Aang does for Korra in the ending, and I see no canon support for your claim that it does.

      Amon? He was shown to be a strong villain not for being smart and manipulating the political climate around him, but because…he was a good bender.

      This doesn’t make any sense at all to me. Amon is at his weakest in Endgame for the very reason that he starts relying on his bending instead of his influence over other people. His strength is so depleted by Korra revealing him as a liar to his followers (by forcing him to waterbend to keep from drowning) that he runs away instead of even bothering to fight.

      It’s just disappointing to see a show deliberately throw into question this very big-scale idea of “Non-benders are JUST AS WORTHY as benders are” only for the narrative to conclude, “Nope, just kidding — being a good bender is all that really matters.”

      And again, I do have faith this sort of thing won’t repeat itself in the future, especially since more writers are involved in future seasons.

      Honestly, if you’re going to misread the show as badly as you would have had to in order to make that first claim, I can’t imagine you won’t be disappointed.

      1. @Ikkin
        “Given the devastation of her inner landscape”
        Please inform me of what you’re referring to. We never saw Korra’s “inner landscape,” and it was barely glossed over in the finale. They spent all of 30 seconds showing her having a tantrum and crying. And yes, it makes sense WHY she feels devastated, but the actual reasons why — and what it would take OTHER than mystic bending voodoo deus ex machina to fix it — is not discussed. Korra doesn’t fix this inner landscape, someone else does, and that is weak storytelling IMO when your TITULAR character is not making the choices or taking the actions that cause change.

        I was abused as a child — someone else could come along and magically make me forget all of that trauma. I’m cured. But it’s not because of anything I did myself.

        Or, I can struggle and cope with the pain, and learn to be a good person to others despite my trauma-ridden past. That is development, and that is what Zuko was all about, and why he is commonly regarded as the most well-developed character in ATLA: he made choices and took actions to ‘change his fate,’ himself. And it’s a powerful and important message, especially for youth, to be reminded of: every one of us has the power to make choices and change our lives. Crying on a cliff-side and hoping for someone else to change things FOR us doesn’t promote a message of independence or heroism or coming of age.

        “and that’s what we see in that scene on the cliffs before Aang shows up.”
        Please explain how we saw this? Because I don’t see it, but would be interested to know how anyone interprets this, as I have yet to see anyone else explain how or why.
        I see Korra crying in self-pity, and Aang showing up, shoving some philosophical words at her, and granting her power by sticking his hands on her. No expression of thought from her, no choice on her part, no actual action from the protagonist. It’s like a video game where someone tells you, “You’re the hero, you must save the world! It’s dangerous to go alone, take this!” hands you sword, and sends you on your way — except…that’s the BEGINNING of a story like that, not the ending, because the ending is usually about the HERO doing something heroic.

        And Korra defeating Amon wasn’t heroic, it was her being a brute and then defeating ONE guy suddenly resolved an entire political movement that was blowing up the whole city.

        You tell me I’m not providing “canon” evidence to back myself up, yet I don’t see you citing any actual events yourself. Tell me why/how you interpreted Korra coming to this realization that she as a human being is worth more than the sum of her bending. Because the actual physical EVENTS that were shown in the last few minutes of the show don’t support this — she simply is down on herself, bad-mouths herself, expresses that Mako should only care about her because she is the Avatar, and per many peoples’ interpretations, was contemplating suicide (just this aspect of ‘suicide’ is an entirely crazy can of worms on its own). What turned this around? Getting her bending back, and having a boyfriend thrown at her, both within a span of a minute — literally.

        Now that’s fine that you disagree, and to an extent I get where you’re coming from: you’re being optimistic and lenient with the finale (citing theoretical things that we never saw), where I’m being pessimistic and critical (focusing only on what was literally shown). In other words, you’re Katara here and I’m Sokka.

        Which means neither of us is “right” or “wrong” entirely.

        So it’s pretty arrogant to outright claim that I am “misreading” things — you’re putting responsibility on MY shoulders when it is fact the storyteller’s responsibility to effectively communicate their message. Now, sure, you can’t always reach everyone, obviously, but my opinions are not at all uncommon, either. That doesn’t happen from “misreading.” But it certainly can happen when a story is ambiguous — sometimes that’s good, and I like that, but in LoK’s case I didn’t. And that doesn’t mean I am “misreading,” especially when it’s not even clear what the creators/writers themselves even “wrote.”

        Misreading is when someone reads a sentence incorrectly.
        I am reading the exact same sentence you are — we are just interpreting it differently. That is how stories work, and that is part of what makes them interesting: they can be interpreted in different ways, and people can take different messages from them. And even if we had, from the horse’s mouth, a description of what LoK’s Book 1 messages were intended to be, that would still leave debate as to to whether or not it succeeded at expressing that.

        IMO, a lot of this boils down to them not being allowed to do all of what they want to, and trying to tell a whole story arc in only 12 episodes, and the complications of production, etc. etc.

        I understand why they were maybe not able to do all they wanted (which they weren’t, they’ve certainly expressed that in the commentary and the artbook, at least), but my criticism is that what they actually did seemed half-baked for MY tastes, personally — which is all the stranger when their expressed intent of the story doesn’t match up with the actual events that played out (see: commentary on episode 11, Bryan’s ramble about resolving the conflict with Amon, and Ben calling Korra out on failing to do that)

        We could go back and forth on this — push and pull, life and death, Yin and Yang, as it were — and I actually find that aspect of storytelling really interesting.

        But do NOT tell me I am “misreading” something as that specific word carries an element of factual correctness with it, when all of this is opinion-sharing (and I hope light-hearted, insightful opinion-sharing, at that, since I certainly have no ill-will toward someone just for disagreeing).

      2. Oh, one last PS:
        “I can’t imagine you won’t be disappointed.”
        That would be underestimating the talented people who work on this series. I am sure they have the capacity to tell a story that even more critical fans can love, especially if they take the pressure off of Mike and Bryan in the writing department and spread the load more evenly as it was in ATLA.

        In other words, I think it works for everyone if the process of telling the story itself embodies the ever-pertinent Avatar idea of “balance.” ;)

      3. @Ikkin
        “Given the devastation of her inner landscape”
        Please inform me of what you’re referring to. We never saw Korra’s “inner

        landscape,” and it was barely glossed over in the finale. They spent all of 30

        seconds showing her having a tantrum and crying. And yes, it makes sense WHY she

        feels devastated, but the actual reasons why — and what it would take OTHER than

        mystic bending voodoo deus ex machina to fix it — is not discussed. Korra doesn’t

        fix this inner landscape, someone else does, and that is weak storytelling IMO when

        your TITULAR character is not making the choices or taking the actions that cause

        change.

        Well, your first mistake is that you assume I’m only talking about after

        Korra loses her bending. =P

        Korra without her bending is, obviously, her lowest low, but we were shown

        throughout the entire season how Korra uses bending and violence to cover up her lack of identity and dramatically low sense of self-worth. Amon doesn’t destroy Korra’s inner landscape as much as he pulls off the makeshift bandage and shows it for what it already was — and the show made it entirely clear that this is what would happen (“After I take your bending away, you will be nothing”) from the start.

        And, with that in mind… no one actually fixes it, least of all Aang (who only shows up once Korra figures out that she’s not worthless anyway). The point of the finale is that Korra finally understands what’s wrong and can begin to fix it herself, and that’s the case even if her bending and some vague semblance of motivation are restored to her.

        I was abused as a child — someone else could come along and magically make me forget all of that trauma. I’m cured. But it’s not because of anything I did myself.

        Or, I can struggle and cope with the pain, and learn to be a good person to others despite my trauma-ridden past. That is development, and that is what Zuko was all about, and why he is commonly regarded as the most well-developed character in ATLA: he made choices and took actions to ‘change his fate,’ himself. And it’s a powerful and important message, especially for youth, to be reminded of: every one

        of us has the power to make choices and change our lives. Crying on a cliff-side and hoping for someone else to change things FOR us doesn’t promote a message of independence or heroism or coming of age.

        Or, you can accept your limitations and allow others to help you when things seem to be too much to bear, which, I’d argue, is essentially the point of Korra’s character arc. Heck, it’s a pretty big part of Zuko’s too — he’d never have gotten where he did if Iroh didn’t insist on helping him even when he thought he didn’t need it.

        For Korra to recognize and accept that she can’t do everything on her own is a choice in and of itself, and an incredibly important one, at that. What she needs isn’t independence but interdependence, and that’s a lesson that’s even more important because it’s so rare to see it in our western society (which is, if anything, overly in love with independence, at the expense of anyone who really does need help).

        “and that’s what we see in that scene on the cliffs before Aang shows up.”
        Please explain how we saw this? Because I don’t see it, but would be interested to know how anyone interprets this, as I have yet to see anyone else explain how or why.

        I see Korra crying in self-pity, and Aang showing up, shoving some philosophical words at her, and granting her power by sticking his hands on her. No expression of thought from her, no choice on her part, no actual action from the protagonist. It’s like a video game where someone tells you, “You’re the hero, you must save the world! It’s dangerous to go alone, take this!” hands you sword, and sends you on your way — except…that’s the BEGINNING of a story like that, not the ending, because the ending is usually about the HERO doing something heroic.

        Your problem is, you’re starting too late and cutting off Korra’s actual action in the process.

        Korra makes one significant choice in that scene, right before Aang shows up — she sits down. Her action is non-action. She accepts that there’s nothing she can do to fix herself, but she has value as a person regardless and needs to live and feel, not throw herself away (whether in apathy or death). And that’s what Aang reacts to and why he’s able to show up, when it was impossible for him to do so before she made that choice.

        And Korra defeating Amon wasn’t heroic, it was her being a brute and then defeating ONE guy suddenly resolved an entire political movement that was blowing up the whole city.

        I fail to see how taking out the leader of a violent cult of personality isn’t both heroic and likely to make his movement come crashing down. =P

        You tell me I’m not providing “canon” evidence to back myself up, yet I don’t see you citing any actual events yourself. Tell me why/how you interpreted Korra coming to this realization that she as a human being is worth more than the sum of her bending. Because the actual physical EVENTS that were shown in the last few minutes of the show don’t support this — she simply is down on herself, bad-mouths herself, expresses that Mako should only care about her because she is the Avatar, and per many peoples’ interpretations, was contemplating suicide (just this aspect of ‘suicide’ is an entirely crazy can of worms on its own). What turned this around? Getting her bending back, and having a boyfriend thrown at her, both within a span of a minute — literally.

        Okay, so, to start off with, let me explain the “suicidal Korra” thing, because it’s basically at the foundation of every fully-functional interpretation of what she did to get her bending back (including the ones where killing herself was never even a possibility).

        The idea is not (in spite of the absurd and canonically-invalidated idea floating around that Korra got her bending back because she decided to kill herself to reset the Avatar cycle) that Korra got her bending back because she wanted to die. That’d have been a terrible lesson, I agree, but that’s clearly not what’s going on.

        Instead, the idea is that, without her bending, Korra reaches her ultimate low — she believes that she is worthless (“you will be nothing”) and a burden to her friends and family (“I’m not the Avatar anymore. You don’t need to do me any favors”), and tries to burn bridges (“No, I mean go away. Back to Republic City. Get on with your life”) before running off to the edge of a cliff and looking down

        into the icy waters below. And there, on the razor’s edge between oblivion and a life without her Avatar/bender identity, she chooses life. She sits down and weeps and allows herself to feel her loss, because as much as it hurts, she recognizes that she’s still worth something, that the world would lose something of value if she died.

        In other words, Korra considering suicide is bizarrely life-affirming, because it means that she rejected death (before she got her bending back!) and was rewarded for it. It means that Korra did make a choice, and her choice was responsible for everything that followed — she turned things around herself and allowed Aang to help, rather than Aang “fixing everything” for her.

        Now, I’d like to point out that it’s not necessary for Korra to explicitly want to die for this interpretation to work. Korra being suicidal makes the whole thing a whole lot easier to show visually (the POV shot of her tear falling over the edge of a cliff strongly suggests that she’s contemplating the bottom of that drop, and sitting down is much more effective at conveying a decision not to jump than it is at conveying a decision to allow herself to accept the necessity of change), but the contrast between her general apathy (as wonderfully illustrated by her expression and her rejection of everyone she cares about) and her breakdown on the cliffs makes a similar point of her changing her mind about choosing nothingness over painful recovery.

        In other words, the events do support the idea that Korra realized that she’s worth more as a human being than the sum of her bending, but only if you don’t ignore some of the events that happened before Aang showed up,

        Now that’s fine that you disagree, and to an extent I get where you’re coming from: you’re being optimistic and lenient with the finale (citing theoretical things that we never saw), where I’m being pessimistic and critical (focusing only on what was literally shown). In other words, you’re Katara here and I’m Sokka.

        Which means neither of us is “right” or “wrong” entirely.

        I’m being optimistic and lenient, yes, but you’re ignoring the parts of canon that don’t fit your interpretation and claiming they didn’t exist, which means that there is a “right” and a “wrong” here.

        So it’s pretty arrogant to outright claim that I am “misreading” things — you’re putting responsibility on MY shoulders when it is fact the storyteller’s responsibility to effectively communicate their message. Now, sure, you can’t always reach everyone, obviously, but my opinions are not at all uncommon, either. That doesn’t happen from “misreading.” But it certainly can happen when a story is ambiguous — sometimes that’s good, and I like that, but in LoK’s case I didn’t. And that doesn’t mean I am “misreading,” especially when it’s not even clear what the creators/writers themselves even “wrote.”

        Misreading is when someone reads a sentence incorrectly.
        I am reading the exact same sentence you are — we are just interpreting it differently. That is how stories work, and that is part of what makes them interesting: they can be interpreted in different ways, and people can take different messages from them. And even if we had, from the horse’s mouth, a description of what LoK’s Book 1 messages were intended to be, that would still leave debate as to to whether or not it succeeded at expressing that.

        It might be the storyteller’s responsibility to communicate their message, but that doesn’t mean that the reader doesn’t have a responsibility to take all the canonical facts into account when crafting an interpretation. (I don’t think “that doesn’t happen from ‘misreading’” is a valid argument, either, because I have a very low opinion of the state of visual literacy — the sort of skill required to understand what, say, the POV shot of the tear falling over the cliff implies — in our culture. =P It’s entirely possible for a work to require more skill of a reader than that reader has without the work being in the wrong… could you imagine handing any classic novel to your average third grader, then blaming the novel when the kid doesn’t get it?) Focusing on some facts to the exclusion of others doesn’t create an equally-valid interpretation (unless the facts are simply impossible to integrate)… it creates a skewed and disingenuous one, because not all interpretations are equally valid. Communication is a two-way street, and it’s up to the reader to be open to it as much as it is to the author to be clear about what they’re saying.

        (see: commentary on episode 11, Bryan’s ramble about resolving the conflict with Amon, and Ben calling Korra out on failing to do that)

        …that’s… not what happened in that commentary? Like, at all? o_0 (Talk about misinterpretation!)

        Besides, the entire point of the Tarrlok-and-Noatak backstory for Korra was that she did gain empathy for them and use it for conflict resolution… she just resolved the conflict by using the empathy she’d gained to figure out where she needed to punch to take Amon apart at the seams (ie. unmask him and destroy his false identity). =P

        We could go back and forth on this — push and pull, life and death, Yin and Yang, as it were — and I actually find that aspect of storytelling really interesting.

        But do NOT tell me I am “misreading” something as that specific word carries an element of factual correctness with it, when all of this is opinion-sharing (and I hope light-hearted, insightful opinion-sharing, at that, since I certainly have no ill-will toward someone just for disagreeing).

        I’ll use a word that carries an element of factual correctness all I want when you make an incorrect factual claim that Korra did nothing. Korra factually made a choice — she chose to sit down on the edge of that cliff. How you interpret that choice is up to you, but it’s impossible to discuss anything if you don’t accept that it existed.

        (I don’t have any ill-will towards anyone for disagreeing either… I’m just rather Korra-like as far as friendly competitions are concerned ;) )

        Oh, one last PS:
        “I can’t imagine you won’t be disappointed.”
        That would be underestimating the talented people who work on this series. I am sure they have the capacity to tell a story that even more critical fans can love, especially if they take the pressure off of Mike and Bryan in the writing department and spread the load more evenly as it was in ATLA.

        In other words, I think it works for everyone if the process of telling the story itself embodies the ever-pertinent Avatar idea of “balance.” ;)

        I don’t think I’m underestimating the people who work on the series as much as I’m questioning the bias of someone who claimed that Book 1′s narrative concluded, “‘Nope, just kidding — being a good bender is all that really matters.’” =P

        I expect Book 2 to be even better than Book 1. I’m just not quite convinced that a lot of the critics, yourself included, ever gave Book 1 a fair shot to begin with, given some of the claims that they make. =/

      4. ETA: Also, as far as the “Korra was suicidal” interpretation goes, it has the advantage of showing Korra’s flaws taken to their utmost extreme to allow us to see her overcome them. Everything Korra does wrong stems from this deep, violent instability inside her that leads her to act impulsively to destroy whatever’s hurting her whenever her identity is questioned. Considering killing herself isn’t really out of the question for her given that she tried to light Tarrlok’s face on fire for calling her a “half-baked Avatar.”

  24. I have probably written entirely too much on the comments of this particular blog post, so I just want to make it clear that I’m not a “hater”: I love Legend of Korra, as a whole, and I expect greatness from the talented people who work on it — which is why I critique in the first place. And I myself have struggled with some of the same kinds of things I have pointed out in my own much smaller sphere (I have incorporated plot twists into my writing, and in turn they have had similar after-effects as what I myself have criticized) so I by no means intend to come across as “Holier Than Thou,” and apologize if that has been the case.

    I respect Michael and Bryan as wonderfully creative artists who have also managed to try their hand at writing — a very heavy task on top of all of their other responsibilities, and given the circumstances they do an amazing job. Avatar/LoK is easily my most favorite series and one of the best animated programs out there, IMO.

    But I am very concerned, as a big fan of Avatar, at the prospect of its overarcing plot continuing to rely on shock value just because of the idea that “no one likes a boring story.” Some of the most classic stories that we repeat time and again throughout history are technically “boring” in that we know WHAT will happen — but it is in the HOW and WHY things happen that continues to captivate people. Plot-twists just for the sake of plot-twists do not utilize the ‘how’ or ‘why,’ they just rearrange the ‘what,’ and if they are not planned or thought-out, they can often undermine everything else.

    Someone on Tumblr wrote me a comment in reply to Mike’s post above:

    “Shock value is bad for stories – it causes authors to make bad decisions because they are trying to outwit their fans. A story that works within it’s themes, fulfills on those themes, and delivers on the promises it makes to the viewer is a good story.”
    ~ Tumblr user obsidianmichi

    Normally, Avatar as a series has striven very hard toward this goal, and has seen many successes. Legend of Korra’s first season did not pull this off as well for many people. I hope (and have faith that) Legend of Korra finds it footing and manages to do the same, all while sporting more beautiful artwork and animation and sound and music than its predecessor. Despite my grumblings, I’m very excited to see the story continue to grow and unfold, and to continue participating in fandom activities that expand its universe and characters in different ways. It is a good time to be an Avatar fan.

  25. @Ikkin
    “she just resolved the conflict by using the empathy she’d gained to figure out where she needed to punch to take Amon apart at the seams (ie. unmask him and destroy his false identity). =P”
    Uhhh? That makes about as much as sense “I’m not oppressing you, you’re oppressing yourselves!” How in the HECK is empathy something that is used to decide where to PUNCH people? Empathy is understanding and relating with others — Korra used empathy toward MAKO, which is fine and good…but she did NOT use empathy with Amon, despite Bryan himself suggesting that she could have, thereby implying this was the intent of showing Noatak’s backstory. And that aside, Korra wasn’t thinking that far ahead — she had already unmasked him (which was just twisted into a crazy plot twist because “surprise!”). Her intent was to get him off of Mako, and blow him out a window (without even considering she could’ve killed him). That is NOT empathy. Adding a =P at the end of your post implies your opinion of your own defense.

    “…that’s… not what happened in that commentary? Like, at all? o_0 (Talk about misinterpretation!)”
    Oh? Really?
    Let me transcribe it for you, then:

    Bryan: Much like real life, when there’s someone who’s seeming to work against you, or has it out for you, or has an opposing view…So often, if you just find out why they have that view or how they ended up that way, or why they’re so out of balance — you know, if you gain some empathy — you can help in conflict resolution.
    Everyone: (silence)
    Ben: Or you can just punch them…
    Bryan: Yea, um…that’s Korra’s idea.

    Now, Ben maybe didn’t MEAN to point out this contradiction as an insult or anything, BUT his statement is indeed what happened: Korra didn’t use empathy, she didn’t put much thought into Amon’s opposing view, and she did not seek to rebalance herself OR him — she punched Amon. Out a window. Like an action movie star, not a spiritual entity that is supposed to be keeping the world in balance. So either Bryan was just rambling and somehow that idea was not what they were trying to communicate (which case I would still like to know what the intended message was, from the creators’ mouths, and why he would’ve said it when he did) — or he failed at effectively communicating that idea through actual actions in the story. And multiple times throughout the commentary do they cite that they wanted a villain that was not pure evil, who actually had a good point and a thoughtful reason behind his actions — which makes it all the more confusing that the resolution was to use force in the same way you would a stereotypically “evil” villain.

    “That’d have been a terrible lesson, I agree, but that’s clearly not what’s going on.”
    It’s not as clear as you like to think it is if there are so many different interpretations.
    I think this is what is bothering me most about your comments — I am trying to express my own opinions and interpretations by presenting actual events that happen in the show (rather than making theoretical guesses at things that are NOT shown), and yet you are the one acting like you “clearly” know what is actually going on — when you don’t. You just have another interpretation.

    There is no point in us continuing this discussion because you yourself goad me to present evidence — which I do — then you yourself do not present evidence in kind but rather your own INTERPRETATION, then criticize my interpretation as inherently less valid, based entirely on what is within your own mind (ie your opinion), not what the story is TELLING or SHOWING us. You come across as rude and arrogant, not fair or balanced.

    “Communication is a two-way street, and it’s up to the reader to be open to it as much as it is to the author to be clear about what they’re saying.”
    This is partially true, I would say — because this is a TV show. Not truly two-way communication. This is a story being TOLD to me, not me discussing a story or having a talk with the creators — the storyteller is putting some of the work in my hands to take away something, but the bulk of the weight is on their shoulders, because they’re the teller of the story. If you tell a story that contradicts itself, it’s illogical and unfair to place expectation in the hands of the audience to guess the “correct” message.

    While I DO agree that some responsibility lies in the hands of the audience, much more lies in the hands of the storyteller — because they are TELLING the story. I went to college for Communication and Writing, and in many of my courses — mass media courses in particular — it was stressed that there is MORE responsibility in the hands of the person delivering a story/message to make sure they frame that story in a way that will best make sense to their intended audience/target. So that is the background I am coming from on that subject.

    The idea being that we use various tools (including nonverbal cues, or the sorts of symbolic elements like the teardrop falling) to express our message. So we’re supposed to pick the right tools for the right jobs. IMO, plot-twists just for the sake of using them is akin to using a chainsaw (because chainsaws are fun and not boring at all!) when your task is to put the final nails on your birdhouse to hold the entire thing together. Sure, it creates a pretty flashy scene, but now the birdhouse your were painstakingly crafting is missing corners and isn’t held together, because you didn’t employ a hammer. This isn’t to say that plot-twists OR chainsaws are inherently bad, because they totally are great tools to use — but they can be highly destructive if not used carefully.

    Please do not disrespect others’ opinions by acting like they are somehow worse fans than you are simply for critiquing, or somehow less intelligent by presenting actual events and evidence to support their claim instead of relying on an invisible set of rules you have decided upon in your head. If I was being rude, or inconsiderate, that would be different. But I’d like to think I’m being as respectful as I can while still expressing my opinions — I’m not writing anyone off, and I’m even making sure to compliment what I thought the show did WELL (something many critiques completely ignore, opting only to be gushingly positive all around or hateful and negative all around).

    “I expect Book 2 to be even better than Book 1. I’m just not quite convinced that a lot of the critics, yourself included, ever gave Book 1 a fair shot to begin with, given some of the claims that they make. =/”

    Again, I’m not sure it’s your place to judge me as a person or the validity of my opinions based on your perception of bias. Obviously, we are BOTH biased — that is the entire reason we’re having a discussion. Read the last comment I wrote right above this one. I am very biased — in FAVOR of Legend of Korra. I think it has a lot of potential, and unlike other critical fans, I have not written it off as a “teen love children’s cartoon.” It is exactly my bias in favor of the show’s quality and potential writing that fuels my critique — because I know it can do better.

    I gave Book 1 an incredibly fair shake and still defend it from fellow critics in regards to what I think it did well – which was a LOT, just not the finale. In fact, I found some of its episodes to be some of the best in the entire series so far. Episode 8, for example — I think that’s one of the most interesting and effective episodes in all four seasons of the show. But it is the FINALE that I have issue with, primarily (well, that and episode 5).

    The entire reason myself and others criticize the finale is because so much of the rest of Book 1 was done so well, that it is that much more disappointing that it was not able to create a payoff that validated everything else that had been presented before that.

    I will compliment LoK’s first season left and right, as I have even here in these comments (because I think everything besides its writing was 100% on the money, and even it’s writing was usually well-done) — but we’re debating the FINALE episode here. Not the season as a whole, so don’t write me off as someone biased against the entire production just because I don’t like its finale act. The finale is where most of my issues lie, because the finale reveled in shock value and plot twists to pull itself along, which the creators seem to cite as ‘Because we didn’t want it to be boring.’ Well, they succeeded — it wasn’t boring, but it also has invited a lot of criticism, much more than I’ve ever seen in previous seasons of Avatar. That doesn’t happen randomly or simply because massive amounts of people are “misreading” something all at the same time. It happens for the same reason so many now hate Mako despite the creators’ intending him to be likeable: they failed at presenting the character in a way that made sense to their audience. And now they’re trying to defend him with weak defenses such as “He’s not such a bad guy” or “Go easier on him” (despite that he’s a fictional character, and it’s THEIR job to show us WHY we should feel this way, not just flatly tell us). It’s not unlike Korra spewing out “I’m not oppressing you, you’re oppressing yourselves.”

    But like Korra as a character, it is in THEIR hands to make change, to take action, to change the minds of their doubters. And I don’t actually doubt the show as a whole — I doubt its reliance on shock value in its season finale instead of character development or tying together its themes.

    I will no longer be engaging in discussion with you since you do not seem interested in acknowledging objective evidence being employed to support a subjective opinion — that is the heart of what makes a debate what it is, and it is why both sides can learn something and take away something from each other. Unfortunately, all I am taking away from your comments are, “You are wrong, and I am correct, because of reasons in my head that I’m presumptuous enough to think other lesser people do not comprehend.”

    Having a different opinion and interpretation =/= a lack of understanding or “misreading” or being inherently “less valid.”

    1. Uhhh? That makes about as much as sense “I’m not oppressing you, you’re oppressing yourselves!” How in the HECK is empathy something that is used to decide where to PUNCH people? Empathy is understanding and relating with others — Korra used empathy toward MAKO, which is fine and good…but she did NOT use empathy with Amon, despite Bryan himself suggesting that she could have, thereby implying this was the intent of showing Noatak’s backstory. And that aside, Korra wasn’t thinking that far ahead — she had already unmasked him (which was just twisted into a crazy plot twist because “surprise!”). Her intent was to get him off of Mako, and blow him out a window (without even considering she could’ve killed him). That is NOT empathy. Adding a =P at the end of your post implies your opinion of your own defense.

      Empathy is understanding how other people think and feel. It’s kind of like the human equivalent of understanding the inner workings of a car — sure, it’ll give you a greater appreciation for the way the car works and help you fix it, but it also gives you a pretty good idea how to sabotage it, too. (The “where to punch him” thing was, obviously, meant to be figurative and humorous, hence the =P )

      Korra’s empathy for Amon helps her defeat him because she understands what it’s like to rely on an external identity and how badly it would hurt to lose it, and that allows her to realize she can do exactly that in order to stop him. And, in fact, that’s exactly what she does. She makes him look weak, she makes him lose influence, she makes him act impulsively, and she makes him waterbend in front of a crowd. It’s not the way she’s “supposed” to use empathy (ie. feeling bad for him and trying to find a way to end things without utterly destroying him, as Aang would have sought to do), but it still comes from that same sort of understanding.

      Now, Ben maybe didn’t MEAN to point out this contradiction as an insult or anything, BUT his statement is indeed what happened: Korra didn’t use empathy, she didn’t put much thought into Amon’s opposing view, and she did not seek to rebalance herself OR him — she punched Amon. Out a window. Like an action movie star, not a spiritual entity that is supposed to be keeping the world in balance. So either Bryan was just rambling and somehow that idea was not what they were trying to communicate (which case I would still like to know what the intended message was, from the creators’ mouths, and why he would’ve said it when he did) — or he failed at effectively communicating that idea through actual actions in the story. And multiple times throughout the commentary do they cite that they wanted a villain that was not pure evil, who actually had a good point and a thoughtful reason behind his actions — which makes it all the more confusing that the resolution was to use force in the same way you would a stereotypically “evil” villain.

      Using it as evidence for a claim that the show contradicted itself is still pretty absurd when it was a) a joke and b) not even aimed at Korra to begin with (until Bryan willingly pointed out that Korra tended to think likewise in her baseline thinking). =P

      Korra didn’t put much thought into Amon’s opposing view, because the view that he espoused was never the thing driving him to begin with (which, I think, is a good thing, because stories in which teenagers with identity issues fix serious social problems through trivial solutions are… not a good thing, generally speaking!). She didn’t balance him, either, because it was far more useful (and, to be honest, far more feasible) to use her knowledge of him to unbalance him and drive him to self-destruction.

      And she didn’t defeat Amon by punching him, in any case. She defeated him by drowning his external identity (as seen by the mask floating up to the surface of the water) and leaving the remnants of Noatak to run off to his brother and his death, which is… not how stereotypically evil villains are usully dealt with.

      “That’d have been a terrible lesson, I agree, but that’s clearly not what’s going on.”
      It’s not as clear as you like to think it is if there are so many different interpretations.

      In that particular case… yes. Yes it is. “Korra got her bending back because she was going to sacrifice herself” is factually wrong, because she got her bending back once she was no longer in a position to do any such thing. If the facts (ie. Korra got her bending back after she sat down) clearly contradict an interpretation, it’s clearly wrong.

      I think this is what is bothering me most about your comments — I am trying to express my own opinions and interpretations by presenting actual events that happen in the show (rather than making theoretical guesses at things that are NOT shown), and yet you are the one acting like you “clearly” know what is actually going on — when you don’t. You just have another interpretation.

      There is no point in us continuing this discussion because you yourself goad me to present evidence — which I do — then you yourself do not present evidence in kind but rather your own INTERPRETATION, then criticize my interpretation as inherently less valid, based entirely on what is within your own mind (ie your opinion), not what the story is TELLING or SHOWING us. You come across as rude and arrogant, not fair or balanced.

      And you come off as disingenuous and appear to be intentionally rewriting reality, given that you outright ignored the parts of my post that offered evidence (you know, all of those quotes and scene references in parentheses that explain why I came up with the interpretation that I did) then claimed that none existed in order to avoid responding to them.

      I see no reason to consider your interpretation a valid one if it isn’t supported by and can’t support the weight of canon, and, as far as I can tell, it can’t. And, honestly, I might be more inclined to take it seriously if the core of my posts weren’t being ignored in favor of baseless accusations.

      While I DO agree that some responsibility lies in the hands of the audience, much more lies in the hands of the storyteller — because they are TELLING the story. I went to college for Communication and Writing, and in many of my courses — mass media courses in particular — it was stressed that there is MORE responsibility in the hands of the person delivering a story/message to make sure they frame that story in a way that will best make sense to their intended audience/target. So that is the background I am coming from on that subject.

      More responsibility lies in the hands of the storyteller, true, but that doesn’t mean the audience can’t be the primary cause of the break in communication.

      Not to mention, in the case of something like Legend of Korra — which is incredibly experimental in a lot of ways — a certain amount of interpretive complexity can be expected in pursuit of artistry. The show relies on its visuals to say things that would generally be stated verbally, which is both good, because it’s using its medium more fully in the process, and bad, because the audience doesn’t have much experience with that sort of communication. But, because the audience will never gain the necessary level of visual literacy without the existence of works that utilize it, I can’t see how foregoing (immediate) communication in favor of experimentation is an invalid choice to make, especially since other media like prose and poetry do the same thing all the time.

      The idea being that we use various tools (including nonverbal cues, or the sorts of symbolic elements like the teardrop falling) to express our message. So we’re supposed to pick the right tools for the right jobs. IMO, plot-twists just for the sake of using them is akin to using a chainsaw (because chainsaws are fun and not boring at all!) when your task is to put the final nails on your birdhouse to hold the entire thing together. Sure, it creates a pretty flashy scene, but now the birdhouse your were painstakingly crafting is missing corners and isn’t held together, because you didn’t employ a hammer. This isn’t to say that plot-twists OR chainsaws are inherently bad, because they totally are great tools to use — but they can be highly destructive if not used carefully.

      You say this as if the bending loss-restoration from the Legend of Korra finale is a plot twist rather than the culmination of a theme near and dear to the heart of the man on whose blog you’re commenting (and I can’t imagine you don’t know this, given that you’re familiar with the commentaries). Since you don’t seem to believe that I’m willing to give evidence, here’s the relevant quote: “For me, this moment was like — there was some criticism that it was like, some magic button got switched and Korra got all her powers back, but to me it was way, way more than that. It was — she had to reach this point of, like, total despair to even be opened up to the idea of connecting to these other spirits and her spiritual side and stuff[...]” And, from the art book: “Korra’s emotional breakdown and subsequent connection to her past lives was part of her story that was really important to me, [...].”

      If there’s one situation in which the author is very much alive, it’s deciding whether a plot element was intended as a twist or as a culmination of a theme, and in this case, it’s fair to say that it’s the latter.

      Please do not disrespect others’ opinions by acting like they are somehow worse fans than you are simply for critiquing, or somehow less intelligent by presenting actual events and evidence to support their claim instead of relying on an invisible set of rules you have decided upon in your head. If I was being rude, or inconsiderate, that would be different. But I’d like to think I’m being as respectful as I can while still expressing my opinions — I’m not writing anyone off, and I’m even making sure to compliment what I thought the show did WELL (something many critiques completely ignore, opting only to be gushingly positive all around or hateful and negative all around).

      I don’t think anyone’s a worse fan for critiquing. But critiques that ignore facts from canon (or brush factual information off as mere “interpretation” and hence safe to ignore) irritates me to no end, especially when it’s paired with the form of debate that ignores the more important half of my own response and then claims that I haven’t cited any evidence.

      Again, I’m not sure it’s your place to judge me as a person or the validity of my opinions based on your perception of bias. Obviously, we are BOTH biased — that is the entire reason we’re having a discussion. Read the last comment I wrote right above this one. I am very biased — in FAVOR of Legend of Korra. I think it has a lot of potential, and unlike other critical fans, I have not written it off as a “teen love children’s cartoon.” It is exactly my bias in favor of the show’s quality and potential writing that fuels my critique — because I know it can do better.

      Okay, so apparently I misread you. I apologize for that.

      Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that claiming that the show’s message ended up being “bending is all that matters” is not, in fact, the sort of opinion that can be in any way validated by canon, because it contradicts the facts of canon in about a hundred different ways. In any case, it’s not my place to judge the validity of opinions so much as it’s the place of anyone who’s willing and able to throw contradictory canon at that opinion. If you found a piece of canon that my own opinion couldn’t support, you’d be well within your rights to call my opinion invalid, too (but you haven’t so far and you probably won’t, because it’s withstood plenty of attempts at the same in its time, some of which were my own).

      I will no longer be engaging in discussion with you since you do not seem interested in acknowledging objective evidence being employed to support a subjective opinion — that is the heart of what makes a debate what it is, and it is why both sides can learn something and take away something from each other. Unfortunately, all I am taking away from your comments are, “You are wrong, and I am correct, because of reasons in my head that I’m presumptuous enough to think other lesser people do not comprehend.”

      If that’s how you’re going to end this, I suppose I should just make a point to mention that I am not the sort of person to allow that sort of misrepresentation of my own posts to stand as the last word in a debate, and have therefore opted to post a response anyway. I do not feel as if you’ve made any attempt to do what you claim I have failed to do (with the citations regarding the suicide theory in particular being outright ignored), and I wish this debate would have ended in some way that didn’t involve every bit of objective evidence that I employed being ignored and my own willingness to debate being wrongfully impugned for its supposed lack.

      Having a different opinion and interpretation =/= a lack of understanding or “misreading” or being inherently “less valid.”

      Having an opinion and interpretation that cannot sustain the weight of canon, however, is, and that’s the only claim I’ve ever made in that regard.

      I will leave you, I suppose, with a list of facts about Korra’s relationship with her bending and her actions at the end of the finale, all of which must be integrated by a valid opinion.

      - Without her bending, Korra feels like she is nothing (as per her nightmares). Korra’s bending and Avatar status is the core of her identity (as stated many times in many different commentaries).

      - Having her Avatar identity questioned is intensely painful, and Korra’s typical response is to destroy anything that reminds her of that pain (whether it be an object like the airbending gates, an effigy of a person like the newspaper with Lin’s face on it, or an actual person like Tarrlok).

      - Korra’s initial reaction to finding out her bending is permanently gone is very subdued, almost to the point of apathy (as seen in the wonderfully expressive animation).

      - Korra rejects her family’s support and leaves on her own.

      - Korra rejects Mako’s support, believing herself to be a burden to him (“you don’t need to do me any favors”), and attempts to burn bridges (“get on with your life”) before running off.

      - Korra walks all the way to the edge of a cliff before stopping. She is so close to the edge that her tears fall all the way down to the water below as she looks down.

      - Korra sits down and cries. Aang immediately shows up, claiming that she called him and that being at her lowest point opened her to change before giving her bending back.

      The idea that Korra got her bending back because her bending was all that mattered takes into account none of that, and actively contradicts Aang’s own claims in the show. The idea that Korra got her bending back because she forewent her (self-)destructive instincts and opened herself up to change takes into account every single item on the list (and was actively suggested by the show’s creators in both the artbook in the commentaries as referenced above, if not in its most extreme and controversial form). It doesn’t make sense to consider those two things equally valid, and therefore I see no reason to do so whether or not calling an opinion invalid is impolite.

  26. …I should really have kept up with this debate while it was still going on.

    I don’t have much reason to assume anyone’s still reading this, so I’ll keep it brief. Eddy is Sokka and Ikkin is Katara, right? So I must be Aang!

    It’s kind of sad that every debate on the internet seems to end in everyone getting steamed over a disagreement on the facts. I’ll start on Ikkin. While you sure are referencing canon in those last few bullet points, you seem to assume that the importance of those events is entirely objective. You say that some interpretations are wrong. But I don’t think that’s possible. If someone were to interpret the entire show as an allusion to the Book of Revelation, then no matter how much you argue with them, and no matter how little sense they’re making, if that’s what they got out of it, then that’s what they got out of it. Eddy’s interpretation is just as valid as yours. Even if you’re referencing facts, the importance and meaning of those facts is not anywhere set inside the work. Korra’s tear over the cliff and her sitting down could have just been visual effect for all we know. And if you’re going to start saying, “but they said so in the commentary!” then you might want to look in to the whole “Death of the Author” concept I joked about above.

    And Eddy, you are brushing aside Ikkin’s ideas a bit. I don’t really think you’re doing this on purpose, you’re just a bit too focused on the logic of what happened. You insist that (s)he offer more real evidence when plenty has been given, it’s just that it’s all been more subjective. But that doesn’t in any way make it less worth considering.

    Allow me to offer my theory of what happened with the finale. Mike and Bryan have often stressed that what everyone else saw as a Deux ex Machina actually meant a lot them, and we’ve already heard why. Personally, I get that a lot in what I write, in a way. Sometimes, when you write something, a certain scene or paragraph, when you read it at the end it just feels right. It expresses something near to you in such a way that feels so perfect that you couldn’t bare to change it or see it any other way. But then, when others see it, you end up realizing that those special words only meant what they did to you. For everyone else, it can mean little, or something else entirely. Unfortunately, the closer we get to ourselves, the farther we do from others.

    What I’m saying is, I think that to Mike and Bryan (I really don’t want to say Bryke), Korra opening up at her lowest point and those exact details meant something special. There was something there that was just perfect, that was the best possible way for Korra to get her bending back, the most intuitive way. But when seen by the viewers, for whom it doesn’t have that perfection, it just seemed out of place.

    I’d like to throw an apology to Mike for putting him through the torture of having to read fans debate over what you guys really meant when writing this show and restraining from throwing in his own word on the subject in the interest of… fairness. Alternatively, if you aren’t reading this, for inflating your blog with comments barely related to the post. In fact, that should go even if you are reading this. I also apologize for over-apologizing.

    Heheh. Brief. Riiiiiiiiight.

    1. I’ll start on Ikkin. While you sure are referencing canon in those last few bullet points, you seem to assume that the importance of those events is entirely objective. You say that some interpretations are wrong. But I don’t think that’s possible. If someone were to interpret the entire show as an allusion to the Book of Revelation, then no matter how much you argue with them, and no matter how little sense they’re making, if that’s what they got out of it, then that’s what they got out of it. Eddy’s interpretation is just as valid as yours. Even if you’re referencing facts, the importance and meaning of those facts is not anywhere set inside the work. Korra’s tear over the cliff and her sitting down could have just been visual effect for all we know. And if you’re going to start saying, “but they said so in the commentary!” then you might want to look in to the whole “Death of the Author” concept I joked about above.

      Okay, so, I agree that the relative importance and meaning of events in canon is open to interpretation. But, the thing is, each event’s value is invariably non-zero. If an interpretation contradicts an event, it contradicts canon, and is therefore less valid than any interpretation that doesn’t contradict canon.

      With that in mind, I reject the idea that “Death of the Author” means all interpretations are equally valid. It’s possible for a reader’s subjective experience to be utterly disconnected from the work as it exists in reality — say, the anti-fan I ran into who insisted that Mako was (canonically) abusive and Korra was (canonically) incapable of standing up for herself — and when that happens, their interpretation can no longer be of any value to anyone other than themselves. As far as the author’s attempt at communication is concerned, there’s clearly little that can be done to get them back on board, and communication with other fans is bound to derail due to the completely different set of base assumptions being used.

      …in other words, the meaning behind Korra sitting down and crying in the cliff scene is open to interpretation, but as soon as an interpretation requires a deviation from the facts (“Aang showed up because Korra was in mortal peril”), assuming that the facts themselves don’t contradict, it abandons common ground and makes discussion all but impossible. (This is why people usually sigh in frustration and disengage as soon as someone says, “what if it’s all a dream?” or “what if the narrator’s lying?” — nothing of value ever comes from discussing it)

      Sometimes, when you write something, a certain scene or paragraph, when you read it at the end it just feels right. It expresses something near to you in such a way that feels so perfect that you couldn’t bare to change it or see it any other way. But then, when others see it, you end up realizing that those special words only meant what they did to you. For everyone else, it can mean little, or something else entirely. Unfortunately, the closer we get to ourselves, the farther we do from others.

      I don’t think it’s quite so much that getting closer to yourself means getting farther from others so much as getting closer to yourself makes it a lot easier to fail to realize that some of your intentions are overly subtle or haven’t made it to the page (in the same way that the more familiar you are with the essay you’re writing, the more likely you are to overlook the typo that changes the meaning of a whole paragraph).

      As far as Legend of Korra is concerned, I think we’re dealing with an overabundance of subtlety — I feel like what they were trying to put into it is there, but it’s not nearly as obvious as some of the audience members needed it to be in order to receive the communication intended by the author. I don’t think there’s anything inherently alienating about the message itself, though.

    1. The twist reminded some fans in a funny way of Maury’s ” You are/are not the father.”, Shyamalan’s ” What a twist!” and ” I see what you did there.” meme.

      It is hard to overlook the resemblance of Zuko to Ozai.

  27. It’s so amazing to see and hear about everything that goes into making the series. I’ve been watching Atla and Lok since the beginning. They are so special to me because they have a lot of hidden meanings, lessons and advice. I can watch the episodes over and over again and gain new knowledge every time I watch them. I also like how well I can relate to their problems! I also think its amazing how much confidence I’ve gotten from the shows. I see the characters develop and I see that they accept their mistakes and problems and move on to better things. I had a very abusive childhood because my dad was an alcoholic who abused my mother, brother, and I. These bad events left me shy, quite and isolated but after watching the series I realized that yes, these things happened to me but they don’t have to define me. Like when Aang was ashamed for leaving the Air Temple and finally accepted that it happened and now he can fix it. I feel like I’m at that point in my life. Thank you so much for the amazing series. It really, honestly changed my life. You guys are my heros! :’D

  28. This is likely a dead horse in terms of topic, but I have to throw in my two cents anyway.

    …I don’t see how this informs a single solitary thing about Zuko whatsoever that we didn’t already know. Zuko dislikes his upbringing. Zuko dislikes Ozai and thinks he is the worst father in the history of fathers. Zuko would like to believe that he isn’t in constant turmoil with his existence, but he is.

    The reality of what ATLA seemed to present with this is that it would always exist as a struggle for Zuko, but he moved beyond it and grew stronger. The scar didn’t serve as a marker for failure so much as a constant reminder of who he is – and by the end, it became a symbol of his growth as much as it became a source of pain throughout his journey.

    By making him no longer Ozai’s son, Zuko’s struggle has ended in many ways. Provided he can still keep the throne, which is a foregone conclusion due to Korra, Zuko will never have to worry again about who he is or confront the unending conflict between good and evil that exists in his soul and his ancestors. In fact, “The Avatar and the Firelord” has been rendered completely null and void unless Ikem by some strange fortune is also some kind of descendant of Sozin but turned out to be a swell guy because why the hell not. So in other words, that struggle had nothing to do with your ancestors, Zuko! You were just being stupid!

    It also raises unfortunate implications – no Zuko, it turns out you really WERE a good seed afterall, and that bad people only give birth to bad people. What’s that? Azula’s not bad? Then why has 2 of 3 issues of what should’ve been her time to shine and developed turned into her being nothing more than the group’s token evil team mate? All it does is come off as Ozai having the “bad” genes, and that Zuko is just the stereotypical bastard hero archetype who was free of it by being “pure” of the love of two people.

    If this is true, I can’t see how it moves anything in any direction whatsoever other than backwards, really harming who I felt to be the best written and most complex character on the show. “I don’t need luck though, I don’t want it. I’ve always had to struggle and fight and that’s made me strong. It’s made me who I am” really now becomes “well I guess I got a little lucky after all. Part of my struggle’s over!”

    If it’s NOT true, then what the hell is the point of a false twist? It just pulls attention away of who really needed this story – Azula. Someone that tragic who got that poor of an end for herself (deserved) really needed more fleshing out and the opportunity to have another chance given her age and circumstance. Instead she’s not really all that important throughout the duration other than to create tension, and instead most of the focus of the story has been given to Zuko’s either complete derailment or false teasing of one.

    I really want to reinforce that I don’t want to be seen as one of “those” fans. I consider ATLA to be one of the greatest family shows ever conceived, and while there were points that seemed like errors in it, I never rejected anything outright or tried to be overly critical about it. I really felt that the directions that even I didn’t like had some basis.

    But this just baffles me, and it’s not secluded to just The Search. Everything released since The Promise, including Korra, really just seems like it was made by different people who have a completely different perspective on everything that was present in the original. Aang, the most spiritual person on the face of the earth, severs his bond with Roku. Two victims of abuse don’t get the opportunity to live, even in a really dark sorta Ozai/Azula way, but instead die in an “edgy” murder-suicide. Korra learns airbending by punching things. Equalist struggles are a complete red-herring and are treated as non-existent.

    What happened, guys? I can begrudgingly accept pretty much all of the above (and maybe Korra just isn’t for me), but changing what makes Zuko who he is doesn’t accomplish much at all. The character was perfect, and his journey was complete. Why travel the same path you already went down while dragging your feet to cover the footprints? Yes, maybe this happens in real life, but fiction isn’t real life. We want a sense of karma. We’re not reading stories because we want a bunch of random events that can at any moment invalidate a character’s arc. It would be like if Sozin’s Comet randomly hit Ozai in the middle of the finale so Aang never had to figure out a way to avoid taking a life anyway.

  29. Hi Mike.

    Just wanted to say that the new episodes of Korra are amazingly great. Haven’t enjoyed anything this much in a long time. The writing, story, art and everything is terrific and it’s a pleasure to see something so beautiful and human on the screen.

    Cheers.

    Natan.

      1. Have to echo Natan’s sentiments and thank you Mike, and of course Bryan and the terrific team of people working on Korra.

        The first season was a bit shaky to be honest, but there’s such a natural flow to the second… being carried away by the current is quite an experience. Certain aspects of the story this season have resonated with me on a deeply personal level(coincidence, serendipity, etc.); things I’ve kept to myself. I see this as an augur that you are all being used by a higher power – though I suppose we all are to some extent. You are speaking to and with the collective unconscious in ways that perhaps you may not yet fully appreciate. Sometimes, the best we can do is get out of our own way.

        Yours is truly a labor of love, and we remember that only love, makes possible impossible things.

        Here’s to the impossible.
        Love, M.

  30. Have you thought about creating a comic about a non-avatar hero during the 100 Years War who sees and reads what the Avatar is doing while offering a completely outside the Avatar experience of someone who has lived with this War all their life? Like an Earthbending freedom fighter who constantly fights the Fire Nation?

  31. is the Avatar the last airbender The Search only on a comic book or can if find it also as a movie or something like that and if it do where can i find it, please helpm me

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