Over the past two season’s we’ve been treated to some very exciting, engaging, and emotional stories, accompanied by some fun and likable characters. There has also been a fair amount of issues, from love-triangles to shallow character development. However, it’s typical of a developing series to progressively improve with each season (Avatar: The Last Airbender did this). Book 3 is in an optimal position to transcend the success of its predecessors thanks to Book 2′s ending, but that’s not to disregard the inevitability of imperfections. Here’s how I think Book 3 can learn from the success and failures of the series so far, and ultimately, be the best season of The Legend of Korra yet…
1) More Character Development
It’s no secret that characters become significantly more interesting as they continue to grow and evolve. Book 2 did a mostly great job of building on some of the show’s main cast (Tenzin, Mako, and Korra), but it also kept some of its supporting characters cooped up with minimal appearances to define their roles, especially Asami and Lin Beifong.
Mike and Bryan have only hinted at Lin Beifong’s impact in Book 3, but by the looks of things, she should be getting a serious overhaul as a character. While I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge Lin fan, I still wouldn’t find it acceptable for her to see no development for two seasons straight, especially after her potential became evident in Book 1. The same can be said for Asami.
Asami was an intriguing character in Book 1 and she felt essential to Korra, Mako, and Bolin’s missions. Book 3 needs to win us over to her side again and remind us that she is an important member of Team Avatar. My suggestion? I would really like to see her star in her own on going subplot, similar to Mako’s detective adventures in Book 2. It’s a bit difficult to have her shine when we’re also focussing on the rest of Team Avatar, so remove them. Let Asami drive race cars, or track a suspicious business transaction in Ba Sing Se. I don’t know… Just give her some room to breathe before she needs to fly Team Avatar to another Northern blockade. It would be an excellent feat for Book 3 to delve into.
2) The Music
Outstanding music is always a nice touch, so it would seem obvious that Book 3 follows up on the tradition, but I’m not referring to the obvious. One thing that flew primarily under the fandom radar in Book 2 was the music and how it glossed the season in a style that departed the themes of Book 1. Book 1 consisted of an appropriate blend of blues and oriental instrumentation to fit the noire-style, Hong Kong crime thriller feel, whereas Book 2 involves a dominantly light, oriental, adventurous mix that suits the sense of spirituality. I’m actually pretty excited to hear what sort of sound Book 3 favors for its own personality, considering the centralization of “Change.”
3) A More Focused Story
Even though Book 1 wasn’t as fun of a ride as Book 2 in my eyes, Korra’s premiere season benefitted from its tightly told, anti-filler storytelling. Book 2′s plot more closely resembles a pinball, bouncing from subplot to subplot without being able to revisit them in broad lengths, but arousing some undeniably flashy episodes. Book 3 should strive to strike a balance between the two seasons’ focus, sticking to a heavily objective story like Book 1, but also being flexible like Book 2, as to avoid confinement and induce variety.
If you’ve read my review of Book 2, then you know how I felt about the way the season was directed. It was certainly a strong point as far as technicality goes and I truly hope there will be more episodes in Book 3 directed by Colin Heck, nay, by Colin Heck and Joaquin Dos Santos, who directed all of Book 1.
Colin Heck is great with more intimate conversation-based scenes and minor-grade fights, and there’s a reason why Joaquin Dos Santos is referred to as “Dr. Fight,” being both an MMA enthusiast and a notorious craftsman of high octane action sequences. Hopefully, the two’s work will be united when Book 3 arrives.
5) A Solid Villain
Book 1 gave us, in my opinion, the best villain in Avatar history: Amon. Book 2 may have given us the most forgettable to date: Unalaq.
I don’t expect Book 3′s main antagonist to top Amon, but I’m absolutely expecting a more sophisticated character than Unalaq. I think, as long as other elements of the show hold up, an Amon-quality baddy won’t be necessary, just one that can hold his/her own and present a decent threat.
One thing I don’t want to see is a rehashing of a past villain. Unalaq earned his title of “Tarrlok 2.0,” being a Northern Water Tribe representative who attempts to hide his true motivations but eventually becomes power hungry. Oh, and he has a major conflict with his brother to top off their season-long arc. The reason I bring this up is because Grey Delisle, the acclaimed voice actress of Azula, is returning to possibly play a villain in Book 3 and I don’t want to see Azula 2.0. Book 3 needs to take advantage of Grey’s talent and lend her a new voice to embody.
6) More Traveling
Book 1 was entirely Republic City-centric, which is fine for a freshman run, but Book 2 exemplified just how effective a change of setting can be. We got to see multiple air temples, the Southern Water Tribe, and even the Spirit World. Book 3 is bound to be another adventurous season, and if it plays out the way I hope it does, we should be seeing another new set of environments for Team Avatar to explore. Ba Sing Se, please…
7) The Animation
Believe it or not, as good as The Legend of Korra’s animation has become, there will always be room for improvement. Book 2 met some minor difficulties at the helm of Studio Pierrot, but recovered swiftly and with ease upon Studio Mir’s glorious return. Now that Mir has acquired permanent reign on the animation front, we should be seeing some serious improvements.
Assuming a time problem may have surfaced with Mir’s leaving and then returning to split the season’s required effort with Pierrot, one can also concur that some pressure could have existed. More specifically, a luminous deadline could have been in the wake. My point is that Studio Mir is now no longer under any possible stress from overseeing a less talented studio or meeting an imminent deadline due to their temporary disappearance.
Logically speaking, Book 3 should easily take the throne for best animated season so far. Hopefully, the vibrant visual style accomplished in Book 2 and the consistently excellent quality from Book 1 will find a happy median for Book 3 to lie in.
8. Master Pacing
Book 1 and Book 2 were primarily well paced, but neither hit the Avatar: The Last Airbender perfection-grade pacing. Book 1 could be a little too quick, whereas Book 2 became overly slow. Book 3 needs to be the middle man of the pacing. The best method of achieving this goal is to remain objective (the plot moves from point A to point B, not from point A to point A and a half), but refrain from cramming in details. I want to see subplots, but I don’t want to see three of them in half an episode.
9. Stable Romance
Avatar: The Last Airbender kept the romance in the background, so much that many fans didn’t really pay attention to it until Aang and Katara’s kiss in “The Cave of Two Lovers.” What, just me? … Well regardless, my point is that the original series knew that it was a show about adventure first and a romantic comedy second or third, and while The Legend of Korra recognizes its identity just as strongly, the romance has taken on a much more prominent role than before. The results have been mixed for two seasons straight now, so if I could suggest one thing to the writing staff for Book 3, it would be to take a break from Makorra and Bosami shipping for a season and just give the fans what they tuned in for. Develop the romance a little on the side before it returns for Book 4 where it will hopefully pan out appropriately.
Yes. It’s back and if it doesn’t have an active presence in Book 3, I’ll be disappointed. I’m talking about the great sense of humor that layered the majority of Book 2 and carried us through what could have been some more detrimental B-plots. I’m in the dark as much as anyone else is on Book 3 information, but I hope Book 2 writers Tim Hedrick and Joshua Hamilton will be returning to play a small part in the comedy side of things. The two had already proven themselves as a funny-machine duo with their work on the original series, but their success in the bounds of humor became even more apparent for Korra fans with the additions of the Nuktuk propaganda films, Varrick in general, and Bolin’s Sokka-esque behavior. It’s always fun to throw in a gag or two to loosen up the dramatic tension.
These are my thoughts on what Book 3 needs to accomplish. What are yours? Voice your opinions in the comments section on what you expect from Book 3.