I didn’t think I’d be producing an editorial examining the best of The Legend of Korra until the series had concluded, but the more I thought about it, writing such an article now isn’t a bad idea.
We’re halfway through the series as of Book 2’s finish, so it’s easier to judge what we’ve seen so far, now that there’s been more than one season to analyze. Plus, following the current Book 2-Book 3 hiatus, we’ll be entering the final stretch of the series, and so it seems appropriate to celebrate the show’s greatest success thus far.
So without further ado, here are my picks for The Legend of Korra’s top 10 episodes and top 10 characters:
10. Ep211 – Night of a Thousand Stars
“Night of a Thousand Stars” is an all-in-one package of an episode. It has the laughs with Nuktuk, the drama with Bolin, and some excellent action sequences thanks to Tonraq’s rebel invasion and Bolin’s rescuing of the president.
9. Ep212 – Harmonic Convergence
There’s nothing wrong with devoting an episode to back-to-back action sequences once in a while and, similar to Book 1’s “Turning the Tides” (but better), “Harmonic Convergence does just that. More importantly, these action set-pieces are extremely impressive, with an aerial combat sequence being the standout. There’s also plenty to love for Bumi fans such as myself.
8. Ep109 – Out of the Past
This episode was successful for a lot of reasons: Korra is faced with a polar opposite sort of challenge then she is familiar with (a challenge of the mind, as opposed to physical endurance), Amon confronts Tarrlok, and Lin leads the rest of the cast on a dangerous rescue mission, but the real reason “Out of the Past” makes my list Is thanks to the Gaang’s incredibly nostalgic return via flashbacks.
7. Ep207 – Beginnings Part 1
The first half of “Beginnings” does a highly admirable job of opening up the world 10,000 years ago with a visually stunning design aesthetic, some fun characters, and a delightful soundtrack. I knew I would be hooked on this story arc as soon as I watched this episode, and I was absolutely right.
6. Ep106 – And the Winner Is…
I’m a sports guy, so Probending is very exciting to me, but I will admit that I was more invested in the Equalist side of the story in Book 1 than in the Fire Ferrets. “And the Winner Is…” combines the two with an expectedly thrilling championship match followed up by an Equalist invasion that leads to what is arguably the best action sequence of the season, along with some much welcomed relationship growth between Korra and Lin.
5. Ep112 – Endgame
The final episode from Book 1 is probably the most controversial as an ending because of how tightly the plot is wrapped up. However, I’m a firm believer that it is far more essential to conclude the current season’s story than it is to hint at the next season. In addition, the episode consisted of more standout scenes than I could keep track of… So, it has that going for it…
4. Ep214 – Light in the Dark
Often criticized for its over-the-top “giant fight,” but nonetheless remembered for its venture into uncharted territory and an enthralling conclusion that takes the series in a completely new direction.
3. Ep213 – Darkness Falls
The penultimate episode to Book 2’s humongous finale definitely got the plot rolling immediately, with a multitude of explosive duels between characters, but it also has its delicate side in Tenzin’s personal journey. The Fog of Lost Souls brought a nice change of pace that kept the story intimate, even in the midst of all its chaos.
2. Ep210 – A New Spiritual Age
A Spirit World journey was both inevitable and highly anticipated, and while we got exactly what we wanted in terms of the gorgeous settings and the plethora of wonderfully designed spirits, there remains a very human essence throughout Korra and Jinora’s plot-lines. The emotions evoked from a sense of relation is what makes “A New Spiritual Age” truly memorable. Also, Uncle Iroh, baby Korra, and Wan Shi Tong…
1. Ep208 – Beginning Part 2
This one’s a no-brainer for me. “Beginnings” is a beautiful story that deserved a beautiful conclusion, and luckily, the second half of the two-parter exceeded my expectations and became one of my favorite episodes from the entire Avatar franchise. If The Legend of Korra never outdoes “Beginnings Part 2″ I’ll completely understand (and yes, that’s a challenge).
And now for the top 10 characters:
Lin just barely makes my list thanks to her very solid outing in the first season, but that’s not to say she doesn’t deserve it. When put to good use, Lin is a noteworthy character among others, and it appears we’ll be seeing more from her in Book 3, so hopefully she’ll return to being awesome and not underused like in Book 2.
When I was watching Book 1 of The Legend of Korra, Tarrlok was the character I hoped would enter a scene while a friend or family member was in the room with me watching. He’s one of the most serious, well written, and professionally acted characters on the show, with a mysterious backstory to compliment. Also, it’s just fantastic to have Dee Bradley Baker (Tarrlok) voice a character who isn’t an animal (he’s responsible for voicing/growling for various sky-bison and other animals).
Mako haters, look away… Mako, quite simply, carries a lot of potential with him, more so than the likes of some others (Asami). Also, being a rookie detective adds some serious merit since we’ve gotten to see him do something more important than what he is usually confined to. From the looks of it, Mako will be well worth the writers’ effort in the long run.
Bumi is a strange addition to the cast. He’s not very skillful (unless you count his flute playing ability, and his luck with a mecha-tank), nor is he much of a leader for the other characters to rally under. He’s definitely not irrelevant though, and what makes him so interesting to me is that his presence appears to exist in between the dimensions of those other cast members rather than sticking out. He’s very enjoyable on screen and he always feels very streamline, for lack of a better term.
Book 1 was a worthy showcase for Bolin as a comedic hero that still had enough fight in him to be an irreplaceable member of Team Avatar, and he may have ranked higher up on my list had his success between the first two seasons been more consistent. But even when he is confined to the acting life as Nuktuk: Hero of the South, one gets the sense that the problem lies more in the storytelling than in the character, which might as well be set in stone after Bolin redeems himself later in the episode “Night of a Thousand Stars.”
I feel like a lot of people overreact to Korra’s hotheaded attitude, even when her aggressive behavior acts as a strategically placed springboard for crucial character growth (Book 2). That being said, I never find her unlikeable, as many do, and it’s a joy to watch Korra mature into a responsible and respectable young Avatar.
The first Avatar certainly left an impact with his lead role in the “Beginnings” story-arc, as evidenced by the audience’s reluctance to part with the new-found hero. It’s truly impressive for a character to leave such a profound mark on the series with merely two episodes to work with.
Varrick’s just one of those characters who may not be as sophisticated as the rest of the bunch, but he’ll steal almost every scene he’s featured in, regardless, which makes him one of the most fun to watch in Book 2.
Tenzin would not be in my number two spot, had it not been for his excellent character development in Book 2, and so he has become my personal favorite of the show’s regulars over time. He transcends the typical mentor/father figure and embodies a sophisticated character that can maintain his own storyline.
I love me a good villain, so Amon’s inclusion in The Legend of Korra’s freshman season is right down my alley. From his complicated motives with his realistic (and relatable) political ploys to his awesomely formidable presence, Amon quickly became my favorite antagonist from any season of Avatar (yes, I put him ahead of Azula).
One thing that we should keep in mind is that opinions change, and we still have 26 best episode candidates to come, along with a full cast of developing characters and a number of not-yet-known characters to add to the list. It’ll be interesting to see how the list has changed when it is updated by series end, but in the mean time I’d like to hear what you have to say in the comments section. What are your favorite episodes and characters?