It’s not rare to become jaded, or at least pretty hard to impress, after a few years studying and/or working in the entertainment industry. I do let my passion show most of the time, because it makes for better writing and also because I couldn’t approach the material in a completely cold fashion, but I am still methodical and thoughtful in my criticism. At least, I try to be. I am that person who watches everything with her arms crossed and a perpetual frown on her face. I nod at the good stuff, barely smile at things that I find hilarious and snort in disdain when I don’t like something. So when I say that the Legend of Korra finale was a punch to the feels center, I am not kidding. This finale was a swirl of emotions so intense that more than 24 hours later, I can still barely believe I witnessed something that powerful. This finale grabbed me by the collar and said: “Baby, this is the end. Let’s make it a hell of a ride,” then took me in its arms and flew us to infinity and beyond.
Let’s dive in.
We pick up where we left off last week, after Kuvira blasted Asami’s factory off because Bataar Jr dared suggesting that maybe, just maybe, they could leave Republic City alone. Bolin bends a giant wall to allow everybody to escape from the ruins of the building. Our heroes gather outside as Kuvira and her army slowly enter the city. Bolin suggests that they let Kuvira take the city for now and come back later when they have a plan. Mako’s mind is set on the people that haven’t left the city yet. Korra refuses to think about anything else other than getting rid of Kuvira’s weapon. The plan? Get the Hummingbird prototypes back at Asami’s office working, so they can provide air support to help fight the colossus. Asami, Varrick, Zhu Li, Su, and Bataar run there, leaving the others to slow down Kuvira’s progression.
At the same time, at the train station, Pema and Prince Wu are stuck at the train station with the remaining Republic City citizens. Kuvira’s army has destroyed the train tracks, blocking their main way of retreat. But Prince Wu has an idea…
Somewhere else in the city, Meelo has an idea as well. The airbenders fly toward the colossus in two different waves, each time carrying balloons full of paint. The first wave barely dodges the spirit beam. The second wave manages to drop the balloons on the colossus and blind it, at least for a little while. Lin can’t metalbend her way inside the giant mecha, so Bolin opens a pool of lava under its feet. They tie up its legs and, with some help from Korra and the airbenders, they almost manage to trip it. Kuvira’s retaliates immediately, setting half of the city on fire. Team Avatar and the airbenders run away from Kuvira’s relentless use of the Spirit Beam.
In Asami’s office, Asami and Varrick try to get the Hummingbird prototypes up and running, which reveals more difficult than they thought. An airbender warns them that a platoon of mechasuits is headed their way. Varrick and Zhu Li immediately go set up an electromagnetic trap like the Varrick used to disable some mechasuits earlier in the season. Meanwhile, Su has a little heart-to-heart with her first born, who’s devastated by Kuvira’s betrayal. On the roof, Zhu Li interrupts Varrick’s convoluted apology and love confession so they can focus on their mission. The signal stops the mechasuits dead in their tracks. The colossus stands unscathed. As Bataar explains it when everybody gathers in Asami’s office again, the cannon is not the only thing powered by spirit vines: the whole mecha giant is. That’s when Lin comes in with Asami’s father, who she got out of jail just to have one more brain thinking about a way to defeat Kuvira. They’ve tried half a dozen different ways to attack the mecha giant so far and nothing has worked. I don’t know if you feel the tension and the emergency in my words, but at that point I was on the edge of my seat, holding my breath every time one of the characters dodged the beam by an inch. Sato suggests to use the Hummingbirds like metal mosquitos, using plasma saws to cut a hole through its platinum armor and let someone in.
At the train station, Prince Wu comes back to Pema and the remaining Republic City people with two badger moles. He can apparently control the beasts by singing. Er. Yeah, whatever, all I care about right now is that there are badger moles on screen. Badger moles are awesome and Prince Wu knows it. He uses their earthbending abilities to dig everybody a way out of the city.
Kuvira turns her attention to the Future Industries tower, where the electromagnetic signal comes from. Team Avatar notices. While the geniuses and the wounded stay in Asami’s office to arm the Hummingbirds, the benders go out to fend off the colossus. Korra enters the Avatar state and serves as bait, guiding the colossus in a trap where it gets bombarded with huge pieces of rock and concrete, the benders risking everything with each new move. The scene is gorgeous, as is the rest of the finale for that matter. The animation in Korra was always good, but it seems like these episodes have a particular shine to them. The bending scenes have never been that beautiful or creative, and that’s saying a lot. The high point of this particular moment comes when Bolin, Lin, and Su join their strength to sever an entire building in half, and you can feel the incredible weight of the thousand tons of concrete they’re weaving. Ultimately, Team Avatar manages to bury the colossus under the ruins of two buildings… for a second. The mecha giant once again comes out of the attack without a single scratch.
Under Republic City, Prince Wu encourages the badger moles with parody versions of old pop songs. Or at least, I think he is. His voice is actually so bad that I can’t really tell what he’s supposed to be singing. Three soldiers in mechasuits try to stop them, only to be crushed by the badger moles.
In the Future Industries tower, Asami and her father finish calibrating the plasma saws, an occasion to share a touching father-daughter moment. Meanwhile, Varrick approaches Zhu Li. I’m not a wedding person at all, but there are maybe two marriage proposals in the world that I find cute. The first one is Edward Elric telling Winry he will give her half of his life if she gives him half of hers. The second one is Varrick asking Zhu Li if she wants to do the thing for the rest of their lives. With all the love floating in the air, one of those charming people is probably going to be dead by the end of the episode. Prepare the tissues, folks.
Hummingbirds to the rescue! The Varrick/Zhu Li and Asami/Sato teams try several times to attach themselves to the colossus to cut a hole in its armor. It fails several times. They try the back, the arm… every time, Kuvira feels them and chases them off. Down on the ground, Korra notices the river nearby. She bends it and freezes the water around the colossus, immobilizing it right as it blasts off one of the Hummingbirds’ wings. Zhu Li ejects herself and Varrick. While Kuvira tries to free her colossus from the ice, Sato and Asami land their Hummingbird the colossus’ leg and start cutting in. The colossus breaks free. Asami urges her father to take off, but Sato keeps pushing back the moment of their escape. As the colossus brings down its giant hand on the Hummingbird, Sato declares his love for his daughter one last time and ejects her to safety. Asami is devastated but powerless. The colossus crushes the flying mecha with her father still inside of it. However, Sato didn’t sacrifice himself for nothing. Team Avatar rushes into the hole in the giant mecha’s armor.
Mako and Bolin are headed to the engine room, Su and Lin to the arm hosting the Spirit Cannon, and Korra goes after Kuvira. Mako and Bolin fight the two officers/operators around the pulsating spirit vine heart of the colossus. The colour pink has never been so threatening. In the arm, Lin crushes another of Kuvira’s men while Su gets rid of all the cannon’s ammo. The two sisters then wreck the insides of the weapon. Inside the colossus’ head, Kuvira is livid. She tries moving the cannon around but it’s no use. She tears the whole arm off out of rage, taking Su and Lin out in the process. Fortunately, Lin manages to secure both of them against the wall before the arm and the weapon fly off.
Korra bursts into the head cabin. She immediately attacks Kuvira. The fight seems balanced at the beginning but Kuvira quickly takes the advantage. Still, I am confident. The Korra that’s fighting Kuvira is different from the one who tried to take her out during the battle of Zaofu. In the heart, Bolin and Mako beat the operators. As per Bataar’s instructions, they pull down the levers. Nothing happens. Shit fuck gosh darn it. However, Bolin gives Mako an idea: if the vines are tickled a bit too hard, they explode. A familiar look of calm resolution appears on Mako’s face. His plan is to charge the vines with enough electricity to blow everything up. Bolin tries to dissuade him but knows he can’t. The two brothers hug lovingly. Then, Bolin takes the unconscious guards and leaves the engine room. Mako then zaps the vine heart again and again, never giving up even when so much heat passes through his left arm that it gets burned to the third degree. Oh please, please Mako. I know I keep bitching at you but for the love of everything I hold dear, get out of there. I start tearing up when the vines become so unstable that they randomly zap everything around, including Mako, who falls right beside the exit. Fortunately for him, Bolin comes back for his big brother while in the head, Kuvira and Korra exchange blow after blow until they almost knock each other out. They are still in the middle of their fight when the vine heart explodes, ripping the colossus apart.
Korra helps Kuvira out of the fallen metal giant. She is giving her the terms of her surrender when Kuvira bends a large piece of rock right in her face and limps away into the spirit wilds. Korra chases her, only to find her perched on top of the Spirit Cannon. Despite Korra’s warning, Kuvira fires. Of course, the cannon charges the vines around it in energy, which gives it even more fire power. The weapon then escapes Kuvira’s control and blasts off everything around it. Kuvira falls to the ground while trying to shut it down and finds herself in the direct trajectory of the beam. Korra instantly runs to her rescue, standing between her mortal enemy and the deadly spirit weapon. She counters the massive ray of spirit energy with all she has… and succeeds. She bends the energy around her and Kuvira, but the resulting reaction is as devastating as a nuclear bomb, engulfing everything in its blinding, terrifying brightness until suddenly, all the energy retracts in one point and rips a new Spirit Portal open in front of our awe-struck eyes.
Allies and foes alike gather around the impact, inspecting the now spirit-vine-covered crater and ruins, searching for the Avatar and the Great Uniter. In vain.
Korra wakes up in between two worlds, where she has a vision of her dark self, who reveals to be Kuvira. The two women land in the spirit world mostly unharmed. Kuvira doesn’t understand why Korra would save her after everything she’s done. Korra answers that they are very much alike, which Kuvira denies as she insists on the fact that everybody should have just surrendered to her. Kuvira sounds more desperate than threatening now. She opens up. The Avatar was gone, Su didn’t seem to care about the Earth Kingdom, and she couldn’t bear the thought of abandoning them like she was abandoned, so many years ago. Can Korra understand her pain, her desperate need to be stronger than fear, to be in control? Yes. Yes, she can. And I think that everybody who watches this show also can. Not long after, the spirits come back to Republic City, as well as Korra and Kuvira. The mecha army immediately flies to its leader’s rescue, but she stops them. She finally surrenders and is taken away while Team Avatar gathers for a well deserved group hug.
Later, possibly days after the whole ordeal, Bolin celebrates Varrick and Zhu Li’s wedding in front of every single character we’ve ever met during the show. The moment is touching, surprisingly funny, and our heroes have earned it. But as Zhu Li kisses her new husband wildly, as Varrick weeps out of joy and as the party goes on way into the night, I can’t help but feeling like I’m missing something. Prince Wu announces his stepping down from the throne and installing a democracy in the Earth Kingdom to Korra and Mako, which is good. Then, Korra and Mako share a moment, Mako promising in a very sweet manner that he’ll always be there for her. Still. Three minutes left. This is not how this ends. But then, how?
We find Korra sitting alone, away from the joy of the party, gazing at the simple beauty of the new Spirit Portal. Tenzin joins her. They talk about Korra’s incredible, yet bumpy journey since the day she arrived in Republic City to complete her training. Korra now thinks of her dark days as a part of her, some wise words that just prove once more how much she’s evolved. Dang, I love this woman.
Asami interrupts, sending Tenzin back to the party to save Varrick from his own bad ideas. She then sits down with Korra. The light is dim, the music is soft, and Korra apologizes to Asami for being away for so long. Asami doesn’t care. She’s just glad she didn’t lose Korra and her father on the same day. Korra hugs her tight. They sit close to each other, wondering what they should do. Asami wants to go on a vacation. Korra suggests that they go somewhere, just the two of them. Huh. Asami confesses she always wanted to visit the Spirit World.
On the same night, Korra and Asami walk to the spirit portal together. They smile at each other and they’re so adorable that my inner shipper would love for them to hold hands. I gasp when they do. Speechless, incredibly happy, I watch them walk into the portal together, eyes locked as they disappear into the Spirit World.
I’ve watched the finale twice now. And yes, I know it has flaws. I could attack the Wu storyline for being incredibly rushed for example, but I’ve already talked about the rushed pace of the show as a whole. At this point, I don’t really care. This finale made me fear, hope, laugh, cry, and just when I thought it was going to end in a classic, almost Disney-like fashion, the last image they showed me was Korra and Asami escaping to another world together. Brian Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino waited for the last minute of the last episode of their two shows to reveal the most natural, most wonderful relationship they’ve ever written. And it’s between two non-white women. I’m saving the rest of my thoughts for another article, so I’ll simply say this. Thank you, Korra. Thank you for everything.