I must admit I wasn’t expecting much when I started watching Legend of Korra despite all the hype I’ve seen. ATLA was pretty much perfect from start to finish, but I couldn’t imagine where the show could go afterward. Color me pleasantly surprised.
The first season opens with a brilliant, self-contained arc that takes the conventional fantasy world of the original series, winds the history clock until we end up in something like the early 19th century, only with bending added to the mix and then goes on to explore what kind of class conflicts could arise in such a world.
The big villain of the season has a truly terrifying power and the movement he’s leading (equality for the non-benders) has actually a good motivation for doing what they do, even if their methods are questionable. But this is what makes the best kind of villains, those where you can’t be sure if they really are the bad guys. And as much as I liked ATLA, the overall set-up was a pretty simplistic good vs evil conflict, even if the excellent writing and characterization made you forget that most of the time.
All that said, toward the end the season falls a bit apart plot-wise, with too many reveals that feel like cheap soap opera and the backstory of the main villain more convoluted and less topical than I hoped for. But still, the main set-up and how it plays out over the season is great, from the initial harmless seeming episodes until the final clash between both sides.
And yet the show manages to remain centered around the characters and not feel plot-driven. Which is actually the biggest strength of the show, because even when the plot falters a bit in the final moments, Kara (who believable grows from worry-free and naive teenager to matured young adult over the course of the season) and her friends journey keeps you glued to the screen until the end.