Been rewatching Korra (or, trying to) while working on my own writing and have been reminded of my 10 Things I'd Fix exercise. Figure now's a good a time as any to share it.
*Obligatory: The Network did not support the show and many problems are linked to this. 1/
10. Focus on the Sports or Cut the Sports. Pick One.
TLoK was Fantastic Beasts before Fantastic Beasts. Both struggle with tone and a kind of self-consciousness at its own tone. Korra aimed to be a darker, more violent series, but also wanted to keep light and fun. Probending 2/
was something the team was passionate, as it showcased interesting bending without relying on battles for the fate of the world. As the show progressed, Probending faded into the background, but I always found it a good character device for Korra, as she's a competitive sort 3/
(oh no I posted this prematurely)
9. No Stakesies Backsies Takesies Backsies.
Hey, remember when Asami lost all of her money at the end of season one and how that made a huge difference in the grand scheme of her character? Remember how Lin lost her bending? No? Because they took those decisions back quick. 4/?
Stakes are what tension is built upon. Without lasting consequences, it feels like a lot of what happens in season one just... doesn't matter. Plots are made and then dropped within 4 episodes. This leads me to our next number, actually. 5/?
8. Fewer Ideas, More Depth.
This actually applies to the Probending as well. A lot of interesting concepts are introduced, and then not fleshed out due to the change in episode count. Some stuff feels rushed or out of place because of it. New Airbenders? Giant robot? 6/?
Something something Harmonic Convergence. #AvatarTheLastAirbender dedicated an entire episode to kids dancing in the Fire Nation as worldbuilding and it increased character and location depth. #Korra has maybe five minutes to spare from everything going on at once. 7/?
7. Location, Location, Location.
#TLOK introduces a lot of cool locations like Republic City, The South Pole, and Zaofu. It also spends a lot of time in one location, as opposed to the travel heavy #AvatarTheLastAirbender. When ATLA stayed in one place they spent a lot of 8/?
time on making that location its own character. I'd love to see a 'Tales of Republic City' episode. What we've seen is really cool, I'd just like to feel more connection to the people. The destruction of it in Book 4 should be DEVASTATING. 9/?
6. Unite the Villains, and Make Them Matter.
While #AvatarTheLastAirbender had one major villain for the whole series #Korra had a different villain every season, which added to the sense of narrative urgency to keep the plot always moving forward. It was a new show every 10/?
season, and writing a new pilot is always exhausting. #DragonBallZ had 291 episodes to do this in comparison. Therefore, I'd connect the villains by one thread--make the Red Lotus followers of Vaatu. The Dark Avatar, simple concept for viewers and writing. 11/?
The "different politic views and evil" thing is difficult to pull off with all the time in the world for nuance. As much as I'd love to see a hyper violent anime where Super Saiyan Marx throws down with Android Adam Smith, I just don't think she's the medium, girlfriend. 12/?
Making all of the villains in relation to Vaatu condenses their goals, and gives us time to dig into Why This Matters To Korra. Hence my Point B of this is: They all need to be people she cares about. (This is where it gets into fanfic territory but it's my thread.) 13/?
1. Combine the popular Amon with the unpopular Unalaq. The cultist uprising is led by Korra's beloved Uncle, a Dark Iroh Subversion as I like to call it.
2. Korra is blocked from Air Bending because her old masters (The Red Lotus, led by Zaheer) tried to kidnap her as a kid. 14/
3. Vaatu himself, summoned by the efforts of Amon and the Red Lotus, he is brought to Earth during Harmonic Convergence to choose a host to become the Avatar of Chaos. This does not go as planned for anyone.
4. The New Avatar/Great Uniter* putting a pin in this for later. 15/?
Back to the main list: 5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle the massive cast.
There are so many episodes in later seasons where one character will be acting or reacting and then there's just like 15 named characters in the background. This is part of a bigger problem (splitting the-- 16/? Image
main cast into different subplots and then only having them reconvene close to the finale. It's not visually fun or easy to follow narratively. It also makes you ask "Does Tonraq have nothing else to do?" and "Why is Bumi here?" It should not be exhausting to have everyone 17/?
stare blankly while Bolin does his "I'm not qualified to be here/voice of the audience" bit for the sixth time in Book 4. Some ways to solve this:
1. Main group travels, side characters stay.
This keeps the main cast lean and ties characters to locations. Tenzin's family 18/?
does not need to come along for every season. I understand straddling the line of Kataang lore fanservice and pushing the plot forward, but which are you actually gonna pick?
2. If they have nothing to say, they shouldn't be in this scene.
I think background characters are 19/?
fine, and I understand the desire for continuity, but is it really the best way to use the budget? The coup of Ba Sing Se in #AvatarTheLastAirbender only showed each of these guys long enough to beardstroke and get bodied by the Dai Li AND IT WORKED FINE. 20/? Image
3. Fewer "Big War Council" scenes. Listen, I know the show was contemporary with #GoT and it was a pox upon all television. I know Korra is technically a political figure and not a ragtag child on a bison, but like... can't we have less of this? Just cut to the "we can't do x 21/
story beat in a more visually dynamic and character building scene. Enough!
4. Reducing the cast also means combining some characters or moving their role around. This is why I combined Amon and Unalaq to make a more compelling villain that sticks around longer. Pin in this. 22/?
4. A Team Worthy of Team Avatar.
The #Korra crew gets split up so often that they rarely feel like an actual team. In comparison #TeamAvatar live together on a bison for two years. Every episode takes into account who can do what and their motivations. 23/?
Toph is stubborn, but powerful. Sokka is the peacemaker and improviser. The episodes are built around how these characters react to conflict. Korra's crew are moulded for the plot whenever need be. Their characters are malleable and ill-defined, and their moments are always 24/?
action based*
*Asami gets one character based moment with her dad.
This is bleeding into my complaints about serialization vs episodic, so focusing on character tweaks.
I'd give Korra a typical 5 Man Band structure (Same as Avatar) and tweak the cast to better fit these roles 25/ Image
1. Korra is fine, she's the best developed character of the series. The Leader. No changes.
2. The Lancer is an important archetype that is a "secondary protagonist", the former rival who challenges the Protagonist on everything. The Sasuke or Vegeta character. 26/?
The closest a canon character comes to this is Mako, as he challenges Korra, and has his own cop sideplots. However, there's no real pay off for either in this route, so I'm finally coming back to what I've been alluding to in previous numbers and RRR-ing a character: Kuvira. 27/
Now, I'm a little biased because @zeldawilliams did such an amazing job in Book 4, but wouldn't the Final Boss of the series be more satisfying if they were with us for 3 other seasons? Kuvira was designed to be Korra's perfect mirror. Introducing earlier as Korra's rival 28/? Image
who gets picked as the vessel for the Dark Avatar is such a more raw battle. Seasons worth of developing friendship turned sour. The Anti Aang and Zuko arc. Plus Kuvaatu has quite the ring to it. 29/?
3. The Heart. This has got to be Bolin. His first season arc mirrors Katara's, he's the one consistently holding the group together. Bolin has the most versatile plots in the series, but they're not often with the main group. It's a big loss. Keep Bolin with the team. 30/?
4. The Brains. Asami is a brilliant engineer, but I'd love to dig into that more. Asami gets kind of shafted in terms of character development, and I think having more fun moments of her building stuff in contrast to fancy parties--or having low social skills but high money 31/?
to make up for it. Kind of a Kaylee from #Firefly type of character. Unfortunately, a lot of Asami's screentime is spent driving or spending money to get everyone from point a to b. Let Asami be the weird tech dude who gets just as into makeup as she does engines. 32/?
5. The Brawn. I feel weird fitting Mako into here, because Bolin has more "big guy" energy and Korra is much more of a bruiser archetype. But, making Mako an early act "Boss Fight" in either Probending or Firebending is a great way to slot him into here. Remember, Toph counts. 33
In #TLOK Tenzin and Jinora take turns being the honorary fifth member (The Brains) but neither get a chance to cement themselves in that spot. Having one solid Team Avatar would do so much to keep the focus on one story, and build a beating heart for Korra to protect. 34/?
3. Beyond Good and Evil.
The theme of the series of Korra (delivered by Toph in exposition from the mouth of fan service) is "balance". If the main theme is the balance, and the main lore is about the eternal struggle between Order and Chaos, we should dig into this theme. 35/?
We need Good Chaos, Bad Order, and everything between. These massive concepts should be explored in every episode to build up to the grand battles (Summoning Vaatu) and (Avatar V Avatar). We also need examples of perfect balance and what that costs someone (Monks in seclusion) 36
There should be no easy answers, and everything should come at a cost. This is what we learned from #AvatarTheLastAirbender and I don't think #Korra should be any less complex in its world and story. (It's also just very Western to simplify these concepts into Jesus V Devil) 37/?
2. More Serialized, Less Arc Based.
Every problem with the narrative in #TLOK snowballs because of the overarching plot. Unpopular characters HAVE to come back, poorly executed plots are baked in the cake now. Reducing the Arc Urgency ala #avatarthelegendofaang (wtf is this #) 38
while taking time to develop locations and characters will help shed the chaff and give the series time to breathe. I'm talking at least 1 "filler" (read: character building) episode per season. Those are some of the highest rated of #AvatarTheLastAirbender episodes! 39/?
Take an early plot: the team needs money to get into the Probending tournament. How is it solved in #TLOK ? Asami throws money at it. Plot solved! Now we can get back to the war council scenes! Why not use the team needing money as a recurring plot? Why be afraid of your 40/?
cast and setting? How we will feel like anything has been worked for and gained if each problem is solved during the same episode? The most egregious example of this was the "New Airbenders" plot in Book 3. I was excited for a road trip convincing the new benders to join 41/?
Tenzin through a series of hijinks, problems, and one very dope roadtrip. It's one episode. Asami flies them there on a blimp. The new people decide to come anyway even if they already said no. Love that. Love not having a show be interested in developing anything. 42/?
*screams into a pillow* Anyway, final number!
1. Stakes That Matter To The Characters/Less Fanservice.
How is this a twofer when both seem so unrelated?! Simple, because these go hand in hand. How? You may ask. Well, as a "stake", Korra loses connection to the Avatar 43/?
Spirit and all lives that came before. I remember screaming at this moment, but here's the thing. Korra doesn't care. She knows she should care, but the only connection she's ever had to a past life is Aang. The viewer's stakes do not align with the protagonist's. This keeps 44/?
popping up with fan favourites like Iroh and Toph arriving to drop exposition while we're too busy cheering to criticize the delivery. Korra has no connection to these characters (As much as I love, "Do you think some friendships transcend lifetimes?") I'd love to see her have 45
these conversations with characters she has established and strong relationships with. Venting her frustrations to her friends, or crying into Asami's arms when she's overwhelmed by physical therapy. Korra's so separate from her friends, and yet they all come back for group 46/? Image
hugs every season. (Actually, in looking it up, each main character gets a massive moment of vulnerability with their friends in #ATLA and that does not happen in #TLOK. Add that to the list somewhere! More crying breakdowns because life is So Goddamn Hard!) 47/?
Korra's stakes need to be our stakes. She is our protagonist. We need to align. Anything less is ludonarrative dissonance and makes this show 'The Fallout 4 of Western Cartoons'. A bunch of good and fun pieces that just don't fit well. 48/?
Anyway, there ends the numbered list. I didn't dig as deeply into detail as I usually do when people ask me about it over beers. It's my James Joyce novel and been sitting in my google drive for at least 4 years. I find Korra to be a fascinating case study in getting all the 49/?
right pieces by the end, but having built the bridge poorly along the way. I love so much about the characters and concepts that I want to see them in the show that they deserve. The version of #TLOK that lives in my head is so much more satisfying and I needed to share it. 50/?
Thank you so much for reading, and please don't take my word for it. Form your own opinion. Share your opinions with me! Do you think that Communist Revolution and Mecha Hitler are good places to go after fighting Satan in a parking lot? 51/51

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