Been a while since I reviewed this show, hasn't it? Well, let me get this out of the way, I think it is the most brilliant animated series on the air right now. I was not disappointed in how the season progressed and how it went down. This was just great storytelling. It wasn't perfect, and believe me when I say I'll get to that. But let's talk about what I liked.
From beginning to end, Korra was the kind of protagonist I like. Strong yet flawed. She was so wonderfully human. Tough yet vulnerable. Strong yet she had a lot of growing up to do. Powerful and yet unfocused. She didn't even grasp airbending until a moment of desperation and finally touched her spiritual side while contemplating suicide on that cliff side. And yes, she was contemplating it, the camera shots and angles, this is basic filmmaking 101... subtle enough to get passed Standard & Practices but it still got the point across. A very dark moment for a cartoon targeting kids in a series that was full of them.
Likewise, Amon is the type of villain I like (and he was voiced by Steve Blum!). I'm still seeing people debate whether he was a true villain, or merely misguided. The answer is, of course, both. We know why he is the way he is, and what made him that way. So, in retrospect, Amon and Tarrlok's entire stories are about two kids trying not to become their bastard of a father, both becoming just like him, and one deciding to end the both of them just so the cycle doesn't repeat itself and end up hurting a whole new generation. That's actually pretty fucking dark for a kid's show. I could not believe I was watching that murder-suicide... "they're not gonna, oh shit they did!"
I saw the reveal that Amon was a bloodbender and related to Tarrlok coming weeks ago. Granted, in episode three, I thought there might be a Koh connection... but once we learned about Tarrlok and Yakone, it became obvious to me how bloodbending could be used to cut off a bender's ability to bend. Bending is still a physical act activated by the brain, just like lifting your arm... Amon knew how to bloodbend to stop it. Did the show spell it out exactly? No. But I've never been the type of viewer who needs to have my hand held. Give me enough pieces and I can figure it out myself without needing to be spoon fed.
Asami was a great character; Zuko's grandson, General Iroh was cool; and General Bumi... I want to see more of him in season two. While I'm wishing, I hope we see old wandering Zuko. According to Mike and Bryan, Fire Lord Zuko abdicated the throne to his daughter to become a wandering diplomat for peace.
It wasn't perfect though...
Despite Amon being revealed as a fraud, the social issues that fueled his anti-bending revolution were not resolved. While I can believe that his fall knocked the wind out of the sails of the Equalists, I do think overtures need to be made towards non-benders. Maybe put one on the city council, put some into law enforcement. The Equalist movement didn't start because a man in a mask had a sad story about a firebender killing his family and burning his face... the resentment had to already exist, and for good reason.
And yes, the last two minutes of the series were a deus ex machina. I thought Korra regaining her abilities came too easily. I'm not bothered by Lin having her bending restored, considering it was taken away by a physical act and not a spiritual one, then I agree that it is fixable. But I think it just came way too easily to Korra.... I know why it was like this. The series was written as a twelve episode mini-series, and the order for more episodes came well into production. Had they known they'd get a season two earlier, it might not have ended quite like that. That's my theory anyway, and I say this as someone who wasn't much bothered by the energy-bending at the end of the original series.
And finally, this is not a complaint about the writing as I think this was purposely done by design. But I hate Mako. I think he is a really terrible person. I'm not a 'shipper at all, I've said it before and I'll say it again, 'shipping is the single lowest form of fandom there is. But I hope Korra dumps his ass in season two. If anyone lost anything from all of this, it was Asami. Okay, put yourself in her shoes for a moment. She is a teenage girl, she meets and falls in love with this handsome athletic guy, the guy is really sweet at first then acts distant, she thinks she might be doing something wrong so she spoils him, she takes him and his brother to her villa so they don't have to live on the street, he's treated like a king, she choose him and his kind over her father who disowns her and later tries to murder her, she sticks around when trouble gets deep and puts her life in danger to be there anyway she can be only for him to blow her off like nobody's business... she's the one who sacrificed all here. Fuck Mako.
Still, that was great television, and I cannot wait for season two.