This review contains spoilers
2.11 Skeletons in the Closet & 2.12 Endgame
Identity. Agency. Equality.
We’ve talked about these things over the course of the season, seen them play out in Korra’s fear of losing her bending, in the terror in every bloodbending victim’s eyes, in Amon’s so-called quest to right the wrongs of Republic City. We’ve seen everything stripped from these characters bit-by-bit in a way that even the original series never dared. There’s a graphic going around on Tumblr right now poking fun at the fact that most AtLA episodes ended upbeat with everyone reaffirming their friendship and desire to do good, as opposed to the way Korra episodes end in which every one is broken and things look even bleaker than they did before. I haven’t spoken of this much other than my emotional reaction to last week’s episode, but I’ve honestly loved that Korra was willing to go to continually sadder and harder to deal with places all season long. Korra never gave us easy answers or toned things down for us: sometimes, things suck and that’s the way life is. Deal with it, kids.
And it’s because I’ve loved how heartbreaking and bleak this show has been that I’m disappointed with the final few scenes of this season. There was a moment when Korra was on the ground, weeping as she dealt with the fact that she couldn’t possibly be the Avatar with only one element to her name, and not even her home one at that. As I saw her in her Water Tribe clothes, standing on the snow and weeping, I couldn’t help but think that somehow, the fact that she was a Water Tribe girl who was an airbender of all things just twisted that proverbial knife somehow even deeper.
I thought that was the end of the season. I thought we were going out on Korra’s heartbreak, on Mako’s disappointment that his finally-admitted feelings weren’t able to be reciprocated, on Asami’s tears as she realized that Hiroshi was a horrible father, on the look in Lin’s eyes when Katara said there was nothing she could do for Korra because it meant there was nothing that could be done for Lin herself – on so many things that would’ve made for a heartbreaking end of the season that, however sad it might’ve been, would’ve been far more realistic in portraying the cost of war.
But then Aang showed up. And believe me, I never thought I’d be disappointed in seeing Aang on this show, or all the other past Avatars for that matter, but I knew in that moment I knew that a hand was going to be swept over the costs Team Avatar had paid. Korra and Lin get their bending back. Mako finds that Korra loves him, too. And the only character who has really lost anything at all is Asami, who just lost not only her father, but her boyfriend, too. But a second can’t be spared for her sadness because for practically the first time all season, the writers decided that The Legend of Korra needed a happy ending.
It didn’t. In fact, I’d argue that not leaving a cliffhanger between this season and the next was a detriment. There were so many questions left unanswered if her crying had been the final scene, questions that could’ve been explored at length next year. As of now, the only questions I have left to ask are ones that mostly deal with plot holes. (The biggest one being: bloodbending can take away a person’s bending…how exactly?)
However, with all of that out of the way, I don’t want to detract from the fact that this was probably one of the better season finales I’ve seen in a long time, regardless of format. I know many commenters had long ago guessed that Amon and Tarrlok were brothers, but their previous meeting had seemed to discount that and so I had written the theory off entirely. I guess that’s why I was so surprised by the twists in this finale: I bought into it. I believed every word Amon said because it made perfect sense. How many villains can you name without even having to think too hard about it whose motive is almost identical to the one he laid out? I’ve been trained to accept villainous backstory monologuing for so long that it didn’t even occur to me that his story could be a lie. The revelation that he’s been a bender all along, some kind of strange combination between Katara’s skill at bloodbending and Combustion Man’s ability to bend with his mind, shocked me to my very core. It added so much depth to the rest of the season and I can guarantee you that I’ll be revisiting old episodes very soon.
What impressed me most about the revelation was the development it allowed Tarrlok to have in the eleventh hour. In a heartbeat, I began to feel sympathy for him and even got choked up when he made the decision to blow up the boat taking him and Amon to safety. Who would’ve thought that a character as seemingly selfish and cruel as Tarrlok would do something so noble?
But ultimately, as happy as I am with almost the entire episode, I can’t shake my disappointment in the tacked-on happy ending that was unnecessary and completely ruined the tone of the episode.
Were any of you disappointed as well, or were you happy to see the characters you’ve come to love finally catch a break? Do you believe that Tarrlok and Amon are really dead? What do you think the next season will be about, now that it seems like all the loose ends from the Amon arc are tied up? And am I alone in my heartbreak for Asami? Hit up the comments for the final time this season!
Read our review of last week’s episode, here.