I just finished watching the final season of Legend of Korra, which finished in the final quarter of 2014. The franchise has received a lot of positive commentary for its strong female characters and willingness to tackle serious ethical and political issues: it looks at the struggles of individuals and of whole societies. I don’t think that the first three seasons of Legend of Korra achieved very much, but it came together in the final season.

This essay discusses the series’ feminism. It’s top notch. The female characters have their equality without either masculinity or femininity being diminished, and so the other issues that the show wants to discuss may be discussed without anyone getting bogged down in gender issues. There’s a certain confidence that things are already as they should be with regard to gender, that fight is won, and there are other issues to be dealt with. That’s refreshing and also inspiring as it makes me feel that we might be able to mostly figure gender equality out within my lifetime.

This essay criticises the second season as an attempt to impose modern corporate Western values upon a franchise that started off as something infused with Eastern ideas of compassion and balance. I agree with that essay that the first few seasons raised issues about privilege and economic class, and didn’t really turn them into anything other than a fun cartoon series. That’s why I felt disappointed and uninterested in the first few seasons of the Legend of Korra compared to the original Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Then they did an interesting thing by raising a lot of questions about the ultimate nature of value. In the third season the origins of the reincarnating avatar were revealed to be an old fight between the ultimate spiritual incarnations of good and evil. So the Eastern (indeed, Japanese shinto) idea of everything having a spirit and the good life for man consisting of achieving a balance in the relationship between man and these spirits of nature gets mixed right in with the Western idea of an ultimate force for good and an ultimate force for evil. When Korra goes into the avatar state and her eyes burn bright after I’d learnt that it’s Rava, the spirit of goodness, powering that, I saw her in a very different way to how I saw the use of the Avatar state before. Suddenly it’s much less Eastern and rather more Christian.

Then in the middle of the final season, before the climatic battle, Korra meets an old character who tells her that none of it really matters anyway because there’ll always be tyrants and destroyers no matter how many she takes out, and Korra worries about that. Her worries are dispelled by her mentor telling her that the important thing is that she doesn’t give up and learns from each of her enemies to become better and more developer. Unfortunately this isn’t really developed. This is a big question: is it enough to keep trying and what does it really mean to keep trying? They didn’t really push it. But they raised a lot of questions that weren’t raised by the first few seasons of the Legend of Korra so I’m very pleased to have watched this final season.