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Wherever the Avatar series goes next, it has some important lessons to learn from The Legend of Korra

The beloved series might need a bit of work before it progresses.

On the left, Aang, Katara, Sokka, Momo, and Appa are all stood on a wall looking into the camera in Avatar: The Last Airbender. On the right, Korra from The Legend of Korra is stood with her arms folded on a city street, smiling.
Image credit: Nickelodeon

The future of Avatar, the one with all the bending, not the blue people, is a little uncertain at the moment. We do know that there's three animated movies in the works from Paramount and Nickelodeon with original creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino at the helm. One of those is even about The Last Airbender's beloved cast of characters, Aang and co, which is apparently due out in 2025. And there are rumours that there's plans for another series that will follow the next avatar, who in theory should be an earth bender by birth.

Still, it is exciting to know that there is plenty in the works, even if for the most part we don't know what that is. But, it's also been quite a while since we've visited the animated world of Avatar (we're not counting the Netflix series, for obvious reasons). The Legend of Korra, the sequel series that followed the titular follow-up Avatar, finished an entire decade ago, and while there's plenty of good stuff in there, it also had a myriad of problems.

Right off the bat I want to be clear I am not a Korra hater, specifically talking about the character here. I think she's a really well written character, and felt very distinct from Aang as an Avatar. My problems mostly come from the way that The Legend of Korra built its world, in several ways.

It's no secret that Korra had production issues, made rockier by low ratings and a Nickelodeon that was hesitant to let the team do what they knew best. Where The Last Airbender was planned to have three seasons from the beginning, and an entire story told across them, Korra wasn't so lucky, having to tell new stories with each subsequent season. But even if that was the case, I feel that one of the biggest issues came from how each season kind of ignored what happened before.

Season three did rely on a major plot point from the second to tell its own story, but the fine details didn't really matter, which happened similarly again in season four. It felt strange and disconnected, especially considering how successful The Last Airbender was at setting up important story details right from the first season. Again, it's hard to set things up if you don't know where you're going, but why outright ignore what happened before?

I think, in turn, this hurt some of the world building. Toph's development, for example, is one I take a lot of frustration with, as do many others - how did the rebellious, free-spirited earth bender end up forming literal police? It felt like a discredit to her character, and without being able to plan far in advance, it also felt like there was no real way to rectify it.

In turn, the show's politics became a lot messier. Where The Last Airbender had surprisingly nuanced approaches to topics like colonialism and fascism, Korra veered too close to our own time and place without the same level of criticism in place. I'm not really sure if this is a point that can easily be dealt with in the film that focuses on the Gaang, but it's something I desperately hope a new sequel series thinks more deeply about, as it's part of the appeal of the original.

Avatar's world has always been bigger than what we've seen of it, and with those three films on the way, soon enough we'll be able to see a bit more of it. I just hope that after all this time, with the last major project being as messy as it was, the original creators haven't lost their touch.

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