Week 8: Aang VS Korra
Day 22: Boy Hero VS Girl Hero
Day 23: Consequences
Day 24: Limitations
Day 23 is for all of the consequences.
All screenshots from Avatar Spirit.
Aang has two key moments, if we’re talking about facing and living with consequences, and we are.
One: Running Away
Aang is 12 when he’s told that he is the Avatar and must help save the world from an increasingly aggressive genocidal dictator. The monks handle this whole thing pretty durn badly, to quote Alyssa from It Takes Two because why not.
Aang runs away and almost dies and freezes himself and Appa for 100 years. In consequence, the Fire Nation wipes out every Air Nomad. All of them. Except Aang.
In “The Storm,” Aang gets mad at himself, mad enough to briefly enter the Avatar State, because of this. Katara tells him that his running away was probably meant to be, because even with the Avatar State, he probably would have been killed in the attack. Possibly, he would have been killed in the Avatar State, which would have left no one to save the Northern Water Tribe and the Earth Kingdom 100 years later.
We don’t necessarily agree with Katara that “it was meant to be,” spiritual though Aang may be. But the way it played out was the way it played out. It wasn’t Aang’s fault – we are never asked to blame him for the Fire Nation’s attack. He was a child. But even though it wasn’t his fault, he has to live with the destruction of his people for the rest of his life.
One of the first things we see Azula do is practice lightning bending, so it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise in “The Crossroads of Destiny” when she zaps him just as he’s entered the Avatar State.
Whether he truly faces consequences for this is debatable. Katara saves him with magical healing water, so he doesn’t die. And though all through Book 3, we believe that being almost killed closed his chakra and now he has lost the ability to go into the Avatar State, right as Ozai’s about to finish him off he hits his wound on a sticky-outy piece of rock and his chakra opens, much to Ozai’s dismay.
And then against Yakone, at 40:
It probably functions just to make the stakes higher. We’re left questioning, over the entire last season, and as we get closer to the end, how Aang can possibly defeat Ozai without the Avatar State. Because he can’t, obviously. Especially since they time it just right and Aang has to fight him AS SOZIN’S COMET IS PASSING OVER THEM. So, in case you’re wondering, the lesson is to not leave saving the world up to a bunch of kids. They’ll do it, of course, but they’ll leave it to the last possible second.
This is a little clunky. Roku tells Aang in Book 1 that Ozai’s plan is to use the comet to throw the balance too far out of whack. But late in Book 3 they’re having beach parties and talking about how they can just wait for the comet to pass, no big deal. Thank the Lion Turtle Zuko is there to remind them that they do actually have a deadline.
Also, building up “Aang can’t do Avatar State!” and then going, “NVM! He can do it now that his wound got stabbed by some rock!” is just as throwing as having the Lion Turtle show up right near the end to offer up a never-before-seen method of defusing a conflict.
This isn’t to say that Aang doesn’t suffer sufficiently or that enough time passes in which he and the Gaang process what happened at Ba Sing Se, because yes, he suffers way too much, and yes, there’s plenty of time for processing. It’s just that the solutions to the Ozai problem seem awfully convenient, is all.
Korra has her very own little moment of “well, that was resolved quickly,” in Book 1.
In “Endgame,” Korra loses her bending. And then a couple of minutes later, her air bending is unlocked, because apparently Amon isn’t practiced enough at taking air bending away yet. And then maybe a few days later, or even later that same day, Korra, having been told that she can’t be healed and is now solely an air bender, unlocks her spirituality and has Aang heal her.
The difference here is that everything was building up to this. Korra has been terrified of Amon as soon as she learned what he could do to people. She has also been struggling and and has been ashamed of herself for not being able to air bend. And she has been annoyed at her own lack of spirituality. That she gets the latter two because she loses the rest of her identity, and then restores the rest of her identity right afterwards, is a little quick, but it’s still satisfying.
Yup. We said it. The Book 1 finale of Korra is more satisfying than “Avatar Aang.” At least in that all of the things that happen have satisfying explanations and have been building up the whole time, anyway.
In Book 2, Korra faces extreme consequences after UnaVaatu defeats her. UnaVaatu, in perhaps the hardest scene to watch in the entire Avatar canon, beats Raava up, destroying Korra’s connection to each of her past lives one by one, and then all at once, until finally even the connection to Avatar Wan is broken.
Korra is able to fuse with Raava again, because she exists in Vaatu, but her connection to her past lives is gone forever. Ouch. This is Korra’s version of Aang’s being the last air bender. There’s nothing she can do to change it, and it isn’t her fault.
We like that this show is brave enough to do this. To have its young heroes face the consequences of the evil others will do to them and have to live with them forever, but still move forward and accomplish great things anyway, is such an important thing to depict.
(to say nothing of the “Korra Alone” episode in which a haunted, broken Korra gets beat up a lot by a hallucination of epic poisoned Korra from her previous battle with Zaheer)