Avatar: The Last Airbender had more depth than it let on. At first glance it looked like a standard good vs. evil adventure, but over time it revealed its hidden depth, showing characters who underwent change and growth, themes such as how war changes people's lives, and how one can be on the wrong side but still believe they're doing the right thing. It did all this while still being a fun adventure cartoon for a family audience. People didn't expect much, and were pleasantly surprised by the show's quality. The Legend of Korra, on the other hand, has almost the reverse. The authors promised us more in-depth themes, and the show teases those themes early on. When Korra arrives in Republic City, we see that there is a class division, with the magic-using benders - the elite minority - having all the power and privilege, while the non-benders are left out, forming a movement called the Equalists to try to take the magic away from benders. We're given a few examples of how the Equalists have a legitimate point - their entertainment is based around pro-bending, a sport that only benders can play. Their ruling council consists only of benders. The police force consists entirely of metalbenders. And a gang of benders extorts townspeople. It's easy to see why the Equalist movement is so popular and why non-benders hate benders so much. But the moral complexity goes out the window rather quickly. The Equalists start by taking bending power away from the gang, a rather sympathetic move. Then they take it from a cheating sports team. But after that, they rapidly turn into terrorists, kidnapping police officers and locking them up, and attacking the town indiscriminately. Who would support them after that? Opportunities to show greater shades of gray are squandered. At one point in the finale, during the terrorist attacks, we briefly see benders and non-benders living in peace underground. This would have been a great opportunity to show us how and why they live in peace - maybe they're just tired of the war? Maybe there's still animosity bubbling beneath the surface? But instead it's glossed over, and we quickly get back to the action. This is indeed a very good action cartoon, but sadly it feels like that's all it is, once it degenerates into mostly simple good vs. evil.
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