"It will be just like the good old days."
Sometimes, The Legend of Korra just makes us tearbend.
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- Mako and Bolin's backstory. Their parents were killed in front of them during a mugging resulting in the two of them growing up on the streets with no family but each other. They formerly worked for the Triads until becoming pro-benders to make ends meet, even then just barely. In addition, eagle-eyed viewers will notice the shoddily mended tears in their practice clothes - the brothers are still dirt poor, and may very well end up back on the streets if they don't win the prize money. Their fortunes improve thanks to Korra, though.
- The simple fact that Aang and Sokka are both dead by the time this series begins.
- Korra, as the new Avatar, is older than all of Tenzin's children. That means that Aang died before he even got a chance to meet his own grandchildren. Kya and Bumi never had children, either.
- Related to the above, there is also the fact that Aang never learned that Tenzin had airbender children. Between this series and the previous one, Aang had taught the Official Avatar Fan Club everything about the Air Nomads, paving the way for them to become the Air Acolytes, so at least Air Nomad culture would not die with him. But that doesn't change the fact that Aang died with the knowledge that his son might very well be the last airbender left.
- Word Of God is that Aang only lived to 66, in a world where Avatars at least have been known to make it past 200, due to his century in the iceberg (making him technically 166 when he died, but it means he only lived for 54 years after the end of the original show) and being stuck in the Avatar State in order to stay alive, which wore down his prospective lifespan.
- The Season 2 trailer has a very melancholy, somber feel to it, though of course Never Trust a Trailer.
- The Korra and Mako's deteriorating relationship in Book 2. Both were constantly fighting with each other even before they became a couple and always seem to bring out the worst in each other. This is sadly a very realistic portrayal of what happens when two people rush into a relationship without getting to know one another first. While there are notable difference between the two they are also very alike in other areas, such as both being rather short tempered. Another problem Mako and Korra had was that they were unwilling to work together to solve problems as they would both think that their way was the the best way, the only way, and neither one of them where willing to compromise and listen to the others opinion. The scene where they decided to end their relationship is the inevitable result because of their conflicting personalities.
- Despite being surrounded by people who genuinely love and would die for her, Korra's default reaction to depression is always to isolate herself and considers herself alone whether it's a Breaking Speech from Tarrlok, being Depowered or the year abroad between being able to walk again and returning to Republic City where nobody knew where she was at.
- Mrs. Sato clearly had to be an incredible woman despite what little we know of her. Asami is still hurting over her even after more than a decade since her death with all the important milestones of her growth being missed out on with the sense that they were as much alike in personality as looks so there's a strong feeling she'd be so proud of her little girl growing into such an incredible woman. We know how her death affected Hiroshi, but also considering his Self-Made Man status she more than likely loved him before he went Rags to Riches to sharply avert being a Gold Digger /Trophy Wife so to have that kind of love and dedication amongst so many fair-weather friends and hangers-on being suddenly taken from you from the same lowlifes you thought you left behind in the projects is heart-wrenching.
- Bolin's mustache fixation initially just seems like a funny Call-Back to Sok-er, Wang Fire until you realize his father was sporting one in the Fatal Family Photo.
- Sokka being the only main character of the original Gaang at its formation who does not return beyond flashbacks. He's moved on and that's that. It's sadly ironic to know the lovable "boomerang guy" is the only one who did not come back.
- His absence is even more painful because Korra's expressions can often be similar to his, and their personalities make it seem as if they would have gotten along well, but they don't even meet.
- Especially when you consider that Korra seems to be fairly close with Katara. She probably heard a lot about him growing up with that in mind, but she never had the chance to befriend Sokka herself.
- Nickelodeon's decision to abandon the televised airing of Korra midway through Book 3, though it did end up back on Nicktoons just prior to Book 4 airing online.
- The Red Lotus are a ragtag bunch of True Companions from multicultural backgrounds who firmly subscribe to No One Gets Left Behind and (at least see themselves as) working to take down oppressive governments. Remind you of anyone?
- Made even worse by this◊ semi-canonical* picture of them as teenagers.
Co-executive producer Joaquim Dos Santos: If the story did not make you somewhat sympathetic to Zaheer and his gang, then maybe this image, which captures them in an earlier time, before lifes trials and tribulations have hardened them, will.
- The death of Robin Williams occurred around the same time Kuvira, voiced by his daughter Zelda, was introduced to the series.
Book 1: Air
Welcome to Republic City
- Korra elatedly telling Naga about her firebending test as Naga licks her cheek. With Korra's excitement and laughter, you'd think this would be a happy scene, but the music playing softly during the sequence, as well as Korra's overall situation, makes it all become quietly heartwrenching and bittersweet. Naga appears to be Korra's only real friend, and just something about the atmosphere of this scene really tugs at the heartstrings.
- The night scene where Korra is riding on Naga through the falling snow, as "Korra's Theme" plays on the soundtrack, is heartwrenchingly beautiful. It's a masterpiece of cinematography, music, and animation.
- Katara makes it clear that her brother and most of her friends are dead. This means she lived long enough to not only see her immediate family, husband included, die, but many friends as well. And then it hits you that she's been teaching and caring for the reincarnation of her dead husband for seventeen years.
- Katara wiping away a Single Tear as her family flies back home, leaving her alone again. And the sad look on her face when Tenzin tells her that he's not staying.
- Tenzin looking up at the statue of Aang. It's clear from his face just how much he misses his father.
A Leaf in the Wind
- Not a sad moment, but a tear jerker nevertheless, because of how powerful it was. When Korra is in the pro-bending championship, and Tenzin is about to walk away... Korra suddenly starts moving like a real airbender, spiraling around gracefully, dodging every attack. Tenzin looks on with the same expression as us: pure awe and amazement.
- It is still sad when you consider that Tenzin must feel like he's watching a shadow of his father. It's not just that Korra's picking up on airbending; it's that this girl, who's proven to be so unlike Aang, which probably breaks Tenzin's heart in a way, is showing some sign that his father really is living in her.
- The horrified look on Bolin's face as he's revealed on the stage of the rally.
- Amon's backstory, at least assuming it's true. His parents were poor farmers who were exploited by firebenders, and when his father tried to stand up to them he was killed, and Amon's face was burned beyond healing.
- This parallels with Mako and Bolin's backstory. The only difference is they could support themselves with their bending, but if they can only barely scrape by with bending oriented jobs, how did Amon or other non benders in the same situation fare?
- Even if the story itself isn't true, it still depicts an awful reality. Somewhere out there many inoccent people were murdered for daring to speak against criminals with bending.
- Amon's, or rather Noatak's, real backstory is, if anything, just as tragic. See below for details.
- Mako telling Korra what happened to his and Bolin's parents. Not only were they killed by a mugger, in front of him at the tender age of eight, but by one who was a firebender. So everytime Mako bends fire, what do you think he's reminded of?
- Bolin's expression when he suggests using Pabu to make money and Mako shoots him down. It's just really kind of heartbreaking because it makes it perfectly clear that behind his lazy, care-free exterior Bolin really wants to help and not make Mako do all the work and, more than that, that he puts a lot of stock in his brother's opinion of him.
A Voice In The Night
- Korra breaking down and crying Broken Tears saying "I've never felt like this before. I don't know what to do!" She's basically having a panic attack in this scene. She's regretting her decision, she wants to undo it all, but she can't, and the only thing she can do is cry.
- It's not just Amon who breaks her down. It's also the publicity that psychologically pressures her. Korra has a big responsibility and does ultimately live with the guilt that she has to sacrifice time for training before saving the city. Imagine getting lured into the center of press attention and being provoked with fiery questions.
- Korra's whole situation in this episode is as heartbreaking as it is terrifying. Even before her encounter with Amon she was already terrified of him. And just when she finally does get the courage to face him, he psychologically destroyed her. It is hard to watch the Badass we know get completely broken. Worst part of it is, if Amon's plans work, it will just get worse for her.
- Not to mention, most of the authority figures don't like her or treat her with any concern, except for Tenzin. It means that Korra has only one solid ally, and also that she has no support network in a city where she hasn't had the time to meet anyone other than Tenzin's family, and her teammates (who still aren't solid friends with her).
- Tenzin's side of the story as well. How he patiently and quietly tries to give her understanding and room to voice her fears. And at the end? She breaks down crying in his arms. And he quietly just accepts it without breaking himself, hugging and comforting his father's incarnation.
- The lead-up to the above moment will be tear-jerking for fans of the older series: Korra, while knocked unconscious, has several heartbeat-quick visions of an older Sokka, Toph, and Aang.
The Spirit of Competition
- Seeing Bolin heartbroken and crying after seeing Korra kiss Mako was a devastating thing to witness, especially since he had bought her flowers.
- It's not just that he went on an adorably heartwarming date with "...the smartest, funniest, toughest, buffest, talentedest, incrediblest girl in the world," who he has been interested in since the first time he met, but this scene seems to take place shortly after the game. The game which Bolin pretty much single-handedly won. Just look at him jumping around in excitement after the tie-breaker. The elation from his victory probably gave him some sort of confidence boost, which would have made the kiss all the more emotionally crushing. Oh, and now we know he's only sixteen.
And The Winner Is...
- While the break-up with Tenzin and Lin was rough, the screen time seems to have more focus on Lin when the pressure and suffering fell more onto Tenzin. It's not easy to smile when you're conflicted with ending your first relationship with one of the priorities to finding a life-long partner being that he alone has to keep an entire culture alive, a vicious double whammy to him. He probably suffered the pain for years and is likely still feeling it.
- Tenzin makes it perfectly clear that he's deeply in love with Pema, and that she helped him discover that he didn't feel that way towards Lin. One can still tell it was hard on him ruining a relationship with one of his best friends, though, and how happy it makes him when he and Lin get back on friendly terms.
When Extremes Meet
Out of the Past
- When Korra sees Amon, she attacks him with icicles. He dodges them, and Korra runs, terrified.
- On a closer look, the icicles hit the ground at least ten feet in front of Amon. He didn't have to dodge because they weren't even close to hitting him, but they were too large and widespread to smash aside or jump over. Then, Korra was running even before the last one landed. She wasn't attacking—she was already terrified the moment she saw him, and those icicles were meant to slow Amon down.
- Mako's intense concern about Korra's safety. While it is heartwarming, it is quite painful to see the strain it's putting on Asami. He has yet to notice this effect, but he will eventually, one way or the other.
- And when Asami asks Bolin if Mako likes Korra more than just a friend, and he says that's just crazy talk, then admits that there was that one time that Mako and Korra kissed is a double Tear Jerker. You can tell that Bolin is still a little upset about it and Asami's face is just heartbreaking when she realizes that her boyfriend seems to care more about Korra than her.
- Lin realizing that the police officers she's just rescued have already lost their bending. The defeated look on their faces is terribly depressing, and the fact that they can barely manage more than nodding to answer Lin's question about losing their bending. Lin's expression was just as sad.
- After Tarrlok locks up Korra, she manages to wear herself down hitting the walls of her cage and yelling. The really painful part is her final, resigned "please" before she accepts the fact that she can't escape.
- The flashback storyline may end relatively happily, but there's still sorrow to be found there as well (especially considering Fridge Horror), starting with the horrified look on Sokka's face when bloodbending is first mentioned, considering that he was bloodbent during the previous series and that he must feel some pain at his sister having been forced into learning the technique. And then when the actual bloodbending occurs, it is heartbreaking to see Aang, Toph and Sokka all writhing in pain. And the worst part is that Yakone lifts Toph into the air to bring him his keys - so not only is she not in control of her body, by not being in the ground she is truly blind while at his mercy.
- A retroactive one: look at Tarrlok's face when he bloodbends Tenzin and the others into unconsciousness. Then watch "Skeletons in the Closet". You now know exactly why looked the way he did, and why he was so distraught about his life being ruined when he came back to where he was holding Korra captive.
Turning the Tides
Skeletons in the Closet
Book 2: Spirits
- Korra choosing her uncle over Tenzin to be her spiritual teacher was heart-wrenching. Especially because it wasn't hard to tell that Tenzin doesn't just want to teach Korra airbending and spirituality, but he genuinely cares for Korra and (despite Korra treating it as a negative) he sees her as one of his children. J.K. Simmons really did a magnificent job with injecting the perfect amount of hurt and pain into Tenzin's voice as he leaves the South Pole.
- Just the way he says goodbye to her; it's too formal. He's trying to hide how badly he's been hurt.
- Katara's scenes were brief, but you can't help but let the tears flow when she's present. During the dinner, look at the way she watches Tenzin get lovingly bullied by his elder siblings, and then later insist that Tenzin take Kya and Bumi with him. One reason is so that the three of them remember their father together as they explore his birthplace and culture, but there's another reason she gives: once they get to her age, they're going to wish they cherished all the moments that they had with their siblings. For all their bickering, Katara really loves Sokka, and she misses him dearly.
The Southern Lights
- Tonraq's backstory. He was banished from the Northern Tribe for accidentally unleashing a horde of angry spirits by desecrating a sacred forest. Just the sight of him, sailing away from his home, then turning around for one last wistful look. It gets worse when you realize that Tonraq's father most likely died without ever seeing his son again, not to talk of his daughter-in-law and granddaughter.
- When Unalaq tells Korra that he believes in her, she actually looks stunned and says that she's so used to everyone giving her advice and telling her what to do that she'd forgotten what it was like to have someone just trust her.
- It's also a callback to the previous episode, where Korra lashes out at Mako for being supportive and berates him for not telling her what to do.
- As mentioned on the Nightmare Fuel page: just imagine being an elder of the Southern Water Tribe, and seeing warships docking for another invasion of your home. Only this time, the invader is the Northern Water Tribe.
Civil War Part 1
- Tenzin's falling out with his siblings. An entirely understandable development where there's no one to easily side with. You can see the cause of everyone's grievances and can only hope they're able to move past them.
- To wit, both Kya and Bumi are angry with Tenzin because Aang heavily favored him, and took him to many places, excluding Kya and Bumi, and Tenzin didn't even notice they were gone. Likewise, Kya and Tenzin are angry with Bumi for his childish and reckless behavior, as he pretends to be just as capable as his siblings even though he's not a bender. Finally, Bumi and Tenzin are subsequently angry with Kya because she mothers them and flitted about the world to find herself, only coming back to see her mother after Aang died.
- Bumi himself feels left out being the only non-bender in the family and needs to prove himself that he doesn't need bending to feel special.
- Ikki is revealed to be missing at the Southern Air Temple. She hasn't been found all day.
- At the end of the episode, Korra reconciles with her parents and less than a minute later they're both arrested by Unalaq.
- The fact that Aang, who loved almost everyone and was loved by all his friends, was apparently not the best father to Bumi and Kya. It's actually pretty surprising for Aang, considering he was always great with children in the original series.
- Yet it's not surprising, at the same time. Aang was desperate to keep the Air Nomad culture, as well as the art of Airbending, alive. And Tenzin was the only person who could keep it going after Aang's death. Kya and Bumi, being a waterbender and non-bender respectively, couldn't. And of course History Repeats when Tenzin is so wrapped up in keeping Republic City together that he winds up neglecting his own children and Korra...
- There's also the fact that Aang spent the whole time between the beginning of the original series and Tenzin's birth as the only airbender, which must have been extremely lonely.
Civil War Part 2
- Bumi going to the statue of his father Aang and telling him he's sorry he wasn't an airbender but that he tried his best to save the world and hoped he was proud of him. Kya appears and hugs telling him that "of course" Aang was proud of him.
- The fact he felt the need to apologize for how he was born is a Tear Jerker in and of itself.
- Also, the way Bumi tries to tell Kya that he was "just dusting Aang's statue" is kind of depressing. While he quickly adds that Kya was always good at cheering him up, suggesting that she did care about him deep down, it's still kind of jarring to watch the cheery old goofball try to hide his tears. Was that a common excuse for him growing up?
- Kya showing her brothers the old picture their mother gave her of their family: Aang and Katara, and their young children ten year old Bumi, three year old Kya and infant Tenzin.
- It becomes the heartwarming kind of tearjerking when they all comment on how happy they used to be.
- Korra learning that Unalaq is a backstabbing liar gets even worse when you realize she preferred him over Tenzin, the first adult in the series to actually have faith in her.
- It's made worse in that she finally was able to make her decision for once and she realized she got manipulated yet again It's even worse due to the simple fact that this is her uncle, her own family. ...Ouch.
- At the end of the episode, Bolin was finally able to dump Eska because of Unalaq's actions. You then see Eska gliding the ocean angrily. You can also see that her makeup was running, implying that despite how abusive she was towards him, she really didn't want him to leave her.
- It's even more tear jerking when you realize that Bolin left her at the altar.
- Senna crying because she hates feeling so helpless while her husband is sent to prison for life. It's a short scene, but it's very sad. The fact that Korra pretty much hunts down the Judge not long after and threatens to feed him to Naga makes it more jarring.
- Tonraq realising that his brother set him up to be banished and disowned all those years ago. The pain in his voice and his head turning away makes it clear how much this hurts him. He may have been at odds with Unalaq and disliked him, but he most likely never thought that his own brother would betray him in such a way.
- Mako and Asami discovering the Future Industries gear has been stolen. Seychelle Gabriel's monotone delivery makes her seem completely dead inside, without any heart to keep fighting.
- Asami mentions that with her mom gone and her dad in jail, Future Industries is the only thing she has left of her family.
- While many saw it coming, it was still a little saddening to discover that, yes, Varrick is a dishonest crook. Just after we'd gotten over the shock and disappointment that Mr. Sato was an Equalist, we get saddled with this newest revelation.
- Combine this with the above, and while it was probably hard on the other characters, too, it's even worse for poor Asami. She seemed to be in genuine denial over the fact that another person who seemingly cared about her is actually against her as well.
- Wan reunites with his friends from his old village after being banished years ago, only to find that they've been feuding with the local spirits and destroying their territory. When said spirits arrive, Wan discovers that they're also friends he made after his banishment, but prior to his journey to master the other elements. He tries and fails to settle their arguments peacefully, and a fight breaks out with him caught in the middle, airbending each side away from each-other in the hopes that he can find some way to defuse the situation. Unfortunately, this doesn't last either, and Wan is forced to push himself into the avatar state in order to keep them apart. He fights valiantly and succeeds for a while, but having so much power all at once starts to take a toll on his body, and after a minute or two he passes our from the stress. Wan awakes later with the area around him converted into a wasteland, and Vaatu rushing over to tell that all of his human friends were slaughtered in the battle.
- The last we see of Wan. He's old and tired, and judging by his surroundings and the damaged armor he's wearing, it seems like he's just arrived at the end of a long battle. His last moments are spent apologizing to Raava and lamenting the fact that even after separating the human and spirit worlds, humanity is still suffering, and there simply wasn't time in his life to fix it.
- It's even sadder when you remember that Wan was in no small way responsible for the world's state, and he spent his entire life trying to fix his mistakes.
- The Spirit Animal is utterly loyal to the Avatar and completely bonded to him/her. The implications of its absence at the end of Wan's life count as a Tear Jerker.
- To put the Avatar's entire existence into perspective, he spent his whole life trying to undo his mistakes. He's in battle armor. He's been constantly averting wars by delving right into the warring battles until the point where his body, seemingly uninjured, just gives out from old age and a life of constant conflict. The biggest tearjerker is that the avatar cycle is to maintain balance in a world, which it itself threw out of balance. The Avatar/Wan/His Incarnations/Raava are spending endless cycles making sure the world remains balanced. Their spirits will never get rest in this eternal mission. There most likely will never be "enough time" as per Wan's last sorrowful words. Avatar Wan (spoiler image) - ◊
- And just to make it all worse, Wan seems to have died all by himself. It's likely that someone found his body quickly enough, but he was still alone at the time regardless, which is pretty sad.
- Unalaq continues the series tradition of horrible fathers when he ignores Desna getting hurt trying to open the spirit portal. If it weren't for Eska, the poor boy probably wouldn't have gotten anything in the way of help anytime soon. This, combined with his lack of concern over Eska's obvious emotional turmoil over Bolin and the way he scolded them for not capturing Korra earlier makes it seem like he views his children more as tools and doesn't really care about them as people.
- Then comes the Fridge Sadness when you realize that their contempt for Korra is not because of the Cultural Posturing Unalaq may have imposed on them out of his hatred for his own brother, but the fact that she has a loving mother and father and they don't.
- Their emotional extremes (almost pyschopathic blankness with extreme rages) along with how they treat others are a direct result of how he raised them.
- Hard Work Hardly Works. You can tell Tenzin really wanted to help Korra get into the Spirit World. He trained his whole life for this, probably conducted countless hours of research on how to get into the Spirit World and tried numerous times before, but... things just didn't work out that way. It doesn't help that he probably feels like he's letting his father down, too.
- In addition to that its implied that Tenzin's problem is just that he's trying too hard.
- Asami at the end, when Lu and Gang try to convince her that Mako is a Dirty Cop who was using her the whole time. She doesn't look like she bought it, but to even have to consider it is sad. What's more, Asami has been slowly losing everything she cares about over the course of the series. She may have become just pessimistic enough to believe that, since Mako is one of the last good things in her life, that's going to get taken away too.
- When Tenzin admits his failure to enter the spirit world is his greatest shortcoming as a Son of Aang, Bumi laughs and welcomes him to the "I disappoint Dad" club. It's Played for Laughs and goes by quickly, but even that just goes to show just how much Bumi really does consider himself a disappointment.
A New Spiritual Age
- When the Fisher King nature of the Spirit World ages Korra into a kid again, we see her lost, helpless, and alone. It's a side we aren't used to seeing from this Avatar, which makes it even worse.
- Just hearing her voice regress into childhood can inspire some worry.
- Remember that guy Zei who remained in the library when it got sucked into the Spirit World? Yeah, he died. What's worse, Wan Shi Tong just lets his remains sit slumped against a bookshelf. The jerk didn't even bury the poor man, a fellow lover of knowledge for its own sake (what a dick). Probably wasn't too pleasant for the fox servants who likely have functioning noses to boot.
- Jinora meets one of her spirit friends not long after being separated from Korra, and he helps her out during her journey. Unfortunately, he's corrupted into a dark spirit and helps Unalaq capture her.
- Later, Korra finally makes it to the portal, Unalaq arrives before she can close it, and uses Jinora to force Korra to open it or he'll use a dark form of his technique to kill her! And when she does it, her own uncle tries to do the same thing to her, and while a spirit she met manages to pull a Big Damn Heroes, Jinora's corrupted friend sweeps her away.
- When Korra wakes up in the real world, and Jinora doesn't, just look at Korra's face◊.
- Iroh's appearance itself. We knew he'd be long dead by now, which makes his sudden return so tearjerkingly wonderful.
- Iroh bidding Korra goodbye, especially considering how dear Aang would have been to him.
Iroh: It was nice to meet you. Come visit me again, in this life or the next.
Night of a Thousand Stars
- Pema's reaction when the group comes back with Jinora's soulless body.
- Bolin visited his brother in prison, and while he tried to be supportive, he wasn't cheering Mako up much.
- It's made even worse by the revelation that he asked Asami to come as well, but she declined.
- The reason Asami didn't visit Mako was because him being in prison reminds her too much of her father.
- Asami and Bolin have a talk while Bolin is getting some air at the opening performance of the film, and Bolin expresses his sadness about how Team Avatar has grown apart.
- Tonraq being defeated and captured by Unalaq.
- When Mako is let out of jail, Korra comes and gives him a big kiss, obviously glad to see him, unaware that he had kinda started seeing Asami again (not to mention that Asami was glaring at him, for dithering about telling Korra the truth).
- Once again, the world refuses to be nice to Asami. She's been nice and supportive of everyone, and then Korra comes back and Mako doesn't reveal they've broken up even though Korra doesn't remember, and Mako is too scared to remind her, once again making Asami's life sadder.
- The show is kind enough to give you a nice reaction shot of Asami looking (understandably) completely crushed that she chose to put faith in Mako, only to be shot down. Again.
- Bolin's face after finding out Varrick staged the attack on the president, and Varrick's face right afterwards.
- Cheesy though it was, Juji's death in the mover was honestly sad. Especially when you remember how sensitive Bolin is, and how much he loves Pabu: That scene must have been difficult for him.
- While he claims that he would never do anything to hurt her, Mako effectively breaks up with Asami in front of everyone to get back with Korra. And Asami's expression says it all, she is not happy with him.
- What makes this worse is that not only has Mako chosen to break Asami's heart yet Again and has unintentionally humiliated her, but he is also taking advantage of Korra after she has suffered from a traumatic event and rather then telling her the truth he instead just tries to forget the fight happened in-spite of the fact that he was the one who ended their relationship. No wonder everyone is glaring at Mako.
- And the worst part of it all, Mako's relationship with Everyone, except Bolin, never fully recovers until the series finale, where he almost sacrifices himself to help save the world for no other reason then because it was the right thing to do.
- Mako still hasn't told Korra about him and Asami.
- Korra trying and failing to talk Eska and Desna into a HeelFace Turn, made worse by Desna's faith in his father, which we all know is very misplaced.
- Though his declaration of faith was certainly undeniable, one could not help but notice slight traces of uncertainty in Desna's delivery. It almost looked as if he did have lingering doubts in his father's motives but proceeded to convince himself otherwise... perhaps even out of fear.
- The scene with Unalaq revealing his plans to become the Dark Avatar is another one for Desna and Eska, who both react with total shock when Unalaq announces his plans. Not only were they kept in the dark despite being Unalaq's children and most trusted lieutenants, but both of them seem astonished that their father would try something like that.
- In the same scene, Tonraq tries to talk sense into Unalaq one last time after the latter reveals his plan, taking back his statement from the previous episode that he no longer considers Unalaq his brother and reminding him of his relationship with his children, urging him not to throw away his humanity to become "a monster" by fusing with Vaatu, to which Unalaq responds that he will be no more of a monster than his niece (thereby confirming just how little he thinks of any of his family).
- Tenzin harsh dismissal of Bumi's accomplishments as crazy stories. Even worse is that we see him take out a base camp in a manner like how he'd describe his stories, and when he's about to tell them, he realizes there's no point because they won't believe him anyways.
- Korra gives her mother a hug before leaving for the final battle. Both of them think she might not be coming back.
- After Unalaq forcibly removes Raava from Korra, he starts beating on Raava. On the first hit, Korra sees the image of Aang disintegrate. The next blows destroys Roku, followed by Kyoshi and Kuruk. One by one, Korra's link to each and every past life of the Avatar is destroyed and Korra, who also physically suffers with each blow, is unable to stop it. Finally, with one last blow, Unalaq destroys Korra's connection to Wan and Raava.
- Bolin's love confession to Eska, whether it was an act or not.
- While in the Fog of Lost Souls:
- Tenzin begins to question himself because of the weight of the world on his shoulders and wonders if he will fail. Even worse, the Fog of Lost Souls shows the people trapped there their worst fears or memories. So to be confronted like that, Tenzin must believe his worst failure is not being like his father. Even if facing that failure did allow him to rescue his family, that is so sad.
- Even more heartbreaking is Kya and Bumi. Bumi's been such a strong, fearless character, so whatever happened in the past with the cannibals must have been truly horrific for him to abandon his family and run screaming. Kya doesn't even acknowledge her brothers, except to say that they're holding her back.
- Zhao should by no means be sympathetic, but seeing him reduced to a muttering lunatic, doomed to wander the Fog of Lost Souls for eternity is pretty pitiful.
- The look on Desna and Eska's faces as they watch their father's transformation into an inhuman monster.
Light in the Dark
- Mako and Korra have a sad but honest and mutual break up "for real this time" even despite reaffirming their love for each other.
- The link to the past Avatars is (apparently) lost forever.
- Allow that to sink in for a moment. This means no more Kyoshi, Roku, or even Wan and Aang. You know that moment where Aang came to guide Tenzin? There's a good chance that that is the last time we'll see Aang. Or how about Wan? He died believing that he had failed in his quest to bring peace and balance to the world. He at least had the consolation that he would be able to continue helping the world even after his death. Now he doesn't have that, if and when the world does achieve peace he won't be a part of it.
- This makes Iroh's request for Aang/Korra to; "Pay me a visit sometime, in this life or the next" absolutely heartbreaking. As of the Book 4 finale, and the ending to the entire series, this is indeed the very last time that Aang is seen.
- After Korra gives Eska and Desna her regrets for not being able to salvage Unalaq from the battle (Unalaq having fused with Vaatu and thus getting purified/destroyed along with him), the twins basically go on to say they do not care for their father's demise, nor even wish to miss him, and are only worried about how they will have to break the news to their mother when they return home. Even if they are more cynical than most, and this response is somewhat believable coming from them, it still really hits hard seeing the twins finally realize just how cold, secretive, and manipulative their father always was and now see no reason for any sympathy upon his passing. Desna even refers to Unalaq as a "deplorable man" in the end.
- This was the first mention we've ever had of Unalaq's wife and how reluctant Eska and Desna are to telling her. This begs the question as to whether or not she was aware of the horrible atrocities her husband committed.
Book 3: Change
A Breath Of Fresh Air
- There are finally more airbenders in the world... and Aang can't see it due to Korra's connection to her past lives being cut off. Tenzin is driven to tears by it.
- "Maybe there will be enough to fill the temples again. I just wish your grandfather were here to see this." The way JK Simmons delivers this line really hammers it home.
- Especially the fact that Bumi, Aang's firstborn child, is now an Airbender. We see in season 2 that Bumi was insecure about not being an Airbender, knowing that it disappointed his father, and he excitedly talks about how happy Katara will be to find out. But Aang never will.
- Korra being expelled from Republic City by the President. Despite everything she's done for it (Defeating the Equalists, saving the world from Unalaq) they quickly turn on her when she can't solve a hard problem quickly. Ungrateful bastards...
- After what happened towards the end of Book 2 Mako seems to have been pushing himself away from the rest of Team Avatar. A good example of this is when he comes with Lin to tell Tenzin about the fact that there are new airbenders in the city Korra offers to help look for them and Mako awkwardly refuses. While this scene is funny there is a rather sad side to this. Mako has had time to think after the end of the last season and he has come to realize just how badly he treated both Korra and Asami. He broke Asami's heart and unintentionally humiliated her in front of just about everyone and took advantage of Korra after she had gone through a traumatic event. Mako has had time to realize that he mistreated two people he claimed to love and had not truly apologized to his actions and is instead pushing himself away from his friends because he no longer thinks he deserves to be with them.
- While the other recruits plays off like a Terrible Interviewees Montage, the first interview includes a guy who doesn't want to leave his family to become some monk, and everyone from his family is upset at the possibility, resulting in a pretty heartbreaking rejection.
- It's kinda sad for Tenzin too. He was so excited about new airbenders, and a real chance to restore the Air Nomads. But most of the new airbenders don't want to give up their lives, and change how they live to do so. It seems Tenzin is learning it takes more than being an airbender to make one an Air Nomad.
- Mako continues to push himself away from the rest of Team Avatar, even deciding to remain in Republic City while everyone else decides to leave to find New Airbenders. Even though Korra's attempts to bridge the gap between them, Mako, (who is still likely feeling guiltily for hurting both her and Asami for his actions in the last two seasons), refuses to come with them and chooses to remain in the city. It takes Bolin to convince Mako to come with them and even then he is hesitant, reflecting that he feels like he is drifting away from the rest of them.
The Earth Queen
- Mako and Bolin seeing the picture of their deceased parents.
- Even worse when we see their faces. We see Mako discuss his parents' death with Korra, but we never really delve into the emotional consequences of it, except for this simple shot. Mako look so sad, but Bolin is visbly crying. The only other instance of Bolin crying outside of comic relief is in the book three finale, but seeing him tear up over seeing the image of his parents whom he barely even got to know just makes you wanna tearbend.
- Mako and Bolin having to tell their grandmother and the rest of their relatives what happened to their father.
- What makes this even worse is that they find out that their father had left home, estranged from his own father for not wanting to stay in Ba Sing Se and run the family fruit stand. In all likelihood, Bolin and Mako's father died before ever making his peace with his own dad. Is it any wonder their grandmother almost starts crying when their uncle tells them the story?
- Mako gives up his trademark red scarf, his Tragic Keepsake of his father. He drapes it around his grandmother, stating that his father would have wanted her to have it.
- Just before this, the grandmother comments on their Fire Nation mother, and is greatly saddened by the fact that the two women never met, but is sure she and her son were a good match.
- This is especially heartwarming, as their grandmother is probably old enough to remember when the Fire Nation was the enemy. It's great that she's totally OK with her son having married a Fire Nation woman.
- Ba Sing Se. At the end of the last series, it looked like the Earth King would make real changes to deal with the corruption and inequality in the city. Over 70 years later, and, if anything, things are worse than they were before. The Earth Queen clearly cares little for her people, corruption and inequality are still rampant, and the Dai Li are back.
- The current Earth Queen is explicitly Kuei's daughter, and she on-screen derides him as a soft-hearted fool for having wanted to make things better for the common man, and more than implicitly shows that she's the cause of the back-slide. Kuei was never a very effective ruler, but he always had a good heart no matter what, and his people loved him. To see his offspring come out so badly just makes one's heart go out for him.
- Maybe to highlight this, when the Krew passes above Ba Sing Se, there's a sad, somber erhu-made soundtrack. Immediately after they complain about the smell.
In Harm's Way
- The airbenders from the Earth Queen's army. They didn't choose to become airbenders, but because of it they were forcefully conscripted, introduced to Training from Hell, and then essentially exiled from their home on the grounds that, if they ever return, they'll be recaptured.
- Even worse, Kai is just a kid, and he's still forced to participate in this. It's both sad and terrifying to watch him get kidnapped by the Dai Li agents.
The Metal Clan
- Poor Naga whimpering after Lin popped her ball.
- The whole situation between Lin and her half-sister Suyin, especially that scene where Lin lashes out at her niece Opal, who leaves the room in tears.
- It gets worse: Korra directly calls her out on this, angrily saying she'll always be a bitter woman before leaving... then the scene focuses on the breaking-down Lin, who visibly sheds a tear. She's never been that low, in all the time we've seen her.
- Even worse, it was Korra's idea for Opal to try talking with Lin, and Korra clearly feels incredibly guilty about Lin yelling at Opal for it, even if it wasn't really her fault.
- This is Lin Beifong we're talking about, Chief of Police in Republic City and one of the most hardened, badass characters in the entire franchise. To see her crying like this and faltering in her usual stoic demeanour is a pretty big indicator that Korra's words really got to her and that the Beifong family has some serious, serious issues.
- According to Suyin, Toph basically gave her daughters all the freedom in the world to be whoever they wanted to be. It's heavily implied that as a reaction of her own strict upbringing, Toph was as hands off as possible when it came to her children, and that was why they ended up fighting over her affections. She still ended up driving one of her daughters (Suyin) away, who traveled the world and had to build an entire city to find the family she'd always wanted.
- Even worse, it's stated that Toph wasn't totally happy with how either of her daughters turned out. It's easy to see why this would affect Lin so much, when she's the one who's tried really hard to follow in Toph's footsteps.
- Relating to this, Toph probably didn't want either of her daughters to feel like they had to be a cop just because of her legacy, so it's likely she felt like she forced Lin into her path. Considering how her own parents tried to force their views on her, having even a vague similarity to them would've made Toph feel horribly guilty.
- Bolin's angst on how he's unable to metalbend, despite Toph being a personal hero of his.
- According to Lin, Toph was so guilt-ridden over covering up Suyin's crime that she resigned a year later because she felt unworthy of her badge.
- And later, Lin confiding in Opal that the only reason she became a cop was so she could finally gain her mother's approval, and it didn't work. Lin Beifong is one of the most accomplished badasses of this show and even took over Toph's position as Chief of Police... and her own mother wasn't impressed.
- In the flashback, a young Suyin scoffs at the idea that Toph would disapprove of her criminal friends, because 'it's not like she [Mom] would even care.'
- The story of how Lin got her scar:
- Specifically, she gets into a car chase with a bunch of thieves, one of whom turns out to be her own sister - who while not involved in the actual robbery, did drive the getaway car because she owed them a favor. Things naturally escalate when Suyin claims "Or what, officer? You're gonna arrest me?" and walks away, only for Lin to yell "Don't take another step!" Suyin does anyway after a moment, and Lin's metalbending cables catch her by the wrist... Suyin cuts them in a rage.
- Whiplash propels the two cut pieces backwards, directly toward Lin, slicing her cheek. Lin cries out at the pain, and the view pans over Suyin, with an expression of shock and horror...
- Lin also still has the scar as an adult, though her mother was friends with one of the most powerful Waterbenders and Healers. It's highly likely that Lin refused to let the scar be healed, as a reminder of what happened that day.
- Toph's reaction to Lin arresting Suyin is to yell at both of them, while Lin has bandages on her scar. Lin calmly points out that she was just doing her job, and that Suyin put her in an impossible situation. Toph then decides to tear up the arrest warrant and exile Suyin to her parents. To Lin, this looks like Suyin is a Karma Houdini, especially since Toph's reasons are that as a police chief she can't have a daughter in jail. Suyin also spends the whole time glaring at Lin, totally in Never My Fault mode.
- Lin's brief hallucination of Korra as Suyin. Now only does it drive home how much both Korra's callout over yelling at Opal impacted her, it shows how upsetting being in her sister's home is. Then there's the helpless, bewildered expression on her face as she looks up and blinks.
- And when Korra stops her rant, realising something's wrong, to ask if she's alright, Lin surges to her feet and staggers, half-dressed, out of the house, snapping that she's "fine," a clear lie and refusal of Korra's assistance.
- Tenzin's frustration with his students' lack of progress.
- There's no question that the Earth Queen is a despicable person, but just the idea that she would have her own father's beloved pet butchered and served to her is just sickening (not even her allergies can really justify that).
- Let's not forget that she was also the one that sent those poachers out to gather baby sky bison for steaks.
- Bumi's issues coming to the forefront again, when he tells Tenzin that he never felt like he was a part of the Air Nomad culture even though he's the son of Aang.
- The baby bison flying in the air for the very first time, accompanied by a blissful soundtrack, as the new Air Nation watch. Tenzin's comment "Looks like everyone is growing up", in reference to his eldest daughter, his own baby, finally being worthy of her tattoos really seals it.
The Terror Within
- Bolin being depressed at both his trouble with metalbending and Opal leaving, right as they were just starting their relationship.
- Korra getting frustrated at Lin and Mako.
- Suyin trusted Aiwei implicitly, and he betrayed her easily.
- Despite how we last saw them, it's made clear that Lin still has some issues with her sister, insisting she be tested about being The Mole before they've even finished questioning all the guards. And it might be even sadder that Suyin not only saw this coming, she wasn't offended and immediately (willingly) sat through the process. While there is a heartwarming element,note , that this was necessary is still sad.
- For anyone running a pub this is heartbreaking...
Mako: Excuse me, sir? We're looking for a man about sixty, balding, wearing glasses in a long green robe.
Bolin: And he's got this weird piercing that goes from his nose to his ear. Freaks me out.
Tavern owner: Yeah, sure. Sounds like a guy who came in last night. I told him I had the best drinks in the Earth Kingdom and he called me a liar.
Mako: That's him! Any idea where he is now?
Tavern owner: [Sadly.] Nah, afraid not. But he was right. [His posture looks defeated.] My drinks are terrible. [Walks inside dejectedly into his bar while the brothers look on in shock.]
- Aiwei might have been a traitor, but being thrown into the Fog of Lost Souls is a terrible way to go.
- The Downer Ending: Asami and Korra were captured by the Earth Queen while Mako and Bolin were captured by the Red Lotus.
- The look on Asami's face while she is being held captive with Korra is just heartbreaking. It is likely that Asami had tried to fight off the Earth Queen's forces and failed, leading to her and Korra being captured. Add to that that she also lost Naga and she doesn't know if Mako & Bolin are alright, and it's no wonder that she looks close to tears.
Long Live The Queen
- The Red Lotus brutalizing Tenzin at the end of the episode after taking out Bumi and Kya when he refuses to give up protecting Korra and the Air Nation. This ends the episode on a very chilling cliffhanger.
- Korra mentioning to Lord Zuko that she talked to Iroh in the Spirit World, with Zuko looking at her with awe. He most likely really misses his uncle, and now might possibly have a way to speak with him again.
- Kai attempting to buy everyone time and getting blasted out of the sky by P'li. He survives, but Jinora's face is that of heartbreak. It's made worse by comparing the scene with what happened to Katara and Aang.
- The implication that Grandma Yin is growing senile or stuck in the old Earth Kingdom mentality to the point where she cannot quite grasp all of the danger around her.
- The Red Lotus attacking the Air Temple. For all that the past couple of episodes demonstrated Zaheer's ideology and potential consequences (the fall of Ba Sing Se), it is especially disturbing to see him attempt to destroy the Air Nation before it has even begun. As if the danger to Tenzin and Pema's young family wasn't bad enough, the majority of the new airbenders seem to be young people. All that hope and potential looks to be ruined in the name of 'freedom'.
- Bumi and Kya are knocked off of a balcony several feet, and they fall through several trees and down a cliffside. By the end, they are still alive, but cannot get to their feet.
- The fall of Ba Sing Se. While the place always had serious problems it was still one of the grandest cities of the world. There were universities, ancient works of art, and good people who lived there and called it home. Now the whole place is in flames and who knows how many innocent people have been hurt or killed in the chaos.
Enter the Void
- Korra and Tonraq's moment before Korra turns herself in to the Red Lotus. He tells her how proud he is of her because he might not get another chance.
- Korra tells her father that she will be alright; at the very end of this episode she is abducted and poisoned with mercury, a very toxic metal, by her captors who intend to kill her and end the Avatar Cycle for good.
- Tenzin watching the Air Temple that he and Aang had worked to rebuild go down in flames.
- Zaheer's reaction to P'Li's death and particularly the look on his face.◊ The man was on the verge of tears. Despite his ruthlessness, he genuinely and clearly loved P'Li and now she was taken from him and in the most brutal way at that. Never before has an Avatar villain note looked so... human.
- As Zaheer recites Guru Laghima's poem before he achieves weightlessness, it's implied that P'Li was his earthly tether, and he had to let her go in order to enter the void.
- The atmosphere as he steps off the cliff with Korra is strange, it's as if he wouldn't mind if he fell to his death at that point now that P'Li is gone. Being able to fly was good for him but he was ready, perhaps even partly wanting, the alternative. It makes for a chilling Call-Back to Aang's refusal to let go of Katara back in the original series.
- P'Li and Zaheer share a tender moment together. It makes what happens after all the more heartrending.
- P'li's life story. She was meant as a child to be a weapon for a warlord, who she was saved from by Zaheer. Likely as a result of this, she joined the Red Lotus to aid in their cause for freedom. Later, after they failed to kidnap Korra, she was imprisoned in a freezing cell for 13 years away from her lover and friends. At the end, she dies due to Suyin containing one of her combustion blasts in a metal helmet.
- Near the end of the episode, Zaheer breaks the news of P'Li's death to Ghazan and Ming-Hua. Both are quite saddened, particularly noticeable in Ming-Hua, since it was the first time she was ever shown to be upset by anything.
- As Zaheer relays this news, he starts to descend to a lower altitude, meaning P'Li is still his earthly tether and he still loves her.
- A Meta-example. Kuvira is voiced by Zelda Williams, the daughter of Robin Williams, who tragically committed suicide less than two weeks before this episode was released. We see Kuvira introduced as she helps someone's father (Tonraq). It's truly a heartbreaking moment when you think about the grief Zelda was going through at the time of the episode's release.
- Asami is the only one nodding to Suyin's statement about them following Korra's lead no matter what, does the same angsty slouch against the wall as she did in the sewer in Season 1 and only smiling when seeing Korra off otherwise she looks miserable for the rest of the episode.
Venom of the Red Lotus
- Korra crying out in pain as the poison is administered and she struggles to stay out of the Avatar State.
- Ghazan's demise. Poor guy was so traumatized by his time in prison that he felt dropping an entire molten cave on himself was a better option. Ming-Hua, too, since "Long Live the Queen" gave a nod to them as a cute couple.
- Mako's face after he kills Ming-Hua. It's very short, but poignant. He obviously didn't want to do it, or else he would have electrocuted her when he first fought her and been done with it. He killed her because he had no other choice. He had to save himself and help Bolin. When he kills her he just looks so... stunned. This is, more likely than not, the first time he's ever killed someone.
- While funny and somewhat karmic, Zaheer's meltdown at the end becomes a lot less amusing when you consider that he is grieving his dead lover and friends, and basically saw his whole cause fall into ruin.
- When Korra finally finally brings down Zaheer, she collapses and is quickly scooped up by Tonraq, who tries to rouse her. Half-conscious and still in the Avatar State, she hesitantly raises her hand to his face in utter disbelief, having thought him dead. Then she faints before she can reach him, and Tonraq looks utterly devastated.
- After the Red Lotus is beaten and it's two weeks later, Korra is confined to a wheelchair, both physically and emotionally broken. Despite everyone trying to assure her that she'll bounce back, Korra can barely bring herself to smile. Add on top of that her poison-induced hallucinations were all former enemies insisting that the world no longer needed the Avatar, which Korra defines her life by. It's really no wonder she's so depressed. With all that happening around her, the only thing she can still do is cry.◊
- To make matters even worse, the metallic poison was mercury, which in real life has horrible and permanent side-effects even if one survives it, and Korra was given a lot of it. The fact that Suyin was able to extract it (this is hard to do in real life) will negate that somewhat, but it's still pretty bad.
- Adding onto her depression is the fact that Tenzin is Innocently Insensitive without even realizing it. When it's questioned what the world will do with the Avatar out of commission, Tenzin decides to have the Air Nomads follow in Korra's example and help bring balance wherever they go. Not only are Korra's enemies telling her the world doesn't need her, but her own allies are unintentionally telling her the same note . All of Korra's insecurities and self-doubt are becoming validated, while being a sign of joy and happiness for everyone else. Remember, the last time Korra thought she couldn't be the Avatar back in Book 1, she was implicitly thinking about committing suicide.
- This scene powerfully encapsulates the severity of psychological trauma that Korra is burdened with. She thought she saw her father fall to his death, was rendered helpless in the face of terrorists who intended to not only kill her but the very essence of her being, was poisoned and tortured into a terrifying fearful state of mind by the distorted hallucinations of her three past arch-enemies, endured hits and falls that would have killed any normal human being, was nearly suffocated by Zaheer, and came within seconds of dying. This is a harsh contrast to previous seasons, where Korra could bounce back thanks to one thing or another allowing her to regain her strength and reassert herself. Here, there's nothing, just a long slog back to full health and some sort of normal.
- It gets even harsher in Book 4: It turns out that such severe trauma takes a long time to heal. Even three years after the battle with Zaheer, she's still recovering, and obviously hasn't bounced back to her previous state.
- Also seeing Korra utterly broken like that. She was so high strung and free spirited and energetic. Now seeing her in a depressed state...
- In previous seasons people complained that Korra's problems and wounds (losing her bending, losing the past Avatars) were fixed and healed too quickly, and we needed to see her undertake a long-term recovery. They wanted something realistic, and they got what they wanted.
- The worst part of all of this is it isn't some middle-of-episode thing Korra works her way past. This is a cliffhanger for Book 4.
- Jinora becoming a new Airbending master for a reborn Air Nation in the 100th episode of a world that began with The Last Airbender. To make matters even more heartwrenching, when Jinora pulls off her hood to reveal her tattoos, she looks so much like Aang. It's a shame he couldn't be there to see it.
- In general, it's sad knowing the Red Lotus still won in a manner of speaking. They didn't kill Korra but they still broke her, the Earth Kingdom is still in chaos after the Earth Queen's death, and the world is "becoming a dangerous place" in President Raiko's words.
- The look's on Korra's friends and loved ones as Su draws the poison out of Korra is just Heartbreaking. Especially Tonraq, as he is just about to cry until Korra is saved.
- Special notice should be given to Asami who looks just as devastated◊ as Korra's father. In light of the Finale, this is likely the moment when Asami realized that she was in love with Korra. Which makes this moment all the more heartbreaking when you see this from Asami's point of view. She has just figured this out when it looks like she may lose her forever.
- Asami's talk with Korra at the episode's end takes on a much more tragic light when later events are taken into consideration. There's clearly something more she wants to say throughout, but she doesn't raise the issue and instead tries convincing Korra to enjoy the day for Jinora's sake. Instead of being open about her feelings, she instead chose to shelve the issue under the assumption that her friend had enough on her plate with recovery. Before she could, Korra left for the South Pole for three years, with only a letter or two around the two-and-a-half year mark as correspondence. This makes her outburst in "Reunion" take on a whole new meaning.
- Korra in the Avatar state, not as a power boost as we've seen her do it before, but as the desperate primal survival instinct as Aang used it. Seeing her in that much pain and rage is terrifying.
- One of the really sad consequences of this book, is that Kuvira, Mauve Shirt, and one of the Suyin's most trusted people, almost a daughter, makes a FaceHeel Turn later along with Baatar Jr. and many others, gets estranged with Su, and becomes a Big Bad of the following season, all to reunite shattered Earth Kingdom. It really shows that no matter how small or big evil you cause, the results can be catastrophic, and Earth Queen's death, despite being an Asshole Victim, is this.
- Zaheer's efforts to bring freedom to the world by ridding the world from governments led to the existence of a new, more powerful dictatorship - Earth Empire.
Book 4: Balance
After All These Years
- Korra tells her friends that she'll only be gone a couple weeks, but she mopes around for three before she's talked into seeing Katara by Senna. It's pretty easy to read between the lines on this one. As much as she wants to get better, she's dreading the idea that she might not.
- Katara telling Korra she knows what it means to live through trauma.
- Korra snapping at Katara when frustrations about her recovery finally reach a head. Katara's voice wavers somewhat as she addresses Korra after her outburst.
- The stark reality of Korra's recovery period. It's one of the most accurate portrayals of just how long, tiring, and frustrating the process is in animation.
- The tearjerkers in this episode are often wonderfully subtle and multi-layered in their execution. Take the sparring session for example. Korra has always loved a friendly fight, be it to relieve stress, test her skills, or just have fun. Her sheer excitement and enthusiasm in wanting to show Tenzin her physical improvements shows how badly she wants to return to this favored activity. Moreover she seems to have intentionally recreated the scene of one of her most joyous triumphs, the day she was declared a firebending master. All this makes what happens all the more heartbreaking.
- In detail, first her opponents are reluctant to attack her, which is a deep insult to a proud fighter like Korra. Then in a cruel twist it is not her body but her mind that fails her. The activity she takes pride in and wants to revel in now triggers fear in her on a very deep level. Lastly there is nothing Tenzin can do or say to make things better.
- It takes Korra two years before she can work up the nerve to write back to Asami, and won't write back to Mako or Bolin because she doesn't think they'll understand.
- A small one but, when Asami offers to go to the Southern Water Tribe with Korra, and by doing so drop Everything just to keep her friend company. This is likely another sign of Asami's growing love for Korra that even though Asami has a entire corporation to run, Korra's well being takes precedence. Yet Korra politely declines the offer, feeling that some time alone will be good for her.
- Korra fails, miserably, to catch a couple of common shoplifters, and is knocked over on her back. The annoyed shopkeeper asks "You sure she's the Avatar?", and all Korra can manage to do in response is close her eyes and lie back.
- While the letters Korra receives from her friends and Tenzin coming in to check on Korra are all rather heartwarming, each asking how she is doing and that they look forward to seeing her again, they are also unknowingly making Korra's depression worse. By telling her what they have accomplished while she has been gone Korra and that Kuvira has the situation with the Earth Kingdom under control Korra feels that she has become useless and that the world doesn't need her anymore. For someone like Korra, who prides herself on being the Avatar, to feel that there is no use for her, is the worse thing that could happen.
- The flashback scene of Senna asking Korra to see Katara after three weeks in the South Pole. Korra's parents have been trying to give Korra space to recover but they are worried because Korra is still having nightmares and barely eating. Senna's helplessness as she asks Korra to please seek help from Katara is heartbreakingly realistic of a parent who would give anything to make things better for her daughter but just can't.
- Wu's Freak Out in Little Ba Sing Se's amusement park. It doesn't matter if you like him or not; the prince just lost any meaning left in his superficial life, and it is crushing him.
- It is unsettlingly familiar to what Korra has experienced. They both grew up with their status as a Legacy Character as part of their very identity, and were both informed that those positions are now worthless.
- Baatar Jr. and Suyin coldly greeting each other becomes more sadder when you flashback to Su's first appearance and she states that her children are "blessings". Three years later, she's in estrangement with her eldest.
- Mako and Bolin falling out over the latter's continuing support for Kuvira despite her increasingly aggressive and imperialistic actions.
- Even worse when you remember that Mako is the second person to reject Bolin for supporting Kuvira. Being given the cold shoulder by your brother and your girlfriend when you're only trying to help has to be rough.
- Back in Book 1, after the Love Triangle mess, Mako reassure Bolin that they're brothers and they'll get through this. Fast-forward to Book 4, they don't.
- It gets even worse when you consider Kuvira's map with the United Republic as unclaimed Earth Kingdom territory and her telling Suyin that she's coming for Zaofu. Bolin's entirely unaware that the woman he idolizes is a threat to both his home and that of his girlfriend and her family, and has been straining his relationships defending her for nothing.
- Toph bluntly telling Korra that her refusal to let her get the trace poison out of her means that Korra subconsciously doesn't want to be the Avatar anymore, and is using her current handicap as a crutch to avoid both her responsibility and being hurt again.
- During Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo's search for Korra, we see them showing a man in a bar somewhere Meelo's (frankly fantastic) drawing of Korra to ask if he's seen her. He only dismissively replies "The Avatar? Do we even still have one of those?" Considering how much the Avatar has done throughout history, not to mention what Korra herself has done, it's sad to see how someone is so willing to casually dismiss her after spending a few years out of action, or worse, after hearing what happened to the Avatar three years ago and then hearing nothing assume she's dead.
- Fridge tearjerking comes in at this point. Some people may have lost faith in the Avatar altogether. Consider the franchise as a whole- the last Avatar, just when things seemed to be getting rough, vanished for over a hundred years. In that time, the Fire Nation launched a world-encompassing war of total conquest, committing untold atrocities and even acts of genocide (the attempted eradication of the Moon and Ocean spirits, the destruction of the southern water tribe (or more specifically the benders of those tribes), the final, comet-fueled attempt at destroying the Earth Kingdom entirely, etc.) And the Avatar only showed up at the very end of the war, and it presumably became common knowledge that the Avatar had been sealed in the iceberg by his own hand. So a new Avatar shows up, just when people need help bringing balance to a chaos-strewn area (the Earth Kingdom), and the Avatar vanishes again? People might figure that the Avatar just quits when the going gets rough, only coming in to secure the final victory. People losing hope in the Avatar wouldn't be out of the question.
- A little one for the previous antagonists of the series. With Toph acknowledging their good intentions, it's hard to not hope for an alternate reality where they'd have known better.
Enemy at the Gates
Battle at Zaofu
- Varrick spends a lot of time moping over Zhu Li's betrayal.
- Mako and Asami finally get to see Korra again after three years apart, only for things to go south as they start arguing .
- Mako gets mad at Korra and Asami when it comes out that Korra wrote back to her, but not him or Bolin.
- Asami gets ticked off at Korra when she tells her that she visited Hiroshi and Korra worries that he may be trying to manipulate her again.
- Keep in mind that this is the first time that Asami has ever yelled at Korra. Out of all her friends Asami is the one who has stuck by her the most. So to see Asami of all people get angry at Korra is a Tearjerker in and of itself.
- Korra's reaction is also a bit heartbreaking. She quickly apologizes to Asami & is clearly hurt by what she has said.
- Though it's by no means as prominent as what's happened to Hiroshi Sato, Naga's muzzle has gotten noticeably grayer. Poor puppy's getting old...
- Kuvira's intent on harvesting the entire swamp for her spirit-based technology... which is most likely going to be used for something sinister, might be able to count too.
- Kuvira is also kidnapping anyone who is on "Earth Empire" soil but not of Earth Kingdom origin and throwing them into her so-called "reeducation camps".
- Bolin weeping over his fear that Opal will never forgive him for initially siding with Kuvira.
- Korra is still stuck in a morass of guilt and self-doubt, blaming herself for the troubles she and the world have faced over the past few years. She's also become more convinced than ever that her role as the Avatar is obsolete.
Beyond The Wilds
- Bolin finally gets to see Opal again, only for her to not want to speak to him for what Kuvira tricked him into doing. Mako and Korra are a lot happier to see him, though.
- Korra feels so desperate and underestimated by the world leaders that she goes to confront Zaheer, the man that poisoned her, to shake off her block. Their encounter has many moments:
- Korra thinks that if she just looks him in the eye and affirms she's no longer afraid then she can overcome her block. Things don't go according to plan. Zaheer pulls a Jump Scare on her, revealing that the fear won't go away that easily.
- Zaheer in a Pet the Dog moment calls back Korra when she tries to walk away after the Jump Scare. At this point he has no reason to: he's in prison, and she's no longer considered important as the Avatar. He knows something is wrong, however, because Korra hasn't been in the spirit world for three years, and she must be desperate if she's come to see him. He has to tell her that she shouldn't have survived having that much poison in her body, and that he can sense how much power she has.
- Zaheer takes no responsibility for poisoning Korra and trying to destroy the Avatar. Technically The Bad Guy Wins because, while he didn't kill Korra, he destroyed her ability to enter the spirit world and the Avatar State, as well as her reputation. The Avatar is no longer considered important or useful. On top of it all, Korra says that he broke her.
- The look on Zaheer's face when Korra tells him that all his efforts to bring freedom to the world only paved the way for a dictator even worse than the one he took out. For better or worse, Zaheer is a true believer and his devastation is not feigned.
- Even sadder, he's probably realizing that his friends died, alone and in pain, for nothing. Or worse, died helping create the very thing they were all fighting against. Even Zaheer admits he's not the same man he used to be.
- Zaheer offers to help Korra return to the spirit world. She says she can't trust him. He agrees, but points out she has no other options. When Korra accepts his help, he forces her to relive her near-death experience, but at least properly guides her through it.
- Toph finally admits that the real reason she's stayed out of all the show's conflicts is that she just doesn't have the stuff to be her old action hero self anymore. You know it kills her a little to say it. The least she could afford was one last dance with danger to make it memorable.
- Toph's words are, in hindsight, a goodbye to the audience as a whole, as her appearance would be the last time we see a member of the Gaang for the rest of the series.
- Lin angry at Toph for never telling her who her father was because it was important to her. She really missed growing up without a dad.
- Toph's voice wavers ever-so-slightly in response. You can tell that, behind the stubborn and aloof attitude, it really got to her.
- Toph's stubbornness and Jerkass attitude was cute when she was a kid and her friends were able to handle it, but to her children it just comes off as plain brusqueness. Toph would never admit it, but she knows that she comes close to driving Lin away again, after being estranged from her for decades.
- The spirits denying Korra's request for their assistance in protecting Republic City. Even if her intentions were noble, they viewed it merely as Korra being not so different from Kuvira in using spiritual power for war/her own benefit.
- Varrick botching things with Zhu Li once again. Bolin speaks for all of us with his Face Palm.
- Kuvira turning the spirit weapon on Baatar. It's a scene that easily could have been played as her being completely heartless, but instead it's clear (especially after their tender moment earlier in the episode) that she really does love him and hates doing it, but her campaign is just a little bit more important to her than he is.
- Baatar Jr. rejects the chance to reunite with his family, stating that Kuvira is his family now. Su is reduced to tears.
- His reaction when Kuvira destroys the factory with him inside.
- The final scene is of Kuvira taking a deep breath after firing at the factory before reverting to stoicism. This decision was not made without reluctance.
- Those poor watch tower guards outside of Republic City never knew what hit them.
Day of the Colossus
- Hiroshi delivers the tears in this episode.
- Baatar Jr's apology to Suyin for betraying the family and wondering if his siblings would ever be willing to forgive him.
- Baatar Jr. musing why Kuvira would fire a weapon at him. You half expect Suyin to say something vastly demeaning, but Suyin responds that Kuvira is a "complicated person." Even she's aware of the shades of grey in Kuvira.
The Last Stand
- Kuvira's breakdown, as she considers herself a failure to her nation.
- She mentions that her parents cast her aside before she was taken in by Su; when she apologizes to Su while being led away by handcuffs, her reply is "You're going to answer for everything you've done." Minutes after recounting her parental abandonment, her second maternal figure turns her back on her as well. Not getting any closure there today.
- It seems that her Control Freak tendencies were derived from her unresolved issues about her parents. She had this need to be in control, and thus a need for power.
- It gets worse when Fridge Horror is applied. Not only will Kuvira most likely be imprisoned for her crimes, but she'll now have to live with the fact that her actions all but destroyed her relationship with both her surrogate mother Su and her former fiance Baatar Jr, the one person who stuck by her throughout her whole crusade. In other words, she'll possibly be alone for the rest of her life. For someone with abandonment issues, that's gotta be a Fate Worse than Death.
- How many homes and businesses were destroyed by Kuvira's accidental Fantastic Nuke? How many were destroyed when it was still just a Wave-Motion Gun? How many were destroyed by Our Heroes while they were doing whatever it takes to bring the Colossus down?
- After the new spirit portal is created, Team Avatar (including Tenzin and kids, Mako, Bolin, Asami, Varrick and Zhu Li) enter the crater and search for Korra. Without their dear friend in sight, their faces clearly give away that they fear for the worst. Asami, in particular, looks completely broken. This is referenced during Korra and Asami's talk. During those moments, Asami may very well have been just...done.
- When Mako looks about to sacrifice himself, and he and Bolin shake hands, hug, and tell each other they love each other. They might fight sometimes, Bolin might annoy the crap out of Mako, Mako might be too serious, but they are brothers to the end. Lucky for Mako, Bolin saves him before it's too late.
- The so far unnamed soundtrack that plays in Mako's redirection of the spirit vine energy is easily one of the most beautiful in the entire franchise.
- Mako and Bolin's whole dialogue deserves to be elaborated on, because the only thing rarer in 2012 Western Animation than same-sex couples is two men saying "I love you" to each other, even if they are brothers.
Mako: I'm gonna zap these vines with some electricity.
Bolin: Let's back it up, okay? I said that will make the vines explode!
Mako: Exactly! This is our only way of shutting this thing down. I can handle it.
Bolin: No, you can't! This isn't the time to prove how awesome you are. I already know how awesome you are...! You're awesome.
Mako: I don't have time to argue! I'm doing this. So get out of here!
Bolin: ...Okay. But for the record, I do not approve. Just.. get out as soon as you can. Promise? [offers hand clasp]
Mako: Promise. [accepts hand clasp, quickly turns into hug]
Bolin: I love you.
Mako: I love you, too. Now go!
- The end credits. Because you know those are the last ones you will ever see. Not just for Korra but likely for the Avatar series as a whole.
- Similarly, seeing everyone who made The Cameo at the party. You know this is the last you're gonna see of them, which makes their appearances kinda bittersweet.
- While the series showed that there is the possibility of future Avatar sagas, and the opportunity to see Korra and co as old elderly mentors again, this series cemented that we will never see the Gaang again. The fact that none of them makes an appearance at the party drives the point home.