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Imperfection has been a serious theme so far in The Legend of Korra season 2 – but here’s why it makes the show kind of perfect.

We are four episodes into The Legend of Korra season 2, and one thing any fan will be able to tell you is that it’s been a polarizing season. From the anti-Angry-Korra’s movement to the blood-sucking-leech controversy, the first two hours of Book 2: Spirits may have generated more meta-commentary than Miley Cyrus. (All of her. Put together.)

But one topic in particular has become an unhappy point of focus for many viewers of The Legend of Korra season 2 who have traveled over from the friendly shores of Avatar: The Last Airbender. That being, the less-than-happy relationship between Bumi, Kya, and Tenzin – and the insinuation that Aang’s skills as a father left something to be desired from his non-airbender children.

There is a lot to say on this issue, and I’m not going to delve into the potential reasons why Aang took Tenzin to ride the elephant-koi and not his other children. But I do want to explain why I feel this new revelation about Aang’s life is a brave storytelling decision, and why it fits perfectly into The Legend of Korra season 2.

It seems to me that a major motif of Book 2: Spirits so far has been human imperfection. Korra, coming off her triumph in Book 1, remains impatient, spiritually tone-deaf and desperate to prove herself. Tenzin is still overly rigid and clings to principle, rather than the practical. Varrick is loyal to his bank account, Senna is timid to a fault, and even the air acolytes are by turns obsequious and rude.

It is understandably upsetting to learn that loving, carefree Aang – whom many fans have known and loved since childhood – was an imperfect father to his children. It is legitimately painful to see his children bicker over the wounds he may have left them. But I think part of the reason for that is less about what Aang’s imperfections say about him, and more about what they say about us.

The Legend of Korra season 2 Kataang kids

In real life, people are not perfect; families aren’t perfect. (Not even families of adorable sky bison, alas.) In real life, we – the protagonists of our own stories – can be good people, a wonderful, well-intentioned people, and still might make mistakes. We might not fulfill our responsibilities, be they to the world, to our friends, or to our families. Other people might resent us, judge us, and even condemn us, even though we were trying our best. Sometimes our flaws might overshadow our goodness.

This is what has happened to Aang, and this is what can happen to us. It’s hard to come to terms with, but in its own way, it’s a beautiful thing, because it is universal. We all face this problem ourselves, and like Kya, Bumi, and Tenzin, we all perpetrate it in others.

But like Aang’s children in “Civil Wars, Part 2,” we also have the ability to step back and reflect on those around us. We can look at pictures of the past, consider the future, and reconsider the people we judge for their imperfections. This isn’t always revolutionary, and it isn’t always forgiveness. But it takes us a step closer to seeing the people who effect our lives as full and flawed and wonderful – like we see ourselves.

That’s what The Legend of Korra season 2 is trying to show us, and – as much as it can hurt – I think that’s a beautiful thing.

Come back for daily ‘Legend of Korra’ coverage and join in the conversation with hashtag #SeptBender!

  • Gary65

    Did I miss something? Where was the blood sucking leech?

    • Pandaaaaa

      I think she means Mako’s comment about relationships being like leeches.

      • Gary65

        OK. And where’s the controversy in that?

        • David Sullivan

          A lot of fans apparently interpreted it as being a dig at Asami, which would’ve been unnecessarily rude and insulting… it stirred up a bit of a drama on Tumblr with some of the people behind the show insisting that it was just an analogy comparable to “ripping off a band-aid”. I think it was a genuinely harmless remark, but it blew up into a big misinterpretation which has still got some people questioning it, so there you go.

          • Rosalie David

            Thank you for explaining. I was also confused about that comment. I don’t find it insulting though, I thought it was a harmless line. Just my opinion though

          • Charlie

            Yeah, I was surprised too to hear that there was a controversy. I thought the meaning of the line was pretty obvious.

          • David Sullivan

            I suspect at least some of it comes from fans who are unhappy with the clumsy way that Mako and Asami’s breakup was handled last season and perhaps leapt on Mako’s “bloodsucking leech” comment as more “evidence” of Mako’s poor treatment of the situation. I didn’t like the way that Mako and Asami’s relationship was handled either but I’ve actually heard the saying used before in real life (albeit not in relation to breakups) so I didn’t think much more of it… it seems to have died down now, at least.

          • Rosalie David

            I see, I didn’t care for the way the romantic relationships were handled at all last season, including the breakup.

          • Lamar Johnson

            given how korra and mako realtionship is utter trainwreck

  • Renjick

    It’s contrived drama from a lackluster writing team.

  • Amanda M

    I actually think the “Aang wasn’t a perfect father” thing is kind of interesting to consider. I can see why it upset a lot of people, but I think it makes for some interesting insight into both his character as well as his children.

    We didn’t get to see what the gang were like as adults (minus the brief flashback and a couple of appearances by elderly Katara), so we have the luxury of imagining how they may have turned out, and I’m sure we all have our own “head canon” when it comes to some things. But I’m sure most of us imagine positive/happy/”perfect” futures for our beloved characters. Like the article said, real life is not like that, and by adding this development, we get a bit of “realism” to the characters.

    Aang was not a horrible person, and it sounds like he really loved all three of his children — he just showed (obvious) favoritism toward one of them. From a characterization standpoint, it kind of makes sense. Aang was the last airbender in the world, the last hope for continuing the line of airbenders. It would make sense that he would have a strong bond with the child who inherited this unique ability and subsequently became the new hope of passing on air bending abilities to future generations. Aang finally had someone to train and work with and share his powers with. What he did was certainly not fair, and I’m not justifying it, but I can see it as a reasonable turn for his character to take in adulthood.

    I’m done with my rant now… Hahahaha I started typing and it kind of turned into a soapbox moment. Apologies… I’m a 24 year old girl who takes her fandoms wayyyyy too seriously XD

    • Michal

      (That’s me, just two years ago ;-))

    • Rosalie David

      So Agree. The first time the Kataang kids started fighting I got upset. I, like most people, had imagined that the gaang led perfect lives after the war. But that wouldn’t be very realistic and these writers like to inject realism in a fantasy show. Which is one of the reasons I love the show so much.
      I also think it makes perfect sense, Aang would have spent more time with Tenzin to train him and pass on the Air Nation culture. I would also assume that Katara spent more time training Kya, leaving Bumi to feel neglected and therefore a bit more wild than his siblings. I don’t really think Aang meant to show favoritism, but I can see why it would happen. Between building Republic City and training Tenzin he probably did neglect his other children.
      I may be the minority but I love this storyline now. I really want to learn more about the Kataang kids and PLEASE can we have a flashback, please!!!!

  • http://al-sobrante.tumblr.com/ Eric Coppes

    Real talk: Where are all these sky bison coming from? Appa was supposed to be literally the only living sky bison left after the airbenders died. Does Oogi have a mother? Is Appa reproducing asexually? I want to know.

    • Amanda M

      “Is Appa reproducing asexually? I want to know.” I literally choked, then laughed until I cried. (Also, I’ve wondered the same thing! My best guess is maybe there were some sky bison left that were in hiding or something?)

      • KDVal07

        Aang found these new species sometime after the hundred year war.

    • Jess

      It was explained in an interview with Mike and Bryan that Aang found more flying bison and lemurs after the Hundred Year War.

      • girlonfire12

        I heard that too… but its a little too convenient and coincidental haha

        • acethunder21

          We’re still re-discovering species that were previously thought to be extinct so it isn’t so far-fetched.

    • Kinowolf

      Remember Appa’s Lost Days? They mentioned the collector on Whale Tail Island who would pay top dollar for a Sky Bison? I suspect he wasn’t a bad guy after all, but someone dedicated to preserving the last of those species.

    • asdf

      Real Talk: The fuck happened to Sokka? That’s what I want to know,

  • sarahd15

    I personally love this new storyline of Aang as a father. Everyone, even fictional characters, are flawed.

  • 7Starrchasers

    I loved the way Aang is being portrayed as an adult, because it is just so realistic. People who have a problem with things tend to never really understand what the writers are trying to say, so I think they need to unpack it, and go back and watch the show again.

  • Manish M.

    There is obviously nothing inherently wrong with having flawed characters. The problem is that the Avatar writing team has made them so flawed that it makes them unrealistic, unrelatable and just generally bad people. For example, in this past episode, Korra threatens to murder the judge twice before even knowing for certain that the trial was rigged. Bolin also accepts to bribe someone during the trial, which totally goes against his character of being a morally righteous person (as shown in the Mako and Bolin shorts). Korra sides with Varrick even though he tried having Unalaq, her own uncle and former ally, captured and potentially killed. Also, if we’re trying to talk about character development, we have seen absolutely none from Korra from the past season.
    Some things just don’t jive with me in this series, and it makes it look like the writing team carelessly created these characters to drive a plot forward.

    • razorstar90

      I think it’s briallant. The more flawed a character is the more real they become. It’s like Game of Thrones meets a kid show with the way the characters are grey. And let’s not forget there is precedent of Avatars willing to take lives. Kyoshi, Yang Chen and Roku all pretty much said yeah you can go there as the Avatar. This world is a lot less black and white than in TAB and I like it. I like that this series shows how adults handle conflict whereas the old series showed how kids handled conflict (which is why Kids should run things because they are much more idealized than adults). I agree with you to an extent that Korra basically forgot everything she learned in the first season which is a problem. But remember this girl is probably the most physically talented Avatar we’ve seen and has had EVERYTHING given to her since she was a kid. Usually talented people who are spoiled turn out a bit bratty. A quick fix in season 1 can’t completely undue brattiness. So I’m giving her more time. Her heart’s in the right place.

      • Lamar Johnson

        except korra did not address the central conflict that equalist arc raises

        • razorstar90

          What does that have to do with her as a character? That’s a story point that the writers flubbed on. If certain plot points don’t get resolved or addressed that’s a writer issue. The main problem with LOK in my opinion was the plot was messy and less sophisticated then TLAB. The writers should have figured out a way for her to resolve the conflict between benders and non benders that made sense. But alas they didn’t. But in THEIR defense they were only given 12 episodes and thought it was a 1 season arc (still plenty of time to tell a coherent story imo). But no that’s not a character issue (which is what I’m addressing). Again look at television now a days. Most shows have protagonist that are less than perfect. Some are downright jerks and A-holes but guess what? That’s real life. And I commend the creators for creating real life characters and not cookie cutter good guys/bad guys.

          • Lamar Johnson

            korra has learned nothing from season one she hasnt grown at all and shes not living up to the series title there is nothing legendary about her and not just korra is imperfect character shes bland shes a weak protagonist , a weak female character , a weak bender , a weak avatar , no character development very cliche one dimensional hero , whos has earned as an avatar and got everything handed to her in ass pull way and they retcon the chakras and everything that was established as canon and majority of characters had little to development the only ones that did was asami and lin beifong but look how the writers treated them, i seriously hope they step it up with this season .

          • razorstar90

            Saying she’s a weak avatar is pretty lame considering she’s the most physically talented Avatar we’ve seen at the physical aspect of bending. And it’s only Book 2 of course she’s not a Legend yet. It took Aang till the END of Book 3 to earn the title Avatar Aang (the finale episode was called Avatar Aang). And remember it Book 2 is 6 months after Book 1 so she probably unlocked the chkras during that time. Knowing Korra she probably had little trouble letting people go in order to control the Avatar State. Where as Aang didn’t because he was sensitive and caring. And I don’t think she’s bland. She abrasive, brash, in your face, impetuous, headstrong, stubborn etc etc. She’ll have to overcome all that to be a Legend. You can’t expect to completely change of character that quickly. Especially in headstrong people. She’s in a much better place than she was last season. And Mako different too he’s less of an ass hole. Like I aid imperfect characters that take their time with the CD are in now

          • Lamar Johnson

            dude she nort shes didnt address the political and ethical issues that amon raises they side step it and let off the hook she failed as the avatar she suppose to deal with spirtual and ethical and the ploitical problems she did not at all. and mako is not even his character hes basically reduced as the boyfriend he has no character arc or development dont even know much about him and bolin just reduced as comic relief they treat his character like shit

          • Lamar Johnson

            and 6 months is not enough time to have character grow to give insight of what happen in the first season they ddnt even resolve the issues and social problems the conflict raised , they did not address the jin chakras i swallowed how she can all of sudden airbend , swallowed she got her powers back which she didnt deserve too ,but giving her making her control the avatar state and giving everyone their powers basically negates all the stakes the danger in equalist and made pointless it was weak ass writing squandered with plot holes recons ,deux ex machina and contrivances. season 0ne was pretty damn lame and in this season as for right now we are retreading waters the same issues and flaws.

          • razorstar90

            Again that’s not a CHARACTER issue that’s a STORY ISSUE (ie the writers did show us the aftermath). The Aftermath of Ammon’s should have been discussed by EVERYONE on the show not just the avatar. In fact that Avatar is suppose to merely bring balance by preventing conflict or stopping the conflict once a conflict occurs. Not get involved in political/social economical matters. Look at Aang and Kyioshi for example. Kyioshi prevented conflict by basically killing a tyrant and then establishing a secret service to protect people. Aang ended a conflict by defeating the fire lord. Now Korra did stop the Ammon and the people of republic city decided on a new form of government. So i don’t see where she failed there. The spirits or the spirtual world didn’t have anything to do with Book 1. We are 4 episodes into book 2 which deals to with the spirrits and we don’t even KNOW what’s going on with them so she hasn’t failed at anything spiritually either. So I’m not seeing how you can call her an Avatar failure when the series it self isn’t over yet. If that were the case Aang failed after Book 2 because Ba Sing Say got captured. It took 3 Books for Aang to get his shit together, LOK apparently is going to take 4.

          • Lamar Johnson

            wrong aang did help poiltcial issue read the promise and no korra has no plan the series is all over the place and this season garbage riped with plotholes and retcons and slap in the face of the avatar lore,

          • razorstar90

            The Promise SUCKS. The comics are so bad so terrible I don’t consider them canon.

          • razorstar90

            I can’t believe you are going to bring in the comics. I’m talking about the show. And if you don’t like LOK why the heck are you watching it? That makes no sense whatsoever. You’re just one of those people that can’t be pleased because they’re stuck on the original series. Do yourself a favor and stop watching the show and wasting your time. Because now you’re just making stuff up. “Korra didn’t save Repuplic City in the first Book it was Bolin and Asami” get the hell out of here with that stuff. It’s called team work, something that ATLA used constantly.

          • razorstar90

            As far as subsequent characters go again we are only 4 episodes in and we really don’t know what’s going on. The season is called Spirits yet the Spirits aren’t at the fore front yet. The Civil War is. So we don’t know how what the overall goal or villain for that matter is. Therefore we don’t know which character will play which role. Oh and since you keep mentioning failure. IF you want to talk about Avatar’s who’ve literally COMPLETELY FAILED at maintaining balance that honor falls on Roku. He failed to stop the hundred year war completely. Sozin told him his plan but he didn’t stop him. Sozin executed his plan and didn’t stop him. Roku was directly responsible for the war because he didn’t act (said so himself). So yeah THAT RIGHT THERE IS FAILINg. At the end of the day Korra did save Republic City in book 1 and we don’t know what’s going to happen in Book 2, 3 or 4 so the jury is still out on how she will become this LEGEND the show tell us she will become. Again she’s not turning in results as pretty as Aang did but she is getting them.

          • Lamar Johnson

            yeah i was right this season was a weak ass season and letdown like the first one.

          • Lamar Johnson

            no she didnt It was asami and bolin who saved replubic city korra just beat amon by using an asspull

          • razorstar90

            You’ve lost it dude. If that’s the case then Aang didn’t save the world. It was Toph and Sokka because they defeated the whole Fire Nation fleet that was going to destroy the world. If beating the leader doesn’t count then Aang didn’t save the world. Besides dude really your point is lame. And the biggest asspull (as you call it) was Aang getting hit with a rock while he was LOSING to the Fire Lord and that rock activating the Avatar State. You want to talk about Ass pull that’s an Ass pull. Or how abou Zuko and Katara defeating Azula. Give them the title of savor of the wold they defeated the Fire Lord (remember Azula at the time was the fire lord). Get out of here with this stuff troll.

          • Lamar Johnson

            korra so called victory was asspull, and basically sokka and all of team avatar saved the world each had their own characters arcs that was apart of it ,

          • Lamar Johnson

            your the biggest troll your counter argument is lame and invalid and for the record anag didnt get hit with the rock , it his avatar state got messed up ,disconnected by azula , and then accidently knocked into a wall and i reconnected.

          • razorstar90

            DUde first thing first you need to get over yourself and let it go. Aang hit rock and then POOF his Avatar Connection was restored making it the lamest Deus Ex Machina moment in the entire Avatar Universe. Jinora appearing out of no where made sense bc it was established that she could sense spirits when others can’t. That’s a way better excuse then Aang getting hit by a strategically placed rock. You want to talk about Asspull then the last episode of ATLA wrote the definition of asspull. And like I said TEAM AVATAR saved the world in ATLA, everyone played a role. The SAME thing happened with LOK. The TEAM saved the world. Last time I check Korra’s team consisted of Mako, Bolin,, Tenzin. Kya, Bumi, Jinora. And You can’t seem to grasp that it’s only the SECOND season we have 2 more to go. The series isn’t OVER yet. Again we have 2 count em TWO more seasons. The rest of the character arcs will play out as the seasons. Sokka, Katara, Zuko there arcs weren’t over by the end of book 2 Earth. Neither are the LOK krew. Again get over yourself you have no argument.

          • Lamar Johnson

            being physical talented does make a good avatar.

    • Lamar Johnson

      exactly

  • Caroline J.

    very well said. i’d never thought of it like that before. despite what we might tell others, we tend to see ourselves pretty positively, sans our more negative personality traits, and we project that sense of self-righteousness onto our favorite protagonists, thus when those protagonists come under attack for not being perfect, we’re faced with the suggestion that by extension we might not be as perfect as we like to think we are. whoa that’s some psychological stuff right there!

  • anon

    Besides the topic of Aang and his children, what I want to know is why Mako and Bolin are like not secondary characters anymore!

  • ajca82

    Makes sense for Aang to go to “adventures” with only Tenzin; those might have started off as airbending field trips until they get sidetracked.
    We all know how Aang was easily distracted as a kid and based on some short lines spoken about Airbenders, they were fun loving even as adults. Aang might have simply not outgrown his tendencies and Tenzin might have been dragged along.

    Anyway, I’d love to see more of Eska and Bolin, I really find them funny together.

  • Eddy Fettig

    While I agree that this season has been very polarizing and I’ve had a very love/hate relationship with its different elements, this idea of Aang being imperfect is perhaps my favorite storytelling element so far in Book 2. I love the familial tension, because it’s realistic. Fans like to idolize these characters, but let’s face it, no one is perfect.

    Aang grew up to be a man, and he was no-doubt a great one, but he had his faults. I’m sure Katara had her own, too. And Sokka, and Toph, and Zuko. The very idea that Toph was a mother is startling enough — I don’t even care who Lin’s baby daddy was, I care more about how imperfect a mother I imagine Toph would’ve been, and how that no-doubt influence Lin into growing up to be the adult she is in LoK. I care more about the familial tensions — and how they dealt with them — and the characters being developed as rounded, three-dimensional people rather than fussing over technical plot details so much.

  • C

    Good article. I think you raise a great point about Aang’s family and about seeing the imperfections of those close to us, drinking in those imperfections, and still loving our relatives in spite of/because of them.

    I’m not upset because Aang turned out to be a flawed dad. Alright, so I’m not entirely sure where this particular imperfection of his came from, but okay, acceptable. I can see it.

    I’m upset because the “bad/absent/etc. father” is essentially every father in this story’s universe (or so it feels), and the only familial relationship that felt both real and healthily functional was Sokka+Katara. It feels lazy. It feels forced. It doesn’t interest me the way the brothers’ conflict doesn’t interest me. Didn’t we just see that one last season?

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