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.
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.