From Paul Tassi Verified:
I’m a week or so behind the times, but I’ve finally caught up with the final season of Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra, including its absolutely sublime finale that fans will be talking about for years to come.
In it (spoilers), there are many fantastic moments, including Korra essentially forgiving the big-bad villain of the entire season, going out of her way to save her life instead of letting her be consumed by the superweapon she built.
But past that, the most talked-about portion was the final two minutes, where Korra and Asami, both ex-girlfriends of presumed romantic lead Mako, decide to take a vacation together into the Spirit World. The two walk hand into the portal of light and the final shot is them facing each other, practically nose to nose in a way that mirrors both the nuptial pose of two characters who got married minutes earlier in the episode, and the end of The Last Airbender which had Aang and Kitara kissing.
It was subtle enough to be ambiguous, but later the creators spoke out to confirm outright that yes, after planting (very sly) seeds the past two seasons, Korra and Asami had grown from rivals to friends to more than friends in those final moments, and they were indeed closing out the series by entering a new, romantic phase of their relationship.
Korra has always tackled incredibly mature issues for a supposed “kid’s show,” but this is one of the most amazing things the series has ever done, and it was a beautiful ending to an already beautiful show.
But much digital ink has already been spilled about Korra’s unexpected exploration of gender and sexuality. I’m here to talk about the feeling after the warm fuzzies of the finale wore off. The cold, gripping terror that there are no more episodes of Korra to come, and as of yet, no plans to make a new Avatar show.
The creators making another new Avatar show on Nickelodeon does seem unlikely at this point. Korra has not performed well on Nickelodeon these past few years, its maturity making it feel oddly out of place on the kids’ network. Nickelodeon did let it live out the rest of its days, not axing it early, but it was yanked from the airwaves and put online, and budget cuts resulted in sad moments like Nick telling the Korra team TISI +1.71% they would either have to cut staff, or cut an episode. They opted to do a dreaded clip show instead near the end of the final season instead (which fortunately wasn’t so bad).
From the title of this piece, you may guess what I’m hoping for the future of the series. With the relationship between Team Avatar and Nickelodeon rather sour, and the show feeling very out of place on the channel’s line-up, it’s time for someone to swoop in and pick up the Airbender/Korra/Avatar franchise for themselves.
I’ve tossed around the idea of Disney picking up the Avatar universe. After buying Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel, the rights to Avatar (and please don’t think of James Cameron’s blue aliens every time that word is mentioned) would be a relative steal I’m sure. Korra was no Disney princess, but it’s easy to see how the show could fit into Disney’s expanding universe of kick-ass properties.
And yet, I think Avatar would be best served if the franchise was picked up by Netflix NFLX -0.61% instead, as it would be a mutually beneficial arrangement for both parties.
A new Avatar series, one that presumably takes place decades or even centuries after the events of Korra, would need freedom that it just didn’t have on Nickelodeon. The Netflix model allows entire seasons of a show to be greenlit at once, so there’s no need to worry about budget cuts or potential clip shows. And given that Netflix isn’t aimed at any one demographic, the need to keep the show explicitly “kid-friendly” isn’t there either. In Korra, for example, Nickelodeon allowed the hinted Korra/Asami same-sex pairing, but only if it was kept subtle. The implication being that anything as direct as declarations of love or an onscreen kiss would be too subversive for their impressionable young audiences, and they wanted to avoid calls and letters from angry parents not wanting to explain how two same-gendered cartoon characters could fall in love. That’s just one of many restrictions the show would lose.
The Avatar universe would be a great pick-up for Netflix as well. Though the service is on top of the world and making money hand over fist, their original content offerings have struggled as of late. They haven’t had a true “original” hit since the debut of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, with recent experiments like Marco Polo falling flat, trying to please everyone and ultimately entertaining no one. The Avatar universe comes built-in with one of the most passionate fanbases I have ever seen, and short of reviving Firefly, I’m not sure there’s another show Netflix could pick up that would produce a larger, more loving reaction from fans.
Obviously they did this with Arrested Development with mixed results, but a new Avatar would essentially be a blank slate, where there wouldn’t be issues involving getting ten members of an ensemble cast in the same room together, which was AD season four’s primary problem. A new Avatar show would also not step on the toes of really anything else they have to offer currently, and would be its own niche. Netflix has experimented with animation in the form of definitely-not-for-kids BoJack Horseman, but that show is very FX and couldn’t have less in common with a potential Avatar show if it tried. Netflix is toying with their own kids programming, but again, Avatar exists in this weird unorthodox space where it can entertain kids, but is probably better watched by adults given its frankly stunning emotional complexity.
And lastly, Avatar shows are simply better binge watched. I’ve waited until after each season of both The Last Airbender and The Legend or Korra aired to watch all the episodes in two or three days, as waiting week to week for a show that’s just twenty minutes or so was too painful. Each season works best as one long story, which makes it absolutely perfect for a released-all-at-once service like Netflix.
I’m not privy to future plans of the Avatar creators, nor will I speculate about the exact content a third Avatar series would contain, but I will say that this universe is too incredible to simply disappear, and if it does live on, it obviously needs to find a new home other than Nickelodeon. I think Netflix might be it.