With book two of Legend of Korra closed, it's time to look ahead. We already know that book three will be called "Change" and deal with the after-effects of Korra's decision to leave the human world connected to the spirit world. There's a lot of potential there, and the good news is the team behind the show can work from a multi-season perspective for the first time since Korra's creation. Still, there are always pitfalls. Here's what needs to happen for the third season to be a success.
1. Love Mako no more
This one is obvious, right? I mean, if you're actually not tired of seeing women like Korra and Asami fawn over pretty-boy-Mako, please let us know. Otherwise, join me in hoping that the writers understand that they've long since wrung the few drops of dramatic tension out of this romantic dynamic. Frankly it was played out by the end of season one, but it did make sense to show how dating the Avatar might be difficult. What was stupid, though, was having Mako and Asami get back together for all of a few episodes. And the only thing more stupid than that was having Mako straight-up lie to Korra about getting back with Asami while Asami was standing right there.
Props to Asami for not stirring the pot when more important things were at stake, but she should know better than to take Mako back for a second time. And since Korra and Mako are officially done (We all heard them say it! No going back now), that means Mako and romance should be kaput. I'd rather watch him super-cop it around Republic City. He's actually kind of interesting that way, assuming people start listening to his correct hunches.
Plus, if any romance deserves attention it's Bolin and Eska. It's a relationship I actually buy into, and it's as funny as it is sweet. I'm no sailor but I'll ship them all day.
2. A second industrial revolution
Some might find this view controversial, but I think it's time someone figured out how firearms work. I understand that giving guns to non-benders makes it much easier for them to kill benders, but that's exactly what I want. The equalists had their electric gloves and beat-sticks to even out fights, and that did make for some beautiful fight scenes. Still, it doesn't make sense anymore for firearms to be absent in the world of Avatar. I mean, they have planes, remote detonated explosives, and fucking mecha now — you'd think someone would have come up with the idea for a rifle by now.
And I know that technology has developed on a different route due to bending being a superior/more versatile form of weaponry, but we've already seen technology swing over to closing the gap between benders and non-benders. It's time to see the dynamic shift again. It would also be smart for our characters to come up with some novel inventions to cope with the new presence of spirits in the human world. Obviously Future Industries is looking for a market to take over, and it would be nice to see some ingenuity that took into account humanity's new neighbors.
3. Don't bring back Korra's past lives
When Vaatu destroyed all of Korra's past lives, I was very happy. It wasn't that I disliked the Avatar's ability to commune with past lives — it's just that I'd seen it in The Last Airbender. I think it's a far more interesting decision to force Korra to build from the ground up, without 10,000 years of experience to draw on. It keeps the writers from using deus ex machina to get Korra out of tricky situations and it makes her figure things out on her own. This way she'll continue to grow wiser in the way we've been waiting for all along.
Besides, I think a lot of Korra's anxiety about making decisions comes from the fact that everyone is telling her to do different things. Without past lives to chip in their two cents, she can trust her gut and become confident enough to lead the new world she's created. That said, I wouldn't mind seeing Raava maintain a presence. It was weird enough that she was so quiet despite being there all along, and she can offer a modicum of guidance more appropriate for a post-past-life-having Avatar.
Also related: Korra better see the ramifications, both good and bad, of her decision to keep the bridge between the spirit and human worlds. Since that seems to be the focus of the whole season though, I'm not too worried about that.
4. Korra on a world tour
Republic City is an interesting place, but as The Last Airbender taught us, it's not the only city in the world. It made sense for Korra to stay put in the first season and the second season did a good job of expanding our view of the world's current state by showing off the Southern Water Tribe, but it's time to see the rest. Our characters talk about Ba Sing Se enough that we should be seeing how it's aged, and the changes brought on by the spirits is as good a reason as any to send Korra on a quick jaunt around the world to make sure things are running smoothly everywhere. Extra points if Ikki's flying bison family is the one to take Korra on her travels.
In addition, the fact that we haven't seen many other cities has raised some confusing questions. For example: do the other nations retain their sovereignty or are they beholden to the president of Republic City? The Northern Water Tribe had their own army which leads me to believe each city can make its own calls — but if that's the case why didn't Korra look elsewhere for military support when President Raiko shot her request down? It's a little, nagging problem, but there'd be an answer if we were shown where the other cities of the world play into global politics.
5. Change the art of bending again
The Legend of Korra did a great thing by "modernizing" the way people bend the elements, but I think a new change is called for. Modern societies have a rapid turnover when it comes to fads and trends, and I see no reason why bending wouldn't be affected. Perhaps some icon starts a movement for a departure from the boxing-bending of Korra's era and a return to the "vintage," traditional bending of Aang's era. I think it would be funny to see Bolin (who we've seen is susceptible to the whims of the masses) trying to practice rigid earthbending forms while fighting off his apparent ADD.
We could even see a super-minimalist bending movement that doesn't look a thing like martial arts. It may not become commonplace, but I'd love to see someone learn to bend without having to lift a finger. That kind of goes against the whole notion of bending, but it'd make for a dangerous enemy at the least.
6. Korra still isn't ready to be the Avatar
The moment Korra is ready to be the Avatar is the moment her time in the spotlight is over. It's just not that interesting to watch the journey of someone who has a perfect handle on their job. Despite the fact that Korra is making progress and angst gets old fast, we still need to see her make mistakes on a semi-regular basis. I'd love for her to be more decisive, but that doesn't mean her decisions have to be the right ones.
Also, Korra shouldn't go all giant-spirit-mode ever again during the series' run, because repeating that trick just cheapens it in retrospect. The Avatar State is enough as it is and has likely changed since she's lost her past lives. She needs to be stronger than almost everyone else when it comes to bending, but only by a thin margin most of the time. It's fine to have her dominate on occasion, but we still need to see her struggle.
7. A human villain with human motivations
Even though neither villain got as much development as they deserved (due to the writers not knowing if there would be a next season each year), Amon was more interesting than Unalaq and Vaatu. World-threatening crises can be captivating, but putting the entire world at stake is something you only get to do once in a series. The third book needs a villain who can threaten enough of the world to be worth Korra's time but not so much that it feels like we're watching the same thing as book two.
In a similar vein, a spirit antagonist like Vaatu isn't as interesting as either human villain. It's not that a spirit would inherently make a boring Big Bad, but "destroying the world" motivations are really clichéd. Amon wanted to start a revolution to stamp out bending because his father was a monster. Vaatu wanted to destroy the world because it's just his nature to do so. As long as the potential villain has actual motivations instead of desires for the sake of desires, we'll be ok. A human antagonist lends itself better to that kind of development.
8. No more humanity vs. spirits, please
Season one explored a really interesting question that had been roiling beneath the surface of The Last Airbender from almost the beginning: do non-benders resent benders? And considering they had to wrap the whole issue up in one book, the writers did a great job. But pitting benders against regular people seems uncomfortably close to another source of tension for the upcoming season — pitting humans against spirits.
There will be some adjustment that looks like the dissent Amon caused in the first season, but the entire season shouldn't be dedicated to some active dissident who is trying to eliminate all spirits. We saw how that worked out in the first season and I think we'd all rather have a new kind of conflict for Korra to resolve. Book three will, without a doubt, place humanity and spirits against each other at times, but as long as that struggle isn't the focal point everything will be fine.
9. Exploring the wide blue yonder
This might well be the season where the Avatar world opens up — if only because there is a whole second world to explore. We've been told that the spirit world is a dangerous place for regular people, but that's never stopped a headstrong explorer. In fact, Varrick would be the perfect person to lead a madcap expedition into the spirit world. He'd find some way to turn a profit.
Regardless of who goes, someone has to. Spirits will no doubt be colonizing the human world so humans should go colonize the spirit world. Not only is it a fair trade, but it'll be interesting to see how the spirits take to it. Since they get pretty uppity with how superior they, it'll be interesting to see how they react to the new neighbors.
10. A happy family with Tenzin, plus more Meelo
This is the season where Aang's whole family should finally find some harmony. I mean, it'll never be peaceful with Bumi around (which I think we like), but at least there's some mutual understanding among the group. Now that Tenzin is free from his father's shadow he might actually be less stressed all the time. Plus Korra won't keep dismissing him as an advisor anymore (I hope, since it's been done in both seasons and she regretted it both times). Book three is shaping up to be a story in which Tenzin can finally become the calm person an air nomad is supposed to be.
There is one pitfall this season for the family, though, and that's Jinora. We learned last season just how special she is, but Tenzin should realize from his own siblings that it's a mistake to play favorites. Ikki and Meelo are both very sensitive characters, and it would be a shame if Tenzin repeated his father's mistake by neglecting them. Plus both of them are hilarious and more time with them will never hurt. Especially Meelo. There needs to be 500 percent more Meelo.
11. This isn't your regular meerkat
This is basically a good opportunity for a gag, but beneath lies a valuable window into this new world Korra has created. Since many spirits appear indistinguishable from regular animals, I'm sure there will be moments where people confuse a spirit for a mundane animal only to get an earful about it afterward.
On a more serious side, this will be a good chance to show the change book three is supposed to be about. Humanity will have to adjust to living in a world where it's not immediately apparent whether the thing you're dealing with is spiritual or mundane. It's going to be confusing and it's going to cause problems, but seeing how people acclimate will be interesting.
12. Spirits should use automobiles
There are only a few timeless characteristics of the Avatar series, and one is that spirits look down on humans. From 10,000 years ago to the story's present time, humanity is seen as a nuisance that does little else but cause problems. The occasional person (Wan, Bumi, Iroh) will prove that some humans are worth befriending, but almost everyone else treated like those darn kids that won't get off the spirits' lawn. Now to be fair, humanity has been troublesome and selfish at times, but they're also far more ingenious than any spirit. And with that in mind, I want to see some spirits blown away by what humanity has created in their absence from the human world.
Sure, not everyone is going to love skyscrapers, but some spirits should. They should be awed by the radio and the automobile, and some spirits should even learn to use them. Basically, humanity needs to get a little respect for creating things no spirit could ever dream of making.
13. Make Lin competent again
This one is a shout to our homegirl Lin Beifong — because what the hell was up with her last season? For someone who is so sharp and powerful, she was reduced to nothing but a roadblock for Mako in his sleuthing escapades. And what's even sadder is that she believed those two mustachioed morons who look like they've never solved a case in their careers. I understood that Mako was "just a rookie" and that rookies are "always wrong" in their superiors' eyes, but my willing suspension of disbelief was stretched to its maximum.
In the coming season, I want Lin to have a level head about integrating spirits into the human world, and I don't want her to miss the obvious connections that Mako will shove in her face. She's the most powerful metalbender on the planet and a hero who deserves better writing than she got in the second season.