Exploding through her family's hut, brazenly wielding elements far beyond her age-level, wildly announcing that, yes, she IS the new avatar and the world better get used to it. Now here's an avatar so unlike Aang! One who depends solely on herself, resorts to brute force to solve her problems. Yes, creators! Give us skill, power, conceit, and spiritual neglect. Let it blow up in her face, forcing her to cope with the fact that confrontation can’t solve everything. Just as Aang learns too little power is detrimental to his avatar role, so too will Korra learn the same lesson about too much power.
This is the dynamic, juxtaposed character arc I expected avatar Korra to undergo during her series.
-cue wah wah waaaah and laughing sound clips-
At the beginning of the season, we have a brash, over-confident bully.
And what do we have at the end?
A brash, over-confident bully.
Korra lacks growth. Yes, things happen to her, and yes, she reacts to these things, but nothing changes. Not her opinion of herself, not her outlook, not her approach. She never acknowledges her shortcomings, which makes the series appear to condone them.
And it’s not only Korra. Lack of growth seems to be an ongoing theme--Mako shifts from a somber, responsibility-ridden provider to a robot droning "I love you" left and right, Bolin the humor-wielding peace-keeper to… wait, what's he been doing the second half of the season again? And Asami, who didn’t quite have a clear direction, delegated to a jealousy role. Stuff happens to the characters, a few kisses are exchanged, but nothing of great consequence is revealed about them throughout the 12 episodes.
"Meanwhile, I'll humor your suspicions instead of telling you to stfu and help find my possibly dead love interest."
And character is only half of a good story--the other is plot.
The Legend of Korra has great plot points.
Pacing absolutely destroys them.
This series is, to put it kindly, end-heavy. All the plot has been shoved into the last few episodes. Imagine the dynamics that would have naturally followed if say, the revelation of Tarrlok's blood connection to Amon was spread backwards into earlier episodes, or his motives behind protecting the city--enough conflict for a whole season, maybe even two. But the writers felt our time was better spent on pro-bending matches and love triangles.
"Hey Korra!! Let's go to the next plot point!"
12 episodes is not too short a time to tell a story--tons of series do it all the time, and quite well. Length doesn't make or break a story, decisions about how to command that length does. The Legend of Korra is fraught with poor pacing decisions--the biggest one being over-budgeting the amount of time dedicated to events of little consequence. In turn, the later events are rushed, thus cheapened. How Korra finally reaches the avatar state, I think, sums up this cheapening effect well: by feeling sorry for herself.
"It was absolutely horrible, only being able to bend one element?? You can’t even imagine!"
Overall The Legend of Korra is a story that falls quite flat considering the potential inner conflict within Korra, and the complex social issues that front her city's problems. Especially regretful is the lack of multiple perspectives on the struggle between benders and non-benders, the ignored driving force behind the entire plot. Instead, we are expected to side with Korra, her friends, and the benders on principle, which isn't enough in any form of storytelling.