Ranking Every Episode of The Legend of Korra
Chapters 52 to 26
Like every other series, there is a point where the credits must roll one last time. In 2014, the tales of the waterbending Avatar to succeed Aang closed out on four great seasons with one action-packed finale. After ranking every individual book of The Legend of Korra, it is finally time to see how all the episodes stacked up when placed against one another. Until we are able to send word that the Avatar has returned again for another series from Nickelodeon’s latest Avatar Studios, this is currently our final episode ranking for the world of the four nations. Without further ado, it’s time we “do the thing” and rank twenty-seven chapters of The Legend of Korra before heading into the top twenty-five…
Poor poor “Remembrances”. The history behind this chapter is just as depressing as its miserable execution. While it is indeed not terrible by television standards, this is a chapter that struggled through development as it had to replace a Kuvira origins episode as funding from the studio was cut. In a last-minute effort by the showrunners to ensure that no one working on the series was laid off for the final season, the writers got to work on a clip show to keep the budget intact that turned out slightly better than what you would have expected after hearing about the episode’s origins. It is certainly nothing like the fan-favorite penultimate play to Avatar: The Last Airbender’s final story arc but, for the longtime fans of Korra, it does serve as an interesting recap for the show. At least the Varrick and Bolin section is humorous with a notable villain reunion. Ever notice how Unalaq had three hands?
“Peacekeepers” is a chapter that is completely stuck in a void as it divides our cast and creates multiple separating plot lines. While it is definitely coherent and never falls into incomprehensible territories, it makes debatable decisions that seem to make sense on the surface but perhaps not when considering a long-term purpose. After arriving back in Republic City, Team Avatar sets off to fill their agendas which ultimately leads to everyone parting ways for the vast majority of Book 2: Spirits. By the end of the season, Korra and Bolin’s stories seem to be the only ones that fall in line with the main plot, while Mako and Asami are practically sidelined. Korra is a “headfirst into action” kind of hero, but getting the military involved in her Avatar duties for the sake of her homeland? Bolin intertwining himself with propaganda filmmaking is the only concrete story here that no one seems to argue over.
50. The Spirit of Competition
Even though it ranks dead last for Book 1: Air, “The Spirit of Competition” is by no means a bad chapter of The Legend of Korra. In fact, it is a rather entertaining way of exploring the dynamics between our three main cast members. The problem with this episode is its lack of priority when it comes to pushing the overarching narrative forward. Sure the kiss between Korra and Mako is a key moment in how our heroes’ relationships would spiral afterward, but it is hard to not think about how Amon’s plan, Korra’s Airbending teachings, or Tarrlok’s task force is never featured throughout this episode. The Probending arena does play a critical role in Amon’s scheme during the next episode, yet that only makes this chapter feel more like a time sink used to set up exciting set-pieces than an actual string of critical events.
49. The Southern Lights
“The Southern lights” is one of the very few episodes of The Legend of Korra that is building towards a critical event never truly referred to until the end of the season when its real importance finally sprouts. This chapter is one giant adventure to the icy tundra that seems to have weight on the surface from perhaps a character standpoint for both Unalaq and Tonraq, but Korra’s actions in opening the Southern spirit portal by the end never show any real consequences. Why is stopping this spirit-made storm important? What are the effects of opening this seemingly dangerous location? On its own “The Southern Lights” is an episode that predates a successful payoff, which is a shame because it builds upon a strong batch of fascinating ideas. After “Rebel Spirits”, you would have expected there to be a larger explanation to everything going on.
48. The Sting
Mako and Asami finally get some key moments in an episode that feels as if Avatar masqueraded itself with a shady mafia-style approach. Does it work? Not entirely. “The Sting” is focused on exploring our heroes’ dilemmas as they investigate a massive conspiracy surrounding the bombings of a Southern Water Tribe building all while Future Industries continues to fall apart. “The Sting” oddly leaves audiences with a stronger buildup for Varrick than the rest of the cast though. The chapter’s core mystery is intriguing, but outside of the mangled love triangle between Korra, Asami, and Mako the episode does not exactly add much to the narrative. Of course, Varrick is behind the bombings, but we never get to see his side of the story. Its final scene of Korra being washed up on a beach is by far the highlight of the episode as it opens the door to the “Beginnings” story arc.
47. Civil Wars Part 1
“Civil Wars Part 1” is what arguably should have captured the premise for Book 2: Spirits. Avatar fans were always aware of the divide between the Northern and Southern Water Tribes, but this particular story arc allowed the differentiating concepts of the two forces to breathe — although not as well as “Rebel Spirits” perhaps did. It is a great foundation for a potential rebellion that never fully gets to occur. While the episode’s main problem is not necessarily its fault, it is a shame how it could have been better utilized in future chapters. If there is one thing to love about the first half of this story arc though it has to be Tenzin’s family vacation. Between Bumi Kya, and the airbending kids there is a lot to love about the sub-plot more so than the main story at times.
46. A Leaf in the Wind
“A leaf in the Wind” takes its time to help get the plot moving to where it needs to be. After getting frustrated with her airbending training Korra storms off to a local Probending Arena, however, Tenzin believes she should not be wasting her time with the sport. This inevitably causes Korra to do what every other teenager does when told not to do something. Chapter two introduces audiences to the bending brothers Mako and Bolin who would become Korra’s closest allies for the rest of the season, while also attempting to show viewers how Korra learns best. It is successful by the end, yet “A Leaf in the Wind” can come off as a slow race to the finish oppositely fueled by high-speed sports. The episode certainly makes viewers be the leaf.
45. Civil Wars Part 2
“Civil Wars Part 2” is all about the divide and connection of family relationships. While Korra faces the possibility of drastically making the relationship both she and her parents share with her uncle Unalaq worse, Tenzin attempts to reunite his children after their previous petty argument that sent Ikki running away. Tenzin certainly has a well-written step that pushes his relationship with both his children and siblings forward by telling us how Aang treated his children while Korra on the other hand makes some debatable decisions you can not help but ponder over. The end of the episode has a strong execution as Korra and her father Tonraq are forced to separate, yet leaving the South to seek help at Republic City through military tactics never seemed like an Avatar’s solution.
“Reunion” is one of those gatherings that feels rather incomplete — because it actually is and the subplot of the episode really rubs that in. Korra, Asami, and Mako all finally get to share some screen time together during the final season while Bolin is busy with Varrick making a daring escape to Republic City. Without the earthbending mover action-star, “Reunion” feels like less a gathering and more like an action-packed hang-out. The addition of Prince Wu will also make audiences miss Bolin even more as he plays a stand-in role for the jokester. While the Earth Kingdom’s latest dictator is not a bad character by any means, his placement feels not physically unwanted — well maybe for the characters — but emotionally by fans. Separating the cast was always one of The Legend of Korra’s biggest issues, but at least Book 4: Balance had solid reasoning behind its decisions.
43. The Earth Queen
For so long, everyone knew The Legend of Korra was going to have to eventually cross into the largest nation in the Avatar universe. “The Earth Queen” delivers on that front, however, its predecessor kills the mystery of the throne that ultimately could have been quite exciting had audiences not already seen it before. Seeing the outcome of Ba Sing Se after all these years and learning about the royal perspective of Republic City shed new light on this universe’s already complicated politics. Additionally, getting to finally witness the Fire Ferret brothers’ family helps greatly develop their backstories, yet “The Earth Queen” never truly draws a direct focus on these two aspects. Getting to see Ba Sing Se again brings an eerie yet comforting feeling for any Avatar fan, but knowing the ins and outs of the Earth Kingdom’s greatest empire ruins a lot of the surprise this chapter could potentially hold. “The Earth Queen” is a great episode simply held back by its predecessor — for better or worse.
42. Rebel Spirit
“Rebel Spirits” makes a triumphant return to the home of the Southern Water Tribe after previously only being featured in the first and last episodes of The Legend of Korra Book 1: Air. The Southern Water Tribe has always been a rather curious location, especially after The Last Airbender comic books showed us that Sokka and Katara’s homeland had been evolving. Rebel Spirits is an interesting opening that heavily indulges in both mysteries and politics — more so the latter and with all the right reason. By setting up the dramatic differences between the Northern and Southern Water Tribes, the opening chapter of Book 2: Spirits is able to set the groundwork for the premise of a Civil War that is strangely not used to its maximum potential.
41. The Coronation
“The Coronation” is a slow-paced episode critical to Book 4: Balance’s character building. This chapter dives right into the season’s political side as Prince Wu’s upcoming coronation leads to a divide between families and officials shrouding the soon-to-be king. The great uniter Kuvira steps into the fray to provide the second greatest ideological driven scheme in The Legend of Korra as the dictator wishes to abolish the crumbling Earth Kingdom’s regime by creating her own seemingly peaceful but of course tyrannical empire. The greatest divide the writers used to influence each leaders’ position is Mako and Bolin. While audiences will likely rush to defend Kuvira after seeing how the entitled rising king treats those around him, Mako does put up a fair fight against Bolin’s side.
“Rebirth” establishes ground for Book 3: Change while coming in with some notable first appearances for The Legend of Korra. It importantly takes its time to slowly introduce Tenzin’s struggle with rebuilding the legacy of the air nation as those with their newfound abilities gained after Harmonic Convergence continuously deny his promising future. The introduction of Kai is a substantial reflection of the harsh reality that rebuilding this fallen society was going to require patience, discipline, and evolution. This chapter also contained the unforgettable reveal of an old Fire Lord Zuko on the hunt for Zaheer and his gang of escaped criminals. While the banished prince and his newfound dragon may be the most memorable aspect of the chapter, like the rest of its runtime, there are definitely more notable appearances ahead to discuss.
39. After All These Years
Three years is a massive time jump by Korra standards and “After All These Years” resonates with that sentiment. Republic City is now learning to co-exists with the spirits, a new Earth King is being inducted to the throne, the Avatar is far from home, and so much more information is jam-packed into this short opening season episode. The formal introduction of Kuvira steals the show as audiences get to see her overwhelming combat skills without even having to actually make physical contact with an opponent. Opal and Kai’s focus on stopping robberies in the State of Yi while the new Earth Kingdom leader begins to take the land with a manipulative iron grip is definitely the chapter’s most fascinating arc. Everyone is placed into their final overarching story positions during The Legend of Korra’s fourth and final book premiere.
38. Enemy at The Gates
Paired with “The Battle of Zaofu”, “Enemy at the Gates” should be considered a great episode for creating a dramatic climax for the epic fight between Korra and Kuvira. On its own, however, it can fall a bit short as it makes itself another episode with a lot of exposition and politics. While this is certainly not necessarily a negative critique, it ultimately creates a chapter that has little excitement yet a lot of interesting ideas to unfold in the future. “Enemy at the Gates” remains intriguing during its full runtime as the show explores the rising tensions between Kuvira’s new united empire and the Beifong family’s home of metalbenders. On its own, it suffers from a lack of payoff despite containing tense decision-making and clever devil’s advocate yet it stands as a notable entry on the list for its daring ideas. “Enemy at the Gates” is a necessary episode that has to take a few falls for the longevity of Book 4: Balance.
37. The Guide
“The Guide” finally brings Tenzin and the airbenders back to the spotlight for The Legend of Korra’s second season as the Avatar desperately needs to find a way into the spirit world. While on Korra’s search, the audience gets to see how Jinora has developed a connection to the spirits, unlike her father. Despite considering himself as a spiritual leader, Tenzin easily steals the spotlight during “The Guide” as audiences get to discover more of his flaws rather than how he can be an even greater source of wisdom. What this chapter only misses out on is creating a better relationship between both Unalaq and Vaatu. While it may be considered the sub-plot of the chapter, Mako and Asami do get some needed relationship moments here and Bolin always strikes nicely in with a comedic jab that helps divide the pacing for the journey.
36. Welcome to Republic City
“Welcome to Republic City” is a great introduction to The Legend of Korra, albeit one with a lot of information and changes for longtime fans to take in during one sitting. It is not always able to capture the magic that Avatar: The Last Airbender’s premiere episode had, yet this first outing remains captivating with its impressive visuals and engaging setup that constantly makes viewers question a world they thought they once knew inside and out. The first episode of The Legend of Korra was bound to face consequences for merely being a first impression follow-up to Avatar: The Last Airbender, yet it still manages to get itself started on an optimistic note that kept fans glued in on its characters. Seeing Korra take Naga out to the open white horizon of the South Pole while hearing Jeremy Zuckerman’s incredible score “Fresh Air” will always stand as one of my personal favorite moments from the entire show.
35. A Voice in The Night
“A Voice in the Night” is constantly throwing ideas at the audience while it strives to push our protagonist and antagonist forward. Asami and Hiroshi Sato are well-established during their debut and receive plenty of time to shine, however, the focus of this chapter falls completely on our main hero and villain. Korra’s forced involvement with Tarrlok’s task force was a smart play on getting the character to immediately meet Republic City’s greatest threat. Korra’s acceptance that she must eventually face her fears and fight Amon contains an unsurprising outcome though a thrilling one to watch. Amon’s choice to not revoke the Avatar of her bending was a controversial move the Equalist leader needed to make so his worst enemy would not be viewed as a martyr.
34. Kuvira’s Gambit
It was only a matter of time before Kuvira would make one swift calculated strike directly at the only piece of land cut off from the rest of the Earth Kingdom’s territories. “Kuvira’s Gambit” is the beginning of the end as Book 4: Balance embraced its final action-packed story arc by introducing a giant mecha suit made of platinum with the previous spirit beam threat strapped on to the right arm. Perhaps it is indeed a bit over the top, exaggerated, and at times a bit uneasy on the eyes, but the giant is still able to provide an engrossing scenario for our heroes’ final destination. The episode barely puts a focus on Kuvira’s latest piece of tech as Team Avatar attempts to kidnap Baatar Jr. in hopes of getting the dictator to leave on peaceful terms, but it does thankfully get utilized properly in the following two episodes. While on the topic of the mecha suit, there is probably not a single sound effect in The Legend of Korra that is as satisfying as the spirit beam cannon.
33. Original Airbenders
On its own, “Original Airbenders” is quite a good episode of The Legend of Korra, but looking back on its placement in Book 3: Change leaves it in a bit of an odd spot. Showing the progress Aang and Tenzin had made to reestablish the air nomad culture was something fans longed to see, but similar to season one’s “The Spirit of Competition”, this chapter is slapped right in the middle of the main story as its beginning to hit its key moment when things are really picking up speed. Tenzin, Bumi, Jinora, Kai, and every new airbender all have heartfelt moments during “Original Airbenders” that play a substantial role in developing their characters — or rather culture, but how could you not want to see what was going to happen next between Team Avatar and the Red Lotus? We can all agree at the very least again that the baby air bison are absolutely adorable.
32. Light in The Dark
When it comes to Avatar standards, “Light in The Dark” certainly falls a bit short on being an exciting finale. From a spiritual and ideological perspective, this chapter contains plenty of great scenes and callbacks that brings the Avatar’s journey full circle as Korra finds herself in a familiar spiritual area Aang once encountered when opening his final chakra. The inevitable final battle between Korra’s spirit projection and UnaVaatu plays out like a giant monster fight. Compared to something like the battle between Aang and Ozai or Korra and Zaheer- heck even Amon for that matter- its not all that exciting. It would be a crime to not mention the soundtrack piece “Jinora’s Light” which is by far one of the most notable aspects of the entire chapter. Seriously, what a phenomenal score from Zuckerman.
31. A Breath of Fresh Air
“A Breath of Fresh Air” was a rather welcoming premiere chapter to a season after fans became arguably divided from Book 2’s divisive finale. It promised audiences with an adventure to the corners of the Avatar universe and it undoubtedly delivered. This episode immediately puts everyone in a reasonable overarching spot as it attempts to give each member of the cast a definitive long-term role. It wisely chooses to reunite the cast for the first half of the season rather than allowing everyone to part ways so they can chase their own agendas like the prior season. Zaheer’s first appearance in the series is the cherry on top to “A Breath of Fresh Air” as Book 3: Villains flies off on a phenomenal note. Revealing that one of the newest airbenders would be a villain was contradicting idea loved by audiences as those with the ability had always been depicted as users of power who oppose the usage of violence.
30. The Revelation
The big takeaway viewers had from “The Revelation” was the same question: how the heck could Amon take a man’s bending away? This episode once again presents the idea of unique ability users roaming the world of the four nations, but in comparison to its predecessor that made you simply accept the reality the characters lived in, The Legend of Korra opts to present itself in a more mysterious manner — mostly due to the fact that the characters themselves question Amon’s abilities. It is a high-stakes chapter that smartly grabs both characters and viewers to become more invested in the antagonist by constantly presenting itself as an action-packed investigation into the unbelievable. And yes, Pabu’s tricks do deserve a special mention.
29. The Aftermath
“The Aftermath” is an episode that sacrifices slowly building up the Sato family so it may create an overall stronger climax for both the individual chapter and season one as a whole. This episode presents a shocking twist as it opens the door to the true intentions of Future Industries and Hiroshi Sato’s past. Rather than having Asami’s father act like a Deus ex machina for some of the season’s problems, it aims to unravel them in a more intriguing way by having the inventor be a dedicated part of the Equalists movement. Not only does this help build upon a new minor villain viewers were slowly getting attached too, but it also allows the show to explore a different side of Asami Sato and even Korra’s relationship with the rest of Team Avatar for that matter.
28. Turning The Tides
“Turning the Tides” is an action-heavy episode with a well-earned payoff for one of the series most important characters. It continually aims to ramp up the stakes being presented while also attempting to push some of its main cast into uncharted waters. Some of the mecha-tanks can look a little odd at times when being paired with the traditional two-dimensional animation, yet it never falls in line with being distracting or unbearable- just not as pleasant as one would hope. Lin Beifong’s sacrifice for Tenzin and the last remaining airbenders is the chapter’s standout moment. Everything about “Turning the Tides” is emotional up until the credits. The final scene of United Forces General Iroh was a welcoming surprise for all viewers as the grandson of Firelord Zuko finally made his debut voiced by none other than the prince’s original voice actor Dante Basco.
27. Old Wounds
“Old Wounds” finally dives into arguably one of the most important moments in the Beifong family’s history: the point in which Suyin, Lin, and Toph all became divided for years to come. While it does take on a rather slow pacing, the episode is jam-packed with needed character moments for the members of the Beifong family. Previously, audiences received only hints about Lin’s past as she shrugged off her mother’s grand adventures with the Avatar, but here we get answers as to why. “Old Wounds” stabs a bit into Korra’s endeavors as a teacher as she becomes the first Avatar to learn metal bending while Bolin sits back and fears the consequences of failing his biggest dream. It may not be the deepest chapter of Book 3 by any means, but character-wise it brings in a lot to love about our rising cast — including Zaheer and his legendary plan as the organization leader makes some rather risky yet mysterious moves.
26. In Harm’s Way
As if this episode did not contain enough earthshattering action to talk about, it would be a disservice to not mention the thrilling short fight sequence “In Harm’s Way” simply opens with. Lord Zuko, Chief Tonraq, Prince Desna, and Princess Eska versus the rekindled Red Lotus terrorist cell brilliantly creates a threatening background for our villains as they are able to go as far as taking out the Fire Lord’s dragon in one shot. While on the topic of threatening, this chapter brings back everyone’s favorite suspicious Earth Kingdom agents, the Dai Li, and features plenty of references to Book 2: Earth of Avatar: The Last Airbender — including even a nice throwback to Lako Laogai. From Kai’s redemption to the airbender prison break, this episode balances a solid amount of emotion and combat to keep the stakes high and the story entertaining.