Star Wars or Star Trek. Babylon 5 or Deep Space Nine. Farscape or Lexx. People love to compare and contrast their favorites in genre shows and discuss which is better. Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra is a slightly different matter though, being of the same continuity and allowing for more direct comparison.
Reasons to like either one over the other are perfectly valid, but a Netflix Twitter account has now clapped back at a comment declaring that Avatar should have continued at the expense of Korra ever existing.
— NX (@NXOnNetflix) May 19, 2020
Although it’s a pretty straightforward response, I’d side with Netflix on this.
The Last Airbender was the story of Aang learning the bending arts and his journey towards realizing his destiny of becoming the Avatar, which he most resolutely achieved by its end. Although a sprawling saga of travel and teaching, the series essentially boils down to a standard hero’s journey with familiar fantasy storytelling tropes.
The whole premise of the stagnation into which the world descended was the result of the megalomaniacal actions of the Fire Nation, and after Aang defeated Fire Lord Ozai and brought peace to the world, his mission was concluded. Yes, his life wasn’t over, obviously, but nothing he went on to do afterwards would have been as compelling as his path towards ascension.
The Legend of Korra builds on this, demonstrating its eponymous heroine to have already having attained a degree of mastery over all four elements before the series even begins, but after heading out into the world to become its defender, discovers it has moved on and has little need of her. Initially turning to bending sports, their being one of the few places her powers still have use, it requires the machinations of people still adhering to ways before the dawning of the industrial revolution for her to have any true relevance as a reincarnated planetary aegis wielding elemental forces.
Additionally, with Korra starting off several years older than Aang, her story deals with more complex issues such as race, gender and orientation, having as its protagonist a bisexual young woman of color, and most of its prominent characters being women.
This isn’t to say that Avatar: The Last Bender should be taken as inferior. On the contrary, it’s a magnificent piece of long-form storytelling that stands high above many adult genre shows. But to suggest that The Legend of Korra shouldn’t exist just so there could be more of it is at best short-sighted and fails to take into account all that the latter series achieved.