It’s surprising how many people are unable to cope with Korra’s severance from her past lives. “It wasn’t necessary.” “They didn’t have to do that.” Fun note: these are what “real stakes” are in a story. Yes, it’s traumatizing, yes, it’s horrible, yes, I would rather it not have happened, but you know what? It did.
Korra had to deal with a 10,000 year-old threat, a threat that came about because of the actions of the very first Avatar. This was an end-of-the-world situation; is it supposed to be brushed aside and forgotten? Is this going to be some minor footnote in the history books? Nope. This villain isn’t like Amon, who pops up, causes some damage, and gets put back down and everything goes back to normal. Everything’s different now; Korra said it herself: the world will never be the same.
This concept is nothing new to the series, either. The show broke Medieval Stasis by ushering Korra into a technological revolution. That was a bold move. And now they’ve made another bold move by bringing the worlds together and making it so that Korra can’t go back and have Aang help her, or even get Wan to help her. She is now the first New Avatar. She’s the Luke Skywalker: not the last of the Old Jedi, but the first of the New. That’s why this show is called The Legend of Korra.
Remember how Aang lost his entire race and they couldn’t bring the Air Nomads back? The same thing just happened here. It’s cruel, it’s horrifying, I’m still unable to look at gifsets of that scene, but you know what? It happened. And that’s the message here: damage has been done. Everything’s different, and you can’t go back to the way things were. But you can push on and adapt and adjust to the new world.
Furthermore, the inclusion of spirits means that we can no longer predict the technological direction of Korra’s world. They don’t have to jump to using computers in the next century. They can go wherever they want, and it will probably lead to a new direction. The world is no longer “real life with magical element-bending.” It’s completely different now. And Korra is completely different.
And when the 10,000 years are over, Vaatu may return, and maybe this time Raava will have to leave the Avatar and return to fighting him for the next 10,000 years. Maybe Avatar #100 will have to absorb Vaatu into himself and be a dual Avatar, wielding both light and dark. Perhaps Ragnarok will occur 5,000 years after Korra’s death, collapsing the Tree of Time and annihilating the entire universe. Who knows?
But Korra is forging her own legend now. And after the show that she put on, well, you know what? I’m ready. Bring it on. Aang can enter a nice, quiet retirement now…it’s time for Korra and her new generation to take over.