- Mako’s Sacrifice
Mako had seen some ups and downs throughout the series. He was on again, off again with Korra and Asami, an egotistic pro-bender, an up and coming rookie cop, and just trying to do the honorable thing. As the series drew to a close, people were thinking about who would wind up with who. However, there was a moment when the audience believed Mako wouldn’t get that happy ending. In an act of selflessness, Mako decides to stop Kuvira’s mech for good by bending lightning into its Spirit Vine core. Bolin thinks it’s suicide, but Mako is determined it’s what needs to happen before more lives are lost. The brothers share what we thought would be their last “I love you” as Mako begins to create a surge of lightning. Mako bends his lightning into the mech’s core and everything starts to go haywire. The setup, the colors, the animation, the direness of it all, and, my gosh that amazing music, made us truly believe that Mako wasn’t going to make it. Little by little, Mako’s strength began to ebb as the determination needed to keep the lightning going, while also redirecting an onslaught of electric currents, makes me well up. I think it would have been so much more powerful and impactful had Mako not made it. He never would have said goodbye to Korra nor Asami, nor the rest of the characters in the show. However, Mako survived. Still, his preparedness to let go of everything is still a huge rush of emotions.
- Jinora Gets Her Airbender Tattoos
As I stated earlier, the end of Book Three was really rough on Korra, what with being poisoned by Zaheer and all. Yet, there were still some happy tears to be shed. Jinora proved herself to be masterful in the art of airbending, even long before the finale of Book Three. At the end of Book Two, she was able to cross into the Spirit World, something her father Tenzin could not accomplish. Jinora could even project her spirit back into the physical world, and that’s how she helped the new Air Nation survive their encounter with the Red Lotus. If that’s not indicative of an airbending master, then it should be. Jinora would even coyly ask Tenzin about when and if she could get her tattoos. Tenzin, being the loving father, held off on that rite of passage if only to savor a few more moments with his firstborn child. However, even Tenzin couldn’t deny how much Jinora had grown as an airbender. Prior to Jinora’s ceremony, Korra looked visibly tired and hurt after her battle with Zaheer. Tenzin made a heartfelt speech about the Air Nation’s future, along with a promise to honor Korra and Aang’s legacy. Jinora was then unhooded, revealing her shaved head and tattoos. What makes this so powerful is that the Air Nation is truly back after over a hundred years since the airbenders fell victims to Fire Lord Sozin’s genocidal purge. Plus the fact that Jinora is the spitting image of her grandfather Aang just tugs at your heart.
- Korra Alone
Korra spent a considerable amount of time in Book Four recovering from the harrowing events with the Red Lotus. She was left wheelchair bound for quite some time. She resigned herself back to her home in the Southern Water Tribe and began the start of a long journey to recovery. During a healing session with Katara, Korra let loose her anger over her paltry recovering process. At the time she had dealt with three consecutive threats that disturbed the balance of the world, each time gaining victory after a great struggle. That takes its toll after some time, and we believed it when we heard the exhaustion in Korra’s voice when she told Katara, “I’m so tired.” Couple that with the fact that she was removed from her friends for so long, and hearing of their successes amid her failures didn’t help ease her mind. Korra would gain small, albeit significant victories, like being able to walk again, but she was never at her peak with her bending. At this time in the show, even her connection to the other Avatars was lost. Although she never told herself this, every time I watch Korra’s journey in Book Four (especially in “Korra Alone”) I like to think that she’s taking Aang’s counsel. She hit her lowest point, which means she’s open to the greatest change. Korra begins a solo journey around the world to restore not only her bending, but her state of mind. Admitting defeat and moving on is so hard to do, but seeing Korra come full circle this season was one of the best arcs I had seen on the show.
- Avatar Wan’s Death
Avatar Wan’s story was told in only two episodes. It’s truly remarkable that a character who appears only a few times leaves such a lasting impact deserving of a spot so high on the list. Avatar Wan was the first Avatar in existence. The spirits of light and darkness, Raava and Vaatu are caught in an eternal struggle for balance. Wan comes across these two spirits and breaks up their fight. In doing so, he broke the balance between light and dark and gave Vaatu an advantage. Wan, along with Raava, and feeling terribly guilty, traveled the world and obtained the power of the other elements from several Lion Turtles. Wan and a weakened Raava met Vaatu at the time of Harmonic Convergence, when all the planets align and the plane of existence between the Spirit and physical worlds are most permeable. Wan bonded his spirit with Raava, and the first Avatar came into being. With his mastery of the elements, Avatar Wan imprisoned Vaatu for ten thousand years, until the next Harmonic Convergence. Just because darkness was defeated that day, it did not mean that evil would be stamped out completely. Wan would spend the remainder of his life trying to rectify his mistake and bring peace to the world. On a vast battlefield, with numerous dead around him, an old and battered Wan collapsed from exhaustion. The Avatar’s last words are some of the saddest in the entire series, but still brings honor to what the Avatar represents. With death upon him, rather than be satisfied with what he was able to accomplish in his time, Avatar Wan lamented that he didn’t do enough and apologized profusely to Raava for failing to bring peace to the world. Raava, ageless and eternal, tells a dying Wan, “Don’t worry. We will be together for all of your lifetimes, and we will never give up.” Avatar Wan takes his last breath, and as his spirit yields, the sound of a crying baby is heard, signaling the birth of the next Avatar.
- Noatak and Tarrlok Reunited
Amon is single handedly my favorite villain in the entirety of The Legend of Korra. He kept his cool throughout the season, and there was always this air of mystery about him, especially in terms of his origins. It turns out he is the older brother of Councilman Tarrlok, a politician on the rise in Republic City with some shady motives. Amon, through the use of highly skilled bloodbending, subdued Tarrlok and disabled his waterbending. Later on, Tarrlok told Korra the sad truth about he and his brother. Before he called himself Amon, Noatak and his brother Tarrlok were the sons of a crime boss named Yakone. Yakone had his ability to bloodbend and waterbend removed by Avatar Aang many years ago, and he swore to take vengeance on the Avatar one day. After altering his appearance via surgery, Yakone relocated to the Northern Water Tribe where he married, and had two sons, with a woman there.
Tarrlok described his early childhood with Noatak as a very happy one, but one day things changed. While out on a hunting trip, the boys’ father revealed his true identity and his failure at the hands of the Avatar. He would then instruct them in the taboo art of bloodbending, so that they would become his disciples and carry out his vengeance on the Avatar for him. With every full moon, Yakone, Tarrlok, and Noatak would feign a hunting trip and practiced bloodbending in secret. They got so prolific with the form, that one day they could achieve the act without the use of a full moon. It didn’t come easy to Tarrlok as he felt terrible practicing the skill. Noatak would come to his young brother’s aid by deflecting Yakone’s anger at Tarrlok to himself. As the years passed, Tarrlok described the loving brother he once knew became cold and detached. One day Yakone forced the brothers to bloodbend each other. Noatak did so unimpeded, but when Tarrlok’s turn came to bloodbend Noatak, he refused with tears in his eyes. Yakone’s temper came to a boil, and before he could lash out at Tarrlok, Noatak bloodbended Yakone and berated him for thinking them as weak, when in fact he was the weak one. At that point he decided to forfeit his life to begin anew. He offered Tarrlok to come with him, but he couldn’t. Noatak accepted his brother was in fact weak after all and abandoned him and Yakone seemingly for good. One day Noatak changed his name to Amon and set out on his own personal mission to overthrow all benders as well as the Avatar.
Years later, when Korra exposes Amon as a fraud (the Spirits never endowed him with the ability to remove bending) his entire following falls apart, as well as any public approval he managed to garner. Before Korra can truly defeat Amon, he manages to escape and returns to where he kept Tarrlok imprisoned. With nothing left to lose, the two brothers departed from Republic City by boat, having forgiven each other. Tarrlok was already convinced that the brothers’ story is a sad one that needed to end, before anyone else gets hurt. As the brothers sail into the open sea, Amon rejoices in the newfound hope that the brothers’ reunion means a fresh new start. Tarrlok says Amon’s true name of Noatak, and Noatak gets teary eyed remembering the sound of his own name. Honestly believing their best is yet to come, Noatak does not see when Tarrlok sabotages their sailboat, blowing it up, instantly killing them both, and bringing their long, painful, and sad story to a bitter end.
Goodness, does that last one always make me so, so sad. The Legend of Korra went pretty dark with that ending. I surmise it’s because The Legend of Korra was originally planned to be one season, and they wanted to go out on top. Yet, it was picked up for another three years to tell even more fascinating and, yes, heart wrenching stories. When The Legend of Korra tackles emotional issues with its characters, I think they did it just right. While there may be several more sequences that bring a tear to the eye that aren’t on this list, these were the moments in the show that really resonated with me. Thanks again for taking the time to read this article. If you haven’t already read my Top 10 Avatar Ugly Crying Moments, you’ll definitely want to check that out as well. Keep it here with Mammoth Gamers for even more opinionated pieces!