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The Best Episodes Of The Legend Of Korra Ranked

"The Legend of Korra" is a fantastic show. It builds off the foundation of "Avatar: The Last Airbender" in smart and exciting ways, delivering a series that's a bit darker and more mature. Unfortunately, due to Nickelodeon ordering the show in pieces and removing it from television during its final run (per Vox), "Korra" also feels a bit messier and more uneven than its predecessor. Because of these external production hiccups, "Korra" is more seasonal in its larger story arcs. Each "Book" of the show features a different primary antagonist who is defeated by the finale. Fortunately, this structure works to the show's benefit in a number of ways. 

The big-picture narrative of "Korra" becomes more about the state of the world as a whole than any one particular conflict. Decades have passed since the end of the Hundred Year War, but all four nations are still reeling from the global trauma the Fire Nation caused. Throughout the show's four seasons, Team Avatar works to establish balance in a number of ways, leading to complex plotlines pertaining to spirituality, industrialization, classism, political systems, and mental health. Through it all, "The Legend of Korra" achieves some spectacular emotional highs and delivers gorgeously animated action set-pieces that arguably outshine those in "Avatar" more often than not. Those standout moments are a big reason why the series has received so much critical acclaim, as seen in its Rotten Tomatoes score. Here are the best episodes of "The Legend of Korra," ranked.

14. Darkness Falls

Just squeezing its way onto this list is the penultimate episode of "The Legend of Korra" Season 2, "Darkness Falls." It's an episode that may be best remembered for its devastating ending, which saw Unalaq and Vaatu rip Raava straight out of Korra's body and brutally beat her into oblivion while the Avatar looked on helplessly. Cutting her off from all of her past lives was a bold narrative move to say the least, and its impact is felt in the darker tone taken by the show's successive seasons, via The Wall Street Journal.

It's precisely because "Darkness Falls" is so gut-wrenching that it's so great. For a fan who has followed Aang's journey through all three seasons of "Avatar," watching Korra lose her connection to her past lives is incredibly hard to watch. But that's the goal — to make the viewer really experience the loss Korra feels in that moment. There's other elements to like here, too. The battle between Korra and Vaatu is breathtaking, Tenzin gets a really beautiful arc about stepping out of his father's shadow, Admiral Zhao shows up in a truly surprising cameo (for all of three lines though, according to Vulture), there's a little bit of sage Iroh wisdom, and Eska does her best to inject some comedy into an otherwise grim episode. "Book 2: Spirits" actually ends with the giant-spirit, deus ex machina extravaganza that is "Light in the Dark," but "Darkness Falls" is the season's real emotional peak (or pit, depending on how you look at it).

13. Turning the Tides

Speaking of emotionally devastating endings, "Korra" Season 1's "Turning the Tides" is another rough watch in its final minutes. After spending most of the season hiding in the shadows and making concentrated attacks only when he knows the eyes of the city will be on him, Amon finally brings the full military might of the Equalists to bear on Republic City. From the start, "Turning the Tides" sets a tense and anxious pace for itself, revels this Multiversity Comics review. The audience basically knows what's going to happen once the Equalist coup begins, and the sense of desperation grows steadily, up until the heartrending final scene of Amon taking away Lin Beifong's earthbending.

Of course, that ending is far from the only highlight here. "Turning the Tides" also features some of the best action in the entire first season, including an exciting showdown between Tenzin and Team Avatar and a squad of Equalist mecha tanks. It's great anytime Tenzin gets to fight at full strength in "The Legend of Korra," and this is the first time we really get to see what he's got. Ultimately though, Lin is the one who steals the show — not only with her noble sacrifice, but also with the scene that precedes it, in which she launches herself off of Oogi and takes down an entire Equalist airship single-handedly. Though the impact of Lin's sacrifice is undercut a bit by the way Season 1 ends, "Turning the Tides" is still one of the show's best episodes.

12. Operation Beifong

By the end of "The Legend of Korra," roughly half the characters are Beifongs, so it only makes sense to bring them all together. "Operation Beifong" is every bit as fun as it sounds, and it also delivers some great character moments between Lin, Toph, and Suyin in particular. There are a lot of individual highlights in this episode. Old lady Toph gets to dunk on Bolin and be her snarky self around her whole family. She even gets to save the day at the end with a classic earthquake move. Lin's father is revealed, there are some great sister team-up moments with Lin and Su, and Opal gets to show off her airbending while fighting alongside her siblings. Even Zhu Li gets a great moment of standing up to Kuvira and telling her exactly what everyone's been thinking the whole time.

The best moment in "Operation Beifong," however, comes near the end, when Suyin and Kuvira face off in a little one-on-one metalbending combat, seen in this clip from the show. Their fight lasts for less than a minute, but it's somehow still one of the most exciting and stylish action sequences in the entire show. If you don't finish this article and immediately go watch the whole episode, at least watch the battle between Kuvira and Su.

11. And the Winner Is...

The first half of "The Legend of Korra" Season 1 is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of plotlines. There's the growing Equalist threat, Korra's training with Tenzin, the Fire Ferrets' pro-bending aspirations, and the other various side characters scattered around Republic City. This combination helps balance the lighter story arcs with the more serious, big-picture ones, but they still feel a bit unconnected at times. That is, until "And the Winner Is...". This is where all the different story strands that are laid out in the early episodes come crashing together.

Amon's attack on the pro-bending arena is built up to gradually, to the point that the audience is pretty prepared by the time it happens. And yet, when it finally does, it still feels incredibly impactful. That's largely because the episode's climactic fight scene, where Korra and Lin battle Equalists on the roof of the arena, is stunning and easily one of the best in the whole show. Amon taking away Tahno's bending (a fun cameo by Rami Malek before he became a Hollywood superstar, via Entertainment Weekly) is also a great moment. Obviously, the Equalists are taking things too far, but seeing Amon punish a bender who's used his abilities so flippantly and abusively kind of feels good. "And the Winner Is..." kicks "The Legend of Korra" into high gear for the first time, and Season 1 doesn't slow down one bit from here on out.

10. The Terror Within

The first episode to make the top 10 delivers both top-tier action and a fun mystery plotline. "The Terror Within" sits squarely in the middle of Season 3, and like "And the Winner Is..." in Season 1, it's the point where the different plotlines are finally brought together. Korra's known about Zaheer and the other Red Lotus members for a while at this point, but she hasn't actually encountered them, and their first confrontation does not disappoint. The action sequence that kicks off "The Terror Within" is unlike any other. The Red Lotus kidnaps Korra out of her bed in Zaofu and drugs her, but they're quickly spotted by Pabu, and the whole city is alerted. With the rest of Team Avatar, Lin, Su, and the city's guards all converging on them, the villains form a makeshift bunker with their combined bending abilities and settle in for a war of attrition.

The whole scene is shot like a battle in a war movie, with Mako and Bolin popping out from behind cover to fire attacks, and the whole thing ends with a spectacular team-up between the Beifong sisters. All of Season 3's Zaofu episodes are great, but "The Terror Within" really explores the unique (and at times dangerous) nature of the city in interesting ways. To top it all off, this is one of Bolin's funniest episodes, full stop ("Oh look, it's like a desert on a jar").

9. Long Live the Queen

Getting into the top 10 means getting deep into "The Legend of Korra" Season 3 because there are a lot of fantastic moments in the Red Lotus arc. One that will immediately spring to mind for people who've seen the show is Zaheer's brutal assassination of the Earth Queen — easily one of the show's darkest moments, per The Mary Sue. It's shocking to see airbending used in such a violent way, and that shock is quickly followed up with Ghazan melting down the inner walls of Ba Sing Se to let the lower classes into the rest of the city.

The Red Lotus storyline is enough by itself to earn "Long Live the Queen" a spot on this list, but the B plot is also really good. Korra and Asami crash the Earth Kingdom airship they're imprisoned on in the middle of the desert, leading to a tenuous alliance between them and the soldiers tasked with capturing them. It's a fun side story with a quality "Dune" reference, and Korra and Asami get some nice alone time, which is always fun. As an added bonus, "Long Live the Queen" nails something both "Korra" and "Avatar" excel at — memorable side characters who appear in one episode and then immediately vanish. In this instance, it's the airship captain and his crew, who provide plenty of comedy to contrast Zaheer's violent deed.

8. Day of the Colossus

At the number eight spot, it's the penultimate episode of the entire series, "Day of the Colossus." Though the actual Season 4 finale has plenty of action of its own, this is arguably the bigger battle — certainly in terms of the enemy itself. Seeing the whole crew of good guys, from Korra and Asami to Jinora and Kai, join forces against Kuvira's huge mecha suit is really satisfying. It feels like a proper culmination of all the training and experience they've acquired over the course of the show, and the massive scale of the fight ups the excitement factor considerably.

"Day of the Colossus" also has an unexpectedly powerful moment in Hiroshi Sato's noble sacrifice. His Season 4 arc with Asami hits hard throughout, and his story ends in a brutal but poignant way. It may not quite be the caliber of climax that "Avatar: The Last Airbender" delivers in "Sozin's Comet," but "Day of the Colossus" still delivers a taut and thrilling showdown to send the series off. It sets up the final episode beautifully, the action is top notch, and there are some nice, smaller-character moments throughout as well.

7. Enter the Void

There are a lot of exciting fights in "The Legend of Korra" Season 3, but the giant melee in "Enter the Void" is in strong contention for the best of the bunch. It's a full-blown brawl of Korra, Tonraq, Lin, and Suyin (and also Kuvira) against Zaheer and P'Li, and it ends with two mind-blowing (no pun intended) moments — Suyin blocking a combustion blast from P'Li to kill her, and Zaheer learning to fly.

Those aren't even the only highlights. Bolin learns to lavabend after a whole season of feeling lesser than his loved ones. Ghazan sinks the entire Northern Air Temple in magma. Even Kai comes in clutch with a big sky-bison-rescue. Every second of "Into the Void" is packed with tension, and the fights themselves are brilliantly animated. This is also the episode where Kuvira is formally introduced, setting up the events of "The Legend of Korra" Season 4.

6. The Last Stand

The "Legend of Korra" series finale doesn't quite make the top five, but that's not a knock against it. It's only held back by Kuvira's rushed character arc and the fact that a lot of the season's big action climax happens in "Day of the Colossus." Make no mistake, though — this is still one of the show's best episodes and a great note to end the story on. Action-wise, there's a lot to love here. Kuvira and Korra's fight in the control room of the mecha tank is fantastic, as is Mako's lightning assault on the power core. But the real appeal is seeing all of the main characters and story arcs come to fruition. 

Korra resolves the conflict with Kuvira with compassion and diplomacy, bringing all the wisdom she's gained throughout the series. After two seasons of chaos, the Earth Kingdom looks like it's finally set on a better path. And of course, Korra and Asami acknowledge their feelings for each other and leave for a little Spirit World vacation — a beautiful final scene that The Washington Post claims changed the landscape of children's TV forever. Varrick and Zhu Li's wedding is really just a massive celebration of the entire show. Many side characters show up, including Tahno from Season 1 and even the idiot detectives Lu and Gang from Season 2. It's a perfect way to send the series off into the sunset, and it makes "The Last Stand" one of the best episodes in all of "Korra."

5. The Ultimatum

"As long as I'm breathing, it's not over." "The Ultimatum" is a masterpiece. It has a beautiful scene where Zuko gives Korra Avatar advice. It has an exciting two-on-two fight where Kya and Bumi take on Ming-Hua and Ghazan. But the real attraction here is the airbending duel between Zaheer and Tenzin — the first (and really only) of its kind in the entire franchise. As Oliver Sava of The A.V. Club put it back in 2014, "Tenzin is the star of 'Ultimatum.'" 

He gets a lot of plotlines throughout "The Legend of Korra" about toning down his strong personality, learning to adapt to others' philosophies, and finding worth in his own identity. That's all well and good, but "The Ultimatum" is here to remind us that within all that growth, Tenzin is still one of the most powerful benders in the entire world. The parallels drawn between him and Aang in this episode are beautiful, right up until the end of his battle. In the end, the full power of the Red Lotus converges on Tenzin, and he still manages to hold his own for a few moments. Facing down all four of them, he doesn't budge, bend, or break. He stands his ground and fights to the last, and it's incredible.

4. Endgame

The "Legend of Korra" Season 1 finale was originally meant to be the end of the whole series, and it shows. "Endgame" is action-packed on all sides, and it also has some powerful personal moments for the main "Korra" characters. Bolin and Asami battle Hiroshi Sato and his Equalist platoon. General Iroh (no, the other one) takes down an entire squadron of airborne bombers singlehandedly. And Korra and Mako face off against Amon in a tense corridor-duel. The bloodbender is at the peak of his powers here, and Studio Mir's animation is at the height of its game across all the fights. To top it all off, Korra finally connects with her Avatar spirit, communes with Aang and her other past lives, enters the Avatar State, and restores bending to those who lost it, including Lin.

In retrospect, "Endgame" may feel like it wraps things up a bit too cleanly, but that's only because it was produced without the knowledge that a second season would happen. As it stands, it's still a sweet and satisfying wrap-up to the initial Republic City arc, establishing Korra as a fully realized Avatar. We also need to talk about the boat scene. You can point to the exact moment "The Legend of Korra" declared itself no longer a kids' show, when Tarrlok blows up Amon's boat while still on it, killing them both. At the time, it was shocking, but looking back, it was a clear glimpse at what would come later.

3. Venom of the Red Lotus

Though it's only the end of Season 3 and not the entire series, "Venom of the Red Lotus" is arguably the biggest and best action episode in "The Legend of Korra." Zaheer is arguably the show's best villain — "Korra" creator Bryan Konietzko told Polygon that fans feel that the airbending antagonist "makes some really good points" — and his final showdown with Korra harkens back to Aang's battle with Firelord Ozai in a bunch of exciting ways. Enough cannot be said about the beautiful animation in their duel, but there's a lot else here to get excited about as well.

The two-on-two fight of Mako and Bolin vs. Ming-Hua and Ghazan is fantastic, and it finishes with two incredibly dramatic ends for the Red Lotus members. The new Air Nation comes together to help save Korra and stop Zaheer once and for all, gorgeously bringing their arc throughout the whole season full circle. "Venom of the Red Lotus" also ends with a bittersweet final scene showing Jinora's airbending master ceremony (per IGN). Composer Jeremy Zuckerman always hits it out of the park in "Avatar" and "Korra," but the track that plays over the tattoo ceremony, titled "Service and Sacrifice," is on another level. The contrast between Jinora's triumphant rise and Korra's abject brokenness is incredibly powerful, and it strikes the kind of delicate emotional balance that makes the show so great.

2. Korra Alone

It's down to the top two spots now, and we're done with season finales and big action climaxes. "The Legend of Korra" has plenty of those, and as discussed above, they're fantastic. But the show is arguably at its absolute best when it goes in more experimental directions and takes bold creative chances, as is the case in "Korra Alone." Immediately, the episode title alone recalls the "Avatar: The Last Airbender" episode "Zuko Alone" — an episode that itself is held as one of the best in the original series, standing as the fifth highest-rated "Avatar" episode on IMDb. That comparison is bound to draw high expectations, and "Korra Alone" does not disappoint. It won IGN's People's Choice for best TV episode in 2014, earning high praise from fans, with good reason.

Unlike a lot of the more serialized "Legend of Korra" episodes, "Korra Alone" revolves around a central theme — how do you recover from trauma? How do you move forward when your life and your view of yourself have been irreparably changed? How do you accept the fact that part of what you were has been stolen from you? "Korra Alone" doesn't offer concrete answers to these questions. Instead, it chronicles the ongoing process of recovery — a process of anger, frustration, guilt, acceptance, failure, triumph, and change. As a singular storytelling achievement, "Korra Alone" is a masterpiece. As a part of the show, it's a crucial emotional narrative that makes everything fall into place.

1. Beginnings

There isn't just one thing that makes "Avatar: The Last Airbender" and "The Legend of Korra" great, but a combination. Worldbuilding. Beautiful animation. Writing with a real message behind it. Exceptional voice acting. Exciting action. And a reverence for spirituality and the natural world. These are all key pieces of the puzzle, and they come together to form the greater whole. "Beginnings" could be categorized as a lore dump, but it's so much more than that. It's a microcosm for the franchise as a whole. There's an intangible feeling of discovery that comes from both the jump back in time and the entirely new, incredibly striking animation style — a distillation of what makes the "Avatar" world so compelling (per Vulture). 

Yes, these are technically two episodes, but it would be a crime to consider them independently of each other. Is Avatar Wan's story really better than Korra's, in her own show? Of course not. But as an individual arc, "Beginnings" is the show's crowning achievement. Steven Yeun is perfectly cast as Wan, and his journey across the world in search of wisdom and balance is pure, gorgeous, and emotionally impactful in its visuals alone. "The Legend of Korra" Season 2 may be the show's weakest chapter by Rotten Tomatoes' standings, but it also produced its best episode. It multiplies the dimensions of the entire franchise while also delivering a deeply personal story, and at the end of the day, that's the kind of balance that makes the whole "Avatar" franchise so great.