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Right now what I mostly feel is disappointment. I was SO excited for this show, and through episodes 1-3, I was totally loving it. Episode 4 had parts that made me go "ehhhh," but I still really liked it overall. Then things started going downhill from episode 5. Don't get me wrong, there was friggin awesome stuff too; I always found something to enjoy in each episode and can look back fondly on many scenes. But I never felt they really came together as a whole.
Throughout those episodes, I still had faith that the finale would bring everything together and deliver a satisfying conclusion, or at least a hook for the next season that still tied things up reasonably well for the first season. I gave Bryke the benefit of the doubt considering how well they redeemed Zuko in Book 3 of Avatar.
What I got...well, it concluded things all right, but I can't say it was satisfying or well executed. Like I said, it just left me feeling disappointed.
Things I liked:
-Asami being badass and standing up to her father. I'm so glad she didn't "join the dark side" like so many people predicted, because it would be unbelievably stupid for her to change sides just because her boyfriend's an idiot. She stuck to her guns and kicked ass. You go girl!
-Bumi seems awesome! I want to see more of him!!!
-It was cool to see Waterbenders as the main villains for a change instead of Firebenders!
Things I had issues with (this will be long):
-Was Mako still dating Asami when he and Korra got together?! WTF! There was no resolution to their relationship! They should have broken up! There was even a perfect opportunity for that to happen, but no, they just told each other how much they cared for each other instead. What? I mean, Asami clearly knew it was over by then, but they didn't say it and it wasn't made official. Am I actually supposed to feel happy that Makorra happened considering this?
-While General Iroh was extremely badass, his voice DOES NOT WORK and he received way too much screen time for a character we only just met and barely know. And his singlehandedly bringing down the fighter planes was kinda ridiculous, considering he'd clearly never piloted one before. It was badass, but still, ridiculous.
-Bolin was blatantly pushed to the background. He became nothing but comic relief and served no other purpose. In the end, I didn't even feel convinced of his brotherly bond with Mako. Why was he even there?
-Mako. Agh. Mako. He learned nothing, had no development aside from suddenly realizing he loved Korra. His character never felt consistent. He's a cheating jerk and gets away with it. Worst leading man ever.
-They sorta robbed Lin's sacrifice of any weight, because Tenzin and his family just got captured off-screen anyway and she got her bending restored so easily. Disappointing, because her sacrifice was one of the most effective scenes in the show. On one hand I'm glad her bending is back, because I love her and Lin losing her bending permanently would be a goddamn tragedy, but then again that's also a great reason for her to NOT get it back. Because now, no one's lost anything.
-It wasn't explained how bloodbending without the full moon/bloodbending with your mind is possible. Or how/why it can be used to take away bending. I mean, it's not the first time that's happened (Combustion Man wasn't really explained either), but it's such an important plot point and we're just supposed to accept it? They couldn't have at least made up some mumbo-jumbo about spirituality and chakras or something?
-I don't really understand Amon's motive. His character no longer makes sense to me. How does he go from standing up to his father to hating all bending and wanting to get rid of it? Did I miss something? And what about Tarrlok? How does an innocent kid who hates bloodbending with no interest in revenge turn into a scheming asshole bloodbender who seeks power & revenge and seemingly has a hate-on for nonbenders? I see no relation between these characters and their backstory, which is really disappointing because I thought they were excellent villains and now they're kinda ruined for me.
-The non-bender inequality issue wasn't addressed in the end. Amon was revealed to be a fraud, and then that's it? This was a legitimate issue, considering there were enough discontent people to form the Equalist movement and how many instances there were of benders abusing their power- even Korra did this repeatedly, and she was only called out on it once. I wanted her to recognize the problem and actually do something about it, like the Avatar should. Even a brief mention of a non-bender representative joining the city council would have been enough.
-Korra's character development was really lacking. I don't understand how/why she unlocked her airbending and the Avatar State. It just sort of happened. Did she become more spiritual in the end? Did she learn something? It's hard to tell. Even when Korra did airbend, she only used it offensively. Near the end, I thought it was leading up to a hook for the second season, with Korra having to go on a spiritual journey to regain her connection to the other elements. I really wish that happened. It would have been interesting. But no, the solution was seemingly just handed to her, and I don't feel like she earned it. In fact, I don't think she really did anything Avatar-like to save Republic City at all. She didn't restore balance. She just threw some air-punches.
And finally, I hate to return to the shipping issue again, because it's not nearly as important as the other problems, but it's one that really annoyed me and I have more to say about it. For the record, I actually quite liked Mako and Makorra in episode 3. I saw potential there. But then Masami happened, and suddenly there was jealousy and confessions and kissing, and it all felt so abrupt because I thought Mako and Korra were only just starting to bond when the love triangle bullshit happened. As a result, I don't know why they love each other. I felt no sense of romance. There was just very little meat to their relationship.
Also for the record, I didn't care for Asami when she was introduced. She didn't even feel like a proper character until episode 7. But now, she's one of my favorites. What I'm most curious about at the end is what's going to happen to her now. What will her life be like? I'd like to think she takes over Future Industries, or represents non-benders on the city council, or joins the United Forces and hooks up with General Iroh. The point is, I want her to go on being awesome as an independent lady and forget about Mako, because he's not worth it. Not with the way he treated her.
The thing I don't get is that they clearly meant for Asami to be a sympathetic character, and yet at the same they wanted us rooting for Makorra? I don't get their reasoning behind this. Are Bryke surprised that the fandom is pissed off at Mako? Surely they didn't mean to get that reaction, not with the way they resolved it, with Mako and Korra kissing followed by a pan up to the sky a la Kataang at the end of Avatar. All I can take away from this is that they're just bad at writing romance.
In general, I think it would have been better overall if there was no convoluted love triangle in the first place and Makorra was just a straightforward romance. Maybe Asami could have been introduced by herself, so she could just be a friend to Korra and the interesting character that she is, without ever having been romantically involved with Mako. Maybe then they would've had time to actually develop Mako and Korra's relationship, so their love would be more convincing. Really, there's no excuse for spending that much time on the shipping nonsense when they had so few episodes to work with and all it accomplished was make a major character unlikeable.
Anyway, I hope the second season will be much better and resolve some of these issues. I wish Bryke weren't writing all the episodes again, because I can't say I have much faith in them anymore. It is possible to tell a complete, satisfying story in only 12 episodes (Madoka Magica as a recent example), but sadly, this just wasn't the case.