Varrick flashes a knowing smile in "The Legend of Korra"
(Nickelodeon)

The Absolute Best ‘Legend of Korra’ Characters, Ranked

The Legend of Korra had some big shoes to fill. Avatar: The Last Airbender was a once-in-a-generation sort of show. A show so iconic they just can’t stop remaking it. Korra wasn’t supposed to stick around as long as it did, but the success of the first (and meant to be only) season left audiences clamoring for more.

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With The Legend of Korra, the legacy of Avatar was forever changed for the better, and these characters had something to do with it.

10. Asami Sato

Asami Sato runs her hands through her hair in "The Legend of Korra"
(Nickelodeon)

Korra’s Team Avatar is the weakest part of the show. The ever-brooding Mako and immature Bolin lack the charisma and staying power of Team Avatar companions of yore. You just can’t do better than Toph, Katara, Sokka, and Zuko. Asami is the only exception.

For a team that’s plagued with teen drama and infighting, Asami is the only character mature enough to keep her head above the noise. Of all the characters in the show, she is Korra’s rock. What she lacks in specificity, she makes up for in steadiness in her relationship to our main heroine. She’s good people. Brilliant. Tough. An adult on a team where immature impulses often get the better of its members.

9. Kuvira

Kuvira looking messy standing in front of her army in "The Legend of Korra"
(Nickelodeon)

The Legend of Korra‘s best characters are its villains. Kuvira is no exception. It’s easy to chalk up Kuvira as a cautionary tale of power unchecked, but she’s deeper than that. Kuvira is what happens to a person who truly, fundamentally, doesn’t believe that they are good enough as they are.

Abandoned by her parents at an early age, Kuvira has always been eager to prove her worth to anyone and everyone who will give it to her. She quickly moved up the ranks in Suyin Beifong’s Zaofu military police, and later became a decorated officer in the Earth Kingdom. Her wounded ego tells her it isn’t enough, and so she decides to become the “savior” of the Earth Empire—the Great Uniter. As a result, she pushes away friends, family, and even sacrifices her lover on the altar of greatness, and all for naught. A truly tragic character.

8. Jinora

Jinora flies through the air with a sky bison behind in "The Legend of Korra"
(Nickelodeon)

How is it that this literal ten-year-old is putting in more save-the-world work than the young adults on the show? Jinora is unstoppable. One of the youngest airbending masters in history, Jinora was instrumental in taking down the greatest threat in the show: Zahir. The girl is also easily one of the most spiritually attuned characters in the Avatar universe since Avatar Aang himself. Her spirit senses are so powerful that she is even able to serve as a spirit guide for Korra. The AVATAR. If the Avatar reincarnation cycle had been different, Jinora would have been a shoo-in for the job.

7. Noatak and Tarrlok

Two water tribe brothers looking sad in front of Northern Lights in "The Legend of Korra"
(Nickelodeon)

These characters are two sides of the same coin and can’t exist without the other, so they’re sharing a slot. Noatak and Tarlok’s tale of blood-bending family tragedy is perhaps one of the most poignant villain origin stories in the series. Trained in the forbidden art by their father Yakon, the two siblings were pressured down a dark path in pursuit of power. As a result, they both went into politics. One began as a councilman, the other led a revolution. While Noatak’s Equalist intentions were pure, his methods were madness. Tarrlok finally realized this and ended both their lives in murder-suicide—one of the darkest moments in Avatar history.

6. Avatar Wan

Avatar Wan in The Legend of Korra
(Nickelodeon)

Avatar Wan’s story is an unexpected gem in the mound of dirt that was Korra season 2. In classic folktale fashion, the young outcast used his wits and grit to become the most important figure in world history, bridging the gap between humans and spirits. He is both the source of all bending and the progenitor of the Four Nations. Despite a lifetime of best efforts, he was unable to stop the constant warring between the nations, and died without his dream or balance realized. Yet it was this dream that was handed down to his reincarnates. He’s essentially the reason that the idea of world peace even exists. What a boss.

5. Varrick

Varrick flashes a knowing grin in "The Legend of Korra"
(Nickelodeon)

Varrick is easily the best comic relief character in the show, blowing Cabbage Man out of the water. The wheelin’ and dealin’ water bending tech genius is simply a joy to watch. Despite his goofy and eccentric exterior, Varrick is actually a deeply complex character who tows the line between villainy and heroism. At his worst, he is a man lacking in ideals who pursues scientific invention for power and yucks. At his best, he is a man dedicated to using his talents to create a better world. At all other times, he just needs someone to help him do the thing. And his boss to business partner to lover relationship with Zhu Li? One of the best character arcs in the show.

4. Lin Beifong

Lin Beifong bites her lip in rage in "The Legend of Korra"
(Nickelodeon)

Lin Beifong is her. She’s the tough, grizzled, don’t-take-no shit Chief of Police of Republic City. Her character is easily one of the most complicated in the show for one reason: mommy issues. Toph Beifong was brilliant at certain things, being a parent was not one of them. Her absent parenting style left Lin Beifong feeling like she had to take care of her misbehaving sister Suyin, leading her to become the no-nonsense stick in the metal that she is today. Despite her complicated upbringing, she manages to work through her shortcomings in order and do what the best of Avatar characters do: grow into a better person. Watching her repair her relationship with the rest of the Beifong family tree was a mature and unexpectedly poignant arc in a show about people who throw rocks with their minds.

3. Tenzin

Tenzin points to his bald head in "The Legend of Korra"
(Nickelodeon)

Like Lin, Tenzin is the result of an absentee parent—in this case, Avatar Aang. As Aang’s only air-bending child, Tenzin holds the fate of the Air Nation solely upon his shoulders. After his father’s death, he was the only airbender in the entire world. Like father like son.

The pressure that Tenzin has been subject to has turned him into one of the Avatar universe’s most disciplined and practical characters. The man simply doesn’t have time for bullshit. He’s also easily one of the strongest living benders, and would have bodied Zahir had the rest of the Red Lotus not come to back the rouge airbender up. Tenzin is a shining example that despite its target audience, The Legend of Korra is actually about the adults.

2. Korra

Korra after fighting Kuvira from The Legend of Korra

(Nickelodeon)

Korra is complicated, and that’s what makes her such a fantastic character. She’s not as instantly likable as Avatar Aang. How could she be? Avatar Aang is a twelve-year-old genocide survivor forced by a warring world to grow up too fast. He’s got all the pathos points. Let the little man go penguin sledding, it’s all he’s got.

Korra, meanwhile, inherits the world in a Golden Age. The nations are united. The world is at peace. The economy is booming. Despite organized crime and sociopolitical strife, people are generally happy. Aang’s impact on the world was monumental, he is arguably one of the most important Avatars in history.

Korra has a lot to live up to. She suffers from teenage protagonist syndrome. She’s young enough to still make mistakes, but old enough to know better. She doesn’t get a pass like Aang, and it’s why she starts the series as a somewhat unlikable character. She’s rash. She’s hotheaded. She’s impulsive. She doesn’t respect her elders. She’s messy in her romantic relationships. She’s not diplomatic. She’s not patient. She’s not spiritually attuned. She’s not wise. She’s not what the Avatar is supposed to be. And her reckoning with those traits is what makes her a great character.

Korra is forced to become a deep thinker. Forced to become sensitive to the plight of others. Forced to be continually brave in the face of death. Despite her shortcomings, she is able to grow into the Avatar that the new world deserves. Her four season character arc is slow, but when viewed in totality, is arguably as transformative as the one of the all-time great character arcs in the series: Prince Zuko’s.

1. Zaheer

Zaheer with long hair and beard sits pensive in a cave in "The Legend of Korra"
(Nickelodeon)

Zaheer is the most fascinating villain in Avatar history. Unlike “Dark Avatar” Unalaq (we don’t talk about him) Zaheer is the actual character foil of the Avatar. Zaheer is essentially a nihilist. A man from whom the Air Nation philosophy of detachment has become perverted into an obsession with restoring chaos to the world, despite the suffering that chaos brings.

Zaheer is a man whose ideals are emptiness itself. A man who believes that the ideal state of the world is one of ruin, and who is agnostic to the suffering that ruin will bring upon its people. As a result of his philosophy, he was able to unlock a dark side to airbending. Ultimate detachment, a void in the heart. After watching his lover P’Li die in combat, Zaheer was able to ascend to the heights of villainy, becoming totally removed from the world. He is essentially what the best villains are: islands unto themselves, motivated by their own desires despite the suffering those desires bring. He is also responsible for the darkest moment in Avatar history: the suffocation of the Earth Queen using airbending. Absolutely devious villain behavior.

(Featured Image: Nickelodeon)


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Author
Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.