Airspeed’s Editorials – Avatar, Korra and Filler
Back after a long break, assuming I get some good suggestions for posts I will try to get one out every week.
Avatar, Korra and Filler
My topic this week is about Filler Episodes in Avatar and Korra. It is a topic that is often talked about in our fandom. Is ATLA good because it has filler, is there too much, does Korra need filler? and so on. There is a lot of mention of the word filler. In many ways this post may very well be my fight for the correct use of the term.
I think it is important to first define what filler actually is when you are talking about a tv show. For an episode is filler when it has no plot development or link or character development of note. It quite simply is just an episode to fill in between episodes that have plot and character development. Many people would define it without mentioning character development and that only plot episodes are not filler, but I make that distinction here because of episodes like “Zuko Alone” which is super character focused which is Zuko’s plot in Book 2 really.
So lets first start off with ATLA and ask the question does ATLA have any filler episodes?
For me it doesn’t, because many episodes that some would call filler by my definition would be character focused episodes that are still important even though they have little plot. So let me go through some episodes that would be considered filler.
Book 1 Water
The problem with using filler as being anything without plot is that it then means that most of Book 1 Water is filler because Book 1 as a whole is light on plot. 101, 102, 108, 112, 113, 117, 118, 119 and 120 would really be the only non filler episodes under a definition like that. That means 11 episodes are technically filler!!!!
The Great Divide
The shining beacon of filler to many Avatar fans, and episode that defines the term they scream. I disagree. The Great Divide is not filler. Does it advance the plot? Yes it does, the group crosses the largest canyon in the world that is a significant part of their journey to the Northern Water tribe and that journey is the plot of Book 1. It has character development because it is the first episode where Aang really is called to settle a dispute between people and learns about the loneliness of being neutral. Sure it is not the most exciting episode of the show, but it is not filler in the same way that the Pokemon Anime has filler or the anime Bleach has filler episodes.
I could type for hours explaining the development and plot of nearly every episode, the point is that many fans have a tendency to call episodes that are not as good as other filler just because not as much happens.
For me the only episode that I think in any way can be called filler is 309 Nightmares and Daydreams. Even saying that it has plot importance as it is the episode that Team Avatar reaches the invasion meet up point and it has character development with Aang struggling with his nerves. The problem is that it is light in terms of taking up an episode slot in this show, it feels less like it is a filler episode and more like they had a few minutes in this episode to fill. Hence why a majority of the episode is Aang having dreams littered with anime references and the various cures for stress that the others have for Aang. Also Zuko has important plot and character stuff happen here too making it not a filler episode.
The Painted Lady
I know some fans like to call this one filler too, but it is a very important episode for Katara as a character and it plays and important role in the theme of the early episodes of Book 3 Fire. That being that they show us as the audience that our heroes are not fighting the fire nation on the whole, but just the truly bad people there: Ozai and his military. The Painted Lady shows us that the Fire Nation treats some of their own people just as badly as they treat the other nations and Katara’s actions show that the group is willing to help people on their journey even if they are fire nation. This group changes things as they go on their journey.
I feel like I have made my point with regards to ATLA.
So lets move into Korra. Many people feel like Korra needs some of these so called “filler” episodes to bring it up to ATLA’s level. With what I have already said in mind, that ATLA has no filler, what is it that people want in Korra? Quite simply the answer is time. We want more time with these characters, we want more episodes, not filler episodes or plot episodes, just more time with the characters we love because as fans we want to know them inside and out. What Avatar fan does not want every single story about Aang and Katara, from the proposal, to the marriage to them raising kids together. We have a connection to these characters or in some cases we want to have that connection. Korra is a fairly fast paced show that always keeps the plot going, I personally feel like it manages to get the characters across well while also keeping the pacing fast, but for some it is not working.
How about we get a bit analytical now, in terms of numbers, the main reason I think that people are finding it difficult to connect with the Korra characters is just that ATLA had longer Books than Korra has. Comparing their opening Books we get 8 extra episodes in ATLA to know our characters. Look at where we are in Korra right now we are 2 books, 26 episodes in, while with Avatar we were 40 episodes in by Book 2′s end. The important way to look at it is the overall amount of episodes ATLA is a complete show and has been since 2008 it had 61 episodes during its run, Korra so far has had 26 of its full run of 52 episodes. We are just half way through Korra’s run, I think we know a good bit about many of our characters and a lot has happened, we have the same amount of episodes for more to happen. Our ATLA characters were not fully developed by the half way point at 210, in many ways the big plot only gets going in “The Library”, we have only just met Toph as of a few episodes ago and the same applies for Azula. So when people say that Asami badly needs development as does Bolin I always remember that there are 26 episodes to go for that to happen, we do not need Book 3 to be extended to 20 episodes and have 7 additional episodes of “filler” to give them development.
Korra and Avatar while in the same continuity have different formats as shows. ATLA was a 61 episode journey with 1 main plot that really was never deviated from, Korra by the end will be 4 complete stories (1 in each Book) with the characters and their development being the things carrying through between Books. ATLA had a pacing where because it had a long journey style of story, they could have episodes where they slow things down and visit a town here or there, Korra while it could definitely do that, doesn’t because it would be pretty jarring for the pace to suddenly slow down. Adding in “filler” episodes would require Korra to become a different type of show.
I appreciate that Korra is so fast paced it shows the flip side of the coin to ATLA. Sometimes I wish ATLA was a bit faster paced at points, with Korra I get my faster paced Avatar stories, sometimes I wish Korra would slow down and have some more mundane episodes, for those I have ATLA at points. Not to mention with the Dark Horse Comics we have the potential to get basically any story we want as a comic.
It is a balance that is very difficult to perfect, hence why I enjoy both shows pretty much equally. Perhaps if we get a new Avatar show after Korra that will perfect the balance. For now I think rather than begging for Korra to get “filler” we need to just have hope and trust that Mike and Bryan know what they are doing with Korra and that we will get to know the character more in the remaining 26 episodes.
I feel like I have not really made one specific point in this post, but if I were to focus in on the main thing with this post. It is that it is easy to get bogged down when talking about and using a fandom buzzword like “filler (Other terms I see often used as buzzwords that are often used not in the proper way are “cliche” and “Exposition”). Look at the confusion even presented in the opening paragraph of this post, is filler on the whole a thing people like or hate. It is used to put down episodes like The Great Divide, yet it is also used a a big positive when talking about ATLA and apparently something that will improve Korra. To get a bit mathematical here
The Great Divide = Filler = What’s good about ATLA = What Korra Needs to be a better show
So Korra to be a better show needs its own version of The Great Divide. That is why “Filler” is a weird thing to talk about in this fandom. Even if you then say “Wait, but there is good filler and bad filler” it just confuses things. In short as I said we just want more quality time with the characters and universe that we love, the characters of the Avatar Universe.
Thoughts on this startling conclusion?
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