The Legend of Korra‘s stellar finale, which was released online last Friday (you can watch it, along with all of Korra’s superb final season, here), ended on a note that some fans weren’t sure how to interpret: Korra and rival-turned-friend Asami, walking hand-in-hand into the Spirit World, before turning to embrace each other. In a scene immediately following a wedding, the gesture seemed to be romantic in spirit. But because the moment was ambiguous, fans wondered—did this make Korra and Asami a couple? This week, the show’s creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko took to Tumblr to give viewers an answer. Spoiler: It’s an unequivocal “yes.”
“Our intention with the last scene was to make it as clear as possible that yes, Korra and Asami have romantic feelings for each other,” writes DiMartino in his brief Tumblr post. “The moment where they enter the spirit portal symbolizes their evolution from being friends to being a couple.”
Co-creator Bryan Konietzko was particularly verbose on the subject:
You can celebrate it, embrace it, accept it, get over it, or whatever you feel the need to do, but there is no denying it. That is the official story. We received some wonderful press in the wake of the series finale at the end of last week, and just about every piece I read got it right: Korra and Asami fell in love. Were they friends? Yes, and they still are, but they also grew to have romantic feelings for each other.
Konietzko goes on to address Korra‘s relationship dynamics at length—that her relationship with Mako, Korra’s boyfriend in season one, was never intended to last any longer than it did, and that the pairing of Korra and Asami wasn’t planned (much like Varrick and Zhu Li), but came as a natural part of the writing process.
There is the inevitable reaction, “Mike and Bryan just caved in to the fans.” Well, which fans? There were plenty of Makorra shippers out there, so if we had gone back on our decision and gotten those characters back together, would that have meant we caved in to those fans instead? Either direction we went, there would inevitably be a faction that was elated and another that was devastated. Trust me, I remember Kataang vs. Zutara. But one of those directions is going to be the one that feels right to us, and Mike and I have always made both Avatar and Korra for us, first and foremost. We are lucky that so many other people around the world connect with these series as well. Tahno playing trombone–now that was us caving in to the fans!
But this particular decision wasn’t only done for us. We did it for all our queer friends, family, and colleagues. It is long overdue that our media (including children’s media) stops treating non-heterosexual people as nonexistent, or as something merely to be mocked. I’m only sorry it took us so long to have this kind of representation in one of our stories.
On the whole, The Legend of Korra has been exceptionally skilled in its gender politics and navigation of relationships—the aforementioned Korra-Mako romance was refreshingly mature in the way it ended, while also subverting assumptions that the obvious pairing will end up together in the long run. Korra sought, to borrow a phrase, balance—as Konietzko admits, it may not have been “a slam-dunk victory for queer representation,” but the show took every available opportunity to do its part to not take the easy way out, to make something mature and welcoming to demographics that aren’t well-represented in the majority of popular culture.
After all—it’s the Avatar’s job to bring balance to the world.