Legend of Korra is in my top 3 favorite shows of all-time. I've thought a lot about the show and why it was able to impact not only me, but many others so profoundly. I started thinking of the differences between Avatar: The Last Airbender and this series. Although there were several differences, the biggest one I noticed was the use of villains. Legend of Korra had some of the best villains I've seen onscreen in a very long time. Each one was layered and complex, and not entirely evil. Sometimes the best villains are the ones you can sympathize with and understand. I think villains should be a bit relatable, so that the viewer can almost picture themselves having a similar reaction. It's easy to say that someone is evil, therefore they are bad. However, to say that someone has been wronged and is feeling pain, you can begin to understand why they take a villainous turn. So, let's take a look at which Legend of Korra villain is the best! (Spoilers Ahead!)
Asami's father, Hiroshi, was a villain in season 1. He teamed with Amon, and supplied the Equalists with mech-suits, air-tanks, and airplanes. Hiroshi hated benders because a firebender killed his wife. He resented his daughter for falling in love with Mako and was compelled to try and kill all of Team Avatar. He has a tragic arc that helps make the audience sympathize with him, but his actions are what make him an interesting villain. It takes a lot of hate and misguidance to be willing to kill your own daughter and her friends.
Later, in season 4, he has been reformed and is rotting in a jail cell. He is able to make up with Asami and earn her forgiveness and love. Hiroshi makes the final sacrifice in the last battle with Kuvira. Although he lived a life filled with hatred, he did die a loving father and a hero to his daughter. This is the type of complexity that makes the villains in Legend of Korra so interesting.
I might not have a daughter, but I can understand doing whatever it takes to protect the ones you love, and I believe this is where Hiroshi's motivations came from. He couldn't bear the thought that someone would one day kill his daugther, as they killed his wife.
Tarrlok was the brother of Amon. He was a man of government and worked tirelessly to change the world while remaining on the right side of the law. Obviously, life had other plans, and unlike his brother, Tarrlok tried to use his position to influence and sway people's opinions serve his own agenda. He came from a very dysfunctional family, which ultimately made him who he was in the present.
Tarrlok reintroduced us to the frightening use of bloodbending. He showed us how extraordinarily powerful he was by bloodbending Korra when it wasn't even a full-moon, which is necessary for every other normal bloodbender. He terrified us with his sudden transformation from unruly politician to kidnapping torturer. Like Hiroshi, Tarrlok was able to find redemption and acceptance in his final moments, again making the viewer have to decide for themselves just how evil this person really was.
Coming from a family with two brothers, I totally get how Tarrlok felt when he thought he was separating himself from his father and brother by doing what he thought was right, only to find out they had all ended up in the same position. With family, we always want to stand out and be different than those around us, but no matter what, we will always be similar.
Let's start with Vaatu. Vaatu is the spirit of darkness and chaos, as well as his counterpart Raava, the spirit that inhabits the Avatar. Vaatu was locked away for 10,000 years by Raava and the first Avatar, Wan. Once freed Vaatu merges with Unalaq to create The Dark Avatar.
Unalaq, on the other hand, is Korra's uncle. He banishes her father in an attempt to claim the throne as chieftain to both the Southern and Northern Water Tribes. He is a cold man, despite being the most experienced spiritual man living. Unalaq is a power-hungry man who believes he's worthy of the ultimate power of the Avatar. However, he believes that the world is in need of his guidance and spiritual influence. He wants to try and "fix" the world, when in reality he is going to destroy it. Unalaq is a father and mentor to his two children, as well as Korra, but ultimately let's his own selfish ambitions destroy his relationships. Korra is forced to cleanse him and his spirit at the end of season 2. Unalaq doesn't find redemption before his death, but does leave the world with a gift. Along with Korra's decision to leave the spirit portals open, their spiritual energy as well as the convergence led to the birth of more benders everywhere, including the near extinct airbenders.
She was the villain of the final season of Legend of Korra, and was one of the most talented benders in the world, possessing a natural talent for metal-bending. She was the prodigal student of Suyin Beifong, having studied under her for many years. She even helped in the attack against Zaheer at the end of season 3. Kuvira was extremely misguided in her intention to unite the nations. By uniting, she thought she was bringing peace and stability, but she brought pain and poverty to most regions. If someone disagreed with her taking over the land, she strong-armed them into a deal by cutting of food trade and industry. Like many others, she wanted to be the one that led the world into a new age of peace and unity. She didn't realize that she was the cause of the disruption and disconnection between the nations. Kuvira also created the deadliest weapon ever seen in the Avatar universe: the spirit weapon.
Once Kuvira's life is saved by Korra deflecting the spirit weapon's beam of energy, thus creating a new spirit portal, she realizes the power that Korra possesses. She surrenders knowing that the Avatar is the true guardian of this world. She may not have been completely absolved of the atrocities she committed, but did come to terms with what she had done. She realized that she was acting out of selfishness and self-loathing for her parents abandoning her as well as Suyin. She only desired unity because that is what she missed the most from her own life.
Amon is Tarrlok's brother, and the leader of The Equalists. He is the greatest bloodbender to ever live. He possesses the power to remove anyone's bending. Unfortunately, he succeeds on many occasions, even taking Avatar Korra's bending. What is scarier, is that we never quite learn how he does this. What made Amon so formidable was the movement he created to combat the forces of benders. He created a cultural divide and festered fear, using his cunning lies, convincing his followers that he was just a man with a god-given ability to take away bending. Amon's influence was so great, he was able to raise an army of chi-blockers (people that hit pressure points to disable the use of that limb) so large that the United Forces was called in to stop him. Far more terrifying than any of his other villainous attributes, was his ability to get inside Korra's head. The Korra we know in season 1 was a hard-headed, fierce woman who was quickly shaken by the likes of Amon. His demonstration of power was enough to shake her to her core and he capitalized on this fear.
Amon was also interesting since he was not defeated by the Avatar and her friends. Korra and co., definitely helped cripple his power by exposing him as a bender to all of his non-bender followers, but they did not capture him. Amon escapes with his brother Tarrlok on a boat, hoping to start again with his brother. They talk of new beginnings for them both, and how they were separated for so long but now they are together again. Tarrlok, knowing that they both don't deserve to live, decides to blow the boat up with both of them on it. This ends the reign of fear and power that both brothers had worked so hard to create.
Much like the other villains, Amon was a complicated man. He too, like Tarrlok, was trained to be the man he was by his harsh father. Amon thought he was working to achieve the goal opposite of what his father wanted, but instead did exactly what his father expected all along. He still grew to take over Republic City and defeat the Avatar. In his last moments, he realizes his failure to become something greater than the weapon his father had groomed him to be, and makes peace with himself and his brother.
Zaheer is a man of idealism. He is an extremist and does whatever is necessary to create chaos out of order. He believes chaos is the natural form of freedom, and the only way to relinquish the world from the chains that bind them is to eliminate the leaders of the world, including Korra. He, like Amon, is the most powerful bender with his given element: air. He achieves flight, which is the most coveted ability for an airbender to learn. Not only this, but he develops a technique to suck the air out of a person's body. Along with Zaheer are his group of criminal idealists that follow his word no matter what. Each one is a master at their element and can go toe to toe with whole groups of people. Together they are the greatest threat to Korra, her friends, and the world.
Zaheer does not manage to kill Korra, as originally intended, due to her Avatar state keeping her alive, as well as the militia that attacks and kills his accomplices. Zaheer, although captured and locked away once more, breaks Korra's spirit. She had faced extremely tough opponents and mental challenges before, but he completely shatters her emotional stability. She is never the same. To recover, she has to face him and allow him to guide her back to sanity. In this moment, it is clear to the audience and to Korra, that although she is the Avatar, he is more powerful than she will ever be due to his knowledge gained by Guru Laghima.
Like the villains before and after him, Zaheer has the most noble goal. He wants nothing more than freedom for himself and the people of the world. He desires to right the wrongs that he feels were committed against the poor and helpless. His means of accomplishing this goal are what make him a villain to most. However, when he encounters Korra again in season 4 in order to help her recover, he shows that he can be an ally and teach her to overcome the damage he created. Take a look:
There you have it guys! That's my ranking for the greatest Legend of Korra villains! Hopefully, I've made those who have watched the show nostalgic, and those who haven't, interested. This continues to be one of my favorite shows of all-time, and hopefully this list will convince you to check it out too so that we may share our feelings of love for it. As always, thanks for reading, and be sure to check out Legend of Korra, and let me know what you thought of the villains in the comment section below! Thanks for reading!