The Good, The Bad, and What The?: Tenzin from The Legend of Korra



Welcome to this week’s article of The Good, Bad, and What The?, where we took a good, long look at characters in movies, video games, anime, and books and put them on the judgement table to see if they are worthy to be in their respective stories. I strongly believe that well developed characters are more important than anything else in a good story, so I always judge them hard. At the end of every character’s evaluation I will give them one of four ratings: Good for those characters that are developed and deserve their place in the story, Bad for those characters that have no place being made or interacting with anyone else in the story, What The for the characters I just can’t figure out, and then the characters who are dull as dishwasher will get the rating of Sack of Potatoes. Today on the judgement table: Tenzin, Aang’s oldest son and Korra’s airbending teacher in The Legend of Korra.”

As always, the story sum up. Korra is the newest in the infinite line of Avatars. From the age of four her parents knew she was the Avatar as she could already bend earth, fire, and water with ease. She could not, however, airbend. Once Korra was discovered she moved to Republic City, which is like the New York City of the Avatar world, to learn the art of airbending from Aang’s son. Tenzin and his three kids Jinora, Ikki, and Milo are the only four airbenders alive. To be fair, that is better than when Aang was the only living airbender. Tenzin does much more throughout the show than simply teach Korra airbending though, he is an overall important character.

spoiler bending

Tenzin is basically Aang version 2.0. He looks very much like Aang and because he is the airbender of Aang’s three kids he practices and teaches his kids the ways of being an air nomad. He has the tattoos and robes just like Aang. The major difference, though, is that Tenzin has a very manly beautiful beard. Aang’s other two kids Kya and Bumi are very different from Tenzin, Kya is the waterbender and Bumi is a non bender and neither look much like Aang. Tenzin is of course a great airbending master so naturally teaching Korra should be a simple task. Tenzin however does not account for Korra’s…hard head. She couldn’t do airbendending initially because she doesn’t have the calm energy needed to airbend. Tenzin doesn’t really understand this problem at first. Tenzin was raised his whole life in the airbender ways. He is sort of ignorant of the other bending forms and people’s different emotions attached to that bending. It’s hinted at many times that Tenzin was Aang’s “favorite.” This makes it so that Tenzin is very much like Aang and focuses very hard on training and religious practice, or air nomad practice in this case. It turns out that Aang wasn’t a great parent and as such Tenzin has a very similar issue. He becomes so focused on things like meditating and practice that he becomes a very hard teacher instead of a father. He pushes this on his kids and Korra. In time though Tenzin begins to understand that maybe being just like Aang isn’t the best thing to do. Tenzin starts to really lighten up and understand the error in his methods because of his family and Korra. It shows he is a character that isn’t infallible; he has flaws like a real person. This makes him more relatable and as always being relatable is a good thing. All of the things you learn about Tenzin at first make you kind of not like him because he seems so harsh. When you really see Tenzin for who is and when he gets sad and understanding, you suddenly love him a lot more.

tenzin family

Now after the first season Korra has learned airbending and is having a hard time living with Tenzin. To say they butt heads a lot is a bit of an understatement. There is still a sort of family love that exist between them though. The humor to it is both Korra and Tenzin have a habit of tough love and it makes them have trouble getting along sometimes. In the second season though Tenzin is less important to the story. He takes the place of a sort of mentor and gives suggestions, but Korra tends to do things her way anyway. Tenzin of course becomes frustrated with Korra’s lack of calm thinking but accepts she has to do things on her own. She has to learn to be the Avatar. Korra ends up firing Tenzin as her mentor and accepts the mentoring of Unalaq instead. Unalaq is a water bending master and very good at taming evil spirits. Tenzin sadly steps down and leaves, fearing where Unalaq will lead Korra. One of the biggest parts to Tenzin in the second season was that he tried hard to bond with his family. He tried to do a family vacation, which rather humorously failed, but he did try. When his daughter Ikki went missing Tenzin went with his siblings Bumi and Kya to find her. Through some butting heads and struggling to find Ikki, Tenzin gets much closer with his siblings at this point. It took many years but he did bond with them. Later when Korra needs to enter the spirit world, Tenzin admits he has never done it himself even  though he was taught how and tried very hard to get Korra in. He admits to his weakness but doesn’t give up in trying to help Korra. Jinora ends up being the one who is a good spiritual leader. Tenzin though never at any point stops helping Korra in any way he can and often tells her how great she is even though they fight a lot. By this time you really love Tenzin and he only gets better. Later on Tenzin speaks with an apparition of Aang in the spirit world. After talking to it Tenzin accepts that he doesn’t need to his father he is Tenzin and that is all he needs to be. Now Tenzin is just that much more awesome. The best too come though is when you really get to see Tenzin fight in the third season.

kya and bumi

In the third season there is a group of assassinations after Korra known as the Red Lotus. Because of the spirit portals that were left open by Korra in season two, new people are gaining airbending powers. With all of these news airbenders appearing, Tenzin makes it his duty to train these benders and rebuild the air nation from nothing. This whole time, though, Korra is being hunted and she isn’t aware of it. Before they meet the Red Lotus Tenzin, Korra, and team Avatar set out to many different places to recruit these newly found airbenders. It takes a long time and a lot convincing to round up all the people willing to come with them but eventually Tenzin has his new air nomads, kind of. Teaching these new airbenders is very taxing on Tenzin and he has a hard time convincing them being a air nomad is great. He even ends up asking Bumi for help with the teaching, which does not go well. Another thing that ends in hilarious failure. It is a giant pressure and struggle for Tenzin to handle and you really feel bad for him. There were points where I could really emphasize with the stress he was under. He stays tough as he can though throughout the ordeal. This was probably my favorite season for Tenzin because when the Red Lotus attacks you really get to see what he can do. The Red Lotus captures the airbenders and Tenzin’s family to use as blackmail for getting to Korra. Tenzin says he would rather die than submit and give up Korra. My favorite fight scene of the whole series then goes down. Tenzin fights the leader of the Red Lotus alone like a complete boss. It was amazing to watch him really show what airbending can do. He gets badly beaten and defeated but he put up an amazing fight. After defeating the Red Lotus with Korra and teaching all of the new airbenders Tenzin has his air nomads. He also appointed his oldest daughter Jinora as a airbending master after she skillfully convinced him she was worthy. The airbenders have become a force in the world once again.

tenzin and zaheer

His verdict is Good, rather fantastic actually. He in the end is just a lovable and hilarious character. He is funny much the way Sokka and Aang were and has random spurts of great humor and then returns back serious as quick as he can. He ends up being a great father even more than Aang and becomes a second father to Korra. He is a complete beast at fighting when he needs to and is rebuilding a nation from scratch. You can’t help but like this guy and all of the hard work he puts in. He wants to help the Avatar and bring back the airbending people he never got to know. I recommend this show in the highest regard to anyone it is truly a gem of a show and there is so much more to Tenzin then what I just said here.