I get that great drama comes from conflict. I love to see an underdog come out on top after a long struggle, to victory. But I'm going to try to explain (and figure out, precisely) why it hurts me in my soul to watch Avatar Korra take beating after beating; literal and otherwise. [Spoilers, I guess.]
Avatar Korra is one of the finest protagonists (female or male) on television today. Her entire job description is to protect and maintain the balance between the elements, as well as the physical and spiritual aspects of the world. She's the good guy. She's been impatient, brash, headstrong, quick to anger… and she has overcome every internal obstacle through painstaking ordeals, hard work, and sheer Avatar-levels of gumption. The fact that the world needed saving— repeatedly— is minor, next to that.
If it wasn't enough of a challenge to just come to grips with being the Avatar and figuring out what that role means as the person in it, Korra has had to face morale-sucking villains that have tried to strip, corrupt, and kill her.
What really makes these enemies so terrifying has been their unwavering dedication to their goals. They believed what they were doing was right. They're bloody zealots, and just watching them work was enough to sap me, a bit. That kind of dedication is hard to overcome.
So there was Amon, captain of the Jerk Brigade, who stripped Korra of her powers. It was an insidious, personal violation, and it cost her something deep to deal with that. Yes, it led her to her Airbending (and back around to recovering her lost abilities), but the writers went about it in the most traumatizing way possible.
Then there was Vaatu, the spiritual embodiment of being a dick. I mean, literally, chaos and darkness and evil, sure. But overcoming him / it was every bit as exhausting for the poor woman.
What luck that following the Astral Asshole was Zaheer and the Red Lotus. That fucking guy. It's not bad enough that he's believed in his agenda for so long that there is simply no talking to him. It's not bad enough that he's a better Airbender then any natural-born Airbenders. But no! He has to poison the Avatar with such vile filth that it stays in her system, polluting her, for years.
So I am not a psychologist, nor am I a psychiatrist. Thankfully, I have never been subjected to torments that would leave me with longterm mental scarring. (I honestly thought about cracking a joke here, then considered it might be disrespectful to people actually dealing with PTSD.)
I can't begin to tell you what Korra needs, but I can tell you it's not slumming it in Earthbending Fight Clubs. She should be getting therapy, or some kind of help that simply isn't available to her, or hasn't been made available to her yet. She can't fix it with fighting. She can't fix it by ignoring it. She can't fix it with meditation and detox.
Watching her take a beating like she did in The Battle of Zaofu, against the latest in a long line of angry zealots… my heart goes out to her.
What The Last Airbender did so successfully was end on a major high note: Aang made peace with the Fire Kingdom. The Bad Guy was dealt with in a non-lethal capacity. He got the girl. You got the feeling that Aang earned a rest after all that impossibly hard work.
It's been one arc after another, vs. Airbender's single arc spanning 3 seasons. Yes, there have been some wonderful stories (or interquels?) written as graphic novels explaining what happened to Aang after his series. And yes, he went on to unite the four nations and usher in an era of peace that… lasted almost up 'til when Korra came into her own. But that energy, that vibe at the denouement of Book Three for him was one of triumph. Things were gonna be okay.
With The Legend of Korra, the theme at work seems to be 'You Will Never Be Done'. Overcoming each obstacle— whether or not Korra can even manage it herself— just leads to more work to do. Cleaning up another mess, helping mankind realize that change is necessary and to get on board with it, and oh yeah, dealing with nigh-crippling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It's a fool's wish, but I would love nothing more than for Korra to overcome the Big Bad an episode before the end, for a change. Have her break Kuvira's delusion that an empire is going to make everything better. I'd love to have the last episode just be a twenty-two minute victory lap. Show Korra and her friends enjoying peace. Quiet. Some kind of reward for all of her world-saving work, besides more work.
Maybe a party, with tea and dumplings, with people coming up to Korra and thanking her for saving civilization as they know it. Show her progress, skipping over years at a time, teaching her nephews and nieces how to Airbend, if they have the knack.
And… that's not really the point, is it. The main character reincarnates. She does it again. And again. It's in the job description to never be done.
I have the utmost faith in Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. They will continue to deliver an amazing show. But I would really, really love it to see Korra come out on top, for a change.