The Legend of Korra introduced the lightning generation, firebenders who were able to separate the energies of fire to manipulate lightning. In Avatar: The Last Airbender, firebenders who harnessed lightning were powerful enough to knock people unconscious. However, the ability to lightning bend proved to be less deadly in Legend of Korra, though we never totally knew why. A compelling fan theory may explain the mysterious change once and for all.
In the Season 2 finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Azula strikes Aang with a powerful bolt of lightning. The blast is so strong that she nearly kills Aang. Katara is able to heal him, but it takes him quite some time to be able to tap into his Avatar state again after that. In The Legend of Korra, however, Mako is able to redirect lightning attacks to stun or throw people across rooms with minimal physical damage and Korra doesn’t exactly explain why lightning bending has lost some of its spark.
Reddit user Sidrao suggests ightning bending is far more common in The Legend of Korra due to industrialization. Considering that Korra takes place nearly a century after The Last Airbender, it stands to reason that modern electricity is more easily accessible.
Both lightning and electricity are natural physical occurrences, with the latter having a much lower voltage than the former. The theorist explains that the “electricity in your home isn’t nearly as strong as a bolt of lightning,” which makes it much easier for firebenders to control. That means when it’s used in an attack, the damage is a lot less intense.
The theory takes into consideration the changes and advancements made in the time between The Last Airbender and Korra. That said, it’s also possible that Azula was simply a much stronger (and angrier) firebender than Mako. After all, she was aiming to kill Avatar Aang all along, so it’s possible that she harnessed all of that rage and hatred into her lightning strike.
Mako is also a highly skilled firebender whose manipulations of lightning seem far more controlled than Azula. Perhaps it’s because he has a bit more control over his emotions than Azula. Conversely, his lightning might come off as being less powerful because he doesn’t fire with the intention of killing. Mako’s lightning strikes are much more precise, whereas Azula’s are unbridled. Either way, it offers a lot of food for thought.
The Legend of Korra is currently streaming on Netflix.