Does Korra really need a Team Avatar? (Old spoilers)
I've discussed this on other forums, as well as tumblrs and blog posts, and I think this subject plays a big part in the show's quality issue.
Now there are many factors discussed as to why the show isn't a great as it could be. Problems include trying to insist that a relationship that lacks depth being presented as true love, having a tribute character serving as a regular cast member (which is problematic because the reason writers usually avoid that is due to the temptation at pampering the character) and it's questionable job at exploring the gray zone as potentially complex issues end with a simple good vs evil.
Then there's one relating to what's going to be the thread topic. Mainly that it seems like Bryan and Mike can't decide what they want for their series. For one thing, Unalaq feels more like someone who's suppose to be a more simplistic villain, yet things like his claims of making a better world, and his kids finding his behavior out of character suggests that they tried to add depth to him.
Or for that matter, the abundance of protagonists who are morally challenged suggests that the show might be intended to be morally ambiguous, but among other reasons like the antagonists being clear cut villains it's hard to be sure on it being a grayer show or simply a black & white one with a hint of gray.
But here's where I really find the indecisiveness to really come into play. Whether it's Bolin being a dumbed down version of Sokka, or Unalaq being H2Ozai, it seems like Bryke can't fully commit themselves to making TLoK it's own show and sometimes tries to approach it as ATLA 2.0 (despite telling the fans that it needs to be viewed in a different light).
And the biggest example of that is giving Korra a Team Avatar or specifically trying to present her peers as being as important as Katara, Sokka, Toph and Zuko.
But really, for the bulk of Season 2, even when Mako, Bolin or Asami do anything plot important it doesn't really justify the amount of time spent with them onscreen.
Now the Probending arc is generally considered useless as it never is used beyond "A Leaf in the Wing" to really further Korra's Airbending training or giving the two brothers development, but at least they served a purpose in the arc.
And as the team's financial advisor in the Probending arc, as well as having a personal connection to one of the enemies in The Equalist arc, Asami's inclusion in Book 1 works.
In contrast with their overall appearances in Book 2 where it feels like Bryke had to really muster up a way to fit them in, the brother's appearance during Probending (now after that, they should have been demoted to supporting character who only appear when there's an actual reason), and Asami's inclusion overall felt natural. Like it made sense to include them in the respective times.
In further contrast, even with any possible misstep, it seems like Tenzin and his family's spotlight was done out of interest rather than just for the heck of it, whereas Asami, Mako and Bolin are just included because "you can't have a Season without a frequent appearance by Team Avatar".
Case in point. Beginnings, Part 1-2 and A New Spiritual Age come off as more solid stories compared to preceeding and succeeding episodes. And evidentaly the lack of "Team Avatar" not only didn't hurt the episodes, but arguably helped as there was more time to focus on the story and relevant characters.
Not to mention, why does Korra even need a Team Avatar?
Now of course she needs people her own age if only for better social development, but frankly they could never really be as important to Korra as The Gaang is to Aang.
As Bryke likes to remind us, Korra isn't Aang, and thus we shouldn't expect the same things to happen to her. So why did Aang need Team Avatar? Well:
1. After having been unfrozen, Aang has yet to train in the use of the other elements. With the already dominant Fire Nation having a chance for a power boost from Sozin's Comet, he needs to really brush up on learning how to use Water, Earth and Fire.
And since he has a lot of traveling to do, he needs Bending teachers that can also afford to travel. Hence the majority of The Gaang are his teachers. Had Korra's debending lasted longer, Asami could help in a similar regard by helping her in training in Nonbending styles of fighting.
2. Korra is not the last Waterbender from The Water Tribe South or North. She isn't some stranger from another time or another world who is alone. She has Naga, she still has her parents and even more so, she has Katara & her entire family as support.
Aang was an orphan to a high degree. All he had left from his Pre-Iceburg life was Appa and Bumi. And even then only one of them was a constant present in his life. The Gaang serve the purpose of providing him with a family. Especially Katara & Sokka who were responsible for him being freed in that time.
Plus, as I and some others have felt, it seems like The Kataang family has more of a Team Avatar vibe than anything. For one thing members of that family had more business being involved with Korra's world saving duty like Tenzin and Bumi who's jobs relate to making the world a better place or Jinora and again Tenzin who can actually help Korra in bettering her own skill (something The Krew just can't do).
Most importantly, the show feels it necessary to tell us that The Krew's a tight group of friends without interactions that justify the claim. In contrast, Bumi, Kya, Tenzin, Pema and the children have never really stated that Korra is a part of their family, yet their interactions show it to be a given fact.
So really, she doesn't need a constant team, but when she does, it's Tenzin and his family who seem to matter more in the long run that the group of her peers.
Edit: My added comments are in bold.
Deadpool on the "genius" of Hollywood: Everything's turned into a movie these days. -- Old TV shows, board games, candy bars. And let me tell ya, I'm totally stoked for Butterfinger The Movie.