I feel like this scene, more than anything, demonstrates the difference in tone between Legend of Korra and Avatar: the Last Airbender.
Here’s the thing: Aang suffered some pretty huge setbacks over the course of his show. He lost his people. He lost Appa. He lost Ba Sing Se. He lost the invasion force at the Day of Black Sun.
But, through all of that, he’s not alone and he knows it. Most of the time, his friends have already started making back-up plans by the time he realizes what’s going on. And, if nothing else, he’s got Raava, whose interference insured that Aang’s own experience with the death of an important spirit never reached the point of despair.
In fact, the only time Aang ever reached the point of despair — as one of his many reactions to the loss of Appa — it was something we as the audience knew in advance would be temporary.
Korra, in contrast, has twice been forced to a point where she feels utterly alone, unworthy, and hopeless, even when other people are there for her. Despair is something she needs to resist on her own, not something her friends ward off for her before it gets to that point, because having people there for her isn’t enough if she doesn’t believe that their presence is valuable.
Tenzin can offer her hope, but only if she’s willing to listen, and she still has to find the answer on her own, without her friends’ help.
Aang’s friends might have been able to shield him from the full extent of his pain, but Korra doesn’t have that luxury. She’s got to face true despair and overcome it, because if she doesn’t, there’s nothing anyone else can do.
#LoK really is a darker story in a lot of ways #And not just because it holds less back re: violence #What Aang faced was terrible but there was /always/ hope #But Korra’s hope is more likely to be snatched away than justified #In a way #A:tLA is about maintaining hope#While LoK is about resisting despair