So, at long last, I’ve caught up with Legend of Korra and have reviewed the first two episodes of the fourth and final season, titled “Book 4: Balance”.
First, a little background. The Legend of Korra is a Nickelodeon animated series that debuted in 2012. It is a sequel to the legendary animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is my third favourite television show of all time, after Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, not necessarily in that order.
Legend of Korra takes place around seventy years after the events of The Last Airbender, in a world where some individuals, known as “benders”, can manipulate one of the four elements (Water, earth, fire or air), mainly for combat, peacekeeping or, most infamously, athletic purposes, combat techniques based upon martial arts such as t’ai chi, kung fu and wudang. The people of this world originate from the four different nations, which are, in fact, based on the elements, and different Asian or aboriginal cultures. The Northern and Southern Water Tribes (Seemingly based on the Inuit people), the Earth Kingdom (Chinese, I think), the Fire Nation (Japanese, I’m sure) and the endangered Air Nomads (Tibetan). The main hub of these four nations is the United Republic of Nations, the capital of which is the originally named “Republic City” (20’s New York, but Asian).
There is only one person in the world who can bend all four elements. This person is known as the “Avatar.”
The Avatar, along with supposedly being the most powerful human being in the world, is also the human link to the spiritual world and the main peacekeeper in the tumultuous world of the show, in which the amount of social unrest, violent populist uprisings and political corruption would put most African countries to shame.
The current Avatar is a young woman from the Southern Water Tribe named Korra (Voiced by Janet Varney), who, throughout the series, fights crime, corruption, and the forces of darkness in general, along with her friends, a firebending detective named Mako (David Faustino), his brother, an earthbender named Bolin (P.J. Byrne), Korra’s airbending instructor and the previous Avatar’s son, Tenzin (J.K. Simmons) and industrial magnate Asami (Seychelle Gabriel), who isn’t actually a bender, but she makes up for it by being super rich.
Now that I’ve finished up the brief overview, it’s time to get into the recent episodes as best as I possibly can. This, of course, means that a spoiler warning is now in effect. If you haven’t watched the first three seasons, you best get on that right away. I take no responsibility for spoilers as f now, so don’t come crying to me if I ruin the show for you.
So, in the season premiere (“After All These Years”), three years have passed since Korra fought the anarchist airbender Zaheer (Henry Rollins) and his Red Lotus clan. Though Zaheer was defeated, Korra was crippled both from the waist down, and mentally, falling into a deep depression, as she returns to the South Pole to take a break from being the Avatar for a bit. Her friends go their separate ways, with Tenin and Jinora (Kiernan Shipka) re-working the resurgent Air Nation into a crime-fighting task force that tries to restore order to the devastated Earth Kingdom, which has been thrown into disarray ever since Zaheer murdered the Earth Queen. Problem is, the Earth Kingdom is huge, and there’s a lot of crime to fight.The time crunch isn’t helping either, as Prince Wu (Sunil Malhotra) is set to be crowned Earth King momentarily, and, being a vain prick, is eager to be crowned as soon as possible. Speaking of Prince Wu, he is accompanied by Mako (Much to Mako’s dismay), who has been assigned by the powers that be to be Wu’s bodyguard.
And Asami’s doing whatever. She doesn’t really interest me when she’s not adventuring with Team Avatar . She’s a great character, but still…
Speaking of Team Avatar, everyone on the aforementioned group of adventurers is excited about the upcoming reunion, a result of everybody getting back together for the coronation of Wu (By the way, I call dibs on the name “Coronation of Wu” for my indie rock band). However, when Tonraq (James Remar) , Korra’s father, arrives from the South Pole, everybody’s shocked to learn that Korra has vanished off of the face of the Earth, having not been seen for six months.
I really wish I had a lot to talk about, because it’s kind of a slow burn of an episode. That’s not a bad thing, by any means though. I enjoyed seeing here the characters have ended up after three years, and I like the new character of Wu, even if I want to punch him in the face. I also liked the new character of Kuvira (Zelda Williams, daughter of the late Robin Williams), a new character who is unifying the Earth Kingdom again with the help of Bolin and Varrick (John Michael Higgins). However, I feel like it’s a bit too obvious that she’s meant to be the new villain of the show, as she seems to be more into hostile takeovers instead of peaceful reunifications, and it is suggested that she may be plotting against the prince.
All that’s fine and well, but the show didn’t do an especially good job of showing what exactly Kuvira was supposed to be doing. So, she’s uniting the Earth Kingdom. Okay, simple enough. She’s conspiring against the prince? Great. Here’s my question: Does anybody else know? I mean, the governor who she bullies into joining her is really against it and so is Opal, which wouldn’t be so surprising if the idea wasn’t that she was supposed to be paving the way for the monarchy. Someone mentions that the people who throw pies at Wu support Kuvira. Aren’t Wu and Kuvira on the same side (At least supposedly)? And if it’s common knowledge that Kuvira has gone rogue, why haven’t they done anything to stop her? I sure as hell wouldn’t have let her take over as much territory as she had without stopping her, if I knew she had gone rogue.
That doesn’t make the episode bad though. It’s a great episode, and, with any luck, my lone nitpick gets some sort of reasonable explanation. Maybe I just wasn’t listening when they explained it. Whatever. She’s a badass.
As good as the first episode was, “Korra Alone” blows it out of the water. During this episode, the focus is entirely on what happened to Korra after Zaheer was defeated. Through sheer persistence, and thanks to Katara’s help (And a pretty cool Kill Bill reference, I like to think), regains her ability to walk. However, when she goes to travel back to Republic City, she finds that she is a pretty damn terrible bender now, as she gets her ass handed to her by some puny crooks. Her self-confidence destroyed, she renounces her Avatar identity and becomes a cage fighter, where she gets the shit beaten out of her. She starts hallucinating a dark version of herself that torments her, until she chases it into the woods where it… Beats the shit out of her. Notice a recurring theme?
Anyway, she is sucked into a hallucination of a puddle of mercury, but she is found by an old woman, who reveals herself to be Toph Beifong!!!
We’ve seen Korra lose hope before, and feel unable to go on before As great as Korra is, her arcs during the first two seasons were pretty repetitive), but we’ve never seen here actually physically and mentally unable to go on. She regained her ability to walk, sure, but her bending is lacking and she can’t even handle sparring partners, much less street toughs, anymore. Not only that, but when she was growing up, she grew up mostly secluded from other people’s opinions of her, only hearing from the White Lotus about how great she is, and about how important the Avatar is. Then, she goes to Republic City and she immediately has the fact that the Avatar is, in fact, a useless relic of a bygone era. The Equalists, Amon, Vaatu, Unalaq, Zaheer and the Red Lotus all felt that the Avatar was no longer worth having around for one reason or another. That can do a number on a person, and that, combined with the physical element of being beaten, poisoned and crippled, made the comedown of the realisation that, yeah, that might be the case.
Great stuff here, man!!! I fucking love it!!! As much as I like Gotham (Though it’s flawed as hell) and loved the first episode of The Flash (More on that later) Korra has blown the other two out of the water. It’s just so beautiful and so dramatic. The last season of Korra was one of the best seasons of TV of that year, and this season looks to build onto that success. I can’t wait!!!
Damn, now I have to decide between Fury, The Book of Life and The Legend of Korra on Friday. Talk about first world problems.
“After All These Years”: 4.5/5
“Korra Alone”: 5/5
The season so far: 9.5/10