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The Legend of Korra – Beyond the Wilds Review

"Vines, Vines, Everywhere the Vines"

The Legend of Korra continued its fourth season this week after its clip show break with “Beyond the Wilds”. It was a pretty solid return to the plot. We got to see an old favorite, some plot lines are tied up anticlimactically. There are some cool spirit world visuals. We weren’t overexposed to a bunch of comic relief characters. Which is always appreciated.

Lets get into it.

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Plot

In Republic City, Jinora, Opal, and Korra investigate attacks by Spirit Vines only to be attacked themselves. Korra attempts to reach the victims in the Spirit World, but she’s stopped by visions of Zaheer. In order to stop the visions she goes and finally confronts Zaheer.

Zaheer, Zathere, Zaeverywhere

So we get to see more Zaheer! Yes! Exciting. Seriously, I was pretty stoked. It seemed like a good place to get closure on his whole arc. And you know what? It was kind of was satisfying. There were multiple levels to it, which I lend to Zaheer’s complex character. We see his pain when Korra tells him his actions have led to the worst dictator in the Earth Kingdom’s history. The moment where he scares her after Korra announces she no longer fears him is great! It reveals character motivations without on-the-nose dialog. We see that Korra’s bravery is a thin mask, that she’s lying to herself about being over her trauma, and that Zaheer still believes himself to be powerful even while in chains.

I think the idea of having Zaheer becoming something of a spiritual mentor to Korra is a genius one. A kind of shaky trust based on mutual goals. The inherent conflict of having an enemy — an enemy that almost succeeded in killing you — become your mentor would make for such awesome stories. The dynamic between trust and fear alone! That’s why I was a little apprehensive when he helps her break through to the spirit world so easily. Like almost right away!

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So was Toph merely a mentor to help her hone her physical body? I mean, it kind of makes sense. She beat Kuvira almost instantly in her Avatar state, it was her spiritual flaws that made her lose. It would be a cool development. Definitely different than the usual one mentor stories we see.

Hopefully we see more of the Zaheer The Teacher in the future. Korra’s inability to connect to the Spirit World can’t be the only thing she has problems with, right? She’s gotta go back to him. At least before the inevitable last fight with Kuvira. It would be such a wasted opportunity for character conflict and resolution. It’d be unforgivable.

International Politics

I have a few questions about the rest of the world’s reluctance to do something about Kuvira. I mean, it hasn’t been that long since another dictator pretty much took over the world. You’d think they’d be super against another ambitious dictator amassing a giant power base. I mean, I understand how they’re reluctant to get into a long war, but there are two pretty big reasons why they’d want to.

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Firstly, the Earth Empire pretty much took over a sovereign city with Zaofu. Even when the Earth Kingdom was under the rule of the Earth Queen, Zaofu seemed pretty separate. Sure, they complained about the Queen, but they weren’t under the same oppressive rule. The Earth Empire, however, is pretty much set to take the city if they haven’t already. At the very least Kuvira, the Empress, beat the crap out of the Avatar for it. That’s a pretty apparent sign she’s looking to take over whatever she deems as “hers”.

Secondly, they have evidence that she’s building a weapon of mass destruction. Even if they didn’t trust Varrick or Bolin, the Avatar has had a vision that corroborates what they’re both saying. If anything that warrants military action, a dictatorship building the world’s most powerful weapon would definitely be it.

However, as far as we know, that didn’t change anything. Lin and Opal are set on a secret mission to rescue their family because no one else will advance on the Earth Empire. It’s so weird to me. I assume it’s because we need to have our main characters be the ones who go in and save the day. I just think it’d be cooler to have an epic war to finish the season, to really tie the show together.

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Bolin and Opal: Trouble in Paradise

Upon Bolin’s return to Republic City, he immediately tries to patch things up with Opal. Opal, obviously, isn’t too warm to the idea. Bolin was helping the people who took her family prisoner after all. I think it’s awesome, especially the moment where Bolin’s grand romantic gesture fails to impress her. It shows actual character-driven story progression. It’s against the grain.

I’m interested now, I’m invested. I want to see the two get back together. Instead of breaking through their barriers in one episode, Bolin will have to work to get their relationship back in order. Not only that, but if something happened to one of them, it’d back a bigger emotional punch.

Other Thoughts

I think this episode struck a pretty strong combination of humor and serious action. For some reason, The Legend of Korra struggles with this. Not so much in the first season, but the show is steeped in comic relief characters. Here, we have some brief comic moments with Varrick and a few good moments with the Airbender Tour at the beginning. That works. That breaks up the political and philosophical moments.

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Speaking of Varrick, I hope that we see more of he and Asami working together. Their dynamic works. Asami isn’t afraid to put him in his place, it’s interesting to watch. Plus, I’d be really interested in the connection between Varrick and her father. They were sort of on the same side. Not to mention I’m interested to see what they come up with to defend the city against the superweapon.

I’d love to see the world getting thrown into chaos because of Kuvira’s harvesting the Spirit Vines. Not only is it a solid metaphor for weapon escalation, it’d raise the stakes. The whole world is on the line! Spirits are turning evil, vines are imprisoning people, spiritual places are turning bad! You can’t tell me that’s not awesome.

Rating
7.5
Pros
  • Return of sage Zaheer
  • Bolin's Attempts to Patch Things Up with Opal
  • Solid Mix of Humor and Drama
Cons
  • Flat B-Plot with Politics
  • Easy on the Action

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