The Legend of Korra – After All These Years Review
"I Guess You Can't Rush Genius "
A scant few months since Book Three of The Legend of Korra
ended, we now find ourselves back at it with Book Four. Titled "Balance", it, coincidentally, takes place a whole three years
after the end of the last book. Like the last half of the previous season, each episode is airing online in an effort to "accommodate the show's older fans". Or so Nickelodeon says.
It seems fairly obvious that they're trying to rush this show through, but I'll get into later. Why they haven't just canceled it, I don't know. Maybe they have an iron-clad contract or it's just a gesture of good will to the creators. I'm not sure.
But enough politics, lets get to it!
Due to this season's time jump, this first episode seemed to be devoted mostly to world building. Which is understandable. We see a stabilized Republic City, a peace-keeping Air Nation, an Earth Kingdom ravaged by bandits, and the dominating crusade of a power hungry Kuvira.
The Times, They Are Mostly A' Changin'
Three years is, I guess, enough for things to change... kind of. Asami, for instance, looks and acts like a real captain of industry now, but the show still
finds a way to give her nothing to do. On paper, she'd be one of the most interesting characters. She's running a giant corporation by herself. She brought it back from the ashes. She's the only non-bender in Korra's Krew but is, arguably, the most important member. Yet, she's pretty much the most boring character in the show. In this episode, her appearance is basically being thanked for her off-screen efforts and deflecting the advances of a painfully goofy comic relief character.
Mako, unfortunately, is this goof's body guard. This Prince Wu, whose character boils down to "exaggerated rich kid stereotype". We're going to be stuck with this guy for most, if not all of the season I just know it. Sure, Varrick was similar, but at least we saw he had another dimension when he was revealed to be a manipulative and murderous war profiteer. I only pray Wu goes down a similar road.
From what I understand, with the Earth Queen dead the Earth Kingdom has fallen into disarray, now broken into a bunch of different nations. Reuniting them could've been a decent goal for our protagonists, but it seems to have been given to Kuvira, our only antagonist so far, and treated like a negative. Which I guess makes sense. Our protagonists, the Air Nation, are instead given the nebulous goal of "do good". Which worries me.
It took most of last season for the show to find it's direction, its story engine, and once it did its quality shot up almost immediately. I worry that this season will wander in a similar way, with open-ended goals like "find Korra" and "stop Kuvira before... well whenever is good".
But wait, so what of Korra? Missing until the very end of the episode, we find her engaging in underground fights using an assumed identity. This will probably lead us into the thrust of this season. She's finally trying to discover who she is outside of being the Avatar, but it has caused her to become lost. Which is terrible because the world's... mostly okay
This is the weirdest part to me. I could see the conflict in Korra trying to find herself while the world fall a part around her, forcing her to either discover who she is or let the world burn. However, the world's not exactly ending. After all, we see a prosperous Republic City at the beginning of this very episode. The Air Nation is "stretched thin", but they still seem to be handling things fairly well. The worst crisis in the episode was a bandit-ravaged Earth Kingdom, but that was solved by Kuvira at the end. Sure, it was made to seem like a Deal With the Devil, but what's worse case scenario? Kuvira assassinates Wu and rules the reunited Earth Kingdom in his stead as an iron-fisted despot? Isn't that pretty much where the Earth Kingdom was at in Book Three? So worse case, the Earth Kingdom -- specifically
-- is back to square one? Not really what I'd call high stakes.
Although, now that I think about it, Kuvira could try to user her enormous power base to try and overtake the other nations. Everything changed when the Earth Nation attacked
. Great Uniter indeed. It's too early to tell, but those would be stakes worth watching for.
This animation here seems worse than last season. Across the board. It's stiffer. Cheaper. Less detailed. I checked and this season is still being done by Studio Mir, so I'm guessing it's just straight budget cuts. I'm no expert in animation by any means, but it seems to me that if you're pushing out a new season less than two months after you've finished your last one, you didn't have a ton of time to really polish the animation.
The fight scenes were well shot and interesting (Kuvira "throwing" her metal blades; a mid-air hijacking/air battle), but the animation lacked the fluidity of the previous books. There wasn't the "awe" there. The Tenzin vs. Zaheer fight from Book Three had some of the best fight animation in the history of the franchise. These seem jerky and rough. They also appear to be using "woosh" or "blur" effects to cover up a lack of actual movement.
Parts of last season's animation looked almost rotoscoped. This season looks like the animation of a show's first season before they get a decent budget.
The Villains were the best part of Book Three. The Red Lotus were, for the most part, well written, dynamic, and intimidating threats. It seemed that each season's villains built upon each other, becoming better than the last. In this first episode, however, that trend might have stopped for Book Four.
Don't get me wrong, Kuvira has promise. Like all Avatar villains, she's a super capable bender and dangerously ambitious. She commands an honest to god army -- an army with mechs
by the way. She's cool headed and deceptively sweet when she wants to be. It's just... The Red Lotus set my expectations too high. I expected more.
We've seen villains like Kuvira before. Most of the villains from Avatar: The Last Airbender
were like Kuvira. Amon was new. Zaheer was new. I want new. We need
new. This is the last season! Maybe of the entire franchise! We should be going out on the biggest, best, most frightening foe of all!
Then again, this is just the first episode of the season. We've got a long way to go. Maybe this is only a strange limbo where Kuvira fills the antagonist role until the real villain reveals themselves. Maybe Korra and Kuvira even team up to defeat a greater evil. That'd be something!
My hopes aren't completely dashed, but I was a little disappointed. Especially since Zaheer had such a great introduction in Book Three's premiere. Still, I'm holding out for something better.
The Set Up
Like I said, this episode was mostly set up... but is there anything worth looking forward to?
Bolin will probably have to choose between a life with Opal and a life serving Kuvira. While we can all pretty much guess the outcome, it'd still be awesome to see if they play it out over the season. It seems Bolin really believes in what he's doing, which isn't necessarily evil,
but if I had to guess, his conscience will wear on him and he'll turn against Kuvira. We saw him fighting Xhu Li in a mech during a trailer after all.
I'm actually pretty interested in Korra's journey too. This entire series she's defined herself as the Avatar ("But I'm the Avatar!") and we've only had promises of what would happen if that was changed. Now we're finally getting to see it. She's down in the gutter. She's broken, scraping by. Who'll she become? How will she treat her friends now? How does she feel about being the Avatar? I'm looking forward to finding out.
But how do you feel about "After All These Years"? Looking forward to Book Four? Disappointed? Let me know in the comments below!