The Legend Of Korra Review: “After All These Years”

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Spoilers abound! If you haven’t caught the premiere of The Legend of Korra: Book Four, head on over to Nick where new episodes will be streaming every Friday.

So here we are. The Legend of Korra: Book Four. The beginning of the end of the wonderful universe Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino have created. The premiere episode, “After All These Years,” takes place three long years after the end of the third season, which saw Korra in a wheelchair, slowly recuperating from a near fatal attack at the hands of the Red Lotus.

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I’ve always loved the idea of time skips. You grow attached to characters over the course of their journey and time skips allow you to fall in (or out of) love with the same characters all over again. There’s excitement in finding out what these characters have been up to and seeing how they’ve changed. The fun part, though, is learning why.

Republic City, beset and beleaguered by spirits throughout Book Three, has embraced them in these three years. In a significant departure from her low public approval rating in the previous season, Korra has been honored with a new park named after her along with a large statue (not Aang-large, but it’s a start).

The main players of Team Avatar have all gone their separate ways. Asami has been busy with Future Industries, helping revitalize a railway system to help connect Republic City with the rest of the Earth Kingdom. Mako has been relegated to being the personal bodyguard of Prince Wu, great nephew of the former Earth Queen and heir to the throne.

We don’t get to see the young Avatar until the end of the episode where we learn she’s voluntarily gone missing for the last six months. It turns out she’s been participating in earthbending cage matches for money, kind of like Wolverine was doing in the beginning of the 2000 X-Men film. Why did she abandon the original plan to reunite with everyone on Air Temple Island? That open-ended mystery was a strikingly refreshing way to finish the episode.

What the previous seasons’ premieres did quite effectively was establish an enigmatic adversary. While this first episode is no different in that regard, what’s unique is that, so far, the biggest threat to peace doesn’t seem all that evil. Past years had the Equalists, dark spirits and the Red Lotus all eventually posed great danger to the world.

The closest antagonist season four has right now is Kuvira (spectacularly voiced by Zelda Williams). She made small appearances throughout Book Three as a Zaofu City guard but was formally introduced in the previous season finale where she saved Korra’s father, Tonraq, from plummeting to his death. She clearly isn’t all bad.

However, this episode paints Kuvira as a conqueror. At least one character denigrates her as such and another seethingly addresses her as “The Great Uniter.” She’s shown traveling from city to city strong-arming community leaders into swearing fealty to her in exchange for protection from riotous bandits. Her goal, or so she states, is to have the Earth Kingdom “100 percent reunited.”

(By the way, how awesome was the scene where Kuvira single-handedly took out dozens of earthbending bandits with her metalbending? Studio Mir always gets the action right with fluid animation and beautiful choreography set against painterly backgrounds. It’s also worth noting how much precise movement highly-trained benders like Kuvira have to do to implement their powers. That should put into perspective the sheer waterbending skill the Red Lotus’ Ming-Hua had considering she didn’t have any arms.)

Several people don’t agree with Kuvira’s actions, but it’s hard to fault her when she really is helping. One town leader was initially defiant, but after finally agreeing to her terms, she provided both ample amounts of food and protection to the ransacked village. Kuvira may be power-hungry and ambitious, but her actions actually seem beneficial to the greater good.

The budding Air Nomads, revitalized from the brink of extinction last season, now serve as keepers of peace throughout the world (utilizing awesome wingsuits). They’re stretched thin considering their limited numbers, so they can’t offer the free protection to victimized towns as they’d like. Opal is obviously at odds with Kuvira’s tactics, which makes for great drama between her and her boyfriend (and last Team Avatar member), Bolin, as he now works for Kuvira.

Various factions are established with Kuvira and her supporters, the Air Nomads, Prince Wu, the wildcard Korra and, of course, the constant threat of the Red Lotus. The conflicts that will continue to rise between them are what I’m looking forward to most. Deeper character dynamics were sorely missing in previous seasons of The Legend of Korra, but Book Four, aptly subtitled as “Balance,” looks to rectify that. “After All These Years” may not be the action-packed premiere seen in previous seasons, but it provides the basis for what could easily be the series’ most intriguing stories.