The Legend of Korra: After All These Years
October 3, 2014 6:57 AM - Season 4, Episode 1 - Subscribe

The final season of Legend of Korra premiered today with our return to the Avatar world three years from the conclusion of events at the end of Season 3. It is a world still adjusting to the chaos of the Red Lotus and the reintroduction of spirits into the material world. It is a world that finds Team Avatar dissolved with its members pursuing different paths and a restored Air Nomad nation serving as a peacekeeping force. It is a world that has been absent an Avatar for three years.

Mako sporting a 'General Iroh' hair cut is now the assigned bodyguard to the heir of the Earth Kingdom throne, Prince Wu. Asami continues as a competent businesswoman, while Bolin wears the uniform of the Metal Clan Army, and Opal and Kai engage bandits as peace keepers in the role Tenzin announced the air nomads would take until Korra recovered from her injuries. The elegant dancer and Metal Clan captain, Kuvira, is now the Great Uniter, general of an advanced Metal Clan Army that speeds across the countryside in a futuristic train determined to bring all the states of the Earth Kingdom together. Korra, meanwhile, is no where anyone expects her to be.

The new season is available on, as well the new Nickelodeon app, for free. Episodes can also be purchased on and Google Play.
posted by Atreides (46 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I thought it was a weak opening episode. Wikipedia claims the episode was animated by Studio Mir, but the episode seemed uncharacteristically stiff, with none of their signature eye-blinking.

And what is the relationship between the Crown Prince and Kuvira? Are they in open conflict, or does Tenzin and everyone else acknowledge that Wu is destined to just be a figurehead, with Kuvira holding all the power?
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:27 AM on October 3, 2014

I agree with your opinions on the opening episode. This was definitely an episode that probably would have been better delivered with the second episode to help expand and further establish everything raised in it. It was effectively a, "Here's the game board with all the pieces," type of episode, but we have to wait until next episode to see the pieces move. Not very exciting.

The animation seemed slightly off, notably for me, Tenzin's face when he smiles about Korra's return from the Southern Water Tribe. Still a step up over the Japanese studio work from Book 2.

And what is the relationship between the Crown Prince and Kuvira? Are they in open conflict, or does Tenzin and everyone else acknowledge that Wu is destined to just be a figurehead, with Kuvira holding all the power?

I think the working expectation is that Kuvira is simply bringing the Earth Kingdom back in order so Prince Wu can assume the throne over a united and peaceful kingdom. I didn't pick up any open conflict, but I did perceive that there are those who believe Kuvira should be the one in charge and not Prince Wu, who's been living up the playboy lifestyle in Republic City while everyone else is suffering.

Overall, I enjoyed the episode as a return to Korra, but it was definitely not a strong episode by any means. It was fascinating to see what I recognized correctly from the trailer and what I completely goofed on. The Great Speculator I am not!

Both Asami and Mako appeared more mature and grown up, though this was apparently achieved by giving Mako what I call the, "General Iroh" haircut, and putting Asami in something that almost resembled a shawl (fine, a fashionable, business professional, shawl). What's interesting is that it seems Korra was the glue of Team Avatar. One might argue that the team was not strongly held together based on Book Two, in which the brothers had already gone off in different directions, Mako the police, and Bolin pro-bending and then ultimately, mover star. Without Korra to serve as a unifying force between them, a reason to come together, it seems they are not inclined to pursue the same interests (not unlike regular siblings). Asami continues in her position as the head of Future Industries, a job which doesn't apparently lend itself to crossing paths with Mako very often. Their meeting also kind of implied they weren't crossing paths socially, either.

Bolin, meanwhile, has separated himself from other people he cares for, besides Pabu (HE IS PEOPLE), Team Avatar, and Mako. He's separated himself from Opal, and while that relationship is still ongoing, Opal appears to be having doubts without Bolin even being aware of this fact. One reason, his association with Kuvira.

Our dancing captain in the Metal Clan has gone full on army general. Our first introduction to her was standing before a map of the Earth Kingdom and as someone determined to bring it all together, not to rest until it was 100%, not 90% complete. At first this seems admirable enough, but we receive a visual cue that Kuvira (whose name, it should be noted, starts with a K, like Korra) has less than virtuous goals in mind with the dark shadowing under her eyes when she convinces bandits to join her army. We see her as a manipulator, using survival as her leverage to force others to side with her. She threatens to leave the bandits tied to the train tracks until the next train comes through, and later, she threatens the governor of the state with the survival of his people if he does not "sign the documents." Presumably, Kuvira has been and plans to continue manipulating a lot of things and people to achieve her goals.

Her goals, however, are virtuously dressed in restoring order and uniting the Earth Kingdom. She also expects everyone to serve the state, which is how she offers the bandits the chance to "rehabilitate" themselves. As a dancer of choreographed performances, it would make sense for her to have a preference for order, as it's the only way such a dance can exist. Without order, the dance is just a bunch of people waving their arms and hands, while running around aimlessly on a stage. Kuvira wants the Earth Kingdom to be choreographed, but the final purpose of this dance is yet unknown, but it does involve forcing the concession of valuable ores from those under duress. Her "victory" in the city in this episode exposed a number of things. First, she is not acting for the Earth Kingdom or its monarchy, it's the Metal Clan Army, her army, which has come to the rescue and its to her that the governor is required to swear fealty - not the Earth Kingdom throne. Second, her requirement that the state sign over its mineral rights also reveals another perspective. In a kingdom, one would assume that the king or queen possess those rights, or at the worse, the "state" or political entity. Kuvira's demand of that concession is proclaiming that the Metal Clan, or at least she, stand in the same place as these other sovereign entities. Kuvira or the Metal Clan are becoming "the State."

Her moniker, the Great Uniter, harkens to two different similar examples. In the present day, in a manner that surely informed the writers, we associate "Great" in a title, probably best with "Great Leader," the title that the leaders of North Korea assume. Thus, it casts a dictatorial light on Kuvira that she accepts this title, if not promote it (we don't know enough on that end). Another example might be the "Great Emancipator" which is the title that was bestowed on Abraham Lincoln. Like Kuvira, Lincoln oversaw the reunification of the United States after it was fractured in war and obviously, the emancipation of slaves. Incidentally, Lincoln also signed into law a bill to promote the transcontinental railroad which would unite both sides of the nation. So far in Korra, it seems that people view Kuvira as one or another, and that reputation, either way, does not seem to be slowing down her ambitions.

The Metal Clan also appears to have suffered a fracturing. We will likely learn more about what happened, but apparently, Kuvira's and Baatar's (Suyin's engineer son), departure from Zhaofu was not done with the support of Suyin. Baatar mentions that his mother should have forgiven him by now, even though she hasn't. I would argue that Kuvira probably made an argument that the Metal Clan had a destiny/duty to leave Zhaofu to help restore the Earth Kingdom, and perhaps even more, and it was with this plan that Suyin disagreed so greatly, that she was willing to become furious with her son over it. It may not be surprising, either that Baatar joined Kuvira, and now is engaged to her, on the same grounds that engineers are required to see the world in which everything is in order. Machines won't run, buildings will stand, and products can't be made if something is engineered out of order.

Bolin in the Metal Clan! We quickly learn that Bolin see's his participation with Kuvira's army as a means to help people. Why this required leaving Pabu behind is not clear, but Kuvira's influence over him is strong enough to affect the way he styles his hair. I would not be surprised if Kuvira commented on the unprofessionalism of a fire ferret on one's shoulders may have lead to poor Pabu's exile to Air Bender Island. We also have another case of Bolin not seeing the deviousness in those he likes, in the same way he refused to accept Mako's assertions that Varrick was up to something in Book 2. It's also entirely possible that when Bolin joined Kuvira in her mission to restore order to the Earth Kingdom, that mission was completely an altruistic one that has slowly become twisted in the continual path of military victory in Kuvira's mind. The ride may have remained the same, but the path it's taken is one that has veered from what Bolin signed on for, and has so far failed to recognize has deviated. I expect Bolin will find out Kuvira's true plans and this will lead to his departure from the army (he could very well be the sparrow that sings Kuvira's real ambitions to the rest of the world).

Magnets! Or well, trains! It's not a coincidence that our first scene in Book 4 is before the Republic City train station, a symbol of the interconnectedness of the Avatar world and also foreshadowing, by way of Kuvira's use of the train as a means to transport her forces, as a direct threat to Republic City. President Reiko claims that the train station represents a new age, and every proclamation of a new age in Korra usually represents a major upheaval. Speaking of Magnets, it was great to see Varrick is a part of Kuvira's inner circle, along with Zhu Li and Victory Tea! (VarrickTea Industries) Varrick being Varrick, one must wonder what role he played in pushing the Metal Clan out of Zhaofu.

Air Nomad Peace Force! We learn several things. One, the air nomads have at least in this case, appear to have abandoned their staffs for flying suits, and two, are stretched thin across the Earth Kingdom trying to keep things in good order. The fact the governor complains about the delay in assistance also means another thing, that the air nomads, who stepped in to fill the roles of the Avatar until she recovered, are simply not capable of it based on numbers alone (which one would argue, the avatar is one woman!). It's also a sign of the level of widespread mayhem and chaos across the Earth Kingdom caused by the fall of the Earth Queen and the revolution set into motion by the Red Lotus (the extent of which has yet to be made clear). However, the air nomads are respected enough that the governor is willing to accept Kai's recommendation to surrender to Kuvira, albeit inspired by his people suffering.

Korra. We know these things about Korra. One, she's back on her feet. Two, she has likely been back on her feet for at least six months, the time span from when she left the Southern Water Tribe for Republic City. Three, she's not the kick butt Avatar she was prior to her fight with Zaheer and the Red Lotus, as showcased by her defeat in the MMA style rock bending fight. In fact, her defeat was terrible enough to encourage a complaint from the fight organizer. Four, Korra has turned away from her status and position as avatar. She flatly denies knowing anything about the Avatar, and not because she's gone undercover to bust up the underground bending fixed matches ring run by the Republic City Triads. It does make sense that an avatar who has decided to stop being an avatar would pick this form of employment, she doesn't really have any other skills to fall back on. From the age of a child, she was raised to master fighting forms and outside of serving as a bouncer or private security, she can't find any other occupations. Mako is in a similar position (minus the lightning bending for power production), but went into law enforcement, to be a protector with his skills. Korra by giving up her mantle of avatar, has already signaled, she no longer wants or believes she can be a protector of society. She would rather fade away into the masses of Republic City.

One thing that signaled to me that the world of Korra was upside down, that things were awry, were our animal companions, Naga and Pabu. In Avatar, when someone has an animal companion, they are inseparable and their absence always noticeable. That is no different in Korra, where Naga was really one of Korra's few friends before she arrived in Republic City, and was the equivalent of Appa to Aang. Bolin saved Pabu from culinary death and was happy to smuggle him around in his shirt rather than appease the Earth Queen by leaving him back at their visitor's residence. In this episode, both animals are not with their best friends. Naga arrives with Korra's father, Tonraq, at Air Bender Island, with Korra's absence in that moment specifically highlighted by the conversation between him and Tenzin. Pabu, coincidentally, is seen being fed by Jinora at the air bender dinner table, also on Air Bender Island. Meanwhile, Bolin is off riding in a train with the Great Uniter. Arguably, while Pabu and Naga aren't animal guides to Bolin or Korra, their absence from their lives may symbolize that the two have gone astray from their respective paths.

Side thoughts, Meelo has a crush on Korra. Weird or cute? I don't know yet. Jinora let her hair grow in, approved. Was Rohan in any of the family shots? I completely didn't notice him. Tonraq has grey in his hair, being a chief can be a little stressful apparently. Mechs. We knew about the Mechs, but it was the shot of the kid in the Earth Kingdom in one raising his hands excitedly that helped establish how they were viewed. They're not things of terror, but awesome pieces of weaponry. No explanation yet on the creepy goggled soldiers of the Metal Clan Army. Other than a general storm trooper appearance, that is.
Republic City has embraced the wilds, at least for tourism dollars. Are they as dangerous for humans as they once were thousands of years ago? (Not for the Hobo! Who happened to be friends with some of the same spirits Jinora was interacting with at the start of Book 3) Mako being sent off to Ba Sing Se, as if the President of the United Republic controls him like a vassal. What? Mako can just quit the police force, no? Loves the job too much?

Prince Wu. His design seems influenced by Aang's Earth King. He is the grandson of the Earth Queen's sister or brother ('great aunt') and is incredibly foppish. Is he set to follow in his great-grandfather's footsteps, who instead of living in established ignorance, lives in blissful ignorance of the realty of his kingdom? Will he become concerned like his ancestor did about the state of affairs and take an interest? Will he find a bear to be his friend? Regardless, Kuvira very likely stands between him and any real power in the Earth Kingdom.

In all, an okay episode, but one that desperately should have been saddled with a second episode to fully flesh out our characters and the past three years. Next week, I suppose!
posted by Atreides at 11:00 AM on October 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not what I expected...Korra being undercover? Throwing fights (I assume)? Was she paid to throw the fight? What is she up to?

Kuvira is definitely following your standard semi-benevolent dictator stereotype. Which makes complete sense in this situation. I am assuming the pirate/marauder with the plane is probably in her employ...that maybe some other bandits are too. What better way to put pressure on resistant states?

(also we got to see her be a badass fighter with those metal cuffs)

I wonder if Varrick is truly happy under Kuvira's stern rule? No celebration tea :( I would expect him to turn on her at some point, if only because she's no fun. We know from previews that Bolin probably will. But his going along with her is consistent with his easily-led character who takes others at face value.

Tonraq and Pema both look grayer.

Poor Mako. I guess if he just quit he'd have to give up all hope of getting his detective job back under Reiko. Lin does her version of Lumbergh; "Yeah....about that....We're gonna need you to go to Ba Sing Se..."
posted by emjaybee at 11:05 AM on October 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also, Korra is now back up on iTunes!
posted by 1970s Antihero at 11:08 AM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Was Rohan in any of the family shots? I completely didn't notice him

At the beginning, on Tenzin's shoulders. I'm just glad Pema isn't pregnant again.
posted by emjaybee at 11:11 AM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not what I expected...Korra being undercover? Throwing fights (I assume)? Was she paid to throw the fight? What is she up to?

I used a wonderful double negative on that one, as I don't think she's denying she's avatar because she's on some undercover mission. It works well to bury double negatives in large paragraphs in huge comments! [/clarification!]

Also, Korra is now back up on iTunes!

Whoa! Didn't see that coming so soon.

At the beginning, on Tenzin's shoulders. I'm just glad Pema isn't pregnant again.

Definitely need to check that out for the older Rohan shot! Geez, you know, Pema was probably even happier than Tenzin when air benders started popping up everywhere.

I also just realized, no sign of Bumi or Kya in this first episode.
posted by Atreides at 11:16 AM on October 3, 2014

OMG I had no idea that this show was starting up again. I just scrolled past all the comments without reading anything so that I can could say thank you thank you thank you for this post! I'm off to go watch now!
posted by Arbac at 11:26 AM on October 3, 2014

RANDOM SPECULATION. So if Korra is not undercover/throwing fights, what is she doing?

1. Just "not being the Avatar" and fighting for cash to live on?
2. Using the fights as training to help her get her strength back?
3. Keeping herself from winning because she is so afraid her Avatar state will kick in if she tries too hard?

Clearly she is lying to her dad/Tenzin via letters in order to stay incognito. Too proud to go back to a sheltered place? Too ashamed she hasn't fully recovered? Angry at them?


I would like to point out here that Aang *also* ran away. Maybe it's part of the Avatar thing and she just didn't have the time to say "fuck this" and book out till now.
posted by emjaybee at 11:35 AM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I read it as Korra being UNABLE to win the fight. She's lost something. (presumably she'll get it back, but, you know)

My guess on the season arc: civil war. Either just within the Earth Kingdom, or Kuvira is going to try and "unite" the whole world.
posted by curious nu at 12:27 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's not surprising there'd be tension between Kuvira's faction and the Earth Prince's faction. Kuvira is part of the Metal Clan, remember? There's definitely a bunch of anti-monarchism there. The Metal Clan was founded by at least a few people who are sympathetic to the Red Lotus ideal of "chaos," so it wouldn't surprise me if she's a Red Lotus sleeper agent like Aiwei. Maybe she's trying to conquer the whole world, centralize it under her leadership, then push for "anarchy" eventually, like in a quasi-Communist thing.

I definitely agree with the idea that Kuvira's the one supporting the bandits, or at least some of them. What kind of "bandit" has airplanes? I kind of want Kai and Opal to be kidnapped by the independent bandits and to hear their grievances, just so we can flesh out the entire political situation.
posted by Small Dollar at 1:03 PM on October 3, 2014

I just realized I did a little "Red Lotus-baiting" with that speculation there. Who knows what Kuvira's ideology is at this point, other than her own ambition?
posted by Small Dollar at 1:23 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Metal Clan was founded by at least a few people who are sympathetic to the Red Lotus ideal of "chaos,"

The episode seems to be telling us she's big on order, though.
posted by weston at 2:44 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

The name of the season is "Balance" so it's possible she embodies both in some way.
posted by Small Dollar at 4:24 PM on October 3, 2014

I might end up watching the series as it airs since it's the final Book and it'll be a change from the past 3 seasons.

I get a sense that Kuvira isn't so much working for the Earth Kingdom but for her own goals whatever they may be good for everyone is still up in the air. She is one frightening leader though even in that short battle we get a idea of how she issues orders.

Although, I'm not too crazy about Mako's new uniform but he does look a bit older and respectable to be the Earth King's bodyguard. I liked how the two brothers ended up in different jobs even though they were together for awhile. It's pretty normal even for close siblings to split off sooner or later.

Eh, I can kinda see how everyone has been busy the last 3 years and well, there's not much to talk about other than hey we used to date and now we don't? Apart from the saving the world multiple times thing.

I don't remember when Kuvira exactly had been introduced before the final battle in Book 3? I get a sense that Kuvira isn't so much a part of the Metal Clan anymore and more of a separate group under her own control. They're not swearing allegiance to the Earth Kingdom but Kuvira herself.

How many children does Suyin have? IIRC 4 sons and 1 daughter so 5 in total? I'm going assume Baatar is the eldest son atm.

I can understand why Bolin left Pabu back on Air Temple Island really esp since he'll be going on dangerous missions w/everyone. He doesn't want his friend to be at risk and it's safer for Pabu to be somewhere less unstable.

I hope Toph shows up soon, it reminds me of her intro back at the underground Earth bending tournaments. I can see Korra feeling tired of everything and everyone's expectations by going incognito. She's mentioned how everything had been taken care of well, Korra is the Avatar after all. This is probably the easiest way to get money w/o too much attn to her actual history.

Mako could quit the police but not like he can go back to pro-bending as a source of income. I imagine it's all he knows how to do w/o formal education or contacts in place.

About Korra's new look I'm glad she looks physically older esp since animated shows tend to keep the main cast the same age range for years because. A lot of stuff has happened since her arrival in Republic City and it'd make sense to see her change.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 7:30 PM on October 3, 2014

I find this Tumblr post saying Suyin's dad was Sokka because Bataar looks like him...intriguing.
posted by emjaybee at 7:35 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Everywhere I read about Season 4 there are people imploring me to watch it on to show them we support the show. Then takes down most of Season 3 so I can't catch up and can't watch Season 4. What the hell?
posted by GrapeApiary at 8:59 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am reminded of the beginning of Season 3 of Buffy, in which depressed!Buffy goes off to be "Anne", a waitress. I don't think Korra's undercover, I think she's depressed and looking for a way to find her footing again.

I'm also not convinced she's in Republic City. For some reason I feel like she's in Ba Sing Se.
posted by suelac at 9:22 PM on October 3, 2014

I disagree about Suyin's dad. His dad was obviously Genki Sudo. Or, alternately, his self. Put that dude in a suit and you're halfway to a new World Order video.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:07 PM on October 3, 2014

So much good stuff here, there's very little for me to say. So. Short notes.

I was very impressed with Kuvira's fighting techniques when it came to the bandits. But at the same time, that is freaking terrifying. You're trying to escape, and suddenly this band of metal is wrapped around your eyes...

I hope we're not leading up to a Jinora/Kai/Opal love triangle. Just because they're dangerously close to Mako, Asami, and Korra's ages in Book One, doesn't mean they need to repeat history.

Baatar and Kuvira totally read as queer to me. The second she said "My fiancé", I might have scoffed.

Poor Lefty. Always getting stuck carrying heavy things.

I can't even explain how delighted I was to see the hobo. I bet he and the spirits get on like a house covered in spirit vines and visited by tourists.

The entire newsreel, however, reminded me a lot of the newsreel at the start of the Simpsons episode "$pringfield (Or, How I Learned Stop Worrying And Love Legalized Gambling)". Republic City! A city on the...grow!

And now Korra. Who, I gotta say, is reminding me of Ryan Atwood at the start of the last season of The OC. She's angry, she's traumatised, she just wants to hit things, but she's not able to do it well, so she just gets angrier. I can't wait to see more of this.

Overall, it wasn't a fantastic episode, but there's a heck of a lot to put into place, and I think it managed that pretty well.
posted by Katemonkey at 11:23 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was really pleased when they eventually mentioned a period of time that wasn't "three years"
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:32 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

While I realize it was a fairly slow opening, I think it ultimately needed to be done. As mentioned above, this was all about establishing where each character is and what they have been doing. And while I wanted more Korra, I did spend most of the episode in anticipation of how she was going to be introduced and was genuinely surprised that she was not on that ship.

Lots of references to the Fire Nation as well as the Third Reich. A rather depressing situation for everyone and I though it seems inevitable, it will be interesting to see how Korra regains her status as Avatar.

This entire season seems like a kind of: let's knock her down and see how she picks herself up. The only problem being that this has already been done a few times throughout the course of the various books, so it's not too original. I'll keep watching, I'll keep on buying the bluray to support a show like this but, a bit of a downer episode.
posted by Fizz at 5:44 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm also not convinced she's in Republic City. For some reason I feel like she's in Ba Sing Se.

Seems like a good bet -- the arena is all earth kingdom colors, the attendees dressed in those colors, and to my eye the cut/style seemed more Ba Sing Se than Republic City.

Then there's this image comparing a still of Xin Fu's earth rumble arena and the arena Korra was seen fighting in. The common logo *really* suggests the same organization and an Earth Kingdom focus that isn't very Republic City (but might be Gao Ling or some other Earth Kingdom city besides Ba Sing Se?).

On the down side, I do wonder where Korra might be recognized by likeness, and it seems to me that's unlikely outside the water tribe and Republic City.
posted by weston at 7:25 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's a great piece of evidence, Weston. It also would make more sense for her to try and disappear in Ba Sing Se (where, conveniently, Mako is being sent next week or so).
posted by Atreides at 8:40 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Of course, now that they know she is missing, is it just a matter of turning on Jinora's SpiritSense(tm) and seeking her out? Though that would be harder if she is further away...I think.

Yeah, I didn't buy Kuvira and Bataar as anything but a marriage of convenience. With Kuvira obviously running things. Of course, does anyone doubt Suyin was the dominant person in her marriage?

I don't get the "it was slow" thing. We had the Epic Kuvira Battle, and the interaction with the Yai chief, which communicated a lot of information in a few minutes. We saw how even scary Kuvira has forces (including Bolin) who really do want to help and not just conquer, giving out food to starving people. We know where Varrick and Zhu Li are.

We found out Meelo has a crush on Korra. We got the squirrel suits, the city's acceptance of the Spirit Wilds, insight into the shallow new proposed king, and relationship tension between Opal and Bolin along with the knowledge that Kuvira's break with the metal clan/Suyin took place right after the events of the last episode.

And now I kind of want a tea-leaf body wrap.
posted by emjaybee at 9:17 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's interesting to compare the Earth Kingdom's status to the chaotic era of China in the early 1900s, after the collapse of he Quin dynasty through the warlord period. The Earth Kingdom does seem to fluctuate between "There's nothing outside of Ba Sing Se" and "We must conquer every part of the continent."

And Korra...on the one hand I'm glad to see her moving. On the other hand, she failed so utterly last season, was so completely destroyed, that it's obvious that physically and emotionally she's not returned. Indeed, she may have asked herself "What do they need an Avatar for?", and come up with the answer "They don't".

As I pointed out earlier, the threats in the previous seasons of Korra have been to the Avatar. And in this case, the threat seems to be "What is the role of the Avatar in a world where the spirit gateways are open, where the Avatar doesn't need to be an intermediary?" "Do we even need an Avatar any more?" In this sense, the main enemy of Korra's final season may be Korra herself. From the series title, I think that a new role for her will be found, but it's not going to be easy on Korra.
posted by happyroach at 3:04 PM on October 4, 2014

I feel like this show is either lazy, clumsy, or it's an action scene. We're introduced to Kuvira, and she's a hard ass and really wants to unite the earth kingdom, and I guess she's going to try to conquer the fire nation colonies which were the plot of the expanded universe comics and got a mention from the Earth Queen last season, so that will be the conflict of this season, but so what? Take the scene where she's introduced fighting the bandits, who themselves are as faceless and inexplicable as mobs in a video game. Sure Kuvira has a cool style of fighting, but she doesn't really have a personality, or motivations other than "wants to conquer everything," and considering this series' past villains I'm sure none will be revealed. Compare this with the first couple of episodes introducing Azula, her personality and motivations are very clear, and she's a fascinating character independent of her bending abilities.

Korra, I guess, we're supposed to think was so traumatized by what happened with season 3 (as opposed to seasons 1 and 2, which she was perfectly fine with and learned nothing from) that she is "done" with being the avatar, but this seems odd to me. She was perfectly happy to fight Zahir up until the last couple episodes, and when she hallucinated past villains calling her useless. "The avatar's place in the world" was just not something she struggled with, at least not explicitly. I appreciate subtlety, but Korra was her pugnacious self right up until the end of season 3 where we're told "well, now she's traumatized and feels useless." These things need to be set up. Instead of the character work that season 4 should have been built upon on we got episodes of filler like Anne Heche and her and Lin's mommy issues. For that matter, Kuvira got no introduction to her as a character in season 3, just enough mentions to make you realize that she would be important in season 4.

The rest of the episode just felt dull to me. Loads of exposition, faceless bandits, Robert Morse, Bolin's obligatory romance. Asami might have well as been forgotten after season 1; it seems she's only in the show if she's selling technology, using technology, or acting as a romantic foil to Korra. Any other complaints would be nitpicking really, but I'm excited to see where this season will go. It seems at least a little more promising than the last one.
posted by catwash at 10:20 PM on October 4, 2014

I don't know - I did a marathon of the second half of season two through season three a couple weeks ago, I feel like Korra's had doubts (or has had to deal with doubts) about whether the world needs an Avatar throughout the entire show. It was the theme of season one, too - what is the place of the Avatar in the modern world. She's been confronted with the idea that the world doesn't need an Avatar from the first episode, where she jumps into Republic City trying to fix everything, and ends up realizing she doesn't know what's she's doing.

Korra's break at the end of season three wasn't sudden - it was a slow erosion over time.

Also, while I think that Asami was badly used in season two, she was great in season three as a friend to Korra, not a romantic foil (unless if by 'romantic foil' you mean 'love interest for Korra', which will probably only happen in a more just universe). Asami was there for Korra in a way that Mako and Bolin couldn't be, and I, for one, welcome their BFFery.

With the fighting - I also assume she's somewhere in the Earth Kingdom. For one, it seems more likely that she could go unnoticed there than in Republic City. I think it's mostly - she's given up being the Avatar, or is running from the Avatar, but she's still a fighter. She's never been comfortable doing anything else.

This episode made me impatient, mostly for the lack of Korra - but it did make me want to watch the next episode as soon as possible. It's a good start, but I think I would have enjoyed it more as part one of a two parter.

I really enjoy the updated character designs (or what I could see of them, Nick's native player is horrible and sometimes would just be a wave of pixels). Not just the obvious costume changes (which really fit their character), but Mako, Bolin, and Asami looked just a little bit older. I also liked the airbender's flight suits and Kuvira's metal carapice-ish thing. Good job all around.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:21 AM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

One thing of note, someone over on Reddit accurately pointed out that you see the guy with the ponytail on the airplane get captured by Kuvira at the beginning of the episode. So the creators right up front wanted us to have a glimpse of her tactics to bring the various unaligned states under her control.

One thing we just have to accept on the end of Book 1 was that it was created under the expectation that it might stand as the only Legend of Korra ever produced. The writers obviously want to end on a hopeful note than go ESB and leave her fate dangling forever. If you recall, at least, before the deus ex machina of the past lives of the Avatar returned Korra's bending back, she was pretty despondent having lost all but the air bending. Aang, when he appears, references that she was at a pretty low point. For all intents and purposes, Korra had a terrible life event, but one that she was able to recover from supernaturally, if you will. In Book 3, I agree, it would have been better to have more reflection on the loss of her connection to the past Avatars, but physically and mentally, otherwise, she found victory by fulling coming into contact her spiritual force/power. She overcame a barrier to defeat the bad guy.

Only at the end of Book 3 does Korra physically suffer the consequences of her duty as Avatar, and one might question, did she really defeat the Red Lotus? Had it not been for the air benders presence, one can strongly argue that Korra would have been defeated by Zaheer and the plan of the Red Lotus. She was tortured by them, while at the same time, thinking her father had just been killed. Korra has always been presented as a very physical and combative Avatar, the state she's left in at the end of Book 3 is a direct assault on her view of who she is. You can take any self assured soldier, put them through an extremely traumatic event, and it's very plausible, particularly if they are disabled for a lengthy period of time afterward, to suffer from PTSD.
posted by Atreides at 1:39 PM on October 5, 2014

That was some heavy duty plot armor the airplane bandits were wearing. That's the only part of the episode that disappointed me, and it REALLY disappointed me. UNACCEPTABLE! There's no way a biplane and a guy on a rope have any chance against a couple of competent air benders (who, I may add, got to take out some ground based bandits with panache and with some excellent new moves).
posted by ursus_comiter at 4:10 PM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

ursus_comiter: I assumed they weren't trying to kill the bandit on purpose and more like discouraging him? I mean, they could have just cut the rope and let him fall to his death in 5 min.

I agree w/the predictions on how Kuvira might be the next Villain or antagonist for Book 4.

Asami improves greatly in Book 3 but they are still having issues w/a non-bender on the main cast and having them interact in a meaningful way. I imagine it would extremely awkward for a non-bender living in LoK but they never go into much detail after Book 1 is finished.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 4:36 PM on October 5, 2014

To be fair, I think Asami is a more dangerous contributor than Sokka was in ATLA. Granted, she hasn't been given an opportunity to show herself as a master strategist. She's more of the innovator. Yes, as mentioned before, Asami IS BATMAN.
posted by Atreides at 5:55 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's no way a biplane and a guy on a rope have any chance against a couple of competent air benders

Yeah, this is a low point of the first episode for me too. The battle to keep the supplies from the bandit is somewhat pointless -- Kai *or* Opal could simply take the battle to the plane itself, which is the source of the bandit's ability to project any force at all and the only place they can really take the supplies.

I guess you could argue the fog of war/heat of battle and all that, but it moves into the territory where some LOK battles feel like they're decided not by how the match is set up but by what needs to happen in order to move the plot forward instead.
posted by weston at 6:52 PM on October 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I totally agree with catwash's comment about how lazy / clumsy the character beats are on this show. I tried saying that myself last season, but as usual I got too strident and lost my way and by the end it sounded like I just hated the show, which I don't. I just don't think it's as good as I know the creators can make it.

That's the really odd thing, to me, about how clunky so much of Korra is: that the problems the creative team is having are the sort that first-time creators usually have. But this isn't their first time, and they didn't have these problems on their actual first show. In a lot of ways, I feel like you could show someone both series without context and they'd assume that Korra came first and A:TLA was created later, after the creators grew more confident and focused in their storytelling.

Again, I like the show, and I'm crazy excited for this season, because what Korra does well it does REALLY well. I just want to be engaged by the show, not merely relieved that it no longer stinks.
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:08 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

On a lighter note, I meant to say this in the FPP, but when my coworker sent me the link to the season 4 trailer, he said "The last shot implies that we're gonna see something we all wanted to see last season."

Trailers for upcoming episodes are considered spoilers in Fanfare so I can't say what it actually was—I assume everyone in here knows what I'm talking about anyway—but I 100% no lie thought he meant Korrasami right up until the actual moment.

what Korra does well it does REALLY well

Yes, I'm quoting myself like a total dork, but I've been wanting to say this for a long time and it just hasn't come up: one thing that Korra gets so right is the show's has admirable lack of hero worship or fan service when it comes to the adult versions of the previous series' main characters. There's an explicit acknowledgement that who you are as a kid can have little bearing on how you are as an adult. That's something you just don't see a lot in any genre, and Korra does it better than just about any other piece of fiction that I can think of.
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:38 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ian A.T. : Do you mean as in how the A:tLA former cast changed as they grew older? Or how Suyin changed from rebellious teenager to mature and responsible adult? Sorry, if I skipped over something you already mentioned.

It's nice to see characters start out from point A to point C and how they make reasonable character development instead of sudden epiphany before the final 15 min of the series.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 10:29 AM on October 6, 2014

Yeah, sorry, the former cast. They do a great job of making them resemble their childhood selves while still allowing for the thirty years of growth and maturity that has happened since we've seen them last. Other shows would either make them adult-sized versions of the characters we already know, or they'd oversell the point by making them completely the opposite of who they were, like a blinking neon light reading Youth Fades.

But the Korra creators balance the two and are pretty subtle about it. They're also not afraid to imply that they weren't flawless adults: both Aang and Toph appear to have been less-than-perfect parents.

Speaking of aging, what did you guys think of the new designs for the Korra cast? I thought Asami's aging was masterful, perfectly captured the miniscule-but-unmistakable difference been "teenager" and "young adult". On the other hand, Opal somehow looks much younger than she did three years ago, like they aged her down for a Kai romance.
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:42 PM on October 6, 2014

So far I thought the aging up went smoothly. Mako's neck seems kind of big, but it's possible it's always been that way, but covered up by a scarf or high collar. I thought Opal seemed all right. If you look at her in this image, when she's in the crowd disappointed with Bolin, you can see her face is drawn longer and thinner (similar to how they aged Asami), as compared to her Book 3 appearance.

I say that, but now I'm thinking she looks exactly the same.


I definitely agree on the original cast and their aging up.
posted by Atreides at 1:17 PM on October 6, 2014

I don't know about Opal/Kai shipping. He seems pretty happy. And if I were an average airbender, would I want to steal the boyfriend of the most powerful airbender outside of Korra and Tenzin? No, I would not. When I was 19 (I assume she's about that) dating a 15-year-old was NOT on my wishlist.
posted by emjaybee at 3:24 PM on October 6, 2014

Sorry, that was sloppy writing on my part. I didn't mean that they were actually setting up a Kai/Opal romance, just that the two characters appear to be the same age now. I agree that a romance between a 19-year-old and a 15-year-old is unlikely to happen on the show...

...although this is the creative team that thought a passionate kiss between Katara and Aang was a beautiful ending to the series and not a "grimace and look away uncomfortably" moment, heh.
posted by Ian A.T. at 4:27 PM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

At the good suggestion of Ian A.T., I went hunting for a handy list of character ages after our three year jump....and couldn't find it. Thankfully, the Avatar Wiki has the ages for each character, so I just went ahead and compiled 'em below!

Korra - 21 years old now (was 17 at the start of the series)
Asami - 22 years old
Bolin - 20 years old
Mako - 22 years old
Lin - 54 years old
Suyin - 48 years old
Opal - undetermined - probably around Bolin's age
Kai - undetermined age - at least the same age as Jinora or a year or two older
Tenzin - 55 years old
Pema - 39 years old (16 year difference!)
Jinora - 14 years old (Which, if Pema and Tenzin waited until marriage, meant they got married at approximately Pema 25 and Tenzin 41 - which...means Tenzin is in the creep zone [1/2 age + 7]!)
Ikki - 11 years old
Meelo - 9 years old

For reference, Aang was between 12 and 13 at the end of Book 3 in ATLA and Katara about 14. All this info comes from the Avatar Wiki.
posted by Atreides at 6:50 AM on October 7, 2014

For reference, Aang was between 12 and 13 at the end of Book 3 in ATLA and Katara about 14. All this info comes from the Avatar Wiki.

IIRC, the writers did say something to the effect of "We screwed up the ages, they should be at least three years older."
posted by happyroach at 7:17 AM on October 7, 2014

IIRC, the writers did say something to the effect of "We screwed up the ages, they should be at least three years older."

Less than that, I think they compressed chronology of the show a bit excessively. I totally believe Aang is 12/13 and Katara is 14 at the beginning of the show. At the end of the show, I feel like everybody's aged at least 2 years and enough has happened in the show for it to feel like that long, but the chronology says it all happened in less than a single year.
posted by weston at 12:56 PM on October 7, 2014

I definitely had the opinion that they aged up the original Team Avatar at least a year physically by Book 3.

In good news, once Korra ends, we can totally do a ATLA rewatch. Hurray!
posted by Atreides at 1:32 PM on October 7, 2014

Ian A.T.: I admit, I thought Jinora was w/Kai during the rescue mission and that all her hair grew back already. Opal does look younger in Book 4 compared to Book 3 and it might just be uneven animation issues too. I thought Asami looked older w/o giving her a new haircut which tends to be 95% way to indicate a time skip for everyone in animated shows.

Yeah, I'm glad I'm not the only person who thought Aang/Katara was a bit forced (?). Reminds me I really want to see Toph again.

BTW: It's hard to say if I find romantic subplots in A:tla to be overall awkward or that I just dislike *all* romance in my series.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 2:41 PM on October 7, 2014

/derail. I also was not happy with the ending kiss of A:TLA. Much like Toph, I found the whole romance "oogy."

I haven't liked many of the romances Konietzko and DiMartino have put in, come to think of it. Maybe that's a weakness of theirs.

(and the good ones, Sokka/Suki and Zuko/Mai, remain unresolved! We don't know if they stayed together! There is a lot of Tumblr angst about it!)
posted by emjaybee at 11:23 AM on October 8, 2014

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