“Korra Alone” poignantly recounts the Avatar’s journey and recovery in the three years since Book Three.
The second episode of Book Four of Legend of Korra might be one of the best in the series. Through a series of flashbacks, “Korra Alone” tells the emotional tale of Korra’s physical healing and mental fragility over the three years since her battle with Zaheer at the end of Book Three.
Everything in this episode contributes to the touching narrative. The music, visuals, and the call outs to Aang and earlier seasons of LoK all work to support the solo story of Korra’s personal, frustrating journey. The script, written by co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino, cohesively blends the old world wisdom of the Avatar universe with the elements of physical therapy viewers would be most familiar with through other media.
The three year gap in seasons also provides the series the opportunity to show just how long that physical therapy can take. The poison the Red Lotus used on Korra and the battle that followed has left Korra in a wheelchair, unable to make use of her legs. Rather than just have Korra appear three years later good as new or show her recover in a short montage, the episode devotes nearly half of its flashback time telling the story. Korra’s two years of recovery involved mystical healing through waterbending as well as exercises and emotional guidance.
The episode doesn’t drown itself in seriousness, thankfully. The humor fans have come to expect from both series is delivered through the letters Korra receives and people she encounters. These light-hearted moments are crucial, because otherwise the entire episode would be too emotionally draining. Those letters, and a visit from her mentor Tenzin, also work to remind the audience of Kuvira, who is taking charge of stabilizing the Earth Nation.
The letters and brief dialogue Korra has with her friends serve to reinforce both the developing lives of Mako, Bolin, and Asami as well as the relationship between Korra and Asami. The letters between the two are especially caring and supportive, with Korra noting how it is easier for her to share her struggles with Asami. The series seems to give more evidence for Tumblr fans of Legend of Korra to freak out over their most popular non-canon couple.
“Korra Alone” is largely about Korra’s internal recovery from past events, going back to Book Two. The episode visits familiar locations and environments from previous season, including the North and South Poles, the Spirit World, deserts, volcanos, and swamps. Korra is looking for answers while haunted by her past, and while the questions still remain, the episode ends with a reveal that any fan of the series will appreciate. Discussion of these elements and events follow, so beware: spoilers follow.
Episodes of Legend of Korra: Book Four are released on Nick’s website on Friday mornings, with both of the previous episodes available to view now. The first two seasons are available on Amazon, with Book Three on Vudu.
Korra’s recovery is largely dependent on Katara, who fans will remember from earlier seasons and from Avatar: The Last Airbender. While her waterbending healing is important, her conversations and encouragement are what keep Korra going. In one particularly heartbreaking moment, Korra loses it and yells at Katara, who just waits for Korra to finish before comforting her.
Katara watched Aang persevere after learning his people were wiped out, and invokes the story to push Korra to keep going. Aang found peace through his struggles, and when Korra asks what she will find, Katara admits she doesn’t know. “But won’t it be interesting to find out?” she asks the Avatar.
And it is interesting. After two years of healing, exercise, and nightmares, Korra is recovered enough to receive a visit from Aang’s son, Tenzin, and to try her hand at sparring. Unfortunately, she finds she’s not back to full form, seeing Red Lotus leader Zaheer attacking her during the bout. Afterwards, Korra decides she needs to leave the South Pole and return to Republic City to throw herself back into the action and reunite with her friends. However, Korra never makes it to the city.
As she approaches Air Temple Island, Korra sees herself. The Korra that fought Zaheer stands in front of the moon: the chain around her arm, messy hair, and eyes suggesting the powerful Avatar State. Korra turns away and begins a globe-trotting journey, starting in the Spirit World. Attempting to meditate and reconnect to Raava, the spirit responsible for creating the first Avatar.
Korra’s journey seems largely framed in connecting to her past. Korra, Aang, and their predecessors all depended on receiving guidance from past Avatars, but that was lost when Korra merged with Raava in Book Two, restarting the Avatar cycle. Spending time with Katara, discussing Aang, running into a merchant that once met Aang, and looking for Raava all reinforce that Korra needs that connection to her past lives.
If only she could get past herself. Throughout her journey she sees the shadow version of herself, which eventually leads her to that underground earthbending fight from last episode. Seeing the fight from Korra’s perspective, we learn that see saw her shadow-self on the other side of the ring, literally losing the fight to herself. After the fight, Shadow Korra attacks the Real Korra in an alley, but is chased off by… a puppy?
Korra follows the puppy to a swamp, where it reveals itself to be one of the spirits she met earlier and insists that Korra needs to find someone. While searching, Shadow Korra emerges again and a losing battle begins. Korra is quickly reduced to running from it, but the being manages to pull the Avatar to the ground, submerging her in mud that has changed appearance to resemble the poison the Red Lotus used on her.
When Korra awakes, she finds herself in a darkened cave, with an old, raggedy woman stirring a giant pot. After the woman mentions that she knows Korra is the Avatar, Korra realizes who it is. Toph Beifong smiles and says, “Nice to see you again, Twinkle Toes.”
Perhaps the Blind Bandit, through her considerable, unique skills and familiarity with Aang, will be able to help Korra find what she is looking for. While the world is stabilizing under Kuvira’s strength and an inept ruler is about to take the Earth Kingdom throne, the Avatar might be needed soon. However Toph helps Korra and whatever Korra finds, Katara was right: it’s going to be interesting.
Bottom Line: Everything about this episode makes it one of the best, even if it is lacking in the supporting cast both ATLA and LoK do so well. Korra’s journey is emotional and every moment lands thanks to a brilliant script, masterful music, beautiful visuals, and perfect pacing.
Recommendation: I expect everyone watching at this point is hooked until the end of the series, and if there is any reason you haven’t started Book Four, this episode is why you need to start watching.[rating=5]