Legend of Korra’s Book Four premiere jumps ahead three years without explaining what happened “After All These Years.”
Legend of Korra: Book Four takes place three years after the events of Book Three. It’s the biggest jump in Legend of Korra — the first three seasons happen over 18 months — and this is the most grown-up we’ve seen “Team Avatar” in Korra or Avatar: The Last Airbender. The season premiere episode, “After All These Years,” does a quick survey of the characters to show the audience what everyone is up to, but that’s the biggest thing the episode has going for it. After showing off everyone’s new outfits and jobs – and introducing the likely antagonist — it’s over.
Perhaps this style of episode would have worked if the new season didn’t premiere six weeks after the last season. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to jump right back into the show, but maybe all the “I’ve missed you” and “It’s been so long” comments would have actually landed if viewers had some time to miss the characters. As it is, other shows have midseason breaks that make fans wait longer than the break between Book Three and Book Four. Luckily, this is just a fault that likely won’t be experienced by later episodes, since starting next episode the season arc should really start rolling and we might get answers to the two big questions the premiere asked: What happened to Korra? What happened to Kuvira?
A lot of the stories in the episode are centered on or connected to Kuvira, one of the young metalbenders from Zaofu in the last season. A character with only a couple lines, she still had an awkward moment in the last episodes where the camera stayed on her for just a bit too long for no reason, highlighting her character and letting us know to remember her. Now she’s back and even though the character is older and drastically different, she’s still voiced by Zelda Williams (most of the season was completed before the passing of her father, Robin Williams).
Kuvira is cold and hardened and making moves that don’t appear to be entirely altruistic, even if she appears to be on the side of the heroes. But with so much of the episode spent establishing that she is shady, it’s disappointing that all of her actions seem motivated by childish ambition. It’s still too early to really judge the character, but the villains from ATLA and Legend of Korra have often been more intriguing and better motivated than what we are seeing in Kuvira. This is the end of the series and the final antagonist should hopefully be more than someone craving power, especially after Zaheer and the Red Lotus, villains that were legitimately anarchists.
The episode does succeed in making Team Avatar older and different, but still themselves. Now the heroes are in their early twenties and Mako, Bolin, and Asami are working in roles that seem to suit them. Avatar: The Last Airbender did a great job of showing the characters change appearance over time, and the same can be said for this new episode. It’s more than just having different hair, too. Their body language and attitudes reflect their growth, and a while it doesn’t make the most sense, they are all drawn a little differently to make them look taller, too.
Legend of Korra: Book Four “After All These Years” is available to view on Nick’s website. Future episodes will be made available by noon eastern time on Fridays. Spoilers through Book Three and the newest episode follow.
When Book Three ended, the Earth Kingdom was in chaos thanks to the Red Lotus and its anarchist leader, Zaheer. Korra was badly hurt enough in her battle with Zaheer to leave her in a wheelchair, but the image that stayed with fans in the brief break between seasons was Korra crying during a celebration. It appeared that Korra was losing herself to depression, and who could blame her after repeated foes forced her to question her abilities, her choices, and her purpose as the Avatar. The season ended with her mentor, Tenzin, declaring that the Air Nation would fulfill Korra’s role to protect the world and rebuild the Earth Kingdom.
While the airbenders are doing their best to protect the Earth Kingdom people from bandits, even their goofy looking glider suits can’t help the fact that they are spread thin. Opal (granddaughter of Toph) and Kai both arrive to help some Earth Kingdom citizens, but bandits stop them from bringing in food. This forces the governor of the region to sign a contract and pledge his loyalty to Kuvira, even after his claims that she is forcing people to join her cause in order to obtain resources from their land.
This is apparently a trend for Kuvira, who says the same thing to the governor as she does to some bandits she captures: Join or perish. Still, it is a bit confusing, as she is allied with Republic City and Bolin is one of her most loyal companions. Kuvira is intimidating, and not at all the same character from before, threatening at one point to leave bandits stuck on train tracks if they do not join her.
The train system is one built by Asami and her company, Future Industries. Now, Republic City and Ba Sing Se are directly connected. The capitol city of the Earth Kingdom, Ba Sing Se is expecting a new ruler, Prince Wu, whom Mako is now the personal bodyguard for. As a reminder of the dissonance within the population, Wu is attacked on his way to a spa treatment by people Mako notes are likely supporters of Kuvira. It should be noted that he is attacked with pies, but Wu still feels like his life was in mortal danger and he secures Mako as his permanent body guard.
There are definitely big questions hanging over this season already in regard to Kuvira. Why has her personality changed and what are her goals? Is it really simply a matter of power and resources? Stranger still, how is someone so openly making power plays that is still in good standing with the leaders of the world? Why is she leading the fight against the bandits and not considered a threat? Of course, fans would be forgiven for ignoring these concerns over an even bigger question.
What happened to Korra? After being broken down so badly at the end of last season, fans were dying to know if and how she would recover and where was she going next. Rather than getting any explanation in the episode, we learn that she has been missing for some time and tricking people into thinking she was either in Republic City or the Southern Water Tribe. It appears that instead, Korra has been participating — and losing — in underground fights in the Earth Kingdom, similar to the one that introduced the Blind Bandit, Toph. She brushes it off when someone comments that she looks like Avatar Korra, and when asked whatever happened to the Avatar, she simply replies that she wouldn’t know.
Some viewers will, of course, be dissatisfied with Korra’s change, but just as much as they never cared for Korra to begin with. While it wouldn’t be accurate to say that that is a wrong opinion, it has always felt like people were just unhappy that Korra wasn’t Aang, from ATLA. Her first line on the series is “I’m the Avatar! You gotta deal with it!” Compare that to the steady descent Korra has taken over the past three seasons and considerable difficult times. Now, she can’t even bring herself to own the role of Avatar. In every episode of both series, the show states that the Avatar will “Bring balance to the world.” For Korra’s sake, let’s hope that in this season she can bring balance to herself.
Bottom Line: There are a lot of answers to be had, and the inevitable flashback episode should be a blast, but other than seeing Korra at the end of the episode, there just wasn’t a lot going on. We caught up with some old characters and learned what state the world is in, so hopefully the next episode will deliver some memorable moments for what is likely the final season of Legend of Korra.
Recommendation: It’s the beginning of the end, so how can you not watch this? Even with a slow start, this could be the season that brings the biggest change to the world of Avatar.[rating=4.0]