The Legend of Korra: “After All These Years” & “Korra Alone” REVIEW
Hey fancy seeing you folks here so soon. It was just four weeks ago we were discussing the absolutely brutal and bittersweet finale that was The Legend of Korra Book Three. The closing images of the Book are the ones that stay with you long after broadcast. They are the type of images that drive you mad, waiting to find out what happens next. Surprise-surprise Korra and friends are back much sooner than expected for the final chapters in their storied adventure. Now we could speculate the reasons for Book Four’s quick premier. Me personally, I think it is less about Nick not having faith in series or not having a place for its older demographic, but fears of mismanagement and another possible damning leak; however that is a discussion for another time. We are here to find out what happened to Korra after all these Years.
(Also we are going to pretend like half of this review isn’t a week late.)
Yes “years,” three to be exact. Book Four picks up three years after Korra’s legendary fight with Zaheer and The Red Lotus left the Earth Kingdom in chaos. What works so well about this time skip is how the anticipation to find out what happened to our hero is shared by the audience and the central characters. Like Team Avatar, we’ll have to wait to discover the truth about Korra.
During this time, Team Avatar has separated for the most part, each doing what they feel is best to help out the world while Korra recovers. The Earth kingdom is still a mess, but there are a few forces trying to restore order. The first would be Tenzin’s new Air Nation. Paroling the skies in their new kickass flying suits, Air Benders try to help out citizens any way they can. The second would be General Kuvira (played by Zelda Williams), who we met at the end of Book Three. In the time since, Kuvira left Zaofu and things have not been right with the metal clan; however, through her iron will, she’s been cleaning up the Earth Kingdom and uniting the Earth States under one banner. Not everyone is a fan, given she has established marshal law, is a badass bender and her end goal appears (for now) to be setting up a Fascist government to replace the monastery. It’s understandable some would hold a little cynicism towards her.
What makes Kuvira so interesting, given the state of The Earth Kingdom and lack of Avatar right now, it’s hard to see a more effective way of restoring order from the chaos. Yes, Kuvira is demanding resource and loyalty, but she is providing food and protection to the States that join her. It makes sense why so many common citizens would see her as a “Great Uniter.” Still the timing of one bandit raid is a little too timely. Keen observers will have good reason to be suspicious of Kuvira’s negotiation tactics, if they are paying attention to the bandits.
The Earth kingdom has a few issues to work out. Republic City, on the other hand, is doing better. It took some time, but the citizens learned to live with their new spirit neighbors. Currently, their proudest achievement is the installation of a new rail system allowing for better connectivity with the Earth Kingdom, thanks to Asumi and Future Industries. President Riko is still a political sycophant, looking to save face anyway he can. So it’s no wonder the city has also been hosting Prince Wu, the soon to be crowned King of The Earth Kingdom. No worries, in tradition of Bae Sing Se rulers, he’s wholly incompetent and unfit for the job. Many citizens recognize this and are none to please with his upcoming coronation. If that wasn’t bad enough, Riko has sold out Mako, making him Wu’s personal bodyguard before and after the coronation.
Mako saving grace, like the rest of his friends, is he’ll soon get to see Korra after three long years away. However, she failed to arrive at the city, instead Tonraq and Naga showed up confused by Korra’s absence. Korra, we would find out, changed her look and is getting whooped in an underground bending fight. Yes, she maybe out of the wheelchair but she’s still far from well.
Unlike Aang in original series, whose central conflict was fairly easy to follow, Korra’s been more subtle. She’s scared she’s not need as the Avatar anymore in a world rapidly becoming more modern. “After All These Years”, we get a glimpse of what that world might look like, But “Korra Alone” we see those fears manifest first hand. All of Korra’s antagonists have argued the same thing – the world is broken. Amon, Unalaq and Zaheer have told her combinations of “you are not needed anymore/ you are not doing your job right.” They have gone about trying to fix this broken world each in their own extreme way and Korra and friends have had to stop them. While Korra has stopped her foes, their arguments have gone for the most part unanswered.
“Korra Alone” is a lot of things. Longtime Avatar fans will recognize the title is a call back to the excellent “Zuko Alone.” Movie buffs will love the straight up Kill Bill reference and the Empire Strikes Back subtext at the end. Above all else, it’s one of the finest episodes of the series. The final moments of “Venom of The Red Lotus” made it clear Korra was not only damaged physically but emotionally too. “Korra Alone” shows the depths of her PTSD.
Korra’s recovery would take longer than anyone could imagine. While no one wants to rush her, Korra is not satisfied with her process and sinks further into depression. After some loving words from her mother Korra, seeks the aid of Katara to begin the bitter work of healing. It’s not an easy process, with Korra directing many of her fears, frustrations and anger at Katara. However Korra has grown enough to admit she’s not mad at Katara, but what has happened to her.
Mako, Bolin and Asumi each continue to write letters to Korra during her healing. Each letter is busting with the personality of her friends (Bolin even drew pictures included with his). Korra is happy to hear from her friends, their letters do however add to her depression. For Korra, being The Avatar is integral to her sense of self. If she cannot do her Avatar duties, she feels as if she has lost her entire identity. While her friends may be doing their best to improve things while she is gone, its killing Korra inside she can’t be there. Even after two years of physical therapy, Korra is still experiencing debilitating flashbacks to her fight and near death experience with Zaheer. The White Lotus Guards, who she easily was able to take down back in the series premier, Korra quickly loses to them during a visit from Tenzin. Even worse, Korra appears to have lost her connection to Raava as well.
Feeling blocked in the Southern Water Tribe, Korra decides to head back to Republic City. Even this would be filled with setbacks, as Korra’s anxiety prevents her from stopping two bandits at a small fishing village. Just as she was about to arrive at Republic City, Korra sees a haunting spirit of her Avatar State for the first time and turns away. This combined with the incident in the fishing village leads to her removing her tribal clothing and cutting her hair, continuing to run away from her problems, this time with the hopes no one will recognize her. Korra travels the world and even heads back to the Spirit World in hopes of reestablishing her Avatar connection. Even the Spirits don’t recognize her at first, not because of her look but because of her lack of Spiritual energy.
All this leads Korra to the underground fight at the beginning of the episode. We now see Korra envisioned fighting her Avatar self and this vision continues to chase her. Ultimately Korra tries to escape from the Ghost in a jungle, but she can’t. The Ghost captures her with its metal chain and pulls her in a puddle that appears to be the metal poison Zaheer used on her, as the scene goes dark. Once Korra awakens, she finally found the help she didn’t know she was looking for – Toph!
Book Four of Korra opens up amazingly, establishing a whole new set of rules and changes from the previous Book while not taking light of the events! Korra recovery has been a long one. Korra Alone slows down to show us some events, even strong people, can’t be quickly fix. Because of that her legend will be more enduring.