It honestly wasn’t that long ago that Book Three of Legend of Korra ended. Honestly, it wasn’t! And yet here we are at the premiere of the fourth and final book of the Legend of Korra: Balance.
A trailer for the season revealed that the show would jump three years into future for the final season. Fans were split on what to think of this. Some praised the change, others were unsure. After watching “After All These Years”, I find myself still in the latter column.
To be fair, this is still Legend of Korra, and when using that name you expect a good story and great art. And both were on display in this episode. However, the story quickly fell into the stereotypical “what the heck happened since we left?” scenario.
Almost everyone has changed in one way or the other. And we honestly didn’t get to see all of our favorite characters. Mako is protecting the new Earth King (who I’ll get to in a minute…), Asami is still head of her company, and is apparently well loved and respected in the community, Bolin works for Kuvira (who I also will get to soon..) as a peacekeeper, and Korra…well I’ll save her for last.
In all honesty, though I liked seeing the changes in our characters both old and new, it just didn’t feel natural in how it was presented. Reason being is the question above, “what happened since we left?”. It’s natural for us to do that in a time jump, but with so many characters, and so many situations, and not enough episodes (only 13 for this season), it’s clear that something will be left out. And that’s what worries me.
Case and point is the main backbone of “After All These Years”, a village is under siege by bandits. They have no supplies to feed their people, and they only have two options for help. The first is the Airbenders, in this case Kai and Opal, who I was very happy to see again. And it was good to see them truly in their “keeping the peace as nomads” as Tenzin talked about in the Book Three finale. That being said, it was both interesting and important how Opal noted that they were all they could get for help. As the nomads were “spread thin”.
Which left option B. Kuvira. Who I totally called as a potential villain, and if this episode was any indication, she TOTALLY is the villain. Brutal, blunt, deadly, and manipulative, Kuvira is one to unite Earth Kingdom at any cost. Her title as “The Great Unifier” is both a truth and a bald face lie. One that I hope will be explored as the season progresses.
The problem I stated above truly comes into effect when the Airbenders and Kuvira’s forces meet. In the course of a minute or so we’re given so many “details” about the last three years that we’re left both eager to hear more and clueless as to how things have turned out this way.
This also leads to a problem with one my favorite characters: Bolin. It finally seemed that he was getting the best of life without strings attached…and yet, now it appears he’s on the wrong side of things. Which is causing tension with Opal, who he’s now officially with. Some may say “that’s what story is all about! Bringing new dynamics to these characters!” And to a degree I concur, but after all the events Bolin has gone through, I would’ve liked for him to be the one most happy in life, and yet that doesn’t appear to be the case.
The other problem with the episode was the weird focus on comedy, especially at the beginning. The new Earth King/Prince was ten shades of annoying! I figured in the time jump that we’d get resolution to the death of the former Earth Queen, but if I knew we’d meet this kid? I would’ve been happy just hearing someone say there was a new kid on the throne. Oh, and poor Mako, am I right people?
Despite what you may be thinking, I did enjoy parts of this episode. I did like how Kai came up with the idea to save the village without resorting to going to Kuvira. This led to a very fun battle in the air. While the results may leave some questioning how good Kai and Opal are, I’d rather just enjoy it for what it is.
And of course, there’s Korra. Or should I say…where’s Korra? The big stunner for the episode was that Korra didn’t appear until about 20 minutes in. And when we find her…she’s not where we’d think she’d be. Also, she’s not using her real name. Interesting…
There’s a line in the episode used by the leader of the Earth Kingdom village when Kai mentions that he made the right decision to sign up for Kuvira’s “protection”. He turned to Kai, and with a defeated look and said, “Did I really have a choice?”
As a viewer, and a noted long-time fan of Legend of Korra and The Last Airbender, I find myself asking this question when thinking about whether I liked this episode. True, there’s was some great stuff here, and the plotlines for a great season are all there. On the other hand, the time jump making us ask a lot of question does ruin the experience a little. Again, if this was season 2 or 3 we could give it a pass. But this is the last book, and we all want it to end on an epic note. The start though felt like a missed key.
In the end, “After All These Years” set a very different tone for the final book in Legend of Korra. Some fans will like this episode, others will not. It’s all about preference. My score reflects how I saw the episode. I believe in the writers of Legend of Korra, and I believe this season will turn out well. But for the start of Book Four: Balance, I honestly wasn’t impressed.