Much to everyone’s surprise, the showrunners of The Legend of Korra announced that the fourth and final season would premiere only a few months after the third season finale. Then again, so much about Korra has been up in the air (from being renewed for additional seasons to changing to an online-only broascast) that it’s hard not to take such news in stride.
With that said, here’s a look at the opening to Book Four: Balance.
In the pilot episode “After All These Years,” we skip ahead to 3 years after the fall of the Earth Queen and the defeat of Zaheer. Korra has disappeared following her recovery from the Red Lotus attack, leaving the task of preserving balance and defending justice to the newly restored Air Nomads led by Tenzin and Jinora. Meanwhile, the Earth Kingdom is preparing to welcome its new ruler, Prince Wu, back from exile while also feeling the iron fist of the elite general Kuvira (voiced by Zelda Williams), who brooks no argument in her quest to pacify the kingdom under her particular brand of justice.
So what does this season have to offer so far?
- New character arcs. Despite her name being in the show’s title, we get to see barely anything from Korra herself in this episode. Instead, we see all the things that the new Team Avatar has been up to in the last three years. I like that Asami is helping connect the world through Future Industries and the ways in which Mako and Bolin are contributing to the restoration of the Earth Kingdom. Even side characters like Opal are getting their own arcs. It’s a healthy approach after spending so much time focused on Korra and her personal needs (though her arc this season will undoubtedbly be the strongest of them all).
- An interesting antagonist. Kuvira is an interesting antagonist. She has the common well-intentioned extremist brand that so many other Korra villains carried, but she seems to be far more effective at her job, almost on the scale of Amon or Azula. She inspires fear in the name of justice and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She definitely comes across as a sinister counterpart to Avatar Korra, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
- The Air Nomads in action. Ever since the start of Book Three, seeing the return of airbenders has been a real treat in Korra. I love everything I’ve seen about the new Air Nomads, from the new aerodynamic uniforms to the partnership between young recruits like Opal and Kai. It’s a return to the playful spirit that Aang and his friends exhibited during the Last Airbender saga
- A glimpse at Korra’s journey. The biggest change this show has to offer in Book Four isn’t merely physical or political. The last few minutes showed us Korra who for once didn’t define herself as the Avatar or try to live up to her own legend. That alone is an interesting premise and worth following up on this season.
Ultimately, what this season seems to be focused on is the same fundamental question: “How does this world do without the Avatar?” It’s a question you consider whether you’re looking at Kuvira’s Napoleonic rise to power or the return of the Air Nomads or Korra’s own struggle to define her identity. Whatever this season may bring, I can only hope that it lives up to that promise of a mature look at the Avatar universe as much as possible.
The final season of The Legend of Korra is available through Nickelodeon. New episodes air on Fridays.
Bibliography: The Legend of Korra Book Four: Balance. Created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Ki Hyun Ryu, Colin Heck, and Ian Graham. Written by Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, Tim Hedrick, and Joshua Hamilton. Produced by Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, Joaquim Dos Santos, and Tim Yoon. Ginormous Madman, Studio Mir, Nickelodeon Animation Studio, and Studio Pierrot. Nick.com (channel). Original broadcast date: April 14, 2012 to present.