Wow, is it really that time already? The premiere of The Legend of Korra‘s “Book 4: Balance” aired on Friday, just a few short weeks after Book 3 wrapped up. After the end of Book 3, it’s no surprise that Book 4 started out with a decidedly dark tone. Hit the jump for a quick recap and my comments, then feel free to add your own thoughts to the discussion below!
4.01 – After All These Years
The episode opens 3 years after the events of Book 3. Republic City has adapted to the spirit wilds that overlap the city, marketing it as a tourist attraction. Future Industries, under Asami’s leadership, has connected the city to the Earth Kingdom with a high-tech railway. Prince Wu is about to be coronated the new ruler of the Earth Kingdom — he’s a naïve, cocky young man who is making Mako, his assigned bodyguard, miserable and annoyed. Wu is nervous about taking the throne after what happened to the Queen in Book 3.
Bolin, meanwhile, is working with Suyin’s former guard Kuvira, “The Great Uniter”, to unite the Earth Kingdom. Kuvira’s introductory pose and mannerisms are identical to Amon’s in Book One, making it clear that we’re supposed to see her as a villain. Her method of “unifying” the Earth Kingdom seems to be bullying each state into agreeing to join her alliance. Kuvira promises to provide food supplies and protection from bandits to any state that joins her.
The new Air Nation, meanwhile, is based out of Air Temple Island. The airbenders wear super-hero-like suits with built-in gliders, and they travel around the world trying to make it a better place. Airbenders Opal and Kai arrive in a small, starving Earth Kingdom town on a mission to help save its people. Kuvira arrives shortly after they do. After the airbenders fail to bring in food supplies (due to a mid-air bandit attack), the town reluctantly allies with Kuvira.
Back in Republic City, everyone eagerly awaits the Southern Water Tribe ship, which will be bringing Korra for Wu’s coronation. To their surprise, only Tonraq arrives — he says Korra left the South Pole six months ago, and she’s been sending him letters saying she was in the City.
In the final scene, we see Korra in an underground earthbending fight. Her hair is cut short, and she seems listless. The fight manager gives her a cut of money and says she looks like the Avatar — “Whatever happened to her, anyway?” Korra only replies, “I wouldn’t know” as she’s engulfed by shadows.
- Korra in Book 1 Episode 1 is bathed in light as she leaves the compound. Korra in Book 4 Episode 1 is swallowed by shadows. Very nice imagery here.
- I’m going to say something that might be an unpopular opinion: I don’t care about Kai. I never connected with his character; I found his character arc far too predictable, and thought he took away valuable screen time from other characters. I would much rather have seen someone like Jinora in his place. While I like Opal a fair bit, I felt she used up valuable screen time, too. It’s not that I dislike these characters so much as I feel the series has bitten off more than it can chew in terms of the cast size. With so few episodes, I’d much rather dig deeply into a few characters than try to cram in a large cast. I had this problem in previous seasons with characters like Bumi and Kya — great characters, but not as important to me as the main four.
- I’m interested to see what event or words will spark Korra back to life. I’m glad the writers aren’t just glossing over the tone they set at the end of Book 3. However, I feel like this season premiere could have benefited from two episodes instead of one. I found myself impatient to see Korra, and the tiny bit of payoff wasn’t enough.
- So glad to see Asami leading Future Industries to success after the struggles she had in Book 2!
- I’m 99% sure that Kuvira is behind the bandit attacks. Calling her services “protection” just makes her that much more suspicious.
- Loving the chance to see the characters aged up 3 years. Books 1, 2 & 3 were all pretty close together chronologically, so this time skip leaves some good room for characters to mature (or problems to become more deep-seated.)
I don’t have too many other thoughts yet; I really feel like I need another episode or two before I can sink my teeth into the tone shift and the story.
How about you? Have any thoughts, predictions or comments you’d like to share? Feel free to comment below!