Joey Sack ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The end begins for The Legend of Korra as “Book Four: Balance” premieres with the episode “After All These Years.” This episode does a great job of showing how the world and our main characters have changed in the three years since their battle with the Red Lotus, and it establishes that this season will keep viewers on their toes from the get-go. It’s a little odd only having one episode as a premiere for Korra, but it gives you just enough to show you, “Hey, this is what’s going down, and it’s going to be awesome.”
The episode doesn’t even bother with its typical recap newsreel, instead opting for an advertisement-style plug for Republic City, featuring such highlights such as the Spirit Wilds (the heavily-forested areas where the spirits live), Air Temple Island, and Avatar Korra Park (yes, Korra has a park named after her now). These shots of Republic City serve to show that, at the very least, the United Republic has moved on pretty well from the events of Harmonic Convergence at the end of “Book Two,” and that the people of Republic City are more accustomed to the spirits than in “Book Three.”
We learn that Asami Sato (Seychelle Gabriel) and Future Industries have helped to modernize Republic City’s Central City Station, and that the late Earth Queen’s great-nephew, Prince Wu (Sunil Malhotra), is being groomed to be the next Earth King, with Mako (David Faustino) begrudgingly serving as his bodyguard. By the way, don’t get too attached to Prince Wu; given his pompous personality and the public’s opinion of him, it’s safe to assume that he’ll be gone in a few episodes. Whether he’ll be captured by someone or go the way of his great aunt is unknown, but when the writers create a character who’s that ridiculously unlikeable, the character isn’t going to last long. In addition to seeing Mako and Asami, we see that Bolin (P.J. Byrne) is a part of the army working to restore balance to the Earth Kingdom, though he doesn’t seem keen on fighting to restore balance, he just wants to help people along the way. Tenzin’s family has also grown up, with all four of his kids sporting new hairstyles.
While the beginning newsreel shows how much the world has changed, it also serves to show viewers that the Avatar might not have a place in the world anymore; people are getting along with spirits, and while not all the way there, the Earth Kingdom is being restored to some level of stability thanks to an army of former members of the Metal Clan led by Kuvira (Zelda Williams). Of course, there are moments that clearly show that the Avatar is needed; Kuvira’s army has gained control of 90 percent of the Earth Kingdom, and Kuvira has gained the title of “The Great Uniter,” but that doesn’t mean that people are happy about uniting. It’s quite clear that Kuvira desires nothing more than a fully-united Earth Kingdom, but she can be ruthless in her pursuit of that goal, even threatening to leave a group of captured bandits to die unless they join up with her. She also has gained a reputation for sucking an area dry of its resources, and chances are there are plenty of other nasty things that will be revealed about the Kuvira’s plans for the Earth Kingdom. Kuvira is shown to be an amazing metalbender and fighter in general, taking down a whole group of bandits by herself with very precise applications of metalbending.
Zelda Williams does a great job voicing this former Metal Clan captain; she is ruthless, but you hear the sincerity in her voice. When she says that she wants to create a better tomorrow for the Earth Kingdom, you believe it. To be honest, it’s a little too obvious that Kuvira is going to wind up being one of the villains of this season, if not the main villain. But, at least, it’s shown that Kurvira really does want what is best for the Earth Kingdom; it’s probably just the way she wants to bring about peace that will put her at odds with the rest of the world and the Avatar. Viewers also see that members of the Air Nation have really embraced their roles as protectors of the weak and innocent after Kai and Opal show up to save a town from a group of bandits. Kai has really grown up, and his bison Lefty has also grown considerably in the past three years; you still see some of Kai’s child-like qualities, but you also recognize that he is much more responsible than he was. Seeing Opal interact with Bolin, after what we assume has been a long time, is nice; Bolin still wants to help others, but he knows that if he and the other members of Kuvira’s army aren’t welcome in an area, there’s nothing he can do. While the interaction was nice to see, it causes tension between this former pro-lavabender and his long-distance, airbending girlfriend.
One thing that is absent for the majority of this episode, and is probably one of the most important things in the show, is our main hero, Korra (Janet Varney). From the way her friends talk about her, it seems as though none of them have seen Korra at any point since the end of “Book Three.” She does show up at the end of the episode, but we don’t know much about how she got to where she is; this is indicative that perhaps the next one or two episodes will jump back to three years earlier, in order to show Korra’s physical and emotional recovery (spoiler alert, she doesn’t seem to be completely healed in either regard).
The thing about this episode that makes it so good is that it wastes no time getting into the story; we get a brief rundown of what has happened in the Avatar World in the past three years, we have story elements set up that will come into play later, and we see how our beloved characters have grown up since we last saw them (which, in our world, was a little over a month ago. They grow up so fast). “Book Three” wrapped up so recently, that the plot lines it are still fresh in people’s minds, so we don’t have to waste time establishing characters we already know; we just get right into the thick of it, putting the characters right in the situations they need to be in to move the story forward.
“After All These Years” is a great premiere episode for “Book Four: Balance,” and a great episode of The Legend of Korra in general; great character moments, great execution of the time jump, great action, and a great setup of what’s to come. New episodes of The Legend of Korra premiere every Friday on Nick.com and the Nick mobile app. Watch the end of Korra’s journey unfold.
Overall Episode Grade: A-