The Legend of Korra Book 4 Review

The Legend of Korra’s fourth and final season concluded this past Friday with an impressive finale that threw the fandom into a frenzy of delight and skepticism.  Needless to say, I think Mike and Bryan got the reaction they were looking for.  Book 4 has been, without a doubt, a very different season from previous ones, and now it’s time to analyze what makes those departures special, whether successful or not.

Characters have always taken precedence over plot in The Legend of Korra, and Avatar: The Last Airbender for that matter, but never have characters played such a larger role than the actual story, as they do in Book 4.  A plethora of fan-favorites lead the charge along side Korra, who encompasses the main role, including Bolin, Mako, Asami, Tenzin and his family, the Beifongs, and Varrick and Zhu Li.  Every character receives their moment in the limelight before the season wraps up, although some get more attention than others.

Since the end of Book 3, Korra’s been out of commission, damaged nearly beyond reparation both mentally and physically.  Book 4 explores the extent of her hardships from which she must gradually recover, and over the course of the story, Korra’s frequent struggles ground her arc in realism and make create a relatable image for the character.  Watching Korra regain her confidence, only to have it stripped away by various opponents, paints the Avatar not as a superhuman being, but instead, as the season’s underdog character.  As an audience, we want to root for her to succeed, and because she rarely does, her victories are extremely satisfying.  She develops into a more compassionate person by the end of the season, not a more powerful one, and I think that’s why Korra is at her absolute best in Book 4.

If Korra’s the MVP this season, then Varrick is in a close second spot.  I’ve been a huge Varrick-fan since his first appearance in the Book 2 premiere (check out my profile picture), and the remainder of Book 2 and Book 3 only amplified the admiration I hold for him as a character, but Book 4… Oh, Book 4… Somehow!  Made me love Varrick even more than I already did.  I’d argue some characters don’t require any development, as they are fine exactly as they entered the show, and Varrick is certainly one of those characters.  He’s hilarious, eccentric, and intelligent when he needs to be, all while harassing his assistant Zhu Li with idea-after-idea of capitalistic business ventures, or general money-making schemes.  If Varrick was to remain just the way he is, I would have been totally satisfied, but Book 4 crosses into territory which I never imagined would involve Varrick.  He’s essentially humanized and given an entire story arc during which he must learn selflessness and personal sustainability.  And his relationship with Zhu Li morphs into a romantic one.  Brilliant!  Thank you, Writing Staff, for taking a character I believed couldn’t get any better and exceeding my expectations.

Tenzin and his family are entertaining as well, though it’s definitely more about the kids this season.  Jinora, Ikki, and the unstoppable force known as Meelo are a fun bunch, starring in one of the earlier episodes and persisting for the majority of the season in very short bursts.  Meelo steals most of the viewer’s attention between him and his sisters, as expected.  Pema isn’t an important character, and as such, gets treated accordingly, which is to say she barely does anything interesting.  I can accept that.  On the contrary, I feel Tenzin is underutilized for a send-off role, as he pretty much gets stuck doing whatever Pema’s doing, which, as I recalled, isn’t much.  After Book 2, Tenzin ranked number two on my Top 10 Characters list, but Book 4 has really taken a toll on how I am currently ranking him in my updated list of best characters.

The Legend of Korra Series Finale: Did Korrasami Really Prevail?

If you watched The Legend of Korra’s series finale the other night, the ending probably had you just about as shocked as you’ve ever been at any point in the series. Korra and Asami agreed to take a vacation – just the two of them – to the Spirit World. Upon entering the Spirit Portal, the two held hands and romantically gazed into one-another’s eyes. The scene cut out before we saw any real action, but the internet has been abuzz ever since: did Korrasami really prevail? Was that really the end of Korra’s romantic arc?

As of now, nothing has been officially confirmed. But after watching the scene several times, I can’t help but to think that the relationship is all but confirmed. Think about it: the main character in any story-centric medium generally finds happiness at the conclusion of the tale. Love is generally associated with happiness, and love is certainly something Korra has found importance in. Just look at how much time the series spent fleshing out Makorra – and Borra, to an extent. It would be cheap to end the series without giving Korra some sort of endgame love interest. And thus, we saw Korra and Asami holding hands, gazing into one-another’s eyes, and taking a private vacation to the Spirit World.

Again: “all but confirmed.” I should also note that there’s a comment, supposedly from Mike and Bryan, confirming Korrasami somewhere on the internet. The whereabouts of the comment are currently unknown, but a screenshot of it can be found below. It’s gained a lot of traction in the Twittersphere, but I’m skeptical to believe it because: 1) I don’t know the location of it on the internet (if you all could help me find it, that would be great) 2) It could easily be some moronic fan trolling to get attention. Oh, and they spelled “Asami” wrong.

The Legend of Korra Series Finale Review: Season 4, Episodes 12 ‘Day of the Colossus’ & 13 ‘The Last Stand’

The time has come fellow Korra fans, for the end is upon us,  Kuvira’s reign of terror must come to an end and there’s only one band of ragtag benders that can stop her… [drum roll]… Team Avatar! … And the Beifong sisters, and the air bender family, and Wu riding a badger-mole.  Wow.  Where do I begin?!

This finale is huge.  Like, colossus huge.  Like, wedding huge.  But enough teasing; The Legend of Korra’s final two episodes (I know!  Don’t go tearbending on me just yet) pack quite the emotional punch, but with an ever-so delicate touch of humor and a heavy punch of pure awesomeness to keep its loyal audience on the edge of their seats and to remind them of what makes this incredible series so memorable (Okay, now you can tearbend.).  All of this considered, the series finale is not without flaw, and it is my duty as a reviewer to sweep each and every aspect of it, in order to provide my wholehearted opinion for you, the reader.  Now, let’s “DO THE THING!”

Varrick and Zhu Li are up first.  It’s obvious from the get-go that Varrick and Zhu Li’s relationship will come full circle after Varrick works up an apology, but the man went the extra mile with a freakin’ proposal!  “Zhu Li’ before you go, there’s something it need to attach… This ring, to your finger.” Priceless!  But beyond the scene, and later scenes with the newly wed, being hilarious, the romantic partnership between Varrick and Zhu Li is genuinely touching, and easily the most charming romance the series has offered.  I’m also happy to see another heartfelt relationship receive some much needed closure.

Asami and her father Hiroshi shared a subplot earlier in the season, if you’ll recall, which was nice, though I had my suspicions, not of Hiroshi’s trustworthiness, but of the storyline’s continuity.  I guess I’m still a little butt-hurt that Zuko had been so quickly forgotten in the previous season, so I was especially giddy to see Hiroshi return to take on an important role in the finale.  Using his ingenuity to modify the hummingbird mecha suits, and even piloting one with Asami right down to the very end, Hiroshi left the series on a stronger note than I could have imagined.  His heartbreaking, and beautifully realized death was a major show stopper that left me in utter shock.  As far as best moments of the finale go, Hiroshi’s sacrifice is definitely up toward the top of my (imaginary) list. Also shocking, though more on the lighter side of things, Wu leads a group of helpless evacuees to safety with a little help from a couple familiar quadrupeds.

If you recall my mentioning of “King Wu” in my Top 10 Expectations list, I wanted to see Wu finally grow to fit his new kingly shoes, but never had I envisioned him singing while riding atop a badger-mole.  Once again, the used-to-be annoying prince, has exceeded my expectations with surprising development and charming humor.  I both laughed and cheered when Wu summoned his badger-moles to attack a squad of unsuspecting Earth Empire soldiers.  I think he’ll make a fine, if a little goofy, king after all.

The humor is, all around, a great success.  Every character with a comedic history delivers, especially Varrick whose hilarious backstory is revealed in only a way Varrick could tell it.  Meelo is another standout, along with Bolin, and Wu, as I discussed earlier.  And there are also tons of fun cameo appearances to look out for, such as Tahno embracing his musicianship with the failed detectives Mako worked with in Book 2.  It’s satisfying to know one of the series most distinct qualities is executed flawlessly in the final episodes.

I regret to inform that appearances by Opal, Kai, and Bumi can also be classified as mere cameo appearances, but the airbenders, in general have a solid run.  Tenzin is allotted only a little time on screen which is disappointing as well, but he makes the most of it.  The airbenders’ assault on the Colossus shows how unified a bunch the Air Nation has become since the events of Book 3, and for them to participate at all is an absolute delight.

In another family, the Beifong sisters Su and Lin are amazing as usual, dealing a lethal dose of damage from within Kuvira’s machine.  Their fighting styles are distinctly quick and powerful without second thought, just like their personalities, and its pretty much guaranteed something awesome will happen if you pit them against a brigade of unruly foes.  I love when the writers have the opportunity to rally the Beifongs, but seeing as though 46 minutes isn’t exactly enough time to include every Beifong and still focus heavily on other characters, I’m pleased to see the writers picked Su and Lin to carry out one final Operation Beifong.

Siblings Bolin and Mako also fight together inside the Colossus, and similar to Su and Lin, offer interesting character interaction and unique fighting styles which make their excursions all the more thrilling (and well animated).  However, Mako takes credit for one of the finale’s absolute best scenes when he must use his handy-dandy lightning bending, a skill that is apparently only usable in finales, to overload the Colossus’s energy core.  The music, animation, and sound design combine for an emotionally empowering sequence for Mako to potentially go out on, that instead feels like a big missed opportunity.  I’m not downplaying how amazing a scene it is, but having Mako cheat death rather than be sacrificed in a respectable and memorable death, one that I feel would evoke sympathy in even the most coldhearted of Mako-haters, is disappointing to say the least.

Where’s Korra during all of this?  She’s decided to confront Kuvira directly, busting through a metal hatch, quickly dispatching any guards, and launching a fireball at Kuvira’s face.  I appreciate Korra getting down to business immediately, as most fights between important characters tend to begin with individual monologues from both opponents.  Kuvira and Korra waste no time trying to suppress one another and the result is the season’s greatest action sequence, and one of the series’ best as well.  Whether the two are brawling within the Colossus or after the machines been turned to scraps, astounding animation, choreography, and after effects make each move irrefutably detailed and every impact chilling.  For a series which has set such a high standard for breathtaking action sequences, its appropriate that Korra’s last stand is also one of her best.  And yet, for all the action, I find it completely rewarding that the final confrontation between Korra and Kuvira narrows down to a conversation.

Finally, after many inconsistencies in her agenda and a flat portrayal as a power-hungry dictator, Kuvira is humanized.  Korra saves Kuvira’s life and instills her Avatar wisdom upon her enemy, allowing Kuvira to discover a similarity between herself and Korra.  Kuvira explains that she only wanted to lead the Earth Kingdom when no one else would, to continue building a promising future for her citizens, while reminiscing her orphaned past.  She, then, realizes the error in her ways, and willingly gives herself up to justice.  There is no clear victor between Korra and Kuvira after their physical conflict, and Kuvira’s defeat comes at the hands of compassion.  This is a marvelous bit of writing that favors communication over brute force, while recognizing Korra’s maturity and fleshing out Kuvira.

Oh yeah, and Kuvira unintentionally created a new spirit portal at the heart of Republic City.  I’m not too sure what to talk about when it comes to this odd inclusion, as we’re never given a clear explanation of the portal’s significance.  Maybe there’ll be some comics covering the subject.

The story winds down to a delicately paced final act set on the day of Varrick and Zhu Li’s anticipated wedding, which would be totally campy if it weren’t for the characters involved (Bolin wedding the eccentric businessman Varrick and his inhumanly tolerant assistant, Zhu Li.  It sounds like the start of a joke!).  The wedding is a clever excuse to bring the cast together one last time (no Gaang unfortunately), complete with character interaction from Mako and Wu, Korra and Tenzin, and Korra and Asami. Every segment is fully utilized without a second wasted, and it’s evident from these conversations that a resolution is drawing near.  Wu’s decision to abandon the monarchy of the Earth Kingdom government and Tenzin’s last talk with Korra are highlighted by intelligent writing, particularly with Tenzin and Korra, a scene which best depicts the condition of their relationship.  No longer does Korra require a mentor, but that doesn’t mean Tenzin won’t be in her life for guidance, like a father figure.  Interestingly enough, the series’ final minutes focus on Korrasami.

I’ve always used the term “Korrasami” not as a device of shipping, such as with “Makorra” or “Boleska,” but more indicative of Korra and Asami’s friendship.  Now, I’m not so sure.  I, and many other people, notice specific signals in the final shots pointing to a potential romantic relationship between the two girls, exemplified by handholding and gazing into each others eyes while holding hands (as if to kiss?).  Now, this can be interpreted in different ways.  Perhaps its just coincidence, although that is unlikely considering the amount of effort put into the final minutes of the series.  Maybe they embraced each other so that they’d wind up in the Spirit World safely and together.  Or, Korrasami shipping has been partially realized, and the last scene is the creators’ way of voicing their opinion on homosexuality.  Personally, I favor the latter interpretation because, in recent history, the value in homosexuality has been a growing phenomenon across the globe, and I feel the decision to address the subject on The Legend of Korra, a series well-known for strong female characters, is a very smart course of action.  If it doesn’t resonate with people on a personal level, then it should at least create a stir amongst the Avatar fandom, one which could popularize the ending to Book 4 as a monumental step for homosexuality in family programing.  I, myself, am not homosexual, but I find the ending to be compelling, and I believe Korrasami is a more natural alternative to Makorra or Makasami, both of which failed in the end.  Of course, this is how I interpreted the ending, but because nothing explicit happens between Korra and Asami, one can interpret the ending to simply convey a sisterly bond which has developed between the characters.  Nothing is certain, and I think that’s for the best.

Saying the ending isn’t what I had expected it to be is both a compliment and a disparagement, but mostly a compliment.  On one hand, Korrasami and Varrick’s wedding were pleasant surprises, but not tackling any challenging or intriguing subjects, aside from Korrasami’s potentially homosexual aspect, detracts from the series’ final impact.  I would have preferred to see the writers make a final point about the role of the Avatar, for example.  But I think what we got is still very satisfying.

Both episodes of the finale were excellent, but ‘Day of the Colossus’ took longer than I would have liked to produce any juicy content, and the 3D animation for the mecha suits made some of the action sequences a tad hit-or-miss, so I’m giving it a 9.0/10.  ‘The Last Stand’ is clearly superior in my mind with its astonishing quality of action, story progression, and its controversial ending.  I just wish Mako would have been awarded the ending he deserved, so I’ve decide on a 9.5/10.

The series concludes with a bang, and then a series of smaller bangs that I hope will resonate with as many people as possible.  Was it my favorite finale?  No (you can determine that by the scores I gave previous finales), but I really enjoyed it… More so than the Book 1 finale, but not as much as the Book 2 or 3 finales.  Part of my problem with the final two episodes, overall, is that there really isn’t much risk-taking, which is something I liked about past season’s finales.  Sure, Hiroshi’s death is a positive addition in the first half, but it seemed slightly predictable.  Thankfully Korrasami was a huge risk, and one that I think will stay with Korra fans for a very long time.  While an average score from the culmination of both episodes equates to a 9.3, my official score, considering all payoff between ‘Day of the Colossus’ and ‘The Last Stand,’ is a 9.5/10.

Coming up next in our ultimate week of Korra post-season coverage, is my Full Book 4 Review.