The Legend of Korra Season 4, Episode 10 ‘Operation Beifong’ Review

While The Legend of Korra has been disappointing slow for the bulk of its final season, occasionally there’ll be a diamond in the ruff, such as with ‘Korra Alone,’ ‘Enemy at the Gates,’ and now this week’s ‘Operation Beifong.’  Last installment, Book 4 picked up some serious slack with the Zaheer-Korra storyline and a ton of character set-up, and now, ‘Operation Beifong’ is earth bending the pieces in place for an absolutely thrilling story that’s easily one of the season’s best.

First of all, what you all care about: the highly ambitious Beifong family reunion does not disappoint.  Lin, Toph, Opal, and later Suyin all play off each other beautifully, and having Bolin there as both a moderator and HUGE Toph fan results in the best cast grouping since Bolin and Varrick were paired.  Each Beifong attributes a unique personality or skill which leads to some entertaining mingling among the group without a single character being overshadowed.  Each Beifong gets a moment to shine, however, Suyin steals the show in an incredible confrontation with Kuvira that garnered 3 or 4 rewinds from me, personally.

The climactic action sequence of the episode is easily the best fight scene of the season so far, and Su v. Kuvira is one of my personal favorite fights from the entire series.  The choreography is superb and the animation is stunning.  It’s also an excellent character moment for Su who gives the formidable Kuvira a run for her money.  Wing and Wei (Su’s sons) also do a number on Kuvira’s forces with their combined efforts in earth and metal bending which rival Eska and Desna’s own water bending techniques.  Eventually, however, the Beifongs are surrounded and suppressed, except for one. Toph puts her foot down (literally!), disabling any mecha tanks or metal bending foes in classic Toph fashion.  And then… They retreat?  Maybe they were trying to confuse Kuvira.

The Legend of Korra Season 4, Episode 9 ‘Beyond the Wilds’

The Legend of Korra takes us “beyond the wilds” this week in one of Book 4’s stronger entries, featuring new and interesting plot development, excellent character interaction, and the exciting return of a former foe.  It’s pretty much the opposite of last week’s clips show, and that’s a very good thing.

Let me begin by explaining that ‘Beyond the Wilds’ is, at its core, a set-up episode, which means its primary function is to advance the story just enough to prepare for the next episode, while leaving a hunk of content untouched for the proceeding installment to cover.  Initially, I was thinking, “Shucks-howdy! A filler episode, clips show, and a set-up episode all in a row? What rotten luck!” I’m happy to admit my preemptive judgment was inaccurate, for ‘Beyond the Wilds’ is actually quite lucrative as far as independent material goes. However, it’s not impervious to shortcomings typical of set-up episodes, especially when it comes to the lack of Kuvira this week… and the week before… and the week before that. To counteract the set-up-y feel of the episode, the writers, wisely, emphasize character interaction over plot. Plenty of standout character moments, development, and the return of familiar faces culminate to form a sort of antidote for plot stagnancy.

For example, the opening sequence in a Republic City spirit wild marks the surprise return (unless you watched the episode preview on Nick.com) of the reluctant airbender Ryu (John Heder – AKA Napoleon Dynamite) as a tour guide, along with his pressing mother and father. The pairing, or rather “re-pairing,” of Varrick and Asami under President Raiko’s orders is another exciting bit of character interaction, and one that I can’t wait to see permeate in upcoming episodes. Even having Wu, Raiko, and Tenzin conduct a meeting with other national representatives is a fun addition. But, hands-down, the greatest character interaction, which is also responsible for the most important piece of plot development this week, is between Korra and Zaheer.

Bringing back Zaheer would’ve been satisfying enough, but the writers take the subplot a good length further for an amazing journey of spiritual healing for Korra with Zaheer’s assistance. That’s right. In a turn of events, Korra and Zaheer bond in relation to a common enemy: Kuvira, and I couldn’t be happier with the result of the plot direction. Having Zaheer help Korra, as opposed to trying to eliminate her (like he did last season), is a welcome reversal of character roles that shines new light on Zaheer as a potentially good-natured character. The execution is near-flawless, with powerful performances from Janet Varney (Korra) and Henry Rollins (Zaheer), breathtaking animation, phenomenal sound design, and some of the best writing, both in dialogue and story progression, of the entire series. Scene-after-scene, the Zaheer-Korra section of the plot delivers immense entertainment value, however, the 7 or so minutes their section of the episode lasts doesn’t make up for the remaining 16 slower minutes of B-plot footage.

The Legend of Korra Season 4, Episode 8 ‘Remembrances’ Review

A couple hours prior to Book 4’s 8th episode release on the West Coast, Bryan Konietzko sent a message to Korra fans via his Tumblr page.  If you haven’t read the message, I suggest you go and check it out, because you’ll appreciate the episode a little more having understood where the creators are coming from.  Basically, Bryke wanted to warn fans of the upcoming episode titled ‘Remembrances,’ a “clips episode” which was essentially developed under the circumstances of Nickelodeon slashing the show’s budget for almost an episode’s worth of content.  Between dropping important production staff and sacrificing most of an episode, the creators, understandably, chose the latter.  Dreading the idea of a clips episode, and rightfully so, Bryan went out of his way to let the fandom know how much effort was put into the episode to make it special, regardless of its unappealing label.  And now, I will be judging the final product.

To begin, I’ve witnessed my fair share of clips episodes in anime, namely in Neon Genesis Evangelion (‘Weaving a Story’), Eureka 7 (‘Memory Band’), and Samurai Champloo (‘The Disorder Diaries’), which is what inspired the execution of this week’s episode, and they can be very dull and uninteresting because they consist primarily of recycled footage from previous episodes.  Samurai Champloo is the only show I’ve seen successfully pull off an episode which is pretty much a waste of time, so it’s good to know The Legend of Korra drew inspiration from it and not something like Eureka 7, which began its second season with a clips episode (Yeah, that’ll really get you excited for the new season!).  Anyways, I was relatively delighted by The Legend of Korra’s own clips episode for the same reasons I enjoyed Samurai Champloo’s:  it combines new and old footage, and then brightens it all up with (usually) humorous narration that, at its best, provides a new perspective from key characters.

As I mentioned, most of this week’s episode is retired animation, but there’s about 5 minutes of new content including Wu and Mako, Asami, Korra, and Tenzin (Oh, where have you been?), and Bolin, Varrick, and the band of fugitives introduces last episode.  While not plentiful, or spectacular, what is new never fails to evoke pleasure and enjoyment.  One can’t help but smile as Wu, who’s really funny this week, struggles to learn self-defense from Mako (“Wu down!”), or laugh as Varrick proposes his latest brainchild of a mover which encapsulates the story of Bolin (capitalizing on former Nuktuk fans, of course).  The blandest moment of the new footage is a conversation between Korra and Asami which relies on exposition over natural dialogue, although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I appreciate just about any time the two can simply have a conversation.  Tenzin’s cameo appearance is a pleasant surprise, to boot.  He really hasn’t been very involved this season, has he?  But the real standout concerning new content is Bolin and Varrick’s tidbit late in the episode (Is this the 4th week in a row the duo has stolen the show?  I’m starting to lose count.).