The Legend Of Korra: Book Of Balance – 04 Review
Man, now that was a disappointment… I’m really… Sometimes I even wonder whether this series at any point had an idea what to do with Korra. I feel like this series can’t develop her character because it’s not clear to the writers who she would become after such a development. Or at least that’s how it seems to me as the series’ most serious changes to Korra’s character had always been undone later up to this point.
Legend of Korra indulges in its worst tendencies this week and has delivered one of the weakest episodes in a long time. And that is despite the fact that on the surface this is an episode that should be good. By focusing on Tenzin’s three children this episode had the potential to be one of those good character-focused episodes this series is so good at. Instead the series squanders most of this episode’s potential by having the plot force the story’s hand in terms of progress and character-development.
Speaking of character-development the biggest slap in the face was certainly Korra’s at the end of this episode. After all, what this episode had done was essentially to simply repeat the pattern I’ve had talked about in my previous two reviews. First, Korra loses her powers, then she struggles and then she overcomes her struggle but not only that, she also regains her powers. Instead of actually developing the character she’s just getting a slightly better version of the character we already know.
In this case it’s even worse because one of my main-criticisms against the third season is that it offered too little too late. Despite the third season’s greatness, it never really felt like a third season. That season was weighed down by the bad quality of the first two seasons and didn’t do enough to escape that bad influence. And once again this episode simply doesn’t do enough to escape the nefarious shadow of the first two seasons. Like I’ve said, the pattern of Korra’s almost physical struggle gets repeated again and again in this show and this episode does indeed acknowledge that! And so here we go, Toph is counting down: Amon wanted equality, Unalaq wanted to free the spirits and Zaheer wanted freedom, but they were all unbalanced, just as Korra is unbalanced and therefore… therefore… She should just move the fuck on! Fuck learning from the past! Just carry on and get over yourself!
Really, once again Legend of Korra takes a complicated problem, lets people who are overwhelmed by the problem deal with it and then just simplifies the whole thing when it’s about time to find a solution. You would think that at least in its final season this series could’ve found some sort of message in that repetitious cycle of Korra dealing with a sudden lack of power and then regaining it. But it really comes down to simple shrug. The series simply shrugs in response to WHY Korra always faces the same physical struggle of losing her power. And with Toph being the one giving the advice, the whole thing also gets a slightly cynical edge. Sure, that’s her personality but considering the circumstances you might wonder whether the writers itself are kinda cynical as well regarding the question what the whole point of this series is. This season is called ‘Book Of Balance’ and balance would indeed be a good throughline for the whole series but Toph never even tackled the question what balance even means. Sure, all those villains this series had until now are unbalanced despite their somewhat noble goals. But what have they actually done wrong that makes them so unbalanced and what is a balanced approach in contrast to that? I really fear that this series’ answer to that is simply to say that everybody should do good together and things will just work out somehow after that.
Meanwhile, Jinora, Ikki and Meelo try to find Korra and can’t stand the sight of each other… kinda. But that whole storyline really falls flat on its ways as it’s mostly the plot doing the work for them instead of them creating a plot.
The first thing that really did NOT work were the conflicts between the three siblings. It basically came down to Jinora always complaining about the other two not letting her concentrate, Meelo just egoistically doing his own thing and Jinora whines about not being appreciated enough by the other two. And you know what…? That’s it! The whole thing lacks any sense of depth or subtlety. Compared to the episode about Tenzin and the airbenders at the air-temple from last season, the character-work in this episode just seems blunt and one-note. Also, it doesn’t help that none of the three seem likeable at all when they voice their problems with each other. And really, they just complain about each other. There’s no real dynamic relationship where one character would try to defend another character or where the siblings talk about something other than their problems with each other and how the other two siblings are always the ones standing in the way. The whole writing takes away any sense of joy or adventure.
And then naturally the plot does its magic and Ikkki stumbles upon these two Earth-Empire-soldiers who basically tell her where Korra probably is. Meelo and Jinora “save” her, of course and their response to “freeing” her is really “Come on, stop wasting time getting captured! We have to find Korra!”. Naturally once they are over the swamp Jinora can’t find shit with her spirit-sense-mojo and Meelo/Jinora immediately team up to shoot down Ikki’s idea that Korra should be in the swamp (because God forbid, they would ever agree with each other or say something nice). So, they’re about to leave when… the plot does its usual bullshit-magic again and just drags them to Korra despite their intentions. But the same slap this series has dealt out with the resolution of Korra’s problems, also gets dealt out in the case of the three kids’ storyline. After finding Korra, they’re really happy and ALL OF A SUDDEN they realize how much they actually like each other and how much each has helped during the search for Korra. Naturally, considering how they had found Korra, really doesn’t sound very convincing.
This episode does one thing: It has moved the story forward by resolving Korra’s problems and bringing her back into the action. Aside from that, though, this is a rather weak episode that fails to bring any poignancy to its story-developments. Rather than that, the story seems blunt, the characters one-note and the plot conveniently directs the characters to whatever would progress the story. I really hope that the next episode is a return to the quality shown so far.
- Isn’t it weird how we never even see Jinora do anything in the spirit-world?
- And why did the swamp even drag the three kids down? That was… kinda weird. Well, it was plot-convenient, of course, but why did that happen?