The Legend Of Korra: Book Of Balance – 07 Review

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That was certainly a weird, unexpected moment… Actually reddening the cheeks of Korra when she compliments Asami on her appearance? It never seemed like during the first and second season the writing actually tried to posit the idea of those two showing any interest in each other as romantical partners but here we are looking at this one rather defining moment… At this point they really have to go ahead and make it a “thing”. After all, there’s hardly enough time left to turn this into a “will they, won’t they”-routine. The series has to commit to this relationship or else such a moment just becomes ridiculously unnecessary.

Review:

That’s the way I like this series! Character-stuff! It’s all about that! Neither the plot nor the story of this season are particularly gripping affairs. Kuvira is a dictator, not as bad as Hitler but close, she’s a villain, gotcha. Korra lost her Avatar-mojo due to the injuries she suffered during last season’s finale, now she wants to recover from that, gotcha. Neither topic has a big potential of surprising you with their endings. And I’ve talked at length about this series’ troubled relationship with complex problems, so naturally you wonder where the greatness comes from and it’s the characters. More than that, it’s the attention to detail when it comes to characterization that made the third season such a great season due to how little plot and overarching story there was. And this episode really becomes immediately better by focusing on its characters (and it isn’t just Korra for once).

Generally it isn’t exactly the characterizations this series is good at. It’s the poignant interactions between characters that really bring out the best in this series. At the same time, though, it’s not like it’s just character-interactions that are great, it’s just that those are always the starting-point for good characterizations and compelling character-driven storylines. This series is really good at establishing routines between characters and using those to drive home more subtle elements of their personalities. And when it strays away from these guidelines, it either just repeats itself like with Korra’s seemingly endless cycle of weakening and revitalizing with a power-up or it leads to soap-opera-tinged adventures like in the second season.

The best moments of this episode certainly come from Korra reuniting with Asami and Mako. This episode does a really good job of them realizing how dysfunctional their routine is while also establishing that they are really good friends after all. And Prince Wu tags along to take Bolin’s place as the comic relief and also to serve as a plot-hook for a little adventure.

The first big thing is certainly that this episode actually hints rather strongly at how Korra may be in love with Asami. I mean, I mentioned before that if Korra does have a romantic relationship again, it seems that Asami is the most logical candidate at this point. And Mako rightly points out in a very poignant remark that not only has Korra chosen to tell only Asami the truth about her troubles but Asami also upheld the promise between them by not telling anyone else about it. I mean, it would be fine for Asami to be just Korra’s BFF, too. There doesn’t need to be a romance involved – although it would be quite ballsy for this series to go all the way with the implications of a romance. Maybe that was the reason Nickelodeon took the series off the show because it feared it would alienate some viewers or the parents of said viewers in some cases by showing a homosexual relationship. But who knows, I don’t want to sound like some conspiracy-nut in this regard and accuse Nickelodeon of homophobia. The fact of the matter is that there’s still no official explanation for why Nickelodeon turned this series into an Online-only-thingy. And seriously don’t get me started with the way it suddenly reappeared on TV on the Nicktoons-channel in October… I assume, this will be one of the great mysteries of life why that whole thing had happened.

At this point, though, I feel like I should reiterate something: Asami isn’t a great character. If they really want to go for a romantic sub-plot between Korra and Asami they need to have her present in each episode like this one. It actually seems ridiculous how a character who should be really close to Team Avatar ends up being so marginalized by the story and the plot. Asami actually having a romantic relationship with Korra would be her biggest character-moment since the FIRST season! After the first season she really was mostly even less important than Varrick is this season to make a comparison. Rather than being unimportant, she just wasn’t present at all most of the time. Her character disappeared and so her development was rather flimsy. We all just heard about her ups and downs without her actually doing enough at any point to have an actual character-arc. Therefore, I really feel like Korra’s romance with Asami may be the most logical at this point but in terms of dramatic weight…? Not really that impactful. Unless this season is going to deliver a ton more of characterization for Asami and also the connection between her and Korra, the whole thing will feel a bit artificial. The romance between Korra and Asami is only possible at this point because the relationship between the two has never been that well-defined to begin with. You could say they have a BFF-like or sisterly or romantic relationship – it’s ALL possible! But actually the most realistic thing would be to say that they barely know each other considering the little number of scenes in this series where Korra and Asami had a meaningful dialogue with each other.

The B-Plot of this episode (although the A-Plot didn’t advance the story much either… so it’s more like a B-Plot in terms of screen-time) is about Bolin and Varrick meeting some escaped prisoners from one of Kuvira’s reeducation-camps. They have a fun adventure and the ensuing battle-sequences are fun to watch but from a writing-perspective… Two dudes wander through a forest fleeing from an oppressive dictator and they just happen upon a group of escaped prisoners who want to flee the country? That’s a tad contrived. I mean, it does the job as far as the plot is concerned. It works, that’s really all there is to it in terms of creativity. Stuff happens that is exactly the stuff the plot needs! That’s the most essential rule for constructing a plot – but there should be more, right? Not every kid whose parents live in a horrible marriage is coincidentally visited by Santa Claus on Christmas so that he can fix the kid’s parents’ marriage. Coincidences are a neat little plot-device but this plotline really seems a tad too convenient.

In terms of fun, though, Bolin and Varrick’s adventures were quite entertaining and the episode did handle the coincidence of them meeting those escaping prisoners well. The characterization of Varrick is especially great here and they really should’ve done the same with Asami more by having her be helpful in bending-battles by using modern technology. Sure, the battle against mechas wasn’t a pure bending-battle but that doesn’t mean that Asami should be reduced to punching people with an electricity-glove. And there is a really interesting Avatar-universe-specific point to be made in how technology could be capable of overpowering bending and how that would change the role of benders within society. Instead we get villains who utilize technology to combat benders, without the story purposefully making a point.

So, for the A-plot you’ve got these great chara-interactions and a little adventure which leads to Prince Wu leaving the stage to be kept safe in a safehouse and for the B-Plot you’ve got Bolin and Varrick coincidentally meeting a bunch of people who don’t like Kuvira and the first two earn their redemption by helping them escape and as a result they escape together with them on a boat. There’s stuff happening but none of it seems that important for the story. Naturally you would expect this to be a dull episode, therefore. But this episode is once again proof that the series is best when it doesn’t have a lot of plot to deal with and can concentrate on the characters interacting with each other.

Episode-Rating: 8.0/10

Random Thoughts:

  • Next episode will be really interesting considering how Kuvira is plundering the very swamp Toph, her grandmother-in-law lives in.
  • I also really like how quickly everyone moved on after hearing about Korra’s failure to defeat Kuvira in a one-on-one-duel. Although it just highlightens how unnecessary the whole thing has been to begin with, I feel like. Either make Korra act smart or make her accept her fate of not being able to do shit in some situations. The whole duel-thingy seemed like a reminder of Korra’s past when she was still prone to do such stupid things.
  • The whole thing with the escaped prisoners whining about Kuvira basically having something slightly less worse than concentration-camps… Okay, I get it, she’s a dictator. But considering how she was portrayed as a villain from the very beginning, it’s weird the whole Earth-Realm hasn’t started a civil war. This season has been so busy showing the audience that Kuvira isn’t one of the good guys that it barely paid attention to showing how she became the leader of the Earth-Empire in the first place. Also, I’ve already mentioned how she doesn’t seem like a leader of an Empire. She acts more like a warlord who only thinks about the next battle.

 

 

 

 

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on November 14, 2014, in Anime, Reviews, The Legend Of Korra: Book Of Balance (S04) and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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