The Legend Of Korra: Book Of Balance – 08 Review
It’s just a recap-episode, really. So, to describe it in one word: skippable.
This eighth episode may not exactly be a filler-episode – but it comes very close to being just that. The episode is split into three people recounting events of the previous three seasons and the episode mixes things up slightly with a bit of commentary or a parody-retelling in the case of Varrick. The episode is neither eventful nor very character-driven. It really comes down to looking back at the past and some characters having an opinion about why things have happened that way.
This whole recap-thingy clearly follows the notion entertained by the Toph-Episode as the series is trying to tie together all the seasons as a single journey with underlying themes that connect all those events. But just as with the Toph-Episode this episode may succeed in showing off some underlying similarities between the events of the previous seasons and how characters have developed in the course of time. In the end, though, this season simply fails to find an endpoint for this. The events just go on and on, the characters just continue struggling – but what for? What is the culmination of all this? Kuvira as an antagonist, Korra having to deal with her loss of power and doing good leading to the rise of evil as well – it’s all par of the course in this series. The series just keeps going on without ever changing itself or moving forward. What little change there is doesn’t lead to anything significant as the series just keeps getting caught up in the same cycle over and over again. The most emblematic example is the second recap-story of this episode which is Korra’s who asks herself what the point of it all is. She has always tried to do good, then had to face a complicated evil she couldn’t handle and ultimately won the day but not after countless people had already suffered due to her weaknesses. And this stuff keeps happening again and again. No matter how much good Korra is doing she just ends up creating the seeds for the next disaster with each new victory. And what is Tenzin’s advice? “Just keep going.” Tenzin’s point is really that bad shit will always happen and Korra’s job is always to stop it from happening no matter the cost – and she has to do it again and again until she finally dies and some other poor bastard has to be the Avatar.
It’s actually quite depressing when you think about it that way but the series has a way of burying such complicated notions when it really counts in favour of some cheesy heroism-idealism. So the series goes so far as to propose that the Avatar can’t save the world, he can only stop it from being destroyed time and time again. But this whole thing leads nowhere. This fourth season just describes the underlying themes and patterns of the first three seasons and lets them stand there without doing anything with them. It’s really poignant how looking at the past hasn’t led to new insights or revelations in this episode. All the characters can do is either quit anything related to the cycle altogether (like how Mako, Korra and Asami just give up on romance) or you’re just bound to do the same shit again and again (like in the case of Korra and her Avatar-duties). What’s worse: The series seems to be contend to just accept these to be the only two options available.
The thing that should have led to some revelations and character-development was how Mako talked about his complicated relationship with both Asami and Korra. And really, it just reminded me once again how messy this whole romance-subplot of the first two seasons had been. The condensed summary just heightens why I felt relieved when the whole thing was declared dead at the end of season 02. Mako didn’t commit to either romance and just struggled like someone lost at sea who didn’t really knowing which way to go. And Korra/Asami just longed for his love but then got betrayed again and again due to Mako’s insecurities and how badly he managed his lovelife. And ultimately all three wisely found out that they felt better just being friends instead of being this awkward love-triangle. A good resolution that came far too late, I feel like.
And then there’s the growing friendship between Asami and Korra, of course. Okay, apparently the creators have made it clear that there won’t be any sort of romantic relationship between those two – which is totally fine! But you know why I would have been fine with them having such a cheesy romantic relationship? Because it would at least be one way to define the relationship between the two. The fact of the matter is that Korra and Asami may be portrayed as friends currently but the reality is more like that they don’t really have any sort of meaningful relationship. The portrayal of their relationship is more about little moments where the story is basically telling the audience what their relationship is – rather than having a lot of scenes that are organically integrated into the story and SHOW what their relationship is. Asami is after four seasons still a very broad character. The reason one could interpret that moment of Korra blushing last episode as a possible romance is their relationship’s ill-defined nature which makes such a romance actually imaginable.
The third recap is actually the most entertaining one as it’s really just a parody invented by Varrick. Now here’s the thing: The first series already had very witty episode that did exactly that when Avatar Aang and his friends watched a play depicting the events of the series. It not only made fun of past events but also helped the characters gain a new perspective on the relationship they have with their friends and how they had changed over the course of their journey together. All of that is missing here, though. Varrick’s retelling of a Bolin-focused version of the past is just there for humour. And most of all, I’m not really sure how to feel about the way Varrick’s version is played parallel to the images of the real events. Especially with the ridiculous way the second season ended, it really feels like the audience is supposed to not only laugh at Varrick’s story but also laugh at how the real events weren’t really less ridiculous than that made-up story.
Once again this part also tries to tie together all the previous seasons in how all the villains of the previous seasons “team up” in order to fight Bolin. That’s the only part where Varrick’s story doesn’t just recycle images of the real events and rather shows invented scenes of the villains talking to each other via a telephone. But the jokes in this part mostly fall flat because of how obvious they are and the whole absurdity-thing loses its charm once you realize that Varrick’s version isn’t really that much more crazy than what really had happened. Essentially it’s only thanks to the good voice-acting of John Michael Higgins that this section of the episode is somewhat enjoyable.
Overall, this is a real clunker of an episode. You don’t gain anything from viewing it – unless the third or this fourth season had been the first season you’ve seen of this series (but who would even do that…?). The characters don’t really learn anything from looking back at the past and we the audience don’t get any new insights about the characters either. All the recapping of this episode just feels incredibly superfluous. There are these attempts to further tie together all the previous three seasons but it still feels as purposeless as when Toph tried to do that a couple episodes ago. The worst thing you can say about this episode is that you can skip it without missing anything of importance. No one who has been watching this series since the beginning really needed such a lame recap-episode.
- You know which character would’ve benefited immensely from being the narrator of a recap? Asami. Instead, the three recap-stories just prove once again how perfunctory her role in this series is. It’s not even a matter of liking or disliking her character at this point, it’s more like a question of why she even exists in the first place.
- Some series try to make these recap-episodes more palatable by revealing some sort of big plot-twist at the end of the episode. This episode didn’t even do that.
- I don’t feel like it really changes my opinion of this episode but here’s one of the series’ creators Bryan Konietzko explaining why this episode is just a recap-episode. The gist of it is: Nickelodeon cut their budget suddenly and this episode is their “solution”.
Posted on November 22, 2014, in Anime, Reviews, The Legend Of Korra: Book Of Balance (S04) and tagged Anime, book of balance, cartoon, Legend Of Korra, reviews, S04. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.