In the ninth episode of the fourth season of The Legend of Korra, I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Legend of Korra.
Oh, there’s just SO MUCH jammed into this single episode, so LET’S TALK.
The Spirit Wilds
It stands to reason that since everything is connected within the spirit world, Kuvira’s work in the swamps would affect the same plants over in Republic City. This episode doesn’t really answer why the vines lash out, but I think it’s pretty self explanatory. (Watch me be utterly wrong again.) I think it’s also indicative of how shortsighted Kuvira is. She’s so interested in her own ascent to power that she can’t see how she’s ruining the very world she’s trying to conquer.
But as it stands, the people of Republic City have a dire problem that they’ve got to deal with before they handle Kuvira. That’s ultimately what’s so surprising about “Beyond the Wilds.” I expected a self-contained story solely focused on the spirit wilds, and then THERE’S A HUGE, SEASON-DESTROYING DEVELOPMENT IN THE SECOND HALF. Yet even before we got to that point, this was a thrilling episode that showed us how the rest of the world was coping with Kuvira. I loved that we got to see the leaders of the three other kingdoms, as well as Reiko, as they discuss how to best respond to recent developments. It made sense to me that Tenzin would be opposed to any violence or aggression because he was an airbender; I also believed that Reiko would want to act as quickly as possible. I was most surprised by Fire Lord Izumi, though her reaction was perfectly in-character for the Fire Nation. After spending so many years at war, why would they rush into another one?
Unfortunately, the war has very real consequences for Opal and Lin Beifong, and this episode addresses them head on. With Bolin’s return, Opal is reminded yet again that her family has been captured and that people she knew contributed to that reality. I’m so glad that the show doesn’t force Opal to forgive Bolin, despite that he’s apologetic and likable. He has a lot to do if Opal is ever going to truly forgive him and be able to trust him, and “Beyond the Wilds” makes that remarkably clear. That includes having Opal reject Bolin after he tries to invite her to a romantic picnic. It’s tonally offensive, isn’t it? Here’s Opal, mourning her family and Kuvira’s tyranny, and Bolin wants to eat steamed buns? That’s not how an apology works! Granted, I really do think Bolin is sincere when he tells Opal how sorry he is, but she needs substantive action, not assurances of contrition, you know?
NOW THERE’S GOING TO BE A SECRET MISSION TO RESCUE THE BEIFONGS, THOUGH. Bolin, Lin, and Opal. UTTERLY INTO THIS.
WHO EXPECTED THIS? Look, I thought that Korra’s longstanding issues with her trauma at Zaheer’s hands would be resolved. Certainly! I didn’t expect the show to leave that unaddressed. But I did not go into this episode thinking that KORRA WOULD FACE ZAHEER IN PRISON AND HE WOULD HELP HER ACCESS THE SPIRIT WORLD AGAIN.
Truthfully, this just makes so much sense. Korra was traumatized by Zaheer, and she was always willing to admit that, but the problem she had is that she was mesmerized by what could be. Zaheer haunted her not because of any mystical force, but because she kept imagining what would have happened if he had succeeded in killing her. It’s why she was so terrified by the image of him. But before she got to this level of understanding, she had to get to one of the lowest points of her life.
It was frustrating to watch as Korra was relied upon less and less because I wanted the best for her. I wanted her to gain her confidence back. But I also understood her friends’ and allies’ need to do what was best for them! Sometimes, that meant not asking Korra for help. Which is a strange world, I admit, because I’m so used to Korra being the answer. It’s because of this treatment, though, that she finally asks Tenzin to let her see Zaheer, so I can’t exactly begrudge the others since they pushed her in this direction.
I was absolutely terrified and exhilarated as Korra made her way to Zaheer’s prison. How would he react? Would the experience provide her with the closure that she needed? Would he trick her into setting him free? THAT WAS TOTALLY A POSSIBILITY ON THIS GODDAMN SHOW, OKAY? So I was on the edge of my seat, eager to see how this would turn out. I’m thrilled that I was not disappointed, as the sequence was just as surreal and bizarre as I had anticipated. Gods, the image alone of Zaheer floating while in chains was enough to give me nightmares! Korra quickly realizes this, too, and it’s not long before she knows that Zaheer isn’t going to help her, at least not in the way she expects. I love that when she gets desperate, she invokes the one thing that she knows Zaheer will respond to: tyranny. It’s only after Korra insists that Zaheer’s actions let loose the worst dictator the world has ever seen that he finally does something to rectify this.
He guides Korra into the spirit world.
There are no tricks, no long cons, no ulterior motives. Perhaps out of acknowledgement that a world with Kuvira in it is not worth living in, Zaheer actually helps Korra get past the mental block in her spirit. I love that this is not a cure-all, either. The trauma she went through still happened, she’s still not at full strength, and she cannot deny her past. Zaheer simply found a way to help her move on, which is what she truly needed.
I’M JUST SO EXCITED FOR THE FUTURE, Y’ALL.
The video for “Beyond the Wilds” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
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