Mark Watches ‘The Legend of Korra’: S04E01 – After All These Years

In the first episode of the fourth season of The Legend of Korra, three years have passed since the Red Lotus were defeated, and EVERYTHING IS SO DIFFERENT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Legend of Korra.

I missed this show so much, and this episode reminded me exactly why I have come to love it so much. This is, simply stated, fantastic storytelling. The decision to jump three years into the future is so full of potential, and the writers waste none of it. Even the cold opening, narrated by the radio broadcaster, introduces us to a version of Republic City that’s not just different, but entirely reliant on the past. Korra’s action in the past two seasons have built up a drastically different version of the city, and I’m so thrilled that the show has decided to commit to that.

While a lot of this episode relies on shocking us with life three years after the end of “Venom of the Red Lotus,” I think it also does a fine job setting up an unnerving story about loyalty, exploitation, and politics. (ALSO: KORRA. But we’ll get there.) It’s very bold of Korra to leave their titular character offscreen until the final moments of the premiere, but by doing so, we’re able to experience the many ways in which the world of the Avatar has changed irrevocably. From the twisted vines and plant life thrust through Republic City, to the spread of the airbenders as a force for good in a chaotic world, to KUVIRA (!!!!!!), the entire framework for this season is ripe for drama, and I ADORE IT.

I don’t even know where to start. MEELO’S HAIR. Kai and Opal as airbending helpers. EVERYONE IS SO MUCH BIGGER AND I WASN’T READY FOR IT. I am not ashamed for reacting as I did, either. Just… look at Jinora! Look at Mako and Asami!!! LOOK AT WHAT A MESS I’VE BECOME. So, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s discuss a few things:

Prince Wu

Three words: an eternal mess. After his great-aunt was assassinated three years prior, he’s spent most of his time… doing what? Waiting? Learning to be spoiled? Regardless, it’s obvious that it’s now time for him to return to Ba Sing Se to run the Earth Kingdom. He has no practical experience whatsoever, he is not even remotely prepared to run a kingdom, and poor Mako is now stuck by his side, paid to be professionally annoyed by his employer. After seeing his adversary, I think it’s just a matter of time before Ba Sing Se and Kuvira chew him up and spit him out. How the hell is this going to work? Actually, let’s just talk about Kuvira because I’m intrigued.

Kuvira

So, I did see her last season, albeit briefly! I’m so curious to learn how she became the Great Uniter because… what??? We know why the Earth Kingdom was thrown into chaos (the Red Lotus), and it makes sense that it would take some time to rebuild the nation. As far as I can tell, Kuvira is an opportunist. She saw the weakness of the Earth Kingdom in the wake of its collapse, and she used her own skill (and her powers of manipulation and intimidation) in order to sweep a bunch of states under her banner. I’m a little confused about the legality of Kuvira’s movement. Was there a power vacuum left behind when the last ruler of Ba Sing Se was killed? Or is she subverting the official government by force?

I imagine that these questions will soon be answered, but it is fun to speculate. What I do know is that Kuvira is terrifying. It’s unreal to watch her switch between the brutal fighting machine we see when she takes down a group of twenty or so bandits ENTIRELY BY HERSELF, and the softer, more sympathetic side she shows to Kai, Opal, Baatar Jr., and Bolin. But make no mistake: she is absolutely exploiting the vulnerabilities of these states in order to gain more power. For what? What’s her eventual goal? Will she attempt to usurp Wu’s power once he ascends the throne?

I’m guessing that’s the case. But Kuvira’s endgame is hidden from us; what we see is the brutal way in which she gains leverage over these people by using the bandit attacks to her advantage. Yes, she gives them protection and food. But at what cost? What will these people eventually have to pay? On a personal level, we see how Opal and Bolin clash over their allegiance to Kuvira. (Well, in Opal’s case, it’s the lack of an allegiance.) Opal is certain that Kuvira is not doing what is best for these states, and I’m inclined to agree with her. I don’t like Kuvira’s methods, so I admit that I’m biased against her. But what does she ultimately want???

Korra

BUT HOLY SHIT, AS GREAT AS EVERYTHING ELSE IS, WHO CARES??? The reveal that Korra was not on Tonraq’s ship and had been in Republic City for six months was shocking all by itself. But it turns out she’s doing underground fighting? Her hair is short, she’s trying to lay low, but she’s still trying to rehabilitate herself. I mean, that’s my guess. She’s using the fights to get better at bending after Zaheer’s poison nearly took her out. I JUST WANT SO MUCH MORE ALREADY. I’m so glad I’m going to finally finish this show, y’all.

The video for “After All These Years” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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