SIONL/R: Legend of Korra: Book 4

After the nigh-flawless Book 3, the stakes were high for the final Book.  So much had happened and there was so much personal growth that could have happened in the end.  I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to see the series come to its dramatic conclusion.  If this season was even half was good as the previous one, then we were in for an awesome ride and a great way to settle things.  What I got was…somewhere between really good and really boring.  It was…okay.  I can’t think of a better word to describe it.  I’ll have to go into more detail.  Though there is one thing I want to add – there is some controversy surrounding the ending of the series, and let me head that off by saying that it’s bullshit, because Nickelodeon didn’t have the balls to commit to a serious idea.  I’m annoyed about that, but we’ll get there when we do.

The first thing to know about Book 4 is that it’s NOT character-driven.  At all.  This season was plot driven to the extreme.  It toyed with personal journeys, but it never committed to any one thing.  So many times, they went on the brink of something great, only to back off before it got too intense.  There were several places where this bugged me.

Like the villain.  This woman was a TERRIBLE character to be the evil villain of the story.  Why?  Well, first – she is way to evil way too fast!  I think that this was a problem of them only having 13 episodes in a season.  If they had just been able to take some time and develop her, she could have been as cool as the villains in the previous season.  Kuvira (which is an awesome name, by the way) had all the ingredients for a villain with all the presence of Zahir or Amon, but she just plain doesn’t.  There are cool fights with her, but other than that, I couldn’t possibly care less about her.  This was such lazy character writing, but I don’t blame their writing staff.  I blame Nickelodeon for stupidly forcing them to only have 13 episodes per season.  With a cast as large as Legend of Korra, how could they make any character develop in that amount of time?  I’m still amazed that they did it in Book 3!  Okay, so maybe the writers do have some blame here.  I tried to be reasonable.

Next up was one of the ultimate pieces of wasted opportunity – Korra’s solitude.  They had an episode where Korra is on her own.  They tried to play it like the “Zuko Alone” episode in the original series.  But it doesn’t work.  Why?  Because in the previous series, we had had a long time to see Zuko’s personal conflict.  By the time he was on his own, we saw why he was so distraught.  That episode felt like us being filled in on the whole story.  Here, they tried to jam SO much of Korra’s story into one episode, and it didn’t work.  When I saw her for the first time, in a fighting ring, I thought – oh hell yeah!  What’s the story behind this?!  The set-up was good!  Korra was tormented by Zahir and what he tried to do.  She was in a fighting ring, getting the shit kicked out of her, perhaps for months, so she could punish herself for her fear.  That’s awesome!  There’s so much character in that!  But it was so rushed!  Just when it looked like this was going to be interesting, they back off and make it a one-off thing.  Are you kidding?!  Were you just afraid that people would say that you were glorifying violence against her if you show her getting the crap beaten out of her and it being metaphorical for her punishing herself?  Sure, that’s some dark shit, but that’s why it would have been unique for her character.

Then there was Toph and Lin squaring off about their own tattered relationship.  I remembered that flawless episode where Lin confronted her anger about her sister, and how great that was.  This felt more like that episode on Book 2 where you found out that Aang wasn’t the best dad.  Could we have seen that, perhaps?!  Maybe some discussion or flashback?!  Something?!  No, it’s just going to be a one-off conversation that will be resolved in at the end of the episode.  Throw in some sappy music and you’ve got an episode of Full House.  Oh yeah, I went there!

Then there is the big elephant in the room.  The thing that I heard a bit about in the coverage about the end of the series, but didn’t read too much that was written, so as to not have it spoiled for me.  A head’s-up, I’m about to spoil a huge plot twist that takes place right at the end of the series.  If you haven’t seen Book 4, don’t say that I didn’t warn you.  There was a ton of negative posting about this plot development, and you know what, I didn’t like it either.  But I had a problem with it for far different reasons than other people.

Anyone who reads my site regularly knows that I am a big for of equality, for all people.  I have no problem with LGBT relationships.  None at all.  The Last of Us is one of my favorite games, and anyone who has played the Left Behind DLC knows what I am talking about.  In fact, I am going to use that in a contrast here.

At the end of the series, they have Korra and Asami getting together.  Plot twist!  Or is it?  You don’t see them technically get together, do you?  I didn’t.  They’re holding hands and they face each other as they go into the Spirit World, but at what point did they make it clear that this is a relationship?  It’s almost like Nickelodeon wanted to tease this concept, but then backed off sharply before committing to it.  Grow some balls, Nick!  It’s weird that you have one of the series main writers defend this choice, when you didn’t even have the guts to make it official in a way where you couldn’t possibly make an argument for the two just being really close lady-friends.  It happens.

You know what the weird thing is – I was actually wondering if they would go this route.  At the end of Book 3, they showed Asami caring for and getting very close to Korra, after the incident with the poison.  They could have built on this.  Maybe show her and Korra getting even closer, once she came back to Republic City.  But no, it just gets buried underneath all the plot that was going on.  Since they didn’t have time for any REAL character development, this twist comes right the hell out of nowhere!  It doesn’t feel real!  That’s my problem with it.  I am just fine with the two of them getting together, but I have to believe that it’s something that would happen.  I don’t.

Let me bring back the Left Behind DLC to The Last of Us.  That was nigh-flawless.  It set a standard for story DLC for all games to follow.  In it, not only do they introduce a new character, but they make the relationship between her and Ellie feel real.  You see the tension between them.  You learn about some of their history through dialogue, where you find out that they were really close, but then Riley left.  When you finally reach the emotional climax, where Ellie kisses her, it feels real.  I was happy for them.  It was a tender moment.  Why did it work?  One, because Naughty Dog are the masters of character development through dialogue.  Don’t ask me how.  I could learn a lot from them.  But the other thing was that the relationship developed.  In two hours, I was able to believe in the love that two people have, all through good use of dialogue and narrative tension.  The twist at the end of Korra’s story does not have this.  It felt shoe-horned in as a way to make a cheap point without having to commit to it.  Courage the Cowardly Dog has more balls than you, Nickelodeon!

Man, with all that complaining, you must think that I really hate this season.  And I don’t.  While the season does focus almost-exclusively on plot, it is a pretty good plot.  The action is so awesome.  The characters are all very fun to watch.  I still do love them, even if I barely got time to really reconnect with any of them.  I can’t hate it for that.

So, am I satisfied with the end of the series?  No.  That annoying plot twist at the end ruined any of the closure that I got, because now I am annoyed at what a bunch of pussies the writers for the show were, to not be willing to commit to this.This season wasn’t the worst.  Honestly, it’s just…kind of forgettable.  It doesn’t have the spit and polish of the third season.  It doesn’t have the cool factor and the new-ness of the first season, either.  It’s just…okay.  This series could have actually taken the original, if this season had had even a tenth of the heart and soul that the previous one did.  Alas, it just ends on a whimper.  That’s a crying shame.  It really is.

Until next time, a quote,

“You know, somebody said something funny to me – imagine waiting 12 years to see a firecracker go off.  It wouldn’t matter if someone told you it’s a dud.  You still want to see it for yourself.”  -Angry Joe

Peace out,

Maverick

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