The Legend of Korra Book 4: Balance Review

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For a series as strong as this one to bow out as well as it did is rare. Actually, the only other show I can compare it to is Breaking Bad. Like AMC’s landmark series, The Legend of Korra perfected itself in its penultimate season, and then got a chance to end with a farewell season that dared to be just as good.

There are a few things that put Balance a peg down from Change. The clip show Remembrances was forced by budget cuts, but certainly detracts from the otherwise great season. Prince Wu makes a last ditch effort to be this universe’s Jar Jar Binks. Even though his arc ends up being pretty fruitful in the last few episodes, he was too frequent a presence in Book 4. It’s tough to forgive, considering several characters were sidelined hard this season. Bumi and Tonraq appearances were few and far between, with not even a peep from Kya all season.

But the true focus of Balance was appropriately Korra, and in the end, I’m glad she got the attention she did. The Avatar started Book 4 in a dark place. The phenomenal entry Korra Alone made clear parallels between what Korra was going through and PTSD. After her fight with Zaheer, the Avatar is understandably broken. It takes three years of recovery, training with Toph in the swamp, one womping defeat at Kuvira’s hand, and some spiritual guidance from former foe Zaheer to get the Avatar in fighting shape. The journey was long, but worth every second. For a series to do such important and great work on its main character is rare.

That’s not to say though that Korra was the only pre-established character to get great developments this season. Lin’s journey to reconnect with her family was completed in Operation Beifong when she forgave her mother, Toph, who had a wonderful role in Book 4. Asami took a similar route with her father, leading to the only death of the finale. An effective one though. Bolin, Varrick, and Zhu Li started the season working for Kuvira, but came to their senses eventually. Varrick had a complete turnaround from his Book 2 villainy this season. He offered much better humor than Prince Wu and ended up having the second best romance of the season with Zhu Li (more on the best one later).

As for the new characters, Kuvira made for a great final villain. Mirroring Korra in a number of ways, this tyrant took over the Earth Kingdom in an abrasive manner. Zelda Williams was brilliant as the Great Uniter, elevating this foe to Amon and Zaheer heights in terms of quality. The writing made her overthrow feel real, while also demonstrating the charisma she must have to gain the following she has. As for her defeat, it was important that Korra got her to see reason. This feels like the most natural end to the series, especially since most of Korra‘s villains have ideals that make sense. Kuvira’s just trying to stabilize her nation, she just took it was too far.

Now, let’s talk about that ending.

I have trouble saying that the entire season was made so much better by those last few seconds, but it honestly was. The Legend of Korra broke ground by becoming a kids show with an LGBT romance. And it was done so tastefully too. Korra and Asami almost worked out by accident, but isn’t that like love itself? If you limit where you look, you could miss out on something beautiful. What a beautiful end it was, making this show truly legendary.

Balance was achieved this season. The true message of this series is a powerful one. It doesn’t discount ideas simply because unbalanced people took them too far. The show wants us to take a step back and examine the power of ideas and find the right balance to make them work in a way that everyone wins. Not always easy and not always possible, but definitely a positive message for audiences both young and old.

So while Book 4 had some minor shortcomings, it ultimately came out on top by displaying the show’s signature political prowess and its best character work ever. With a strong villain and an ending that could change the cartoon landscape forever, The Legend of Korra lived up to its title this season. Grade: A- 

By Matt Dougherty

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