The Legend of Korra: “Korra Alone” Book 4 Chapter 2 Review

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The Legend of Korra has always been a bolder series than its predecessor. But Korra Alone was perhaps its most interesting entry, exploring our hero’s journey overcoming PTSD.

Where the season premiere mostly focused on establishing the time jump and introducing Prince Wu and Kuvira, the second episode dove into the past. With major callbacks to each of Korra‘s previous seasons and the shadow of Avatar: The Last Airbender used better than ever, Korra’s journey was both a cautionary tale of dwelling on the past and a celebration of everything this franchise has given us before this final season.

Many might consider this to be a conflict of interest for the series, as most shows will pick just one of those things to explore at a time. But consider the title of this season, Balance. I hate when shows and movies have the lessons “you can’t run from your past” or the opposite “your past doesn’t define you”. Both of these lessons are important, but in moderation with each other. That’s what Korra seems to be telling us in this episode by putting soothing moments with Katara next to frightening images of Zaheer. The past should be celebrated on this series, but Korra does in fact need to come out of her funk. It’s about finding the right balance.

Going back to the time just after Zaheer’s defeat, Korra returns to the Southern Water Tribe in a wheelchair. Nightmares of her most recent foe keep her up at night while Katara holds healing sessions during the day. Katara has been a comforting figure on this series since the pilot, when she encouraged Korra to leave the South and carve her own path in Republic City. But this wise, elderly version of one of our original Airbender heroes has never played a more vital role in this series than in Korra AloneKill Bill references aside (“Wiggle your big toe.”), Katara has Korra using her mind to overcome the pain. She’s there when Korra falls and will be there when she wakes backs up.

Meanwhile, the Avatar must endure letters from her friends as their lives move forward and hers stays in that chair. In what was mostly a grim episode, Mako and Bolin’s letters brought some much needed humor to this road to recovery. Mako’s “Chance of snow showers later today, but enough joking around,” and Bolin’s “I feel our friendship knows neither time, nor distance,” were perfect reflections of their personalities that Korra, and us, could feel her friends for just a second. It was also a nice touch that later in the episode she only writes back to Asami.

The scene where Katara gets Korra to walk was truly beautiful. Jeremy Zuckerman’s score really elevated the intimate scene, but the dialogue was there to hold the foundation. Consider this exchange:

“What am I going to find when I get through this?” Korra asked.

“I don’t know, but won’t it be interesting to find out?” Katara gracefully replied.

The Avatar’s future is till uncertain, but it most certainly exists, even if Korra doesn’t see it just yet.

Now that she’s finally walking again, she gets a chance to test her recovery when Tenzin visits. In a very smart recreation of Korra’s firebending training from the opening scene of the very first episode of Korra, the Avatar fails to defeat her opponents when a memory of Zaheer suddenly spooks her and she loses the edge in the fight. This scene is incredibly important, as it showed that if Korra can get past this mental block, which is understandably difficult, she’ll be back and ready to fight if she needs to.

Korra finally leaves the Southern Water Tribe and travels to Republic City alone. In one of the absolute funniest scene of the series, she comes across a merchant that has an “Avatar Wall”, where you’ll find a hilariously goofy photo of older Aang airbending some sushi rolls. It’s a small moment, but one that shows Aang was still very capable of being his old self as he aged.

But then thieves rob a nearby shop. Korra tries to stop them, but the mental block remains, and she’s quickly knocked on her back. Ashamed, Korra turns her boat around just as she reaches Republic City, seeing the creepy Avatar State version of herself for the first time. Afraid of her former self, she cuts her hair so less people will recognize her.

Korra’s next stop is the Tree of Time, where she once found the energy within herself to defeat eternal darkness in Book 2. Some spirits surround her, questioning her identity because they can’t sense any of Raava’s energy.

As she continues to be plagues by visions of herself, we finally find Korra in the fighting ring somewhere in the Earth Kingdom, where we caught up with her last week. As Korra fights, she replaces her opponent with herself. She loses.

But a puppy that looks a bit like a very tiny Naga manages to scare Korra’s visions away. Did the dog actually see it? What does that imply? Perhaps Korra’s struggles aren’t as mental after all.

The puppy leads Korra to the swamp, where it reveals itself as one of the spirits that visited Korra in the Tree of Time. But then the Avatar comes face to face with herself, giving us an awesome Korra vs. Korra. Evil Spirit Korra using the chains Zaheer strapped her in to reel in the true Avatar made for an exciting battle. The fight ends with Korra seemingly getting sucked into a pool of the very poison that crippled her.

Korra wakes up in a cave after this long, taxing journey with a former favorite that seems to have taken up a Yoda-like presence. “Nice to see you Twinkle Toes,” an elderly Toph says to end the episode.

While this conclusion felt a bit abrupt, there was no way Korra’s journey would end here. It is just the second episode after all. But the arc itself got off to a wonderful start. The Avatar made a lot of progress in these three years, and every victory felt earned, while her defeats were emotional as well.

This episode also made effective use of the franchise’s rich history. Bringing Katara, Toph, and even Aang in that photo to the forefront set a tone for Book 4 to feel like a conclusion to one story, not two. Meanwhile, the images of Zaheer, the Tree of Time, and Korra’s firebending training were all great callbacks to moments on this series. Book 4 suddenly has a finality to it. The end is coming. But with 11 episodes left to go, Korra Alone set the stage for a truly legendary finish. Grade: A

By Matt Dougherty

 

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