Because fans should be critical, too

Announcement: Book Four Episode Reviews

I’ll be watching each new episode of Book Four of The Legend of Korra the Friday it premieres on the Nickelodeon website, but the review won’t be posted until either the following Saturday or Sunday. This gives me time to watch each episode twice before drawing any conclusions and writing a single word. There won’t be any rating system, just general thoughts on the episode, speculations on the future, and anything else that catches my attention.

I’ve already watched today’s episode once, and plan on watching it the second time once all my daily business is taken care of. As for the episode itself, all I can say is that it’s pretty interesting. If you’ve seen it yourself, feel free to discuss away before the review is posted tomorrow. I’ll join in when I can.

– Marshall Turner

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20 responses

  1. Grindal

    It’s quite hard to judge the first episode largely because we’ve only been given 22 minutes for a season premier rather than at the very least a double-header. For what it’s worth the episode had some interesting set-ups here and there although frankly I’ve already seen enough of this Prince Wu character.

    By the way did anyone else notice the animation for the episode seemed slightly below the high standards we’ve gotten used to from Studio Mir? It may have just been my player but it’s just something I recognised.

    Anyway at the very least I’ll wait three or so episodes before I actually evaluate the direction of the show. Here’s hoping it all turns out well.

    October 3, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    • I don’t really see the difference in animation. It looks just like it was in the second half of season 2 and the entire season 3 in my opinion.

      By the way, remember how terrible the animation was in the first half of Book 2? I’ve noticed how everyone in the fandom claims that it went back to normal in the second half, but in my eyes, it never did. It sure got better, but it still was a pretty big downgrade from what we saw in Book 1. I’m just bringing this up to see if I’m the only one who thinks this way, ’cause more than one person has told me that I’m hallucinating.

      Anyway, back to the premiere.

      Kuvira seems like an interesting villain. At first, her voice actress didn’t convince me, but when she kicked those bandits’ asses and forced them to join her, she sure gained my attention. Her scenes were definitely the best ones in the episode.

      Kai and his appearances come in second (and not because he’s probably my favourite character from the show). Oh boy, puberty did it right. He’s now traveling around the world helping people with his improved airbending skills. And to think that he was a bratty thief 12 episodes ago.

      Next is Bolin with his… boring new haircut. He’s more mature now, and even though he’s siding with the antagonist without knowing her true intentions, he seems to have a fixed goal in his mind and to have found a purpose in his life.

      The rest of the episode was just okay. Kudos to whoever made the new designs for Ikki and Meelo.

      I’m not that fond of the new airbender outfits though, they are simply silly. I’m also not looking forward to seeing more of those new terribly animated CGI mecha-tanks.

      Apart from that, I’m incredibly excited about this final season. Can’t wait for what’s to come.

      October 3, 2014 at 9:39 pm

      • Gabriel

        Huh, I ended up finding a Jordie image here, that was… unexpected.

        I don’t pay THAT much attention to details of the animation, so I didn’t notice lack of quality (not enough to bug me, it seems). Oh, just one moment when Kuvira’s eyes seemed disturbingly weird, but that was it.

        I think it was an interesting episode and now most of the characters have some kind of goal. I just wish they get some more development, especially Mako, Bolin and Asami (I hope she gets more attention along with Pema, who had some funny lines in past seasons). There’s something emotional missing about these ones, I feel it since Book 3. The relationship between the prince and Mako may be interesting… I guess. He is so different from the past earth monarchs, which is nice.

        For now, Kuvira reminds me of one or two politicians who had noble goals but got mad about those things that corrupt, like power, but it’s too early to say much. I hope she isn’t a predictable villain and gets more development than the Red Lotus members.

        The stories regarding the Earth Kingdom society tend to be the most interesting (and sad) in my opinion, I guess we’ll get to see more of them in this season since they’ll probably show a lot more about the Kingdom’s new order.

        And yes, the airbender outfits are awful. For some reason, Power Rangers came to my mind when I saw them. Also, I hate that there has been SO MUCH spoiler going on about Book 4, I got a major spoiler about Toph (or so I guess). And also, am I the only one who wants to know more about Sokka, Suki and maybe even the Fire Nation?

        October 3, 2014 at 10:25 pm

      • Grindal

        For the animation of Book 2 only episodes 10-14 were animated by Studio Mir besides the Beginnings episodes of course. I for one noticed a considerable difference, especially in the fluidity of character movement as well as facial expressions (and eyes). Also I find that Studio Mir is able to better ‘change’ the angles of their shot through slightly moving their backgrounds and perspectives on the animated characters. Mind you though there is one outrageously long-held shot at the end of one of the latter episodes with an expression on Korra’s face that is just ridiculous and never changes.

        Anyway I think the airbending suits are fine except they should’ve been a different colour, more like the yellow-orange of the old outfits. The red makes them identifiable with the Fire Nation, at least until they start flying. But hey, when you think about it this is the first progression the Air Nation has made in 170 or so years. Tenzin for the most part up until the end of Book 3 seemed to be trying to rebuild his father’s image of the Air Nation, rather than one that would have grown with the development of the world.

        To close I like and fully agree with the comment by JMR who said “this episode is perfectly adequate.” The building blocks are all there – let’s see where we are three or four weeks down the line before we really start to make any conclusions.

        October 3, 2014 at 11:09 pm

  2. JMR

    This episode was perfectly adequate. It had nothing in it that really blew my mind, but it certainly did exactly what it needed to do: re-introduce us to our now older characters and set up the conflict that is to come this season.

    The fascist vibes around Kuvira from the trailers seem pretty well confirmed. It makes a lot of sense, really, both historically and thematically. In history, the rise of fascism in the 1930s had a lot to do with people seeking safety and security from the unrest and uncertainty of the previous decades in the firm, paternalistic arms of your various Hitlers and Francos. Thematically, last season gave us the evils of overwhelming chaos, so it looks like this season its the turn of overbearing order. Maybe that will go somewhere towards rectifying how dismally black and white they portrayed the chaos vs. order conflict in Season 2.

    Either way, pretty excited to see where we go from here, especially as it pertains to Korra. Standard “Hero abandons the call to wallow in their own self-pity” plot, or perhaps something more? We shall see.

    October 3, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    • Gabriel

      Well, since the characters can now confuse strawberry with blood and say words like “assassinated”, maybe they also had more liberty to make a more mature story in Book 4? Like Aang’s Book 2, but even deeper and possibly darker in the political side.

      October 3, 2014 at 10:30 pm

      • JMR

        Eh, the show has never really been afraid to say things like ‘kill’ and ‘die’, and there’s an entire set of abilities called ‘bloodbending’, so I’m not entirely sure how much of a shift in maturity that symbolizes.

        I think more important actually is the time skip. I’m under the impression that Bryke are trying to do something like Harry Potter did and ‘age up’ the story along with the audience as they grow older. So we’ll see how much more leeway the change to the all-online format has given them, and perhaps ultimately answer the question of whether the show’s consistent oversimplification of complex moral and political issues stems from the network’s demand for ‘happy endings’ or Bryke’s own inability to pull off a morally and politically complex story.

        October 3, 2014 at 11:04 pm

  3. Clander

    Typical Korra episode. Interesting set up with a not bad character completely buried in retarded shit. The dialogue is still awful. Do we really need to drop “3 years ago” into every single conversation about the past? I also love how Opal and Kai are like “we’re going to save this town by ourselves!” Then they try, fail and immediately give up. Pacing? What the fuck is that? Also am I the only one who thinks Korra’s dad’s voice actor is complete shit? Talk about monotone. “Oh no my daughter isn’t here, I don’t know where she is bla bla bla yaaawwwn”

    October 4, 2014 at 2:18 am

    • Grindal

      Your assessment seems remarkably harsh. I don’t see how you came to think that “3 years ago” was overused throughout the episode. The Earth Queen died 3 years ago, so wouldn’t you think that the turmoil it created in the Earth Kingdom will account for a lot of things that are underplaying this season. And the dialogue was fine, what you otherwise prefer? How is the ruler of Yi saying “did I ever really have a choice?” not good dialogue? Opal and Kai? They made the decision that they couldn’t risk the town if bandits could prevent them from getting supplies there, so better to accept Kuvira’s assistance before she leaves. Remember, they were only going to wait for one day. What if Opal and Kai stubbornly persist with their efforts, Kuvira leaves, and they still can’t get supplies to the town? They also can’t know the extent to which Kuvira is a totalitarian oppressive ruler (even we don’t know yet). Bryke did a pretty good job of conveying how the town was on its last legs – their decision is rational and responsible.

      Tonraq’s voice actor though? I have no defence bud… His worst lines ever though is when he fights the Red Lotus with Zuko and the twins in Book 3. Check it out, it’s appalling. Anyway hope you understand where I’m coming from and if not oh well, I understand that Korra as a show has significantly let us down in the past. Just in my opinion not yet. It’s the “perfectly adequate” season premier.

      October 4, 2014 at 4:34 am

      • Tonraq’s reaction in this episode was just terrible. It was even worse than Tenzin’s response when Korra told him that Amon could take people’s bending away in Book 1, or Pema and her kids’ reaction when their home was being raided by the equalists.

        Gabriel, when you said that you “noticed a big difference in the fluidity of character movement…”, was that “difference” good or bad?

        October 4, 2014 at 10:47 am

      • Clander

        I probably am being unfairly harsh. I think the 3 years ago thing goes back to the bad dialogue. It sounds contrived when ever they talk about something that happened last season. I don’t know why they need to remind us the timeline every time the characters do a recap. When it came to Opal and Kai it makes sense in the plot I’m just saying it should have been written differently for better pacing. But who knows, it’s only the first episode. I simply don’t have high hopes.

        Oh I remember when he was fighting Zaheer. Seriously it actually makes me kind of mad that I almost want to yell at my computer: “Emote! Use Emotion!”

        October 4, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    • I’m wondering if Kai and Opal’s failed attempts to transport the food and supplies was a setup by Kuvira to finally have the general give into her demands. It’s probably too early to speculate such things, but Kuvira seems like the type to play dirty to get what she wants. We’ll see.

      As for Korra’s dad’s voice, I agree with you. It’s pretty clear that James Remar read his lines from the back of his paycheck.

      He put more passion into his last line of the opening scene from Pineapple Express than he did at any point in The Legend of Korra.

      October 6, 2014 at 9:43 pm

      • Ian

        Glad Im not the only one who thinks Tonraq sounded TERRIBLE, in the his first fight with Zaheer and this episode. Although I think hes perfectly fine the rest of the show to be honest and I think he does a very good performance when he says “Korra, its me. Dad.” when Korra is dying from the poison, Thoughts?

        October 7, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      • Grindal

        @ Ian.

        It’s more the animation on his face in that scene than the vocals that sells it in my opinion.

        October 7, 2014 at 11:03 pm

  4. Gabriel

    JMR: Yes, bloodbending came to my mind, but this concept doesn’t look very graphic compared to a simple blood stain because you don’t even get to see blood. The idea is frightening, but the execution is never too graphic, just the character behaving like a puppet. Do you remember of any blood stains or even fake blood stains in Avatar?

    I know that there were deaths in Avatar (it was a war story after all) and I remember the “should I kill Ozai or not?” thing, but even that little piece of dialogue in this episode sounded more direct when he said “assassinated”. Jet’s death still looks like a very strange scene to me, but not exactly like a death sequence and Aang didn’t kill Ozai (I never believed he would do it in that story). Some darker subjects sound more direct in the dialogues even if they aren’t new. Just my impression, may be nothing.

    October 4, 2014 at 2:49 pm

  5. Gabriel

    daciio: I didn’t say it.

    Clander: “It sounds contrived when ever they talk about something that happened last season. I don’t know why they need to remind us the timeline every time the characters do a recap.”

    I know what you mean, it bugs me too when many of the characters talk about the past whenever they can in the first episode for some unknown reason. But in this case, it makes sense that they mention a few things from past, especially all the chaos in the Earth Kingdom.

    Opal and Kai’s lack of persistence kinda bugged me too. Though I can understand them, maybe the pacing could’ve been better. And Tonraq was really lame. They also forget Korra’s mother.

    I agree that it was a nice enough first episode for this season. You know, when Korra made her appearance I realized that there were so many things going on that I totally forgot her. XD We had an entire episode of The Last Airbender without Aang (Zuko Alone), so I don’t think it was bad.

    October 4, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    • Whoops, sorry. I confused you with Grindal.

      October 4, 2014 at 11:43 pm

  6. JMR

    So I’ve done some thinking, as well as reading other people’s thoughts on this episode, and I need to amend my assessment of it. While I stand by my initial post for the first 20 or so minutes of the episode, the more I think and read about the last two the more I realize just how much ‘adequate’ doesn’t do it justice. What I realized is that the end of this episode is everything that the end of Season 1 wanted to do with Korra’s character but failed at.

    Think about it, if this were a crime drama, these last few minutes would be the scene where we find our hard-boiled detective slouched in the darkest corner of a grungy dive bar, a glass of scotch in his fist and four packs worth of cigarettes smouldering in the ash tray.

    This is showing us Korra’s “lowest point” as opposed to Season 1 simply telling us that it is as a slap dash justification for the massive dump the narrative was about to take all over itself. We truly get to see what Korra’s Dark Night of the Soul looks like, and it looks like her scratching together a living getting her butt kicked in shady underground earthbending cage matches.

    She’s retreated back to her comfort zone of mindless violence only to find that the damage she’s suffered means she’s not even any good at that anymore. Everything she thinks is important has truly been taken from her at this point, and it’s further pounded home by that beautiful last line, after the fight organizer asks her if she knows anything about what happened to “that Avatar girl”: I wouldn’t know.

    Think back again to season 1, to pot-bellied baby Korra smashing through a wall to declare that she’s the Avatar and everyone else has to deal with it! That Korra would never say that line. That Korra would turn around, face the fight organizer, and shout “It’s me! I’m the Avatar! I’m the special Chosen One!” But now, this Korra, dejected and defeated, bruised and broken, casually disavows the Avatar identity that for her entire life has been her whole world. That there is how you write a character’s darkest hour.

    October 5, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    • Gabriel

      It reminded me of the end of Book 1 as well. No Deus ex machina this time, yay (for now).

      October 5, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    • Grindal

      That’s actually some really good insight JMR! You could literally take this scene, make Korra airbend instead, and put it at the end of Book One and it would work exceptionally well as an ending. See, I think something like this just emphasises that the framework Bryke was given for Korra just didn’t suit them. Like ATLA, they need to be told how many episodes they are going to have for their entire run.

      But anyway, fantastic analysis man! I still think though just having Prince Wu in there upsets the rhythm of the episode too much for it to be a solid one. But hopefull Bryke can finally capture Korra’s struggle well for once now.

      October 6, 2014 at 7:41 am

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