“The Legend of Korra” kicks off exciting and fascinating final season

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photo courtesy of korranation.tumblr.com

Sandy Cho, Online Editor-In-Chief

Featuring a strong and complex female protagonist, addressing sociopolitical issues and captivating fans with its intricate mythology and lush animation, “The Legend of Korra” returns for its final season. Aptly titled “Balance,” this season features characters attempting to maintain balance in the world when Avatar Korra remains both physically and mentally weak three years after the chaos of the prior season.

After poorly dealing with leaked episodes and low viewership on television, which ultimately led to Nickelodeon streaming the latter half of the third season on its website, Nickelodeon played its cards right by properly hyping the show. In fact, I was happy to see “The Legend of Korra” trending on social media after Nickelodeon uploaded the season preview on YouTube.

Aired on nick.com on Oct. 3, the premiere, called “After All These Years,” failed to disappoint as viewers learned how the characters fared after anarchist Zaheer and his friends attempted to overthrow governments and kidnap Korra three years earlier. As a result, the third season ended on a cliffhanger with a wheelchair-bound Korra physically and psychologically injured, leaving fans curious as to how the headstrong heroine will bounce back in the new season.

What’s most interesting about this episode are the risky moves creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante played with the time jump of three years and not showing Korra until the very last few minutes. However, her absence can be felt in the scenes featuring how her friends and family have been doing those years without her. Asami now runs her father’s company, Future Industries; Mako reluctantly guards Prince Wu, the arrogant grand-nephew of the Earth Queen; Bolin assists the season’s enemy, Kuvira, which will definitely cause tension between the friends. In addition, the new airbenders have been maintaining balance in the meanwhile with their cool uniforms that make them look like flying squirrels.

Introduced on a rather ominous note at the end of the third season, Kuvira returns as a powerful antagonist, who refers to herself as “The Great Uniter” and wields her military force and metal-bending abilities to take over territories, which have been plagued with bandits, of the weak Earth Kingdom. It’s so refreshing to see a strong female antagonist on television right now, especially one who might have good intentions but has a bad way of executing her beliefs. Currently, I am not sure how to feel about her, because despite the fact she forces bandits and towns to join her side, she also provides food and security to those under her wing.

The animation remains just as crisp and breathtaking as ever, thanks to the efforts of Studio Mir who took over in the second season. Characters have matured their looks with different hairstyles and wardrobes, all carefully drawn.

Despite a few flaws, such as the over-the-top dialogue of Prince Wu, “Korra” still provides good-natured humor through people like Meelo and features complexities in the romantic relationship of Bolin and Opal.

However, by the end of the episode, all I could think was where Korra was and how she was doing. Skirting her duties and attempting to shed her weighty identity as avatar, a short-haired Korra disguised herself as a regular citizen of Republic City, physically weakened and jaded as she gets beat up in an earth-bending fighting ring. It’s actually heart-breaking—and a bit jarring—to see her in this state, especially when we know that last season, she could’ve easily defeated her opponents in the ring.

Though the premiere can be a little underwhelming for those used to the nail-biting action scenes, “Korra” is definitely one of the most stimulating shows out right now, featuring a complex and vulnerable heroine who has seriously gone through a lot in her life at a young age. What happened to her in the past three years? How will she recover? What is Kuvira trying to plan? There are so many questions that need to be answered that I’m very excited to unravel the final season with the characters I have grown to love.