Jumping Into The Future

Instead of picking up right where we left Korra(you know; beaten, broken, and in a wheelchair), the show has jumped three years into the future as Republic City prepares to welcome Korra back to her full time duties as the avatar. It looks like Republic City has made peace with the spirits as the big tree at the heart of the city has been turned into a public attraction and the airbenders have turned Air Temple Island to a base of operations and training ground. The story picks up with the grand re-opening of the Central City Station where a long separated Asami and Mako reunite to discuss the return of Korra. We are introduced to the future king of the Earth Kingdom, the bumbling Prince Wu who seems more or less like a rich puppet being put in place by President Raiko. Asami and Mako reminisce about the Team Avatar days which makes for a sweet bit of nostalgia(even if it’s only been a month in real time) as they get excited about Korra’s return.

The Great Uniter

In the years that have passed, it looks like Varrick actually built the magnetic trains that were hinted at. Kuvira(who had a bit role in book 3) has become the Captain of the metalbending army and is joined by Bolin to use the railway to reunite the earth kingdom after the anarchy that caused the fall of Ba Sing Se. Kuvira’s train is stopped by a group of bandits who clearly did not know who they were dealing with. Kuvira demonstrates her total mastery of metalbending by taking on all of the bandits without so much as a sweat. Her moves were so fast that it looks like she may have actually discovered the secret of magnet bending(?). The bandits then pledge allegiance to her rule as “The Great Uniter” of the earth kingdom and join her army.

The earth kingdom was in total disarray at the end of last season so it only makes sense someone would eventually have to fill the vacuum and take charge of the anarchy. I have to admit that I did not expect it to be an authoritarian figure from the likes of such small player like Kurvira(who is voiced by Zelda Williams), but I’m very excited to see how her sense of duty and hunger for total control match up against Korra. 

Airbenders in the Villiage of Yi

A familiar pair of airbenders, Kai and Opal, come to the the small earth kingdom village of Yi to keep the bandits at bay. After stopping a small quarrel, the village governor is upset Tenzin did not send more help. Kuvira’s train arrives and we are treated to a nice little romantic reunion between Bolin and Opal before the show takes a turn for the political. Kuvira is in Yi to win their loyalty to the reformed Earth Kingdom. When the governor refuses to agree to signing a treaty, Kuvira promises him that he will receive no aid and the bandits will overtake what’s left of the village. After no deal has been made, Bolin is forced to leave Opal and it’s made clear these two aren’t in love the way they used to be.

Once the metalbenders are gone, the governor begins to worry about their lack of supplies. Kai and Opal promise to find food and supplies so that the Yi can remain independent. The duo are able to make a deal with regionally local farmers and begin transporting the supplies via their sky bison when bandits attack in mid-air Dark Knight Rises style! Kai puts out some of his best moves, but is unable to keep the supplies from being stolen. After a fall that only Reign of Fire could hope to imitate, the two are forced to return to the village to advice them to reconsider the treaty.

I have to admit, I was very curious as to what role the newly rebuilt air nation would play in the grande scheme of the series and this first episode back doesn’t hesitate to give some answers. It looks like they are like the peace keeping Jedi who travel around and try to maintain the peace throughout the kingdoms. It’s exciting to see that subplot and world building payoff after the return of the air nation was seemingly the only consequence of Korra opening the bridge to the spirit world earlier in the series.

Shenanigans in Republic City

After saving Prince Wu from a death-by-pie assassination, Mako is informed by Lin that he’ll be permanently assigned to Wu’s security detail per the orders of President Raiko. Well Mako…you better get used to those four hour spa dates because it doesn’t look like you’ll be getting anything more exciting anytime soon. Tenzin and his family(especially “I’m a man” Ikki) are all prepping for Korra’s return for her Koronation(wow….so clever?). Everyone is gathered together when the southern water tribe ship arrives and Tonraq and Naga step off of the boat. The only problem is there’s no Korra. Tonraq is baffled as he’s been reading her letters for over six months. Where’s Korra?

It turns out our lead lady may not be confined to a wheelchair, but she still looks like she’s seen better days after she gets beat out in an underground earthbending match. What’s that? Our epic avatar who has taken down assassins,extremists, and even gone full kaiju is being beat out by some street level thug? This makes me even more anxious for next week’s episode “Korra Alone” which will hopefully fill us on Korra’s roguish details.

All in All

Book 3 ended on a pretty bittersweet note and this premiere does nothing but intensify the uneasy feeling that these characters are not necessarily in a better place today than they were when we left them three years ago. In a season that very easily could have taken some easy shortcuts and “reset” the story, this episode is bold and follows the spirit and the plotting of the darker season finale. As per usual, Bolin has found himself in the employ of a not so altruistic leader while Mako is stuck playing secret agent man to an obnoxious puppet political figure who is sure to have his head on the chopping block in the not so near future. I suppose it’s not all bad; it looks like the world has stabilized now that Republic City has begun to embrace the spirits that have come into the city.

Theres definitely the continued theme from past seasons of egalitarianism among the earth benders as they strive for equality in representation against the earth kingdom. The most apparent new theme this season appears to be setting up is the good ol’ american argument of federalism vs anti-federalism now that Kuvira strives to build a strong central government that holds a tight grip on its territories. I imagine Korra(being the freedom loving avatar that she is) won’t be a big fan of the “one government to rule them all” mentality. I also think it’s a strong possibility that Kuvira won’t stop at the earth kingdom, but will eventually plan to “unite” Republic City(which falls in the earth kingdom territory) under her own flag…after all, this all has to circle back to the capitol in the end somehow doesn’t it?

This was a strong and fitting season premiere even if it does feel a bit incomplete given its massive task to play catch up with our rapidly growing cast of characters. This season almost could have used a two parter to open given the huge amount of ground to cover. The Legend of Korra continues to prove it’s one of the best things out there by taking huge risks and changing the status quo yet again. There’s a lot of promise for our final batch of episodes here and I can honestly say I’ve got no idea exactly how the series long story, character arcs, and larger themes at play will close out in the end. It’s a great time to be a Korra fan and I can’t wait to see how the next 12 episodes unfold.