Korra Episode Review – K401 After All These Years


Start of my Book 4 Balance written reviews. Last Season is always a sad thing, but often the last seasons are the most exciting also.

K401 After All These Years


Written By – Joshua Hamilton
Directed By – Colin Heck
Animated By – Studio Mir

It has been a very short off-season between Book 3 and 4, many would say too short, I personally wished I had more time to fully digest Book 3 Change. What really got me excited for Book 4 Balance was the trailer and the various hints about what this final book of Korra was about, after the trailer I needed Book 4 sooner rather than later. At last it is here and what an opening episode we got. Quite simply this is an excellent episode, the Book openers are often very good as they do present to much new and interesting things, but often they are primarily set-up and end up being forgotten about as the high action and epic episodes come towards the end of the season. With After All These Years I don’t think that will be the case as this episode had set up going forward, but also some very good action and solid character development, all of this in just one episode. It also had what the Book 3 opening did not really have, with Change the early episodes focused on the mystery and power of the villains, but here with Kuvira they give us both of these things, but also a really good look at her character and after just 1 episode I am very impressed with her as a villain. Add to that some fascinating plots set up with Bolin, Korra and even Prince Wu and you have an episode packed with content, content that makes you so eager to see the rest of the book and that is the hallmark of a perfect opening episode.

I will start at the end as Korra is the smallest part of the episode, but also the most interesting. I really loved the decision to keep the focus away from her until the very end as at the end of Book 3 she is the character who you are the most unsure about, especially after a 3 year timeskip. So the excitement builds as everyone hears that Korra is returning to the city for the first time in 3 years, everyone is so excited to see her, the characters and us, the audience. We are excited, but also apprehensive, as the fear is that she is still in the wheelchair and has yet to heal. So it is a complete shock to see that not only is Korra not on the ship, but that she has lied to everyone about where she is. She lied to her parents about being in the city already and lied to the city about turning up for the coronation. It is a relief to hear that apparently she has healed enough to travel alone, but sad to see that she is lying to those close to her and most of all that she doesn’t want to see her friends once again, the big questions are what happened to her and where is she?

This all makes the final scene reveal of what she is up to all the most shocking and interesting. You have some hope as she is seen doing what she loves, fighting in a bending battle, but why is she doing it in an underground earth rumble-esque arena. The shock comes when she loses the fight and loses badly, while she seems physically fit and able to take the hits and bumps she takes, her bending does not seem powerful at all, I think she only throws one small rock in the whole fight. Korra is not the type of character you expect to submit so easily and to see her trying so hard to win, but simply unable to do so shows that she may have healed for the most part, but there are some big blocks within her holding back her bending and usual attitude. This is all shocking, but the biggest one comes after the fight when it is revealed she doesn’t want anyone to realise she is the Avatar and is trying to stay undercover. The final line answering the question of where she thinks AVatar Korra is, “I wouldn’t know!” is such a simple line, but it has such meaning and power. You can look at it as her just keeping her cover and not revealing herself, but also as quite literally, she doesn’t know what happened to herself, she doesn’t know where the normal Avatar side of herself is. She seems to have left the role of the Avatar behind and is either just trying to restore her strength or create a new life for herself as a different person. I expected something like this, in the sense that she would have to deal with the world having moved on without the Avatar active, but to see Korra heavily distancing herself from the role is a big surprise.

Though, when you think of it this makes sense. All of the villains she has fought have all tried to kill her and have planted in her mind the idea that the world doesn’t need the Avatar anymore. Now with the timeskip she probably knows the details of what has happened, the human-spirit conflict in the city has resolved itself, the air nation is dealing with issues across the world and Kuvira is dealing with the Earth Kingdom chaos. While she has been healing, she and the Avatar have not been needed, the world has moved on without her and it seems like she has moved on from the world. What she has forgotten is her friends and that even without the role of the Avatar she has people who care about Korra the person. I cannot wait to see what has happened to her in the past 3 years, the potential for this final season character arc for Korra is boundless.

I just mentioned it, the human-spirit conflict is resolved in the city as far as we know. It is the one issue I have with the episode, that this big plot point presented at the end of Book 2 and the start of Book 3 is just resolved off screen. I don’t think it hurts the episode and instead is more of a general complaint about the Korra story overall. Book 2 presented this as such a massive conflict, Wan dealt with it and Korra was going to deal with it and now it is done. So unless this was just a false tourist draw, a plot presented as integral to the future of this world has just been resolved 100% off screen and I find that disappointing.

As for the rest of the episode the highlight is definitely what the 3 year time skip allows them to do. All of the characters need to be reintroduced to us so we can catch up and see where the are 3 years on, because the world was not going to pause while Korra was healing. So we see Team Avatar has gotten on with their lives and have not even seen each other much. Asami is now a very successful businesswoman and has really brought Future Industries back to the top, Mako seems to be higher up in the police force as a detective, but is currently on bodyguard duty for Prince Wu, which shows everyone’s confidence in Mako’s abilities. While Bolin seems to be part of Kuvira’s inner circle with her fiance and Varrick, that in itself is big for Bolin that someone as powerful as Kuvira has brought Bolin on board. ┬áIt is cool to see how successful they have all become, but also sad that they have not seen so much of each other and that Korra has spent that time healing and having a tough time. Even getting focus on Kai and Opal was very cool as you see how much the air nation has changed with the new wingsuits. Everyone has a new design to show this time skip and especially the younger characters who also have a clear change in voice as the voice actors have grown with their characters.

While I consider the Korra stuff the best part of the episode, Kuvira was definitely right up there. Immediately everyone knew when she said her name in the Book 3 finale that she would be coming into the show more in Book 4 and most predicted she would be the villain.  Now that we get multiple scenes and a lot of time to see her, we really get a great sense of who she is. Right away I think she has more character development and focus in this one episode than the whole Red Lotus group from last Book.

Look at her fighting style and general actions. She is perfectly efficient in nearly every movement, when she fights the bandits she stays in one spot and just pivots to target each one by one and when she does attack them her attacks are some of the most precise we have ever seen, with each bandit she does the same thing 3 metal strips: one to bind their hands, one for their legs and one to cover their eyes and when they talk back one for their mouth. Her quick hand movements make her style so unique, even the fact that minus dodging one attack she only used metalbending and NEVER touches what she bends, she even wears gloves which for most earthbenders doesn’t make sense as having an actual physical connection to the earth makes them stronger. It is as if she thinks that she is above earthbending and actually touching what she bends, Toph would be the complete opposite of her as a bender. In terms of non fighting actions, a moment that stood out to me was when the train stopped, everyone else moved a lot to keep their balance, Kuvira on the other hand fought against moving and falling over until she absolutely had to take a step back and when she it is was so easy and efficient. She won’t even celebrate until she is 100% done.

Then you have the way she talks to people and the various different faces she presents to people. On her own with no one around we see that she is a calm and calculating person who is not afraid at all to be cruel to others, she hugely emphasises that she has the power and demands that others pledge loyalty to her for her stunning generosity. She feels like a different type of Azula, where while Azula was cruel and manipulated people she enjoyed doing it and took pleasure in it, Kuvira does the same stuff, but doesn’t necessarily get that cruel enjoyment from it, I think she simply finds being like this the most efficient way to get what she wants. Then you get moments like when she talks to Opal and she seems very careful to dispel any rumours or act cruel, instead putting on a neutral attitude and placing the issues with Opal and that Opal should forgive rather than Kuvira herself apologise. I like that she is a good actor apparently and can be quite manipulative when needed.

As for her goals, she has gotten the name “The Great Uniter” and immediately you get “Chin The Conqueror” vibes from the situation. She seems to have the backing of most world leaders in terms of her being the one to stabilise the Earth Kingdom, but we the audience, the governor of Yai and Opal all know the real way she is and how she gains the loyalty of these people. She is hiding what she is really doing behind a veil of humanitarian aid. She has masterfully handled the political situation, she comes in offering aid in exchange for full control of each state and these harsh contracts fade into the background when her people come in handing out food and letting the kids play in the mechs, she comes across as a hero to the masses with only a few people seeing the way she even got in. Then you have the potential that she is the one behind the bandits supplying them creating the need for aid and the need for the states to sign their loyalty to her. The key evidence is that as soon as Kai and Opal arrive, the bandits suddenly have a perfect counter to airbenders and sky bison, as well supplied as the bandits are it is a bit hard to believe that they have bi-planes and have gear for plane to plane traversal.

The big thing with Kuvira is that anyone who openly goes against Kuvira will come across as being against aid and against a united Earth Kingdom, it will be tough to fight against her without coming across as the villain. Then finally you have that she is going to marry Baatar Jr, Opal’s brother and together they betrayed Suyin in some way. The only info we know is that it seems like the symbol she used is that of Zaofu and to have such a large army she must have taken many people from Zaofu with her when she left. A clear way to use the 3 year gap to create these potential flashback moments.

One of the last things to mention is Prince Wu. I found him to be a pretty funny character usually characters like this are often presented like this to make you dislike them on purpose, but I think they managed to give him some little things that make you like him and hope he grows up a bit past the slightly foolish person he is now. It is clear the idea they are going for with him, that he is going to be the new Earth King by blood having done nothing, but Kuvira has all of the people’s support and may end up becoming Earth Queen just through popularity. So I can see them giving him some form or arc where we see that deep down he would actually make a decent king, or at least he would be better than Kuvira, he just needs to become more serious and realise the importance of the duty he will soon have. I found his flamboyant style and way of talking to be very funny, especially the hat and the way he went on and on about his spa treatments to Mako. Speaking of Mako, the idea of pairing him up with Wu is interesting, but could work very well. Mako is extremely responsible and Wu seems to really rely and respect Mako so when these two get a serious moment it could help Wu to go. A highlight for these two was in the car when Wu was hit by a pie, he thinks he has been shot or stabbed and then Mako points out it is just strawberry pie, but then they go even further and Wu says he is allergic to strawberries and Mako corrects him and says he is allergic to bee stings. You do really feel for Mako, though, as he is so eager to get back to his normal job and is now forced to be his bodyguard for all time, which presents the idea of President Raiko’s political games, he wants to be very friendly with the incoming Earth King because if the term of a president is 4 years then the next election will be very shortly and Raiko must want to stay in office.

Bolin and Opal’s relationship, it was nice to see they are still together, but it also allows an interesting way to show the double edged sword Bolin’s new position has. Opal knows who Kuvira really is, but Bolin has yet to see that and this creates a big problem in their relationship. He has clearly grown being around Kuvira, but Opal also mentions he has changed from the person she originally knew. It will be interesting to see if/when Bolin realises Kuvira’s true nature and what he does from here. I assume Kuvira has Bolin around her because he is as far as we know the only Lavabender in the world right now and it is better to have him with her than against her.

All in all this is an fantastic opening episode to the final season of Korra. If the quality continues like this for the rest of the book, we are in for a treat. This episode really did have a bit of everything I love about Avatar and Korra: Action, character development, humour, plot and even some intrigue. From what we hear next weeks episode will focus on Korra’s experiences over the past 3 years as a way to explain why she is where she is at the end of this episode, this sounds like an amazing idea for an episode and I cannot wait until Friday to see it.


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Comments - 9 Posts

  1. BOLIN(combustion specialist). Said: Comment by BOLIN(combustion specialist). on October 6, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    fantastic post, you really broke it down for me, how kuvira from book 3. the three year skip, and now being the villan, so understanding.
    Seeing this how matured and independent the characters are book 4 is gonna be d bomb :mrgreen:


    Grace Reply:



  2. Grace Said: Comment by Grace on October 6, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I loved this review!


    AncientAvatar Reply:

    Me too!


  3. avataraang Said: Comment by avataraang on October 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    at first , i didnt think that kuvria wouldn’t be book 4 ‘s villian , i thought they would put in someone else as the villian , but i was wrong


  4. F.L.Z Said: Comment by F.L.Z on October 8, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you on whole bandits issue,I mean seriously,bandits are ones that don’t have enough money or supplies for living so they’ll try to ambush others and steal their money.Here this guys have a high-tech airship and looks like everything other than bandits in need of supply.And about Korra I loved the sett-up for her development so much and it’s interesting if she is trying to live a new life.Maybe we could have her live a normal life or met a new guy and then have her realize that she’s needed in the world to restore balance and also that her friends need her too or also we could have one of the gang captured or in grave danger then have Korra rescuing him or her.I also like new voice actors and Opal looks more interesting as a character than last season.I liked Kovira so far.She looks like an awesome villain.I hope she became like Azula cause Azula by far is my favorite villain in whole avatar universe. Good review.


    Tumas Reply:

    On the bandit issue, the one who actually swings down from the plane and cuts off the supplies is actually one of those previously captured by Kuvira and forced to swear loyalty to her.


  5. Trauts Said: Comment by Trauts on October 8, 2014 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    You really hit the nail on the head for this review! Kuvira is totally working with the bandits, its almost too convenient for the bandits to have obtained a biplane, i bet you the supplies they handed out were just the goods the bandits stole. Eagerly awaiting friday!!!


  6. Zuko Said: Comment by Zuko on October 13, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Awesome review! Kuvira definitely strikes me as power hungry, but I might be wrong. And Kai’s voice seems really cool now. And bandits flying a biplane? Well, I guess we can work with that. The map of the Earth Kingdom being “conquered” gave me nostalgia with Chin the Conqueror. And I miss Korra’s old hair lol



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