Team Avatar is nearly complete after the passage of half of Book 4 and things are starting to feel right.
It’s appropriate that we begin with Korra returning to Republic City, as it’s the place where Korra first truly assumed the mantle of Avatar. From an early age, Korra knew she was the Avatar and trained to be the Avatar, but it wasn’t until she and Naga arrived, traveled down the city’s streets for the first time, and encountered the Triad demanding protection money did she step into the role of truly being the Avatar, that incarnate individual who embodies balance and harmony. When she first arrived, she still needed to master the element of air to be the fully realized Avatar, and this time, it’s her own emotional or spiritual state that she needs to return to proper balance.
Given that Republic City is where our story began, it seems likely it will be the place where it ends.
By the way, THERE’S PABU. After vanishing from sight after the first episode, Pabu has sought out one of his only friends on Air Temple island, Naga. The one sided and interested play session ends with Korra’s return and the second most tear jerking hug between Korra and Naga (I will still place Naga and Korra’s hug in Korra Alone at number one). The next hug comes from Korra and Tenzin, who immediately asks about Zaofu, as apparently it’s fate is a bit more interest versus what Korra has been doing for the past six months. Two reunions down, two more to go!
Those two happen next with Mako, Asami, and the introduction of Prince Wu. O’ Wu, Woest Wu, Korra is definitely not into you (you’re welcome). The moment with Asami and Korra will definitely continue to feed the Korrasami fans out there with Korra’s almost awkward blush at Asami’s compliment of her haircut. It was a moment when one has to ask, are they actively trolling the fans with these two? Their initial encounter was something a bit more like two individuals with strong feelings for each other, than just two very good friends. Speaking of which…
…the meeting between Mako and Korra went across just like two good friends and nothing more. There was a hug and exchange of “great to have you back,” but the moment was a comforting one, there was a distinct lack of “wait, perhaps they still have feelings for each other!" The lunch that follows threw a dart at the emotional bond that Korra felt with Asami, when Asami spilled the beans about Korra’s problem with the Avatar State (and thus, the fact that Korra had only written to her). Again, the shared look between Korra and Asami at the table, if only a wonderful touch of animation was fun, and if anything more, a silent shared awkward glance. It was not long after followed by the burst of emotion concerning Korra’s concerns about Asami’s father.
Our time to focus on the repercussions or Mako’s reaction to this reveal on the Avatar State and letter writing were short lived as Wu went to the Loo and promptly was Wuknapped. As the chase to rescue him begins, we get another sign that Korra isn’t quite the same fighter we recall when she’s surprised and slammed into the ceiling of the restaurant’s loading dock by one of the Wuknappers. Additionally, we get an interesting comparison of Mako and Asami in the chase. At the start of Book 3 (and really, Book 2), Mako was a beat cop and then detective of the Republic City PD. The streets were his office, not to mention, his prior home growing up with Bolin, and he’s called out by Asami for not knowing them as well as she does. She designed and built them following the destruction wrought by Unavaatu and the spirit vines. He’s spent the last three years as a babysitter who literally accompanies his charge into the bathroom, progressing in few obvious ways. Asami, meanwhile, has grown from the young woman struggling to keep her family business alive in Book 2 to an accomplished and successful business woman. Not to mention, she now has an even sweeter looking car. One character has grown and matured and the other has found his own development rather stunted. Mako’s own exclamation at Korra’s jump from the overpass to the trunk seemed off for a fellow who had no problem riding a motorcycle like a mad man in the pursuit of criminals not too long ago.
In the course of the rescue, Korra also relies twice on Toph’s lesson concerning the spirit vines. This reliance and emphasis on Korra’s use was bookended at the end of the episode with Kuvira’s order to begin harvesting the roots of the Banyan Grove Tree. It was also raised in the car in conversation, which had a delightful animation of Korra’s hair bouncing in the breeze. Her abilities lead them to the Republic City train station and a little bit of a send up to the Untouchables with the opening shots of the steps and then the search for the bad guys. In one of our only references of the show, we get Omashu named drop.
Kuvira’s agents can’t stop Korra from finding Wu, but they do try and stop them from doing anything about it. The contrast with Mako and Asami again pops up in the fight scenes. Mako initially is tripped up by the metal bending wire and dropped on his back, while Asami straight up kicks butt immediately. Not to mention, despite not having needed her Equalist glove since the end of Book 3, she still KEEPS IT IN HER CAR. She has kept a hold, a close hold, to one of the things that ties her to the past exploits of Team Avatar and her past life, while Mako has only his sharp eyebrows left from those days.
Our Korra storyline concludes with Prince Wu shoved out of the group hug and then deposited with Mako’s family at Asami’s country house. Given the amount of emotion that Asami had tied to her father and his activities, it was not a surprise that she built her own home and apparently left the family manse behind her. The faint by Mako’s grandmother was dramtic and beautiful for a woman who prayed earnest good will to the tyrant that was the Earth Queen.
Meanwhile, Varrick and Bolin in the B-Story continued their escape from Kuvira. Varrick cannot stop talking about Zhu Li and her attributes. If he isn’t ripe for understanding everything she did for him by the next time they meet, then we’re in for some awful writing ahead. All signs point to Varrick admitting to Zhu Li what she means to him and begging her to return to his heart, if not his service.
They’re quickly captured by escapees from one of Kuvira’s reducation camps and both parties agree to help each other pass through an access point in a large metal wall. Yes, wall. Kuvira is officially becoming the tyrant that Zaheer removed from power by creating Ba Sing Se at large across the Earth Kingdom. She’s erecting walls to keep people where they belong, she’s conscripting Earth Kingdom citizens not to air bend, but to mine and perform other services, and she’s seeing herself as an absolute ruler. For as much as she espoused the uselessness of monarchs, she has become one through her accumulation of power.
The plan to get through the check point fails once the identities of Varrick and Bolin are discovered and we learn two things. First, Bolin’s lava bending isn’t nearly as successful against the mechs as we’ve been lead to believe up to this point. Second, Varrick varricked himself an electric magnetic pulse device. As effective as it was against the mechs, look for Varrick and Hiroshi Sato to team up in some manner, be it Sato revealing the hardware somewhere and Varrick taking advantage of it, to build an EMP device on a scale that will stop Kuvira’s mechs cold when they turn their attention toward Republic City. Yes, we’re still looking at a show down on Republic City, and here’s why.
Last episode, Varrick’s bomb annihilated the entire supply of spirit vines that Kuvira had. This indicated that Kuvira would need more from Republic City, but a flare was shot off earlier in this episode the moment Korra mentioned that the Swamp was just one giant Spirit Common/Grove, and thus, it’s no surprise that an alternative source of vines was revealed at the end of the episode for Kuvira to exploit. However, as we all know, there’s a certain metal bender who lives in the swamp who is quite partial to the Banyan Tree and its roots. Expect Toph to appear and put an end to Kuvira’s plans for the swamp in an insanely awesome display of her power and force Kuvira to seek the other supply of vines in Republic City, where there’s a distinct lack of world’s greatest blind metal benders. (Alternatively: Kuvira’s desecration of the swamp will lead Toph to leaving the Swamp to help fight Kuvira in the final show down that isn’t that far away).
Perhaps the best Bolin moment of the season came with his apology and an express belief that he’s partly responsible for all the terrible things Kuvira has done while he was in her service. President Bolin in the future? Regardless of Bolin’s distant future, the boat they’re loaded up on is heading north, which if the maps available online are to be understood in any manner, probably means they’re headed to Republic City. We will soon have Team Avatar officially back together by the end of next episode (if not the beginning).
Other minor thoughts…the shot of Ikki’s sugar glider friend landing with Meelo’s flying lemur on the roof on Air Temple island. Again, the shot of Korra in the backseat with her hair blowing in the breeze. Korra’s awesome leap from the overpass to the top of the truck, the metal bending involved on the train by both sides, and Korra’s arm pushing Wu out of the group hug. The work involved with the animators to continually animate mud covered uniforms for Bolin and Varrick, instead of sticking to the easier process of simply keeping the uniform in appearance uniforms. The shot of the Kuvira soldier watching Bolin trying to talk his way past the soldier’s commanding officer, adding to the tension of the moment.