‘The Legend of Korra’ Book 4 Review: “Remembrances”
There’s a silver lining to to this week’s ‘Korra,’ the least fulfilling episode in show’s four-season run: The production team must be allocating all its resources for one hell of finale!
Let’s hope. With “Remembrances,” ‘Korra’ succumbs the “clip show,” a rehash exercise that’s grueling no matter how much you love the characters involved. Television’s greatest sitcoms and dramas have resorted to the nostalgic format — snipping bits from past episodes and assembling them in montage form — often as a way of building up to the all-original finale. ‘Cheers’ did it. ‘Seinfeld’ did it. ‘Supernatural’ did it. ‘The Simpsons’ spoofed it. ‘Community’ turned it into a fourth-dimensional mind-bender. ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ riffed on the clip show with its pre-”Sozin’s Comet” episode “The Ember Island Players.” There, Aang and Team Avatar sat through a retelling of the entire show in puppet form. Even with a creative twist, the preparatory half-hour is often regarded as the show’s low-point.
“Remembrances” may have the same motives; With only five episodes left, and with Kuvira sawing in to the Banyan-grove tree, the end is nigh. But the approach is a classically spun clip show without any of “Ember Island Players” handcrafted redesigns. And do we need a look back at only 19.5 hours of story? A third of which we saw only a few months prior. OK, breathe… silver lining… silver lining… silver lining…
Segmented with three perspectives, the episode begins with Mako and Prince Wu sparring at Asami’s mansion. Mako lets it slip that, once upon a time, he dated Korra, currently the object of the Prince’s affection. Wu wants details. Almost like a pop-up video, a chibi Mako narrates his ups and downs with Korra, dodging interruptions from Wu with his anecdote-bending skills. True to Mako’s character, his story is straightforward and a little… dry. Sorry, Mako. Love ya. The firebender wraps up his screentime with some serious schmaltz, saying that he’s learned to “put others before myself” and that Korra “continues to inspire him.” I know that already! I watch the show!
Of all the choices in ‘Korra,’ this clip show episode feels most like it’s catering to a younger audience he may have missed the nuance in years past. With the framework, characters can finally speak the inner-monologues, unearth the subtext. When the action shifts to Korra and Asami, “Remembrance” takes a huge theme dump. Korra recounts the feelings of facing Amon, watching Unalaq emerge from the aftermath, seeing Zaheer take advantage of the decisions Korra had made to better the people. Most of it echoes what Toph told Korra earlier this season, treading the well-tread territory.
Tenzin intervenes to add a little twist to the summarizing. Popping in from behind, the Airbender master tells Korra she’s right, her actions did have consequences. “There will always be new conflicts and enemies to face,” he says. Will ending Kuvira’s campaign restore balance? Probably not. But is balance worth fighting for? Always. The magic of J.K. Simmons and Janet Varney’s voice-acting simmers this moment to sweetness. Silver linings, people!
The segment featuring Bolin and Varrick is by far the most entertaining. Entertaining the re-education camp escapees on their boat trip, Varrick steps in as resident bard and amounts to the least reliable narrator of all time. He tells the many action-filled tales of Bolin a.k.a. Nuktuk: Hero of the South! Apparently the show’s many villains were in Legion of Doom-esque cahoots the entire time. Vaatu had access to a phone in the tree of time! Zaheer called him up! Unalaq — “the diabolical but incredibly boring, unpopular sorcerer from the north” (an incredible moment of Konietzko and DiMartino poking fun at themselves) — showed up too! A blast from Juji’s laser eyes, a sprinkle of Jinora fairy dust, a left and right hook from Nuktuk, and that’s that for Evil Squared. Wrongdoers were conquered.
Digging through all the plot and character work cemented through the years, DiMartino and Konietzko wrap up the episode with two thoughts on writing. They seem applicable to fans. The first comes out of Baraz: “It’s just a mover, don’t overthink it, it’s just a ride.” This frustrates Bolin. It’s not a mover, it’s his life, and there’s consideration to be made. Varrick finds a more creatively fulfilling way of putting it: “Don’t ever let the truth stand in the way of a good story.” If there’s anything to gleam from the episode’s clips, it’s just how impressive the work has been. ‘Legend of Korra’ has been meticulously crafted, walking a fine line between honest character drama and action-movie entertaining. Risks like that should result in more godawful episodes. Maybe this is a bit of a pat on the back to the ‘Legend of Korra’ team, but heck, they earned it.
The real winner of “Remembrances”? Shiro Shinobi, our dedicated announcer guy! Who needed 22 minutes of Korra “Best of” clips when we had a trusted voice breaking the fourth wall to tell us how much he enjoyed joining us for the ride. Even while the episode is all downhill from there, the stab at a clip show was worth it for the setup. (Plus, just think of how much production time they saved — silver linings!!).