The Legend of Korra (season 4)
|Book Four: Balance|
Region 1 DVD cover art
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||13|
|Original release||October 3– December 19, 2014|
Book Four: Balance is the fourth and final season of the animated television series The Legend of Korra by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. It consists of thirteen episodes ("chapters"), all animated by Studio Mir. The episodes are made available on the Nickelodeon website and other online outlets each Friday beginning on October 3, 2014. Critical reception of Book Four, as of the series in general, was positive.
Book Four is set three years after the previous season. It deals with Avatar Korra's journey of self-discovery following the physical and psychological injuries she incurred in the fight with Zaheer and with unrest in the Earth Kingdom where Kuvira, formerly a security officer in Suyin Beifong's service, seeks to seize power by military force.
After Nickelodeon cut the budget for season 4 by about the amount required for one episode, DiMartino and Konietzko decided to include a clip show episode, which reuses previously produced animation, instead of letting many of the creative staff go. Inspired by Samurai Champloo's clip show episode "The Disorder Diaries", they chose to frame a series of edited clips from the previous seasons of The Legend of Korra with about five minutes of new animation. Aired as episode 8, "Remembrances", the clip show was also intended as "a lighthearted romp" similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender's episode "The Ember Island Players" before the series enters its dénouement.
The season was generally well-received by critics. Critics generally enjoyed the main villain Kuvira and thought she complemented Korra well. IGN's Max Nicholson felt the overarching plot of Kuvira's military campaign was not as ambitious as previous seasons', though he still enjoyed it. Nicholson also praised the season for its handling of themes like war, dictatorship, weapons of mass destruction and posttraumatic stress disorder.
"Korra Alone" was praised by critics as one of best episodes of the entire series, described by Nicholson as "masterful and heart-wrenching." "Day of the Colossus" received positive reviews for its action sequences, described by ScreenCrush's Matt Patches as "22-minutes of set-piece wizardry, featuring some of the most imaginative, heart-pounding action I've ever seen." In contrast, the clip show "Remembrances" was singled out as a weak point in the season.
In the final scene of the season and the series, Korra and Asami face each other holding hands. This scene recalls the earlier wedding scene between Zhu Li and Varrick, as well as the last shot of Avatar: The Last Airbender, in which Aang and Katara kiss. It was subject to discussion outside of entertainment media, notably after the series' creators confirmed that the scene was meant to signify Korra and Asami becoming a romantic couple. According to Joanna Robinson for Vanity Fair, who described the series finale as "the most subversive television event of the year", it "changed the face of TV" by going further than any other work of children's television in depicting same-sex relationships – an assessment shared by reviewers for TV.com, The A.V. Club, USA Today, IGN, Moviepilot and The Advocate. Megan Farokhmanesh of Polygon wrote that by portraying Korra and Asami as bisexual, the series even avoided the error of assuming sexual orientation, as many other TV series did, to be a strict divide between "gay" and "straight". In 2018, io9 ranked the final scene #55 on its list of "The 100 Most Important Pop Culture Moments of the Last 10 Years".
|Title||Animated by||Directed by||Written by||Original online release date||Production|
|40||1||"After All These Years"||Studio Mir||Colin Heck||Joshua Hamilton||October 3, 2014||214|
|Three years after the defeat of Zaheer, the vain Prince Wu is about to be crowned Earth King, and Mako is assigned as his bodyguard. In the Earth Kingdom, Opal and Kai try to protect a community from bandits with limited success. Kuvira, who now styles herself the "Great Uniter", appears at the head of an army that includes Bolin, Varrick and his assistant Zhu Li. She offers the governor supplies and protection – if he submits his state to her sovereignty, which he reluctantly does. Elsewhere, a despondent Korra is fighting and losing earthbending cage matches, having apparently renounced her identity as the Avatar.|
|41||2||"Korra Alone"||Studio Mir||Ian Graham||Michael Dante DiMartino||October 10, 2014||215|
|In a flashback, Korra is slowly recovering with Katara at the South Pole, but remains weak and unable to enter the Avatar State. Instead of returning to Republic City, she travels the world alone. However, she fails to find solace and is haunted by a dark vision of herself as she appeared in the fight with Zaheer. A spirit leads her to the swamp, where she succumbs to the dark apparition's attacks but regains consciousness in the abode of Toph Beifong (Philece Sampler).|
|42||3||"The Coronation"||Studio Mir||Melchior Zwyer||Tim Hedrick||October 17, 2014||216|
|At Wu's coronation in Republic City, Kuvira refuses to yield power to him, and announces that she will lead the new Earth Empire. This creates a rift between her and the other world leaders including Suyin, as well as between Bolin and Mako, who has to protect the unpopular Wu from angry supporters of Kuvira. In the swamp, Toph agrees to help Korra regain her strength, primarily by beating her up with earthbending. She finds residual metal poison inside Korra but can't remove it – Korra subconsciously resists, scarred by her previous traumas. Meanwhile, Tenzin sends Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo to search for Korra, and Varrick experiments on spirit vines for Kuvira.|
|43||4||"The Calling"||Studio Mir||Colin Heck||Katie Mattila||October 24, 2014||217|
|While the young airbenders look far and wide for Korra, Ikki is briefly captured by two Earth Empire soldiers. Based on what they say, Ikki leads the trio to the Foggy Swamp. There, Korra is still haunted by visions of being hurt by her past enemies, but manages to connect to the siblings through the great banyan-grove tree's roots. After they beg her to resume her Avatar duties to face Kuvira, Toph's advice helps Korra to let go of her fears, bend the rest of the poison out of herself and re-enter the Avatar State.|
|44||5||"Enemy at the Gates"||Studio Mir||Ian Graham||Joshua Hamilton||October 31, 2014||218|
|As Kuvira's army marches on Zaofu, Suyin refuses to let her city join the new empire, and Korra tries in vain to negotiate a peaceful outcome. Varrick and Bolin come to realize the totalitarian nature of Kuvira's rule, but their escape is foiled by Kuvira's fiancé and Suyin's son Baatar Jr. (Todd Haberkorn). While Zhu Li pledges her allegiance to Kuvira, Varrick is forced to weaponize the spirit vines for her, and Bolin is to be sent to a "reeducation" camp. In Republic City, Asami reconnects with her imprisoned father, Hiroshi.|
|45||6||"The Battle of Zaofu"||Studio Mir||Melchior Zwyer||Tim Hedrick||November 7, 2014||219|
|After Suyin and her twin sons are captured while infiltrating Kuvira's camp to take her out, Kuvira agrees to a duel with Korra to decide control of Zaofu. Korra is outmatched until she enters the Avatar State, but collapses as her dark specter reappears to her. Opal, Jinora, and Jinora's siblings save Korra and flee with her. Meanwhile, Varrick and Bolin escape after Varrick improvises a spirit vine bomb. Kuvira forces Zaofu's citizens to submit, and has Baatar Jr. and Zhu Li continue work on the vine superweapon.|
|46||7||"Reunion"||Studio Mir||Colin Heck||Michael Dante DiMartino||November 14, 2014||220|
|As Korra reunites with her friends in Republic City, Wu is abducted on Kuvira's orders. Korra, Asami, and Mako rescue him from a train and hide him with Mako's family in Asami's property. Meanwhile, Bolin and Varrick encounter refugees from Kuvira's prison camps, which now house anyone not of Earth Kingdom blood, and help them escape from the now walled-in Empire. In the swamp, Kuvira's forces begins harvesting the spirit tree's vines.|
|47||8||"Remembrances"||Studio Mir||Michael Dante DiMartino||Joshua Hamilton, Katie Mattila & Tim Hedrick||November 21, 2014||221|
|In a clip show episode, Mako, Korra, and Bolin recollect their past. Mako tells Wu about his romantic entanglements and eventual breakup with Asami and Korra. Korra talks to Asami about her confrontations with Amon, Unalaq, Vaatu, and Zaheer. Varrick presents Bolin's life to the Earth Empire refugees in the style of an action film in which Bolin defeats all of Korra's previous enemies.|
|48||9||"Beyond the Wilds"||Studio Mir||Ian Graham||Joshua Hamilton||November 28, 2014||222|
|In Republic City, Fire Lord Izumi (April Stewart) and Tenzin refuse to endorse Raiko's proposed offensive against Kuvira even after Bolin and Varrick bring word of her vine weapons research. Spirit vines attack Jinora and others, trapping them in the Spirit World, and Korra's rescue attempt is thwarted by Zaheer's apparition. As she faces him in his prison, he agrees to help her defeat Kuvira and leads Korra into the Spirit World, where Raava helps her release the captives' spirits. Meanwhile, Bolin attempts and fails to make up with Opal, but agrees to help her and Lin rescue their family.|
|49||10||"Operation Beifong"||Studio Mir||Melchior Zwyer||Tim Hedrick||December 5, 2014||223|
|Near Zaofu, Opal, Lin, and Bolin are joined by Toph and track the Beifong prisoners to a facility where Baatar Jr. and Zhu Li are testing a vine energy supercannon. Kuvira discovers Zhu Li's attempt to sabotage the weapon, but the rescue team manage to save her as well as break out the captured Beifongs, achieving a measure of reconciliation between Lin and Toph in the process. Meanwhile, Korra tries and fails to convince the spirits to help defend Republic City, which Kuvira is set to attack in two weeks.|
|50||11||"Kuvira's Gambit"||Studio Mir||Colin Heck||Joshua Hamilton||December 12, 2014||224|
|Wu and Mako help evacuate Republic City, and Asami and Varrick build a fleet of flying mecha-suits to defend it. But Kuvira's forces attack earlier than expected. Her superweapon, now mounted on a giant mecha, devastates the Republic's navy, forcing Raiko to surrender. Korra and the airbenders capture the mecha's creator, Baatar Jr. After Korra threatens to keep him from Kuvira forever, he attempts to convince Kuvira to end the attack, but she has the mecha fire on Baatar's and Team Avatar's position.|
|51||12||"Day of the Colossus"||Studio Mir||Ian Graham||Tim Hedrick||December 19, 2014||225|
|Barely surviving Kuvira's attack, Korra and her friends look for ways to take down the colossus. After paint bombs, lavabending, metal cables, air gusts, and an electromagnetic pulse set up by Varrick all fail, Lin frees Hiroshi Sato, who proposes to take the mecha out from the inside. Asami, Hiroshi, and the newly engaged Varrick and Zhu Li attach plasma torches to the two remaining flight suits, then engage the metal monster. After Hiroshi allows the mecha to crush his flight suit in order to be able to cut open the hull of the colossus, Korra's group is able to enter it.|
|52||13||"The Last Stand"||Studio Mir||Melchior Zwyer||Michael Dante Dimartino||December 19, 2014||226|
|In the mecha's control room, Korra and Kuvira fight one another. Meanwhile, Team Avatar begin to take the giant apart from the inside. Suyin and Lin make it discard its arm and weapon, and Bolin and Mako detonate its power source. Korra and Kuvira crash-land in the city's vine jungles, and Kuvira activates the discarded cannon, triggering a staggering release of power that blasts Korra, together with Kuvira whom she shields, into the Spirit World. After they reemerge from what has become a new spirit portal, Kuvira concedes defeat and is arrested. Some time later, at Zhu Li and Varrick's wedding, Wu announces his intent to abdicate in favor of democratic Earth states, and Korra and Asami leave, hand in hand, for a vacation in the Spirit World.|
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- Ogles, Jacob (February 2, 2017). "35 LGBT Characters Who Redefined Family TV". The Advocate.
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- io9 Staff (January 17, 2018). "The 100 Most Important Pop Culture Moments of the Last 10 Years: #41-60". io9.