The Legend of Korra 4.09: “Beyond the Wilds” Review

I Feel Whole Again

A Television Review by Akash Singh

NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!

“I’m powerless in the Spirit World. No, you’re most powerful here.”

The Legend of Korra returns to its overall narrative with the second-best episode yet of Book 4, narrowly being bested by Korra Alone. At long last Korra is able to confront the confrontation that occurred between her and Zaheer and understand what it truly meant for her journey as not just the Avatar, but as Korra. For so long, Korra had been running away from that horrific event, from the poison, from the entire emotional tumult. In her mind, running away from the event would be able to help her heal. But it didn’t. The farther she ran away, the more entrenched that horror became in her mind. It was teased by the creators of the show that Zaheer would return and he does here, with Henry Rollins giving his best voice performance yet on the series. It makes perfect sense (even with a dose of incredible irony) that it would be Zaheer who would ultimately help Korra get back in touch with the spirit world. As Korra notes to Macko as the episode comes to a close, she hasn’t forgotten what happened. No one could. But she did accomplish the largely more difficult task of accepting the events that had torn her life apart, a decision she knows will make her stronger. Avatar Korra feels whole again.

The episode begins with one of Korra’s funniest openings, as the good-for-nothing Ryu is now an Air Nation tour guide of Republic City. Suddenly the vines begin to snatch the tourists into their twisted depths, retribution for Kuvira’s actions of destroying the spirit vines in the swamp. At long last this snatching of civilians brings Kuvira’s actions further into attention at a World Leaders’ Council. President Reiko is gung ho about a preemptive strike, which Tenzin staunchly opposes on account of preemptive strikes rarely being the correct choice and technically speaking, Kuvira as of yet hadn’t done anything illegal. Fire Lord Izumi, who finally gets some dialogue, proves her wisdom as she notes that the Fire Nation’s history has been fraught with pointless warfare that cost the lives of so many. Unless it’s an absolute last resort, she’s not going to condone war. A disappointed Reiko (who looks like an absolute idiot by comparison) asks for stronger defense in a muted voice, which everyone agrees to without much complaint. Into the meeting barges in Korra, armed with information about Kuvira’s harvesting of the spirit vines. Not to be outdone, Varrick and Bolin barge in right afterwards, with the news sound effects of Kuvira’s new super weapon. There’s no time.

Bolin and Opal get significant screen time this week. The tensions between the two have ratcheted up extraordinarily, all of which makes sense considering what has happened between the two. Just in case you forgot: “I know, I know. I should have listened to you but instead I sided with Kuvira and I helped her take over the Earth Kingdom and topple your home and get your mom captured and your brothers and your dad. Wow, that does sound really bad when I say it out loud like that.” Yes, yes it does, Bolin. So there we have it, a self-confession on Bolin’s behalf. But Opal isn’t completely ready to forgive him just yet and in all honesty, how could she? The man standing in front of her is responsible, at least in some part, for a dictator now in control of a place she once called home. As the world leaders in Republic City have refused to opt for a rescue mission of Suyin and her family, Lin and Opal in secret decide to go rogue and stage a rescue mission of their own. “Because I love you,” blurts out Bolin but Opal offers him one last chance to win back her affections: help her rescue her family. His eyes narrow dramatically before the episode comes to a close. Considering how disastrous the last infiltration attempt in Zaofu attempt, one would think that this rescue mission is more likely to succeed. Either way, it’s the show’s declaration of “**** is going down and it’s going down now.”

The segment that truly elevates this solid episode to one of greatness is the segment where Korra goes to meet Zaheer. It’s a terrifying move for her, confronting the man who made her into someone the world no longer finds necessary. For a plethora of individuals, that reality would barely register. But for a girl like Korra, who has been raised her entire life with the entire world’s responsibility on her shoulder, becoming unnecessary is the worst possible punishment. Korra has suffered that punishment for so darn long it’s about time she confronts the man who pushed her to that point and confront him. Amon is dead, Unalaq is dead, but Zaheer remains in the shadows, an intricately designed prison hiding in the mountains to be exact, tormenting Korra from so far away. Tenzin as expected is dubious but Korra remains firm. If she truly wants to be free of this fear, she has to confront the root cause of it.

What Korra has done phenomenally well as all the greatest series manage to accomplish is humanize their antagonists. As Toph reminded Korra earlier in the season, each and every single one of Korra’s adversaries wasn’t inherently an evil person. They desired equality of some sort and they simply allowed their ideology to consume their entire being. It’s not the most exciting answer, especially because it involves a heavy amount of introspective thinking, but it’s the most humane one. “I will no longer be scared of you,” Korra thunders when she enters the prison, but one charge from Zaheer proves that to be false. Yet Zaheer, knowing of Kuvira’s reign of terror, is resigned to his own fears being realized at his fingertips. What he sought to prevent and lost so much in the process was the very reality that took shape. He tells Korra that he would help her defeat Kuvira and the first step was to relive the fight that happened between the two of them. Korra stumbles but clears the path, arriving to meet Raava. The spirit assures her that she is her absolute strongest when she is in the Spirit World, which makes absolute sense and is coated heavily with foreshadowing. When Korra returns to the real world, Zaheer notes that she cannot consistently use him as her crutch for when she’s not feeling powerful, nor can she refuse to acknowledge the true extent of what she can accomplish as the Avatar. She can try as much as possible to run away her entire life and not face the struggle that in many ways is what’s presented to the Avatar. Or she can recognize who she is, what she is truly capable of, and stand against the forces that seek to take her power from her. “You think your power has limits, I say it’s limitless.” Damn.

Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

+The writing, direction, voice work, music, everything worked this episode

+Everyone had something to do this episode and it was all the stronger for it

+Jinora’s voice as the spiritual guide

+“I’m gonna poke it with a stick.”

+“You called him and not me?”

+Wu’s ideas of fighting Kuvira include an all-expense paid vacation to an island that’s secretly a prison, an army of badger moles, and attacking Kuvira’s allergies

+“We have top secret information for you!”

+“Like a weapon, only super.”

+“I’m just an idiot.”

+Korra realizing that her inability to enter the Spirit World properly was what in some ways kept her from being her former self

+Symbolism of egg-like prisons

+“I’m sorry you had to see that, Pabu.”

+Asami and Varrick working together to stop Kuvira’s weapon

+Asami crushing Varrick’s hand

Magnificent

10/10

Title: Beyond the Wilds

Written By: Joshua Hamilton

Directed By: Ian Graham

Animated By: Studio Mir

Image Courtesy: Marcus Goh Marcus Goh

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