Published on December 5th, 2014 | by Lauren McPhee0
The Legend of Korra – Beyond the Wilds review
So, last week there was no Korra review and I could say that it was because a clip episode aired and not much happened worth talking about but actually, I had a lot to say about that episode. It was just a crazy week and something had to fall by the wayside. Which is kind of how Bryan Konietzko describes how episode 408, Remembrances, came about. Earlier on in production, the creators got the news that Book 4’s budget was being cut and that would mean either a clips episode or letting somebody go. They chose a clips episode over losing one of their team, very rightly, and all of the blame falls squarely on Nickelodeon.
After all the shit Nickeldeon has given Korra over the show’s four seasons, this news comes as no surprise and although I hear that the show is returning to television to air the finale, nothing can make up for it at this point. I used to really admire Nickelodeon for the great shows they were putting out – but The Legend of Korra is their best and seeing how they have treated it and the creators, I have little admiration left for them anymore. You don’t deserve a show this good, Nick. And Korra deserves a whole lot better than you.
That all being said, this week’s episode, Beyond the Wilds, picks up the fantastic thread of the series and continues on without dropping a beat. The episode begins with airbender Ryu leading a tour group into the spirit wilds of Republic City. Ryu is a great character who appeared very briefly last season, and yet is totally familiar in his apathy and frustration at his overenthusiastic mother. Only in this episode he also has to deal with a photographer who thinks the appropriate response to a creeping spirit vine is to poke it with a stick. Unsurprisingly, the tour gets captured and imprisoned in the spirit world as a consequence.
I want to point out the art at this juncture, which has been shaky in parts this season. Following on from last ep, you can really see the effort they put in this week to make up for it. Korra’s vision of Kuvira’s army harvesting in the swamp is short but powerful, showing great depth and weightiness in the violence being done to the vines. Moreover, expressions are so wonderfully captured in this episode, with obviously dedicated time and attention being paid to smaller details. This show really revels in the little details, and the art captures them all here.
For example, Korra is suitably annoyed that both the council and Tenzin don’t see fit to include her in their discussions but then Bolin returns and we get to see her make this face! Finally, the reunion of Bolin with Team Avatar wherein Bolin makes a touching apology and there is lots of hugging involved. Opal is not ready to forgive him, however, no matter how cute and sweet he is. She is secretly planning an unsanctioned rescue mission with Lin; given her mother and brother’s earlier failure to sneak up on Kuvira, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out but also because Opal is still a relatively new character, and along with Lin, I’m excited to see her story develop. Then Jinora’s spirit appears to warn Korra that she has also been taken by the vines, and this is where things really gets interesting.
Despite the concern shown by Tenzin, and the lack of faith the council has in her, Korra insists that she can rescue Jinora and the others from the spirit wilds. Except Korra still can’t enter the spirit world; Zaheer is waiting for her, the memories of his attack preventing her from entering. She decides it’s time to face him and visits him in prison, alone, to conquer her fears at last. There has been so much looking back over this season to previous villains, Korra actually physically meeting with one of them sort of turns our conceptions on their head a little bit. And the way they pull it off is amazing.
Even with the chains, the prison and his greying appearance, Zaheer is still both terrifying as a villain and admirable as a visionary. He is the enemy that Korra fears the most, but that the audience is most endeared to. This is what makes him so effective as both a threat and as a spiritual guide, which is how he functions in this scene. Ashamed that his actions brought about a dictatorship, and envious of the strength that Korra no longer recognises in herself, he proposes to lead her into the spirit world. Calmly, he talks her through the attack, urging her to accept what happened rather than fear what might have been.
I feel incredibly sorry for Zaheer after their encounter. Everything he says to Korra is true, including the irony of flying whilst bound in chains to the ground. He is still a murderer and a terrorist, but he is also insightful, intelligent and well intentioned for all the harm he’s done. I really hope this is not the last we see of him. Meanwhile, Korra is finally able to re-enter the spirit world, reconnect with Raava, free Jinora and the others, and find some peace within herself.
By the end of this episode, spirits are raised. I’m so glad that Bolin has reconnected with the gang, and I have so many other thoughts about him that I don’t have time for here. I am also so impressed and encouraged by Korra’s confrontation/cooperation with Zaheer, and her progress and the patience that people like Mako and Tenzin try to show her. I’m reluctant to say that Korra is healed because what this season is trying to show us is that problems cannot be fixed with one grand gesture, that it takes time and continued work to recover from trauma and pain. But I delight in the process as it is presented to us in The Legend of Korra and I look forward to where they carry us next episode.