The Legend of Korra Ranking All of Book 4: Balance
After looking over ninety-nine episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra combined, it is time to rank the final thirteen chapters in the franchise with Book 4: Balance. The series might have been tormented by Nickelodeon higher-ups since the show’s inception, but it at least managed to receive a proper sendoff- although it did include one major hiccup that we will get to in literally two sentences. While The Legend of Korra may not have ended off on an incredibly high note akin to its universally loved predecessor, Book 4: Balance was still one of the best seasons of the series as the show held on to pleasing fans under the pressure of stubborn studio executives. Without further ado, it’s time we “do the thing” before of course looking over every chapter the series had to offer…
13. Chapter Eight: Remembrances
Poor poor Remembrances. The history behind this chapter is just as depressing as its miserable execution. While it is indeed not terrible by television standards, this is a chapter that struggled through development as it had to replace a Kuvira origins episode due to cut funding from the head studio- in other words, blame Nickelodeon once again for their mistreatment towards the Avatar franchise. In a last-minute effort by the showrunners to ensure that no one working on the series was laid off for the final season, the writers got to work on a clip show to keep the budget intact that turned out slightly better than what you would have expected after hearing about the episode’s origins. It is certainly nothing like the fan-favorite penultimate play episode to The Last Airbender’s story arc, but for the longtime fans of Korra, it does serve as an interesting recap for the show. At least the Varrick and Bolin section is humorous with a standout villains reunion- ever notice Unalaq had three hands though?
12. Chapter Seven: Reunion
Reunion is one of those gatherings that feels rather incomplete- because it actually is and the subplot of the episode really rubs that in. Korra, Asami, and Mako all finally get to share some screen time together while Bolin is busy with Varrick making a daring escape to Republic City, leaving us with an incomplete quadrilogy. Without the earthbending mover action-star, this episode feels like less of a reunion and more like an action-packed hang-out. The addition of Prince Wu will make audiences miss Bolin even more as he is the stand-in for the jokester. While the Earth Kingdom’s latest dictator is not a bad character by any means, his placement feels not physically unwanted- well maybe for the characters- but emotionally by fans. Separating the cast was always one of Korra’s biggest issues, but at least Book 4: Balance had solid reasoning behind its decisions.
11. Chapter Three: The Coronation
The Coronation is a slow-paced episode critical to Book 4: Balance’s character building. This chapter dives right into the season’s political side as Prince Wu’s upcoming coronation leads to a divide between families and officials shrouding the soon to be king. The great uniter Kuvira steps into the fray to provide the second greatest ideological driven scheme since Zaheer as the dictator wishes to abolish the crumbling Earth Kingdom’s regime by creating her own seemingly peaceful though of course tyrannical empire. The greatest divide the writers used to influence each leaders’ position is Mako and Bolin. While audiences will likely rush to defend Kuvira after seeing how the entitled rising king treats those around him, Mako does put up a fair fight against Bolin’s stance. The brothers reuniting was of course inevitable, but for the time being, The Coronation was able to provide an interesting divide.
10. Chapter One: After All These Years
Three years is a massive time jump by Korra standards and After All These Years resonates with that fact. Republic City is now learning to co-exists with the spirits, a new Earth King is being inducted to the throne, the Avatar is far from home, and so much more information is jam-packed into this short opening season episode. The formal introduction of Zaofu top security guard Kuvira steals the show as audiences get to see her overwhelming combat skills without even having to actually make physical contact with an opponent. Opal and Kai’s focus on stopping robberies in the State of Yi while Kuvira begins to take the land with a manipulative iron grip is definitely the chapter’s most fascinating arc, but our supposed villain is the real reason as to why. Everyone is placed into their overarching story positions this episode, but in comparison to the other book premieres, it falls quite short in building mystery and anticipation. It is an exciting opening chapter that builds a ton of character, while not accomplishing too much.
9. Chapter Five: Enemy at the Gates
Paired with The Battle of Zaofu, Enemy at the Gates should be considered a great episode for its dramatic buildup towards the epic fight between Korra and Kuvira. On its own, however, it can fall a bit short as here we have another episode with a lot of exposition and politics. While this is certainly not necessarily a negative critique, it ultimately creates a chapter that has little excitement yet a lot of interesting ideas to unfold in the future. Enemy at the Gates remains intriguing during its full runtime as the show explores the rising tensions between Kuvira’s new united empire and the Beifong family’s home of metalbenders, but outside of its ending it really does not push the narrative forward to much. On its own, it suffers from a lack of payoff despite containing tense decision-making and clever devil’s advocate yet it stands as a notable entry on the list for its daring ideas. Enemy at the Gates is just a necessary episode that has to take a few falls for the longevity of the season.
8. Chapter Eleven: Kuvira’s Gambit
It was only a matter of time before Kuvira would make one swift calculated strike directly at the only piece of land cut off from the rest of the Earth Kingdom’s territories. Kuvira’s Gambit is the beginning of the end as Book 4: Balance embraced its final action-packed story arc by introducing a giant mecha suit made of platinum with the previous spirit beam threat strapped on to the right arm. Perhaps it is indeed a bit over the top, exaggerated, and at times a bit uneasy on the eyes, but the giant is still able to provide an interesting scenario for our heroes’ final destination. The episode barely puts a focus on Kuvira’s latest piece of tech as Team Avatar attempts to kidnap Baatar Jr. in hopes of getting the dictator to leave on peaceful terms, but it does thankfully get utilized properly in the following two episodes. While on the topic of the mecha suit, there is probably not a single sound effect in Korra as satisfying as the spirit beam cannon noise.
7. Chapter Twelve: Day of the Colossus
After just nearly escaping with their lives from the spirit beam, Team Avatar and crew face down the franchise’s largest threat outside of executive board members; Kuvira’s massive mecha suit. Day of the Colossus is an entertaining episode focused on providing one action-packed experience before the series has the opportunity to wrap up all loose ends in one epic finale. It is undoubtedly not Korra’s deepest episode when it comes to providing a sense of depth within its complex ideologies, but nonetheless, it is able to provide a rather entertaining penultimate chapter that gives everyone a small spotlight including a season one fan-favorite who received a final chance at redemption. Whether you are here for Korra’s final confrontation, the Fire Ferret duo, some airbending action, or Varrick and Zhu Li shenanigans, this chapter had it all nicely wrapped into one constantly exciting episode.
6. Chapter Nine: Beyond the Wilds
Beyond the Wilds is Book 4: Balance’s chapter that is dedicated to the idea of reconcile. When Jinora and a group of tourists are trapped in the Spirit World thanks to the growing Republic City vines, Korra makes a desperate last-minute decision in hopes of saving an unfateful group of souls by conquering her biggest nightmare. This lead to the single moment audiences desperately waited for all season; Korra’s reencounter with Zaheer. What happened to the only surviving villain after the three year time jump? The terrorist leader himself was bound in chains in order to be utilized in one brilliant way. On top of the addition of Bolin attempting to rekindle his relationship with Opal, this gently placed episode of hope stays true to its theme right until the credits roll. Beyond the Wilds aims high as it luminously reconnects the Avatar and the spirit of light for one seemingly simple side-quest.
5. Chapter Six: The Battle of Zaofu
The Battle of Zaofu takes the fight up close and personal as the Avatar faces up against her first real physical opponent since Zaheer, while Varrick and Bolin make a daring escape from the clutches of Bataar Jr. and Kuvira’s new Earth Empire forces. Korra’s unwillingness to initially fight and her slow realization that she is still in full recovery mode allowed the character to go up against what some may consider her greatest obstacle yet. Kuvira shows herself as an idealist looking to be a power-house rather than a kindhearted human, something that Korra can relate to as the Avatar has struggled to be both a symbol and person. While the confrontation between the protagonist and antagonist is mesmerizing, Varrick and Bolin’s escape through a train car bomb is hilariously entertaining as it provides an even break from the emotional action-packed fall of Zaofu. The Battle of Zaofu is no war, but it is an incredible fight for the future with a promising ending for what was to come in the collapsing Earth Kingdom.
4. Chapter Four: The Calling
While the airbender children are out looking for a long lost Korra, the Avatar herself receives by far one of her most valuable lessons from the original Blind Bandit explorer, Toph Beifong. The Calling dives deep into Korra’s fears as the Avatar has to face her destiny and get back on her feet to resolve an incoming conflict. Between Toph and the airbending kids, the comedy in this chapter is just as strong as its usage of rooted beliefs and dark emotion. The removal of the mercury scene is by far one of Book 4: Balance’s and The Legend of Korra’s strongest moments. Its cinematography combined with its iconic score is undeniably a beautiful moment that puts Korra back on the right path. Ultimately, The Calling is more than a sign of adventure by the time its runtime concludes. It is a call of redemption for our hero who has been lost and alone for over three years as she has slowly learned to conquer her human side through the help of those around her.
3. Chapter Ten: Operation Beifong
A Beifong family reunion fueled by an undercover operation into enemy territory? If there is one bloodline every viewer of the series can agree on that was done justice, it has to be the divided metalbending family of the Beifongs. Operation Beifong is not only an episode that is vastly entertaining thanks to its diverse cast, but fascinating from its villain’s dictator-like perspective that is slowly spiraling into insanity. It is simply one of those chapters that is as amusing as it sounds on paper. Operation Beifong does not pull any punches as it focuses entirely on the family members’ rescue plan during Kuvira’s first weapon test. Through both sides of the fight, viewers are granted with a ton of valuable information that details the heroics and failures of the Earth Kingdom’s most powerful citizens. The family dynamic between the Beifongs was surely a highlight of Book 3: Change and Book 4: Balance and this chapter gave the metalbenders one last hurrah before the final story arc.
2. Chapter Thirteen: The Last Stand
In the same style as almost all the other Avatar franchise finales, The Last Stand is a brilliant sendoff to a heartfelt series as audiences finally got to witness the epic conclusion between the great uniter and the Avatar. Whether you are focusing on the incredible set pieces of the giant interior or that eye candy blast caused by the spirit beam, The Last Stand combined so much of what The Legend of Korra worked hard for. It was the perfect time for Korra to recognize the fact that being the Avatar meant that she would equally have to reconcile with being an ordinary human capable of making and fixing mistakes. Its final moment of Korra and Asami heading into the Spirit World as more than friends changed children’s television forever. The Last Stand was not just an impactful bookend for The Legend of Korra, it opened a larger door to an embraceful age of episodic fantasy creators fueled by a passion to share their personal feelings.
1. Chapter Two: Korra Alone
Believed to be alone in the world carrying the burdens of others out of our control. Sound familiar? Like Avatar The Last Airbender’s superlative episode titled Zuko Alone, I personally believe that Korra Alone is the best episode of the series. The protagonist’s struggle to reconnect with the world after experiencing unimaginable physical trauma through metal poison is- as I previously phrased it with the banished prince- heartbreaking, but bewitching by the end of it all. The Legend of Korra may have struggled in several regards when it came to building a familiar cast like its incredibly successful predecessor, but the audience can surely all relate to the Avatar. We have all experienced depression and horror, but the challenge, like Korra faces, is accepting ourselves and becoming who we have to be. From her opening struggle to take out a fast-footed earthbender to discovering an old Toph, Korra Alone astonishingly shows what The Legend of Korra could have potentially been every chapter had its two creators broke free from the bonds Nickelodeon locked them to. There is no other episode or character in Book 4: Balance or the entire series that plows through a struggle like Korra’s beautifully distressing aftermath.