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Featured TV on DVD Review: The Legend of Korra: Book Four: Balance

March 11th, 2015

The Legend of Korra: Book Four: Balance - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

The Legend of Korra ended late last year. The DVD or Blu-ray came out this week, but for the first time ever, my review is late. I know I've done late reviews in the past, but that's because the screener arrived late. But over the weekend, I developed the worst head cold I've ever had in my life, so it appears this review will be late, even though the screener arrived on time. Did the show go out on a high note? Or did it fizzle out in the end?

The Show

First a quick recap of the show so far and I'm writing this assuming you've at least seen the first show. Korra is the latest Avatar, the only one of the benders that can control all four elements. In the first season, she was new to the job and struggled to control herself while battling a group that wants to do away with benders. In the second season, she had to deal with a rogue bender who wanted to release the great dark spirit. She defeated the spirit, but refused to close the gate spirit world. As a result of this, a whole world of new air benders were created. This was a net positive, but unfortunately, a dangerous criminal was one of those granted the power of the Air Benders and they immediately recruited other benders to take on Korra. It took everything Korra had to defeat them, but it took a lot out of her.

Flash forward three years and the world has still not fully recovered. Asami Sato is using her industrial might to rebuild the capital, while the Earth Kingdom will soon have a new King, Prince Vu, who is not an inspiring leader. (Mako is forced to be his bodyguard and he's really not happy with the situation.) He does have what seems to be a strong military commander backing him up, Kuvira. She is trying to reunite the Earth Kingdom by driving away the bandits and getting the rogue countries to fall in line. She is aided by a number of supporting characters in the show, including Bolin, Varrick, and Zhu Li. Not all like Kuvira's methods, including Opal, one of the new Air Benders and Bolin's girlfriend.

However, while the world seems to have recovered, Korra has not. She was poisoned and lost a lot of strength in the process and had been confined to a wheelchair. It has been three years and she has traveled to the Southern Water Kingdom to recover, but it is slow going and Korra grows very frustrated at the slow progress. At the start of the season, she's regained the ability to walk. (The second episode is a flashback to seeing how that happened.) But while she begins to recover physically, something is blocking her bending powers. She keeps seeing visions of Zaheer, and herself in a dark form, which interfere with her ability to concentrate on her bending. She decides to return to Republic City, but before she gets there, she decides to dump her Avatar persona and instead wanders throughout the world hoping to reconnect with Raava. Instead, she winds up as an Earth Bender fighting duels. Eventually, she is led into a swamp where she meets Toph Beifong, a character from the original show who agrees to train her to regain her Avatar powers.

This is great timing, as on the coronation day for Prince Vu, Kuvira, in a move that should surprise no one, decides not to give up her power and instead declares she is the true ruler of the Earth Kingdom. Unlike previous foes Korra has had to deal with, this one is has the support of some of her friends, like Bolin and Varrick. Although Varrick isn't really a friend to anyone. He's too narcissistic to be anyone's friend. He is the most entertaining character in the show, on the other hand.

For the most part, Season Four of The Legend of Korra is among the best the show has to offer. One of the the episodes is a clip show, due to budgetary reasons, but besides that one episode, the rest are excellent. The plot this time around feels a lot more conventional than season two, for instance, but that should not be seen as an insult. It is a much more political / military conflict than in previous seasons. I actually enjoyed this part of the story. The season also uses its characters very well. We get to see growth in nearly all of them, including Varrick, which is probably the most shocking part of season four. Like the rest of the series, season four balances the character drama and the action, both of which are expertly handled.

As for the ending, I think The Legend of Korra got the send off it deserved. Not only was it dramatically satisfying, but a lot of fans were cheering for that final romantic moment, but few thought the show would go through with it. Perhaps the creators were willing to do so, because the show aired online and not on a commercially supported network.

The Extras

Each disc has an animated short (total running time of less than five minutes) as well as two audio commentary tracks. Four audio commentary tracks in total is better that most TV on DVD releases get, so I'm happy with the extras.

I don't have the Blu-ray to compare its technical presentation. However, I can report on the price, which is $23. That is $8 or 53% more than the DVD, which is a bit much, even for TV on DVD. There are some extras that are exclusive to the Blu-ray, but since I don't have the high definition version to review, I can't say one way or the other if it is worth the price to upgrade.

The Verdict

I'm not going to get into the argument comparing The Legend of Korra to the original Avatar: The Last Airbender. That way lies madness. However, I will say I really enjoyed the series as a whole and Book Four: Balance in particular. There are enough extras on the DVD and Blu-ray that it is worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, P.J. Byrne, David Faustino, John Michael Higgins, Henry Rollins, Alyson Stoner, Zelda Williams, Janet Varney, Seychelle Gabriel, Stephanie Sheh, Sunil Malhotra, Philece Sampler