Legend of Korra Book 4: "Beyond the Wilds" Review

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A lot happens in Legend of Korra Book 4, Episode 9, "Beyond the Wilds"; Fire Lord Izumi finally makes her promised appearance, Korra returns to her old form, Zaheer gets downgraded from villain to anti-hero, and another covert mission into Zaofu gets launched.

The episode focuses on resolving Korra's inner turmoil. The writers of the show bring this story to a close, but they do it in an unexpected way.

For the most part, this is a good twist. And it puts to rest a fear that I had going into the season: What are they going to do with Zaheer since he was alive at the end of Change?

Well, the writers don't ignore the fact that Zaheer is alive in Balance. And he makes a cameo that is significant to Korra's development; instead of trying to kill her, he becomes her guide into the spirit world. They don't make Zaheer ally with Korra, but his aid to the Avatar fits his character in this scenario. He doesn't like any type of authority, and Kuvira wants to control the world with an industrialized fist.

He accepts the blame for assassinating the Earth Queen, and for inadvertently creating this ordeal. He takes the first step on his path to atonement.

In addition, he acknowledges the Avatar as unstoppable--an interesting description to remember in the upcoming finale.

Korra enters the spirit world and reunites with Raava, who leads her to the people whom the spirits were holding captive.

She frees them when Raava teaches her how to "bend the energy within"--an obvious homage to the skill that Aang learned at the end of The Last Airbender.

The resolution was the same, but Korra's arc in Balance is the opposite of Aang's at the end of Fire. Everyone wanted Aang to face Fire Lord Ozai and defeat him; he was the only one who didn't want to fulfill his duties as the Avatar. He couldn't come to terms with the fact that he had to kill someone in order to save the world.

Korra, in contrast, wants to have a role in stopping Kuvira. But everyone thinks she hasn't recovered from her past injuries in order to do so. Tenzin and other figures try to let Korra rest, much to her chagrin.

The second part of "Beyond the Wilds" focuses on Bolin and Varrick's return to Republic City. They barge in on a meeting between Tenzin, President Raiko, Fire Lord Izumi, and Prince Wu. Discussing how to deal with Kuvira, Tenzin and Izumi refuse to be part of a preemptive assault on the Earth Empire.

Bolin and Varrick barge into the meeting and are initially greeted as traitors. This gets overturned when the two exiled Kuvira soldiers explain that they have information regarding the spirit weapon. Raiko quickly changes his mind about arresting them.

While it made sense for Bolin to not be arrested, since he is a heralded member of Team Avatar, Varrick going unpunished seems to be a stretch. Even in times of crisis, he tried to have the President kidnapped and caused chaos in Republic City during Season 2.

Given that Raiko is self-righteous and thickheaded, it is unlikely that he would forget that.

Still, Varrick's return to Republic City gives Asami an opportunity for revenge. She gets him in a joint lock and warns of physical violence if he betrays her again. And Varrick seems more sincere than he ever has been.

The last part of the episode focuses on Opal and her imprisoned family. She wants to rescue them from Kuvira's clutches, and Lin agrees to help her.

Bolin keeps trying to win Opal back throughout the episode, and she tells him he can if he helps rescue her family. Lin, Opal, and Bolin leave on a mission to Zaofu to save Suyin.

"Beyond the Wilds" is a calm before the storm. The finale is ahead, but plotlines had to be resolved before heading into it.

In addition, new ones had to be established so Korra could be given the ending it deserves. After a strong season, it's not the best episode but certainly isn't the worst.

You can watch "Beyond the Wilds" here.