Legend of Korra Book 4: "The Coronation" Review

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During the first two episodes of Legend of Korra, Book 4: Balance, the writers were busy establishing characters and getting us acclimated with the setting. Now that we're caught up, Book 4, Episode 3: "The Coronation" builds suspense.

The writers spend time contrasting characters and creating moral ambiguity in the "The Coronation." Kuvira, introduced at the end of Book 3: Change, is a charismatic young leader who is more competent than Prince Wu.

"The Coronation" is named for the latters' ascent to the throne, but it doesn't go as planned when Kuvira refuses to hand over power--turning the Earth Kingdom into an Empire.

With this power struggle, the writers are asking us a question: Who is worse, the Napoleon-like Kuvira or the Bieber-like Wu? This isn't easily answered for most of the episode. And the writers do a disservice to the conflict by portraying Wu in a sympathetic manner toward the end of "The Coronation." Book 3: Change spent a lot of time talking about the faults of traditional monarchy; even Suyin--an ally of the Avatar--complained about it.

One of the slip-ups in "The Coronation" is that it doesn't further this question. Rather, Episode 3 stifles its progression and takes much of the intrigue away from Kuvira, who seemed more humane than past Avatar villains.

Bolin and Mako also contrast. Bolin, who is working for Kuvira, is the well intentioned yet naive solider whom the latter keeps loyal through friendly words and empty promises. But Mako is working for Wu. And he isn't thrilled with his current employer. The best part of the episode is Bolin and Mako's heated exchange after the coronation goes awry.

They debate over who should have power in the Earth Kingdom-- Wu or Kuvira. Bolin argues that Wu is incompetent and rehashes much of the rosy rhetoric that Kuvira said to him. Mako, however, is Bolin's wiser counterpart.

He realizes Kuvira is corrupt and--out of a sense of duty--doesn't insult Wu. He doesn't endorse the spoiled Prince, but sees him as the lesser of two evils.

The two end their argument and angrily separate. The debate reinforces Kuvira's villainous nature by showing us Bolin's naivety about her.

The contrast in "The Coronation" continues with Korra's storyline. And it shows us that, even though she's old, Toph still has spirit.

"The Coronation" mirrors Toph's training sessions with Aang during The Last Airbender; she easily defeats Korra and gloats about how much she enjoys tormenting the Avatar.

Korra, however, reacts to this differently than Aang. Aang seldom expressed anger--keeping his emotions bottled as Toph scolded him. Korra, when she doesn't pity herself, returns her teacher's verbal assault.

With ominous foreshadowing and contrasting themes, "The Coronation" succeeds at increasing the suspense in Book 4: Balance. And, while Kuvira may have similar intentions as past Avatar baddies, her actions during the episode keep us wondering what will happen next.

You can watch "The Coronation" here.