Home Blog The Legend of Korra – “After All These Years” Episode 40 Recap

The Legend of Korra – “After All These Years” Episode 40 Recap

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Three years have passed since Korra defeated the Red Lotus. 

Last time on The Legend of Korra, Korra stopped Zaheer and the Red Lotus from unleashing total anarchy. Unfortunately the Earth Kingdom got the full brunt of Zaheer’s philosophy when he killed the Queen and delivered Ba Sing Se to the people. He nearly ended Korra and the entire Avatar cycle in the process. Tragically, the near-death experience has taken a severe physical and mental toll on Korra and we were left wondering how she’d recover from all this. Three years have passed since the incident. Thanks to the efforts of Kuvira and her army, crime is slowly diminishing and much of the Earth Kingdom has been reunited in time for Ba Sing Se’s upcoming ruler, Prince Wu. Republic City has learned to accept their Spirit cousins while President Raiko plans to tighten alliances between the city and Ba Sing Se. Lastly, Team Avatar has once again split up to pursue new goals.

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I’m always excited about time skips because it provides a fresh perspective as the protagonists handle new opportunities and obstacles. The gap is significantly larger now and Team Avatar have never felt so far apart as it does now. “After All These Years” updates our motley crew and show what they’ve been up to.

Asami and Future Industries are thriving, having recently built a rail system between the city and Ba Sing Se. Mako has been promoted to guard duty for Prince Wu (and later, permanent bodyguard against his wishes), but it’s a taxing job for the young detective. Prince Wu is fascinating. All the previous leaders and royal figures we’ve seen thus far have either be good, wise rulers or aggressive dictators. Wu is neither; he’s just an egotistical dandy. He lavishes over the pampered lifestyle and has little desire to actually govern a nation. Wu has a number of detractors who are arguably justified in their hatred of him and his great-aunt’s death means he’s frequently jumpy. I’m not sure what the plans are with this character; either he grows up and gets over himself or decides running a country isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

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Prince Wu might have competition though. Kuvira made sporadic appearances throughout Book 3 as captain of Suyin’s army. In the time between books, Kuvira had a two a blowout with Suyin that caused her to lose all ties to the Metal Clan. Kuvira went on to create her own army in an effort to unite the Earth Kingdom for Prince Wu. Or so they claim. Kuvira is a double-edged sword. She’s ruthless and manipulative; snapping out in anger when prompt and dishing criminals out with an iron fist—quite literally in this case. “After All These Years” provides a good demonstration of her technique when she approaches the village of Yi and asks its leader to sign a contract if they want her help against thieves. The leader refuses, seeing her as a conqueror of lands and not the so-called “Great Uniter” others think of her as. Who can blame him? Kuvira doesn’t refut that her methods are aggressive. Kuvira gives the village 24 hours to change their mind or forever doom them to their fate. If I had one complaint about her character, it’s how on-the-nose it is. All signs currently point to Kuvira being the major antagonist for Book 4 and she’s not exactly subtle. It wouldn’t be a good twist if she went rogue for good. On the other hand, we don’t know her true agenda. We see a lot of external actions from her, but never any internal thoughts. She may be vicious in her approach, but it’s effective. Kuvira has united 90% of the Earth Kingdom in just three years, achieving success others ave yet to maintain, including the Airbenders. There are Kuvira supporters who’d prefer her over Wu, but we don’t know her stance with the prince. For all we know, the “conqueror” remark may just be hot air and she truly is loyal to the royal family. It’s her ambiguity that prevents her from becoming another Unalaq, but hopefully she’ll reveal something deeper than what we’ve initially seen so far.

I do find it hard to believe a sweet guy like Bolin would support Kuvira for so long. He (and Varrick) have joined Kuvira’s army and while I can see Varrick in the group for his own personal gain, Bolin’s involvement is a harder pill to swallow. I can buy that perhaps back when this started, Kuvira wasn’t near as controlling as she is now. Bolin wants to help people and with Kuvira’s track record, maybe he presumes her goal is still the best case scenario. It could be a product of Bolin’s naivety, but is that a good excuse anymore? It’s possible he’s since developed a different viewpoint or a personality shift like Kai pointed out, but he feels like the same lovable guy. Whatever the reason is, Opal doesn’t approve.

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While Kuvira deals through intimidation and ruthlessness, the Airbenders seek peace through empathy and selflessness. Kuvira abandons Yi Village to their fate when they refuse to cooperate, but Opal and Kai puts their life on the line to secure food and resources for the dying town. They don’t do it for any reward, it’s just the right thing to do. Opal begs Bolin to stay and aid them, but he ultimately leaves with Kuvira, straining their relationship. Now this is a romantic conflict I can get behind. Bolin and Opal aren’t at odds because of petty differences or childish love triangles. No, their issues are central to the overall plot. Their goals are the same: both of them strive to return the Earth Kingdom to its former glory, but their approach vastly contrast one another. It definitely sounds more interesting than any love subplot the show has done before.

In the midst of all these changes, the one burning question remains: where is Korra? A meeting between Tenzin’s family and Tonraq confirm Korra isn’t with either. She’s duped them all and left for parts unknown. Korra is presumably somewhere in the Earth Kingdom now as an anonymous competitor in an Earthbending tournament. She’s not doing so hot in the ring, but Korra doesn’t seem to care. She’s lost hope with herself and has kept a low profile for the past six months. This is a dramatic departure from the girl she used to be three years back. If I had to hazard a guess though, I think Korra’s given up on everything because what is purpose is there for her anymore? Korra suffered hallucination of her past enemies telling her the Avatar wasn’t needed anymore. She’s spent her entire life believing the world needed the Avatar and prepared herself for the massive responsibility she would uphold. She’s made mistakes and sacrifices throughout the series, but gained plenty from the experience in spite of negative backlash. It was her determination and pluckiness that gave her the boost she needed to keep going in spite of it. To have her deepest insecurities and fear out in the open the way it did likely put a huge dent in her ego. She can’t rely on past Avatars to guide her and with the spirit gates open, her original role as liaison between worlds is null and void. Every decision she’s made came back to bite her in some way and it’s enough for her to call it quits and split. Maybe the Earthbending rounds are a way for her to let out steam without necessarily fixing her problems. She’s running away despite the progress she’s made. Korra isn’t an optimistic, high-spirited girl anymore; now she’s a broken, cynical woman.

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“After All These Years” is more build-up than anything, but with a significant time skip that’s to be expected. I suspect flashback episodes will detail what went on between Book 3 and 4. For now, all the pieces are in place and it’s not all sunshine and roses.