When the Book Three trailer dropped, it looked amazing, and all we could hope was that it would live up to its promise. And then… it surpassed all our expectations. I was finally able to confidently say that Book Four, sight unseen, would probably rule. And now that we have the trailer for Book Four: Balance…things are certainly looking that way.
Now, to be fair, the trailer does start out with stock footage, stuff we’ve already seen, and then…
“Three Years Later.”
What? Oh, I’m sorry. I meant WHAT?! The time jump between Books One and Two was six months; between Books Two and Three, two weeks. Three years? THREE YEARS?!? Now, the preview we saw of Book Four takes place not long after the end of Book Three. Korra is still in her wheelchair. Hell, Jinora hasn’t even sprouted any peach fuzz on her head. So, does this mean Korra spends three whole years recuperating in the Southern Water Tribe? Maybe so. This isn’t the only question raised.
What we see next is Korra giving herself a haircut, the symbolism of which will likely become apparent with a little context. Odd that such a huge visual change in the character didn’t come in the season titled “Change,” but that’s fine. It’s likely to help signify that time has passed. Not just a few weeks or months; years.
And Korra’s not the only one whose hair is drawing some attention.
Jinora, now about fourteen, has grown her hair out, favoring a more modern hairstyle than the traditional Buddhist nun look that Avatar Yangchen and the other female airbenders sported, continuing the theme of balancing modernism and tradition that has been all over this show. A later shot shows her gliding through the air along with Ikki (about eleven now) and Meelo (about nine), both of whom have grown out their hair.
While Ikki’s was to be expected, Meelo having a full head of hair suggests that assimilation of the new airbenders has, in fact, caused a shift in how the Air Nation approaches their cultural traditions. It’s possible that once Meelo becomes a master he may shave his head, but it’s just as possible he’ll keep his hair and sport his tattoos that way his grandfather did in the first half of Book Three: Fire of Avatar. It does make me wonder what other cultural changes have been brought on the by the assimilation of the new airbenders.
There are several shots of Kuvira, whom it was obvious from the finale would be playing a large role this season, showing some moves. There are nearly as many of her standing under a banner with what appears to be her own personal army behind her. The banner’s insignia is similar to the generic Earth Kingdom banner but silver instead of gold and with further adornment. Could this be a Metal Clan banner? Is Kuvira trying to fill the power vacuum left by the assassination of the Earth Queen?
Obviously Kuvira was a trusted member of the Zaofu police force. If she has, in fact, gone dark, then the shot of Su Beufong’s hung head is likely in reference to this. Whether her head is hung in frustration, sadness and disappointment at Kuvira’s betrayal, or shame in her own complicity in Kuvira’s activities or at least failure to prevent them is unclear.
Two young airbenders who appear to be Kai and Opal freefall through the sky before opening up flying squirrel-esque gliding flaps that run between their arms and legs. Later, Opal stands in a crowd, looking troubled, and Kai gives some pursuers the slip, so it seems the supporting cast of Book Three won’t fall away as much as those introduced in Book Two did in Book Three.
There’s a bit of sparring between some larger than life Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots that bear a striking resemblance to Hiroshi Sato’s mecha suits. Later, we see Zhu Li is inside a mecha suit, looking spectacularly pissed off. Later still, Varrick is nearly blown away by some offscreen force. Could these two shots be connected? Will Varrick’s trusty assistant break away and become some kind of dark horse? I can just see it now:
“Zhu Li! What on earth do you think you’re doing?!”“The Thing.”
Oogi (or some other sky bison) crashes down in some swamp water. Are we perhaps returning to The Swamp? There are several more shots of this locale, some with Korra. The Swamp is known to grant visions of the past and future. Is it possible this may enable her to communicate with her past lives, something that would otherwise be impossible since UnaVaatu severed her connection to them?
Altogether, it looks like Korra’s three-year sabbatical will be time well spent. From this trailer she appears to be taking on a lot and not doing too shabby a job. She struggles in some liquid metal, no doubt a tool of Kuvira’s forces or possibly Kuvira herself. She also defends against some good, old-fashioned rock thrown at her while people appear to be looking on. Whether they’re spectators or mere onlookers is unclear.
Korra stands in the desert, and that doesn’t look like the only place to which she’ll be returning. She can be seen breaking into an abandoned building that is covered in spirit vines, as is a street on which she is earthbending. And spirit vines can only mean one thing: a return to Republic City.
It seems that a return to the Spirit World itself is also on Korra’s itinerary. She can be seen in one shot trudging through the snow toward the Southern Spirit Portal, and in another traveling through a surreal landscape while standing still in that way that only the Spirit World can make possible.
There are a few shots of Team Avatar, Mako lightningbending and Bolin lavabending, but the money shot goes to Asami, who electrocutes the shit out of some guy whose green duds mark him as Earth Kingdom. My guess is that he’s working for Kuvira.
So, what can we conclude from this trailer? Well, knowing this is the final season, and that it is named “Balance,” it would be fitting that we’ll be bringing back characters and elements from previous seasons to bring things full circle. Korra, much like Aang, has had a tenuous relationship with the Avatar State. First she couldn’t enter it, then it ceased to be a means of connecting to her past lives, then it became the key to her attempted assassination and the end of the Avatar line. Going by that shot of her looking all creepy with the glowy eyes, that story of Korra’s relationship to the Avatar State is not over yet, and will factor into this final act of the story.
The appearance of Katara waterbending over what seems to be a healing pool, though strangely with no one in it, suggests that we’ll be reconnecting with all the supporting characters we’ve come to know. And the confirmation of the return of Varrick and Zhu Li suggest something huge for those two. I knew Varrick would be more important somewhere down the line. With he and Zhu Li in prison toward the end of Book Two, it was a perfectly satisfying (and still funny!) end for those characters. There was absolutely no narrative reason to bust them out of jail (much less have them show up in the following season for what was basically an extended cameo) if there wasn’t something major in the works for them down the line.
I don’t think Varrick and Zhu Li are alone in this. The Red Lotus is still out there, and Zaheer is very much alive. Do I think he’ll be breaking out of prison again? Probably not. But I’d be surprised if he didn’t at least get a poignant cameo of some kind. How about Iroh? Ask yourselves this. Has Korra ever taken a trip to the Spirit World and not run into him? And his namesake, young General Iroh? It seems pretty likely, since we know from the trailer that Lord Zuko as well as his daughter, the as-yet unnamed Fire Lord, will appear with Tenzin and President Raiko. Why have the entire Fire Nation royal family around without the crown prince who also happens to be a general in the United Forces?
This coming season is poised to address the return of balance on several levels. The chaos left in the wake of the Red Lotus’s assassination of the Earth Queen needs a lot of cleaning up, and if the wrong people (Kuvira, et al)got there first, especially under the guise of benevolence, it positions them as a major threat. So, there will be a need to restore balance within the Earth Kingdom, between the Earth Kingdom, the growing Air Nation, and the rest of the Physical World, and possibly between the Physical World and the Spirit World…all while Korra struggles to restore balance within herself.
And perhaps even the balance between Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra themselves, what with the closure we’ll finally get on the fates of the original Team Avatar. We’ve known of Aang, Katara, and Sokka’s fates for some time. Book Three shed some light on Zuko. And now, with the final shot of this trailer, we end on Avatar Korra in a dark cave, her shocked face illuminated by her own firebending as she says, “I don’t believe it…Toph?”
Okay, Bryke. You’ve got my attention. You’ve got my faith. Don’t disappoint me. Bring us home in style.