Avatar: The Legend of Korra includes a recap episode; the creators were forced to choose the lesser of two evils and made the right call.
Avatar: The Legend of Korra contains a dreaded clip show episode in season 4, but the decision was understandable considering the alternative. The Legend of Korra season 4, episode 8, “Remembrances,” reflects on the previous seasons of the show through the eyes of Mako, Bolin, Korra, Asami, Tenzin, and Varrick – and it’s a clip show. The oft-maligned “clip show” format is familiar to any viewer of sitcoms or anime. The term refers to an episode comprised of old footage, awkwardly spliced together and re-packaged in the form of flashbacks and montages. Sometimes a clip show is used as a sort of victory lap that capitalizes on the nostalgia built over the course of many seasons, like Friends, Frasier, Seinfeld, or Cheers. Other times, it’s purely budgetary — which was the unfortunate case for Korra.
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The episode itself, “Remembrances,” is divided into roughly three segments. The show becomes hilariously self-aware when Prince Wu and Mako’s cousin, Tu, make some astute observations on Mako’s love life. Then, a hopeless Korra recounts all of her failures while Tenzin and Asami restore hope by reminding Korra of her triumphs. Finally, Varrick, always one for theatrics, steals the show with an absurd, imaginary rendition of flashbacks that feature Bolin/Nuktuk as the hero, fighting off Zaheer, “flying chaotic chaos machine,” and Vaatu, “the biggest, meanest, scariest kite that ever flew,” who team up via phone call where they conference in Unalaq and Amon. As far as clip shows go, the episode could have been a lot worse. The creators worked to create an episode that made the best of the situation and, for the most part, they succeeded.
The creators of Korra, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante Dimartino, were forced into making the clip show episode after Nickelodeon slashed the budget for season 4. As Bryan Konietzko explained in a Tumblr post shortly before the “clip show” episode of Korra debuted, the showrunners were faced with a tough decision after they learned of the budget cuts: fire some of the crew before the show wrapped up production or make a clip show. “We never considered the first option,” Konietzko wrote. “We weren’t going to do that to our crew, and even if we were callous enough to do so, we never would have been able to finish the season without them.” Konietzko went on to say that he was inspired by one of his favorite anime series, Samurai Champloo, to create an episode that did more than just rehash old footage. “Remembrances” overlays chibi versions of the characters’ faces on top of the old clips, providing commentary and comedy throughout the episode. The result is an episode that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is better off for it.
The episode also provides a bit of closure for Korra, which was leading up to its finale. As Konietzko also points out, Avatar: The Last Airbender had an episode that served a similar function. In Avatar season 3, episode 17, “The Ember Island Players,” Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph see themselves portrayed on stage by actors in one of the final light-hearted episodes of the series. But even though Avatar had this flashback-type episode, it was different from a traditional clip show in that it contained all-new animation. Konietzko wrapped up the Tumblr post by writing, “What started out as a reluctant chore ended up being a really fun episode to make, and in the end I truly love it.”
Like many clip show episodes before and since, “Remembrances” has the lowest rating of any Avatar: The Legend of Korra episode on IMDb. Ideally, Korra would have had a full budget and been able to continue the momentum it had built in the previous few episodes. The clip show episode remains the weakest episode of the series, but, when faced with a tough choice, the creators made a respectable decision. “Remembrances” ends with a rather tongue-in-cheek line from Baraz, a minor character who happened to be listening in on Varrick’s wild movie pitch. In his words, “It’s just a mover, don’t overthink it.”
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