Due to budget issues, The Legend of Korra spent this episode on a clip show, revisiting the first three seasons of the show. But at least while Korra was forced to tread water, it poked a bit of fun at itself along the way.
First off, thanks to Aldo O. Carvalho, who pointed me to Avatar and Korra co-creator Bryan Konietzko's blog post explaining why we ended up with a clip show this week. It turns out that the show's budget was slashed to the tune of an entire episode (grumble, grumble), and rather than let the production team go early, they decided to deal with it and have a clip show.
It's no "The Ember Island Players," the episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender where a stage play functioned as a parody of the show. After all, the production team had to reuse footage. But at least they put some effort into the three segments, effort that showed off their self-reflection about the show and their acknowledgement of how the audience has received the show. "The Ember Island Players" made fun of some of the quirks of the characters, but in this episode, "Remembrances," Korra turns the barbs more toward the actual show.
In the first segment, Mako related his terrible, stumbling romantic history with Korra and Asami to Prince Wu. Wu's function in this story is to keep score by pointing out just how not suave Mako was in his wooing of the ladies, where Asami and Korra overlapped, and how spineless Mako was in dealing with them both. Mako utterly fails to defend himself while Grandma adorably berates him. (Love you, Mako and Bolin's Grandma!)
Sadly, the weakest segment was the one narrated by Korra and Asami. It functions as a dialogue between the two women, with Korra lamenting that, no matter what she does, the world is always in turmoil, and Asami pointing out that, ultimately, Korra has been able to handle all of the challenges that have come her way.
I get it, the idea is that the Avatar's job is to restore balance, but balance is a temporary state; the world will always eventually slide out of whack. But this was addressed recently, and better, by Toph in the swamp. We didn't really need Tenzin to come in reiterate the point.
Thankfully, though, we end on a strong and somewhat unhinged note with Varrick's story. Here, the production team does something rather clever: they play with the show's existing animation to tell a new story. It's a Varrick story, so it doesn't make complete sense, but it's funny nonetheless. I can imagine the writers room having great fun spinning the type of story they would never tell within the context of the show, with zombie Amon, Unalaq, Vaatu (the giant kite), and Zaheer teaming up to destroy the world. And just to take an extra dig at Unalaq (who is the worst), half the time they represent him not with the show's real Unalaq, but with the Fu Manchu, ersatz Unalaq from Varrick's movers.
Not only is the story itself delightfully silly, it also gives lets Varrick function as a writer insert (sometimes fun should overrule logic) while Bolin functions as the audience insert (Hey! That doesn't make sense!). It's a segment that breaks the fourth wall, that lets the writers speak almost directly to the audience. And I will admit, while this may have been a clip show, by the end of Varrick's segment, I was clapping with the refugees.