Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 2 “Earth,” Episode 12 – “The Serpent’s Pass” – Moving Through Grief

The Serpent's Pass

  “The Serpent’s Pass” is another great episode that gives us some great character exploration! Especially in regards to Jet, Suki, Sokka and Aang who are all dealing with meaning in a world thrown into chaos and in the case of Sokka and Aang recovering from the recent losses they’ve experienced. It’s a powerful episode and also has some great action too.

    The episode was directed by Ethan Spaulding and written by Joshua Hamilton and Michael Dante DiMartino.

     The story involves Zuko and Iroh’s and Team Avatar’s quest to reach Ba Sing Se. On their quest to get their Iroh and Zuko meet Jet and his gang who are also refugees seeking the shore and Team Avatar meets up with Suki who works with them to help some Refugees on the Serpent’s Pass after their lack of passports means they cannot take the lake to Ba Sing Se. From here the story unfolds as Zuko deals with his role as outcast and Aang and Sokka deal with their losses.

The Pros: The Refugees – The Refugees are from everywhere which really shows that the Earth Kingdom is losing the war. So many villages and people have lost their homes or left their homes because of the Fire Nation threat. This can’t be understated and we see that everyone outside of Ba Sing Se is a victim of the Fire Nation in the Earth Kingdom.

Jet and his Crew – Jet and his crew make an appearance and we see Jet make friends with Zuko seeing as they are both outcasts who no longer work alone and steal from the rich captain so that they and their friends can eat well. We also see friendship between the crew as Longshot sticks up for Smellerbee after she is mistaken for a by Iroh. There is a lot of coming together this episode.

Toph – Toph has a crush on Sokka! It is in this episode where we see how powerful the Beifong family is too as she is able to get them tickets even though it is against the rules since her family is so powerful. All that is lost though when Aang helps a ticketless family through the Serpent’s Pass. On the Serpent’s Pass she falls into the water and is saved by Suki and asks to be drowned when she kisses her thinking she was Sokka. This is a great Toph episode that shows she doesn’t put up with crap and also feels unthanked too when she saves them on the pass.

Suki – Suki is the idealist fighting for her people of the Earth Kingdom. It is here she joins to protect Sokka and also to see if he is interested in a relationship. After he deals with the loss of Yue in the episode he is and her action of kissing him at the beginning ends with him kissing her. It is really sweet and the romance is handled really well.

Zuko – Zuko is learning and where Jet is still raw, Zuko admits that he thought he should be alone but found that with Iroh he has found what was missing and that it is okay to count on others. It’s powerful and I like his friendship with Jet as they both have a vigilante streak.

Katara – Katara is the leader again and we see her use her Waterbending skills to protect the Refugees and fight the Serpent with Aang. She also is there for him and helps him deal with his loss of Appa and to focus on the mission.

Sokka – Sokka is facing the loss of Yue and though he doesn’t get into the details he shares some of it with Suki. When he talks about it and has time to face what he’s lost he’s ready for a relationship with Suki and returns the kiss she had given him twice. Once again, I love this relationship.

Aang – Aang is focused on the mission and just trying to be tough but he too opens up to Katara and shares what he is going through in regards to his grief. It is seeing the Refugee family having a baby that reminds him of what he is fighting for and gets him out of himself. It’s a powerful scene and he is again reminded of his mission when he sees The Drill heading to Ba Sing Se.

Facing Grief – This episode is all about dealing with grief and how important it is to talk but also to have space to heal and deal with on own. That process is different for everyone as everyone’s losses are different. It doesn’t make the losses any less valuable or any process better but it takes time and this episode shows how it is for two characters.

   This is a powerful episode with some great action that I’d highly recommend. The writers haven’t forgotten Yue and we see what her loss has meant to Sokka but also that he is healing as he and Suki initiate a relationship together. Aang also finally opens to Katara about what he is going through and how important it is for him to find Appa. These scenes are powerful.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 3, Episode 4 – “Sphere of Influence” – Pantora versus Separatist Influence

Sphere of Influence

   This is a great episode! In this we see the complexity of both the Trade Federation and Pantorans and that neither people are pawns of anyone and both are dealing with the Senate and Separatist influence in whichever way they can, while still looking out for their own influence.

    “Sphere of Influence” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and written by Katie Lucas, Steven Melching and Drew Z. Greenberg.

    The story involves The Trade Federation’s blockade of Pantora and how Senator Riyo to find the kidnapped children of the Chairman as she gets help from Ahsoka and negotiates the tense situation in which the Senate is powerless to act and tries to learn who is behind the kidnapping as the Chairman and

The Pros: The Pantorans -The Pantorans take matters into their own hands with Senator Riyo and the Chairman finding the Chairman’s daughters through their own action. It’s an extreme moment of empowerment that shows the lengths the Separatists will glow to blackmail neutral parties onto their sides. I really like these guys and the Trade Federation as political factions being explored.

The Trade Federation – The Trade Federation is complicated. We see that some are firmly Separatists like Gunray and Sib versus the Ambassador who is still walking that line between Separatist and Gunray influence against being a member of the Republic and Senate.

Ahsoka  and Senator Riyo – Ahsoka is super active in this and her and Senator Riyo do a great job of finding one of the daughters and holding their own against the Trade Federation and in ending the blockade.

The Politics – The Politics are great in this episode as before we know the Separatist offer could have been real as they do have more influence with the Trade Federation and the Senate is inept. It is only through Jedi action via Ahsoka and Pantoran action that the daughters are saved.

   This is a great episode that shows just how complicated it can be to remain neutral in the middle of a giant war, especially when you are a planet rich in resources like Pantora. We also see that the Trade Federation isn’t stupid and at least some of the might be willing to learn from their mistakes and not fall into the trap of Gunray’s greed.

Final Score: 9 / 10.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 3, Episode 2 – “ARC Troopers” – What Kamino Means to the Clones

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      I know Kamino won’t fall, it’s too important to the plot, but I’m glad Ventress and Grievous were able to do some lasting damage, their plan to take the planet wasn’t so bad either…they were just going up against the plot armor of Anakin and Obi-Wan, so I’ll give Grievous a pass this time. This was a really enjoyable episode as it was great seeing the Rookies in action, along with 99, Cadets and Commander Cody and Captain Rex. This is their episode more than any other character as this story is about their world under assault.

     “ARC Troopers” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and written by Cameron Litvack.

    The story picks up with the destruction of the Republic Outpost on the Rishi Moon and Obi-Wan and Anakin going with Cody, Rex and the surviving Rookies to protect Kamino from an assault on two fronts by Ventress and General Grievous. From here the story unfolds as 99 and new cadets are pulled into the battle for their home and the survival of Clones.

The Pros: The Clones – This episode is all about the Clones and they all get exploration. Whether they are new soldiers like the Cadets or the Rookies or old ones like 99 and Cody and Rex. Each of them are given a chance to claim their identity and fight for their world.

Commander Cody and Captain Rex – Cody and Rex show how personal this is and ask if they can be there to defend their world. It’s a powerful moment and we see them rally the troops and give the go ahead for the Cadets to join the fight.

The Cadets – The Cadets are just trying to survive and escape at first but after Fives and Echo rally them through their fear they ambush the attacking droids in the final holdout and manage to save the day.

Fives and Echo – These two are made ARC troopers and their telling 99 about what happened to Heavy is sad as you can see how connected they all are. They are trying to protect 99 the most through the episode and mourn his loss the hardest as he was their friend.

99 – 99 fights to the bitter end and gets ammo to troops, protects the children and in the end dies trying to get more ammo for the men. His death is felt as we have gotten to know this character and see that he never let age or being a “defunct” Clone get him down.

The Droid Army – We see Aquatic Droids and giant Squid-like assault creatures this episode. It is a great attack and they really feel like a threat, and they do a lot of damage too, killing countless members of the 501st and forcing the survivors to make a last stand before the ARC reinforcements arrive.

Ventress – Ventress kills and kisses a powerful Clone Soldier to introduce herself (of course it was banned on television) but I’m glad Netflix kept it as it shows how little she cares about anything but the success of the mission and accumulation of power. She holds her own agains Anakin really well and almost beats him and leaves with the Clone DNA but is stopped by the 501st.

General Grievous – Grievous manages to be a pretty big threat and almost kills Obi-Wan. He is nothing compared to Ventress though and she shuts him down multiple times. He of course runs away at the end, but that seems to be what he does all the freakin time.

Okay: The Jedi – Obi-Wan, Anakin and Shaak Ti are just kind of there. They get no real exploration as characters since this episode is primarily focused on the Clones. They aren’t bad but I can’t say anything unique about them beyond Anakin being overconfident.

   This is an amazing episode, like most are that explore Clone Identity. In this we see how much being a soldier is in regards to that, so much so that they are willing to fight no matter what their age is and that the DNA and creation of more Clones to serve the Republic is paramount to their purpose and why they fight. It’s powerful and I found the death of 99 actually mattering.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 2 “Earth,” Episode 11 – “The Desert” – Katara the Leader and The White Lotus

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     “The Desert” is a powerful episode. In this we see just how quick to anger Aang is and how Katara is the leader of the group as well getting to meet the White Lotus and see that Uncle Iroh is connected to them. It is an amazing episode and definitely a favorite.

     The episode was directed by Lauren Macmullan and written by Tim Hedrick and Aaron Ehasz.

     The story picks up where we left off with Aang confronting Toph over the loss of Appa and bringing it out on the group. It takes Katara’s focus to bring them together to find a way out as Aang is focused on retribution against the Sandbenders and finding Appa. Elsewhere the men hunting Toph begin hunting Zuko and Iroh after seeing them as Iroh and Zuko search for safety as the Rough Riders had tried to capture them at the beginning of the episode.

The Pros: The Rough Rhinos – Colonel Mongke (the Firebender leader) and the Rough Rhino’s are pretty awesome! They have great designs and the only reason they lose is that Zuko and Iroh get the jump on them and manage to escape rather quickly. I like that these guys are still around and can’t wait to see more of them later. They are one of the best minor villains of the Fire Nation.

The Sandbenders – These guys are just people trying to live and when the Chief’s son steals Appa he regrets it when Aang goes Avatar and destroys all their Sand Ships. It is great seeing the complexity within the group and that they aren’t one mind on everything. Also they have great designs.

Xin Fu and Master Yu – These two have a great dynamic with Xin Fu saying that Toph is wanted dead or alive while Master Yu is all, “No her father wouldn’t like that.” They decide to try and get Zuko and Iroh when they see them in town and the wanted sign for them but after taking out all the members of the bar and losing them to the White Lotus they get back to hunting Toph.

Aang – Aang loses it this episode. Appa had been his only friend for a long time and losing him made him feel like a failure as the Avatar so he turned on his friends. It takes Katara holding him to realize all is not lost and brings him back to the present and out of the anger mode where he would have killed the Sandbender tribe.

Sokka – Sokka is on drugs this episode and it is hilarious! He drinks some cactus juice and hallucinates for the entire episode. There are some great comedic moments and he is so out of it it is a good balance to Aang.

Toph – Toph is blind for most of this episode as she can’t sense anything on the sand with her bending abilities. She also is pretty isolated too as Aang never apologizes for blaming her for the loss of Appa and not grabbing them when it was happening. I felt bad for her big time this episode.

Katara – Katara is the leader of the group and shows it this time as she keeps thinking long term getting to Ba Sing Se and survival and finding water as well as using the Bending Water sparingly. She is the connection to the present too and what is and it is her love that bring Aang out of his anger and Avatar State. She was the only one not afraid who entered. Katara is a favorite character for sure.

The White Lotus – The White Lotus is a secret society that is not bound by politics. It is they who help Iroh and Zuko escape and we see their cover in this village is a a flower shop, they are also the ones who get Iroh and Zuko passports to Ba Sing Se. I really enjoyed seeing them and the fact that we don’t know very much is great too.

Iroh – Iroh is wonderful this episode as he manages to hold his own against the Rough Rhinos even being injured and is able to find the White Lotus. It is great hearing his honesty, such as Ba Sing Se being the safest place for them since even he couldn’t take it. This is a great Iroh episode. Zuko is mostly just annoyed and angry which is why I’m not putting him down as a pro or con or anything. He’s just along for the ride.

    This is an amazing episode that does a lot of world building and character building in a short amount of time. We see how strong Katara’s connection to Aang is as well as the fact that the Sandbenders are just trying to survive. We also see just how isolated Zuko and Iroh are being refugees, wanted and exiled from the Fire Nation and the power that lies in the White Lotus.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 3, Episode 7 – “Assassin” – Ahsoka’s Visions

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       “The Assassin” is a good Ahsoka episode as we see again why she is Anakin’s apprentice and how similar they are in their abilities. The one thing confusing about this episode is the announcer begins the episode saying Aurra Sing is dead when she clearly is not given she is the Assassin of the episodes title. That wasn’t done very well on the writers part.

    The episode was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and written by Katie Lucas and Drew Z. Greenberg.

    The episode begins with Ahsoka at the Temple haunted by visions that Padme is going to be killed. This leads to her volunteering for guard duty during the Refugee Conference as she questions her feelings on whether the visions are real or if she is simply being ruled by fear.

The Pros: The Conference – The conference is on the refugees and it is wonderful hearing Padme’s story about how the events of Episode I shaped her to be aware of those who had nothing and the plight of when her own people were refugees due to the Trade Federation.

The Pre-Rebellion Members – Organa, Mothma and Padme are all the Senators taking part in the conference and in the case of Organa and Mothma future members of the Rebellion. This is a good episode that explores their roots and their standing up for the vulnerable against that which is out of their control.

Aurra Sing – She manages to injure both Ahsoka and Padme showing that she actually is a really good assassin.

Padme – Padme is explored as a character and we see that she won’t back down against threats. It lends power to her words and we see why Ahsoka has so much respect for her.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka is growing in force abilities and we see more of Anakin’s arrogance in her and also his fear for those close to him. She is very un-Jedi that way and cares deeply for those close to her, she has attachment which only Aayla has talked to her about. I like that she does have attachment as it makes her compelling.

Okay: Ziro the Hutt – Ziro was behind everything as he wanted revenge for Padme locking him up. He revealed his plan way to easily though but I hope he is still used to good affect. The Huts so far have not been a good threat at all.

  This was an enjoyable episode that explored Padme and Ahsoka really well and also brought us back to Ziro and showed that even though he is in prison, he is still a political player in the Clone Wars.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 3, Episodes 5-6 – “Corruption on Mandalore Arc” – Mandalore’s Worst Enemy is Itself

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    The “Corruption on Mandalore Arc” was enjoyable. This is one of the cultures and societies on the show that has gotten a fair amount of exploration already but we continue to get more and see just how complicated being a neutral power is. This is an episode where idealism is taken to the fullest degree as the next episode takes corruption to it’s greatest degree and we see the fallout from both in the arc.

     “Corruption” was directed by Giancarlo Volpe and written by Cameron Litvack who were also the same writer and director duo who finished up the arc in “The Academy.”

     The story kicks off with smugglers delivering goods that end up poisoning a lot of children, which leads Padme and Satine seeking to find the culprits as the Council and Prime Minister choose to do nothing. The arc finishes up with Ahsoka’s arrival to train the next generation of cadets as they discover someone high up is working directly with the smugglers and hoarding food from the populace.

The Pros: The Cadets – The cadets are pretty cool and they don’t bring the episode down. We see them work directly with Ahsoka and are inspired by her words to take action to change their society. They are the ones who learn that the Prime Minister was behind everything and it is thanks to them and Ahsoka fighting the Prime Minister’s corrupt troops that they save Satine.

Padme and Satine – These two have a great dynamic and I believed the friendship. They are both subversions of the Princess trope (passive and needs rescuing) as we see them find the corrupt smugglers and solve the issue of the poisoned tea. They have a great dynamic and know how to hold their own in a fight.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka takes action and learns that Satine had brought her to Mandalore since she didn’t know who to trust. She inspires the Cadets to find the truth but never loses sight of looking out for them as she helps them learn how to be good soldiers and people and to trust only those who have earned it. She gets them out of the Prime Minister’s trap and is the one who rescues Satine.

Prime Minister Almec – This guy is a complete politician but you get his point of view. What I didn’t understand is why he didn’t frame Satine as he was getting food to the populace in the only way he knew how from the war. He was rising in power in the process too, but he had some level of nobility that was never fully explored since they had him make stupid decisions at the end.

The Cons: The Moogan – These smugglers were animated to look bad and untrustworthy which in turn didn’t allow for their perspective. That was annoying as they seemed only driven by greed.

This was a great arc and one I recommend. So far any visit to Mandalore has been golden and we’ve gotten the chance to see just how complex and flawed the society is, as well as how linked corruption and power are as Almec has some parallels to Palpatine except he has idealism, where Palpatine is all about the bottom line and how much power he gains in the end.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 2, Episodes 20-22 – “Boba Fett’s Revenge Arc” – Boba Fett is Ruined

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       This arc was okay, it wasn’t great as we get a lot of beige Jedi and Boba Fett was too, there was so much potential with his character that was just wasted since the show wasn’t willing to go as far as it could have for showing an orphan who had been raised by the best Bounty Hunter in the galaxy. Most of that was abandoned for overdone cliches and the most interesting parts of the episode were Anakin’s reaction to things and Captain Captain Hondo.

      “Death Trap” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Doug Petric, Drew Z. Greenberg and Brian Larsen. “R2 Come Home” was directed by Giancarlo Volpe and written by Eoghan Mahony, Drew Z. Greenberg and Brian Larsen and “Lethal Trackdown” was directed by Dave Filoni who was one of the writers along with Greenberg and Larsen.

    The story involves Boba Fett’s quest for Revenge with Sing to kill Mace Windu for the murder of his father. From here things unfold as he destroys a Republic Cruiser to trap them and deals with the threat of the Jedi closing in as he seeks to bring about his revenge and deal with his conflicted feelings over the people caught in the crossfire.

The Pros: Captain Hondo – This guy is back as Sing’s ex and he has a great dynamic with her and the Jedi as he doesn’t want to get burned from either side. Seeing him play the neutral party for once when he is usually an antagonist was pretty awesome.

Anakin Skywalker – Skywalker almost dies but through R2 manages to save himself and Windu. He is the one all out for killing Boba and if Boba kills Jedi later, he wouldn’t be completely wrong. In this we see how driven Anakin is by ends justifying the means and that there isn’t any accountability as Windu never calls him out fully on being so focused on himself and his ego.

Okay: The Bounty Hunters – They all have cool looks but we never get to know what their drive is beyond money or why Sing is helping Boba. Wasted potential but they weren’t completely useless.

The Cons: Boba Fett – For a character that is supposed to be the greatest badass later he mostly just frowns and fails in his mission and feels bad about the innocents in the crossfire later. Very poorly handled as a character.

The Jedi – Windu and Plo Koon are blank slates in this and we never get to know Ahsoka either because Plo and Windu take up so much of the screentime.

  This was an arc that was okay, but had way too much going against it. It would have been better to leave Boba out and make his story a mystery as now he has been even more ruined by the influence of the prequels.

Final Score: 5 / 10