Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 8 – “Winter Solstice: Avatar Roku” – The Stakes

ATLA season 1 ep 8 The Winter Solstice Avatar Roku

     This is a very action heavy episode, but also manages to have a fair amount of story as well as setting up the stage for the upcoming challenge that Aang and Team Avatar must face. It’s done pretty well overall, and we see even more of the consequences of what Aang’s 100 year absence has done to even more Nations and peoples in the world.

    The episode was directed by Giancarlo Volpe and written by Michael Dante DiMartino and Aaron Ehasz.

     The story picks up where we left off with Aang racing to the Temple that is located in the Fire Nation to talk to Avatar Roku in order to learn his past and what he has to do. To do so he has to outwit and escape both Zuko’s and Admiral Zhao’s forces as well as the Forces of the Temple who have turned against the Avatar.

The Pros: The Action – The action in this is really good! From Appa having to be navigated through fireballs thrown by both Zuko and Zhao…to avoiding the hostile Fire Fire Sages who also now serve only the Fire Lord and not the Avatar. Each action is done really well, with my favorite being the photo above where Roku posses Aang and destroys the Temple to help them make their escape.

Zhao – Zhao is a great villain. We see him using all weapons at his disposal to get Aang or Zuko and only really failing because he failed to choose one to focus on leading to him losing both. This is a theme of his character as he tends to go big and in the process alienate possible allies or get destroyed by his own hubris.

Iroh – Iroh is the voice of reason once again trying to get Zuko to wait, which would have been the smart thing to do. Zuko risked getting killed or arrested since he is exiled and he nearly dies in the process. Only Iroh sees how destructive it and tries to help to no avail.

Zuko – Zuko is adept in this and manages to capture Aang before Aang escapes to converse with Roku but that doesn’t stop him from making his overall escape either. He is smart and gets out before Zhao can arrest him when he knows the Avatar has won.

Katara, Sokka and the Good Fire Sage – These three are in a support role and don’t really get any development beyond Katara voicing that she doesn’t want Aang to risk his life because not only does the world need him, she needs him and that if he is going they are coming too…and the Fire Sage is the one who still serves the Avatar and didn’t lose faith in the 100 years that passed since the disappearance of the Avatar.

Aang – Aang is overwhelmed in this as he learns that when he hid it was the original comet that Sozin used to destroy the Air Nation and that now Ozai is going to finish the job with the new comet that is coming so Aang must stop it and learn the Elements before that time. He is overwhelmed and he expresses as much but also feels like he has no choice. This is the episode where we see broken Aang and realize his past lives can only do so much for him.

Roku – Roku is a  badass and one of my favorite Avatars. You can hear guilt in his voice too as he knows that his failure to stop Sozin lead to the death of the Air Nation and it is guilt he must live with for the rest of his life. You can see it in his sadness and his rage when he destroys the Fire Nation forces inside the Temple as well as the Temple itself. Roku is full of so much sadness and despair. He’s also a well rounded character given the brief time we see him, that is saying something.

The Coming Destruction – This episode really raises apocalyptic stakes and make Aang realize just how over his head he is. It’s a powerful moment and expresses why three books were needed to tell this story.

    I greatly enjoyed and am looking forward to see more of Avatar Roku. This episode had action, a lot of it…but never lost site of the bigger picture and why Aang had to run a blockade and get to the Temple. We see how things changed and how the Fire Sages lost hope as well as what will happen if Aang can’t save the day. The world will become too out of balance to ever be repaired by the Avatar.

Final Score: 10 / 10.

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