This was a rough episode. It is in ‘The Storm” that we get both Zuko and Aang’s tragic back stories and glimpses into why they are the way they are. We also get to know some minor characters better too and see why Iroh is one of the best characters in the series.
The episode was directed by Lauren MacMullan and written by Aaron Ehasz.
The story takes place during a storm in which Zuko sends his crew into and they speak against him until Iroh arrives to tell Zuko’s story…and the storm Aang disapears into after an old fishermen blames him for the pain that the world has known the last 100 years he has been gone. The Fishermen than leaves on the boat with Zuko while Katara takes Appa to find Aang in a cave, who then shares his story with her.
The Pros: The Storm – The storm is gigantic and a great metaphor for the turmoil going on inside the minds of Aang and Zuko. It is the storm that has haunted them in how they act towards others, which in Aang’s case means him running away, and in Zuko’s case his sometimes disregard for life and obsession with catching the Avatar.
The Supporting Cast – Zuko’s crew rightfully is speaking against him as he says he doesn’t care about them when they enter the storm, they are given agency much like the Fishermen and his wife when the Fishermen chooses the storm so he can still make some money and his wife when she knows she doesn’t want to risk going in it herself later on. There is resolution too with both Aang and Zuko saving the life of the distrustful parties and winning their respect. Sokka is supporting cast in this episode as he goes with the Fisherman and isn’t really a part of Aang’s guilt story but is there to be supportive at the end.
Iroh – Iroh is Zuko’s Uncle and from the backstory we get he is the only one who has cared about him for a very long time. He tries to stand up to his brother but it doesn’t do any good. He is the only one who watches with sadness as Zuko gets burned. We see him protect Zuko this time though when he warns against going into the storm, shares his story with the crew and redirects lightning that strikes their ship. You don’t mess with Iroh.
Katara – I disagree with Katara. I think it is impossible to know what could have happened if Aang hadn’t ran away from being Avatar…it wasn’t right what the monks were doing to him but it wasn’t right for him to run either. He was just a kid but that doesn’t mean you leave your people behind, especially when it ends in their destruction. Katara helps him heal though and deal with that guilt, which is needed since this Universe will always need an Avatar and even if the past can’t be changed it doesn’t change what the Avatar can change now.
The Tragedy of Aang – The monks are a diverse lot and we see that Aang was the popular clown until the day he learned he was Avatar and his young friends stopped playing with him. Some of the monks wanted him only to prepared for the coming storm (Sozen) but Gyatso wanted him to live so much to the point he was going to put everything on the line so Aang could stay, but Aang hearing they were going to send him away ran away into a storm which lead to his Avatar state and becoming frozen, which kicks off the series. His tragedy is a kid in over his head who is given a future he doesn’t want and tries to choose another path even though the path comes back to him again. His present he deals with it though and shows that he is growing and learning and becoming the Avatar he needs to be.
The Tragedy of Zuko – Zuko wants training so he can become a good Fire Lord. He sits on the War Council and speaks out against the new recruits who are going to be sacrificed in order to conquer Ba Sing Se and his father challenges him for his General since it was his War Council. Zuko begs for his life and his father makes him an exile and gives him his scar. Zuko is reminded of why he spoke out and once the crew is safe lets the Avatar escape after he helps save one of his men who was in danger from the storm and realizes that his crew matters more than his “honor.” His story is one of the saddest in the series and his growth is one of the best to watch.
This is one of my favorite episodes and part of what makes “Avatar: The Last Airbender” great. The fact that Aaron Ehasz, the head writer wrote it is not a surprise to me as he is the one who knows what the story is and where it is going. This episode really shows why he is Head Writer. He knows his characters and world so well and in this there aren’t any 2-dimensional characters. The world and characters are fully realized in all their pain and successes, which makes this episode perfect.
Final Score: 10 / 10