“City of Walls and Secrets” is a dark episode that shows that the Fire Nation isn’t the only foe to fear and sometimes the worst enemy is the enemy who claims the best good, which in this case is the name of culture and tradition. Ba Sing Se is a scary place and shows what life is under in a tyrannical state.
The episode was directed by Lauren MacMullan and written by Tim Hedrick.
The story involves Team Avatar’s time in Ba Sing Se and being kept from seeing the King by their tour guide Joo Dee. They soon learn that no one talks about the war as Ba Sing Se is seen as a paradise and that stability is more important than the truth. When Team Avatar attempts to meet the King, Joo Dee is killed and replaced and Minister Long Feng explains why the Dai Li keeps the peace and order as Jet is mind controlled by the Dai Li in one of their bases.
The Pros: Zuko and Iroh’s Life – Iroh works at a tea shop and becomes famous for how good he is at taking care of the customers and making great tea. Zuko still feels trapped but has a chance to fight again when Jet accuses them of being Firebenders and he has to best him in a sword fight. It’s a great scene that shows that Iroh and Zuko have found acceptance and want to stay hidden as much as all the other refugees.
Jet and Co. – Longshot and Smellerbee leave as they are done fighting and see that Jet is still living the war, which leads to the Dai Li arresting and mind controlling him so he won’t talk about the War anymore. His story is a tragedy as we see his pain lead to greater pain under the tyranny of the Nation he is a part of.
Team Avatar – Team Avatar has some great moments in this. From Katara and Toph sneaking in to the King’s party (where Aang and Sokka where as bus boys) and their running into Long Feng who immediately knew something was up. We see they aren’t all powerful in this too as Long Feng forces them to not talk to the King by threatening to kill Appa and much darker things to all of them. For the first time, their hands are tied in the war.
Minster Long Feng – Tom Clancy is wonderful as the leader of the Dai Li! He is all about ends justifying the means as he lives for order and peace within Ba Sing Se by any means necessary. He is also a character with no fear as he threatens the Avatar and is not afraid of any consequences from it. He is a true believer in harmony at any price and sees himself as the true leader of the Earth Kingdom as the King is more symbolic. In this way he is much scarier threat than Zhao ever was and much more closer to home for Team Avatar than Azula.
False Appearances and Fear – There is “peace” in Ba Sing Se but it is only through the tyranny of the Secret Police. Everyone has to be happy and because everyone has to be, there is so much fear that Team Avatar isn’t able to learn anything until they speak to the man who created the fear in the first place…and they succumb to it too as they have things to lose while the Dai Li has nothing to lose.
This is a great episode and one I’d highly recommend. It shows that fear is not just from the Fire Nation but from those closest to home as the Dai Li is a much scarier threat than the Fire Nation as they go about breaking people, while the Fire Nation just wants them dead. They are also scary in that the Dai Li are true believers and this true belief motivates their horrific acts in the name of peace and tranquility even if it means breaking or killing their own people.
Final Score: 10 / 10