Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 2, “Earth” Retrospect – Destiny, Consequences and the Dangers of Attachment

ATLA Book 2 Ep 17

    “Avatar: The Last Airbender” Book 2 is great. It is also not as great as I remembered it being though as scenes I watched when I was younger didn’t feel as big now as I could see events coming and I felt that the Dai Li were severely underutilized and that more could have been done with exploring Zuko’s dilemma and him having more than just a hostile relationship with his sister and father. It is still a fantastic season though! For one we are introduced to Toph and Team Avatar is explored really well, as are Azula and her Trio. This offsets the ways that it being a kids show limited some of the exploration that could have been done with the darker elements of the show.

  So without further ado, lets get into the details of what worked and didn’t work about this Book.:

The Chase

The Pros: The Rough Rhino Riders – These guys are minor antagonists who we see hunting Zuko and Iroh and at one point Team Avatar. They have a diverse range of weapons and served with Iroh during the Siege of Ba Sing Se. They were rewarding everytime they made an appearance.

June the Bounty Hunter – June is the Bounty Hunter who nearly catches Team Avatar at one point but is only beaten because of trickery. She is fun too as she has no loyalty to the Fire Nation or Team Avatar and is a true Bounty Hunter only after cash. She doesn’t fear Zuko or Iroh or anyone for that matter.

Azula and the Trio – Azula and the Trio are a great group who have a fascinating dynamic. Azula rules through fear, Ty Lee through fights through trickery and flirtatiousness while Mai is an assassin  who is cold and calculating. They made this Book great.

Mai – Mai has feeling for Zuko but hasn’t really had the chance to express them yet as most of the time we see her hunting the Avatar. She does a good job and is able to best most Benders she faces and is good about thinking before she jumps.

Ty Lee – Ty Lee is spontaneous and Chi Blocks Benders who she fights. She was happy at the circus until Azula blackmailed her into joining the Trio and we see that she is the one who gets along the best with Team Avatar as she flirts and has fun with whomever she is facing.

Azula – Azula is the primary antagonist of this Book and she is wonderful! She is able to take on multiple members of Team Avatar at once and even mortally wounds Aang when he is in  the Avatar state. She is highly manipulative and turns Zuko against Iroh as well as the Dai Li against the Earth King showing that she is one of the best antagonists to come out of this series. She is also the greatest Firebender besides Iroh and Ozai.

The Cultures of the Earth Kingdom – The Earth Kingdom is really diverse and has many different cultures that make it up. We see that especially this season with the different General in villages, the Dai Li, Kyoshi Island and the diverse array of citizens of Ba Sing Se. This has always been a strong part of the series and it is done very well this season.

Suki – Suki makes an appearance and we see her relationship with Sokka grow as she shows she likes him and her courage gets him to act to the point that we see that they are dating now. We also see how involved she is in the war, from protecting Appa from the Trio, getting refugees to Ba Sing Se and being active in battles across the Earth Kingdom against the Fire Nation.

Jen – Jen is a minor character in Ba Sing Se who Zuko dates. She is kind and we see that she has prejudice against the Fire Nation but also honors Zuko’s silence when he doesn’t feel comfortable talking. They have a great relationship for the episode it happens.

The Exile in Ba Sing Se -Zuko and Iroh’s exile in Ba Sing Se is fascinating as we see Iroh become so good at making Tea that he opens up his own Tea House, we see Zuko eventually give up fighting the Avatar when he is about to take Appa from the Dai Li and for a moment he is at peace until Azula manipulates him back and brings him back from his Exile ending his Uncle’s happiness.

Iroh – Iroh is at peace in exile and makes a lot of observations about how he has become a part of Ba Sing Se by what he has given to the city and how they welcomed them. He also tries to guide Zuko away from the false honor of his father to help him find true honor within himself. He succeeds for a while until Azula’s gambit is successful and he is captured protecting Team Avatar as they get an injured Aang to safety.

Zuko – Zuko is conflicted this episode as he deals with the internal choice within him…to be like his Father or his Uncle. In the end he chooses to be like his Father as he does believe he should be Fire Lord and he loses his Uncle because of it as well as the friendship he was building with Katara.

“Tales from Ba Sing Se” – This is a great short episode that honors Mako who died during this time. We see a short story from all of Team Avatar’s perspective (even Momo) and the life of Ba Sing Se is illustrated as well as defining traits of our characters. It is an episode I highly recommend.

Team Avatar – Team Avatar grows this Book as Toph becomes a member, which causes conflict at first as she is stubborn and prefers to be the loner but eventually they come together when they face adversity and discover new things about themselves in the process.

Sokka – Sokka is moving on from the death of Yui in this and we see that process involve him keeping boundaries with Suki but eventually embracing her feelings when he is at peace. It is a powerful arc and we see more that Sokka is the planner and not just the comedic relief of the Team (though his humor is usually always great).

Toph – Toph is wonderful in this! We see her introduced winning an underground Bender Fight and ruled by fear of her parents to eventually going her own way and finally opening up to those who are kind to her. It’s a great arc and her bluntness and humor add a lot as she helps people grow through the truth and always has their back. She also learns Metalbending during the episode “The Guru.”

Katara – Katara is the glue of the Team and in this we see her compassion helping people change. Whether it is Jet finally letting go of his hate or Zuko beginning to question the hate and fear within himself. She is also a strong Waterbending Master too and she is able to take on both Azula and Zuko in order to escape with Aang when he is injured and she later uses her healing and the magic water to save Aang.

Aang – Aang’s arc in this is dealing with his feeling for Katara and his conflict between Duty and Balance as Sokka’s desire to fight the war leads to problems and the loss of Appa and his fear of Katara getting hurt leads to him abandoning his training so he never fully masters the Avatar State. The consequence is he loses Ba Sing Se to the Fire Nation and nearly loses his life to Azula. Aang is beaten and just barely alive after this Book.

Okay: The Dai Li – I liked Minister Long Feng a lot but the Dai Li were missed potential. They were either overpowered or super easy and that made their fall to Azula feel hollow. The idea behind them is powerful and when they are done well they are great but when they fail they fall hard and it hurts the story.

Zuko’s Turn – Zuko’s turn was alright but I would have liked to see more of what his identity meant as being Ozai’s son and why he wanted to rejoin the family that hated him. I felt that it was never fleshed out besides out isolated and trapped he felt in exile in Ba Sing Se working at a Tea Shop he never wanted.

The Cons: The Earth King – The Earth King is derpy. He is just kind of bland and there and I never believed that he had any will of his own even when he stood up. Would have rather he just died honestly.

The Magic Water – This McGuffin is never explained and it being used to resurrect the “dead” which Aang seemed to be was too overpowered. I like that it was finally used but it’s existence was a story problem.

    This was still a solid season, but in retrospect “Book 1” Water handled it’s arcs much better than Book 2 of “Earth” did. When this season worked it worked really well, but it had a few things working against it since it was trying to accomplish so much. It was for this reason Zuko’s turn felt rushed and the Dai Li were brushed over to reestablish the Fire Nation as the big threat. These elements bring it down but it is still a great season that I would definitely recommend.

Final Score: 8.7 / 10

Zuko Alone

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 2 “Earth,” Episode 17 – Jet’s Redemption and the Terror of the Dai Li

ATLA Book 2 Ep 17

   I think the Dai Li were defeated way to easily this episode and given how much emphasis they’ve been given as being a threat this book that is rather sad. This is a good episode for seeing our heroes rock, but part of what makes a good villain is being able to take them seriously and how this episode ends puts a permanent mark of shame on the Dai Li.

       “Lake Laogai” was directed by Lauren MacMullan and written by Tim Hedrick.

      The story involves the Dai Li sending out mind controlled Jet to lure Team Avatar into a trap. It fails when his old friends help him relive his past bringing them to Lake Laogai and the confrontation with the Dai Li as they search for Appa. Zuko is also seeing Appa but doesn’t take into account Uncle Iroh who follows him in his quest.

The Pros: The Underground Fortress – The Fotress under Lake Laogai has a great design and the creepy training of the Joo Dee’s to spout the party line is really creepy…as well as Jet’s flashbacks of torture and conditioning that he had. Sadly when the Dai Li show up it goes down hill.

Jet – Jet has a good arc and I think he realizes how complex things are now. His nation isn’t all good and has villianous people like the Fire Nation, and he most likely dies because of it from Minister Long Feng who attacks him.

Smellerbee and Longshot – These two friends come through and help Jet find himself in the conditioning and support him through his pain. They are great people and stay with him as he dies.

Team Avatar – Humorous but nothing really new except finally having the payoff of being with Appa again. Toph has some great jokes, from complimenting Sokka’s art (she’s blind) and calling Ba Sing Se the worst city ever. They also overwhelm the Dai Li in their own base and Appa is back. We also see Katara forgive Jet and try to save him and them reach some sort of peace as he is no longer lying and trying to redeem himself.

Zuko – Zuko is seeking his destiny and his torn mind is expressed in the Blue Spirit as he is about to capture Appa to try and regain what he has lost until Iroh calls him out and asks him to make his own destiny and the one that he desires (as well as pointing out he would have died in the North if not for the Avatar and his friends). This gives him some semblance of balance to give up being the Blue Spirit and cast off the mask.

Iroh – Iroh shows why he is the best character on this show in how he is loving in his support of Zuko but not as Zuko is hurting himself and hurting the Avatar and his friends and not having any sort of plan. He shows why he is a great mentor and friend in this.

The Cons: The Dai Li – Long Feng kills Jet most likely but the Dai Li lose to Team Avatar even when they are out in force because a free Appa is enough apparently. This was sad given that they are a police who have been controlling a city for generation and now a bunch of kids and their Sky Bison can defeat them like that? It was very Scooby-Dooish,

This was still a great episode though I hated how the Dai Li were handled. I hope Jet actually died as his arc is completed and his loss means something now. This episode could have been better if Jet’s death had been more clearer and if Team Avatar had just escaped with Appa. Their clear defeat of the Dai Li makes the Dai Li mean nothing in the city they control.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 2 “Earth,” Episode 16 – “Appa’s Lost Days” – Appa Doesn’t Catch a Break

Appa_captured

  Team Avatar doesn’t catch a break. This episode is Appa going through trial and tribulation for weeks on end and in the end he still isn’t home. Seeing the world through Appa’s eyes was very cool as he is just kind of there for most of the episodes prior and we don’t get to know the character all that well. In this we understand Appa’s motivations and see just how connected he is everyone in this series. In this way, it was a very well done episode.

  The episode was directed by Giancarlo Volpe and written by Elizabeth Welch Ehasz.

   The story involves Appa’s adventures and misadventures in his quest to find Team Avatar and reach Ba Sing Se. It is a roundabout adventure as he must fight the elements, other creatures in the forest, Firebenders and corrupt humans who want to use him to their own ends.

The Pros: Appa’s Adventures and Loss and Regaining Self – Appa’s adventure is a pro, especially as we see the adventure slowly break him down. From the Kyoshi Warriors being his only relief until Guru Pathik is found at the Eastern Air Temple and gives him a letter for Aang. Besides this he faces a wild boar, Firebenders, Azula and the Trio and in the end is captured by Minister Fong. Appa’s story is tragic and it is no wonder he almost goes feral in the process.

Suki – Suki takes care of Appa and makes it her and the Kyoshi Warrior’s mission to protect him and bring him back to Aang. Sadly they aren’t able to do so as the Trio attacks and they are outmatched.

Guru Pathik – He is the philosopher of Avatar outside of Iroh and he helps Appa calm his mind as well as showing him where Aang is located. He is funny and calm and I wish we could have got this guy’s backstory as he is drawn to the Air Temple but doesn’t have any Bending abilities. What is his story?

Minister Long Feng – Uses a whistle to capture Appa leaving only Appa’s foot print which we saw Momo sleeping in last episode. The guy is brilliant.

  This was good for what it was as we see much more of the Earth Kingdom, see baby Appa with Aang and when Aang chose him and understand their connection a lot better. We also see our villains in action to a good degree too. I can’t help but feel more could have been done with this episode though and that some of the places he was captured at could have been cut down or expanded to include characters that matter to the plot.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 2 “Earth,” episode 15 – “The Tales of Ba Sing Se” – When Fictional Tragedies Meet Real World Ones

Tales of Ba Sing Se

       These shorts are really good and hit really close to home as Mako, the voice of Iroh died around this time. So not only are deaths being remembered and our characters experiencing moments of loneliness, but no doubt those who knew Mako personally were also experiencing something similar. He was a great actor and voice actor and in regards to “Avatar: The Last Airbender” was the voice of the best character on the show.

    I’ll be reviewing each of the stories individually and coming up with a score the episode as a whole after.

“The Tale of Toph and Katara” – Bonding Time

Written by Joan Estoesta and Lisa Wahlander

  The episode is Katara and Toph going to the spa and later taking on some bullies with bending and bonding over the experience. It is a fun short and we see that Toph is insecure in herself and that she puts on heirs of toughness because it is a defense mechanism…knowing that she doesn’t have to do that around Katara is a relief to her and they are friends afterwords.

Final Score: 8 / 10 (Needed exploration of Katara as a character).

“The Tale of Iroh” – Remembering Those Who are Lost and Living for Those Who Live

Written by Andrew Huebner

  This was a powerful episode and is the episode that ends with it being in honor of Mako who had died around this time. The story shows that Iroh is truly a member of the White Lotus and is at peace wherever he is in the world and wants to help those wherever he is. We see him help a child stop crying and a few other things around town too before he has the picnic to honor his dead son who had died in the Siege of Ba Sing Se. In this we see that guilt at not being able to help his son do the right thing is what motivates him. He wants to do good to others because he blames himself for his son’s death and not doing the right with the war.

Final Score: 10 / 10 (Best of the shorts)

“The Tale of Aang” – You Can Change Things

Written by Gary Scheppke

  This is an episode that shows Aang’s idealism and his role as the Avatar as we see him free the animals from the Zoo and make them a large area right outside the wall so they have space and the Zookeeper can make money again. It’s a fun adventure and we see that his desire to help animals is tied to him wanting to find Appa again.

Final Score: 7 / 10

“The Tale of Sokka” – A Play of Words

Written by Lauren MacMullan

  Like the Aang episode we see that Sokka stumbles into situations and is usually quite intelligent until he messes up. We see him being popular with the ladies as he out Haikus their teacher but he messes up when his ego takes over and we see how that is always his downfall. The moment he expresses himself as better than anyone, he is knocked down a peg.

Final Score: 7 / 10

“The Tale of Zuko” – Relief and the Shadow of the Past

Written by Katie Matilla

 This episode shows that Zuko is still trapped in the shadow of the Fire Nation. This is what keeps him from having a relationship with Jin, though we see that he is finally starting to live as he thanks Iroh for setting up the date and that he did have a lot of fun. In this we see that Zuko is aware of his issues he has within himself but doesn’t know how to face them or to not be the Prince. In this way he is bound to his role and family while Iroh is free from it. I really liked Jin as a character too.

Final Score: 9 / 10

“The Tale of Momo” – Alone

Written by Justin Ridge and Giancarlo Volpe

 This episode is about Momo’s search for Appa and how he is chased and nearly killed a few times in the city but how it’s kindness allows it to bond with other animals of the city. Sadly Mom is not able to find Appa and ends with Momo sleeping in Appa’s footprint.

Final Score: 8 / 10

  As a whole this was a great episode full of mini-stories that revealed to us information about our characters. Making the episode in honor of Mako was the right thing to do too. It is an episode that is reflective and could be argued as filler but what puts it apart from filler is that events happen to our characters that show us who they are define them. We see what what motivates our heroes and what they strive for within themselves and the world around them.

Final Score: 9 / 10. The episodes are all fun even though they vary in quality and as a whole they are well worth the watch. These are short stories that matter in “Avatar.”

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 2 “Earth,” Episode 14 – “City of Walls and Secrets” – City of Fear

Dai_Li_agents

   “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

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

Si_Wong_Desert

     “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

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 2 “Earth,” Episode 10 – “The Library” – Knowledge to Hurt

The_Library

     “The Library” was one of the episodes I still remember to this day. In this episode we see just how short sighted Sokka can be and also how deeply his understandable vendetta against the Fire Nation goes. All of what goes wrong this episode can be tied back to Sokka and his desire to get back at the Fire Nation for all they’ve done (and his fear for what will happen when Sozen’s Comet arrives).

    The episode was directed by Giancarlo Volpe and written by John O’Bryan.

    The story involves Team Avatar taking individual vacation breaks with Katara choosing the Library when it is mentioned by Professor Zei from Ba Sing Se University who is seeking it. Things unfold when they discover it and Sokka seeks a vulnerability of the Fire Nation as the Knowledge Spirit warns them against seeking any action that could be used to harm another. Outside Sand Benders kidnap Appa and Toph is unable to stop them.

The Pros: The Library – The Library is very cool! Fox Spirits as the bringers of knowledge with the Owl-Dragon Knowledge Spirit as it’s Guardian who doesn’t trust humans after Zhao stole knowledge of how to kill the Moon. It has a great design and I like how it was buried beneath the sand before being discovered.

Professor Zei – Zei is all about knowledge and even when he is about to buried beneath the sand he chooses to stay in the library showing for him knowledge was never means to an end. I really liked this character and could relate to him.

The Sandbenders – The Sandbenders have a great design and are a great minor threat. We see them first eye Appa and the group and later are the ones who follow them into the desert to capture Appa. Curious to see how they will be explored later beyond being traders and thieves.

Katara – Katara loves books we learn as she chose the Library for that reason and we see her most committed to that and not using the Library as a means to an end. She is the balance to Sokka who sees it only as a tool against the Fire Nation.

Toph – Toph is blind so can’t read any of the books (which she points out to the group when they ask her to come) and we get to see her humor at work as well as her commitment to her new friends as she tries to protect Appa and hold up the Library for as long as possible so Team Avatar can make their escape.

Sokka – Sokka is all about defeating the Fire Nation so much so that he often misses the point of places. They do need to find a way to fight the Fire Nation but he broke a deal with a very powerful spirit and showed humans could not be trusted. This is the consequence of how Sokka’s activeness and vendetta against the Fire Nation can sometimes lead to trouble.

The Knowledge Spirit – The Knowledge Spirit has an awesome design! It is a mixture of Owl and Dragon and is super threatening and distrusting as it witnessed what happened when he let Zhao in and one of his fellow spirits was killed in the process. He is a great character and I wish we’d have seen him again in ATLA.

Okay: Aang – Aang is just kind of there, he agrees with Sokka and doesn’t fight him on seeking knowledge to hurt and it costs him Appa and access to the Library so he feels the consequences of his actions but that is largely on Sokka, Aang was a small player in Sokka’s game.

   This was a good episode that is worth checking out. More could have been done with the theme as we don’t really see the dangerous knowledge that the library holds. I see that as a missed opportunity given the superweapons like the Drill that we will see later. Still, I recommend the episode for sure, a great Sokka episode.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 2 “Earth,” Episode 4 – “The Swamp” – What Was Lost and What Will Come

The Swamp

       “The Swamp” is a great episode and it is a place we will later return to in “The Legend of Korra.” It is a area connected to the rest of the world and also our characters showing where they are in their heads at this time in who they miss or are seeking. It’s really well done and has some great philosophy and some fascinating minor characters.

     The episode was directed by Giancarlo Volpe and written by Tim Hedrick.

     The story involves the swamp calling to Aang and in the process trapping and isolating all the members of Team Avatar with their fears. From here the story unfolds as Appa and Momo attempt to escape some hunters who make the swamp their home as well. Elsewhere Zuko and Iroh are beggers in a Earthbender town trying to lay low so that Azula and the Fire Nation doesn’t find them.

The Pros: The Swamp – The swamp is made up from the vines of a giant tree and has called others to it in the past. For example the Swamp Folk who make it their home are all Waterbenders. It is a place of unknown too and reveals peoples’ fears, desires and connections to themselves. Aang sees a laughing Toph who he has yet to meet, Katara sees her mother who is dead and Sokka sees Yue and from her that he failed to protect her. The power of the swamp is really well done as it gives all our characters their “Dagoba Moments” (Luke facing his father and himself at Dagoba in “Empire Strikes Back.”

The Swamp People – The swamp people are hunters and are great waterbenders who are comedic but are greater than their appearances as their leader protects the swamp and teaches Aang about how everything is connected. He’s a great character as is his family.

Sokka – Sokka is carrying his guilt with him over his inability to save Yue and we see his skepticism too as he doesn’t believe in anything supernatural about the swamp. He could be right too as the swamp is largely just revealing people’s fears or desires which are inside the person anyway.

Katara – When Katara is alone her desire to be with her mother is revealed and after the loss she feels again of realizing she’s gone we see her fight the Swamp Guardian and be the one to defeat it as she turns the water into saws of ice that cut through the vines revealing the man underneath. She is quiet in this but based off her reaction I’d say she has a lot of anger for the Fire Nation that she hasn’t got to fully express for the murder of her mother.

Aang – Aang wants to go to the swamp because it is calling and Bumi told him to listen to the Earth and that is how he will find the Earthbending Master but this leads to trouble and him almost losing Momo and Appa to hunters. It is only after they defeat the Swamp Guardian that he realizes the laughing girl could be the one he is seeking for the Earthbending Master. In this we see that he is very self involved currently as he doesn’t reach out to Katara or Sokka given the pain they just went through.

   This is a great character episode and I actually enjoyed the Swamp People. The mystery of a swamp with the fog and hidden things under water is a great metaphor for facing the self and we see that when Team Avatar, specifically Katara and Sokka have to face what they’ve lost. It’s sad and powerful, much like the truth of reality. So glad we return to this place with Korra later.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 15 – “Bato of the Water Tribe” – The Outsider

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        “Bato of the Water Tribe” is a great episode for Team Avatar. In this episode we get to see Aang’s selfishness and more humanization of Katara and especially Sokka, as well as how outside of everything Aang is, both as the Avatar and the Last Airbender. He has no people while this episode is all about the Southern Water Tribe.

      The episode was directed by Giancarlo Volpe and written by Ian Wilcox.

    The story involves Team Avatar meeting Bato of the Southern Water Tribe who was dropped off at an Abbey by Katara and Sokka’s father so he would recover. It is here that Katara and Sokka are given the chance to meet their father again when they hear a message is being sent where to meet him. It is with Bato they explore their heritage while Aang deals with being an outcast, at first stealing the message when it was delivered. Around this time Zuko hires a Bounty Hunter named June to help him capture the Avatar.

The Pros: Bato – Bato is a great mentor to Sokka and Katara in this episode. He tells them stories of their father and the adventures the two of them had together as well as helping them go through a coming of age ceremony called Ice Dodging. He also knows they are young and is forgiving of Aang when Aang takes the message but returns it later. He is an adventurous guy who cares deeply for his friend’s kids.

The Abbey – The nuns are pretty stubborn and strict but have more to them too. For example when June arrives with Iroh and Zuko they use the perfume they make to blind her Shirshu Nyla which leads to the final victory over Zuko, Iroh and June.

June – June doesn’t take crap from anyone and is tougher than all the men in the bar. She is great in how she doesn’t care about anything but money and Nyla and does a great job holding her own in the battle against Team Avatar, nearly defeating them (she captures Sokka and Katara). Before finally losing at the end of the episode.

Iroh – Iroh is both wise and horny. He makes the moves on June when she isn’t interested (creepy) but also when they pass through where the Fortuneteller is tells her he has no more mysteries but one he doesn’t want to know (death). He is calm throughout the whole of the events and sees it mostly as a great adventure.

Zuko – Zuko is driven this episode and his buying June to help them was a smart move. They probably would have won if they had troops. This is an obsession episode and Zuko makes stupid moves because of his obsession. For example, Firebending down a well when Aang jumps down it, which causes the pressure to explode which defeats Zuko in the end because of how it weakens him before Nyla’s paralyzing venom hits him when she is blinded.

Ryla versus Appa – Appa rocks! It takes a lot of venom to knock him out and he takes out Ryla and June a few times before he is finally defeated.

The Battle – The Battle between June, Zuko against Team Avatar is awesome! Every so often we see Iroh stealing some perfume or acting like a troll but a lot of it is flowing action and Team Avatar getting the Nuns involved in the fight which leads to Ryla’s defeat and the defeat of Zuko and June.

Katara – Katara is shown to be really connected to her people in this and goes through the Ice Dodging initiation ceremony with Sokka and Aang. She also leaves Aang after his stealing of the message even though she is conflicted at first. Family is extremely important to her, as is trust which Aang loses for a while this episode. He does return her necklace at the end and she sees him atone after that moment.

Sokka – Sokka has always wanted to be the warrior and to fight with his father against the Fire Nation. We see it this episode in his excitement of retracing his father’s footsteps on the beach and hearing the stories from Bato and in the past when he is in full warrior’s attire and pleading with his father to come with them. It is this devotion to his people that leads to him helping Aang again though, even after the betrayal. He knows that is where he is needed the most as Aang needs support and shouldn’t be alone.

Aang – Aang is shown to still very much be a child in this. He steals the message because he’s afraid of losing Sokka and Katara which leads to him losing them for a while anyway because of that betrayal of trust. He atones though and when he is made an honorary member of the Southern Water Tribe, he admits his guilt and wrong and erases the mark. Aang is the outsider and he feels it in this episode as Katara and Sokka are with a member of their tribe, while his tribe is all gone. This is what leads to his selfish action, his fear of being alone.

   This was an amazing episode. Whether it was June retracing the last few episodes on Rylah, Aang growing more, or Sokka and Katara getting to know their father and people better…it was an episode that had everything. My only issue with it would be the Abbey could have been explored better and I wish Bato could have talked to Aang one on one. We never got his thoughts on the Avatar, which was a shame.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 10 – “Jet” – Deconstructing the Antihero

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     “Jet,” is a great episode. It is an episode that shows us how war can scar people and turn the victims of villains into villains and how good intentions and the fight to stop wrongs can lead to wrongs being done. Jet and his Freedom Fighters are the ones who represent this story.

   “Jet” was directed by Dave Filoni and written by James Eagan.

      The story of Jet begins with Sokka wanting them to walk rather than fly Appa when he suspects Fire Nation troops are around. This eventually leads to them getting captured by Jet and his crew who call on them to help him get ride of the Fire Nation presence in the Valley. They trust him except for Sokka who thinks that Jet is no good and begins to see that Jet isn’t good when he beats an old man and when his plan for the Fire Nation village is revealed.

The Pros: The Freedom Fighters – Jet and his crew are pretty awesome. They are freedom fighters and mostly orphans which makes them desperate as they wholly depend on what they steal from the nearby Fire Nation Village for their livlihood. This has made them hard and a bit racist as we see them abuse an old man who is a member of that village just for being a member of the Fire Nation. They are complicated though given that they are a band of orphans. The group includes Smellerbee the blade expert who is almost like a second in command, Longshot the archer, Sneers the close combat fighter and Pipsqueak the giant. They all have distinct personalities and their interactions with Team Avatar and one another are great. They are fun and dangerous.

The Fire Nation Village – There are soldiers who are a threat to the members of the Earth Nation, but there are also civilians. This is something that means nothing to Jet but is important to Sokka. It is here we see Sokka has honor and Jet has none and that Sokka truly values life. It’s a great contrast and in the end Sokka saves the village because the village trusts him after the old man who he stood up for vouches for his character. It doesn’t solve the colonization going on, but some innocents don’t get killed.

Aang – Aang acts like a kid in this one and gets along with the others really well and we see how committed he is to non-violence when Jet is trying to stop him from stopping the dam from breaking. They are pretty evenly matched with Aang going full Airbending avoidance against Jet’s very digressive attacks. Aang forgives too afterword and when he thinks he failed the village and therefore failed as Avatar it is heartbreaking.

Katara – Katara is attracted to Jet at first as he saves their life and takes on a whole troop of Fire Nation soldiers. She resists Sokka’s warnings and trusts Aang until she sees firsthand how violent Jet is and freezes him to a tree in the process. Don’t betray Katara’s trust or you are screwed. She shows just how brutal she can be and it is awesome.

Sokka – This is a the Sokka episode where we learn his instincts are either really good or really bad. Really bad in that he walks them into a Fire Nation camp, really good in that he figures out Jet’s plan and saves the village. This is the one where we see that Sokka is the unspoken leader in this and part of the reason why he is one because he does listen to Katara and Aang.

Jet and the Deconstruction of the Antihero – So often Antiheroes are implied to be good nowadays. If you a kill a lot of people but they are from ______ group that is hated than it is justified. This is Jet’s philosophy because his parents were killed by the Fire Nation. He is “The Punisher” of Marvel comics and through him we see just how immoral characters like this really are. He is still complicated but he isn’t good. He’s a true antihero and reveals the flaws in the concept too when he is put side by side with the members of Team Avatar.

    This was a great episode and one I highly recommend for anyone who loves this show. Jet is a complicated character and he deconstructs the idealization of the antihero. This is something I didn’t notice the first time I watched this show years ago, but as a fiction writer really appreciate now. He never loses his humanity but his philosophy is shown to be immoral through the actions of our own flawed heroes of Aang, Katara and Sokka. This is one reason this show is so great.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10.