Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 3, Episode 1 – “Clone Cadets” – Clone Identity

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    “Clone Cadets” is a great episode! This is an episode where the characters we come to care about are the Clones and even some mercenaries too! In this the one Jedi (Shaak Ti) is the weakest character. The episode is full of tender moments and all the characters not only form identities beyond numbers but grow as characters.

    The episode was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Cameron Litvack.

     The story is about Domino Squad on Kamino and their quest to pass so they aren’t forced into being forced into labor on Kamino. From here their story unfold as their personalities clash and they slowly develop identities beyond the numbers they were born with.

The Pros: Training – The training sequence is really cool. They fight simulations with battle droids as the enemies where they have to take the tower. It’s done really well as the only way to win is with full cooperation of the team.

Kamino – The Kamino don’t care about the Clones and say as much to Shaak Ti, for them it is all business which shows just how devalued the clones are by all those around them, even their creators.

The Mercenaries – The mercenaries have very distinct personalities. Bric is rough but his challenges help make Domino the best squad while El-Les’s advocating for them gives them the chance to pass in the first place. He sees potential in them and is open about it versus Shaak Ti who is very guarded but can relate to them better. Bric looks down on the clones and doesn’t truly see them as people.

Shaak Ti – Shaak Ti is the wise teacher who reminds the squad that she can relate to them as she is a Jedi and their is no room for her as part of the order to be a true individual, just like the clones. She also views all life as sacred as a counterpoint to the Kamino’s disregard for life. She is still a Nationalist though and sees the Separatists as evil which they are not, they are a lot more complicated than Palpatine propaganda.

Domino Squad – Domino Squad has a great arc! They embrace the names given them, from Echo who repeats everything to Cutup who is the joker but good at adapting, to Hevy who is reckless but also courageous and Fives. All of them pull through the adversity and through the support of 99 who was a clone who was designed “wrong” find support in each other and with 99 and win the day.

99 – 99 is abused by all those around him but eventually finds a friend in Hevy and Domino Squad who embrace him as a brother since he is a clone like them who was the only one who believed in them at one point. He receives Hevy’s medal as well as a promise that Hevy will return showing that he finally has family.

The Message – Don’t let others define you, define yourself and remember those who face adversity just like you. This is the core message and what the clones teach us about ourselves.

  This is another episode that demonstrates just how powerful I hope this show can be. I actually care about the clones, when in Episode II and III they were just numbers. They were as personified as droids and simply weapons. In this we see the weapons are aware and have struggles of their and are so much more than what the Republic has chosen to make them. I can’t wait to learn more about them and their struggles.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008): Great Television Film, Should Not Have Got a Theatrical Release

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   “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is a really fun television movie that finishes up the Christophsis arc and introduces us to Ahsoka and the huts as players in the game of the Clone Wars. It gives us a lot of good world building but the writing and even the cinematography show that this should have only been released to television, not to theaters as it was.

    The film was directed by Dave Filoni, written by Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching and Scott Murphy and produced by George Lucas and Catherine Winder.

    The story begins with Jabba’s son being captured by the Separatists and Yoda ordering Obi-Wan and Anakin to find and rescue his son and deliver him to Jabba. This is also when Yoda sends Anakin his new apprentice Ahsoka. They must all work together to win the battle of Christophsis and to find and rescue Jabba’s son before the Separatists make a deal that will give them control of Jabba’s routes through the Outer Rim.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – Kevin Kiner did a great job on this soundtrack! The music was the best part of this film. It had a very “Battlestar Galactica” feel to it and during the action sequences especially it made the stakes feel high.

The Action – This is a good action movie. Lots fights to show how powerful each of the factions are in the Clone Wars and how powerful the individual Jedi or Sith are as well. This made for some wonderful fights, especially Dooku and Anakin and Obi-Wan and Ventress.

The Battle of Christophsis – The Christophsis arc is finally complete! Thanks to the action of Ahsoka and Anakin in shutting down the Separatist shield that was protecting their forces and Obi-Wan capturing the general we have a Republic victory! It takes a lot to get there though and many die on both sides. It isn’t glorified and the Republic troops arriving to occupy doesn’t exactly give hope either.

Count Dooku – Dooku is being played by Sidious as Sidious wins no matter what happens (Jabba working with the Republic is a win for him, Jabba working against them will lead to him getting more power). Dooku is being played in this though and we see him fail against his enemies and his blaming Ventress for in it for her initial failure. In this we see his cruelty, manipulation and why he is a Sith.

Ventress – Ventress puts up a good fight in this but is cornered in the end by Obi-Wan. This doesn’t stop her from fulfilling her duties though as she warns Dooku of Skywalker’s approach and manages to escape Obi-Wan to fight another day.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan is the clear headed one who has no problem taking a new apprentice. It is he who realizes that Ahsoka will be good for Anakin and will help Anakin to grow as Anakin has helped him to grow. We also see his arrogance too as he gloats to Ventress when he knows Ahsoka and Anakin have escaped the Monastery.

Anakin Skywalker – Anakin doesn’t want a padawan, but comes around when he sees how similar Ahsoka is to him and that gives him self awareness about how he is reckless and cocky. They have a great dynamic too and he does share his hatred of the Tatooine and the desert with her as has lost so much to the Hutts and remembers his life as a slave quite clearly. It is a great character moment and we see how Ahsoka is making him a better person.

Ahsoka – I really like Ahsoka! She’s young for a padawan but is powerful in the force. We see her save Anakin multiple times and show a kindness Anakin lacks. She cares for Jabba’s son at one point and we see her hold Anakin responsible for his recklessness as he does to her. It’s a great dynamic and they act a lot like a mixture of friends and siblings. I can’t wait to see how her character grows and changes from the Clone Wars.

Okay: The Minor Characters – Whether it was Cody or Rex, Yoda or Windu, Jabba’s Uncle or Padme…none of them felt fully fleshed out. They felt more like plot devices and not full characters in this. This is a shame as the main characters had some wonderful character moments.

Delivering Jabba’s Son – The delivery of Jabba’s son is okay, I liked the fight between Anakin and Dooku as they seemed more closely matched, but it dragged. Especially in regards to the droids against Ahsoka. Jabba was also far to easy to play.

The Cons: The Script – The script is corny and not nearly as solid and tight as it would if it was an episode or part of an arc made into a single film. At times it lags just to give us money shots of the landscape when that time could have been cut out or given us more character moments.

The Tone – The tone is all over the place. We get some really brutal deaths and Jabba even has dancing girls but we also have lots of jokes and humor that kids would clearly enjoy. This clash of tones kept it from being great.

It Going to Theatres – This film should not have gone to theaters and if I’d seen this in theaters I would not be as kind to it as I am now. It is better than the prequels in regards to it’s potrayal of Anakin and his relationship to others but it also is not quality enough to go to the theaters. Like “Spark of Rebellion” this should have been a tv movie as it just feels like a long episode. Because of the choice of how it was originally presented is going to be counted against it.

  This film should not have gone to theatres but it is still good as a tv film. We finally finish the Christophsis arc, get to see Dooku in action and see that the Hutts and Gangs are a 3rd faction in the war just as they are usually presented in the later eras as the X Factor in the war between the Empire and Rebellion. Ahsoka is a wonderful character too and I really like the character dynamic between her and Anakin. The final bit, the soundtrack is super memorable and is worth listening too, even if you have no plan to see the film.

Final Score: 8 / 10.

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars: Clone Wars” – Upcoming Reviews

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While I explore “The Avatar Universe” through my reviews of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “Legend of Korra” I am also going to take on reviewing “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars: Clone Wars.” This is part of my leadup to the release of “The Force Awakens” on Christmas and also curiosity as I’ve heard great things about “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and am willing to give it a chance after “Star Wars Rebels.”

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars: Clone Wars” were created by George Lucas as companion pieces to take place between “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith.” Dave Filoni oversaw “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” as supervising director while Genndy Tartakovsky was in charge of the 2D animated “Star Wars: Clone Wars.” Both took place on Cartoon Network and were connected to Lucasfilm animation.

The film that kicked off “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” was largely seen as a dud, and eventually I will get to reviewing it.

How I’m going to be reviewing these series is “Star Wars: Clone Wars” at the end even though it came first (2003-2005), because I have fond memories of the series…and following the IGN Chronology ( http://www.ign.com/articles/2014/03/18/star-wars-the-clone-wars-how-to-watch-in-the-right-order) of the timeline in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” before I give a final review of the series as a whole. Because of this there will not be season reviews, only reviews of arcs, characters and the series entirety.

I look forward to this adventure, both as a fan of the “Star Wars” EU in the videogames and for all the praise I have heard in regards to “The Clone Wars.” Here’s to seeing if it can live up to the hype.

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“Star Wars Rebels” Season 1 Retrospect – A Band of Outcasts Against the Empire

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     “Star Wars Rebels” is a great series. Such a great series in fact that it has inspired me to eventually review “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which was made by some of the same creators. What was it that made this series great? How would this series be defined? What made this series work were the characters, the themes and the writing and within that the fact that this is the only series besides “Firefly” that really captures the feel of a band of outcasts fighting against a force so much more powerful and overwhelming, all of which made this series work.

      The series was created by Lucasfilm and Lucasfilm Animation with Dave Filoni as Executive Producer and Supervising Director while also being joined by Simon Kinberg and Greg Weisman.

      The premise of the series is that a band of rebels fights against the Empire in the Outer Rim world of Lothal as Ezra Bridger learns he is force sensitive and must deal with his role as a force user with potential to become a Jedi as all of the crew of Ghost deals with the threats of the Empire and The Inquisitor.

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The Pros: The Soundtrack – Kevin Kiner does an amazing job adapting John Williams’s original score to fit the television series. The music is one of the strongest parts of the series as it creates tension and adds to the characters.

The Premise – The premise is wonderful as we explore the lives of one rebel cell and get to see what life is like for the Rebels in the Outer Rim and how complete Galactic control really is from the Empire.

The Characters – The characters are mostly all fantastic! Whether it is the Imperials, Rebels or even some minor characters, most of them get explored and it lends great power to the series since there is still room for all of them to grow, even though they have grown this season.

The Imperials – I really enjoyed the Imperial characters. Some of them weren’t completely bad and even the bad ones had moments of empathy or mercy and we were given a chance to sympathize with them even though they are the wrong side for obvious ethical reasons.

Agent Kallus – Kallus committed genocide against Zeb’s people and is a very hands on commander. We see him put himself out there on multiple occasions and be in the thick of battle. He is not underhanded and is very Mandalorian in how he does things. You can tell how much he loves battle and he does have respect for his troops.

Minister Tua – Tua is the one trying to put a nice face on what the Empire does and she does a good job at it as she isn’t outwardly cruel though she endorses the open cruelty that others do. She does have a conscience though and we see it when The Inquisitor executes Aresko and another Imperial Commander under orders of Tarkin. So much of what she does is truly ruled by fear even if true belief is there.

Commandant Aresko – I like Aresko, we see him train the recruits and he’s actually a kind guy who looks out for those under him. He may not always succeed but it certainly isn’t from lack of trying. For this reason I actually mourned this characters death.

The Inquisitor – Jason Isaacs is wonderful once more as a fantastic animated villain!  The Inquisitor is cold and calculating and does a good job at getting into Kanan’s head. He’s introduced as a force of nature and in defeat we see his humanity as he fears things worse than death that the Emperor or Vader would do to him for failing to stop Kanan and Ezra.

Grand Moff Tarkin – Tarkin is brutal and we see why he was put in charge of the Death Star as it is thanks to his fighting the rebels as a war and not a police excercise that leads to Kanan’s capture and forces the fledgling Rebel Alliance to reveal itself to save the Lothal Rebels. After his failure to stop them and the reveal of the Alliance he decides that Vader will be brought in to deal with this new Jedi and Rebel threat.

The Crew of Ghost – The crew of Ghost is a band of misfits and comparable to the crew of Serenity in the show “Firefly.” From the witty chemistry they have with one another and wounds they carry for being refugees and the last of their people or kind we see a rich humanity to them.

Zeb – Zeb is one of the last of his people the Lasat and is an intelligent guy who doesn’t put up with Ezra’s crap, though they do become quick friends when they are forced to work together. Like Sabine he is the primary muscle and the one who causes distractions though he is good at pulling his weight for whatever the mission needs. He has a lot of pain over all he has lost and deals with it by being rough around the edges and first and valuing the time he has alone. He still has to kill Kallus for being one of the primary ones responsible for the genocide against his people.

Sabine – Sabine is a Mandalore and ex-stormtrooper who expresses herself through her art. She does a bunch of different kinds of art but specializes in graffiti and protest art. She’s a great actor and is the most witty against opponents. She also has a lot of awareness to and saves a data disk from Ezra’s home so he has a picture of his family again. Her biggest issues are trust issues because of how she was betrayed by the Empire when she served them.

Hera – Hera is the mother of the group and has to make the tough decisions. We see this in her withholding information in case the Empire captures them and the chances she chooses to run or stay low so the entire Rebellion doesn’t get eliminated. She sees the big picture, where none of the other members of the crew really do. She also gets people and is the one who makes Ezra aware of others.

Kanan – Kanan is one of the last of the Jedi who was never trained to be a Master but is forced to become one. He is unsure of himself but when he chooses to fight for his crew and to raise Ezra we see a will of iron born as he withstands torture and sacrifices himself so the Lothal rebellion lives on. He doesn’t die and they rescue him of course, but it shows that he is no longer about just surviving and is not afraid of being known as a Jedi.

Ezra – Ezra goes from a selfish thief to someone who is willing to sacrifice himself to protect his new family. He has a lot of anger and fear towards the Empire and the loss of his parents by the Empire but has potential to forgive as we see him do just that to the family friend who abandoned him as a child. He invents his own lightsaber (that also functions as a gun) and gets his first scar in the final fight against The Inquisitor. He has a lot of force potential but is very much a Padawan in training in over his head, which makes him human and gives him a lot of room to grow.

Chopper – Chopper trolls everyone but comes through in the end. Whether it’s conning Lando to steal his fuel while Lando was conning them or saving the crew on multiple occasions, Chopper may grumble an groan the entire time…but he or it comes through.

Minor Character Shout Outs – The informant Fulcrum is Ashoka (Want to “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” to know fully who she is beyond Anikan’s apprentice), Lando makes an appearance and uses the crew to his own ends and R2-D2 and C-3PO are in the first episode and show the role they play in the Rebellion. Yoda also makes an appearance in “Path of the Jedi” as a voice guiding the Jedi, which I think is what was his primary role in hiding. For those who seek the force he is there to guide them.

The Themes – The themes are fantastic! From dealing with the consequences of Genocide as Zeb’s people were wiped out, what it means to teach when training was never finished (Kanan teaching Ezra) trust and sharing of information during war (The ruling among the Rebels that they should reveal themselves and come together and Fulcrum’s secrets and Hera and Kanan being the only ones who know individual missions) and that just because you are a Rebel or Imperial does not automatically make you good or evil (which fits into the theme of the “Gundam Universe”).

The Potential – There is so much potential in this series and I love it! From showing that the Rebels could do unjust things for just ends and getting the perspective of the Empire and the players within both factions and putting them through arcs. Bringing Vader in and saying next season will be “The Empire Strikes Back” of this series is just what I needed to hear and I hope they follow through with that promise. So much potential to be a great series beyond just the first season.

The Cons: Empire Needed a Major Victory – The Empire needed a victory for me to give this show a 10. The rebels were always on the run but the one time they are “defeated” is only because Kanan surrenders himself to buy them time. It’s something he chose to do, a Imperial Victory is one where the Rebels don’t have a choice and are forced to surrender or lose one of their own. This did not happen, hope it does next season though.

   I really enjoyed Season 1, it did so much right and makes me want to watch a series I was worried about due to how much of a failure “The Prequel Trilogy” was in relationships to “Star Wars.” Not many shows can do that. I hope it will stay good all the way through but I’m not counting on anything, and for what it’s worth this first season was amazing and I highly recommend it to any “Star Wars” fan. You will see characters who grow and change, be in a world that feels lived in and experience some powerful and enjoyable stories.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

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Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion (2014) – The Spirit of the “Original Trilogy of Star Wars” Captured Once More

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     It has been a long time since there has been a good story that came out of the Universe of “Star Wars” in the medium of film or television. I might be wrong about “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” that was also CGI animated but I do want to give the show a chance, largely because of folks from the “Avatar Universe” being involved as one of them (Dave Filoni) was with “Star Wars: Rebels.” For me the last great story that was in the medium of film or television for “Star Wars” was “Star Wars: Clone Wars” that was done entirely with instrumentals. Sadly “Episode 3” ruined some of the cool aspects of that episode, but I’ll get into that when I eventually review the prequels. For now this is going to be the introduction to “Star Wars: Rebels” and the fantastic potential this show has after this kickoff film…and as a fan of “Star Wars” this makes me glad. “Star Wars” has needed good stories again.

       The television film was directed by Steward Lee and Steven G. Lee and Simon Kinberg. It was created by Lucasfilm and Lucas Animation and aired on the Disney Channel.

       The story follows that of the orphan thief Ezra Bridger who is pulled into the beginning of the rebellion when the crew of Ghost is stealing blaster rifles on his homeworld Lothal which also had the intention of stealing. As the Empire deals with them they are forced to work together when they receive information about Wookie slaves that need rescuing and Ezra must choose what kind of person he wants to be and to deal with his force potential.

The Pros: The Animation – The animation for “Star Wars Rebels” is fantastic! The animation flows, is distinct but also has a very organic feel to it, it reminds me of the old toys from the “Original Star Wars Trilogy.”

The Soundtrack – The music is wonderful. It plays tribute to music we’ve heard before in “The Original Trilogy” but does interesting things with it and gives it a different feel that at times feels sadder than the “Original Trilogy.” This makes sense as things have to be bad enough for a people to rebel, and this is telling that story. Kevin Kiner was a good choice for this show.

Lothal – The world of Lothal has a great design. It is a mixture of Tatooine but has more development and also the outskirts where the refugees from the Empire attempt to live. It’s a diverse world and it makes sense that the Rebellion would start here and that our heroes would be connected to this world.

The Action – The action in this film was fantastic! The Empire feels big without being overwhelming since we’re in the Outer Rim but we still get some great speeder and ship chases and the moment Kanan uses his lightsaber and reveals himself as a Jedi is one of the soaring moments of the fight.

The Crew of Ghost – The crew has a great dynamic and each bring an interesting dynamic to the series. Each of them is an outcast with Kanan and Hera being the closest thing to parents for all of them. Also the ship has a great design.

Garazeb – Is a Lasat with an Australian accent who is the tough guy with a good heart. His design looks like the early Wookie designs and he is a great character. He’s rough around the edges but will always put himself out there for others and go against his rather strong survival instincts. He is against saving Ezra but does come back after Kanan’s vote. He’s aware of the other species like him that the Empire nearly wiped out so he has a lot of reasons to want them defeated.

Sabine – Sabine is a Mandalorian who specializes in explosives and takes a liking to Ezra. They’re both orphans and she is easily his equal. She like Garazeb has a stronger survival instinct and after the trap votes against going back for Ezra. She is also the first to embrace Ezra though.

Hera – Hera is the mother of them all in a manner of speaking. She is a Twi’lek and in a relationship with Kanan (or at least feels like she is). She has the coolest head and helps Ezra to grow up. Ghost belongs to her.

Kanan – Kanan is the leader and one of the few surviving Jedi. He is dealing with the danger of Ezra being selfish and a danger to them but also his force potential. He offers to train him if the lightsaber Ezra stole from him is brought back. He’s shown to be very honorable and reveals himself as a Jedi in order to save everyone and forgiving since he gives Ezra a lot of chances.

The Message – The message is that there are things worth fighting for and how important it is to remember those who have nothing (the refugees) and to do something and stand against injustice. It is presented really well as we see Ezra go from the most selfish character to someone trying to be a good person.

Okay: Agent Kallus – Kallus is like a lite Admiral Zhao at the moment. Threatening but just not powerful enough. That may change once we see him get some victories beyond his brief capture of Ezra.

Chopper – Is a Astromech that is pretty rough and tough. I can’t really define it’s personality fully yet. I like the design though.

The Cons: The Wookies – The Wookie animations looked pretty derpy and were hard to really enjoy for that reason. The fur didn’t look like fur, it just looked like it was pasted on. Also the baby Wookie did not look cute it just looked creepy.

  I’m going to review this series. Not yet, but this television film sold me on it. “The Spark of Rebellion” was able to express motivations, lay down stakes (The Jedi Hunting Inquistor appears at the end) and we see that the Rebellion is just that, a rebel cause that is outmatched and outgunned by a far numerous and superior force. This makes it compelling and gives us a chance to see the complexity of the Rebels and the Empire.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 20 – “The Siege of the North Part 2” – Imbalance and Sacrifice

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   I really liked the Finale of Book 1, “Water.” The Finale episode to be precise as the questions surrounding the invisible Northern Water Tribe politics were pushed to the side and the Spirit World was brought to the forefront and we got to see the loyalties of all our characters displayed, and where those loyalties came together. We also get Kaiju Aang when we see that you shouldn’t underestimate the power of a pissed of Spirit Fish.

    “The Siege of the North Part 2” was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Aaron Ehasz.

      The story picks up where we left off with Zuko running off with Aang’s body which leads to Team Avatar (including Yue) going to search for where Zuko took him. At the same time Zhao attacks and talks about his plan to kill the Moon to end the threat of Waterbending for good, and to fulfill his own pride….as all this is going on and the Siege continues Aang journey’s into the Spirit World where he meets Roku who tells him he must seek out Koh who is older than the Spirit and Ocean and will know how to find them.

The Pros:

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Koh – Koh is one of my favorite characters in the Avatar Universe. Koh doesn’t care about anything but stealing faces and no doubt the power that comes with it, but Koh has rules. If you show no emotion, Koh can’t steal your face. Koh tries to frighten Aang and tells about how a past Avatar tried to kill him because Koh stole the face of his girlfriend but Aang doesn’t flinch so Koh describes how the Spirits took the form of Fish swimming in the form of Yin and Yang. After Aang leaves he ominously promises that they will meet again. Koh has a great design, looking like a centipede and constantly changing faces of all the faces that have been stolen. I had high hopes for Koh appearing and playing a major role in Korra, which I’ll go into when I do my “How I would have done “Legend of Korra” if I’d been the showrunner.”

The Spirit World – We see a Baboon spirit meditating and Roku’s spirit tells Aang to seek Koh for answers. The area is like a giant forest and the dark tree where Koh is looks very dark and threatening. The Spirit World is really well done, it is easy to get lost and the Spirits are like animals but not completely.

Admiral Zhao – Zhao found a library long ago where he learned that the Ocean and Moon spirits had physical bodies and could be destroyed, it was this reason that he knew victory was possible over the Northern Water Tribe and he nearly succeeds too. If he had killed the Ocean Spirit as well Aang could not have been possessed by it, but before that he is victorious for a while. He also loses to Zuko again showing that in the end his pride and hubris are what defeats him as the Ocean Spirit pulls him into the Spirit World for what he did to the Moon.

Zuko – Zuko finds some level of balance at the end. The story ends with him being tired after Katara soundly defeats him and they rescue Aang. Aang later rescues Zuko so he doesn’t freeze and after Zuko defeats Zhao again he leaves with Iroh, no longer obsessed with the Avatar and only feeling tired after how battered and abused he has become and seeing Zhao’s life as a warning sign of what he could become.

Iroh – Iroh has crossed into the Spirit World we learn in this episode, which says a lot about Iroh’s character. This is a man who has so much balance he can pass into a world that is extremes and chaos where your worst enemy is yourself or spirits far more ancient than the Ocean and Moon. Iroh also tries to stop Zhao after Zhao kills the Moon following up on his word of whatever Zhao did to the Spirits, he would do to him much worse. We also see him at peace knowing Zuko, at least for now will not be consumed.

Minor Character Moments – Chief Amook tells Sokka of his dream and how he saw this day coming and how much he misses his daughter, even though he is proud of her. Pakku’s moments where he makes Katara a Master is also a great moment too, worthy of comment.

The Siege of the North – The Siege of the North is revealed in all it’s glory this episode. We see Fire Nation tanks, Master Pakku going full Master with a tornado of water around him, we see legions of troops breaking through the Ice Walls and with the rise of the Moon the Fire Nation fought back, until the Moon is destroyed and the Fire Nation rises again…until Kaiju Aang who is possessed by the angry Ocean Spirit annihilates them all. It’s a powerful battle and so much happens.

Team Avatar – We see Team Avatar be pretty active in this. From Sokka active on the battlfield, to his sorrow at his good-bye to Yue and the moment of hope where Sokka, Aang, Momo and Katara pose looking at the Moon after Zhao is defeated. Pakku says that Katara is now a Waterbending Master now and that she will be the one to train Aang while Sokka has truly come into his own as the leader of the group.

The Tragedy of Princess Yue – Princess Yue saves her people, but ceases to be human in the process. In doing so she loses the man she loves for an event that was going to happen if Chief Amook’s dream is to be believed. This is her tragedy that in trying to find a way to break destiny, it was taken from her. She had no choice because no else had been touched by the Moon and could give the Moon life again. The Spirits aren’t very good at contingency plans. Her people live, Zhao’s defeated, but a young girl loses the life she could have lived and the man she loved (Sokka).

Fire Lord’s Command – The last scene we see related to the Fire Nation is the Fire Lord Ozai telling his daughter Azula that Iroh is a traitor and that Zuko has failed in his task leaving the unspoken task up to her. It has so much threat behind it and is a great set up of things to come.

   The theme of this episode is how imbalance consumes (Zhao loses everything in the end and is condemned to the Spirit World in the process as well as Zuko’s constant loss everytime he gets Aang) the other theme of sacrifice is strong too. It is Yue’s sacrifice that really saves the day as it establishes balance again and her people can protect themselves once more from threats like the Fire Nation. It’s great and the theme of balance that is so strong in this Universe really comes through, as well as the sign of the battle not being over yet with the Fire Lord’s ominous order.

Final Score: 10 / 10. Perfect episode.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 17 – “The Northern Air Temple” – Safeguarding The Past and the People

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      This episode covers some of the issues of cultural appropriation and destruction that “The Promise” (one of the “Avatar: The Last Airbender” comics covers). I’d say this episode does a good job of it too and that in this episode you really feel the loss of Aang’s people as he walks through the changed Air Temple. This is a sad and powerful episode as it is a story of the Aang and of the Refugees who have made the Northern Air Temple their home.

      “The Northern Air Temple” was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Elizabeth Welch Ehasz.

     The story involves Team Avatar stopping at the Northern Air Temple after Aang hears rumors about Airwalkers being alive and wants to see for himself. It turns out an inventor and his group or refugees have taken refuge there after their homes were destroyed by the Fire Nation. Their settling has lead to the destruction of much of the Temple which angers Aang and things get worse when he discovers that the Inventor is also a weapons maker for the Fire Nation. From here the story unfolds.

The Pros: The Inventor – The inventor is a compelling character and Rene Auberjonois does a good job voicing this character as his character is complex, unlike the stereotype he played in “The Divide.” His care for his son is what leads to him revitalizing the Temple as a workshop where his people can fly now and he only sold weapons to the Fire Nation so his people would not be destroyed. This doesn’t stop him from standing up and fighting though or from forming a deep friendship with Sokka as their planning minds come up with the plan that defeats the Fire Nation forces that seek to destroy them and the temple.

Teo – Teo is the Inventor’s paraplegic son and he’s a great guy. Aang recognizes he has the “Spirit” of an Airbender and even makes him an honorary one when they go to the room that only Airbenders are supposed to be able to open. The guy is great and is a funloving kid who stands by his friends when the Fire Nation threatens them all and is the main part of the air force along with Aang.

The Fire Nation Army – There is a great battle in this! The Fire Nation has tanks that benders fire fire from and that can correct themselves when they’re turned over. They are only stopped by Katara’s Waterbending in the end and the Slimebombs from the War Balloon.

Sokka – Sokka works with the Inventor to get the War Balloon working that destroys the Fire Nation forces attacking the Temple. We seeing Planner Sokka in this episode and his dynamic with the Inventor is a lot of fun. He is a good strategist.

Katara – Katara is mostly support in this episode but we see her empathizing with both the refugees and Aang showing just how important both sides of this story are. She is our eyes in this episode and reminds us to remember the dead while caring for the living. She also destroys one of the Fire Nation Tanks in some pretty badass Waterbending.

Aang – Aang is fantastic in this episode! We hear how he used to play games at this Temple and had friends here before everyone died and he even makes friends with Teo, who reminds him of his Airbending friends of the past. He also makes the Inventor accountable and kicks out the Fire Nation who are using it as a base to build weapons. He is the moral core of his episode.

The Message – The message is that destruction of cultural artifacts is bad (Aang watches as the Northern Air Temple he once knew is completely changed by the Inventor and later how it’s being used to build weapons for the people who destroyed his people) but also that the dilemma of the Refugees must not be forgotten. Aang wants them to stay after the battle and realizes that he can help them remember his people while still focusing on the living so that Airbender Culture will not fully die. We also see some great cultural open mindedness when Aang takes in Teo as a honorary member of his tribe and recognizes his “Spirit” that was in the Airbender people.

   This episode was powerful, had stakes and dealt with important issues like safeguarding memories of the past, remembering the dead and taking care of the refugees. We see Aang and Team Avatar do all those things and even help fight off a Fire Nation assault. It’s an empowering episode that shows even in horrible circumstances, good can still be found and lived. Desperation does not always lead people to do bad, people can and do have a choice.

Final Score: 10 / 10. One of my favorites for sure after this.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 14 – “The Fortuneteller” – A Matter of Attraction

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       “The Fortuneteller” is an episode that the entire first 2 seasons of “Legend of Korra” could have taken a lesson from. This episode is romance and relationships done right as we see so many characters dealing with their attraction to others, also “Bad Advice Sokka” makes an appearance too. It’s also a message episode, and one I appreciate.

        The episode was directed by Dave Filoni and written by John O’Bryan and Aaron Ehasz.

      The premise involves Team Avatar saving a man from a wild animal but him believing he was safe anyways because the town’s Fortuneteller Aunt Wu had predicted it. This leads Team Avatar on a detour to the town where the Fortuneteller’s student Meng is attracted Aang, while Aang deals with his attraction towards Katara (he makes her a necklace at the beginning of the episode). When the nearby volcano is about to explode, going against Aunt Wu’s predictions, it is up to Team Avatar to save the day.

The Pros: Meng – She is a character who is very flawed and young (she stalks Aang) but also is honest and has a good heart. She deals with Aang telling her the truth of him not being interested in her in that way and gives him the book they need to shape the clouds into the warnings of destruction so that the town will be forced to action before they are destroyed. She is stubborn and strong and an awesome minor character.

Aunt Wu – Aunt Wu isn’t perfect and most likely can’t tell the future, though she does have some awareness in reading people and situations and we do see a huge event occur in that she predicts the finale of the series (Aang’s finale battle) without knowing he is the Avatar. So she is perceptive in some ways. She also thanks them for saving the village and changing the clouds.

Katara – Katara is shown to be pretty naive in this episode. She wants Aunt Wu to tell her everything, but she isn’t naive enough as to not listen to reason…for example when Sokka and Aang tell her about the lava they’ve seen in the volcano and the knowledge it will blow, she acts and is part of the act that convinces Aunt Wu to follow their plan to protect the village. This is also the first episode we see where she notices Aang when Sokka comments he is a really powerful Bender.

Sokka – Sokka is the skeptic this episode and honestly the one who is the most right. It sucks that he is presented in a negative light until the volcano moment. It does do a good job of showing of how some people will believe anything regardless of the evidence. I really liked Sokka in this episode, it was an unexpected part of his character. Though he gives out some really bad relationship advice, “Be aloof, girls like someone who doesn’t care.” Wow, really Sokka? “Bad Advice Sokka” in a nutshell. The guy who has never been in a relationship, doling out relationship advice to Aang.

Aang – Aang is shown to be powerful in this and to be attracted to Katara. We see his power when he stops the lava with his breath when the trench plan that Sokka comes up with isn’t enough to stop the lava…and we see him speak honestly to Meng when she says she’s attracted to him. It’s a great moment and we see at the end that he is willing to go with the flow with Katara even though his feelings are unvoiced. This relationship dynamic is wonderful and felt much more believable than the Bolin, Mako, Katara love triangle.

Okay/Cons: Message Episode – For me in regards to storytelling the story should take importance over the message and this one the message felt like it was the most important thing. I agree with the message in regards to skepticism when dealing with the unknown but even though I agree with it, we’d seen nothing to show this as a character trait in Sokka prior.

   This is an episode that is worth seeing, even though it is kind of filler. We get to see that Aang is attracted to Katara, Katara’s desire for knowing in her search for the future and Sokka as the planner. These are all things I really liked in this episode, even if the message was sometimes like a hammer on the script.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 13 – “The Blue Spirit” – The Price of the Avatar

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       “The Blue Spirit” is a great Aang and Zuko episode, as well as a great Admiral Zhao episode as we see how far he’s willing to go to capture the Avatar and that his plan in dealing with the Avatar, is actually pretty smart. Suffice to say, I really enjoyed this episode.

     “The Blue Spirit” was directed by Dave Filoni and written by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino.

     The premise of the episode begins with Katara and Sokka sick from the storm that was in the last episode. This leads to Aang seeking out a medicine woman on a cliff. Around this same time Zhao has just taken control of the best Archers in the Fire Nation known as the Yuyan Archers who capture Aang.

The Pros: The Yuyan Archers – These guys are amazing! They were paint over part of their face for cover and are talented enough that they capture Aang without harming him. They are truly the best and I can see why Zhao took them away from Colonel Shinu. They really show that he will go to any lengths to achieve his ends and is smart about it.

Admiral Zhao – Zhao captures Aang in this and gives the villain speech where he promises to torture Aang to the point of near death, but won’t kill him since if he dies it just means another Avatar will be born. Zhao is prideful but has the long term aims of the Fire Nation in mind, which makes him a great opponent. In the end he only loses because the Blue Spirit threatens to kill Aang which helps them escape.

The Blue Spirit/Zuko – The Blue Spirit is Zuko’s way of saving face and stealing the Avatar from Zhao when he learns about the Avatar’s capture and after one of Zhao’s ships tries to hold him for any information he has on the Avatar. He is driven by revenge and the need to prove himself and his alias of the Blue Spirit is really cool. In the end Aang saves him and when Aang mentions all those he has lost we see how guilty Zuko feels about his mission since if he is victorious it will mean the end of the Airbenders and he will have been the one responsible. Zuko is good but conflicted. The final scene with him is his turning away from the emblem of the Fire Nation in shame.

Aang – Aang is driven in this and we see just how good he is and his courage too when he blows down Zhao after Zhao threatens him with near death. We also see Aang’s mercy when he saves Zuko even after the discovery that Zuko was the Blue Spirit after the Blue Spirit had threatened to kill him. Instead of anger or neutralizing Zuko he suggests friendship. This genuine and good nature is part of what makes Aang so compelling. He isn’t perfect, but he is good.

Okay: The Medicine Woman – She is crazy and that’s about it. She suggests frozen frogs to save Katara and Sokka that they are supposed to suck. I wanted to like her but she was just too out there and had a bit to self awareness that she was supposed to be funny. She wasn’t bad at least.

    This is an important episode. It is this episode where Zuko truly realizes the crime of what he’s doing. He wants to capture and subject to possible murder and torture an innocent child. He realizes this and also what his people have done. There is so much awareness that we are shown rather than told and it is beautiful. This episode is another example of what makes this show so great.

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.