Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 2 “Earth,” Episode 8 – “The Chase” – Internal Fighting and Coming Together

The Chase

     “The Chase” is an episode that when it works it is amazing, but when it has problems, it is really obvious. The episode gives us foreshadowing as well as character development and we get to see just how much of a threat Azula and her Trio really are. Suffice to say I enjoyed this episode, though I wouldn’t call it a favorite. “Zuko Alone” was a far superior episode.

     The episode was directed by Giancarlo Volpe and written by Joshua Hamilton.

    The story involves Team Avatar running from Trio as they are being tracked from Appa’s fur being shed from the spring. Because the Trio is always on their tale they are unable to get any sleep and begin clashing and fighting among themselves, leading to Toph leaving as the Trio closes in.

The Pros: The Trio – The Trio are amazing in this! We see them drive a metal tank, giant lizards and Ty Lee easily takes out Sokka while Mai neutralizes Katara’s Waterbending. Azula also nearly beats Aang and it’s only when she’s taking on the current and future members of Team Avatar that she runs but not before injuring Iroh.

Zuko – Zuko is lost and conflicted and we see him flailing still to live by the old honor of before as he tries once again to capture Aang so his sister Azula won’t get the glory and so that he can redeem himself. Given Azula is trying to kill him too he eventually joins Team Avatar in the fight against her, especially when he watches Iroh fighting with Team Avatar. In the end he is broken though as Azula injures Iroh and he rejects Team Avatar’s help to heal him.

Iroh – Iroh counsels Toph on appreciating the love other’s show you, and she in turn tells him he should tell his nephew the same thing. It’s a great moment and he laughs when Toph mentions that “Isn’t he a bit old to travel alone?” When he says isn’t she too young to be alone. They have a great conversation and his coming together to rescue Zuko from Azula at the end is powerful, made all the more so when Azula lands a direct hit on his chest, leaving him injured.

Toph – Toph is the loner and does her own thing for most of this episode, we see that she sees Team Avatar like her family and she is afraid to be a part of them or open with them because she doesn’t want to get hurt again or rejected. It is Iroh who is able to bring her around though and mentions that some people help because they want too, not because of the person you are. It’s for them, not for you. Which was just what she needed to hear as she joins them for the battle against Azula.

Aang – Aang has his hero moment when he leaves a fur trail that Azula follows and they have a standoff in the village. At one point he is fighting both Azula and Zuko (a precursor of things to come) and it is only through all the elements working together (Zuko and Iroh, Katara, Toph and Aang) that the evil within the Fire Nation (Azula) is defeated, but loss still occurs as she injures Iroh. Aang being aware of others is huge in this as even though Zuko had been trying to kill him, he still won’t turn on him. This is a great analogy for the overall arc of the series as people will be lost and injured from the war and it will take all the Elements coming together to defeat Ozai and Azula.

The Message – Tell people you appreciate them and care about them, because they can’t read your mind and all of us have our insecurities. I really liked the message this episode especially through the perspectives of Toph and Zuko.

Okay: Katara and Sokka – These two are just kind of there. Sokka is there to make jokes based on how tired he is and Katara is there trying to get Toph to help out. She never changes from this though and I found myself more sympathetic to Toph as Katara could get pretty passive aggressive and it was only when she was super tired that she actually addressed Toph not being a part of the team directly.

    I really enjoyed the foreshadowing this episode, couldn’t stand the infighting as it made Katara and Sokka seem much younger than they actually were..and it was a repeat of past fights almost in some ways too. For this reason I wish more focus had been on Iroh and Zuko and that Toph had left earlier to figure things out. The first part of the episode was hard to watch at times because the infighting among Team Avatar was written so terribly. Still, great final battle and you can’t go wrong with Iroh.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 2, Episodes 4-8 – “The Geonosian Arc” – Senate Spies, Superweapons and the Masterful Geonosians

The Geonosian Arc

     “The Genosian Arc” is a pretty amazing one! We get to see war with consequences, have have complex villains, fascinating villains, flawed heroes and stories that make sense and that allow things to change. This episode also establishes how powerful the Geonosians are. Suffice to say, there was a lot to like about these five episodes.

      “Senate Spy” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Melinda Hsu, Drew Z. Greenberg and Brian Larsen. “”Landing at Point Rain” was directed by Brian Kalin O’Connell and written by Brian Larsen and Drew Z. Greenberg. “Weapons Factory” was directed by Giancarlo Volpe and written by Brian Larsen and Drew Z. Greenberg. “Legacy of Terror” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Eoghan Mahony, Drew Z. Greenberg and Brian Larsen and “Brain Invaders” was directed by Steward Lee and written by Andrew Kreisberg, Brian Larsen and Drew Z. Greenberg.

      The story begins with Padme being asked to go undercover to investigate a former lover who might be a Separatist spy. From here things unfold as it turns out he and Senator Dod are working with Poggle the Lesser to create a secret weapons factory on Geonosis. This leads to the invasion and Second Battle for Geonosis which echoes far beyond the battle itself as secrets of the Geonosians are revealed.

Cato_foundry_holo

The Pros: The Story – The story is fantastic. We get to learn so much about Geonosis and the people of Geonosis, we get to see that Padme’s former lover does have a heart and isn’t a terrible person, as well as seeing the flaws in Anakin, Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, Luminara and Barriss. There are hints of terrible things to come too when some Clone Troopers are taken over by mind worms from Geonosis.

The Action – The action has consequences, Obi-Wan’s entire team is wiped out, leaving him alone to work with Anakin and Ki-Adi-Mundi. We get open great battles with Super Tanks taking out the Republic forces until they are destroyed on the bridge and we see the Geonosians always fighting until the end. Their ability to fly and undead ones controlled by their Queen as well as Republic troops controlled by the Queen reek havoc on multiple occasions as the arc unfolds. The planet might be finally beat, but the Queen is implied to still be alive, and we know Poggle escapes as he is alive when Episode III comes around.

“The Senate Spy” – I really enjoyed this episode so am putting it as a pro as it adds so much to the overall narrative and explores the romance of Anakin and Padme and made it believable. Of course Padme had lovers before Anakin and obviously that makes Anakin jealous since he is now secretly married to her. We see this all unfold and it is from Padme’s actions that the Republic is able to mount their second assault on Geonosis in order to destroy the base. My only issue is Anakin was way too jealous at times, though this does show how close he is the dark side, which is a theme of this arc. Score would be 9.5.

“Legacy of Terror” – In “Legacy of Terror” we learn that the Geonosians have a Queen and she is terrifying as she births Mind Worms that are able to take control of the dead and the living. We don’t know if she is destroyed when her temple is destroyed, but given how extensive the catacombs of the world are she and her legacy will live on. “Brain Invaders” exists because she is most likely alive still and still causing havoc beneath the rubble. This was a good horror episode as Clone Troopers are pulled into the darkness or killed by undead Genosians. We also see that Obi-Wan’s detachment is a con when he almost lets Luminara get brain wormed to see what it does. He also tries to negotiate with an open threat showing that diplomacy is not always the way. 10.

“Brain Invaders” – “Brain Invaders” shows us the dilemma of survival and what to do when your own people turn against you, whether against your will or no. Ahsoka has to debate killing a friend and we see that even when defeated the Geonosians are one of the greatest members of the Separatists and the influence of the Queen expands from beyond Geonosis. This episode was fast and smart and there is something a Clone says where he expresses their end purpose of killing Jedi. 9.5

The Characters – The characters are amazing in this arc! Whether they are Republic or Separatist, no one is unexplored and we get to fully understand the stakes the flaws of the characters because of it.

Senator Dod – This Neimoidian is pretty smart as he nearly removes Padme as a threat and makes Senator Clovis question his love of Padme when he mentions the obvious of her being a spy. He is ruthless too as he either captures or kills Clovis for failing, even if he did provide funding and means for the base on Geonosis. The Neimoidians tend to make great villains.

Senator Clovis – We never get why he joined the Separatists, but we see in the end that he truly loves Padme as he risks everything to save and all he gets to it is a possible firing squad. He is a flawed antagonist and I wish we’d gotten more time to know his motivations for his loyalty to the Separatists better, beyond money.

Padme – Padme is awesome in “Senate Spy.” She doesn’t put up with Anakin being controlling and treats Clovis as a friend and sees him as such until his betrayal, even though she is a spy. She is instrumental in the war and her loyalty to Anakin and standing up for herself make her a great character.

Poggle the Lesser – Poggle manages to survive through the fall of his world and we see that the Weapons Factory was his plan to a major degree as it was on his world. We also see how he serves the Queen and though he represents their world and is high up within his society, even he has a Master. He is not affected by Jedi Mind control and it is only after he is tortured that he gives up what he knows about the Mind Worms. I really like this antagonist. His people are pretty awesome.

Barriss – Barriss  is Luminara’s apprentice and we see her mentor Ahsoka on a few occasions when Ahsoka isn’t saving her. She is a great character and we see how calm she is and at peace with her Master’s detachment from her possible death. Ahsoka rubs off on her too and we see her become more active because of her time Ahsoka.

Luminara – Luminara is shown to be pretty aggressive and willing to go to great lengths to end the Battle of Geonosis. This leads to her getting caught when she is searching for Poggle the Lesser. In this way she does have a fair amount of Anakin’s personality type as a part of her. She is very much a Jedi Master though and is at peace with losing others and letting go of them, which she councils Anakin on when they are searching for their apprentices.

Queen Karina – Queen Karina is an ancient Geonosian and their Queen. She wants control over everything and her own people fear her, for good reason. She has a zombie army and doesn’t put up with threats from anyone.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan had a few overly analytical moments this episode. When Luminara is caught he wants to capture a live worm and understand how to fight them better, he also didn’t negotiate very well as he asks the Queen to surrender and submit to the Republic. He is most like Ki-Adi-Mundi and has a high level of detachment, both for better and worse as his wanting to talk to the Queen and study the worm lead to Luminara almost being made a slave wen they had no way to destroy the worms at the time.

Ahsoka Tano – Ahsoka gets some great inspiration this episode. She stands up to Anakin not letting her do her job and she has a competition with him on destroying enemies showing her disconnect for life and love of battle that Anakin has. She also learns patience from Barriss and teaches Barriss hope when they are trapped and she finds a way for Anakin to find him. She also learns that war offers no good choices when Barriss pleaded to be killed to no longer be a threat. She is left to consider the choices that may happen and we see how much she grew this episode.

Anakin Skywalker – This episode is about how the war is pushing Anakin to the dark side. From his jealousy of Senator Clovis, his pride when he interrupts Ahsoka, to his torture of Poggle and his willingness to go to any lengths to save Ahsoka to the point that it blinds him to the consequence of battle and war around him. He is a great soldier and friend but not a good Jedi. This makes him complicated and very much a shade of grey and sympathetic too.

Anger and the Dark Side – We see Anakin torture Poggle the Lesser for information on the Mind Worms and from it get what he needs. When he is asked how he got the information he dismisses it. We see part of it when Anakin force chokes him and the “Imperial March” plays showing that Anakin’s desperation to save his apprentice and men is pulling him closer to the Dark Side.

Ends Justify the Means – One of the major themes of this arc is ends justifying the means. We see this when Anakin tells Ahsoka that if she had listened to Barriss and killed her when she was being controlled by the Brain Worms that might have been the right thing. In the end the Jedi’s goal is to save as many people as possible, regardless of the cost.

    There is so much to love about this arc that I can’t help but recommend it all.  Even “Landing at Point Rain” and “Weapons Factory” are good as episodes that show Ahsoka and Barriss making a good team and Luminara and Anakin. You also see how much it costs to get to this victory through these episodes and they are needed to really appreciate the whole. You see so many die, Obi-Wan injured, Ahsoka and Barriss nearly dying crushed beneath rubble as their sacrifice destroys the base and so much else. This entire arc is amazing and the glimpses of Anakin’s dark side and what the cost of war is in battle cannot be underestimated. Definitely a favorite story in this show.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

Epguide206

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 1, Episodes 16-17 – “Blue Shadow Virus Arc” – Mad Scientist and Mysteries

Blue_Shadow_Virus

     The “Blue Shadow Virus arc” is okay. It would’ve have been stronger as a mystery or containment story but when the two are together they don’t work as well as they could have. The villain is also a cartoonish exaggeration and the mystery plot relies on far too many sci. fi. mystery tropes. Still, it was okay.

     The episodes were directed by Giancarlo Volpe and Jesse Yeh and written by Craig Titley and Brian Larsen.

     The story involves a plot to destroy all organic life with the Blue Shadow Virus by the mad scientist Dr. Nuvo Vindi. His plot is foiled though when Padme and Jar Jar discover his base along with Obi-Wan and Anakin. The virus is released though and it is up to Anakin and Obi-Wan to find a cure to save Ahsoka, Padme, Jar Jar and their troops in Nuvo’s base by traveling to a mysterious world from which no one has returned.

The Pros: The Premise – Bio-warfare would have been a great thing to explore, same with a mysterious planet that has the cure to whatever the issue is with the plot. These ideas work but don’t work all that well together and could have been done better.

Okay: Anakin and Obi-Wan – These two are contrasts. Anakin will go to any lengths to save Padme and Jar Jar while Obi-Wan knows they need to go in with a clear head and stay true to the code. Both have points but this could have been done much better.

Ahsoka – Ahsoka protects Padme and Jar Jar and does a good job fighting the droids, my only issue is she felt underused still. Reason I’m not putting her as a pro.

Padme and Jar Jar – Padme and Jar Jar investigate and risk a lot to try and protect their world. We see that they are still very much connected to Naboo, but don’t learn much else about their characters minus Padme’s blatant request for Obi-Wan and Anakin so she and Anakin would have time together.

Dr. Nuvo Vindi – He’s fun but a bit too over the top. If he hadn’t been working for the Separatists and had something against Naboo his secret base their would have made sense. It didn’t though so all he had going for him was his crazy personality.

The Cons: The Mystery Planet – It was a Separatist defense system that was causing the problems which lead the “Angels” to keeping everyone there for safety. The “Angelic” aliens have no personality besides protector cliches and the little kid who took over droids just wasn’t all that memorable and seemed to function as just another cliche.

   The episodes were both even as far as score goes and the story was okay. This isn’t a must see and I’d only advise seeing it if you are completionist or enjoy the series as a whole. The episode is okay and there isn’t much more to add. It had a lot of ideas it didn’t take full advantage of.

Final Score: 6 / 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 2 “Earth,” Episode 1 – “The Avatar State” – The Cost of Fear

Aang's_spirit

     We return to The Avatar Universe reviews with the first episode of Book 2. “The Avatar State” is really the episode that shows there is no easy path to peace and victory for any of our heroes. Be they Iroh and Zuko or Aang, Katara and Sokka. In this we also see how those who may present themselves as allies may be just as big of enemies as any person serving Lord Ozai in the Fire Nation.

     The episode was directed by Giancarlo Volpe and written by Aaron Ehasz, Elizabeth Welch Ehasz, Tim Hedrick and John O’Bryan.

     The story picks up where we left off at the end of Book 1 with Aang leaving to go and meetup with Bumi so he can be trained in Earth Bending. As they leave Pakku gives Aang scrolls to train and Katara water from the Spirit Oasis to help in a time of great need. From here they meet up with General Fong who asks Aang to go into the Avatar State so they can destroy the Fire Lord. When Aang is unable to do so and is having nightmares of the power of the State Fong goes to greater and more desperate means to get the results he seeks. Elsewhere Azula arrives meets with Iroh and Zuko and attempts to lure them into a trap.

The Pros: General Fong – Daniel Dae Kim from “Lost” plays the voice of this character and does a great job of showing a man driven by desperation to defeat the Fire Nation. You get the feeling he’s been fighting a losing battle and that Aang is his last option. For this reason he goes to desperate means to trigger the Avatar State and doesn’t even care after the Avatar State destroys his base. At this point he has lost the trust of Team Avatar for attempting to kill them though. He’s a great complicated character who shows the moral grey that is pretty common among folks we’ll meet in the Earth Kingdom.

Karata – Katara is the voice of reason in this and listens to Aang about his nightmares that he is having of himself being destroyed by his Avatar State. She protests when he volunteers to try and induce it to make up for all the time he’s been away and she ends up being right as the Avatar State ends up being far more dangerous than anyone realized.

Aang – Aang is driven by guilt this episode as he gives into the pressure Fong puts on him because he want to end the war as he feels guilty for the 100 years he was gone after he ran away. He learns he can’t rush it though when Roku warns him that if he is killed in the Avatar State than the Avatar Cycle ends.

Avatar Roku and the Warning – Roku saves Aang from himself this episode and educates him that the Avatar State is the experience of all past Avatars but because of that it is also the time when the Avatar can be ended. You see worry in his voice too as he realizes how young is and how easily he is pressured.

Iroh – Iroh suspects something is up and is Zuko’s protector. He defends him from Azula killing him an all the special troops she brought with her. We see how deeply he cares about Zuko, even trying to be kind to Ozai to make Zuko’s isolation easier.

Zuko – Zuko is conflicted. He has the action of his Uncle who truly loves him but his obligation he feels to his father who hates him. His desire for acceptance makes him easily manipulated by Azula and his anger blinds him in the fight against her. Where family is concerned and his father Zuko is raw even calling Iroh lazy and someone who doesn’t appreciate how great his father is. He doesn’t apologize either, revealing that the blind spot is still very much there.

Azula – Azula is ruthless and manipulative and also a fantastic villain. She threatens the captain of the ship to have them reach Iroh and Zuko and we see her defeat Zuko easily and Zuko not being killed only because Iroh directs the lightning she shoots away. That is right, she is perfectionist who can use lightning, just like Iroh. On her own she is only stopped from capturing them but is in no way defeated and the episode ends with her putting up wanted signs throughout the Earth Kingdom for Zuko and Iroh’s capture.

Okay: Sokka – Sokka is supportive and a good ally but doesn’t do much this episode but try to help Aang escape and support him when he is initially trying to induce the Avatar State.

   This is a solid episode and a great way of setting the stage for Book 2, both in establishing Azula as a villain to fear, the conflict of Zuko’s path and how high the stakes are for Aang and the importance of him learning all the elements before facing the Fire Lord. The theme of desperation turning allies into villains is a theme too as we see Zuko wanting nothing more than acceptance from his father and willing to go to any means to do it, and General Fong and his threatening of Aang’s friends and Aang’s life in order to make him go into the Avatar State.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Zuko_and_Iroh's_wanted_poster

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 18 – “The Waterbending Master” – Fighting an Injustice

ATLA 1 18

     This is a great episode that does a good showing of how culture is not a justification for unjust laws. In this case Female Waterbenders can only be trained as healers in the Northern Water Tribe, it takes two women to change this and it is quite a struggle to get there.

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

       “The Waterbending Master” begins with Team Avatar captured by the Northern Water Tribe. From here they are brought in and Master Pakku trains Aang but refuses to train Katara because she is a woman. Also Sokka finds himself attracted to Princess Yue, who he learns is betrothed. Around this time Zhao plans his siege of the North and Zuko’s ship is destroyed by the Pirates. From here Iroh’s story unfolds with Zhao as conflict unfolds on the North Pole.

The Pros: Admiral Zhao – The guy is a bastard and glorious one at that. He knows that it will take a lot to break the North so he brings a huge fleet and gets Iroh to his side knowing Iroh is a victorious general. He also has a plan for how to stop the Moon, knowing that the Waterbenders powers are tied to the Ocean and to the Moon.

Admiral Iroh – Iroh is shown to once again be super sly as he tricks Zhao into thinking he is joining him willingly, when it was really to help Zuko to get to the North to capture the Avatar. His loyalty to Zuko never wavers and he keeps his cool around Zhao, never revealing his true loyalties.

Zuko – This episode shows that even a broken Zuko is one to be feared. His face is beaten and battered and he still fights on, forever driven to catch the Avatar, even if it means hiding on the boat of the man who nearly had him killed.

Chief Amook – The Chief feels like an actual character, we see his care for his people in their day to day lives we see his care for his daughter and his kindness as well to Team Avatar. He reminds me a lot of Katara’s dad in many ways.

Master Pakku – This guy is a pro because he is willing to change. His story is tragic as he loved a woman who did not have a choice in wanting to marry him, so she left. That woman was Gran Gran, it is Katara returning and fighting him to be an equal in their people and his finding her necklace that change him and help him to realize the reasons Gran Gran left…she had no choice so she made her own path…with her granddaughter, he has a chance to right the wrongs so that more women don’t end up leaving the tribe. It’s a really cool arc and though he is a harsh teacher, he is humanized when he finally accepts Katara.

Princess Yue and Sokka – These two are the young lovers, I think the reason they like one another, besides basic attraction is they listen to each other, they are also culturally more similar than Sokka and Suki which I think is part of what draws him to Yue. Yue also has a calm to Sokka’s energy making them Yin and Yang compliments. There story starts out as tragedy as she is already engaged to another.

Aang – Aang refuses to be trained by Pakku at first until Katara says he should and needs to and that his training is bigger than her. He later trains her in secret which leads to Council being called and Aang being trained once more as Katara is forced to learn healing. Aang never stops advocating for Katara and you really see how deep their friendship is.

Katara – Katara is the fighter than this and finishes the battle that started when her Grandmother Kanna left the tribe because she was betrothed to Master Pakku and did not love him. Katara explains why Kanna left when she has just finished battling Pakku and finally lost after a long fight. It is the fight from the past for choice and equality and in the present that finally melts Pakku’s cold and when he accepts Katara as a student.

The Message – The message is one of fairness and equality and shows that Avatar thankfully does not embrace Cultural Relativism. No culture is perfect and we should strive for justice and equality everywhere. It is this fight that Kanna begins and Katara continues that finally create the opportunity for equality among benders in the Northern Water Tribe. The fight is ongoing and begins with a subtle no or leaving or openly fighting as Katara does to Pakku.

     I really liked this episode, a lot. The message really shines through and if Avatar had gone all Culturally Relativistic I’d probably hate the show. The show stands for something and wrongs are never justified whether it’s the genocide of the Air Nation, subjugation of the different members of the Earth Kingdom or the sexism of the Northern Water Tribe. All these things Team Avatar fights and calls us to as well.

Final Score: 10 / 10.

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

ATLA 1 15

        “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 8 – “Winter Solstice: Avatar Roku” – The Stakes

ATLA season 1 ep 8 The Winter Solstice Avatar Roku

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 10 / 10.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1 “Water,” Episode 4 – “The Warriors of Kyoshi” – The Price of the Avatar

ATLA season 1 ep 4

      This was an amazing episode! This is the episode where Aang and Sokka both get a lot of growth as they have to deal with their inbuilt prejudices. For Sokka it is dealing with his prejudice against the idea of women as warriors and for Aang it’s his entitlement of being Avatar and avoidance of responsibility. So much good was done with this.

      The director of the episode was Giancarlo Volpe and written by Nick Malis and Aaron Ehasz.

      The story involves Aang stopping at Kyoshi Island to ride the giant fish until they are attacked by the Unagi which leads to them getting captured by the Kyoshi Warriors. From here the story unfolds as Sokka faces his prejudices and Aang soaks in the attention he never received growing up and becoming arrogant in the process.

The Pros: The Kyoshi Warriors –

Kyoshi Island – This Island has so much character! From the Warriors of Kyoshi and the leader just trying to protect his people, from fangirls of the Avatar and the fact that they nation is isolated and mentions that they want no part in the war against the Fire Nation. This Island has character.

Zuko – Zuko has anger issues which leads to a comedic moment with Iroh when Iroh mentions they don’t know where the Avatar is, and when they tell him he’s on Kyoshi Island. In both instances Zuko loses it.

Suki – Suki is the leader of the Kyoshi Warrios and she’s a badass, and one of my favorite characters on the show. We see her put Sokka in his place when he is sexist, but also see that she is forgiving when he apologizes and she agrees to teach him. From there they form somewhat of a budding romance as she kisses him before fighting Zuko to give them more time to escape.

Sokka – Sokka grows a lot in this episode. He realizes his prejudice against the idea of warrior women and is corrected when Suki beats him twice leading him to ask to be trained by her, even going to far as to wear their female garb for the opportunity to learn their fighting style. His growth is truly wonderful in this episode.

Katara – Katara is a bit jealous of how popular Aang is with the Avatar fangirls, but she also sees the bigger picture and ends up being right in the end…as the war comes to them and Aang realizes that his staying in one place just puts people at risk. She really learns to communicate in this episode as her and Aang don’t talk until the moment before he is attacked by the Unagi near the end.

Aang – Aang is a kid and it shows. He revels in the popularity he receives at the village since Kyoshi was one of the past Avatars, but once his popularity wains he realizes how arrogant he was and how wrongly he treated Katara.

The Message – The message is to remain humble, communicate and to question your prejudices as well as don’t be sexist. All these themes are explored in the different characters and done really well, which is saying a lot as episodes are only 20 minutes long.

Okay: Aang’s stupidity – Aang’s stupidity was annoying in how he was reveling in the attention. I get it, he is a kid…but it did get grating after a while.

     I really enjoyed this episode. There were some great character moments with Sokka and the Kyoshi Warriors and the introduction of Suki, one of my favorite characters in the series. We also Aang dealing with the fact he is a kid with ego, even if he is a monk. Every character grows in this and we see a fully fleshed out culture on Kyoshi Island too. This episode was everything I love about this show.

Final Score: 10 / 10. Perfect episode.