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.

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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.