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

ATLA Book 2 Ep 17

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

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

The Chase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 8.7 / 10

Zuko Alone

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

Appa_captured

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Score: 8 / 10

Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 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.

The Avatar Universe – An Upcoming Exploration of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” “The Legend of Korra” and the Comics Inbetween

Avatars    I think it’s been long enough since “The Legend of Korra” ended that I feel comfortable exploring that Universe again and taking it as a whole. Growing up, I enjoyed watching “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” it was one of the first shows I saw that actually dealt with genocide (the Fire Nation’s destruction of the Air Nation), imperialism (the Fire Nation’s colonization of the world) and Eastern Philosophical ideas like Buddhism or Taoism (through Elemental Bending and the philosophy of Balance represented in the Avatar). This lead to it becoming one of my favorite shows and in my conversations with friends I would find myself discussing the character and ideas for hours.

   Eventually a sequel series was created, “The Legend of Korra.” I hated the first Book as I felt that Amon was wasted as an antagonist in him being made a hypocrite and I hated the love triangle between Bolin, Mako and Korra and Korra, Asami and Mako. It was trite and was the hardest part in Book 2, besides again the problem of the villain. Book 3 changed all that though and when I talk to most of my friends and recommend “Korra” I advise Book 3 over the other 4 and think it stands solidly on it’s own, not needing any prior introduction or later follow up. In my opinion at the time it was better than all of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

    After I finish up reviewing “The Legend of Korra” and “Avatar: The Last Airbender” I’ll give a rundown of how I would have done Korra, if I’d been required to do 4 books for that series, since I’ve been thinking about what I would have changed a lot (especially in regards to Amon, though I would change nothing about Zaheer overall, the guy is the best character in the Avatar Universe).

    There were a lot of people involved in this series, so as I do the individual episodes and start reviews the series I’m going to name them so they get the recognition they deserve. This is a rich universe, full of philosophy, martial arts, politics, nations and amazing characters that in my opinion will be timeless for years to come.

    So without further ado, I’ll be getting into the reviews soon, starting with “Avatar: the Last Airbender,” and ending with “Legend of Korra Finale.”