ATLA Episode Reviews 107-109
Airspeed Prime back this week with some more Avatar The Last Airbender Episode Reviews.
This week I will be covering 3 episodes: 107 Winter Solstice Part 1 The Spirit World, 108 Winter Solstice Part 2 Avatar Roku and 109 The Waterbending Scroll.
So I will just dive straight into them.
107 Winter Solstice Part 1 The Spirit World
Written By: Aaron Ehasz
Directed By: Lauren Macmullan
Animated By: DR Movie
First Aired: April 8th 2005
Our first named 2 parter of the show and it plays an extremely important role in the series going forward right up to the finale, that said Â it is mainly part 2 that is the really important episode. 107 while good is kind of overshadowed by 108 and then by Book 1′s finale which does The Spirit World better. That said it is still a very good episode that introduces some interesting concepts the main one being the Spirit World.
The start of this episode is very interesting, we see both sides of Aang in the first few seconds. He shows his overly fun and adrenaline junkie side by leaping off Appa and through a cloud at an off hand mention from Katara to discovering a burned down forest and getting very serious and really feeling guilty about being gone for 100 years. In a way it is this episode and the next that really see Aang fully take on his role as the Avatar as we really see him attempt to step up into the role here in helping the people of Senlin Village with a rampaging spirit. We are also told about more of the Avatar’s role, about how it is one duty of the Avatar to be the bridge between the Physical and Spirit World we also have the role of the solstice explained to us in that as it grows ever nearer the two worlds grow closer and almost become the same. Which brings in a kind of confusing aspect of this episode which is never as such stated when it happens, that being why Aang never actually enters The Spirit World like we know from The Book 1 Finale, why he just remains a blue Spirit in the physical world. It could be explained away in that the two worlds are drawing nearer, yet there is no sign of The Spirit world bleeding through. Hopefully little questions like this will be answered in Book 2 of Korra which is going to be all about Spirits.
The rampaging spirit turns out to be Hei Bai, The Black and White Spirit who watches over the forest that was burned down. It is very cleverly written here in that Aang got upset about that, but was calmed down by Katara showing him the acorn and that it would grow back, then Aang uses the same explanation to calm Hei Bai down. Even the way he does that is interesting in that he puts his hand where Hei Bai’s insight Chakra would be to give him the information. This episodes strengths definitely come from all the new concepts introduced, even showing us a spirit in action, our first real time we ever see a spirit fight, Hei Bai was pretty much unbeatable and could change form, he gives us our best insight into bender vs spirit fighting as we head into Korra book 2.
Then Fang makes his appearance as a Spirit, which again slightly confuses things, why is he transparent blue yet when we see Roku in the book 1 finale he is Â not like that. I felt this episode needed to state if entering the spirit world during a solstice and outside of one is different. Like why can’t Fang just bring Aang to Roku in the Spirit World, why can Fang appear, but Aang has to wait to see Roku. It perhaps is just one of those things, this is an early episode, we know the first 13 episodes were made then rest of the show was confirmed, perhaps they did not have everything confirmed at this stage. But anyway, what Fang does do is feed Aang info on where to meet Roku again via the insight Chakra on the forehead.
The Zuko and Iroh side of this story is just as good in this episode, for the first time we see people of the other nations presented as the villains, we find ourselves rooting for Zuko and Iroh against these Earth soldiers just an episode after we were rooting for the Earth Kingdom against the Fire Nation. It is mainly an Iroh focus on that side of the story in that he is captured by a group of soldiers who know exactly who he is. They know he was a General and that he laid siege to Ba Sing Se for 600 days, an interesting thing to note is the emotion in Iroh’s voice as he talks about abandoning the siege, he does not mention Lu Ten at all, just that he men were tired, yet from the tone of his voice and the emotion there you can sense that there is more to it than that. We also see that Iroh still has a lot of that skill that made him a general, how he cleverly plants clues for Zuko to find him, very nearly escaped completely tied up. Then we finally get to see Iroh fight alongside Zuko, but in a different way, he does not use firebending just his chains and still they easily beat the earthbenders.
On Zuko he makes a fascinating choice in this episode in that he puts his search for Aang aside and goes to rescue his uncle, showing how much he cares for his Uncle, who is his real father figure. It adds so much to his character with him making this choice that he can put his quest aside for some things.
Overall a good episode, brought down a bit by 108 being the better episode of the two and some confusing spirit world stuff in the episode it is introduced in. On the plus side there are some nice character moments for Aang, Zuko and Iroh.
Favourite Moment/ Everything Iroh does to aid Zuko in finding him, just slowing them down constantly so Zuko can catch up.
Favourite Line/ “You’re the spirit of this forest. Now I understand. You’re upset and angry because your home was burned down. When I saw the forest had burned I was sad and upset. But my friend gave me hope that the forest would grow back.” – Aang
108 Winter Solstice Part 2 Avatar Roku
Written By: Mike
Directed By: Giancarlo Volpe
Animated By: JM Animation
First Aired: April 15th 2005
Quite simply this is an amazing episode packed full of action and drama. It has some of the most intense scenes of the whole series in it and also has the honour of being the episode that introduces Sozin’s comet and giving Aang and co a deadline to confront Ozai, no longer can they do as they have been doing and having fun in every town, they need to hurry things up.
First of all I really like that the opening scene of Aang not wanting to endanger his friends is very short, I am so glad that Aang did not go off on his own, but listened to the reason for why they had to go with him. So many shows do it the opposite way so I was glad to see it done well here. I also enjoy how this episode only has a tiny amount of set up, we are just straight into the massive chase scene of Zuko chasing Appa and then heading towards Zhao’s blockade, yes Zhao is back which is great to see. It is such an intense scene especially when Zhao opens fire on both Appa and Zuko’s ship and Zuko decides to plough on and not turn back. The intensity just grows and grows, we see bits of Appa’s fur catch fire, Sokka falls and is just barely saved and then Aang breaks through a point blank shot with Airbending. Then from an amazing action scene into more tense character scenes as Zhao cleverly decides to follow Zuko to find out where Aang is heading, but at the same time Zuko and Iroh know this and attempt to lead him astray. The scene of Zuko’s ship going through the blockade as Zhao and Zuko stare at each other, both hate each other is great.
Then we arrive on crescent Island and meet The Fire Sages, we also get some interesting backstory in that they were loyal only to the Avatar, but with Sozin onwards they became loyal to the Fire Lord. But with Shyu he still sticks to supporting the Avatar and betrays his fellow sages to help Aang, which is interesting to see from someone of the fire nation, that there are those who are against what the current fire lords are doing. We then see some cleverness from both Sokka and then Katara when they try to enter the temple, Sokka using his inventor skills and then Katara using some good misdirection.We think our heros are finally getting somewhere before Zuko appears and puts the whole plan in jeopardy, Aang manages to just about enter the temple as Zhao arrives outside to with the plan of just having an attack waiting for Aang when he comes out. It adds so much drama to the scene, with Zhao in control over both Sokka, Katara and Zuko.
Then Aang finally meets Roku in the actual spirit world this time which again is a bit confusing after last episode with all the blue spirits. Through Roku we get the basic backstory of the 100 year war and that it was started by Sozin using the power of the comet for the first time and that Ozai now plans to use it’s second coming to end the war with full victory for the Fire Nation. He leaves Aang with a near impossible task of mastering the 4 elements and defeating Ozai before the comet arrives. Then, Then we have the most epic scene of the episode when Roku confidently asks Aang if he is ready and Aang says yes as the Avatar State activates and Roku himself manifests himself through Aang and frees everyone and begins to ruin the temple (Roku’s second time doing so). Everyone just manages to escape.
In the end we leave the big build up to Aang meeting Roku and getting some amazing advice by wondering how Aang will accomplish this huge task in such a short time. A great episode and a worthy “not quite season finale”.
Favourite Moment/ Aang saying he is ready and going into the Avatar State, Roku taking over and showing the true power of the Avatar.
Favourite Line/ “I know you can do it Aang, for you have done it before.” – Roku
109 The Waterbending Scroll
Written By: John O’ Bryan
Directed By: Anthony Lioi
Animated By: JM Animation
First Aired: April 29th 2005
The first episode up after our heroes get their deadline. And they deal with that deadline in a sensible way here, it is not a mad dash straight to the Northern Water Tribe, but rather they decide to at least give Aang a start with some waterbending, Katara can do some waterbending, why not have her teach Aang what she knows. It makes sense, Aang learns the basics before he arrives at the NWT. It also foreshadows what happens in Book 2 when she actually properly becomes his waterbending master.
Katara and Aang are the main focus of this episode for the most part and we get some interesting development from both of them as Katara teaches Aang the moves she spent months trying to learn herself. We see Katara get frustrated and then angry as Aang in seconds masters these moves and is doing them better than her, Katara is understandably frustrated, but out of line to snap at Aang. When they steal the Waterbending scroll this jealousy comes out in full force, mainly when Aang starts to give her tips on the moves, the master becoming the apprentice in minutes. She completely snaps at Aang nearly making him cry and the interesting thing is that she immediately sees what she is like and how much this is affecting her and gives up the scroll, which Avatar always does so well, characters having realistic reactions to what others do and what they themselves do.
The pirates are introduced in this episode and make for a very interesting episode as they drive much of the plot, the scroll is stolen from them, they tell Zuko about Aang and friends being in the area and they cause the fight at the end. They add both humour and seriousness to the episode, Aang constantly talking to them in an over the top pirate voice is priceless especially when he tries to bargain with them. Even Iroh in this episode is hilarious, he loves shopping so much and in the end never needed to go shopping in the first place as his lotus tile was in his sleeve all along.
Zuko in this episode is also interesting in that he keeps the fact that Aang is the Avatar a secret from the pirates and Sokka cleverly uses this fact to get the pirates angry at Zuko for lying to them. Angry because 1 Water Scroll =/= the price the Avatar would get them.
In the end there is not a whole lot of insight to give into this episode beyond that it is a very solid episode that does drive the story onwards, Aang learns some waterbending, gets a bison whistle and Katara learns to not be jealous as seen when the advice Aang gives her about the Water Whip works for her, they are all a team and have to work together as shown when Aang and Katara work together to slow the boat down near the edge of a waterfall. The main plot is Aang and Katara learning waterbending together. Basically there is not a whole lot to this episode, hence the fairly short review.
It is around this point of Book 1 that the episodes start to get less plot heavy and more character focused, which in the end come down to the format of this book which is “At the end of the season get to the Northern Water Tribe and visit may towns on the way” there is no Â story arc in the middle of this book like in Book 2 (Finding an Earthbending teacher, Finding the date of the eclipse and Ba Sing Se arc) or Book 3 (Undercover in the fire nation, Invasion, Zuko joins the group). In the end it is episodes like this and many others in Book 2 that allow Book 2 and 3 to be more plot focused, by the end of this book we really know our characters because of the focus on character development. Which sadly for most leaves Book 1 at number 3 in the order of best books. While there are more stellar episodes this season they are mainly after the early Book plot is over I.E getting to the NWT.
Favourite Moment/ Â When Zuko and The Pirate Captain are told by Iroh that their ships have been taken and they immediately stop fighting to chase their ships.
Favourite Line/ “Quite the contrary. I always say the only thing better than finding something you were looking for, is finding something you weren’t looking for at a great bargain!” – Iroh
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