ATLA Episode Reviews 114-117
Airspeed Prime here once again with some ATLA episode reviews. This time I will be reviewing 4 episodes, which will then leave me with the Northern Water Tribe trilogy to do next week to finish out Book 1. That will be followed by a post reviewing Book 1 as a whole.
Today I will be reviewing: 114 The Fortuneteller, 115 Bato Of The Water Tribe, 116 The Deserter and 117 The Northern Air Temple
114 The Fortuneteller
Written by: Aaron Ehasz and John O Bryan
Directed by: Dave Filoni
Animated By: JM Animation
First Aired: September 23rd 2005
The Fortuneteller is a bit of an odd episode to follow up The Blue Spirit, while that was an amazing character development episode that kept with the plot, this one seems to forget once again that the group is in a rush. With Book 1 being so light on plot this is an important thing to look at in every episode post 108, getting to the NWT is the only plot for The Gaang. So yes it ends up being a bit filler-ey, but what saves it is the shipping aspect of this episode with Aang and Katara and Meng and Aang, that and it is an interesting episode for Sokka as he faces a town of people with opposing beliefs to him.
I will start with the shipping part of this episode, we start off straight away with Aang confirming to us what we have suspected for a while now, that he has completely fallen for Katara, he likes her as more than just a friend and is trying to tell her this throughout this episode, by first making he a new necklace (which promptly disappears in one of the most obvious animation errors of the whole series) for her, even Sokka notices Aang’s attempts to Woo Katara (Pun intended). What really kicks off the shipping is when they meet Aunt Wu and Katara immediately wants to know what is in store for her love life, Aang interested also follows and we have a great scene as Aang secretly listens in to her prediction, Aunt Wu tells Katara that she will marry a powerful bender, which delights Aang, who can be more powerful than the Avatar and so he decides to increase his efforts to impress Katara. But the thing that really makes this episode good and not a filler is that we have 2 different love stories happening at once, Meng also following a prediction believes that Aang is her true love ¬†and in the same way that Aang is trying to impress Katara she tries to impress Aang. The result is that Katara and Aang are both oblivious to their romantic interests because of things they are obsessed with, Katara is constantly distracted by her growing obsession of getting a prediction for everything and hence ignores Aang’s advances even when he is about to tell her he loves her, and then Aang trying hard to get Katara’s attention is ignoring Meng, who in an hilarious twist Sokka seems to think Aang is interested in. This episode makes you really feel for both Aang and Meng when they do not get the attention they want.
Speaking of Aang and Meng (nailed that segue!) the scene between the two near the end of the episode is so well done, between our main character and this new character that we only see in this one episode (though her voice actor Jessie Flower returns to voice Toph), it is amazing that Meng is just as emotional a part of the scene as Aang is, she is such a loveable character. Aang honestly admits that he is not interested in her and Meng accepts this as the two both relate over,
Meng: It’s ok. It’s just really hard when you like someone, but they don’t think of you that way.
Aang: I know what you mean.
He tells her that someone will fall for her one day. It is a lovely scene, that makes it a more emotional episode than a funny one.
Continuing on the theme of Shipping, the biggest thing that this episode does for the whole series has to be that Katara for the first time begins to see Aang as more than just a friend. Her prediction mentions a powerful bender and when Aang uses his Airbending to end the threat of the volcano Sokka makes the exact remark about how powerful Aang is and it hits Katara hard that Aang could be who her prediction mentions. This is a great scene, with the amazing Airbending from Aang and the gorgeous animation as Katara gets the realisation.
The last big thing to talk about this episode has to be Sokka and his side of the story, in what is a humourous attempt at a Faith vs Reason debate. Sokka lives by Science and Reason and so the town with Aunt Wu as it’s fulcrum is the exact opposite to Sokka, he cannot comprehend why everyone lives their lives based on everything she says and has numerous attempts to try and convince them otherwise,, he is correct in many cases, but so is Aunt Wu in that all of her predictions do come to pass, regardless of some specifics. The key line here would be
“Can your science explain why it rains?”
Sokka: Yes! Yes, it can!
Sokka gets so exasperated it is hilarious, and when Calm Man who seems to most annoy Sokka point out that Aunt Wu was correct about the town not getting destroyed (she was originally wrong, but The Gaang solved the issue), we see Sokka seconds away from punching him right in the face. Katara sees this too and escorts Sokka out of the town before he hurts someone else or his own blood vessels. It is interesting to see how stressed out it makes Sokka.
An interesting note has to be that Aunt Wu tells Katara of when she will die, after she has her 3rd great grandchild, which refers to the children that Tenzin, Bumi or Kya’s children will have. So unless Bumi and/or Kya have old kids then Katara is sticking around for a good while longer in Korra
Overall this episode is very fun, a great character focused episode, again like other episodes this book, seems to forget about the comet coming and they spend a lot of time in the village. Some surprisingly emotional and powerful moments as well as some hilarious ones. A quality episode.
Favourite Moment/ Aang stops the volcano threat and then Katara has her realisation that Aang could be the one she is predicted to marry. It is an amazing moment.
Favourite Line/ “Floozy” – Meng, just because it came out of nowhere from a great one shot character and Nick let them keep it in. Wow.
115 Bato Of The Water Tribe
Written by: Ian Wilcox
Directed by: Giancarlo Volpe
Animated By: DR Movie
First Aired: October 7th 2005
Bato Of The Water Tribe, a very interesting and in concept should work very well. Katara and Sokka meet a member of their tribe and Zuko tracks Aang with Katara’s necklace. It just ends up falling a bit flat, it has some amazing scenes, but also some odd ones too.
I think my main issue with this episode also applies a bit to what happens in the next episode, both have Aang messing up in such a way that his friends are not just mad at him but nearly so mad that it breaks their friendships. I think there was no need for 2 episodes in a row to do this, one or the other was fine. It fits the plot and is integral here, but it is not done as well as it could have been done. The reason I say this is that basically Aang in a selfish moment decides to keep the message with Hakoda’s location from Sokka and Katara and when they find out they leave him, even Bato is angry at Aang, but all this comes after all 3 completely IGNORE Aang for the whole time and only involve him when they need him as a member of the ship for Sokka’s Ice/Rock dodging. Yes it is them meeting a friend after so long, but the way all Bato really does is shout at Aang not to touch things as he tries to do something to entertain himself while no one is involving him. It is usually something Avatar does very well, always having character make balanced choices and realising their own mistakes, Aang realises his here, but Sokka and Katara don’t beyond that they should not have left him, they never once mention completely ignoring him. In the end it is only a minor annoyance with this episode, but the show is so well written that moments like this stand out. The positive scenes related to the team separating is Sokka remembering when he could not go with his father to war and was left behind, which is what they just did to Aang, this was a great moment for Sokka realising that Aang needs them. I suppose Bato himself as the title character is a bit of a let down considering he has his own episode name, the focus is never really on him and we really do not get to know him that much as a character. Not that he is bad, but compared to say Meng from last episode or any other minor character, it is a bit of a step down.
On the other hand June and her Shirshu, Nyla are very interesting, ¬†a tough bounty hunter and her hold attitude and look just suit the character so well, when you see her beat up all the people in that bar you know she is the real deal. And Nyla is just as interesting, one of the most fascinating and unique animals we ever see, no eyes, “sees” using smell and can paralyse with a tongue lash. She is driven completely by money and cares nothing for the damage she caused to Zuko’s ship. It is an extremely clever way to use the fact that Zuko has Katara’s necklace and with the group split apart it is actually a well constructed episode. Iroh’s fascination with June is hilarious with how odd and a bit creepy it is.
The best part of this episode is definitely the action scenes once the Zuko and Aang story meet up in the abbey. We see some amazing fights, Appa vs Nyla, which is a great Animal fight, we see the power of appa vs the skills/abilities of Nyla, a whole different feel to the people on people fights which is nice to show that they are animals. The Zuko vs Aang fight here is one of the best 1 on 1 bender fights we see in the whole series, the choreography and set piece moments in this fight are stunning, including the fight on the roof and the lovely close quarters fight on the rim of the well where Aang bases the whole fight around getting Katara’s necklace back.
The final thing to talk about this episode has to be Sokka and his Ice/Rock dodging, with Hakoda having to leave to fight in the war Sokka never had his chance to do this trial, Bato oversees Sokka do it here in this episode. It gives us an insight into Water Tribe culture, this is the right of passage for young water tribe men with the water marks for Wisdom, Bravery and Trust. A very tribal concept. The actual dodging itself is interesting in that Aang and Katar both are involved also, with Sokka in command, it is very much the end bookmark to 101 where he failed to navigate the canoe through the ice before they found Aang and here he is confident and shows his cleverness by utilising the benders in his team to get past what would have been an unavoidable obstacle otherwise.
Overall a good episode, but not a great episode. Some minor character issues aside it is a very solid episode, in the end Sokka and Katara knowing they have to help Aang as opposed to visiting their father makes up for their treatment of Aang. Aang himself makes an error in judgement and nearly pays for it, he does not want to lose the only family he has left.
Favourite Moment/ The Aang and Zuko fight at the end.
Favourite Line/¬†The spirits of water bear witness to these marks. For Sokka, the mark of the wise, the same mark your father earned.
For Katara, the mark of the brave. Your courage inspires us.¬†And for Aang, the mark of the trusted. You are now an honorary member of the water tribe. – Bato
116 The Deserter
Written by: Tim Hendrick
Directed by: Lauren MacMullen
Animated By: JM Animation
First Aired: October 21st 2005
The Deserter, an unexpected episode given where the plot is going in this book, after a few episodes with no mention of Aang’s goal we finally get back to it in a big way as Aang forgets about the order and takes the opportunity of a lifetime, running into a master firebender who is not allied with Ozai, and wants to learn from him. A negative as mentioned in my previous review is that again 2 episodes in a row where Aang makes some big mistakes, I felt they perhaps could have spread them around the book as opposed to 2 in a row.
I will start with the big positive about this episode which has to be the Introduction of Jeong Jeong and to a lesser extent Chey. They introduce for the first time the idea that there are those in the fire nation who are against where they are going as a nation and are against the Fire Lords plan, deserters of the army. The first and second. Jeong Jeong himself is a very interesting character and specifically an interesting Firebender, in that he is very much concerned with the nature of Fire and firebending, he almost resents having the ability as it is so dangerous to himself and others, he in some ways should be the perfect teacher for Aang in that he is aware of what fire can do, but the issue is that Jeong Jeong is too far on that side of things and too cautious, it makes you wonder how Zhao developed as he did with Jeong Jeong as a master, a cautious master yet one of the people who thinks the least about the danger of firebending. In a way that is Jeong Jeong’s flaw, he ultimately seemed to hold back his students to the point where they both tried harder. I would love to see the backstory of Jeong Jeong training Zhao. As a character it is his gruffness and bluntness that makes him unique, but the most interesting thing is definitely his views of Firebending. As I will go through now.
“Only a fool seeks his own destruction” – Jeong Jeong in relation to Aang wanting to be thought Firebending
“fire, fire is alive! It breathes, it grows, without a bender, a rock will not throw itself! But fire will spread and destroy everything in its path if one does not have the will to control it! That is its destiny! You are not ready! You are too weak!” – Jeong Jeong disrespects the Avatar, he sees it as so dangerous even the Avatar cannot learn it now.
” fire is a horrible burden to bear. Its nature is to consume and without control it destroys everything around it.” – Again true, but very negative towards the ability”
” Learn restraint, or risk destroying yourself and everything you love.” – so fatalistic
“But fire brings only destruction and pain. It forces those of us burdened with its care to walk a razor’s edge between humanity and savagery. Eventually, we are torn apart.” – You wonder why he even uses the ability at all.
It is this overly negative view that ultimately Aang carries through the series all the way up until 313 when he learns from the Dragons with Zuko. At the same time we saw Jeong Jeong teach Aang with heavy emphasis on the breath which Iroh stresses so much, a hint at a link between the two, and when we do find out they are both OWL members you have to wonder, those two must have some awkward conversations ,
Jeong Jeong “Tea is hot, like fire and will soon destroy everything”
Iroh “How could a member of my own order say something so horrible”
Anyway getting away from Jeong Jeong for a moment, Aang, wants to learn firebending, bit more the practical side of blasts and jets of fire as opposed to control, which is understandable given his time frame, but he lacks patience and ultimately Zuko is the perfect teacher for him, someone who knows the danger of firebending, but does not seem to fear it like Jeong Jeong. In this episode Aang’s impatience leads him to burn Katara when he tries to much, we get a quite intense moment of Sokka viciously tackling Aang to the ground as Katara runs off crying, which puts Aang into a bit of a depression which lasts until 313.
Continuing on from that Katara gets a lovely scene when she puts her burned hands into the water and they heal, Jeong Jeong oversees this and informs Katara of her healing abilities and again cannot resists getting in a little jab at fire for being so dangerous. It was a great way to introduce the ability.
The final part of the episode to discuss has to be when Zhao makes his appearance in this episode, he is the student Jeong Jeong mentioned, obsessed with the power of firebending a bit like Aang’s eagerness to get past the theory of firebending. Aang though, learns from his mistake and uses Zhao’s personality against him as Aang does not even attack back at all and lets Zhao destroy his ships himself. It was a great way to make Aang learn from his mistake and further show Zhao and that style of firebending which represents Ozai’s mentality as the wrong way.
An interesting scene of note would be when Roku appears through Aang to defend the Avatar and get Jeong Jeong to teach Aang, it was ¬†nice to see Roku angry at this insult to the Avatar and he took Jeong Jeong down a peg or two.
Overall another great episode, Jeong Jeong and his views on Firebending being the stand out here. Again this and 115 should not have been one after the other, but a solid episode apart from that.
Favourite Moment/ Aang defeating Zhao by letting him defeat himself, using Zhao’s anger and aggression to his own advantage.
Favourite Line/¬†¬†”I have mastered the elements a thousand times in a thousand lifetimes. Now, I must do it once again. You will teach the Avatar firebending.” – Roku
117 The Northern Air Temple
Written by: Elizabeth Welch Ehasz
Directed by: Dave Filoni
Animated By: DR Movie
First Aired: November 4th 2005
The Northern Air Temple, a much needed episode in my opinion. We return to an Air Temple and Aang again has to come to terms with the loss of his people, but also he learns that it does not take an Air Nomad to have the Spirit of one. Along with that we get the unexpected plot of a full on battle at the temple which really sets us up for the big finale in the NWT. The fact that this is the Northern Air Temple alone tells us we are at last close to the goal of the Northern Water Tribe, not to mention that the whole Fire Nation plus Air Power thing will come back strong in Book 3 from the invasion onwards. This is a very important episode in the grand scheme of the whole show because of this.
I will start with Aang and his struggle to accept others living in the temple and changing it and it’s traditions. It makes sense on both sides that refugees from the war would try to start homes in places like the NAT far away from the Fire Nation and that Aang, would not want to see the little that remains of his peoples tradition destroyed. At the start of this episode this is the big issue, it starts with Aang excited that there may be other airbenders, but when he sees it is just people gliding, not Airbending he is annoyed and shows them what a true Airbender can do, the flying contest is very well done and it really did show that Airbending is so much more than just gliding. It is the shock and distain that is on Aang’s face when he is the only one not at all impressed with the changes at the temple, that show how much his culture means to him, the big scene would be the sever lack of care the Mechanist has for the tradition when he just knocks out an intact part of the temple and then Aang knocks the wrecking ball off the mountain in his anger. You really feel for Aang.
I really like how it is through Teo that Aang begins to not hate everything new at the temple, most of the people actually have embraced the spirit of an Airbender which Teo demonstrates when he teaches Katara to glide, he begins to trust things here because he respects that Teo has the spirit of an Airbender and so decides that he will open the sanctuary door. That trust is completely shattered when he discovers the sanctuary contains mass amounts of inventions being made for the fire nation, everyone including Teo is shocked and it is interesting to note how similar this is to Asami and her father when she finds out he is making weapons for The Equalists. We get one of those sincere moments I like to go on about when he tells the story of why he makes the fire nation inventions, he did it for Teo and his people, it was the only way for them to live peacefully at the temple.
Aang makes the decision for The Mechanist and invites war from War Minister Qin, he simply will not allow Fire Nation war machines to be made any longer in an Air Temple, he is so intense about protecting this place of his people. It is a great leadership moment for Aang.
The battle itself is an unexpected part of this episode, no build up really, just boom, battle is happening now. I love this battle as it shows how crucial Air power is to any battle, the fire nation have none and Aang and the people of the temple have a lot and that gives them the advantage. I think what adds so much to this episode and especially the battle at the end is the sub plot throughout the episode of Sokka befriending the Mechanist and assisting him with some inventions and in the end revealing all the crucial point to winning the battle: Perfecting Air Power and finding the natural gas vein and more that that the crucial invention of the basic concept of mercaptan (adding a smell to an adourless gas). In the end them making the War Balloon and locating that gas vein win them the battle. It is a cleverly constructed side plot. The battle itself is also nicely done, stuff like Katara using her new found gliding skills and then them using The Mechanists design against the tanks he made. Clever again.
In the end it is Aang’s line
“You know what? I’m really glad you guys all live here now. It’s like the hermit crab , maybe you weren’t born here, but you found this empty shell and made it your home. And now you protect each other.” That really makes this episode, Aang has accepted that the temple is their home now and is happy that at least some of the Airbender spirit lives on there.
The cliffhanger ending of the Fire Nation discovering the remains of the War Balloon and them realising what it means if they can reverse engineer it is amazing. Even more so that is takes 31 episodes until we see this come up again in The Invasion.
Overall a good episode, the only negatives would perhaps be that it was quite a packed episode, I felt that both the first half of Aang dealing with what has become of the NAT and the second half of the battle were not quite given enough time, I think that this would have worked better as a two part episode, get more indepth on Air Nomad culture in the first half and then have a big focus on the battle afterwards. Despite that it is another quality episode, the big battle works so well to set up that an even bigger battle is coming in the finale. It was nice to also touch on some Airbender culture and philosophy.
Favourite Moment/ Aang showing off his Airbending skills to Teo, showing what a real Airbender can do.
Favourite Line/¬†”You know what? I’m really glad you guys all live here now. It’s like the hermit crab , maybe you weren’t born here, but you found this empty shell and made it your home. And now you protect each other.” – Aang
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