ATLA Episode Reviews 118-120
Airspeed Prime here again to bring you the last 3 episode reviews of Book 1 Water, this post will be followed later by a review/overview of Book 1 Water as a whole, which should be an interesting post too.
Today I will be reviewing: 118 The Waterbending Master, 119 Siege Of The North Part 1 and 120 Siege Of The North Part 2.
118 The Waterbending Master
Written by: Mike
Directed by: Giancarlo Volpe
Animated By: JM Animation
First Aired: November 18th 2005
The Waterbending Master, at last we reach the goal our heroes had planned on since pretty much 101, it has taken a long time, so the obvious question is – Was the Northern Water Tribe worth the wait? In my opinion yes it was, with this episode and the 2 finale episodes that follow we for one of the first times in the series see what a group of episodes that take place in the same location and are all linked can do. These 3 episodes are the 3 best episodes in a row in Book 1, and note I say 3 and not just the 2 finale episodes, that is praise for this episode, it is not as such part of the finale, but it manages to introduce us to the NWT and still have it’s own story while setting up events in the finale.
I will begin with the Zuko, Iroh and Zhao side of this episode as it is an important section of this episode. I love the way that even in this part of the story that they set up the NWT as being a fortress of Ice that is near impossible to reach let alone defeat. Zhao being simple minded as ever, decides that a massive invasion force is what is required. Setting up a huge battle in the finale. But this side of the story really kicks off when Zhao decides now is the time to take Zuko out of the hunt for good, he takes his men for the attack and even asks Iroh to join him as a general, but when Zhao realises that the Broadswords on Zuko’s ships are those of The Blue Spirit that is an amazing moment, not just of continuity, but between Zhao and Zuko as characters. Their rivalry has been building and building since 103 and it is interesting to see Zhao unable to fully prove that Zuko is The Blue Spirit, possibly showing that he knows he is no match for Zuko and especially if Iroh helped Zuko. So when in another amazing continuity moment he hires The Pirates from 109 to kill Zuko, you know Zhao has just reached the point where he wants Zuko out of the picture and we lose even more respect for Zhao (not that we had any), doing underhanded deals to get rid of his rival. Zhao’s line earlier on in the episode “I have a feeling that justice will catch up with him soon.” playing out with the assassination plan.
On the more Zuko side of the story, the impact of Zhao taking his crew is clear to see, he calls them traitors, but deep down his anger is for Zhao. The assassination plan in action is an extremely tense scene as Zuko wakes up after hearing noises and the key part is when Zuko realises 1 second before the explosion that it was the Pirates, and he knows this is Zhao’s doing. For a few moments we really think Zuko is dead, especially when Iroh returns to see the ship in flames, it is a powerful moment as for a moment Iroh believes his nephew to be dead, but in a scene we don’t see, they reunite and make a plan. So when Iroh joins Zhao and lies to make it believable and then meets with an injured Zuko disguised as a soldier it is a great moment, we truly are rooting for Zuko. It is great set up as we have Zuko with a way to the NWT also, with Zhao unaware.
Now onto the main part of the episode which is The Gaang finally reaching the NWT. I love the massive contrast between looking back at the Southern Tribe,with only Katara as a waterbender and it consisting of 1 small village and the northern tribe being a gorgeous massive city of ice and snow filled with waterbenders. The interesting part of this episode that makes it not just a set up episode for the finale is that a lot of development happens and it has it’s own story, that of exploring the theme of sexism once again, which was last explored in 104 with Sokka. The difference here is that you never hated Sokka for being a bit sexist beforehand, it was all he knew growing up as the only warrior in his tribe for the most part, but with Master Pakku, you instantly dislike him for it as he is so dismissive and blatantly sexist, caused by some very old traditions. Now some Avatar history comes into play here in that the Southern Water Tribe was formed from the Northern Tribe because of groups breaking away because of the imprisoning traditions.
“It is forbidden for women to learn waterbending”
This is the line, the word forbidden makes it so serious and the tradition insane. We see in this episode that Katara is very much like her Gran Gran, in that Kanna (Gran Gran) left the NWT because of the rules and it is clear that Katara would have done the same has she been in that position. Katara very much makes this story what it is, her passion to learn and prove herself and her fight to further the teams goals as she does not want Aang to give up his chance to train because of her, but she just can’t stay silent over the issues. If their is one positive to be gained from this for Katara it is that she gets a chance to improve her healing skills by learning from Yugoda, who is the one to tell Katara about her gran gran. When Aang is caught teaching Katara what he has learned and Pakku refuses to teach Aang, we see that passionate side of Katara again, the one that cannot stand people being treated unfairly. She refuses to apologise to Pakku and challenges him to a fight. I love that she had not issue about talking like that to her elders, showing that just being old does not mean you are correct. So when the fight happens, I was shocked to see just how advanced a bender she is, Pakku clearly has more skill, but it is clear to see that Katara is a prodigy, everything she does is self thought and she pushes Pakku hard, until he just overpowers her. This is an amazing waterbending fight, and one of the best fights of the whole series. Â Then the big reveal happens Kanna left because she could not go through with an arranged marriage to Pakku, Katara’s necklace was made by Pakku for Kanna. It is then we see where Katara unbound by traditions can get through to Pakku, traditions are responsible for his own heart being broken in the past, the woman Pakku loved would not let traditions rule her life. Because of this Pakku realises that Katara is right and so breaks with tradition and trains Katara. Avatar once again explores a complex issue amazingly well, not just sexism, but cultural traditions and them being limiting, it is quite deep and amazing that it is done in a nick show.
This tradition theme is also explored with the shipping side of this episode with Sokka and Yue, it is such a well done relationship, Sokka just falls fer her at first sight and it is just the amazingly awkward dialogue between the two that makes it so endearing, “Do an activity” what a line and I like that Yue likes the awkwardness of it and uses it herself later on. Over the course of the episode we see the two bond and really grow close, it is very realistically done. The mystery when Yue runs away from their meeting, but again it links into the tradition on the other side of the story, Yue is in an arranged marriage yet she feels stronger about Sokka, she as princess is put in a tough situation, she is expected to stand by all traditions yet wants to follow her heart. It is a very powerful moment when she runs off crying after the Kanna reveal and tells Sokka this, you feel for them both because they work so well as a couple, yet it cannot really ever work.
A brief mention of Aang, again we see that Aang responds well to a certain type of teacher one who is understanding and gentle. It will later come up in Bitter Work and it was seen in The Deserter. Pakku is not the type of teacher Aang needs.
Overall a brillant episode and the first Northern Water Tribe episode lives up to the expectation this season put on it since 101. Some deep themes explored in very mature ways. Great episode with Pakku and Yue having great character introductions.
Favourite Moment/ The Katara vs Pakku fight, some of the best waterbending see in the show ever.
Favourite Line/ “Gran-Gran wouldn’t let your tribe’s stupid customs run her life. That’s why she left. It must have taken a lot of courage.” – Katara
119 Â Siege Of The North Part 1
Written by: John O Bryan
Directed by: Lauren MacMullan
Animated By: DR Movie
First Aired: December 2nd 2005
Siege Of The North Part 1, the first part of the finale and quite simply this is a powerful and great episode. Having 118 before this episode helps this so much in that we don’t have to be introduced to so many new concepts at once. The key thing is that the NWT is not suspecting an attack, so we get to see at the start things peaceful and then see the preparation and start of the battle. It makes for nice progress in this episode.
I will begin with events leading up to the battle, most of which focus on Sokka and Yue, which continues on immediately after 118, Yue still struggling with her heart or tradition and Sokka not quite sure what to do. It makes for a very interesting relationship as the two both want to be together, but get those moments where they realise they cannot. When Sokka brings Yue on the
Magic CarpetÂ Appa Ride we see them bond even more, she enjoys this new experience away from tradition and the two nearly kiss. In a great scene where we in seconds go from a romantic moment to a moment of panic as they discover the black snow, which the now experienced Sokka knows signals the coming of the Fire Nation and with the amount he knows it is a big attack coming.
Continuing on the YUKKA theme, we get a very important conversation between the two that shows for both of them how emotional their situations is.
Sokka: What’s wrong?We have to go!
Princess Yue: No, Sokka, wait. I can’t see you anymore. Not at all.
Sokka: What? We’re just friends.
Princess Yue: I wish we could just be friends, but I like you too much and it’s too confusing to be around you. I’m marrying someone else.
Sokka: You don’t love him, do you? You don’t even seem to like him.
Princess Yue: But I do love my people.
Sokka: You’re not marrying them.
Princess Yue: You don’t understand. I have duties to my father, to my tribe.Â I have to do this, goodbye!
Her position as Princess puts so much pressure on her to stand with tradition, it is something Sokka struggles to understand, but shows how much the two want to be together and how what keeps them apart is something neither can control.
Which I suppose brings me onto the introduction of who Yue is engaged to marry, that of course is Hahn. Quite simply he is written to be hated, he is worse than Pakku in the way that he uses the traditions, and you understand Sokka’s rising anger the longer he is around Hahn who in the end is a bit of an idiot, in the way he talks about Yue as more of a prize than a person he wants to marry, he sees her as a way to get more perks and get further up the chain of command. So when Sokka defends Yue and then attacks Hahn you get why, and yo again further hate the traditions of the NWT when he is taken off the mission to take out Zhao. But it does not end there, we get a scene that shocked me between Sokka and Chief Arnook, Yue’s father. He took Sokka of the mission because he trusts Sokka more than Hahn to protect Yue, showing that even the Chief of the tribe is bound and limited by his own tribes traditions, Almost that he does not agree with Yue marrying Hahn either. Very interesting scene.
I guess to finish my thoughts on Sokka, we see when he is in mission planning how far he has come from the start of the series. His experience of actually fighting the Fire Nation unlike the NWT helps the mission so much, he has met Admiral Zhao before and more importantly he showed them how old their Fire Nation uniform was. He is the first to join the mission, which speaking of that we get a very ominous shot of many characters faces when Arnook speaks “It is with great sadness I call my family here before me, knowing well that some of these faces are about to vanish from our tribe. But they will never vanish from our hearts.” as we see shots of Yue, Hahn and Pakku, so we start to fear for them a bit.
I suppose I will now talk about the start of the battle, you immediately start to fear for the result of the battle after the first few starting shots take down the huge Ice Walls, when the fleet gets close they will be badly defeated. Then Aang steps forward and rides Appa into battle to take out the initial wave. Aang succeeds, but just barely and the magnitude of the invasion becomes clear when Aang ,exhausted looks at the rest of the fleet, he had made little impact.
The most interesting aspect of this early battle is that we get the Spirits impact on bending presented to us by Iroh, The waterbenders are more powerful under the moon, especially a near full moon, Zhao agrees and stops the attack with another ominous line as he mentions he is working on a solution to the spirits. Lots of interesting set up moments throughout this episode.
Aang returns from battle and is disheartened that he is making no dent in the Fire Nation fleet, he feels the battle is lost which Yue struggles to comprehend. It is then Yue talks about the Ocean and Moon spirits which gives Aang an idea of asking the Spirits for help and so Yue brings him and Katara to the Spirit Oasis and Aang soon enters the Spirit World and his body is in a vulnerable state, it is then that Zuko makes his big appearance in the episode having arrived with Zhao’s forces. We get a great fight between Zuko and Katara, which showcases Katara’s new skills, under the moon she easily overpowers Zuko. But as Zhao resumes his attack under the Sun Zuko’s firebending is stronger and he then defeats Katara and captures Aang. He at last has Aang captured, but he is struggling to carry his body through an intense Blizzard. It is a shocking way to end the episode, Aang defenceless, Zuko with nowhere to go and Zhao’s attack resuming. Intense ending.
A big mention has to go to the lovely scene between Zuko and Iroh, Iroh admits to Zuko that since Lu Ten died, he thinks of Zuko as how own Son, and Zuko answers kindly with “I know” showing that he appreciates the support his Uncle has given him, much more than his father. Short, but so well done.
Overall a fantastic opening episode that sets up the final episode of the season perfectly while still having action and it’s own stuff going on.
Favourite Moment/ The Sokka and Chief Arnook Scene
Favourite Line/ “The legends say the moon was the first waterbender.Â Our ancestors saw how it pushed and pulled the tides and learned how to do it themselves.” – Princess Yue
120 Siege Of The North Part 2
Written by: Aaron Ehasz
Directed by: Dave Filoni
Animated By: JM Animation
First Aired: December 2nd 2005
Siege Of The North Part 2, What an Episode!!! So much happens and it is so intense. This could be a long review as there is so much to talk about. The key to this episode for me is the Spirit stuff, we get to see Koh, more of the Spirit World, the sheer power of the spirits and more. Add to that some extremely emotional moments as we lose a few characters.
I will start with the Spirit World, for the first time we get to see the actual Spirit world Explored, Roku with the wisdom of all the Avatar’s does not know the identity of the Moon and Ocean Spirits physical forms and tells Aang to find an ancient Spirit Koh The Face Stealer. Koh is such a great character, the creepy factor on him and even just his name is incredible, but the most interesting thing has to be that he actually helps Aang, he says it in a bit of a riddle and tries to steal Aang’s face , but actually tells Aang what he needs to know. It makes Koh’s purpose that is interesting, we know from the webcomics that he has something to do with the Avatar, possibly making sure that the Avatar actually does their duty and just happens to like stealing faces, when Aang leaves we get the line from Koh that “We’ll meet again.” and because he is a spirit and mentions previous Avatars he is just referring to The Avatar and not Aang specifically, we think. A nice piece of continuity is that Hei Bai appears again to help Aang’s spirit back to his body.
Which leads directly into Zuko with nowhere to bring Aang, so he hides out to wait out the storm in a cave and here we get an insight into Zuko we have never seen before
“I finally have you. But I can’t get you home because of this blizzard.Â There’s always something. Not that you would understand. You’re like my sister. Everything always…came easy to her. She’s a firebending prodigy â€“ and everyone adores her.Â My father says she was born lucky. He says I was lucky to be born.Â I don’t need luck though, I don’t want it. I’ve always had to struggle and fight and that’s made me strong. It’s made me who I am.”
For him to say this is powerful, the complete truth coming out, but you feel for him because he does have to struggle always, this blizzard the latest issue. He is critical of his father and sister and we see him growing ever closer to understanding that they are not what he needs. Then Katara and friends arrive and she beats Zuko in seconds under the moon and Aang makes the decision to save Zuko from freezing, he may not be a friends but Aang cannot let someone die.
Zhao and to a lesser extend Iroh play important roles in this episode. As Zhao enters the battle on foot he reveals that his plan is to remove the moon spirit, this shocks and appals Iroh who is a spiritual man, and Zhao even mentions Iroh’s rumoured journey to the Spirit World. The Zhao flashback is amazing and foreshadows Book 2 episodes, when he was a Lieutenant he discovered a hidden underground Library (which is Wan Shi Tong’s Library) and found out that the Ocean and Moon spirits are the two fishes in the Spirit Oasis something Aang now knows too. This almost race to the Oasis adds much tension to the episode as Zhao is so unpredictable and unstable, he could do anything.
We also around this point in the episode we also get the Yue flashback, where she reveals that she like Zhao has a spirit connection in her past, for her she owes her life to the Moon Spirit, it gave her life when she was seriously ill as a newborn, The Moon Spirit gave her life and also explains her white hair.
Zhao is indeed the first to reach the spirit Oasis and grabs the Moon Spirit out of the pond, immediately the sky turns red and the waterbenders can no longer bend, he has become insane with power calling himself many names. Everyone else arrives and Aang pleads with Zhao not to kill the spirit in a moment where he really shows how far he has come
“Destroying the moon won’t just hurt the Water Tribe. It will hurt everyone â€“ including you. Without the moon, everything would fall out of balance. You have no idea what kind of chaos that would unleash on the world.”
He knows now the impact that spirits have on the world and their importance, this is backed up by Iroh who arrives to stop Zhao also. Zhao feigns understanding and releases the fish before killing it with firebending causing effectively a lunar eclipse as everything accept spiritual things lose their colour, I love that Yue’s eyes still have their colour to show that she has some of the Moon Spirits life within her and that the Firebending still has colour to show that bending is a spiritual thing. Iroh bursts into action and we get to see him firebend in anger for the first time and see how powerful he is, it is a fantastic moment as Zhao is forced to flee for his life, only to be stopped by Zuko. At this stage in the episode everything is kicking off, it is an unbelievable final third of this episode. Zuko and Zuko have the big confrontation that has been coming since their Agni Kai ended, this time it is just one on one, only one of them leaves alive. The passion from Zuko as he is so angry at Zhao for the assassination attempt and everything Zhao did to ruin his chances at getting his honour back, Zuko is in complete control, then KoiZilla interferes with the fight and grabs Zhao wanting revenge for the death of Tui, and in the one moment of minor redemption or honour for Zhao, he does not accept Zuko’s helping hand, he accepts that what he did was so evil that he deserves this and is killed by La (Aang was removed from KoiZilla before this). I loved both Zhao realising what he did and accepting his fate and Zuko willing to save the man who nearly killed him multiple times and nearly ruined his life, the young Zuko coming out again.
Speaking of KoiZilla, what an EPIC scene when Aang answers Yue’s statement of “There is no hope now, It’s over” in the Avatar State voice
“NO, IT’S NOT OVER”
as he in the Avatar State joins with La into the Spirit being known to fans as KoiZilla, the lighting of this scene is glorious, the pure white light of the Avatar State and that lighting up the water of KoiZilla when nearly everything else is dull is fantastic looking. Korra will have some task to match some of this spiritual lighting in Book 2 Spirits. It is the look of utter awe on the other characters faces that make it seem so powerful, strong benders like Katara and Iroh just stand open mouthed as Aang joins with La, they can bend an element, but have never seen anything like that.
Aang and La proceed to demolish the Fire Nation Fleet as we see the Water Tribe Warriors bow to their spirits and are passes without harm, soon the Fire Nation are in full retreat, Zhao’s invasion a failure. It is such an amazing scene, the music and the glorious visuals just combine to make some of the most memorable minutes of visual media I have ever seen ever. It is that good.
And there is still other stuff going on with all that O.O, Yue now realises thanks to Iroh that her true duty is to give the Moon Spirit who granted her life back it’s life in the ultimate sacrifice, Sokka tasked with protecting her protests, but Yue knows this is what she has to do. A more tender emotional scene unlike the drama of the others, but amazingly well done. Then when we find out that Yue has effectively become the new Moon Spirit and she as a spirit kisses Sokka saying “Goodbye, Sokka. I will always be with you.”. Absolutely perfect scene, so much emotion between the two.
Some quickfire scenes. The end reveal of Ozai sending out Azula to hunt down Iroh and Zuko who are now considered traitors is a fascinating reveal, because we do not really know how much of a threat Azula is. The bookmark to the opening episode of Zuko now accepting Iroh line of “A Man Needs his rest”, he has grown a lot over this season and is tired of doing all of this for his father, he is beginning to see other paths in his life, great development. Chief Arnook and Sokka having a nice scene where Arnook reveals he always knew this was her destiny, he is proud but sad, short but sweet line from her father.
Overall one of my favourite episodes of Avatar full stop. Near perfection, action, character moments, emotion, amazing animation and just sheer epicness combine to make this a tremendous Book 1 Water Finale, a top top episode. It ends Book 1 with our heroes more hopefull that they can succeed and end the war after the victory, they have all developed hugely, and even Zuko is on his way. Still a long way to go and really this finale did leave them open to do anything in Book 2. We lost Zhao, Yue as a person and possibly Hahn, though his death is not confirmed just
Favourite Moment/ Aang joining with La to take out the Fire Nation Fleet. The power of the Avatar and The Spirits has never been shown so clearly.
Favourite Line/ “NO, IT’S NOT OVER!” – Aang in the Avatar State
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