ATLA Episode Reviews 201-203
Airspeed Prime back once again with some Avatar The Last Airbender Episode Reviews. I have finished Book 1 and it’s overview, I will be doing the same for Book 2 and 3. NOTE, there will be no ATLA reviews next week due to the release of The Promise Part 3 and I will be reviewing that instead and planning for The Promise Special Podcast.
Today I will be reviewing 201 The Avatar State, 202 The Cave Of Two Lovers and 203 Return To Omashu
201 The Avatar State¬†
Written by: Aaron Ehasz, Elizabeth Welch Ehasz, Tim Hedrick and John O’Bryan
Directed by: Giancarlo Volpe
Animated By: DR Movie
First Aired: March 17th 2006
The Avatar State, the opening Episode of Book 2 Earth. Immediately we see that Book 2 gets deep ¬†into some complex issues, in this case explaining exactly what the Avatar State is and how up to now Aang has never been in control of it. It is his fear of the lack of control and Katara not liking it when he gets like that that really make this episode shine.
I will begin with the transition between Book 1 and 2, we see the gaang leave the Northern Water Tribe and a few things have changed. First of all some new outfit changes to better suit more Earth Kingdom travelling, Katara is going to continue on Aang’s teaching and from the end of 120 Pakku is taking some people to the Southern Tribe to help rebuild it, that is happening now. Not to mention that Katara is given some Spirit Oasis water which won’t be mentioned again until it is needed in the Book finale, nice continuity. It is a very good transition, having the goodbyes as they leave the NWT needed to happen and the obvious progression from here would be for Aang to learn Earthbending from Bumi, another nice bit of continuity that that is who Aang wants to teach him.
I suppose the next thing to talk about is The Avatar State. First of all I suppose would be that we and Aang get it explained to us properly, it is a defence mechanism that empowers an Avatar with the power and wisdom of all the past Avatars, this defence version is only activated when the Avatar is in extreme danger or high emotional stress. So right there we get that we have not seen Aang in control of the Avatar State yet, leaving another thing for him to have to learn before the comet. Roku also mentions that should an Avatar die in the Avatar State that the Avatar will cease to exist and the cycle will break, again nice continuity for the final 2 episodes of the book where this nearly happens. I found it very interesting that Roku felt the need to appear to Aang and explain this, it was well done as it could have led to more issues in the future had he not had it explained to him, Roku is doing his role as the previous Avatar by helping Aang.
Then on the theme of The Avatar State is Aang and his fear of what he does in the Avatar State when he is not in control. He has a nightmare at the start of the episode, and the nightmare itself was not the only scary part, he found himself scary, which hits him hard.
“It was scary.¬†I¬†was scary.”
Which was a very important line to get from Aang, we all cheer and love the epicness of the Avatar State moments, but to get how Aang himself feels during these moments is huge, it makes you think a bit differently about the moments. He has Zero control over his actions and most of the time has to be talked down by his friends. Add to this Katara revealing to Aang how she feels when he is in the Avatar State and you have Aang in a very complicated issue in this episode, she tells him
“Do you remember when we were at the air temple and you found Monk Gyatso’s skeleton? It must have been so horrible and traumatic for you. I saw you get so upset that you weren’t even you anymore. I’m not saying the Avatar state doesn’t have incredible‚ÄĒand helpful power. But you have to understand, for the people who love you, watching you be in that much rage and pain is really scary.”
A very honest ¬†statement made by Katara and Aang takes it on board and in the end admits she is correct, but because of the way General Fong has guilt tripped Aang into joining his plan to attack the Fire Nation with the Avatar State, he cannot agree with her at that moment. It is also interesting that Katara more or less says that ¬†she loves Aang here, a sense that she is growing more and more attached to him and liking the idea of Aang as more than a friend.
So on one side for Aang you have Katara’s emotional reveal that Aang in the end agrees with because of his reaction to his nightmare and on the other you have Fong saying,
“Well, while you take your time learning the elements, the war goes on. May I show you something?
That’s the infirmary, and those soldiers are the lucky ones.¬†They came back.¬†Every day the Fire Nation takes lives. People are¬†dying, Aang! You could end it, now! Think about it.”
Using Aang’s unintended absence against him, Aang is not completely over that guilt over his 100 year absence. He uses the injured men against him. It is very underhanded from Fong (voiced by Daniel Dae Kim, who also voiced Hiroshi Sato) and you grow to really dislike him, he is just wanting to use Aang as a weapon, he treats him as such, not as a person with feelings. It is this conflict in Aang’s head that really makes this a great episode, you understand why he agrees to General Fong’s plan and you understand his own pain when he gets out of the Avatar State at the end and what he did not want to happen, did happen, he hurt lots of men on his side, earth Kingdom soldiers. Though we know it was all Fong’s fault, and he has put all of this on Aang.
The different ways that Fong attempts to activate the Avatar State are very funny, until the last one. The chi enhancing tea, making him hyper active, all four elements combined in a ritual being just hot, bubbly mud. Sokka with Momo as his head was brilliant in it’s randomness. After these fail, we see Fong grow more and more angry and intense until he decides to just force Aang into the Avatar State by first putting him in danger and finally intense emotional stress. It is a shocking moment when Fong gradually begins to plant Katara into the ground with Earthbending and how desperate Aang is, trying to get himself upset as quick as possible to save the girl he loves, it is a very emotional moment especially when he thinks Fong has killed her and the Avatar State activates. It just wrecks the base and injures many men, Fong had thought the whole plan through right up until he never thought that his men attacking Aang would not become the enemy. Fong in the end had good intentions at heart, he wanted to end the war and stop meant getting injured, but in doing so lost himself in this quest and ended up hurting more men and emotionally hurting Aang and his friends also.
Then we move onto the Zuko, Iroh and now Azula side of the story. We see that it is the 3 year anniversary of Zuko’s banishment and Zuko still has not captured the Avatar, he thinks he is nothing without the Avatar and that capturing him will give him back everything. ¬†At this point we know Ozai has sent Azula out to capture Zuko and Iroh so this has little chance of happening at all for Zuko. It leaves him in an unusual situation at the end of this episode of being on the run himself, with no goal or path, and opens Zuko’s development up so much with him getting away from capturing Aang.
This episode is indeed the big debut for Azula, and immediately with her first line we get a sense of who she is, she has complete control over those under her command depite her age, they are afraid of her, you straight away get the sense of her cruelty.
“But I assure you, if you hesitate, I will¬†not¬†hesitate to bring you down. Dismissed.”
So much of her character is just from the amazing voice that Grey Delisle does for her, it is commanding and confident, so self assured. Not only does her first line show her control of people, but then she further shows everyone not to mess with her when she makes an example of a soldier who tells her that the tides are restricting them from making port.
Azula: Do the tides command this ship?
Captain:¬†Uh… I’m afraid I do not understand.
Azula:¬†You said the tides would not¬†allow¬†us to bring the ship in. Do the tides command this ship?
Azula:¬†And if I were to have you thrown overboard, would the tides think twice about smashing you against the rocky shore?
Azula:¬†Well, then, maybe you should worry less about the tides who’ve already made up their mind about killing you and worry more about me, who’s still mulling it over.
Captain:¬†I’ll pull us in.
This is so well written and performed, great scene. We learn even more about her next time we see her, when she is practising her Lightning Generation, she has to be absolutely perfect, “Almost isn’t good enough”, her intensity of training is amazing to see.
So when she finally meets up with her Brother and Uncle we really wonder what she is going to do, based on her cruelty displayed so far I was expecting a raid and capture, but instead she approaches them both in a friendly fashion in an attempt to get them to come without a struggle, we see how good of a liar and manipulator she is, and especially how she knows Zuko so well she can so easily have him believe her. It is interesting when Azula tells them that Ozai has changed his mind and he wants Zuko back home that he instantly believe her, because it has been what he has always wanted, but Iroh knows his brother would never change his mind like that. The Iroh and Azula interaction is just as good as the Royal siblings, in that we really see Ozai’s influence on Azula in the way she treats her Uncle, she has no respect for him constantly cutting him off and not letting him speak, she knows the influence he has on Zuko.
When Azula temporarily leaves we get a very interesting back and forth between Zuko and Iroh, Zuko is happy with the news unable to even think it could be a lie, while Iroh wants Zuko to think about this. Zuko then snaps at his Uncle and insults him
“I think you are exactly what you seem: a lazy, mistrustful, shallow old man who has always been jealous of his brother.”
So when Iroh does indeed Join Zuko, we see the delight on Zuko’s face and we see how much his Uncle means to him. It is a nice moment for Zuko and Iroh.
Lastly is the fight scene, the same officer who Azula schooled about the tides slips that they are prisoners, Iroh springs into action taking out some of the soldiers as Zuko, enraged goes after his lying sister. We see here that Zuko is completely outclassed by Azula, she is in complete control and just toying with Zuko. Then in an amazing moment and piece of continuity, Azula attempts to kill Zuko with lightning, but Iroh jumps infront and redirects the Lightning away and knocks Azula into the water, a reference to 112 when he saved the ship from a lightning strike. Zuko and Iroh are left as fugitives from the Fire Nation, Zuko with nothing to gain by capturing Aang now that he is an enemy of his nation. And Azula even more eager to catch them after their defeat. I love the symbolic moment of Iroh and Zuko cutting off their top knots, cutting their connection to the royal family and going on the run.
Overall a very impressive opening to Book 2 Earth, giving us plot straight away with the gaang heading to Omashu to find Bumi for Aang to learn Earthbending and Fong revealing his plan once they arrive at the base. It was important for the show to explain to us early on this season the nature of the Avatar State and it was very well done, not just from an information point of view, but also from an emotional view and how the characters feel about this power. Azula and Aang and Katara’s feelings about the Avatar State were the big highlights of this episode.
Favourite Moment/ Iroh redirects Azula’s lightning and knocks her into the water, the so far perfect Azula is humiliated and then vows to never let it happen again.
Favourite Line/¬†”Do you remember when we were at the air temple and you found Monk Gyatso’s skeleton? It must have been so horrible and traumatic for you. I saw you get so upset that you weren’t even you anymore. I’m not saying the Avatar state doesn’t have incredible‚ÄĒand helpful power. But you have to understand, for the people who love you, watching you be in that much rage and pain is really scary.” – Katara
202 The Cave Of Two Lovers
Written by: Joshua Hamilton
Directed by: Lauren MacMullan
Animated By: JM Animation
First Aired: March 24th 2006
The Cave Of Two Lovers, a shipping focused episode, Book 1 had 114 The Fortuneteller, Book 2 has this one. It is actually a very good episode that while shipping focused has amazing parts that add to the mythology of Avatar, like Oma and Shu, while Chong and the Nomads are amazing Minor characters introduced in this episode, while the B plot of Zuko and Iroh meeting Song is a short, but important aspect of this episode.
I will start with Chong, Lily and Moku , the nomads. They are such odd characters to introduce and have only in this episode, but they end up being some of the funniest and most entertaining characters in all of Avatar. Chong, voiced by the amazing Dee Bradley Baker (Also voiced Tarrlok and every Animal O.O) is just utterly hilarious at all times, he is a hippy and really shows that while Aang is a nomad, he is in no way like these guys. It is a combination of the voice, the amazing songs and singing and all over the place thoughts that make him and his friends amazing. The songs are instant classics, SECRET TUNNEL, Two Lovers, Don’t Fall In Love With A Travelling Girl, and Don’t Let The Cave In Let You Down are all great. They help to make a cave in episode very laid back, Sokka is very intense and serious, while they see nothing at all wrong.
Chong:¬†Whoa… sounds like someone’s got a case of “destination fever,” heh. You’re worried too much about where you’re going.
Lily:¬†You’ve gotta focus less on the “where” and more on the “going.”
These two lines pretty much tell you everything you need to know about the group. They just go with the flow, never taking things too seriously and being optimistic about everything.
But what is so good about them is that they are complete foils to Sokka in this episode, while they are super mellow, Sokka is super serious and intent on getting to Omashu. Sokka who is easily frustrated by people who don’t always follow logic and reason gets extremely frustrated with the oblivious Nomads, the great joke is the number of times Sokka facepalms at them out of frustration, so much so he ends up with a huge red mark at the end of the episode. It is some of the best use of character contrast in the whole series. Wonderfully done.
Now I suppose it is time to talk about shipping and more specifically KATAANG. In the cave in Katara, Aang and Appa are separated from the rest, which works perfectly to help develop their relationship with the two having some alone time. Aang has this on his mind, after they were all told to trust in love and Aang looked at Katara confident they could get through. They reach the tomb of Oma and Shu, and after reading the story they are left with the line “Love Is Brightest In The Dark” and as their light begins to fail they are left with only this as an option, what is important here is that it is an embarrassed Katara who is the one to suggest that the two kiss, the embarrassed reactions from both are very realistic, neither having much experience in things romantic, Aang just cannot speak properly with love in mind and offends Katara and the kiss if off…..for now. But when their lights are just about to go out the two come close together stare into each others eyes and the light goes out, and we are left wondering if they did kiss or not. We basically know that they did because at the end of the episode Katara blushes at the end when Aang looks at her, why would she blush if they did not kiss. It is a great scene as it turns out that when all light goes out the crystals begin to glow lighting up the path out, we also should note that the two are holding hands at this stage. They find their way out and are met soon after by Sokka and the Nomads who met some Badgermoles who they rode out of the cave.
Lastly is the Zuko and Iroh part of the episode. We see Zuko struggling to adapt to living off the land and not as a royal family member, he is hating it. His uncle meanwhile is more interested in looking for ways to make fancy tea and ends up mistaking the White Jade Bush for the White Dragon Bush and poisons himself causing a sever rash, it is an interesting point to note here that in Book 3 when Iroh is in prison he is given White Jade tea by Ming in prison and he takes it happily, despite the fact that it should be poisonous, a direct continuity mistake made precisely clear in this episode, unless Iroh turns out to know even less about bushes. The two then have a great moment when deciding where to go to help Iroh, they have to choose between enemies of the Fire Nation, The Earth Kingdom and possibly being captured by Azula, they quickly decide that the risk of being killed by the Earth Kingdom is the better choice compared to what Azula might do to them.
So this is when Song enters the episode to help Iroh and they use their undercover names, Lee and Mushi. After dinner Song and Zuko talk together. It is a fascinating part of the episode, she reveals that she has also been burned by the Fire Nation, this shocks Zuko, that his nation has done this to someone so innocent and nice as Song. She notes his lack of hope and when Iroh and Zuko go to leave she says to him
“¬†I know you don’t think there’s any hope left in the world, but there is hope. The Avatar has returned! ”
though Zuko does not really react in any meaningful way to this, still being his usual self. He then steals the families Ostrich Horse and leaves despite Iroh’s protests. It is a big end of their part of the episode, Zuko still so angry about everything, unable to get past capturing the Avatar, but learning more and more that returning to his place in the Fire Nation may no longer be what he wants or needs.
Finally Oma and Shu, the story of not just the formation of the city, but the story of the first human Earthbenders. It is an interesting tale, that is difficult to place in the timeline, it is pre or post Avatar. If it is pre Avatar it would tell us a lot about why the Avatar perhaps came into existence, to combat people learning bending. At a guess we can say that it probably is pre Avatar as why would the Avatar not be the one to end a conflict between the two rival cities.Which based on what we know would suggest that both Oma and Shu were energybenders or at least had that ability, hence why they could learn to use this control of energy to Earthbend. It is a very interesting tale with gorgeous painted style art. And adds some nice history to a city like Omashu. Great addition to the mythology with one of the furthest reaching back stories we get.
Overall a really good episode, the shipping is done well as are the character intros and interaction. Even the short Zuko and Iroh part adds to Zuko’s development. Continuing a strong start to Book 2.
Favourite Moment/ Katara and Aang’s interaction in the tomb, their embarrassing lines and kiss and handholding. Great development for their relationship.
Katara:¬†Is this real or a legend?
Chong:¬†Oh, it’s a real legend.
203 Return To Omashu
Written by: Elizabeth Welch Ehasz
Directed by: Ethan Spaulding
Animated By: DR Movie
First Aired: April 7th 2006
Return To Omashu, Well Book 1 that was quick wasn’t it. It took 13 episodes in book 1 to get from Omashu to the NWT, and here it has taken 3. It is another thing that highlights the lack of plot for Book 1. Speaking of plot, this episode shows how having constant plot just adds and adds to a series. This episode gets us straight into the plot, we quickly get Azula on the trail of catching Aang also and her making her team, not to mention a certain King Bumi returning.
I will start with the formation of Ozai’s Angels. Interestingly the only people Azula seems to respect and listen to are Lo and Li, ¬†they suggest she get rid of the royal procession and have a quicker team and she agrees, it makes me really want to get the explanation behind how Lo and Li were made her teachers and why she listens to them. So she immediately thinks of her 2 friends Mai and Ty Lee to be part of her team. But more than that we see that they are kind of only friends because of Azula’s controlling and intimidating personality, though at the same time they are fairly friendly, it is an odd relationship between them.
She first goes to get Ty Lee to join her, we see Ty Lee is an acrobat in a circus, Azula clearly does not approve of her friend being in such a place. Ty Lee is a vary upbeat and peppy girl, she is extremely polite to Azula and definitely respects Azula for her confidence. She refuses the offer, but the big moment is when Azula then says she is staying to see the show, this puts Ty Lee on edge, as she knows what Azula is doing, Azula does not take no for an answer. Azula without blatantly doing anything to Ty Lee, intimidates her by getting the Circus master to make the show more and more dangerous, at the end Ty Lee accepts Azula’s offer as she knows Azula will just keep coming back. They are friends, but Azula does not really know how to treat a friend properly, Ty Lee says no and she proceeds to treat her like anyone else.
Then she and Ty Lee come to Omashu (the episode is cleverly constructed at this point, Aang and Co have arrived and so does Azula, who is not at all interested in the Avatar until she sees him) to get Mai to join them. The meeting of the 3 friends is another great scene, Mai and Ty Lee are close friends, as shown with how well Mai knows Ty Lee and understands why she was at the circus, unlike Azula. Mai is a very interesting character and one of my favourites in all of Avatar, she gets an insane amount of hate, mainly from Zuko fangirls, but I think she is a great character. We later find out exactly why she is the way she is, but in this case, she is brought to Omashu because she had to go with her father and mother and brother, and is finding the situation incredibly boring, so when her old friends arrive she perks up a bit and joins the team with no issue, happy to be doing something exciting.
I will deal with the deal later on and go to Aang and friends in this episode. I find the whole Pentapox solution to get the citizens of Omashu out to be very clever, playing on the whole everyone is a hypochondriac thing. I laughed every time someone said “Pentapox, I think I have heard of that” followed by an example of some member of their family dying because of it. It was so over the top that it worked, Sokka teaching them to act more like Zombies than sick people. Brilliant.
Aang and his eagerness to get to and save his only remaining friend from his past made sense and was very realistic, you really get a sense of how close the two are. When the two eventually get a chance to actually speak, it is interesting that for one of the first times Bumi is serious, he can’t be Aang’s Earthbending teacher, and we get the concept of Jings explained to us, just 3 of the supposed 85. Positive Jing for attacking, Negative Jing when you are defending and Neutral Jing when you do nothing/wait and then strike. Makes me wonder if the other 82 are just made up or if there are actually more than 3. Bumi explains to Aang that his teacher needs to be a master of Neutral Jing, which in the end is a bit odd considering that Bumi did some incredibly insane Neutral Jing stuff waiting for the eclipse. Though I suppose Toph is truly a master of neutral Jing.
Finally I suppose is the big deal in Omashu. Mai’s little brother Tom Tom goes missing and through following Momo ends up with Aang and co. So the deal is Tom Tom for King Bumi, and we get an amazing confrontation between Mai, Azula and Ty Lee on one side and Aang, Sokka and Katara on the other. It is a tense face off and when Azula breaks the deal, Aang reveals himself as the Avatar and for the first time Azula sees The Avatar and this starts an amazing set piece fighting scene. Azula goes after Aang who is attempting to free Bumi and they have an amazing chase scene with Azula demonstrating her Blue Fire for the first time as Aang struggles to defend, in the end it is only Bumi revealing that he can still earthbend with his face that defeats her. While this happens we get Mai and Ty Lee vs Sokka and Katara, Sokka hindered by holding Tom Tom. It is Mai and Ty Lee’s unique fighting styles that make this fight great, Mai and her knife throwing and Ty Lee and her actobatics and Chi Blocking, they beat Sokka and Katara easily enough and they are only saved by Appa. Chi Blocking ends up being a very important concept, especially going into Korra and combating benders. ¬†Amazing fight.
The end scene of Aang being the Avatar even to the invading Fire Nation by bringing Tom Tom back to his parents was a lovely scene, just a small moment, but one to show that Aang is not just against the Fire Nation he is even helping them. Another nice scene was Ty Lee nudging Mai about seeing Zuko again, a hint at the two liking each other and a big change for Mai, who had been a bit bleh the whole episode, but suddenly has a grin of excitement at the mention of Zuko.
Overall another good episode that continues on the plot, taking Bumi out as a candidate for being Aang’s Earthbending teacher, while telling him the type of teacher he is looking for and at the same time introducing an new group of characters pursuing Aang, this time Azula wanting to get one over on her brother with Mai and Ty Lee.
Favourite Moment/ The Deal scene of the two groups of 3 facing off.
Favourite Line/ ¬†¬†”Your teacher will be someone who has mastered neutral jin. You need to find someone who waits and listens before striking.” – Bumi
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