ATLA Episode Reviews – 210-213
Hello everyone, Airspeed Prime here once again to present you with 4 ATLA episode reviews. As I said last week the plan is 4 this week, 4 next week and the final 3 the week after.
This week I will be reviewing: 210 The Library, 211 The Desert, 212 The Serpents Pass and 213 The Drill
210 The Library
Written By: John O’Bryan
Directed By: Giancarlo Volpe
Animated By: JM Animation
First Aired: July 14th 2006
The Library, the episode where the series really starts to become plot driven. It is this episode that starts a chain of events that plays a crucial role in the series right up until the invasion and onwards. I really enjoy this episode because of how it finally gets down to discussing exactly how the group are going to actually face Ozai once Aang is ready, they need a plan to get Aang to Ozai, that is what this episode addresses. That said, I also enjoy how this episode does not immediately start off that way. The gaang is just relaxing and going on mini vacations and they happen across some info, I really like the way it is done, they just happen across the key to winning the war.
It is those mini vacations that I will begin with. Things are finally going smoothly for the group, Aang is well on his way to mastering his 3rd element and they all think they have a lot of time, so they decide to all relax and choose mini vacations. I love how each of their chosen locations fits well into their characters, Aang chooses a location with interesting animals, Katara chooses a natural wonder and then Sokka chooses a library while Toph does not get one as she is still new to the group. I like how Sokka is the most practical in this situation, he wants to plan ahead and not waste time. Most importantly he realises that they need a plan for when Aang is ready to face Ozai, the Fire nation is heavily guarded and Aang will need to face Ozai alone. Sokka wants fire nation inside intelligence. It is perfect Sokka characterisation, as despite his seriousness, his goofy side comes out as seen when he sees the amazing mango beverage at the Misty Palms Oasis. The show addresses the gaangs plan going forward, that was needed.
I will talk about the new characters introduced in this episode now: Professor Zei and Wan Shi Tong. An anthropology professor who loves knowledge and The knowledge spirit, fitting that the two first appear in the same episode. Zei is an interesting character, just because of his enthusiasm for knowledge. You instantly know who he is from his reaction to seeing Aang, immediately into knowledge mode upon meeting his first Airbender. You get a sense of just how devoted to his work and finding out new facts he is. He relishes the opportunity to fly on Appa and easily explore the Si Wong Desert, to help the gaang find Wan Shi Tong’s Library. It is his harmlessness and devotion to knowledge for knowledges sake that makes him so fun as a character, you know he has no other motive than expanding his mind. When they eventually find the library we see his eagerness come to the front as he straight away gets over the disappointment of the library being buried and wants to start excavating, little moments that make him such a likeable character. Then the absolute respect he pays to Wan Shi Tong and the library, handing over a tomb of his work to the Owl Spirit for entry. He begs him not to bury the library again and shows his devotion to knowledge by staying in the sinking library, showing that all he has ever cared about is knowledge, not using it, just learning everything he can.
“I could spend an eternity here” – Zei
In the end he goes down with the library, we do not know what happened to him. Did Wan Shi Tong recognise that ,unlike other humans, Zei did, like himself enjoy knowledge for knowledges sake and let him stay in the library (which we assume was brought back to the spirit world) or did Zei perish in the sinking library. We may never know, but I like to think that Wan Shi Tong gained some faith in humanity through Zei.
Next has to be Wan Shi Tong himself, one of the first Spirits we meet to actually speak after past Avatars, Enma and Koh. He is a fascinating character because of his dislike of humans. This dislike was caused by his experience with Zhao in the past and the destruction Zhao caused with some of the knowledge, after this he lost all faith in humans and believes that they all want knowledge for the sole purpose of getting an advantage over their enemies. We see he cares nothing for the war that is going on, and despite the gaangs good intentions, does not see the difference between what they want and what Zhao did, it makes him a complete neutral. He only seems to care about humans for the knowledge they create, which is what makes him so interesting in this episode. Aang passionately pleads with him to let them use the knowledge so they can save their loved ones to which Wan, emotionless, replies that he is protecting his love, knowledge.
Aang:¬†We had no choice. Please, we’re just desperate to protect the people we love.
Wan Shi Tong:¬†And now I’m going to protect what I love.
In the end a character I would love to see a return to at some point, to see if his thoughts on humans have changed at all. Does the outcome of the war mean anything ¬†to him. He added to the thought that the spirits are not meant to interfere with the physical world at all, and the events of the episode may explain to us why the Avatar first came into being, as a way for a spirit to help the physical world while understanding what humanity means. If the spirits did the same role as the Avatar it would not work, based on what we have seen of Wan and spirits like Koh, wars and genocide mean nothing to them, while to Aang as the Avatar he has the mix of humanity and spiritual power to end it.
Getting away from those in-depth spirit thoughts, I will cover the discovery of the date of the eclipse next. This is the big and important part of this episode, this is the moment where the plot becomes more than just Aang faces Ozai in a few months, the moment where a plan is put in place. This is where Book 2 differentiates itself from Book 1, it has more to it than that main plot. Sokka and Aang finding out about the eclipse and finding out that an eclipse leaves firebenders without bending is such an important scene in the series as a whole, our heroes realise they can win now. That is huge. Sokka has a great moment when they find the info, he immediately comes ¬†up with ¬†a plan, tell the Earth King and invade the fire nation. What this does is that it takes the comet out of the picture for now, Aang no longer needs to worry about learning Firebending as he won’t be able to use it during the eclipse, the group has hope and confidence.
Unfortunately this massive win comes at a huge loss, Appa and Toph are waiting outside of the library, so when the library begins to sink, Toph uses her earthbending to try and slow it down and let her friends escape. Sadly it is never that easy, as Sandbenders attack and try to steal Appa, this leaves Toph with a heartbreaking choice to make: Save her friends and let Appa be captured or let her friends be trapped and save Appa. She emotionally chooses to save her friends, which is the logical choice as they were in danger of death while Appa was being taken. For Toph to show that much emotion for an animal she has only known for a while is incredible and shows what this show can do with these powerful moments.
“No!¬†I’m sorry Appa.” – Toph
An episode that should have ended with a celebration now ends with Team Avatar minus a crucial member, Aang’s best friend, Appa has been kidnapped. The episode ends with the group shocked and Aang crying. What an episode.
An interesting point to note should be that this episode foreshadows The Lion Turtle, we see a book of an Avatar talking with a Lion Turtle, showing that the finale did not just come from nowhere, but rather that in the past Avatars communicating with Lion Turtles has happened.
Overall a great episode, this one has to get extra marks for what it sets up for the rest of the series, taking what in the start was a simple plot of learn these things and face Ozai to now being a more complex plan which is interrupted with the kidnapping of Appa. It leaves the series able to go in a different direction without it coming across as ignoring the big picture. The new characters are amazing and add so much to this episode. A high quality episode.
Favourite Moment/ Near the end of the episode where so many things are happening at once. Sokka and Aang are desperately trying to find the date, Katara is trying to hold off Wan Shi Tong, Toph is fighting to save Appa and everyone inside and Zei makes his big decision. A thrilling end to the episode.
Favourite Line/ “I’d like to spend my vacation AT THE LIBRARY!!!” – Sokka
211 The Desert
Written By: Tim Hendrick
Directed By: Lauren MacMullan
Animated By: DR Movie
First Aired: July 14th 2006
The Desert, a personal favourite of mine. The reason that I like this episode so much is because of how well the characters are done in this episode, the emotions brought on by their situation bring out different aspects of their characters and it makes what could be a boring episode of the characters getting out of a desert into an emotional journey. While this is happening we also see the return of Master Yu, Xin Fu, Zuko and Iroh who also have an interesting plot with some Order Of The White Lotus stuff.
This episode is really all about characters so there is no better way to cover this episode than to just talk about the characters in depth. I will begin with Katara, who I think is amazing in this episode. The reason I say that is because she holds the group together throughout this whole experience. Aang is not in the frame of mind to lead the group after the loss of Appa, Toph can’t see well with the sand and Sokka’s eagerness to get water from a cactus causes him to hallucinate. This leaves leading the group up to Katara, who shows us how strong of a character she is as she both physically and mentally drags the group through this episode. She is immediately required to calm the group down when Aang blames Toph for the loss of Appa, she does this with ease, though she struggles to deal with a distraught Aang who flies off in search of his bison. She then deals out the remaining water they have. For me her big moment is when everyone else has given up hope of finding their way out, Katara just gets up and drives the group onwards.
“Ugh… We’re getting out of this desert, and we’re going to do it together! Aang, get up. Everybody hold hands. We can do this. We have to.” – Katara
Aang snaps at her later on and Katara lets everyone know that she is trying to keep them all together.
Aang: What’s anyone else doing! What are you doing?
Katara:¬†Trying to keep everyone together.
She understands Aang’s emotions, but knows they are not helping the group right now. Next is probably my favourite scene of ATLA as a whole, when they find the sandbenders and Aang, in a rage goes into the Avatar State ready to end them all for selling and muzzling Appa. We see Katara looking on at Aang, her thoughts clearly on what she said to him in 201 and how she feels when he is like this, her face has an expression that is a mix of compassion, sadness and disappointment. She then walks through the sandstorm Aang is whipping up while everyone else looks for cover and just pulls him out of the air into an embrace and ¬†just holds him as he comes out of the Avatar State, crying. It is such a powerful scene, the look on Katara’s face and the way that she approaches and then brings Aang out of the Avatar state are just amazing and honestly it is one of the best scenes in any piece of media I have ever seen. It is absolutely perfect, and for something that emotional to be in a Nick show once again shows that there is so much to Avatar as a show. Katara shows us in this episode that she is the emotional heart of the group, she has immense inner strength that is demonstrated so well in this episode as she brings all of her friends through the desert.
With Aang in this episode, we get to see him experience many emotions we have never seen from him before. His flaw as a character comes out fully in this episode, that being his over attachment to those he loves, in this case, Appa. We see just how much losing Appa affects Aang in this episode, he is rightfully upset, but it is the extent to which it affects him that makes it a flaw. He snaps at Toph and Katara at multiple points throughout this episode and is full of anger towards the sandbenders, this coming from a usually peaceful and happy Air Nomad makes it that much more of an issue. He pretty much gives up in the desert because they can’t find Appa and as I have mentioned above it is only Katara’s strength that keeps him going.
“¬†What’s the difference? We won’t survive without Appa. We all know it.” – Aang
We see Aang angry for one of the first times in the series, he wants revenge against the sandbenders. This comes out when the buzzard wasps take Momo, Aang saves Momo and instead of just leaving the wasp to flee he blasts it with Air as it flies off. We see it drop and not get back up. We do not know if Aang killed this wasp of not, but either way it shows how angry Aang is, his people’s philosophy is to respect all life and he went out of his way to hurt that wasp, that is very dark. So when he later confronts the sandbenders who took Appa, you are scared for what he may do. When they reveal they muzzled him, Aang snaps and in a rage enters the Avatar state and threatens ¬†Gashuin, he is unaware of the harm he may be causing to his friends with the sandstorm he has created. You just feel so much for Aang in this episode, that all comes out when Katara holds him as he cries at the end. This is amazing characterisation for Aang, the power of his emotions is incredible in this episode.
Sokka in this episode obviously drinks some cactus juice and begins to have wild hallucinations, which is what takes him out of action in this episode. It is this that adds the humour to this episode, without Sokka’s randomness this is a very dark and serious episode. I am not going to pick out any specific Sokka quotes as pretty much everything he says is hilarious. My favourite Sokka moment is when his head begins to clear and instantly he eats the goo off of the walls of a cave and is out of action again, Katara saying how stupid it was was hilarious.
Lastly is the other side of this episode with Master Yu and Xin Fu discovering Iroh and Zuko and deciding to pursue them, as well as get Toph back. I definitely did not expect them to come into contact with Zuko, but it really worked and shows the greed of the 2 earthbenders. In the end they don’t play that big of a role in the episode, but what happens with them was good to show all the little links between characters. It is Zuko and Iroh who are the stars of this section. Iroh is sick of travelling and plays up his injury so they can make camp, but this is interrupted when The Rough Rhinos arrive and reveal they know Iroh and that they are out to get them. Zuko and Iroh fight back and manage to escape, leaving Zuko to wonder if any of Iroh’s old friends don’t want to kill him. This line makes for an interesting contrast when Iroh locates Fung, a fellow member of the Order Of The White Lotus. We, like Zuko, have no idea what is going on as the two play a very choreographed game of pai sho while saying some secret things to each other. They both acknowledge each other and Fung then helps Iroh and Zuko to escape from Xin Fu and Master Yu. The two then plan Iroh and Zuko’s plan of escape, which is that they are to become refugees in Ba Sing Se. It is a big reveal given Iroh’s past experiences with the city and because the two are enemies of the Earth and Fire Nation. For Zuko it also means that he is getting further and further away from being able to ever capture Aang, his path is not clear at all. The end of this side of the story leaves us wondering what exactly their plan is and is a nice way to end their side of the story. What we as the audience do know is that both of our main groups are heading to Ba Sing Se, Aang and co to find Appa and tell the Earth King of the plan and Zuko and Iroh to escape to safety.
Overall this is an excellent episode and a real showcase of how well Avatar can do character development. This episode has some of the funniest and most emotional scenes of the whole series while advancing the plot with Zuko and Iroh. As I said at the beginning, one of my favourites.
Favourite Moment/ Katara calming Aang down from the Avatar State.
Favourite Line/¬†¬† “(I’m) Trying to keep everyone together!” – Katara
212 The Serpents Pass
Written By: Mike and Joshua Hamilton
Directed By: Ethan Spaulding
Animated By: JM Animation
First Aired: September 15th 2006
The Serpents Pass, the third episode in the series of 4 episodes that takes the show from learning the elements and facing Ozai to having much more to the plot. The return of Suki was a perfect way to bring Sokka’s feelings about Yue back to the forefront while also addressing the two’s relationship. It follows on so well from the previous 2 episodes with Aang’s feelings about losing Appa and Katara helping him through it. Jet also returns, but this time to meet Zuko and Iroh which makes for some great moments between the two as they are similar in a few ways. There is a lot going on in this episode and it works very well.
I will begin with Aang, his feelings about Appa going from last episode into this one take a huge change. He goes from caring too much to not caring enough. He tries to not talk about Appa and take his mind off him. The interesting thing is Katara’s attitude to Aang’s change. She knew he was not in a good state of mind last episode and was overly emotional,while in this episode she tells Aang to¬†care, just not so much that it badly affects the group. Katara’s main point is for Aang to have hope for getting Appa back, while Aang decides to abandon hope in this episode.
Katara:¬†You know, it’s ok to miss Appa. What’s going on with you? In the desert, all you cared about was finding Appa, and now it’s like you don’t care about him at all.
Aang:¬†You saw what I did out there. I was so angry about losing Appa, I couldn’t control myself. I hated feeling like that.
Katara:¬†But now you’re not letting yourself feel anything. I know sometimes it hurts more to hope, and it hurts more to care. But you have to promise me that you won’t stop caring. C’mon, you need a hug.
It is an important thing for Katara to say to Aang at this point. I love the continuity when Aang reveals that he has changed because he never wants to not be in control of the avatar state. Continuing Aang’s issue with the Avatar state that was established at the start of this book. I loved it coming back as the reason for Aang’s change, he is trying to not care so he does not feel and possibly activate the avatar state.
The resolution to Aang’s change is with baby Hope being born, this new life has given Aang back hope. His line after this to Katara is perfect.
Aang:¬† I thought I was trying to be strong, but really I was just running away from my feelings. Seeing this family together, so full of happiness and love, it reminded me of how I feel about Appa…..and how I feel about you.
Clearly referencing his flaw of caring to much about people, here he accepts that he cares about people and tells Katara how much she means to him. The two’s interaction throughout this episode is so well done, probably my favourite parts of the episode.
Next has to be Suki’s return and what this means for Sokka and Suki’s relationship as well as it bringing back memories for Sokka about not being able to protect Yue. Where she has been was referenced by Oyaji in 205, she has been helping refugees get to Ba Sing Se by working security at the port. The reason is the impact Aang and co’s visit had on her. What this episode does show is that she is a great character, it was not just that she worked for one episode (104) she is actually an amazing character. We see some of her compassion when she really feels for Aang when she finds out what happened to Appa. Her interaction with Sokka is the important thing for her in this episode, more specifically the chat the two have under the moon. Suki kindly confronts Sokka over him being overprotective, leading to a great moment between the two.
Sokka:¬†It’s so hard to lose someone you care about.¬†Something happened at the North Pole, and I couldn’t protect someone. I don’t want anything like that to ever happen again.
Suki:¬†I lost someone I cared about. He didn’t die, he just went away. I only had a few days to get to know him, but he was smart, and brave, and funny.
Sokka:¬†Who is this guy? Is he taller than me?
Suki:¬†No, he’s about your height.
Sokka:¬†Is he better looking?
Sokka is so eager to protect Suki because of what happened with Yue in the NWT, despite it not being his fault. She then reveals how much she has missed him, it has the right mix of humour and emotion to make it a great scene, especially with the moon in the background between them. Sokka backs off as the two nearly kiss, you get the sense that he almost feels a bit guilty kissing Suki after what happened to Yue. She then feels bad for being too forward which leads to a nice scene at the end.
Suki:¬†Listen, I’m really sorry about last night.¬†We were talking, and saying things,¬†I just got carried away and before I knew it I…
Sokka:¬†You talk too much.
It is the back and forth, yes and no, between them that just makes you cheer when they finally kiss. First Sokka felt bad, then Suki and finally they get together. So when Suki reveals she cannot join them you feel so bad for Sokka, nothing goes well for him in his love life.
The last big part of this episode is Jet meeting Zuko and Iroh on the ship to Ba Sing Se. For me their opening lines define their opinions on the lives at this point in time.
Iroh:¬†¬†Who would have thought, after all these years, I’d return to the scene of my greatest military disgrace…as a tourist
Zuko:¬†Look around, we’re not tourists, we’re refugees.¬†¬†Ugh!¬†¬†I’m sick of eating rotten food, sleeping in the dirt… I’m tired of living like this.
Iroh is happy about returning to a city that has many sad memories for him, he has no problems with starting again. While Zuko is hating their lives at this point, nothing is going right for him and he is not excited at all about starting a new life in the city. This is understandable given that it would be him giving up his chances of capturing Aang and getting his honour back from his father. When Jet, Smellerbee and LongShot introduce themselves and ask Zuko to join them for the food raid it is a very interesting moment for Zuko. In the past he may have brushed off this offer, but now he joins in and works well with the others to get the passengers some decent food. ¬†It is the scene when they all sit down to talk that stands out as a key scene for Zuko, when the subject of past transgressions comes up, it is Jet who is first to admit that he has done things he is not proud of and that he hopes to start again in the city, Iroh’s answer to Jet is powerful and aimed squarely at Zuko,
¬†”That’s very noble of you. I believe people can change their lives if they want to. I believe in second chances.” – Iroh
Iroh is clearly telling Zuko that, in the city he has a chance to start again with no honour problems or Avatar to capture. So when Zuko and Jet talk alone, we have two similar characters (in terms of both being unsure of their paths) who understand each other. Jet says that they are both outcasts and that they need to stick together and Zuko realises now the meaning behind Iroh’s advice in 205, he realises that being on his own is not the best path. It is interesting development for Zuko and also Jet, it is very much being set up here that the two are becoming friends, but what will happen should Jet ever discover Zuko is a firebender !
Overall this is a good episode, not an epic episode, but it has some great character moments and it does drive the story onwards. Huge pluses got to this episode for bringing back Suki and Jet, two of Book 1′s best minor characters. The cliffhanger episode setting up 213 The Drill is perfectly done. Ba Sing Se is the worlds beacon of hope, the last remaining stronghold against the Fire Nation, and now it is under attack.
Favourite Moment/ The Sokka and Suki interaction, their relationship grows so much in just this one episode. The two have only been in 2 episode together at this point, but already work so well as a couple.
Favourite Line/¬†¬†”I’ve realized lately, that being on your own isn’t always the best path.” – Zuko
213 The Drill
Written By: Mike and Bryan
Directed By: Giancarlo Volpe
Animated By: DR Movie
First Aired: September 15th 2006
The Drill, in short it is a very good episode. To expand on that a bit more, it suffers a bit from being so focused on the drill in the Aang section of the story, it ends up being attempt after attempt on the drill, so much so that the episode nearly forgets to remind you that breaking through the walls is a big deal. To explain this further, no civilian from Ba Sing Se can know about the drill, otherwise them stressing no war in Ba Sing Se does not quite have the impact, which means that this episode does not have that big of an impact in terms of the seriousness of what is happening. If the drill gets through the wall it is in a few kilometres of farmland before they reach any populated area (there are still more walls to get through before things get really serious). So it is the lack of impact on the civilians that takes this episode down a peg on the epicness scale, if we had seen people scrambling for their lives and the city put on full alert it would have worked better. In the end it just feels a bit tame, there is one squad of earthbenders fighting back when the city surely has squadrons of earthbenders to call upon. Much of the epicness at the end is down to the amazing music. It was even said by General Sung that they are not worried about the drill succeeding, yet when he panics after his squad have failed, does he call for reinforcements? No, why? I don’t know. There were just a few decisions related to the events that make me scratch my head.
Enough on that, this is a good episode despite some illogical decisions. I will begin where I left off my last review, with Zuko, Iroh and Jet. Jet wants to ask Zuko to join the freedom fighters, because he feels a connection with him and that he is just like them, trying to find his way. Zuko refuses to join, again you know he has so much on his mind that you understand his decision not to commit to anything or anyone, he could be a hindrance to the group is he is not focused. Then comes the twist in what has been some nice interactions between the two groups, as Jet tries to convince Zuko to join him, Iroh is getting some tea and Jet notices Iroh heating his tea himself and instantly realises that Iroh and Zuko are both firebenders. Zuko notices this and the two groups quickly depart. Jet’s anger at firebenders comes back in full force and he immediately plans to out them both, Jet has taken a step backwards in his development, he just cannot let go of his hatred for what the Rough Rhino’s did to him. That is all there is to this part of the episode, but is has set up an interesting conflict as Zuko and Iroh have to hide their firebending from the eyes of Jet and stay as just refugees.
The rest of the episode really is all about the drill, Ozai’s Angels (Azula, Mai and Ty Lee) and War Minister Qin are controlling the drill and Aang and friends are trying to take it down, so it all blends together. There are 3 funny things to point out about the events that happen: 1/ War Minister Qin says that the drill is impervious to earthbending, yet in the end it is an earth spike that deals the final blow, 2/ General Sung talks about how nothing can get through the walls, yet Iroh in the past did and the drill here does also, but is stopped before it gets fully through, and 3/ Aang talks about how he would love to be a metalbender, when in just 6 episodes Toph will become the first metalbender, the drill would have been no issue if she had the ability here.
For me the best part of this section is the plan to take down the drill and how it is executed. Sokka’s cleverness comes to the aid of the group again as he plans to cut all the support struts and then deal one final blow to take down the drill. It is a good plan. There is really not much else to say about much of what happens regarding the plan. At least until the final blow, Aang and Azula fight atop the drill, it is a great fight and the two are evenly matched, I love how Aang is starting to integrate earthbending into his fighting, you really get the sense that he really is the Avatar now that he is consistently using more than 1 element in each fight. Azula gains the upper hand with her sheer power and is about to finish off Aang, when the slurry interrupts causing both to slip, Momo helps Aang to regain his footing as Azula struggles in the slippery conditions. Then comes my favourite part of this episode, ” The Final Blow” music track comes on, he prepares his earth spike in the hole he made and then uses Airbending to run up and then down the walls of Ba Sing Se before unleashing an unbelievably powerful blow to the spike which take out the drill and sends Azula flying, it is an epic scene even if the stakes were not as high as they could have been.
With the end of this episode it leaves our heroes free to enter Ba Sing Se and both search for Appa and tell Earth King Kuei about the eclipse.
I have to give a mention to Iroh on the tram meeting Ying, Tahn and Hope from last episode, great continuity.
Overall a fun episode that sets up the story perfectly for the big Ba Sing Se Arc that will round out the Book. The only negative for me is that the episode never really made me feel that the Drill was that big of a threat or that the it was even being taken that seriously by the earth kingdom forces. It was great to see Aang back to his usual self
Favourite Moment/ Aang delivering The Final Blow
Favourite Line/ ¬†Longshot:¬†*meaningful look* …
Jet:¬†I can respect that.
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