ATLA Episode Reviews – 218-220
Airspeed Prime here to give you the final 3 reviews for Book 2 Earth. This post will be followed by a Book 2 overview post. After that I will take a week off from reviews before starting on Book 3 after that.
Today I will be reviewing: 218 The Earth King, 219 The Guru and 220 Crossroads Of Destiny
218 The Earth King
Written By: John O’Bryan
Directed By: Ethan Spaulding
Animated By: JM Animation
First Aired: November 17th 2006
I will begin with Zuko in this episode. What happens to him in this episode is very odd, a fever caused by inner turmoil, caused by a decision that went so far against his character. It somehow works and ends up not being that odd. It is a very symbolic way to show Zuko’s conflict between good and bad with two dragons attempting to influence Zuko down one path, Iroh for good and Azula for bad. There is not a massive amount to say about it as it is fairly self explanatory, but I do love how within this conflict in Zuko’s head we also get shown another, that being the fate of his mother. It is our big insight into Zuko’s mind, often we are confused as to what exactly he is thinking and the decisions he makes, but with this scene it is explained in part, it shows how conflicted he is. He struggles with so much, right and wrong, the fate of his mother and what his true path is. How Iroh explains to Zuko what his sickness is is my favourite part of this part of the episode.
Iroh:¬†You’re critical decision, what you did beneath that lake…it was in such conflict with your image of yourself, that you are now at war within your own mind and body.
Zuko:¬†What’s that mean
Iroh:¬†You’re going through a metamorphosis, my nephew. It will not be a pleasant experience, but when you come out of it, you will be the beautiful Prince you were always meant to be.
It shows how much Iroh thinks about Zuko, he has been waiting for Zuko to make this choice. Excellent scene. In the end Zuko follows the red dragon (Iroh) and chooses good in his head, but the one thing that does not account for is the physical appearance of the blue dragon as Azula enters the city at the end of the episode. He has made his choice in his mind, but how will he react to it happening in reality to him. We will see come 220.
Speaking of Azula, the moment when she, Ty Lee and Mai appear before King Kuei dressed in full Kyoshi Warrior Uniforms has to be one of the best ever cliffhangers in the show. We finally see the result of Azula’s appearance in 216 and how The Kyoshi Warriors came in handy. Azula needed no drill to enter the city, she was instead invited in as a friend. All of this because Sokka is unaware of what happened to Suki. Great continuity. You know she has an amazing plan prepared, which she does.
I guess it is about time to discuss The Earth King and the main section of this episode. Now that Aang and friends have Appa back, Long Feng has nothing over them and so they can go to see the Earth King with no fear of him. I loved how Long Feng remained so cool under the accusations after having just hours been thrown across a lake by Appa and having just killed Jet. He uses the trust Kuei has in him to play down the accusations. It was at the same time a funny and tense scene as it was so crucial that they get the king to believe them, but funny because of how indecisive either way Kuei was. It was a gradual process as King Kuei begins to trust the gaang more and more as they show him more and more evidence. We see the extent that Long Feng goes to to cover his his activities, the secret Lake Laogai base is gone, they have no evidence until in a moment of great continuity the drill is remembered. This is the final nail in Long Feng’s coffin, he has no way of explaining it away or why he lied about it. Kuei has him arrested and his world is turned upside down as his most trusted advisor has lied to him for so long. It is all fairly straight forward from here on out as Sokka tells him of the eclipse and the plan, Kuei agrees. It is an important moment in that our heroes have the support of a massive city.
King Kuei as a character is very interesting, his lack of experience is plain to see and very startling. It shows a huge oddity with the title of Earth King when he says that no Earth King has ever been to the out wall let along out of the city, how can they be an effective king with such a lack of world experience. It shows fundamental problems with Ba Sing Se as has been highlighted with the walls separating different classes of people. Kuei is deeply affected by the betrayal, he feels like a complete fool and is eager to help end the war in any way he can. You get the sense that with experience he will be a great king as he has compassion.
For me the key scene on this side of the episode was definitely when the letters are given to everyone. This again is setting up the lead in to the finale, but it leads to some very key moments for each. Aang gets the letter from Guru Pathik and is eager to master the Avatar State, Toph got a letter from her mother wanting to meet up and Katara and Aang find out where their father will be and have a chance to meet him. It leads to Team Avatar having to temporarily split up as they each have important things to do, there is a great moment when Katara allows Sokka to be the one to visit their dad, you get the sense she knows that it is more important that he sees him at this point. Especially with how the episode ends it is an important event, only Katara is left in the city as Azula enters. Everything is set up. Near perfect writing.
The final point I want to talk about is The opening scene, where Team Avatar decide to just go for it and see the earth king no matter what. Which leads to a glorious attack on the palace as the team in full attacking flow just blow through the palace guards without pause. We some of the most creative bending attacks yet in this scene like “Katara’s amazing ice ramp flippy water whip thing” ‚ĄĘ and Toph’s earthbending on the steps to turn it into a ramp. The intensity and drive of the team was great to see, and it showed how powerful the group was when they let loose and go for it. Amazing¬†action.
A small note would be that the Dai Li who arrest Long Feng, do so, but tell Long Feng that they are remaining loyal to him. So he is not completely out of the picture yet.
Overall this is a very good episode, a lot of it is set up for the next 2 episodes and so is very straight to the point. Which is why there is not that much analysis in this review. A great opening fight scene and Zuko’s inner conflict are the stand out moments.
Favourite Moment/ The Opening raid on the Palace. An amazing display of bending and skill from the team.
Favourite Line/ ¬†”You’re going through a metamorphosis, my nephew. It will not be a pleasant experience, but when you come out of it, you will be the beautiful Prince you were always meant to be.” – Iroh
219 The Guru
Written By: Mike and Bryan
Directed By: Giancarlo Volpe
Animated By: DR Movie
First Aired: December 1st 2006
The Guru, probably my personal favourite episode. I don’t think it is the best episode of the show, but I just really enjoy this one so much. The complete character study of Aang is done so well with the chakras and it manages to avoid being a clip show with the way the visions add to the chakras. It is my favourite for the most part because of the amazing Aang parts, but every other part of this episode is also great. Sokka reuniting with his father, Katara running into Zuko and then Azula, Zuko’s big change and Azula’s scheming. So many good character moments.
I may get lost in the Aang moments so I will cover the others first. Sokka reuniting with his father, the moment he and we have been waiting for. This is what Sokka’s journey has been all about, proving himself as a warrior. He thought his father left him behind because he was not a good enough warrior when Hakoda reveals it was because he trusted him to look after the tribe. The big moment here is Hakoda’s line,
Hakoda: Bato, get these mines loaded up. The rest of you men, prepare for battle!
Sokka:¬†Uh, what should I do, Dad?
Hakoda: Aren’t you listening? I said the rest of you men get ready for battle.
This is so well done, Hakoda does not embarrass his son with a “you are a man now” speech, but just reiterates what he said which subtly tells Sokka that he considers him a man now. I love how a big deal was not made out of it, but it got the point across. Hakoda and Sokka are so similar as well and the way the two instantly act like they just saw each other yesterday is lovely to watch. Then when Aang returns with the bad news there is another nice scene between the two as Hakoda knows his son has important things to do, and Sokka knows his place is to help Aang. Sokka leaves a very proud Hakoda. Great father son relationship, the complete and utter opposite to Zuko and Ozai.
Next is Toph, captured by Xin Fu and Master Yu. A small aspect of the episode, but it does so much in that short time. We see Toph’s toughness and cunning as she attempts to trick them into letting her out. All 3 know that if Toph is allowed to bend she will win. In the end it is Xin Fu who gives Toph the idea of bending metal. The huge thing about the metalbending discovery scene is that it is because Toph is ¬†blind and has that deep connection to the earth with the way she “sees” that she discovers the earth impurities in metal and learns to bend it. Any other bender would probably not have the sensitivity and connection to sense it. In that sense it is a perfectly done scene, add to that the amazing editing as The Guru talks about the illusion of separation and that everything is connected like metal with earth. It was a great way to link another part of the episode into the chakra talk. Toph after escaping says one of her best ever lines.
“I am the greatest earthbender in the world! Don’t you two dunderheads ever forget it!” – Toph
We should also note that Xin Fu and Master Yu are never seen again, given how trapped they were it is possible that they were never released.
Katara in this episode does not do that much, but what she does do connects everything together. It is Katara who is the first one to notice Iroh and Zuko in the city, she then goes to tell the king and ends up telling Azula and friends instead, because she is then captured Aang quits before unlocking all of his chakras and Aang has to get Sokka. In a few minutes Azula knows Zuko and Team Avatar are in the city, she has a chance to take everyone down in one go. Funny note also should be that she asks for a table for 2 in the tea shop, meaning that Momo gets his own seat (Thanks to Kelly for pointing this one out).
Azula is at her best in this episode. She soon discovers from the Earth King that there is going to be an invasion of the fire nation during an upcoming eclipse, this is crucial in Book 3 as the invasion fails because Azula finds out about it here and they are ready for it. She immediately comes up with a plan to take over the city from the inside, with just 3 people no less. Her utter confidence is amazing, she has not doubt that she will succeed. She is also clever enough to realise that The Dai Li are the key to everything, if she can control them she wins. Her plan is excellent, she purposefully outs them to the Dai Li and get them to tell Long Feng, he will then want Azula captured and brought before him so he can use her and the trust the earth king has in her, when in fact she will be using him to get close to the Dai Li and then take control. She is brilliant in this episode, at her scheming best.
Zuko at last wakes up from his metamorphosis and is changed beyond all recognition. He is happy, eager to eat Iroh’s food which he usually hates, he is excited about the success of Iroh’s tea shop. It is a complete 180 and in my opinion this is not Zuko’s correct path, this Zuko is happy to settle down in the city and live an ordinary life. He has talked in past episodes about not wanting this while also not wanting his fathers path. This is one step on the way to him ultimately finding his path in Book 3. When we later realise that Zuko’s path has always been to help Aang against his father this change is not correct. The Zuko in this episode is one path he could take, the one Iroh said was a possible path, to just live out his life in the city, but Zuko is destined for more. In the end it can’t work out as Katara puts a series of events into motion when she spots him. The invitation Iroh receives at the end of the episode is a trap.
At last is it Aang time. I have never ever seen any show or movie in 1 episode present to the audience a character in this way, it is so honest and points out everything about Aang’s character, the good and the bad. It is an emotional roller coaster ride for him and us as he unlocks his chakras, each one with a different aspect of him to deal with. I will go through it chakra by chakra.
We start with the Earth Chakra, located in the base of the spine, deals with survival and blocked by fear. For Aang he has many fears: Losing Katara, himself when he is in the Avatar State, his task and Ozai. All understandable given his character flaw of over attachment and being so young. Aang has to let his fears go, which he does. It was an important thing to note that Aang feared all of these things.
Second is the Water Chakra, the location is not mentioned in the show, but given that it deals with pleasure and is blocked by guilt we have to assume that it is located in the sacrum. Aang feels guilty about running away and what that meant for the world and all the people he hurt in the Avatar State. Guru Pathik tells him to forgive himself, how can he be the Avatar and forgive others if he cannot forgive himself. This was important to show that Aang still feels the guilt about running away and is eager to master the Avatar State so he is never not in control.
Third is the Fire Chakra, located in the stomach, deals with willpower and is blocked by shame. This one is very interesting in that it is one that Zuko is also dealing with in a way. He cannot generate lightning because of his inner turmoil caused by his shame. Iroh tells Zuko that the antidote to shame is true humility. Aang is ashamed of his unwillingness to firebend ever again. Pathik simply tells Aang that because he is the Avatar he is also a firebender it is something that it a part of him and he cannot avoid it if he wants to be balanced.
Fourth is the Air Chakra, located in the heart, deals with love and is blocked by grief. This is one of the most powerful of the chakras because of the amount of grief that Aang carries around with him, everyone he knew minus Bumi is gone, he is the last airbender. Given that it is something that has not been addressed since 103 it is huge to have it come back here and show what Aang has carried around with him. Pathik’s advice here is that the people he has lost, their love is never gone and is reborn with new love which Aang feels for Katara. Amazing chakra, Aang is in tears after this one.
Fifth is the Sound Chakra, located in the throat, deals with truth and is blocked by lies. For Aang it is about his reluctance to accept within himself that he is the Avatar. He has to accept is and has done so. An important one to show that Aang has got past his reluctance.
Sixth is the Light Chakra, located at the centre of the forehead, deals with insight and is blocked by illusion. The biggest illusion is that of separation and it is a great continuity moment when Aang already knows this one as he has learned it from Huu before. The biggest illusion is the separation of the 4 nations and elements. It is here that it is suggested that the 4 elements at one time were just energybending and later it became the 4 bending arts. Nice reference back to The Swamp.
The final Chakra is the Thought Chakra, located at the crown of the hear, deals with pure cosmic energy and is blocked by earthly attachments. Quite simply Aang’s biggest attachment is Katara. I think it is this point that Aang misinterprets what Pathik means. He tells Aang to “learn to let go” not to right there and there let go of Katara and never think of her again. We know Roku and Kyoshi had families and that Kuruk was about to be married, so avatars can have attachments. This chakra is about being able to let those attachments go if the time ever came. Aang here for the first time admits to himself that he loves Katara, it is not longer just a crush, but full on love. At the same time we see Aang’s character flaw come out in full, that being that he is overly attached to those he loves. In the desert he nearly hurt his other friends because he was so angry over what happened to Appa and in the southern air temple he nearly blew them off the mountain over the loss of his people. It is his flaw and is comes to the fore here as he leaves unlocking his 7th chakra. Pathik tells him this,
“No Aang! By choosing attachment, you have locked the chakra!¬†If you leave now you won’t be able to go into the Avatar State at all! ” – Guru Pathik
a shocking way to end the episode. The thing is that you understand why he leaves, if there is a chance to save Katara he must, it is rash and not thought out well, but given Aang’s attachment you understand.
Overall a fantastic episode with great moments for every character involved, especially Aang. The chakras are a great thing to add to world building while the ending perfectly sets up the book 2 finale. So well written.
Favourite Moment/ Everything Aang and Chakra related.
Favourite Line/ “Sokka, you don’t have to prove anything to me.¬†I’m already proud of you, and I’ve always known you were a great warrior.” – Hakoda
220 Crossroads Of Destiny
Written By: Aaron Ehasz
Directed By: Mike
Animated By: JM Animation
First Aired: December 1st 2006
Crossroads Of Destiny, the book 2 finale, an amazing episode, but for me comes in 3rd place in the battle of the finales. That is not to say it is bad, it is an excellent episode, one of the best of the series. I just feel that the Book 1 finale had the amazing spirit world stuff and drama of the huge battle, the book 3 finale has the conclusion, the fights and confrontations we have been waiting for. This has moments like those, but for me does not feel as dramatic over the whole experience. Yes the ending of this episode is drama itself, but the build up to that point was a bit slow. I think it is the battle of epicness vs intrigue, this finale has so much intrigue with the coup and the back and forth side switching, but lacks some of the epicness that the other finales have. Enough on that, this is a great episode, time to analyse.
I suppose I will start with the first main event, that being Iroh and Zuko serving tea to the Earth King only to be confronted by Azula and the Dai Li. In one moment, Zuko’s character switches from the happy guy from last episode back to his usual self eager to take down his sister. Iroh once again shows Azula he is not to be messed with and escapes, but Zuko remains behind and is captured. He again did not think it through, he was never going to take out that many benders.
This leads directly into him being thrown into a cell with Katara. She naturally thinks it is another attempt to capture Aang and is furious at his appearance. She tells him of how the war took her mother from her and she is shocked to hear that the same applies to Zuko’s mother. She then begins to see another side of Zuko and trust him, she eventually offers to heal Zuko’s scar with the spirit oasis water, until Aang appears with Iroh to rescue the two. It is an interesting scene as Katara sees that there is much more to Zuko than she originally knew, he lost his mother, his scar was inflicted on him before he was banished. I suppose the scene with Iroh and Aang is also worth mentioning here, Aang asks Iroh for advice about his choice to leave. Iroh tells Aang “Perfection and power are overrated. I think you were very wise to choose happiness and love.” a nice piece of advice.
This is a confusing episode to write about as everything is happening at the same time. I guess Azula taking over the Dai Li and beating Long Feng. This was so well done, with 1 inspirational and scary speech she has their loyalty, the coup then occurs and Long Feng is about to double cross Azula when the Dai Li do not respond to his command. Azula then kicks Long Feng when he is down with some harsh words,
Azula: I can see your whole history in your eyes. You were born with nothing. So you had to struggle and connive and claw your way to power. But true power…the divine right to rule…is something you’re born with. The fact is, they don’t know which one of us is going to be sitting on that throne and which one is going to be bowing down. But I know. And you know.Well?
Long Feng: You’ve beaten me at my own game.
Azula: Don’t flatter yourself. You were never even a player.
Long Feng tried to out Azula Azula, but in the end she was ahead of him at every step and knew she had won. It was a great moment to show her at her frightening best. In the space of a day she has near complete control over the biggest city in the world.
The last part to talk about is the big 3rd act of the episode where everything comes to a head. As Iroh, Zuko, Aang and Katara attempt to escape, Iroh stops to tell Zuko something important. It is the red and blue dragon scene, but this time happening in real life to Zuko. Iroh urges Zuko to continue the good progress he has made and choose good, this is when Azula and the Dai Li arrive and trap Uncle Iroh. This allows Azula free reign to influence her brother, she uses Iroh’s influence against Zuko and makes it seem like Iroh is the one trying to trick him. She wants Zuko to make his own decision and brings back Ozai’s love and Zuko’s honour to get him to side with her. Zuko is left with a decision that will have huge consequences, Azula arrived just as Iroh was making his big point and before Zuko could process Iroh’s words. It is a moment of immense drama as for a moment the shot just stays on Zuko, deep in thought. He is so conflicted.
The fight then kicks off underground as Azula catches up with Aang and Katara. The fight is amazing and even until Zuko arrives on scene. He looks at Aang and Azula leaving us wondering who he will attack, the fandom in unison scream no as he attacks Aang. The fight then splits into Aang vs Zuko and Azula vs Katara. The big thing here is that Katara is actually beating Azula until Zuko interferes. The Zuko vs Aang fight is dead even, though it is important to note that Aang is very much focusing on earthbending, which probably leads to his defeat in the end. The tension and drama is incredible as this underground fight progresses. Soon the royal siblings gain the advantage as Aang takes some heavy hits and Katara is knocked unconscious. When she wakes up again she is surrounded by Dai Li agents and Aang is completely exhausted also outmatched. Aang then makes the desperate decision to unlock his final chakra, let Katara go and use the Avatar State. As he rises off the ground and is about to enter the Avatar State he is hit by Azula’s lightning right in the back. It is an incredible moment, especially given that Aang is actually killed in this moment, so Katara catches Aang’s dead body here. This is shown because it is never stated that he is killed in the show until Book 3. ¬†It is important to note that Aang was not in the Avatar State yet when he was killed as the glow turns off if you are in control. So that is why the Avatar did not cease to exist. Instead what I believe happens is that the Avatar Spirit left Aang’s body waiting for the next Water Tribe child to be born, but since Aang was revived by Katara before that happened the Avatar Spirit returned to Aang’s body as seen with the glow after she uses the spirit water.
If that was not dramatic enough, Iroh makes his appearance and we see him powerfully bend to hold off the Dai Li to allow Katara to escape with Aang. The desperate escape of Team Avatar and Earth King Kuei is a great way to end the book. Our heroes have suffered a huge defeat and will have a huge journey ahead to win the war without Ba Sing Se. Ending the episode with Katara so emotional and happy to see Aang alive and the final line from Kuei is so great as it shows the extent of the defeat. The last remaining stronghold has been captured. Then we have Zuko still so unsure, almost regretting his actions. Incredible ending.
“The Earth Kingdom…..has fallen” – Earth King Kuei
Overall this is a fantastic episode, for a finale it does have some oddly slow moments and the first 2 acts to lack some of the excitement and drama of the other finales. The 3rd act more than makes up for that with some amazing fight scene and character moments, then to end Book 2 like they did on a Nick show was a big moment. A close to cause ending defeat. You are left wondering where do they go from here.
Favourite Moment/ The final scene on Appa, Aang is revived and they look back on Ba Sing Se which has just fallen into Fire Nation control. Utter drama.
Favourite Line/ “The Earth Kingdom….has fallen” – Earth King Kuei
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