ATLA Episode Reviews – 310-313
Airspeed Prime here with 4 episode reviews. After this there are just 2 more weeks left before I am finished with my ATLA episode reviews. On one hand it will be sad to have no episodes to review as I enjoy writing these, but on the other hand the pressure of doing 3-4 episode reviews a week is gone (these take a while to do)
Today I will be reviewing: 310 The Day Of Black Sun Invasion, 311 The Day Of Black Sun Eclipse, 312 The Western Air Temple and 313 The Firebending Masters.
310 The Day Of Black Sun The Invasion
Written By: Mike
Directed By: Giancarlo Volpe
Animated By: JM Animation
First Aired: November 30th 2007
The Invasion, exactly 1 season on from the idea it happens. This is in my opinion where the show begins a series of episodes that is just as close to perfect as possible. The series from this point out is packed with action and emotion. This episode does a brilliant job at ¬†moving Book 3 from more of a character focused book into the final run to the finale, the idea of the invasion during the eclipse has been in planning since 210 and we finally get to see the results of that planning. This episode may be eclipsed (pun intended) by Part 2, but it has some great moments that make it unique in it’s own way.
I think what really makes this episode so good is the sheer continuity of the start of the episodes and the number of minor characters that make a return, characters we thought would remain as 1 shot characters that would never return. We see the likes of Teo, The Mechanist, Huu, Due, Tho, The Boulder, The Hippo, Haru, Tyro, The Duke, Hakoda, Bato and Pipsqueak return. For me this scene is just amazing as the main characters are reunited with these people they met and helped long their journey, even more than that it showed the impact the group had on them that they are all willing to risk themselves to fight the Fire Nation. It is the type of scene that fans love, but it is important to the plot, they all play a role in the battle.
Sokka gets some interesting development in this episode as he is meant to give the big speech explaining the strategy, he is insanely nervous and only confuses everyone, until Hakoda steps in and inspires everyone while getting the plan across effectively. Sokka loses his own confidence because of this, but Aang assures him that his time to prove himself will be in the battle not the speech beforehand. It is a great scene for Aang as well as the contrast between him here compared to the last episode is huge. In the battle Sokka does prove himself to be an amazing warrior, his training has paid off as he ¬†is just as effective as the benders, but his big moment is when Hakoda is injured. The invasion force has no leader, Sokka at first believes they will fail with out his father leading and is nervous, but immediately steps up to lead everyone, Hakoda believes in him. It is another lovely father-son scene. Sokka shows that he is a good leader, quickly changing the attack formation and gaining the advantage, his orders are followed without question. When Sokka on Appa leads the attack screaming charge I instantly remembered Sokka when we first met him, saying he was a good warrior and in that moment he shows everyone that he is an excellent warrior and leader. Great series development for Sokka.
I will talk about Aang now, so confident at the start of this episode ready to end the war. Like Sokka it is amazing to think where he started in the series compared to now. We even get a great Kataang moment in this episode, as Aang readies himself to depart from the main invasion force, he and Katara have a moment alone. Katara tells Aang how much she has seen him grow from the goofy kid to now, Aang then wonders what will happen if he does not come back and as Katara rushes to assure him, Aang kisses Katara. It is a moment of confidence in Aang, but also him knowing that he may never have a chance again to do what he has wanted to do for so long. The blush from Katara and her reaction show the contrast between her heart and brain, she likes Aang too, but her brain tells her now is not the time for a relationship regardless of how she feels. It is a very well done goodbye scene.
Aang soon discovers that the palace city is empty with Ozai nowhere to be found. When I first watched the episode it was only at this point where I remembered that Azula knew about the invasion and that something was going to go wrong. It is a perfect cliffhanger for Part 1 of this two parter. They are winning the battle, but there seems to be no ultimate goal any more.
On Zuko’s side of this episode we see him preparing to leave and do what is right. He realises that he must leave the fire nation and help Aang, but to do so means leaving Mai. Throughout the scenes with Zuko in this episode we see how much he cares for her and how much he does not want to hurt her, but he knows that he must do this. It is a small part of the episode, but very emotional. It shows that now Zuko realises exactly where his true path lies and that nothing will keep him from it.
¬†”I know I¬†made some bad choices. But today, I’m going to set things right.” – Zuko
A perfect line to explain to us what Zuko is doing.
Iroh has some nice moments in this episode also as he talks to a guard named Ming. There is a continuity error with the tea that she brings to Iroh. She brings him white jade tea, when we know from Book 1 that tea made from the white jade is poisonous. So odd given that it was so clearly pointed out in an earlier episode. He wants Ming to take the rest of the day off for mysterious reasons, I definitely knew it was a breakout attempt, but it was nice to see Uncle not wanting to involve the one guard who had been nice to him.
Other than that the episode is very focused on the action scenes during the invasion. In short they are brilliant. The sheer scope of the battles are amazing with the amount of combatants and vehicles involved. Some of the best action scenes in the whole series.
Overall I love this episode, it manages to be so action based while also having some nice character moments. It perfectly sets up Part 2 of the invasion while still working as it’s own episode.
Favourite Moment/¬†Sokka leading the charge as he takes command.
Favourite Line/ ¬†“The Avatar¬†is back! ” – Aang
311 The Day Of Black Sun The Eclipse
Written By: Aaron Ehasz
Directed By: Joachim Dos Santos
Animated By: Moi Animation
First Aired: November 30th 2007
The Eclipse, one of the best episodes of Avatar. This episode has a bit of everything: The drama of the Azula reveal, the action that follows, the emotion of Zuko confronting Ozai and the sadness of the inevitable failure of the invasion. It just an overall epic episode.
I think the start of this episode is very well done, Aang returns to the invasion and reveals that the city is empty. It leaves them with a decision to make, retreat knowing that it is a trap of some sort or stay and take the fire nation no matter the cost. Hakoda is the one to point out that everyone joined Aang because they want to end the war now. They decide to stay.
From here the group splits up, Aang, Sokka and Toph locate a secret underground bunker and attempt to find Ozai while Katara, Bato and Hakoda lead the invasion force onwards. It is so much more dramatic this episode compared to the previous one because of the reveal that the fire nation knew about the invasion. It is the sense that something is going to happen, but you don’t know what. What does happen is that Azula has set a trap with the aid of the Dai Li Agents, her plan is to waste everyone’s time so that Ozai is not confronted while unable to bend. The reveal of the Dai Li is so well done and is very dramatic because of their role in the defeat of Aang in 220, they are a threat. It is that 8 minute eclipse that makes it such a great chase scene, how desperate and aggressive Aang, Toph and Sokka are in their attacks, they get the upper hand on the Dai Li, but cannot get close to Azula. The bending moves during the chase are amazing, Aang’s acrobatics and Toph’s sheer power are on display to great effect.
Sokka soon realises what Azula is doing and as they go to leave, Azula shows how easily she can anger people. She mentions that she has Suki captured and then in a great moment of emotion from Sokka, he lunges at Zuko and is only saved a knife wound by Toph earthbending Azula. It shows the confidence of Azula that she is willing to go for the kill even without bending. The eclipse then ends and our heroes realise that they have failed, and rush to help the others. It was another perfect Azula moment, she was in complete control of that situation even without her bending.
My favourite moment of the episode and one of the best moments in all of Avatar has to be Zuko confronting Ozai. It is the moment that Zuko’s story had been leading up to, what Zuko needed to do eventually. It completely blew me away with how much it surpassed my expectations. What makes this scene is the confidence from Zuko and Ozai’s complete lack of respect for Zuko. This is Zuko’s big moment where he speaks out against his father and Ozai just sees it as Zuko showing how weak he is. ¬†For me the big line early on in the conversation is,
Zuko: That’s another thing. I’m not taking orders from you any more.
Fire Lord Ozai:¬†You will obey me or this defiant breathe will be your last!
Zuko: Think again! I am going to speak my mind and you are going to listen.
Zuko is no longer afraid to speak out against Ozai, Zuko even threatens him which is huge. Ozai cannot intimidate Zuko any more. This is huge for Zuko. ¬†I would probably end up just typing out everything that happens in the rest of the conversation, so I will just sum up the big thoughts. I love how the first thing Zuko says to Ozai is asking how Ozai could justify an agni kai with a 13 year old and burning him. Ozai’s answer is simple, but shocking to see how little he cares about this horrific event, it was to teach Zuko respect. Then when you remember that Zuko was correct and that Ozai was being cruel over the sacrifice of ¬† some new soldiers. He moves on to talk about the fire nation propaganda, his experiences in travelling the Earth Kingdom have shown him that people hate the fire nation, spreading prosperity is the biggest lie ever. In this moment we see the future Fire Lord in Zuko, Zuko is giving his own view on the politics of the world, he truly has found his path. ¬†After Zuko has said what he has always wanted to stay, Ozai ¬†gets Zuko to stay by showing exactly where Azula ¬†learned her skills of manipulation, he simply mentions Zuko’s mother and he has Zuko staying.
We simply do not know how much of what Ozai says is true, is Ursa alive, did she do what Ozai says she did. We most likely will not find out until The Search Part 3. Just a hint that his mother may be alive has given Zuko so much hope. Then….then comes one of the best scenes in Avatar history, as the eclipse ends Ozai immediately attacks Zuko with powerful lightning. Zuko catches it and redirects it at Ozai embarrassing ¬†Ozai and giving Zuko his first one up on Ozai. There is no dialogue in this scene, but the visuals and context behind it is so good. Zuko has an ability that his father does not, made worse for Ozai in that it was taught to him by Iroh, the brother that Ozai hates. Then Zuko’s willingness to attack his father shows that he had made the big decision to join Aang. Huge scene.
The final thing I want to cover is the end of the episode. Once again it is a big defeat for our heroes. We get some absolutely stunning continuity fro way back in 117, the fire nation finally reveal the results of their war balloon reverse engineering. ¬†They now have air power and have improved upon the original designs. The subs are destroyed, trapping the invasion force in the fire nation. We then get a fantastic emotional moment as they all realise that they have lost and that not everyone can escape, the adults tell the kids to flee on Appa and that they will surrender. For Aang this is a crushing defeat, this was meant to be his big moment to redeem himself for the defeat at Ba Sing Se, but instead more of his friends have been captured, their big chance is gone. His brief speech shows how much he has grown and also how much he cares.
¬†”Thank you all for being so brave and so strong. I’m going to make this up to you. ” – Aang
They flee now with: Teo, The Duke and Haru. And in a nice cliffhanger are pursued by Zuko in a war balloon, but now Zuko wants to join them.
Overall this is such a great episode. The height of drama and action. It has some of the biggest moments of the series in terms of impact, the Zuko-Ozai confrontation is perfect in every way and Book 3 becomes 3 times more intense as the big invasion plan fails. We are left wondering “What happens next, how can they win ?” .
Favourite Moment/¬†Zuko redirecting Lightning at Ozai.
Favourite Line/ ¬†“Because I know my own destiny” – Zuko, him saying this is his big character moment in the series. He says it not just to himself, but his father, the person standing in the way of his destiny.
312 The Western Air Temple
Written By: Elizabeth Welch Ehasz and Tim Hedrick
Directed By: Ethan Spaulding
Animated By: JM Animation
First Aired: July 14th 2008
The Western Air Temple, Zuko joins the group, what is not to like ? I think that defines this episode, Zuko joining the group is a concept that fans had discussed since the early episodes, it happens in this episode and the lead up is very well done. It makes this episode a great character focus episode on all of Team Avatar and their thoughts on Zuko.
In that sense there is not a whole lot to this episode. Zuko is nervous about asking to join the group, when he does he is rejected because of past mistakes, but accepted because of ¬†his actions to help them. So naturally there are only a few topics to discuss in this episode.
First of all is Zuko, he is the focus of this episode. He is on his true path, but how is he going to get Team Avatar to accept him into their group ? He acts out what he is going to say to a nearby frog, but realises himself how awkward he is. Seeing Zuko this way is odd, but still feels like Zuko, this is him with little reason to be angry at anyone, he has been angry for so long that he really has no idea how to interact normally. More than that we have some Zuko flashbacks in this episode that do an excellent job of contrasting Zuko at his worst (immediately after his banishment) compared to Zuko at his best (here), it is the contrast between what he says there.
“The only way¬†to regain my honoUr is to find the Avatar” – Zuko
Compared to the way he is thinking now.¬†”The only way to regain my honour is to help the Avatar”. That is Zuko’s development.
When he eventually reveals himself to Team Avatar the reaction is just as you would expect. They are on edge, this is the guy who has pursued them relentlessly across the world and has tried to capture Aang at every turn. It makes sense and is realistically done. Zuko is so nice and innocent when he first talks to them, he struggles to get everything out. He apologises about everything, but shoots himself in the foot when he admits to sending Combustion Man after them and ruins any chance of joining them. Aang is the last to speak to Zuko and very much bases his opinion on that of his friends, we know from 113 that he thought he and Zuko could be friends. This scene just continues on after Zuko leaves as the group argues over Zuko, Aang and Toph pointing out some of the better things he has done and of course that Aang needs to learn Firebending. They ignore Toph’s valid points leading her to say this amazing line.
¬†”I’m beginning to wonder who’s¬†really¬†the blind one around here.” – Toph
From here Toph, the one least affected by Zuko in the past is the most open to him joining the group and goes to talk to him, but gets burned when he thinks he is being attacked and blindly firebends at the sneaking Toph. Nothing is going right for Zuko and you feel for him as he has been so sincere throughout the episode. Zuko eventually proves himself to truly be changed when Combustion Man attacks, them seeing Zuko fight the man he hired to save them shows them how eager he is to join the group. He is nearly killed by Combustion Man, that is all Team Avatar needed, lol.
In the end it is one thing he says to Aang that gets him into the group and makes Aang accept him as a member of the group.
“Listen, I know I didn’t explain myself very well yesterday. I’ve been through a lot in the past few years, and it’s been hard. But I’m realizing that I had to go through all those things to learn the truth. I thought I had lost my honour, and that somehow my father could return it to me. But I know now that no one can give you your honour. It’s something you earn for yourself, by choosing to do what’s right. All I want now is to play my part in ending this war. And I know my destiny is to help you restore balance to the world.
I’m sorry for what I did to you.¬†It was an accident. Fire can be dangerous and wild. So as a firebender, I need to be more careful and control my bending so I don’t hurt people unintentionally.”
It is that last line about being careful that lights the spark in Aang’s mind that Zuko was meant to be his teacher all along. It is then left to Katara to give her ok to Zuko joining the group. ¬†She only agrees because Aang does.
We then get some gloriously awkward scenes as Sokka shows Zuko to where he will be sleeping, no one is able to believe that Zuko is actually in their group. We all know it was meant to happen. Zuko is happy knowing he is where he is meant to be, this is interrupted by Katara who gives Zuko a piece of her mind, with a death threat. It works for Katara, because she was the most betrayed by Zuko’s choice in 220.
“You might have everyone else here buying your “transformation”.¬†But you and I both know you’ve struggled with doing the right thing in the past.¬†So let me tell you something right now. You make one step backward, one slip-up, give me one reason to think you might hurt Aang… and you won’t have to worry about your destiny anymore. Because I’ll make sure your destiny ends right then and there…¬†permanently.” – Katara
It may seem over the top from Katara, but it is assuming Zuko does do another 180 which he is not likely to do at this stage.
Overall this episode is good because it is a complete focus on just 1 thing, Zuko joining the group. The character development is well done, but the episode is almost too focused on it that there is not much else to this episode. A bit of a double edged sword, but it is only a minor negative that it is so focused.
Favourite Moment/¬†Aang and Zuko’s back and forth as he joins the group.
Favourite Line:/¬†”I’m sorry for what I did to you.¬†It was an accident. Fire can be dangerous and wild. So as a firebender, I need to be more careful and control my bending so I don’t hurt people unintentionally” – Zuko
313 The Firebending Masters
Written By: John O’ Bryan
Directed By: Giancarlo Volpe
Animated By: Moi Animation
First Aired: July 15th 2008
The Firebending Masters, high quality episode. For me what makes this episode so good is 2 things: The Aang and Zuko interaction and also that this episode gets so deep into the history of the Avatar world, going back to nearly one of furthest back points in history we have seen. While Zuko and Aang have learned separately, but at the same time in “Bitter Work”, we get to see both learn Firebending together here.
I will begin with that history, with the ancient sun warriors and their history we get the origin of Firebending in humans. Now why I say that it is so far back is that it has to be around the time that Oma and Shu learned Earthbending, which seemed to predate the Avatar. So the concept of the sun warriors is very interesting to me, a deep connection to the dragons and the original way of firebending, the connection to Iroh we learn about here and the fact that the group still exists to this day. I love it when Avatar goes deep into the history far removed from present stories, it makes the universe seem so vast.
Aang and Zuko’s interaction throughout this episode is brilliant as for the first time in the show we get to see the two interact as friends and not enemies. Aang not used to being around someone so prone to being frustrated and not as positive as the rest of the group and Zuko not used to being around someone so fun loving, in the end they have a fun relationship where they both respect each other despite their differences. Moments like Zuko complimenting Aang as they carry the fire to the masters, “You can do it. I know you can. You’re a talented kid.” and Aang telling Zuko “¬†¬†You know, Zuko, I don’t care¬†what everyone else says about you,¬†you’re pretty smart.”. It just works so well, our two main characters at last friendly towards each other, it is clear that Zuko is the older of the two, but Zuko has a respect towards Aang, the same respect we the viewers have for Aang as a wise 12 year old kid.
The plot of this episode is interesting in that it is at the beginning about Zuko’s trouble firebending now that he has no drive, but it turns into Aang and Zuko’s quest to learn the true way of firebending, Firebending without aggression. It is interesting to learn this philosophy of firebending and how there are two separate ways to firebend. One based on aggression and power, the other on life and warmth. This is the lesson about firebending that Aang needed to learn, which explains why Jeong Jeong, despite his skill could not teach Aang, Jeong Jeong himself is too afraid of fire to get through to Aang that fire is more than destruction. The way personality affected Aang and Zuko while they carried part of the original fire was done so well, a timid Aang had a small fire that was easy to put out, while the more aggressive Zuko had a bigger fire as he had more experience with fire.
I loved the reveal of Ran and Shao as the masters everyone had been referring to, the last remaining dragons alive. The way this added into another aspect of Iroh’s past in that he also learned the true way of firebending from the dragons and lied about killing a dragon to protect them. It is the combination of history and character that make this episode so good. The visuals as Aang and Zuko are shown the true meaning of firebending are stunning, that fire can be beautiful, it is so much more than destruction. It was a great way to show this to us all and how the Fire Nation going to war also signalled a shift in the method of firebending away from life and towards power.
Overall this episode is very good, yes you can say it was a very fast resolution to Aang and Zuko’s firebending issues, but I think the way it was done negated that because the message was so clear and Aang and Zuko were so open to it. The Aang and Zuko interactions, firebending philosophy and ancient history make this a fantastic episode.
Favourite Moment/¬†Aang and Zuko as they see the beauty and life of Firebending.
Favourite Line/¬†¬†”Sometimes, the shadows of the past can be felt by the present.” – Aang
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