Book 2 Earth Overview
Airspeed Prime here again today with the Book 2 overview post I promised. I have finished all the reviews for Book 2 and now it is time to take a look back on the book as a whole.
Book 2 Earth
For me when I compare all 3 books of ATLA Book 2 has to come in second place ahead of Book 1 but behind Book 3. I will say that it is extremely close between 2 and 3. To show this I will tell you about something I did a while ago, I rewatched the whole series and gave every episode a rating out of 100, I put a lot of effort into the ratings and then averaged them out over the Books to see which was my favourite. Here were the results:
Book 1 – 83.35
Book 2 – 87.35
Book 3 – 90
As you can see very close and all 3 books got very high averages. Looking back on why Book 2 was not number 1 was that it was the most consistent book in terms of the scores not varying that much from episode to episode. The reason Book 3 won out in the end was that it had so many more epic episodes, it had a lot of episodes score very high near perfect marks. While Book 3 was just very consistent, it has no episode you can instantly turn to and say that is lower quality than the rest. The most consistent season.
Book 2 beats out Book 1 because it managed to take the episodes to new places, but gave us a plot reason for doing so, they never forgot about the aim or goal, but reacted to events happening. The big turning point where the series went from being a great show with a decent plot to an amazing show with incredible writing was 210 The Library. At this stage the quest for an earthbending teacher and Aang’s issue learning it was over, over before the half way point again highlighting how long Book 1 took to do a similar feat. 210 The Library added so much to the story with what it gave to the plot. Our heroes were given a means to victory, it was going great, until everything was thrown into the air with the bison-napping of Appa. They then gave the characters a reason to temporarily put the main quest on hold, this happened again when they arrived at Ba Sing Se with the drill and then Long Feng. The quality of writing went up so much in this book. I felt like Book 1 needed to have a story arc in the middle of the book, but it didn’t, this book delivered. Then once the plot was established in Ba Sing Se we got the amazing conspiracy story which developed multiple times into a Long Feng takeover and then an Azula take over. Fantastic writing.
The one thing I think Â Book 2 was lacking on was epicness. Yes the finale was epic, but only in the final moments. Other than that there were not many moments to rival stuff like The Siege Of The North and The Blue Spirit. Book 3 is packed with these type of moments. What makes Book 2 so good is that it continues on the character arcs from Book 1 and expands on them so well. It has a very intelligently written story throughout and introduces an amazing new character in Toph.
Book 2 is helped so much by the way book 1 was done. Book 1 was very character focused which means that Book 2 can focus more on plot and really pushing the characters onwards on their journeys.
Positives in Book 2
-Zuko’s development. In Book 1 his development was very subtle, a look in The Blue Spirit and a moment at the end of the finale. In Book 2 Zuko comes more to the forefront as a character and so his development does also. From the very beginning we see that Zuko’s story is going to be long and arduous, he is so conflicted and unsure of himself. In so many ways Iroh makes Zuko’s side of the story a treat to watch. The way he never tells Zuko what to do and refuses to just put him on his new path, instead he guides and advises Zuko and helps him to learn on his own. Seeing Zuko gradually begin to come around and then take a few steps back again, leave his uncle and then return. I think far and away Book 2 Zuko is one of the best arcs of a character I have ever seen. His solo episode Zuko Alone is the perfect example of this, his past and how it affects him in the present. All the mistakes and victories he has, you feel as he does. So when he makes the big decision in the finale you first go “why would you do that” and then remember all that cam before and realise how conflicted he is and that if Zuko does anything he learns from his mistakes.
-Aang and The Avatar State. This plotline came from nowhere, I was not expecting the epic conclusion to Book 1 to play a huge role in Aang’s story this Book. It works so well, Aang does not want to hurt people and he cannot control himself in the Avatar State so naturally he would fear this. In the end it is not a plot that is constantly addressed by other characters, but just one that pops up from time to time. 201 focuses on this, 211 brings it up again, 213 shows Aang making an attempt to avoid being emotional and of course the final 2 episode of the season deal with it in great detail. Aang was eager to master the Avatar State and get the loss of control out of his mind, but he puts that aside and quits that task because of the flaw that causes much of the loss of control, his over attachment.
It all links together in Aang’s story and the culmination is in The Guru and the character focus on Aang that it is. We see Aang and all of his positive points and flaws and feel for and with him.
-Toph. That is all. Do I need to explain why ?
Ok I will. She adds so much to the group with her attitude and sheer power, it allows them in the relationships to play the two girls who have very different personalities against each other as The Chase did to great effect. While everyone loves her for her sassy and tough attitude, the strength of character, I think the side of her I really enjoy is those moments when she lets her emotions out and feels. Like in The Tale Of Toph and Katara and parts of The Blind Bandit. It was a risk to make her blind as it could have been seen as doing it for the sake of it, but it is a crucial part of her character and they do the amazing thing of making what her parents consider her weakness her biggest strength as she such a good earthbender because of how she learned to bend with no sight. I like that they do the blind jokes from time to time, that her friends often forget about it as she is so capable, which is why she is drawn to them as friends in the first place. Amazing character
-The storytelling and plot. As I have mentioned above, the writing and story is taken to a whole new level this season and it all happens due to the events of 210 The Library. It sets of a chain of events that leads right into the end of the series. It takes the show from being a simple “learn this here, that there and that there and then go here to fight him.” instead we have a crazy citywide conspiracy plot, a kidnapping, death and much much drama.
-Azula. Like Toph another new character adds so much to the book. She within a minute eclipses Zhao as a villian and proceeds to become the main villian of the series as Ozai stays in shadow. She is powerful, cruel, manipulative and just an amazing character. The rivalry and tension between her and Zuko is stunning on screen. Just watch the final 3 episodes of this book to see how amazing she is and how capable and confident she is.
Negatives in Book 2
I have 2, both are very minor and are really me being as picky as possible to add something here. That said I think they are valid.
-A lack of epicness. If I asked myself to name epic episodes of Avatar, which ones come to mind. Obviously the Book 1 and Book 3 finales, the invasion from Book 3, 316, The Boiling Rock, The Blue Spirit and maybe Crossroads of destiny. As I have said above, it is the most consistent of the 3 books, but lacks some of the go to amazing episodes you always remember. There are plenty of amazing episodes in Book 2, the episodes I named above just have that little more that a lot of book 2 lacks. The lack of epicness is made up somewhat by the intrigue that the Ba Sing Se story line has.
-They took a risk with 215 and 216 and specifically where they placed the episodes in the season. 215 was a risk due to the format and the mundaneness of the episode. It works well for what it was aiming for, but it is still a very oddly placed episode occurring immediately after the big blackmail at the end of 214. 216 fits better as it is a catch up with the focus completely on Appa and it was needed, the risk was making an animal the main character, it works well, but again made it a 2 episode break between 214 and 217. Which is the main complaint I think, 217 starts out like it happens straight after 214 yet 215 was meant to have happened in between, it feels like it never happened given how Aang acts at the start of 217. I only have a minor issue with this, but I can see how others may have a big problem with where 215 and 216 take place.
So overall Book 2 is amazing and there are very few complaints to have about it. It is so solid and important to the series as a whole. The big plus is that Book 2 leaves off with a huge cliffhanger ending and sets up Book 3 to be amazing.
The first 3 book 3 reviews will be posted in 2 weeks.
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