Chapter 16: Appa's Lost Days
It was such a thrill to see the title of this episode when I first queued it up: At last, we would learn what had become of Appa. It was no guarantee he was all right or even alive, but it still made me feel a sense of relief that we would at least have an answer.
"We need the Shirshu spit darts!" Nice bit of continuity there.
This episode makes me tear up. There's something especially poignant about watching an animal suffer, since it doesn't have the same understanding of what is happening to it as a human does. Also, the scene where Aang and Appa both dream of their first meeting on the same night…*sniff*
I like how they brought Suki and the Kyoshi Warriors in to this episode. It was really clever of them to connect three threads that had been left hanging for a little while—Suki, Appa, and Ozai's Angels—all in one scene.
GIRL FIGHT! I'm sorry that the way this episode was framed (Appa's POV) meant we didn't get to see the outcome of the fight. Yes, we know how it turned out—but this FNS would have liked to have seen the pwnage! *evil smile*
I really like Guru Pathik. Like Suki, he was wise enough to treat Appa as both a wild animal and a friend and ally.
Chapter 17: Lake Laogai
Bryan Konietzko – Co-Creator
Michael Dante DiMartino – Co-Creator
Tim Hendrick – Writer
So this episode introduces Toph, the human lie detector. Very handy in terms of advancing the plot when a character's trustworthiness is in question. Also works for comic relief, as when she teases Katara for denying there was anything between her and Jet.
C: Toph needs things to be relatively quiet in order to lie-detect, and she has to be concentrating.
C: "We've got a little Aang jealousy here. [When Sokka suggests Katara kiss Jet to jog his memory and Aang calls it a bad idea.] The shippers. You know they like that."
More continuity: Jet's family was killed by the Rough Rhinos.
C: The idea for the Rough Rhinos was that they were a group of raiders who would go in and raze a town before the Fire Nation invaded it.
C: "Laogai" means "prison" in Chinese.
C: Toph can't "see" the Dai Li's fists because they fly through the air.
C: They talk about what happens to Jet at the end and they mention other versions of the script. I get the impression that they mean there was another version where Jet doesn't die.
-This sequence got scripted, like, 10 to 12 different times.
-You're right, it did.
-I mean, Katara originally…
-Aaaa, maybe we shouldn't…there was a different version we had…
-Many different ways…
-I like it, I like how it came out.
-No, I think this is definitely the best way. It makes Long Feng very villainous.
Jet: "I'll be fine."; Toph: "He's lying." – The lie-detector thing also works for a poignant touch.
C: They talk about the spirit water and why Katara didn't use it to heal Jet. Basically, they joke about how it had to be that way so she could save Aang later on. But they give fanwank-ish explanations (I suppose it's not fanwank if it's the creators, but it has the same feel): First, that Katara "tested the water" and knew she couldn't help him; second, that spirit water works on people like Aang who have a connection to the spirit world, not on ordinary people. (They sounded like they were pretty much joking around on that second one.) Also, they mention Katara's nearly using the water for "Zuko plastic surgery" in CoD.
Sooo good to see Appa and the rest of the Gaang together again. <3
Chapter 18: The Earth King
Michael Dante DiMartino – Co-Creator
Joaquim Dos Santos – Storyboard Artist
John O'Bryan – Writer
Toph's shifting the large stone bricks outside the palace to ward off the guards' attacks looks so cool. Actually, the whole fight to get to the palace is quite a cool action sequence. I love how they punctuate it with the kids apologizing to the guards and assuring them "We're on your side!"
C: An action sequence like this allows them to show the growth of the kids' abilities. They don't always have time to show a lot of "training" scenes, so they often only get to show the results—the kids getting more like superheroes with each fight scene.
"No Earth King has ever been to the outer wall." Whose crazy idea was it that the Earth King needed to be so sheltered? How can any society expect to function with that kind of leadership? Although, I have a feeling there may have been some real societies in history that were rather like this.
C: They confirm that the Earth King is based on some ancient Chinese kings who were very secluded and sheltered.
I'm perplexed by the Earth King. I don’t what to make of him. I guess it's better to be good and foolish (or naïve, or however you want to put it), than evil and wise. I find myself feeling pretty annoyed with him, though.
C: Phil LaMar, who was a guest at a convention I've been to (Jacon '08?)—and is a prolific VA—voices the Earth King.
I love the dragon dream sequence. It was a cool way to show Zuko's inner conflict.
The word of honest children vs. the word of corrupt adults theme in this episode reminds me of the ending of Prisoner of Azkaban.
Awww, another cheek kiss, this one for Sokka and Katara. (Sokka kisses her when she volunteers to stay with the Earth King while Sokka goes to join Hakoda.) I think I'm going to make a rule to only "count" the romantic ones, though.
Aaand there's one for Aang and Katara, too. This one does count.
Sokka: Cheek kisses: 2, Lip kisses: 3
Aang: Cheek kisses: 2, Lip kisses: 1
Katara: Cheek kisses: 2, Lip kisses: 1
Suki: Cheek kisses: 2, Lip kisses: 1
Yue: Cheek kisses: 0, Lip kisses: 2
Zuko: Cheek kisses: 0, Lip kisses: 1
Jin: Cheek kisses: 0, Lip kisses: 1
The identity confusion (aided by Sokka's ill-timed endorsement of the Kyoshi warriors) that leads to Azula's infiltration of Ba Sing Se (and ultimately its fall) feels a lot like a Shakespearean plot device (which is a good thing, IMO).
Chapter 19: The Guru
Happy Zuko is a little bit creepy—although I think he's very cute when he smiles. <333
"Mai gets to wear makeup that's not totally depressing?" jadfkjakd;afdads Got to love the little nod to the goth subculture there.
As far as the Guru's place in the world of Avatar: It strikes me that the philosophy of the Air Nomads was not purely about air bending, but was a whole way of life that presumably could be shared by non-air benders. That's what Pathik represents. And though we know there are no other air benders in the world besides Aang, it is quite possible there are others like Pathik who share the philosophy.
Does the philosophy of "chakras" come from yoga? It reminds me of some things I learned in yoga classes, but the term itself is not familiar to me. (After writing this, I consulted my parents, who are more into yoga than I am, and they say yes, it is from yoga, but it's not mentioned much in the classes we attend.)
The scene with Aang's joke about the fire chakra and the guru's response (*smiley* "That's a good one." *serious* "Moving on.") reminds me of my teaching. My students like to joke around (of course), and I enjoy their exuberance and sense of humor (usually), but I want to do a good job at teaching them, which requires maintaining order. So there are many moments in my day where I get to laugh or smile at them for a split second before saying, all-business, "Now back to algebra."
"Toph, you rule!" Indeed! You go, metal bending girl!
Chapter 20: The Crossroads of Destiny
Bryan Konietzko – Co-Creator
Michael Dante DiMartino – Co-Creator
I love the little smirk on Zuko's face right before Iroh demonstrates why he's "The Dragon of the West." Those two are so <333.
C: The score for this episode makes use of the sound of taiko drums. <3
C: There's a long section of commentary about Zuko's character arc. It's too much to transcribe, but it's very good—worth listening to if you have access to the DVD.
I like that Aang is almost immediately ready to help Iroh when he says that both Katara and Zuko are being held prisoner by Azula.
C: In Iroh's advice to Aang, there are hints of his past and the lessons he learned after his son's death. As a young man, he was this powerful general; he still had a gentle side, but he was more aggressive as well. "The loss of his son really aged him, and changed his attitude."
"Now comes the part where I
C: "Unfortunately in history, there are people like Azula, who are just so charismatic, but also soulless and they're able to climb to positions of influence." Hmm…does Godwin's Law apply to this statement? ;)
Oh man, how the scene after Iroh's "crossroads of destiny" speech where Zuko attacks Aang BROKE MY HEART when I first watched it. I just couldn't believe it. But it was not time yet. Zuko understands the truth about the world outside. The problem is, he still doesn't understand the truth about the Fire Nation, and he doesn't fully understand himself.
This four-way fight is awesome!
C: Aang's problem was that, due to his inexperience, he stayed in the Avatar state too long. It should really be only a flash.
C: When lightening strikes someone, it has both an entry wound and an exit wound. Aang's exit wound is in his foot; you can tell because his shoe flies off.
I can't believe I missed the death/resurrection theme in Aang's character arc. I mean, after finishing the series, I wasn't thinking of Aang's journey as fitting that particular epic hero trope, but that was because Aang's death/resurrection happened so near the middle of the story, instead of toward the end. But it's totally there. I <333 monomyth.
An excellent (and very positive) review of Avatar was linked to in avatar_fans. I recommend reading it, if you haven't already.
Also, as evidence of Avatar's broad appeal I offer this: My 2-year-old nephew enjoys watching the show whenever his grown-ups put it on in his presence. His mom attests that he was saying something that sounded like "adatar" with excitement the other day while eating applesauce, and switched to saying something more like "appletar". His mom thinks this was his way of making a joke—baby's first play on words, maybe? Anyway, he can say all the main characters names, given a bit of prodding, which brought me and some friends who were over at our house the other night no end of amusement. His pronunciation of "K'tara" is particularly cute. Also, his mom says he runs around saying "Fire Nation" a lot, so apparently he's an FNS as well. :)
P.S. Remember to keep comments here spoiler-free! If you have something spoiler-y to say, even if it's in response to this post, please comment in the next post instead. Thanks!