May 3rd, 2012

Katara bend not break

Avatar Book 3, Ep. 16

I mentioned in my spoiler addendum to my review of “The Firebending Masters” that the set of episodes starting with that one and ending with this one is a series of “field trips” in which Zuko has an adventure with each of the original members of the Gaang—that is, the three that he chased across the globe in Season 1. Later, in “Sozin's Comet, part 1” Toph complains that she doesn't get a field trip—but she doesn't need one, since she has no real grudge against Zuko, no painful history with him that needs to be undone like the others had. It is the original three (and not Toph, Suki, or any of the auxilliary characters) that Zuko most needs to bond with. Or it might be more accurate to say that they need to bond with him. All three field trips serve to connect Zuko to one other member of the Gaang by exploring what they have in common and what they can learn from each other. Let's review!

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The most emotionally intense field trip is saved for last. Zuko's common ground with Katara is more complex than what he shared with Aang or Sokka. In this episode, we revisit the moment they bonded over the loss they share—having their mothers taken from them by the Fire Nation—but this time, the angle is shared anger rather than shared sorrow. Zuko, in an effort to prove his worth to Katara, offers her something the others can't. He not only offers inside knowledge about the Fire Nation that helps to identify her mother's murderer, but he also affirms her anger and her need for justice—or at the least, for closure.

Ever since Zuko came, Katara has been in an almost constant fury—her face set in a rough and cruel expression, her body language tense and hard. She casts her blame on him. Why does she do this? And why does she grieve for her mother in a way that Sokka does not?

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This review ended up being a bit long, so I'm going to save the commentary track highlights for my next post, which will probably be combined with my review of “The Ember Island Players”.