Opinionated Guide to Avatar: The Last Airbender
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He's a gigantic fluffy monster with an arrow on his head; it's kinda hard to miss him.Our episode starts with the usual padding. Momo gets caught in some traps that Sokka presumes are Fire Nation due to the metalwork. This leads to Sokka saying that they need to leave, and this time they should walk. When the others ask why, he points out that Appa's pretty easy to spot from miles away. And he's right. It was only three episodes ago when they were spotted by Zuko from the ground. And they wouldn't have been if they (technically Katara looking for Aang) weren't flying around. Of course, since it makes so much sense, the others are against it. Which starts an argument about who the leader is. And that leads to an interesting digression. The dynamic between the Gaang thus far is such that nobody ever really consistently takes charge of the group. Indeed, I'm wondering if this isn't a ploy by Katara. After all, so long as there's nobody officially in charge, she can basically do whatever she wants by simply saying, "we're doing what I want now." That's how she got them to stay on the Fire Nation prison back in Imprisoned. She said that she wasn't leaving, so all of them they stayed. After talking about leadership, Katara suddenly gets all personal, saying that Sokka wouldn't be so bossy if he'd kissed a girl. Yeah, Katara gets to be the resident douchebag for this episode. However, unlike the last one, it's clear that the writers intend for her to be an annoying jerk, instead of not noticing that they wrote her that way. So they march for a while, Katara insulting Sokka the whole way. Then they walk into a Fire Nation camp. Of course, this happens at the moment Sokka says that they're safe from the Fire Nation. I have no idea why the writers decided to do this. Sokka's reasoning about not flying for awhile is absolutely right. But they have them stumble onto a Fire Nation camp purely by accident, and add ironic dialog on top of it. All this does is show that if you're in complete control of a world, you can show anyone to be a jerk. It doesn't mean Sokka wasn't right, or that at the end of the episode, Sokka has somehow gained wisdom. The Fire Nation troops prevent them from fleeing with a fireball. This gives Katara a chance to show off her new accessory. See, she's wearing a leather drinking bottle full of water which she uses for bending. You know, because of that scroll she stole. But to be fair, carrying water around is a smart idea for a waterbender. As the Gaang gets surrounded, a bunch of guys ambush the Fire Nation troops. After an action-packed fight, the new guys introduce themselves. Katara takes an immediate shine to Jet, the leader of this group of freedom fighters. Something that Aang seems to brush off, despite his consistent crush for Katara. Maybe he just didn't notice. When they get to Jet's treetop hideout, they start exchanging sob stories about the Fire Nation. Jet's family was killed, and Katara reiterates the fact that their mother was killed by Fire Nation soldiers. Then Jet gathers everyone together and delivers a rousing speech that ends on a somewhat... brutal note. The camera is of course framed to show that he's evil. Because we never could have figured that out on our own. When Jet tries to recruit the Gaang into helping them, Sokka suggests they leave. Jet however appeals to his ego, which is enough for Sokka. The next day, Jet brings Sokka and some of his guys along to ambush people in the forest. They come across an old man who's from the Fire Nation. Naturally, Jet mugs the guy. Sokka is not pleased with that. When Sokka tries to tell Katara about it, she doesn't buy it. Jet gives some pretty transparent lies about the old man being a spy. After Sokka storms out, Jet recruits the others to help fill a reservoir with water, supposedly to help stop the Fire Nation from burning down the forest. Katara confronts Sokka about this and then has the temerity to suggest that Sokka is jealous of Jet. She then declares that they are not leaving. And since there's no actual leader, Katara gets her way. Again. That night, Sokka gets woken up by some commotion outside. The freedom fighters are on the move with explosives. He follows them to where Jet gives them their marching orders. He's planning to blow up the dam once the reservoir is full, to flood the nearby town. This will destroy the Fire Nation soldiers there, but also the regular citizens. Sokka gets caught, and Jet has some of his people send him into the woods. Later, Jet goes with Aang and Katara, lying about Sokka's absence. Katara also has the unmitigated gall to say that Sokka is stubborn. Anyway, Jet strokes both of their egos to get them to pull water up from underground to help fill the reservoir. Once they get started, Jet goes off to check things at the dam. Meanwhile, Sokka is able to escape from Jet's goon squad by leading them through some of those Fire Nation traps from the beginning of the episode. Aang and Katara finish their work quickly enough that they get back to the reservoir in time to see the freedom fighters packing it with explosives. Aang tries to go stop them, but Jet intercepts them. Jet tries to appeal to them, but then lets it slip that he may have had Sokka killed. Naturally, Katara knocks him down with her waterbending. Then a fight breaks out between Jet and Aang. While Katara... stands around doing nothing. This is just bad writing. I know Jet and Aang are flying through the trees, Aang with airbending and Jet with... the need to pose a threat to a badass airbender. But it really seems like the writers forgot about Katara for a minute or two. She makes no effort to follow them or help Aang by attacking Jet.
She does make the save at the end though, when she freezes Jet to a tree. But Aang's glider was conveniently damaged in the fight. Jet whistles the signal to blow the dam, and it gets blown up. Fortunately, Sokka shows up on Appa. He apparently went to the village and warned them. Thanks to the old man he didn't want attacked, the villagers believed him and they evacuated. So the Gaang leaves. Of course, because Sokka was the hero this episode, naturally it ends with him being the butt of the joke. It'd be nice if we could have one episode that didn't end with Sokka being shamed. This was not a well-written episode. It has some good elements to it, and Sokka comes off better than prior episodes. But it's just clumsily executed overall. Jet doesn't make for much of a sympathetic villain, and his villainy is more transparent than Zhao. The main good element to this episode, outside of Sokka's character development, is the point where the village gets flooded. Jet's been icebended to a tree and is still able to successfully execute his plan. Many other shows would have effectively ended the moment the villain was bound.
Jet wasn't MEANT to be a sympathetic villain. None of the characters treated him sympathetically when they realized he was a crazed terrorist. There's difference between having a sympathetic backstory/motives and actually being sympathetic, y'know.
This was definitely the episode where they started to show more sides to Sokka and improve him as a character with admirable traits. Not a great episode, but this was the third one I considered good.
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