Opinionated Guide to Avatar: The Last Airbender
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The Great Divide
Not-Aang: Look, itís The Great Divide. The biggest canyon in the Earth Kingdom.
Not-Sokka: Meh. Let's keep flying.So we begin with... oddly enough, theme. Sokka and Katara are having an incredibly aggressive argument about some nonsense. While Katara and Sokka have argued before, the sheer belligerence of the argument, which is over nothing, is way out of character for both of them. Get used to that, because we'll be seeing a lot of OOC behavior this episode. Aang appears and suggests that they switch jobs. They both accept it without a fuss and this dispute is settled. I have just described the entire contents of this episode. Really. That's what this episode is: two sides argue and fight. Aang shows up, says something, both sides accept it immediately, and their dispute is settled. Repeated ad nausium. Both figuratively and literally. This may not be my personally most hated episode, but it is certainly is the worst written by any semi-objective measurement. The Gaang stands before "The Great Divide;" the largest canyon in the world. Sokka suggests that they get a good look from the air as they fly away. Oh how we will all regret that they didn't take his sage advice. Robin from Teen Titans interrupts, claiming that his tribe of refugees will be following the canyon guide through the canyon next. A group of people shows up, who are from a rival tribe. Both tribes are on the way to Ba Sing Se, the Earth Kingdom capital. I'm going to call these rival tribes the Cleans and the Dirties, because that's pretty much what their names translates to from Chinese. Yeah, they weren't really trying in this episode. Anyway, the Cleans are lead by Odo from Deep Space Nine. He and the Dirty leader get in an argument. Aang settles it by stating that Appa will carry their sick and elderly, and everyone else will be going together. They both accept it without a fuss and this dispute is settled. The canyon guide appears. He tells them not to bring food with them. That seems strange, but it's only a day across the canyon. The largest canyon in the world. Anyway, he tells them that food will attract terrible creatures. So they walk down a winding path. When they get to the bottom, a four-legged giant spider creature shows up. He injures the guide before being driven off by Aang. The two tribes start accusing the other of bringing food that attracted the creature. Aang then decides that the two sides will be separated. One will go on one side of the canyon and the other on the other. Both sides accept it without a fuss and this dispute is settled. He even divides Sokka and Katara, so that they can find out what's going on between the two tribes. Katara is sent with the Cleans while Sokka is sent with the Dirties. Naturally. At night, we see that the Cleans actually brought food with them. Odo says that they figured the Dirties would too, so there was no point in them going hungry as well. Katara accepts this logic, because she's incredibly out of character this episode. The Cleans then explain why they hate the Dirties, which is due to some incident that happened a hundred years ago. Katara immediately buys their version of the story and now hates the Dirties too. Again, out of character. Then we cut to Sokka with the Dirties. They brought food too. Their "logic" is that the Cleans would assume that the Dirties brought food, so the Cleans would bring food, therefore they should bring food. Even in this episode Sokka doesn't accept this horrible fail-logic. But because this is The Great Divide, Sokka does accept food. Yes, we're flashing back to old Sokka, before his characterization marched on. Thankfully, this will be the last time. The Dirties tell a similar story to the Cleans, but it makes their side look better. Theoretically. Unlike Katara, Sokka doesn't buy their story, but he doesn't dispute it. Because he's too busy eating and wanting food. Ha, ha. There's a scene between the injured canyon guide and Aang that tries to be interesting, but fails. The next morning, the groups re-merge. Sokka and Katara are angry with each other, per this episode's idiocy. Another argument breaks out between the tribes. Aang says that harsh words aren't going to solve anything. Both sides accept this without a fuss. However, they decide to raise things to the level of violence. Yeah, Aang slams down on that with some airbending. This uncovers the masses of food that everyone brought. Cue the spider-things coming out of the woodwork. After some fighting, Aang manages to get everyone to work together in the most idiotic fashion. Together, they put bags over the spider creature's mouths, and then ride them out of the canyon. Hey, don't look at me; it's their episode... After getting out, we come dangerously close to the pat Hollywood ending where both sides say they're friends forever after this one experience. Fortunately, even in an episode this chock full of stupid, they don't do that. Instead, they complain about what happened a hundred years ago some more.
—From The Ember Island Players
Then something happens. Aang says that he was there when their ancestors had the conflict (frozen in an iceberg for 100 years, remember?), and that the conflict wasn't about what they think it was. He uses details that he's never heard (he never got the chance to inquire about the details from Sokka or Katara) and says something that can only be described as mind-bendingly stupid. What happens? What do you think? They both accept it without a fuss and this dispute is settled! The two tribes wander off together. Then Sokka points out how lucky it was that Aang just so happened to come across their ancestors. Then Aang says that he made it up. While that does plant the tombstone of pointlessness on this episode of fail, I actually like that bit. It was the first time I came to respect Aang. When I first watched this episode and heard Aang's "explanation," I was disgusted to the point of almost closing NetFlix and writing the whole damn series off as a waste of time (and that would have been tragic). Indeed, after he said this nonsense, I actually thought that if I had written it, Aang would have been lying. It would have shown that Aang can think on his feet and solve problems. So then he revealed that he was lying. That actually made me like Aang. Until this point in the show, Aang had been incredibly irresponsible. He just sort of did stuff without thinking at all about it, and that's something I can't stand in characters. But here, we see that Aang actually has a functioning brain. Plus, there's the poetic justice of a conflict based on nonsense being resolved by a lie. That's the closest this episode gets to "profound."
The funny thing about this episode is that I expected it to be bad as soon as it started. I hate stories that involve leading a group of people, and I hate "two warring groups hate each other" stories, and I hate "angry over something that happened a long time ago" stories. As soon as I saw the two tribes of people show up, and both of them talking about going down the Great Divide, I knew the episode would suck simply because I don't like "big group" stories. But wow, was it terrible. So terrible I didn't think the cartoon was going to be all that good (I'm new to it; up to season 2 episode 4 as I type this). Good thing that things picked up considerably after this. The only redeeming factor at the end was Aang's clever lie at the end, which I genuinely was impressed by. The rest was pure boredom and crap.
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