Opinionated Guide to Avatar: The Last Airbender
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Bato, of the Water Tribe
At my age, there's really only one big surprise left. And I'd just as soon leave that a mystery.We begin with actual plot, usually a good sign for an episode. Aang finds a sword made of a whale's tooth in the forest. Sokka quickly determines that it is a Water Tribe weapon. He even determines that there was a battle between the Water Tribe and the Fire Nation, which the Fire Nation lost. Because obviously, a bunch of skilled martial artists who can throw fire would lose to a group of yokels who's most advanced weaponry are made of animal bones and teeth. He follows the trail of battle to a ship from the Southern Water Tribe. It was apparently from their father's fleet. Cut to Zuko's ship. A woman riding a giant... thing rides onto the ship. She claims that there's a stowaway on board, but Zuko doesn't buy it. Naturally, Zuko's wrong because that's his purpose in this show. The giant thingy rips open the ship's metal deck plating with it's mouth. Sure, why not. We get to see Smell-o-vision from the beast's perspective. It follows the scent to some guy hiding in a basket. When they guy tries to run, the beast whips its tongue out and strikes him; he immediately falls over, paralysed. The woman, June, is nice enough to exposit that she's a bounty hunter, and that her animal, a Shirshu, is able to track people by scent from a continent away. Sure, why not. Cut back to the Gaang. They decide to camp next to the ship. That night, Sokka flashes back to the day his father and the other men of his tribe left. We see little Sokka wanting to go, but being told that he has to stay to take care of the village. Sokka's flashback is interrupted by the arrival of the titular Bato; he's a friend of the family. Bato explains that he was left behind after being injured; the others moved on to other parts of the Earth Kingdom. During this scene, Sokka and Katara are doing all of the talking with Bato, while Aang just sort of hangs back, both looking and sounding like a third wheel. They go to, of all things, an Abbey. With nuns (though at least they're not wearing the modern nun Habit). In an asian-influenced world. Sure, why not. The group has dinner, where Sokka and Katara talk about old times with Bato. Again, Aang just sort of hangs back, watching and feeling left out. He doesn't even find the sea prunes tasty, and he is creeped out by the preponderance of animal skins in their decorations (he's a vegetarian, remember?). Zuko finds June in a bar. To establish her manliness, she's arm-wrestling. However, she's arm-wrestling against... Ryu from Street Fighter? No, really; it's Ryu. With the white Gi, red headband, and everything. They changed his hair just enough to not get sued. Sure, why not. After that bit of pointlessness, Zuko hires June to help track the Avatar. He uses Katara's necklace to track her scent. Back with the Gaang, Bato says that he's expecting a message from their father, telling him where to meet up with the group. And when he gets it, they can come with Bato to meet up with their father. Katara and Sokka are thrilled, while Aang silently creeps away. After Aang has left, Sokka's excitement at the prospect of meeting his father dies down enough for him to remember their duty to get Aang to the north pole. What with the ticking clock and all. Aang is back at the Water Tribe ship, sulking. Robin from Teen Titans rides up on a two-legged horse thingy and delivers the aforementioned message. Aang decides to hide the message instead of handing it over. When he returns to Bato's place, he acts really suspiciously, but the others aren't paying attention enough to notice. We get a callback to a previous episode when Zuko, Iroh, and June encounter the crazy Herbalist. Which is strange, since Katara never met the herbalist; only Aang did. And the Shirshu is supposed to be following Katara's scent. You can't even say that maybe Aang had some of Katara's scent on him or something, because the Shirshu will eventually find Katara and specifically not Aang (who would still have had Katara's scent on him). Anyway, on to important things. They group goes out to the ship, where Aang has to cover his tracks. Quite literally in that he airbends away the footprints of the messenger from last night. The conversation turns to ice dodging, a right of passage for the people of the Southern Water Tribe. Sokka was unable to go since he was too young at the time, so Bato decides that they'll go now, with rocks taking the place of ice. Sure, why not. We get another callback when Zuko's group meets up with Aunt Wu. Since Katara spent a lot of time there. When asked if he wants his fortune told, Iroh says the page quote. Each of the three members are assigned positions on the ship. Sokka is given leadership, telling the others what to do and controlling the ship's direction. Katara is given the position of courage, though I'm not sure how holding onto a sail counts. Irony strikes Aang, as his position is supposedly all about trust.
The Gaang does reasonably well. Sokka even has Katara and Aang employ bending to get past a patch of rocks and impress Bato. Sokka is given the Mark of the Wise (Screw You, Aunt Wu: 1, for Sokka being awesome), Katara is given the Mark of the Brave. And Irony piles atop more Irony as Aang is given the Mark of the Trusted, formally inducting him into the Southern Water Tribe. Aang's guilty conscious can take no more, and he confesses to what he did. Naturally, Sokka flips out. Even Katara is ashamed. The two of them leave to go find their father. Zuko's group have found their way to the Abby and then continues following the trail. The head of the Abby goes to the sea to tell Aang about it. Meanwhile Sokka and Katara have second thoughts about leaving Aang, after Bato tells them about how lonely he felt when he was left behind by the other warriors. They decide to head back to the Abby. This does little more than leave the two of them alone when the Shirshu finds them. Zuko asks where Aang is, but they're not telling. They're quickly paralysed. The Shirshu picks up the Avatar's scent on the map that Aang carried around for awhile, and they take off. Naturally, Zuko thinks it's a good idea to carry the paralysed Katara and Sokka along. Sure, why not. When they get to the Abby, Aang is there waiting for them and they fight. The Shirshu and Appa square off, the Shirshu's venom initially unable to paralyse the large Appa. Aang and Zuko fight. There are several mirrored scenes here, where Aang and Zuko do similar moves, or are knocked back in similar ways. Just in case you didn't get the hint that they're alike. Even so, Aang makes Zuko look like a fool in this fight. I mean really, Zuko is in many cases unable to hit Aang when he's two feet in front of him. When Aang sees that Zuko still has Katara's necklace, Aang goes through a complicated series of moves that make Zuko look like a complete imbecile. Aang even takes the necklace away with his foot, just to make Zuko's humiliation complete. And where is Zuko's uncle? He swiped a bottle of perfume. Sure, why not. Katara and Sokka are de-paralized by some medicines the nuns have. Sokka gets the idea to overpower the Shirshu's sense of smell with perfume (Screw You, Aunt Wu: 2, for Sokka coming up with a plan that saves the day). They tip over several barrels of perfume and Katara waterbends them at the creature. Naturally, it goes wild, hitting both Zuko and June with its tongue. Then the Gaang leaves, completely ignoring the fact that Zuko is helpless before them and could easily be locked up. Sure, why not. After all, it's not like he's a threat or anything. Certainly not after his performance in this episode. The episode ends with Aang giving Katara her necklace back, and Katara kissing him on the cheek. Despite some of its flaws, I really like this episode. Aang actually gets to be a human being here. He obviously has serious abandonment issues, which makes perfect sense for someone who lost everyone he's ever known a scant few months ago. I think some of the Irony for Aang was a little heavy-handed, but overall, it came out better than most.
Uh, there are nuns in Buddhism. Other than that, I'm liking your analysis so far (though I don't agree with everything).
I also liked the fact that Aang showed human flaws, and Sokka and even Katara got pissed. It made all three heroes human, and it was the sort of realistic characterization I wish more cartoons had. I wouldn't consider this a favorite episode, but it was definitely one of the good ones.
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