Opinionated Guide to Avatar: The Last Airbender
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Uhh, you kind of confessed. Sorry.We open with... padding, a bit of Komedy! with Sokka and Momo. The Gaang are then set upon by 4 Fire Nation soldiers riding rhinoceros's. They attack, and the Gaang quickly flees. But before they do, Katara stops to get her box of waterbending scrolls. Stop. I'm pretty sure that those are Aang's scrolls; Pakku gave them to him. Or did she once again appropriate something that was supposed to be Aang's? Anyway, Aang stops to get his staff. But when the Gaang flies off, it seems Sokka forgot his boomerang. And Katara's kind of a dick about it. We cut to the Gaang buying some things from a shop to make up for their lost possessions, while Sokka mopes about his lost boomerang. He even says that it's part of his identity. Anyway, we learn that they have money from the Northern Water Tribe; I mention this because it's actually a bit of a plot point. They also learn about a celebration called "Avatar's Day." Naturally, they go check it out. In the village, they see giant floats of Kyoshi, Roku, and even one for Aang. Then a guy runs in and sets them on fire, while the crowd denounces the Avatar. Cut to Zuko stealing stuff from people in broad daylight as the Blue Spirit. He brings the stuff to Iroh, but he hides his mask before entering the cave they have outside of town. Iroh wonders where he got the food, but Zuko brushes him off. Back to the Gaang. Katara, not being one to stand for other people's rights, is incensed by their hatred of the Avatar, and she rushes in and puts out the fires with waterbending. Then Aang reveals himself. The crowd is initially fearful of his "awesome Avatar powers," and the city's mayor demands that they leave. Aang asks why they hate the Avatar so much. The mayor says that Avatar Kyoshi murdered their leader, Chin the Great. Aang is concerned that they think he murdered someone. Even though the guy clearly said that Avatar Kyoshi murdered him. Katara simply says that no Avatar would murder someone. Um, Katara, need I remind you that your mission to find an earthbending teacher for Aang is only so that you can help him conduct a high-profile political assassination of the leader of a sovereign nation! Or exactly what the hell do you expect to happen when Avatar Aang confronts Firelord Ozai? So I have no idea where Katara's getting this self-righteous indignation from about how Avatars don't kill people. Indeed, we'll find out that a previous Avatar not killing someone is exactly what started the war to begin with. Anyway, Aang asks for the chance to clear his name. So the mayor has him arrested pending trial. And since these guys don't take NWT money, he can't post bail. Cut to Aang in jail. Sokka rightfully starts pointing out the plot holes in this entire story. Namely, that the Fire Nation hates him, so why is he so damned concerned about this one town? And Katara even joins in, saying that he can't save the world if he's locked up. Aang brushes this all aside with some platitude about saying he can't save the world if people think he's a murderer. Anyway, we get a scene where Aang and Katara use reverse-psychology to get Sokka to investigate the case.
From there, we cut to a small temple at the edge of a cliff, where the mayor says that Chin was slain. Sokka deduces that the temple and the statue were built from the same stone, which he (falsely) believes means that they were built at the same time. Since the statue was built after the murder, then the temple was built after it too, and therefore Kyoshi couldn't have emerged from it as the mayor stated. Of course, this is based on nonsense; just because two structures came from the same quarry doesn't mean they were built at the same time. There's also a footprint, ostensibly Kyoshi's. We then cut to Aang in jail again. One of the other prisoners starts talking menacingly about Aang's tattoos and his shaved head, saying he'll fit right in. Um, WTF? They're alluding to prison rape on a kid's show? Anyway, Katara and Sokka have managed to fly all the way to Kyoshi Island; as we'll find out, it's probably not that far away. Once there, they investigate a shrine that was set up in Kyoshi's honor, where they preserve all of her mortal possessions. Her outfit, because apparently she only had one, her weapons, and even her boots. Her boots are the first clue, since they're much bigger than the footprint they saw earlier. There's also a painting of the "Birth of Kyoshi," the day the island was founded. We also find out that today is Kyoshi Day in the village, and that the island was founded on the same day of Chin's alleged murder. Sokka again employs fail-logic to deduce that painting was drawn at sunset, and therefore Kyoshi couldn't have been in Chin. He doesn't realize that paintings aren't photographs, so their accuracy is questionable at best. Nor could he tell whether the sun was in the west or east, since the painting doesn't come with a compass. Meanwhile, we cut to Aang, being anally violated. No, not really. He's actually engaged in a frank discussion about women with the other prisoners. In one of the most surrealistic moments of the series, Aang and some prisoners are actually sitting in a circle discussing shipping. Namely, Kataang shipping. They say various supportive things, building up Aang's confidence. Back in the town, Sokka and Katara inform the mayor that they have a solid defense prepared. But he then informs them that justice in Chin's town doesn't work that way. First the mayor says what happened, then Aang says what happened, and the mayor decides who's right. Cut to the trial. The mayor's presentation is succinct: he says the Avatar killed Chin. Aang attempts to follow the defense Sokka and Katara prepared, but as usual, he's an idiot and screws it up. Cut to something serious: Iroh and Zuko. Iroh talks about the simple honor in poverty, that it's nothing to be ashamed of. Zuko simply says that there can be no honor without capturing the Avatar. Iroh then admits that it's unlikely he'd be taken back even if he did have the Avatar at this point. When Zuko says that there's no hope at all now, Iroh says his cool thing for the episode:
No, Zuko! You must never give in to despair. Allow yourself to slip down that road and you surrender to your lowest instincts. In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.This gives Zuko pause for a moment, then Zuko gets up and walks away.
Back to the town. Katara stands up to make a presentation, but the mayor points out that they can't call witnesses. Katara says that it isn't any witness, because she's calling Avatar Kyoshi herself. And then Aang walks out, wearing Kyoshi's stuff, and with full face-paint to boot. Katara tells Sokka that wearing her stuff might trigger something in Aang; Sokka simply says that he does believe in the power of stuff. At first, Aang just pretends to be Kyoshi, but nobody's buying it. When the mayor starts to pronounce judgment, the sky darkens, the air whirls around Aang, and suddenly he transforms into Kyoshi. Should we just forget that first season even happened at all? Is that the idea? That we're not supposed to remember that one episode where meeting up with a past Avatar had to be done on a specific day at a specific time in a specific place? Or are we expected to go by the preponderance of the evidence, that if they show enough episodes where Aang easily meets one of his past lives, we'll assume that the first episode was somehow wrong or didn't happen. Anyway, Kyoshi's first words are, "I killed Chin the Conquerer." We then get flashbacks of Chin as a tyrannical earthbender who conquered nearly all of the Earth Kingdom. We see a map of the Earth Kingdom gradually fill up with his conquests, until almost all of it is his. But even so, there's still a large ring on the right side of the map that goes unconquered. That is Ba Sing Se, the Impenetrable City, and not even Chin could break it. But we'll talk more about that later. Kyoshi's flashback shows Chin marching on Kyoshi's village, and she confronts him. She's absolutely gigantic, while he's... tiny. He refuses to back down, so she pulls out a fan and airbends at him so hard that it strips off his clothes. He remains unmoving, as is proper for an earthbender. So then Kyoshi enters the Avatar State. She earthbends a chasm in the planet's crust, right down to the mantle, then uses what I assume to be a combination of air, earth, and firebending to move that part of the peninsula away to form Kyoshi Island. So yeah, it really is her island. Chin, being the prototypical immovable earthbender, just stands there while the ledge he's standing on collapses and he falls into the sea. Technically he should be falling into the earth's mantel, but whatever. He's dead. When Aang is restored to his body, he asks what happened. Katara speaks the page quote. Aang is therefore found guilty. Cut to Iroh. Zuko returns and says that they have nothing further to gain from travelling together. This saddens Iroh, but he gives Zuko their Chocobo. You know, the one Zuko stole. Meanwhile, Aang's sentence will be determined by the wheel of punishment, which he spins (still wearing Kyoshi's stuff). It lands on "boiled in oil." Fortunately for, well, everyone (since the world would be kinda screwed without Aang around) the Fire Nation soldiers that attacked the Gaang earlier that day show up to attack the village. Apparently they have no defenses against four guys on rhinos, so they turn to the Avatar. His sentence is changed to "community service," which will end once he has dealt with the soldiers. A fight sequence ensues. We see that Kyoshi's fans actually make for very good airbending instruments, as Aang uses them to fight. Sokka finds his boomerang among one of the soldier's belongings, thus tying up his arc through this episode. And all is well. This is an odd episode. This is a comedic episode that manages to actually have comedy in it. It's just a fun episode; it isn't intended to be taken seriously. And the episode itself clearly doesn't take itself seriously. Because of that, I can easily ignore elements like Aang being willing to sacrifice his life for some yokels bitching about something that happened 370 years ago that he himself didn't even do. Similarly, I can ignore the fact that there are 370 years between Kyoshi doing this and Aang. Even if you subtract the 100 years Aang spent on ice and his 12 years of age, that leaves 258 years divided between Kyoshi and Roku. That's a rather long time, especially since Kyoshi had all her training by the start of that time period. The tone of the episode is set by the opening joke. Momo sees that a spider has made a web over Sokka's open mouth while he was asleep. Momo shoves his hand in Sokka's mouth to grab it, prompting Sokka to wake up. And then he says that Momo needs to "be a little more sensitive to my boundaries." Yeah, you can't exactly have Azula show up and be threatening after that.
I do like the flashback because this is our first REAL glimpse of what a fully realized avatar is capable of (we saw a bit when Roku possessed Aang) and it's rather amazing, when you think about it.
I HATED this episode. I found it totally annoying, hated the plot, and I don't like "on trial" plots at all. And total silliness on a show like this really annoys me. I'm actually shocked you like it.
I'm going to pretend that by being at the right place at the right time, it opened up whatever chakras Aang needed for it to work more or less at will.
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