Opinionated Guide to Avatar: The Last Airbender


The Serpent's Pass

The Monks used to say that hope is just a distraction. So maybe we do need to abandon it.

This episode is also billed as a two-parter with the next one. However, since the two stories are separate, I'll discuss each one in turn.

We open with... padding. And exposition. Katara and Aang are farting around in a pool while Sokka tries to get useful work done like trying to find the way to Ba Sing Se. He says that the only apparent route is the Serpent's Pass. When he mentions Appa, Katara is concerned about Aang's feelings, but Aang seems to be over it.

Well, he says he is at any rate.

A bunch of refugees show up. We see the couple that Zuko didn't steal from because the wife was pregnant. They're going to Ba Sing Se too. However, they say that the Serpent's Pass is a dangerous route; they're going to take a ferry across the water from a hidden location. So the Gaang decides to give it a try.

Three guesses on which way they will eventually go. And two of them don't count.

When they get to the ferry's dock at Full Moon Bay, they see hundreds of refugees.

Cut to Iroh and Zuko, who are already on a ferry, heading across the lake. Iroh muses about how he's returning to the scene of his disgrace as a tourist. Zuko's annoyed about being a refugee and eating rotten food.

Enter Jet. Yes him, that guy from that one episode a while back. He's traveling with two of his posse, Longshot and Smellerbee. Jet suggests that they steal food from the captain, since he's hoarding the best food for himself. Zuko agrees to join them.

Cut back to Full Moon Bay. We get some Komedy! from the thrice-damned Cabbage merchant. What is this, the episode of pointless callbacks?

Yes and no. This episode will reintroduce a number of one-shot characters. With the exception of this numb-nut, all of these meetings will be important in the future.

Aang attempts to get tickets to the ferry, but the Gaang don't have passports. He tries to use his Avatar-ness, but a number of Avatar-impersonators already failed at that one.

Toph Bei Fong apparently has actual clout. All she needs to do is show the flying boar seal of the Bei Fong family and they get everything they need. Toph even acts snooty about it, though that may just be her default state.

As the Gaang walks away with their tickets, a woman in uniform appears and forcefully demands Sokka's tickets. She starts spouting off his character traits in an increasingly menacing tone, which has Sokka asking if he knows her. She then kisses him on the cheek.

Guess what? Suki's back. That makes three people back from previous episodes. Can we get Aunt Wu back, please, so that she can see what a miserable failure at fortune telling she is?

Scene cut. The Gaang+Suki are talking. Katara talks about how different she looks without the facepaint, and Suki grouses about how the lady in charge of the place makes them all wear those uniforms. She then strokes Sokka's ego about his new sleeveless outfit, and Sokka flaunts his (entirely fictitious) physique at her. Suki exposites that the Kyoshi Warriors left the island to find a way to help in the war, and they made their way here. She then asks why they're traveling on the ferry, since they could just fly over on Appa.

Katara quietly explains that Appa's gone. When Suki asks how Aang's doing, he snaps at her slightly, saying he's fine.

Well that's getting banal; time for something interesting. The couple shows up, saying that their stuff has been stolen. Rather than, you know, track down the thief, Aang decides to talk to the incredibly reasonable ticket counter lady. Naturally, she tells him to ram it, and she even says that the Gaang can't give them their tickets (a line so out of place and nonsensical that it almost certainly was added in when someone noticed that plothole). So Aang, and by extension the Gaang, decides to take them through the Serpent's Pass.

As the Gaang leaves, Suki appears, back in Ninja Geisha mode. Sokka's not exactly thrilled by the prospect of having her along, which serves to confuse Suki. Something's obviously bothering him.

But we won't be finding out what just yet, since we cut to the Serpent's Pass. It's a very narrow stretch of rock at this point. There's a carving on a sign that says "abandon hope." The pregnant lady is made distraught by this, but Aang speaks the page quote at her. He says that hope isn't going to help them get anywhere. They need to focus on getting across the pass. Katara, being ostensibly an unending fount of hope, isn't really sure about this.

As they advance, Suki exposits that the Fire Nation controls the western half of the lake, and they're planning something. Plot Point! As she says this, a Fire Nation ship is floating by. One of the people they're escorting slips on the narrow path, causing a large chunk of rock to fall. This gets the attention of the ship, which launches fireballs at them.

One of these sends a shower of rocks towards Suki, but Sokka pushes her out of the way. Toph saves him with some simple earthbending. Sokka starts talking about how Suki needs to be more careful. Meanwhile, Toph has a sarcastic imaginary conversation with Sokka where he thanks her for saving his life.

Cut to nightfall. Sokka is being exceedingly overprotective of Suki, having her move where she sleeps and so forth. She gives him a sidelong glance.

Cut to Zuko, Jet and his posse. They have a clandestine night-time raid where they liberate a healthy quantity of food.

Well enough of that scene; back to aangst. It's time to find out what's going on with everybody. Aang is looking off into the distance, and Katara comes to him. She talks about how he suddenly doesn't seem to care about Appa anymore. Aang talks about how he was too angry and couldn't control himself. And he doesn't want to feel like that. She points out that he's not letting himself feel anything anymore. She says that she doesn't want him to stop hoping and caring. Then she offers him a hug, but he politely declines.

Look at all that self-inflicted misery, Aunt Wu

Cut to Sokka and Suki. Sokka's looking at the moon, when Suki arrives and says that it's a beautiful moon. She asks what's going on with his overprotectiveness thing. He talks obliquely about what happened at the North Pole with Yue, saying that he couldn't protect someone. And he doesn't want anything like that to happen again. She then obliquely talks about him, prompting a bit of Romantic Komedy!. When she reveals that she's talking about him, she begins to move in for the kiss...

And he turns the cheek of shame to her. She apologises, but he says that she shouldn't apologise, and walks off.

Cut back to Jet, who's handing the foot out to the passengers. Iroh mistakes Smellerbee for a guy, which pisses her off. Longshot calms her down with... his stare. Or telepathy.

Jet comes back. Iroh talks about how he has been to Ba Sing Se once before, when he was a different man. Jet talks about his past, saying he has done some things he isn't proud of. He wants a second chance at Ba Sing Se. Iroh pointedly says that he believes in second chances while looking at Zuko.

It's morning with the Gaang. Apparently, part of the Serpent's Pass goes underwater. No problem, because Katara and Aang just waterbend them a bubble and they walk along the ocean floor. Rather than have Toph and Aang simply raise the earth and walk across, which would be much safer and less likely to cause death.

The Serpent's Pass's namesake appears, and now Toph has to actually raise a platform up to the surface lest they drown. Sokka delivers a bit of Komedy! towards the serpent, but it doesn't take. Aang goes off to fight it, while Katara makes an ice bridge. After that, Katara joins Aang in the fight.

Everyone but Toph makes it across; she's hesitant about walking on the ice, what with her being barefoot as well as unable to see through it. So why doesn't she just raise the earth to make a path? She just proved that she could do that whenever she wants. Why? So that this can happen.

The serpent breaks the ice, and Toph can't swim. Of course not. Sokka says that he's going to save her, but while he's taking off his shoes, Suki jumps in and rescues her. Thinking it was Sokka, Toph kisses Suki on the cheek. Once Suki lets her know, Toph says, "Oh... well... you can go ahead and let me drown now." Komedy!

Katara and Aang dispatch the beast, and everyone's safe. They're even in sight of the walls.

Cue the labor.

Sokka freaks out, but Katara naturally takes charge of the whole birthing thing, expositing that she's helped her grandmother deliver plenty of babies before. Wait, isn't Katara like 14 or something? Didn't all the men in her village leave when she was like 10? Do they routinely teach 10-year-olds midwifing? Anyway, after having Toph make some shelter, Katara recruits Suki to help with the delivery. Because they're women, and the men-folk can't possibly help with delivering babies.

Cut to Zuko, talking with Jet, who says that he knew exactly who Zuko was when he saw the scar. Naturally, this causes Zuko some concern until Jet says that it means he's an outcast. Jet talks about outcasts sticking together and so forth, and Zuko says that being on your own isn't always the best path.

Did you like that 15 seconds of Zuko and Jet? Because we're back to the labor now. After a bit of Komedy! with Sokka fainting at the sight of the birthing process, the birth is complete. Everyone sees the baby, and naturally this immediately cures Aang.

Man, we were so close, so close to getting some character growth and substantive change for Aang. But then they pull this epiphany therapy crap on us (though to be fair, he does still want Appa back. He's just not mopy about it). Aang starts talking about how they've brought him hope again. And they decide to name the baby girl "Hope."

A name that fits in perfectly with this Asian-influenced world. Perfectly.

Aang and Katara have a good talk about his feelings, and then they hug. He then says that he's going off to Ba Sing Se alone to look for Appa, ahead of the rest of the group. Um why? Is the quarter-day that he'd save by not walking with everyone else really that important?

Nope. It's just a contrivance, so that Aang can see the setup for the next episode. But we'll talk about that more next time.

Suki leaves. She says she only came to see them through the Serpent's Pass safely. Suki starts apologising again for last night, but Sokka apparently learned things from the episode and gives her a Shut-up Kiss. Aww. Screw you, Aunt Wu: 3+Yue, for Sokka having a badass, hot girlfriend.

I don't know. This episode has some strong characterization here and there. But somehow, it feels... disjointed to me. Certainly part of it is Aang's lazy resolution. Part of it is that Jet and Zuko's stuff didn't really have any place here. It's here to reintroduce Jet, who will have an important part of future episodes. It's here because it needs to be here time-wise, not because it thematically fits.

Or maybe it's the aggressive editing that loves to cut to some scene for 20 seconds, then go right back to something else.


I'll agree with you on Aang getting better a tad quickly. And personally, I didn't like how they totally segwayed out of the desert. Yeah they explained it, but it felt rushed.
Codafett 5th Dec 13