Appa's Lost Days
In the last episode, I skipped the Tale of Momo because it was a bunch of animal antics. Sadly, I can't do that with this episode, even though that's all this
is. Well, almost. As the title suggests, it's all about Appa. Just what we need to keep the plot moving forward; to spend a half-hour with a non-character.
We begin at the last place Appa was seen: being attacked by sandbenders. And for the first time, we get a definite idea of time. Specifically, this incident took place 4 weeks before the present time. The scene is extended to show the parts alluded to before, though the "Put a muzzle on him!" line is obviously dubbed in. After a struggle, the sandbenders cart him off using their sand ships.
After they get him far enough away, they start going through his saddle. An errant airbending-powered sneeze hits one of their sand ships and buries it. This is somehow the one that the Gaang found in the desert. Wow, what are the odds? It turns out it was stolen anyway.
How canonically convenient.
They don't find anything of value among the Gaang's stuff, but Appa himself should have value. They meet a group of merchants who think they can sell him in Ba Sing Se, and the sandbenders sell him off. As the merchants package him up, Aang is flying far away, blowing on the bison whistle. Appa hears this and goes berserk, trying to escape. The sandbenders just laugh at the merchants' misfortune, saying that he's their problem.
Eventually, they get Appa down by using paralysing darts on him. As his vision fades out, we hear the merchants talking about selling him for parts.
This is false tension of course. Instead, Appa wakes up being spoken to by a man wearing red. Which means Fire Nation and therefore evil. He starts off talking sweetly to Appa, about how he's probably felt like he had no choice in his behavior and so forth. Then he says he's going to break Appa. We pan out to see that this is a circus. Specifically, the one Ty Lee was traveling with.
We cut to a scene where the animal trainer feeds other animals, but specifically not Appa. He then shows off how he expects Appa to behave by releasing one of the other animals and using his firebending to guide the beast through tricks. While this is going on, Appa steals a few heads of cabbage. When the trainer sees this, he firebends at him, creating a wall of fire outside the cage. This causes Appa to freak out.
Cut to nighttime. A boy is walking by the tent holding Appa when he sees Appa there, trying to pull a bail of hay to himself. The boy's father (maybe?) tells him not to go in there while he goes off to do something else. Naturally, the boy disobeys, helping Appa get the hay.
The trainer returns with the ringmaster we saw from the prior episode. He wants the "wind buffalo" to perform, but the trainer doesn't think he's ready. But since the ringmaster is in charge, he gets his way. The trainer threatens Appa, as though Appa can hear and understand what he's saying.
I give you: the Flying Bison, no I mean Sky Bison, no I mean Wind Buffalo!
The kid watches this, and when the kid's father takes him away, he says a line in a very Aang-like manor.
Cut to the circus performance. Appa is introduced, having been dressed in fairly ridiculous attire that only makes the crowd laugh. The trainer is eventually able to make Appa fly through some flaming rings and perform a few stunts. But then Appa hits the trainer with one of the rings, by batting it with his tail. The crowd laughs, including the boy. The boy's laughter makes Appa remember Aang laughing.
Encouraged by the boy, Appa starts to leave, but the trainer firebends at him. Appa tail-lashes him out of the tent and makes good his escape.
Appa somehow manages to find the exact patch of desert that the library was in. After a good nap, Appa engages in hijinks around finding food. He even gets in with the vulture-wasps, getting himself covered in their honey and chased out. Eventually, he finds his way out of the desert and into a barn, where he sleeps.
Then, he has a flashback to his childhood at the Southern Air Temple. We see a group of young sky bisons. A female airbender (really? They have those? That's the first one we've seen, outside of past Avatars) says that a group of children need to choose well, because a sky bison is a life-long companion. Aang, among the children, picks one and names it Appa.
Yeah, that was a scene we really needed.
It turns out Aang, at the Serpent's Pass, was having the same dream.
Anyway, the farmer interrupts Appa's sleep, proclaiming him to be a monster. His wife comes in with a torch. Fire now freaks Appa out, so the two humans run away while he goes nuts. He flies off, through the roof.
Appa flies over the ferry taking passengers across the lake to Ba Sing Se. Iroh sees Appa and is startled, but when Zuko asks what he saw, Iroh says that it's nothing.
Appa eventually crashes in a random forest. There, he gets into a fight with a wild porcupine-boar. Appa wins, but he takes a lot of quills in the process. He lies down for the night in a shelter.
In the morning, we see the... Kyoshi Warriors, foraging for food. One of them finds a tuft of Appa's fur and the wreckage from a fight. Suki suspects who it might be, and follows the debris to find Appa, who is now very leery of people. After some coaxing, they're able to get Appa cleaned up and de-quilled. As he's licking the warriors for their help, it looks like everything will get back to normal. Suki will get Appa to Aang and everything will be fine.
Oh look, it's Azula and the Angels. Hey, wait a minute!
Last night, Appa flew over the lake to Ba Sing Se. Iroh was still there. Also, Aang was sharing a dream, and he was on the Serpent's Pass. Unless there was some passage of time between that night and the Warriors finding Appa that we weren't clued into, then Azula ought to be manning the drill right about now. And Suki ought to still be on the Serpent's Pass with Aang. Now, one of the Warriors does say that Suki met the Gaang a few days ago, which suggests that time has passed. So maybe time did pass (though showing
that passage of time would help). However...
If that's true, then Azula's defeat at the drill was only a few days ago. Let's ignore the fact that it's not possible to track Appa by his sheddings; it's wrong but consistent with established rules in the series. How in the hell did Azula even find
the trail to begin following it again? What, did she follow him through the farm house, across the lake
, and so forth? Did she track him through the desert?
No, this is just Diabolus Ex Machina, plain and simple. The writers want to make things worse, so enter Azula. Actually, there's an even bigger point to this: as setup for the finale.
For which absolution is granted.
So Azula starts with a bad in-joke, calling the Warriors the Avatar's "fan club." Yeah, don't quit your day job, Azula. That's almost as bad as her Zuko impression. When the Warriors tell the Angels that Aang isn't here, Azula laments this for them moment, then starts attacking.
The Kyoshi Warriors now have fold-out shields and Katanas. I don't know why; the fighting style we saw them with before clearly seemed to emphasize different skills from swords and shields. It doesn't even serve to make them more threatening, as Mai and Ty Lee effortlessly
beat them down. Yeah, we wouldn't want these warriors who have likely trained for their entire lives to be able to hold their own against a couple of upper-class twits or anything. Thanks to that earlier crap with the farmer, circus and so forth, there's no time left in the episode for a proper fight where the Angels earn
Azula and Suki square off, with Suki trying to get Appa to leave. She eventually gets him to go by waving a flaming stick in front of him, but only barely blocks one of Azula's fireblasts in time. Of course, since this episode is about Appa, and not about actual characters, we cut as Azula and Suki charge each other and therefore are denied knowledge of how the fight ends.
As though the mere presence of Azula didn't make it a foregone conclusion.
Appa flies for some time. He sails over some Water Tribe ships, and we see a man watch Appa fly by in amazement. If you missed a scene from the first season, that was Hakoda, Katara and Sokka's father. Appa eventually finds his way to an Air Temple, which is eventually revealed to be the Eastern Air Temple.
He has a few flashbacks to the past when he was here... whenever that was. Appa sees a bald man sitting in the temple, gets excited and runs over to him, licking him. But it's not Aang. The man introduces himself as Guru Pathik, with a hefty Indian accent. Rather than try to talk Appa down, Pathik just lies back and waits for Appa to fall asleep.
Pathik touches Appa and says what we already know: he's been through a lot recently and he doesn't trust people anymore. But apparently, he still has love in the core of his being. Pathik exposites that he once had a vision of helping the young Avatar, which is why he came to the Eastern Air Temple. Pathik touches Appa head and presumably helps calm Appa's spirit. Or something.
When Appa wakes up, he finds that Pathik left him a trail of food, leading to his new meditation spot. That night, Pathik puts a letter to Aang on Appa's horn. Then he does some energy reading to find Aang, much like Aang did back in the swamp. See? Bad episodes bring it all together!
So Appa's off to Ba Sing Se. His trip was less eventful than Aang's. When he flies over the city, he is spotted by Dai Li agents. What, they were up there watching just in case Appa showed up? Appa hears the bison whistle and lands, but we get cutaways showing that it's not Aang's whistle. Long Feng apparently has one, which he uses to lure Appa into a trap. With a quick earthbending motion, he flips over the ground Appa's standing on, leaving only his footprint as evidence that he was ever there.
This has been another pointless episode. On the plus side, it actually ended with something relevant, reminding the audience that there was an actual plot going on and so forth. But aside from the last act of the episode (Suki's intro onward), what was the point of that? They could have just taken that footage and put it in another episode.
It doesn't even help Appa as a character. Why? Because, outside of a fear of fire (which he wasn't exactly happy with before), nothing that happens here is relevant. He isn't mistrustful of new people, no more than before. Nothing about his character here affects anything in the future. It's circular character development: he moved in one direction and Pathik magically undid all of that.
What would have made this not pointless is if he attacked Aang or the Gaang or something when he first meets them again. Hell, that would have been an incredible moment. For Appa to loose his faith in humanity, even Aang, and then for Aang to have to slowly rebuild that trust. It would have made this episode interesting and worthwhile. But nope; can't have that. Just the magic reset button