Opinionated Guide to Avatar: The Last Airbender


The Beach

Chan: Just so you know though, some of the most important teenagers in the Fire Nation are gonna be at this party so...try and act normal.

Azula: We'll do our best.
The episode opens with establishing what's going on. The Angels + Zuko are going to Ember Island, because Ozai wants to have a private meeting with his advisers. Though why he felt the need to actually send Azula and Zuko away to do this is unknown. Perhaps he suspects Azula of, well, being Azula. Maybe he discovered one of her well-laid plans for him to have a convenient "accident" that would land her the Firelordship.

Anyway, Zuko is angry, per his idiom. We get some exposition that the Firelord's family has a beach house on Ember Island that they used to use, but don't anymore.

Cut to Azula's two old retainers meeting their ship on the beach. They take them to their own beach house, where the Angels look around. Ty Lee spots a drawing of a pair of young ladies, and the two say that it's them. And we would finally get names for these two, but since they talk in twin-speak, it's impossible to make out what they call each other (Lo and Li, by the way).

The two ladies start saying that Ember Island is a place that can help them understand themselves and each other. Then they strip down to their skivvies and announce that they want to hit the beach.

Cut to the Gaang; they're lounging around a lake. Because it's not like they're in a rush to get somewhere or anything. Aang's in the water, when Toph starts getting worried about him "exposing yourself." He points out that he's wearing pants, but she's talking about his tattoos.

So, let me get this straight. Toph Bei Fong, who is ostensibly blind, knows about Aang's tattoos? Even if someone told her about them, why is she the only one who thinks that Aang walking around nearly naked might let people know that he's the Avatar? Oh, and right now? Aang's floating in water. So she can't even see him at all.

No, this dialog, which sounds like it should come out of Sokka's mouth rather than Toph's, is here so that she can have more than two lines this episode. She gets 4.

The lake appears to be in the mouth of an extinct volcano, so Katara naturally says that it's fine, since there are walls around them. Of course, Aang then rides a waterfall down to the base of a mountain, where a pair of Fire Nation soldiers (doing God knows what) spot him and his tattoos.

Naturally, upon seeing the Avatar alive again, they decide to alert the Firelord via messenger hawk.

Cut back to the beach, where the Angels have arrived. Mai and Zuko decide to spend some quality time under an umbrella. And doesn't all this look so very modern for the time period? We cut to a bunch of children building a sand castle. Azula's Mighty Foot puts all that to an end.

Ty Lee immediately gets an admirer who helps her unpack. She then uses him as shade, because obviously using an umbrella like everyone else would have taken too long. We get some interaction between Mai and Zuko, where Zuko gives her a seashell, but she doesn't care for it, so he angrily discards it. It lands near some other guy, who sees it, spies Ty Lee, and quickly gives it to her as a present. The two guys start arguing over Ty Lee.

Meanwhile the Fire Nation has apparently invented ice cream, and all of the necessary technologies to pull that off, since Zuko comes over to Mai bearing ice cream. Because he fails at everything he does, he drops hers on her leg, which she sarcastically calls, "really refreshing."

Azula spots some people playing volleyball. Because that certainly isn't wildly anachronistic for the setting. So she assembles the Angels for battle. There's even a dramatic shot of Zuko rising and throwing off his robe to reveal his shirtless form, while a pack of doves spontaneously appear. Naturally, we cut to a shot of girls squeeing at him.

The Angels huddle up. Azula has already spotted a weakness in one of the players, a slight limp that she intends to exploit. And they fight. I mean play volleyball. The Angels decimate their opponents, despite likely never having played before. Azula punctuates the final slam with firebending, incinerating the net as she proclaims that they "will never rise from the ashes of your shame and humiliation!"

After that, a guy comes up to Ty Lee and invites her to a party. His wingman invites Mai as well, but she's indifferent. Because everything has to revolve around her (sound familiar?), Azula asks if they're inviting herself and Zuko. Then she realizes that they don't know who they're talking to.

The guys naturally point out that they are "Chan and Ruon Jian." But Chan magnanimously invites them, but then warns them with the page quote. Azula's snark and amusement is palpable.

Cut back to Lo and Li's beach house. Zuko wonders why she didn't just tell them who they were, but Azula thought it would be interesting to see how people would treat them if they didn't know they were in the presence of royalty. The old ladies consider this part of the magic of the island, the anonymity giving everyone a clean slate, thus allowing them to explore their true selves.

Well, that's enough of the Angels; the Gaang was just discovered (unbeknownst to them), and a messenger hawk sent to the Firelord. We cut to that hawk being intercepted by a vulture. This vulture forces the hawk to the ground, pulls out its message and delivers it to the metal hand of its owner. We see that it's the guy with a third eye tattoo from the end of The Headband, the one Zuko hired to hunt down the Avatar. So the hunter has found his quarry.

Oh, and we see him incinerate the paper with something that seems to come from his third eye.

Cut to the Angels arriving at the party, right on time. Of course, Chan is one of those people who doesn't think that punctuality for a party is a good thing, but he lets them in anyway. They're the first ones there. Chan tells them that his father's an admiral, and he doesn't know that Chan's having a party, so he tells them not to mess anything up. Three guesses as to what happens, and two of them don't count.

Granted, that doesn't happen immediately. Instead, Azula tries to compliment his outfit, but uses a rather inappropriate metaphor that ends in thousands drowning at sea, so he's thoroughly confused.

Meanwhile Roun Jian, the one who invited Mai, shows up and says hi at her. Zuko asks Mai what he thinks of her, but she says she has no opinion one way or the other. He takes that to mean that Mai likes him, thus causing Roun Jian to gain Zuko's ire.

Anyway, we cut to the party actually starting. A bunch of guys are aiming for Ty Lee, asking which one of them that she likes. They back her into a corner, which coupled with the pressure triggers her panic reflex, causing her to knock them all out and cartwheel away.

Ty Lee meets up with Azula, hoping to use her as guy repellent. They then start discussing why the guys won't leave her alone, and Azula makes some unkind comments about Ty Lee being a tease and them not caring about who she is. And you know if this wasn't a kids show, Azula would have used the world "slut" somewhere in there. Naturally, this makes Ty Lee cry, so Azula has to prop her ego back up by saying that she's actually jealous of Ty Lee.

Because that's how you keep people in your control. You break them down and rebuild them on your terms.

Apparently, guys seem to feel that Azula would do horrible things to them whenever she approaches them. Ty Lee shockingly points out that this is likely true. Then Ty Lee starts giving her advice, like smiling a lot and laughing even if what they say isn't funny. Azula finds this shallow, but decides to have a go anyway. And the two of them start practicing, with Ty Lee adopting a bad falsetto, and Azula delivering such an over-the-top laugh that it brings the entire party to a halt.

Cut to Mai, being bored. She gets her pet Zuko to go fetch some food.

Meanwhile, Azula gets Chan to give her a tour of the house, thus cutting off someone else's attempt to hook up with Chan. When they get outside, Chan makes a lame joke that Azula laughs at (more reasonably this time), which only encourages Chan to kill his already dead joke by expanding on it. Azula then complements his apparent strength, and the two kiss.

Then, Azula does her blue firebending thing and triumphantly declares that they will be the strongest couple in the world, and they together they will dominate the Earth. Because the writers ran out of good ideas, they decided to steal some stupid anime crap to show that Chan is surprised and befuddled by this. He says he has to leave and does so.

Cut back to Zuko, fetching food like a good little Zuko. Someone bumps him, knocking over the food, so Zuko gets pissed. He gets moreso when he sees Ruon Jian hanging out with Mai. Zuko intercedes, knocking Ruon across the room. Mai confronts him about his anger issues, but he says that she doesn't have any passion for anything. Then Mai breaks up with him. Chan appears in order to throw Zuko out, and Ruon Jian makes a lame joke as he departs.

Zuko heads to his family's beach house and kicks in the locked door. He walks in and sees a painting of his family. He touches a child's handprint, seeing how much smaller it is than his own. All throughout this, we get a lot of single-frame flashbacks of Zuko's early years.

Well, that was interesting. So cut back to filler: the Gaang being attacked by the guy with the third eye. It begins with the Blind, Snarky Earthbender warning that a metal man is approaching fast. He's on the roof of the volcanic crater, hundreds of feet away, yet Toph is perfectly capable of sensing not just his presence, but the fact that he's got a metal foot and arm. While in her sleep mind you, as she is awoken by this.

Yet she can't sense the ink on a piece of paper. Yeah, right.

Anyway, the guy gets to the ridge, and the moonlight reflecting in his metal hand shines down on Aang. We see him look down at the Gaang, give a mighty breath, and then a beam of some kind fires out from his third eye and explodes.

Um, OK. The BSE tries some earthbending at him, but his exploding beam cuts through it. Somehow. Even though it was on the ground, and he didn't fire at the fracturing earth that was rapidly approaching. Maybe his shooting at Toph made her stop earthbending, but otherwise, I fail to understand how his exploding beam attack did anything. Katara tries to waterbend the lake at him, but he destroys the large tentacle she sends at him.

Well, enough of that scene; cut to Zuko sitting in front of the house. Azula approaches, saying that she figured he'd be here. And she invites him down to the beach, calling the place depressing. When they get to the beach, Mai and Zuko eye each other, then exchange awkward words. Zuko suggests building a fire, saying that there's plenty of stuff in the house to burn.

And back to the Gaang. Sokka wonders how to defeat someone who "blows things up with his mind." Um, no he doesn't. He fires a very clear beam that causes an explosion. The obvious tactic would be to overwhelm him with numbers: have Katara and Aang attack from two directions, while Toph causes the mountain he's standing on to crumble. They even had pretty good cover when his blowing up Katara's water tentacle created a steam cloud.

Oh wait, we're back in The Chase territory: the writers are trying to establish his credibility as a threat, which is much easier if the Gaang is stupid.

Aang offers to use himself as a decoy to distract him. He jumps up the mountain and the guy runs after him. Of course, one would expect Aang to use his super-speed to keep himself well ahead of the guy, but still visible so that he won't break off pursuit. That doesn't happen, because Aang has the Idiot Ball. Indeed, Aang is huffing and puffing after a short sprint, even though we've seen him run much farther for much longer periods of time.

They get to some stone pillars, which Aang leaps around and the guy blows up whenever he catches sight of Aang. After a while, Aang hides himself in some earthen debris, but he leaves some of his face uncovered. Just enough for the guy to notice him and attack. Aang leaps away, barely avoiding the attack, and Appa and the Gaang swoop in to rescue him.

Now that we have dispensed with the guest stars, we return to the main characters, the Angels. Zuko throws his family portrait on the fire, which Ty Lee protests. They get into an argument, where Zuko says that Ty Lee lives in her own little world where everything is perfect and so forth. He mocks her acrobatics a bit, then calls her a "Circus freak," which gets a snicker out of Azula. For her part, Ty Lee agrees with Zuko, then she begins to explain why she joined the circus.

Azula utters a bored, "Here we go." And she's right: here we go.

Apparently, Ty Lee has 6 identical sisters or something; she says they all look like her. And she didn't feel like she existed; she joined the circus to be a unique individual. She then calls "Circus freak" a compliment.

Mai says that this is why she has a lot of boyfriends, saying that she has attention issues. Only she doesn't; she has a lot of guys who are interested in her, but thus far, we haven't seen much reciprocation from Ty Lee. She tends to treat them as little more than servants. Indeed, the comment says more about Mai than Ty Lee; I think someone's a little jealous.

Ty Lee then goes on the attack, asking why Mai, who was an only child for 15 years (wow, the writers remembered that new brother of hers. That's the sort of thing that usually gets forgotten), still has a dingy aura. When Mai simply says she doesn't buy all this "aura" crap, Zuko jumps in, saying that she doesn't believe in anything.

Mai sarcastically replies that she's sorry for not being as expressive as they are, but Zuko laments this, wanting her to express herself for a change. Then Mai has her little bit of backstory dumping. She says that she was an only child who got what she wanted so long as she followed the rules: speak only when spoken to, stay out of trouble, don't do something that might hurt her father's career, etc. Azula says this in a bit more of a callous fashion, which prompts Mai to yell at her. Which is not something a lot of people get away with, the whole "yelling at Azula" thing.

Zuko likes Mai being expressive, but she's still mad at him for his recent behavior. Ty Lee interjects with some nonsense about how their negative energy will affect their skin.

Naturally, this sets Zuko off, as he points out that he already has bad skin, what with the scar his own father gave him. He talks about how he thought he'd be happy if he got everything back the way it was. And the camera frames Azula's smirk when he mentions that Ozai thinks he's a hero. I understand what they were going for with this bit, Azula noting that her plan is still progressing and all, but it really feels out of place in this scene. It makes a callback to something from 4 episodes ago when we should be focused on Zuko.

Anyway, despite having everything he wanted, he is still angry and he doesn't know why. Azula simply asks who he's angry at. He says that it's no one, that he's just angry. Mai asks the question again, but when she says it, she sounds like someone asking a question to which they already know the answer. Zuko is visibly frustrated, no knowing who he's angry at. Azula and Ty Lee suggest various people (Azula suggesting herself, naturally). But Zuko says he's not angry at them.

After denying that he's angry at his father, Azula, or Iroh, the three of them pressure him until explodes, saying, "I'm angry at myself!" firebending the flames to punctuate this. When Azula asks him why, he says that he doesn't know the difference between right and wrong anymore. Naturally, Azula calls this pathetic. However, this bit of self-knowledge seems to turn Mai on, as she forgives him and they kiss.

Azula sarcastically applauds, saying that everyone delivered wonderful performances. When Zuko sarcastically says that she's perfect, Azula says that she doesn't have sob stories like they do. Then proceeds to talk about how her mother loved Zuko more than Azula, and even thought she was a monster. After a seeming moment of introspection, she says, "She was right, of course, but it still hurt." And this is why Azula remains awesome in all things.

Also calling your daughter a monster? That's kind of an asshole thing to say, Ursa. Just saying.

Ty Lee says that the earlier prediction of Ember Island's powers came true, that the beach did help them find their true selves. Except Azula, who is very much in touch with her inner sociopath. Speaking of which, she decides to make the trip a little more memorable.

Azula, Angel of Wrath

Cut back to Chan's place, as he opens the door to reveal the Angels. I'm afraid I've got some bad news, Chan. Ya done pissed off the wrong woman, and now she and her posse's come to wreck your shit. Azula leaves him like so many she's broken before: crying in a heap and surrounded by rubble.

The episode ends in the only way it possibly could: with the Angels freeze-framed against a fire that presumably comes from the ruin of Chan's house. Next time Chan, humor the obviously psychotic blue firebender who's trying to make time with you. Pro tip.

This is a good episode overall. The Gaang's involvement is obviously tacked on. It's here solely to introduce the threat level of the third-eye guy, who will be a recurring adversary for the first half of the season. Yes, and he only showed up in the fifth episode. But we'll talk more about how he works out later.

The stuff with the Angels worked better. We get to see how they work as a group, and it's interesting to see Azula having to deal with people on their own level, rather than simply being, well, Azula. Her social skills are lacking, to say the least.

I'd say the biggest problem is the beach scene. They basically stop the "plot" of the episode so that everyone can explain their characters. It would have been better if that material had been worked into the story naturally, showing the audience these aspects of their characters rather than having them narrated to us. It's functional as it stands but inelegant.

I think one of the most interesting things to note here is how Mai handles Zuko compared to Iroh. The reason Iroh always failed with Zuko is that he kept telling Zuko what to do; Azula was able to trump Iroh by simply making an offer. Mai sidesteps this entirely. She knows that something's wrong with Zuko, and she even seems to know what it is. But where Iroh would have simply told him what his problem was, she pushed Zuko towards finding it himself.

Because that's what Zuko needs; to find the answers for himself.


1. Of course Ty Lee used the guys as shade, she loved it!

2. The FN are the most advanced Nation on Earth, they also are at an upscale area filled with rich folk, probably the place for a high-class luxury. Besides, they never said it had to stick to a strict tehc tree. Life is not civ, tech incoungrojucnes happen all the time.

3.Again its not voleyball and , b IT CAT BE AN ANACHRNISM IF IT'S NOT EARTH! T His is a fictinal world they can have whatver hey want! Having an asianish voleyball analouge isnt that far off, hell it has sevarl real wolr analouges dating back quite far!!!

4.Its not filler ifit establishes a major villian

5.Ink doesn't make sound...]

6.running and hopping on short terrain isnt the same as a straght sprint run.

7.dude, her daughter was girl Hitlr, just saying, Zula also just noted that she thought she was amonster not that she said it.
JusticeMan 18th Aug 11
"And doesn't all this look so very modern for the time period?"

Which would be...when, exactly? Oh, don't get me wrong, the show does borrow a lot from the past, but we've got shit like giant drills and battle zeppelins. I don't think sand castles and volleyball are that big a deal.
Wackd 18th Aug 11
Surprised that you liked this one. Alot of people actaully HATE this episode and think it's stupid filler. But I've always been a fan of villain spotlight episodes, so naturally this was one of my favorites.
ManwiththePlan 18th Aug 11
Mai and Zuko decide to spend some quality time under an umbrella. And doesn't all this look so very modern for the time period?

The ancient Egyptian had umbrellas dude. The chinese have had collapsible umbrella since ''21 AD.
Ghilz 19th Aug 11