Opinionated Guide to Avatar: The Last Airbender
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The Day of Black Sun, Part 1
Pants are an illusion and so is death.This is a two-part episode. However, structurally, it is two stories. The first is about Sokka, with the invasion as a backdrop, while the second is the actual meat of the invasion. You know, when the invasion fails because Azula knew and prepared for it. We open with padding and exposition. Get used to that; we'll be seeing a lot of it this episode. Aang wakes up, refreshed and ready for battle. Toph asks about his strategy and mentions the Avatar State. Um, Toph, Ozai won't have firebending. That's the whole point. Going into the Avatar State would be overkill. But it doesn't matter, as Aang exposites that his 7th chakra was blocked by Azula's lightning. Of the seventh chakra, Pathik said, "The Thought chakra is located at the crown of the head." Aang was shot in the back, which is why he has a giant burn scar on his back. Now, you might think that maybe it came out of the top of his head. Nope; the series has shown us the exit wound, and that is in his foot. In through the back, out through the foot, causes physical damage to the chakra on the top of his head. Whatever; he's got a restraining bolt now. We see some fog approaching, and Katara wonders if it will hurt their attacks. Except that fog would only help; Patton, Katara is not. Anyway, the fog is concealing the fleet of Water Tribe ships. Aang and Toph build some impromptu docks.
Hakoda hugs his children, but then expresses some concerns with some of the people they asked him to pick up. Enter the two rednecks from The Swamp. The only way this could be a good thing is if we get to watch them get incinerated. Sadly, this does not occur. For those not familiar with them, this episode re-establishes their level of intelligence when one of them mistakes a rock for a Fire Nation exploding trap. Yes, really. When Bato expresses the wish that they would wear pants (they're wearing leaves), Huu makes his presence known by speaking the page quote. Well, at least they're bit characters this episode. Enter Haru. You remember, that one guy from Imprisoned? And yes, most of the first act of this episode is pretty much centered around a bunch of one-shots from prior episodes making a second appearance. Haru exposites stuff that anyone who watched season 1 recently already knows, and his father appears as well. Oh and Haru's sporting facial hair now. At least they decided to class things up by bringing Mick Foley back. It's always good to bring a deity in human form along if you're going to undertake a near-impossible mission against hopeless odds. And after that, we get the Machinist from The Northern Air Temple, who decided to bring his wheelchair-bound son along. Who, since he's not an airbender and he doesn't have the mountain winds to glide on, will get to do precisely nothing this episode. I don't know why someone would want to bring their child along, crippled or not, on a military campaign. Anyway, they give Aang a new glider. How they knew he'd need one is not explained. We get more padding as the Machinist demonstrates a snack compartment built into the mechanism. Sure why not. Cut to Iroh in prison. The asshole prison guard is being an asshole. Then Serena Williams walks in, bringing Iroh his breakfast. The asshole guard leaves. Then Serena tells Iroh that she brought him some White Jade tea. Ostensibly, this line is intended to tell us that she's a nice guard. Except that I happen to remember The Cave of Two Lovers, and I know that the White Jade was the "deadly poison" bush. So is Serena trying to kill him? Announcing that you put poison in someone's tea isn't exactly the most effective assassination technique I've seen. Yes, this is a minor mistake, and Lord knows I wouldn't want to have to rewatch The Cave of Two Lovers just to verify which was which. But it's their show. And they made such a big deal of the difference between the two that you'd think they'd check bother if they were going to do a callback. Anyway, after Iroh exposites that she's the only one who's shown him kindness (while trying to poison him), we cut back to the Gaang+cameos. They're having a meeting, presided over by an increasingly nervous Sokka. He stumbles getting on the impromptu podium, then has trouble finding the right map. He fumbles his words, and after failing to say much, he decides to start over from the beginning. Like The Boy in the Iceberg beginning; he actually starts summarizing the show in fast talk dialog. Hakoda finally comes along to save his son, and he delivers quick exposition about the plan. The goal is to push through to the royal palace before the eclipse starts, because that's when they'll hit the strongest resistance. Supposedly. He then declares that when the day is over, Aang will have beaten Ozai and the war will be over. Right, because both Azula and Zuko will just give up without their father. They won't want revenge or anything, and they certainly won't be able to run the Fire Nation without control of the palace or capital city. Obviously, the Fire Nation operates under Chess rules of engagement and therefore surrenders when the king is captured. Now, we get a montage of everyone suiting up. Gone is all the previous Fire Nation garb. Katara now has several waterbottles, and we see her filling them in dramatic fashion. Toph is suited up in Earth Kingdom attire. We even get a shot of Appa in armor that Sokka built for him. Then we see Aang, shaving himself bald again. He's wearing something Air Nomad-y that he got from somewhere. Cut to Zuko. He takes off his hairpin and his princely armor. SYMBOLISM! Zuko sits down at a table, pulls out a sheet of paper and starts to write. Naturally, this is all done very slowly, since we need as much padding in this episode as humanly possible. Back to the Gaang. Aang finds Sokka brooding over his failure at speaking. When Aang tries to cheer him up by saying that nobody's good at public speaking, Sokka points out that his father was all inspiring and stuff. Aang says that the important part is what happens in battle. When Sokka asks why Aang seems so confident (even though last episode he was totally stressed), he says that it's because he failed the world once already and he won't fail again. We'll see about that. Cut to the ships approaching the Great Gates of Azulon. They try to use fog to pass undetected, but it doesn't work. Large nets rise up and are set on fire. Um, OK. I don't know what good that is, since the fire would weaken and eventually destroy the nets, and metal Fire Nation ships (which the Water Tribe didn't bring with them) would be able to just cut through. Hakoda orders everyone below deck. We get some more padding as steam-powered motorboats arrive on the scene, and the Fire Nation soldiers look around for the owners of the ship. It turns out that they're in metal submarines. Apparently, it was Sokka's idea, particularly to use waterbending to make them rise and sink. Toph naturally is seasick. Because that counts as character development, right? Cut to lunchtime in Iroh's prison. Serena brings him lunch. Then Iroh says that she doesn't look well and should take the afternoon off. When she says she feels fine, he says that it would be best if she were not there in the afternoon. Back to the Gaang. The subs surface to swap out air, which gives the Gaang a moment together. After some pep talking from Sokka and Toph, Aang has a moment alone with Katara. She talks about how much he's grown since they first met. Aang wonders what will happen if he doesn't come back. When she tries to reassure him, he gives her a shut-up kiss. Then he flies off. Cut back to Zuko. He's wearing a cloak now. He leaves a scroll on Mai's bed, softly apologizing to her, though she's not present. After a bit of padding with Aang flying towards the palace (which naturally is in a volcano. Because it's the Fire Nation), we finally get the invasion started, with well over half the episode over. We get various bits of action, with the subs approaching the secured dock, while Fire Nation soldiers try to attack them underwater. We also find out that they have ice-based torpedoes, basically bombs frozen in ice launched by waterbenders. Sure why not. Eventually, the subs make it to shore and each one deploys a squad of warriors and... tanks. Earth Kingdom tanks. These are apparently foot-powered by the people in them, much like the cars in The Flintstones. OK. And these tanks can raise up and crush objects, as we see them do with a Fire Nation tank. Yeah, not buying it. After a bit of stuff with the rednecks, we get shots of miscellaneous action. Sokka taking out a guy on a rhino with the Black Sword. Hakoda taking out two guys with spears. That sort of thing. Hakoda decides that they need to take out some of the battlement defenses if they want to press forward. So they call Katara over, and the family decides to have an outing. Katara uses a bunch of water Appa was carrying to take one out. Then the three split up: Sokka and Katara on one battlement, with Hakoda on another. That division of labor doesn't make sense. At least send the two non-benders together; Katara's sufficiently badass enough at this point to take one on by herself. But no, this exists so that Hakoda can get injured and sidelined. Which itself is here so that Sokka can take up the mantle of leadership of the invasion. With his father and sister's blessing, Sokka heads back into the fray. He organizes the tanks into formation and makes a push for the far end of the landing area. Cut to Aang, in the Fire Nation capital. The place seems deserted. He then heads to the palace and knocks down the doors, yelling that the Avatar has returned. Nobody answers. Wait. What is Aang doing here at all? Wasn't the plan to confront Ozai during the eclipse, not before? So why the announcement? Why breaking down the door? This is not how you conduct a raid on an enemy stronghold, nor is it how you pull off a high-profile political assassination. Anyway, cut back to the invasion. We see bits of fighting, where they break through a wall and start their approach to the capital, with Sokka at it's head. We cut back to Aang, in the throne room, finding it empty. Hey Aang, the throne is just for formal meetings; sovereigns generally don't just hang out there and sit. Aang screams out, "Where are you?!" You mean the Fire Nation found out what they were planning and did something about it? What a twist! There just isn't much to this episode. It's loaded with callbacks to cover for the massive padding. The only real event that happens is with Sokka taking up the mantle of leadership. The fight is well animated, and reasonably well directed. Except for the Earth Kingdom's tanks that come from out of nowhere. But overall, it's just fluff and non-sexual fanservice; we get a bunch of cameos and a big fight, but little of actual substance. Oh, and Screw You, Aunt Wu: 7+Yue, for Sokka being able to take charge of an army, unite them, and lead them towards victory. Yeah, it doesn't end well, but that's not his fault. OK, it should be his fault, since they should all know that Azula knew, but I'm going by in-show logic.
I agree with this asessment but...it gets better in the next part. Especially for Zuko.
Actually, in the Cave of Two Lovers, Iroh was uncertain as to if the plant he saw was the White Jade or if it was poison. Which renders a large amount of that griping to be unfounded... Are all these Complaining About Shows You Don't Like?
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