Maybe he can pass down to you the ways of tea and failure.
—Firelord Ozai, to Zuko about Iroh
Part two opens with scenes of battle and destruction. We see several Earth Kingdom tanks, and behind one of them is Sokka and a couple of others, poring over something. He looks up to see his father and Katara. Sokka reports that everything seems to be going according to plan, which quite frankly should have been the first clue something was wrong. Katara sees something in the distance, which turns out to be Aang returning.
Aang reports that nobody was in the palace, which prompts Sokka to realize that the Fire Nation was expecting an attack. Well don't that beat all. I wonder how they could have known about this little invasion. Anyway, Aang figures the Firelord left, but Sokka's instincts think that he'd be around in a fortified bunker. Why, I have no idea, since Ozai never struck me as much of a general. But we've got to get the plot on the road somehow. The Blind, Snarky Earthbender points out that she's an earthbender, so she can find the secret bunker.
Thanks for moving the plot along; you're great at that.
In a shocking display of competence, Katara points out that the fact the Fire Nation knew that they were coming means that it could be a trap. Hakoda, displaying the intelligence that put his people on the Endangered Cultures List, says that everyone would want Aang to push through anyway, even knowing it's a trap. Naturally, Aang agrees.
Cut to the Gaang minus Katara (who had oddly been reduced to a literal crutch for her father this episode. She's a badass waterbender, and the best use of her time in a battle is ferrying her dad around
?), standing on the side of the volcano that is the Fire Nation Capital. The BSE does her earthbending thing, and they find their way through a network of underground tunnels. Also, the writers don't seem to understand just how hot magma is
After they cross a few random hazards, including Aang flying them over a lake of lava, they come to a metal door. Which the BSE bends her way through, prompting Sokka to say, "I am so glad we added you to the group." Yeah, we'll see how you feel when you get where she's taking you.
Cut back to the outside, as the army is scaling the cliff face around the capital. We get some shots of battle, then the Fire Nation soldiers spot the approaching eclipse and fall back.
Cut back to the Gaang-1. They run into War Minister Qin. All it takes is a second for them to brandish their weapons at him and he tells them where the Firelord's chamber is. Naturally, they swallow this immediately and run off, rather than questioning the word of an enemy. They reach the supposed door of the "certainly the Firelord's chambers and totally not a trap" just before the eclipse.
After taking a moment to collect himself, Aang airbends the metal door down... somehow. This reveals a long hallway, with a throne in the end of it. Sitting in that throne is *sting*
The Gaang is surprised. Of course they are. It's not like they knew going in that it was a trap or anything. It's not like one of them, who was smart enough not
to come along on this suicide mission, told them it was a trap or anything. How could they have possibly known? Surely, that random Fire Nation guy they ran into gave them proper directions, right? I mean, you can trust an enemy if you just point your weapons at him.
Azula lets them know how stupid they are when she tells them that she's known about this plan for months. Thus bringing the characters up to speed on what they should
have known months ago.
Cut to Zuko, also standing before a metal door. He whispers to himself that he's ready to face someone. You know, because he's not so different
from Aang. I don't think the audience got it by now; we need a couple thousand more tons of anvils
. Of course, the actual
Firelord is sitting behind Zuko's door, with a row of soldiers in the way, just in case. Naturally, Ozai asks why Zuko's there.
We cut to an exterior shot of the advancing invaders, and the eclipse starts.
Back to Zuko. When Zuko tells Ozai that he's there to tell the truth, Ozai dismisses his guards (?) and decides to have a chat with his son. Zuko tells him that Azula took out Aang, then lets him know that Aang is still alive. Naturally, this pisses Ozai off and he tells Zuko to leave. Why, I don't know; it seems to me that he'd be more angry at Azula for lying to him than Zuko for telling him the truth. But whatever, Ozai's an ass.
Zuko tells him that he's not going to take orders from him anymore. When Ozai threatens him, Zuko draws his swords, silently reminding him that his firebending is gone. Zuko says that he's going to speak and Ozai will listen. So Ozai sits down to listen.
OK, he actually sits down to wait out the next 8 minutes or so until he can fry his son up like a slab of bacon.
Cut to the Gaang-1. They ask Azula where the Firelord is, but she ducks the question, acting hurt for not thinking she's a good enough fight. Sokka quickly sees through to the heart of her game, telling her to stop wasting their time. Then the BSE reminds us that she's Bending Daredevil. Naturally, Azula proves that she can lie convincingly even to Bending Daredevil. Thus showing how reliable a polygraph is and revealing Bending Daredevil for the stupidity that it is.
So Toph just decides to trap her in earth. But then it shatters; Azula informs them (as slowly as possible of course, but not for padding) that she brought Dai Li agents with her. Wow, you mean she actually prepared a real trap? Who would have guessed that she would have defenses in place for facing powerful earthbenders during the eclipse?
A fight ensues, with the Dai Li agents defending Azula.
Cut to the outside battle, where the invaders are trying to secure the palace before the eclipse runs out. We get a scene of Komedy!, where Fire Nation soldiers attempt to firebend and fail, then immediately surrender. Because what this serious moment in the episode really needed was levity.
Cut back to Zuko, who begins his Crowning Moment of Awesome
. He talks about how he wanted Ozai to love him all his life. That his quest for his honor was just a way to make Ozai love him. Then, he points out Ozai's dickishness in challenging him to an Agni Kai for speaking out of turn. When Ozai tries to tell him that it was supposed to teach him respect, Zuko cuts him off.
Then, he talks about the war, about how he was taught that the war was how the Fire Nation was sharing their greatness with the world. But he saw that the world is terrified of the Fire Nation. Then he says that they need to replace their "era of fear" with an "era of peace and kindness." I never got the impression that the Fire Nation was a "peace and kindness" place, even when they weren't invading other nations. Um, how about just an "era of not invading and murdering people"?
Ozai simply suggests that Iroh's gotten to him. And Zuko says that he has.
Cut to the Gaang-1. We get a big fight between them and the Dai Li, with Azula acrobatically dodging Aang's attempts to attack her. Apparently, she's learned a thing or two from Ty Lee (though Ty Lee's gravity-defying powers aren't one of them). Eventually, they're able to subdue the Dai Li agents and chase Azula down a hall.
Then Sokka remembers what he pointed out earlier. The BSE needlessly restates Sokka's point, that Azula's wasting their time. Azula attempts to bait Toph with an insult, but Sokka stops her. Then the Gaang-1 walks away, to go find the Firelord on their own. Oh, don't run or anything; it's not like you have a time limit.
They're walking so that Azula can try some more personal bait with Sokka. Namely, Suki. Azula says that Suki thought Sokka would come to rescue her but eventually lost hope. She even calls Suki "her favorite prisoner." Some fans have suggested that this was meant sexually, but that's just stupid. She said it that way to get a rise out of Sokka, and for no other reason than that. Hell, odds are most of what she says here are lies. After all, why would Azula bother with doing anything more than throwing her in prison once they got the gear and info to infiltrate Ba Sing Se?
And of course, this makes Sokka pissed off enough that he forgets everything and rushes her. Azula pulls out a dagger (obviously, she learned a thing or two from Mai too), but the BSE is blind and therefore sees it, so she pins Azula's arm to the wall. Why doesn't she do that to more people? Anyway, Sokka demands to know where Suki is at Black Sword-point.
Cut to Zuko. He tells Ozai that he's going to free Iroh and beg for his forgiveness. But you already have that, remember? He talked to you and everything. Oh right, we're trying to pretend that episode didn't exist, because it was Godawful. Carry on.
Ozai responds with the page quote. Please; Zuko is way
ahead of Iroh on the failure count. Indeed, Zuko could conduct master classes on the ways of failure. Then Zuko says that he's going to join Aang and help him stop Ozai. So Ozai asks the obvious question: why doesn't Zuko just do him over right here?
Zuko gives the expected Avatar: The Last Airbender platitudes: namely, that it's the Avatar's destiny to take him out. Which means precisely squat. But there's actually a reason for Zuko to not just gut him right there. Well, besides the fact that Ozai is still his father and he might have some difficulties doing the deed.
The biggest reason not to is that it wouldn't help. If he kills Ozai, Azula will simply ascend to the throne. And that's the last
thing you want; someone actually competent running the Fire Nation. And since he can't take on Azula, not without the eclipse, there's no way for him to take both of them out.
But we can't have that kind of complexity; this is a kid's show. So destiny it is.
Zuko walks away from Ozai. And naturally, only half his face is in the shot; the unscarred half. And this leads to a little digression. I've always had certain problems with the scar symbolism for Zuko. And it comes down to one thing: they do it backwards.
Zuko's scarred side is always used to represent his evil side. His good side is his pretty side. And that's the problem. The scar came from Ozai burning Zuko... for being Zuko
. For looking out for his subjects. For speaking out against a plan that would see good Fire Nation soldiers die for little gain. For defying the will of Ozai because what Ozai was doing was wrong.
Zuko's scar ought
to be his badge of honor. It should be how he remembers to always do the right thing, even if it means getting your face burned and disowned by your father. They came close to this in The Crossroads of Destiny
, when Zuko talked about how he didn't see his scar as his mark of banishment. But they never took it far enough, to where he appreciated his scar. And certainly, they never
use editing to show the scar in a positive light. The scar is ugly, therefore, in cuts and camera tricks, it always represents his evil side.
Because pretty means good and ugly means bad.
Anyway, back to the episode. Ozai calls his son a coward, saying that he would never have been able to face him if not for the eclipse. He says that Zuko should stay around until the sun comes out. Then he asks if Zuko wants to know what happened to his mother.
And this serves as a contrast between the clever way Azula got Sokka to attack her, and Ozai's incompetence. Ozai just told
Zuko what he was going to do: keep him there until the sun came up. By all rights, this plan should have failed. Of course, because Zuko wasn't paying attention or has rocks in his brain, he turns around and asks about his mother.
Ozai, very slowly, talks about what Azulon told him after he asked to be named heir to the throne. Lil Azula
apparently wasn't lying, because Azulon told Ozai to kill Zuko. And he was going to do it. But Ursa found out and wanted to stop him. Rather than doing something unpleasant to Ozai, she decided to cut Ozai a deal: spare Zuko, and she'll make him Firelord. It's implied that she killed Azulon.
It's not certain how much of this is lies. I don't know why Ursa would be willing to kill Azulon, but not
willing to kill Ozai. Some fans have suggested that Ozai may have manipulated his wife into it, perhaps by saying that Azulon was going to kill Zuko. But either way, the story Ozai spins here does not sound 100% kosher.
Now we get another Not So Different moment, now between Zuko and Sokka, as we cut back to him demanding to know where Suki is. Azula remains silent. Aang tries to get Sokka to stop, pointing out that she's not going to say anything. But that doesn't get it done. Nor does Azula's satisfied smirk of silence.
Back to Ozai. He says that Ursa was banished for treason. Zuko is happy to know that she's alive, but Ozai is unsure whether she still is. Then he says that banishment for treason was too light of a sentence, and therefore Zuko's
punishment will be far harsher. Just as the sun peaks out from behind the moon (kinda. It's rather unclear)...
Got your lightning...
Ozai's technique is more refined than Azula's or Iroh's. He's able to call forth lightning by manipulating the positive and negative energy simultaneously; this cuts the casting time in half. However, Zuko has his uncle's love
in the form of lightning-redirection, and is therefore immune to Ozai's ultimate power. His redirected shot misses Ozai, but the explosion is enough to stun him while Zuko escapes.
Back to the Gaang-1. Azula starts firebending, which she uses to break free of stone handcuffs (remember this). She then tells them where Ozai is, then scampers off. Sokka is upset at himself for burning up all of their time. Aang considers going after Ozai anyway. Um, dumbass, continuing to walk into a trap, when you knew it was a trap, is what got you this
far. Aang doesn't want to leave because everyone's counting on him. What a time to grow a sense of responsibility
. They eventually shove some sense into his mind and get him to leave.
Cut back to the invasion force. Bato apparently thinks that they should have seen something by now. What, do they think that Ozai's death would instantly cause everything he had created to fall into a hole or something? That's ridiculous. Anyway, we see shots of war balloons on the horizon, and the Machinist is upset at seeing one of his inventions turned against them. Maybe you should have brought some of those
But behind them are a number of metal blimps. Yes, really. With big, metal dragon-heads on them. Yeah, I'm sure those are flight-worthy. So in the space of a few months, the Fire Nation was able to take a cloth balloon and turn it into massive metal airships. Sorry, not buying it. It's more likely that they were working on the airships, but the balloon version made for a more economical version for smaller missions.
Anyway, the Gaang is reunited and they explain what happened. Aang, Appa, and Katara (OMG, she gets to do something?!) decide to try to slow down the airships, while everyone else tries to get to the subs. However, while Aang and Katara are able to take out a couple of the balloons, but there are too many firebenders on the airships to get close. So they head back to the invasion force, who have made it to the slopes of the mountain.
Cut to Zuko, running into Iroh's prison. There are terrified guards in a couple of places, and when Zuko gets to Iroh's cell, he sees that Iroh is gone. The asshole guard tells him that Iroh broke himself out. Whether this was during the eclipse or not isn't stated.
Back to the Gaang. The airships drop bombs as they pass over, but they're just on the way to the subs. As the Gaang realizes this, Hakoda tells them to leave on Appa. Katara refuses, not wanting to be split up from their family, but Hakoda says that Aang's their only long-term hope.
We then cut to the beach, where the rednecks are trying to fight bombs with water and failing. We see Huu in his seaweed take a hit, but sadly this kills no one. We even get confirmation that they're all alive. Dammit.
Cut back to the Gaang. They're taking on 3 passengers: the Machinist's son (who served no purpose in being here), Haru, and The Duke. AKA: the children. On the commentary track, the writers say that they couldn't send kids to a Fire Nation prison. Which is why these three will do precisely squat for every scene they're in later.
I hope those voice actors were well-paid for contributing nothing to the story.
Katara and Sokka hug their father, and Sokka promises that they won't be separated for long. Remember that. Aang's crying, but Katara reassures him, and he leaves the people with some words about their bravery. He says that he'll make it up to them. How does Toph feel about this? Who cares; she's not a character or anything.
So the Gaang escapes. Cut to Azula on one of the big airships. She says that they're too fast to catch, so she lets them go. A quick cut to Aang allows him to exposite that they're going to the Western Air Temple to hide out. We then get a shot of Zuko following them in a smaller war balloon to close the episode out.
This is a pretty good episode, with strong character moments from most of the actual characters in the show (aka: not Toph). Zuko for once (and only once) gets to do something that doesn't blow up in his face. Azula gets to be awesome. We can see Aang being driven by his responsibilities as Avatar. And so forth. This all mostly negates the fact that we not only know what's going to happen, we know that the Gaang should know it too.
I have no idea why they decided to leave Katara out of the main action of the episode though.