Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "Sozin's Comet, Part 1 - The Phoenix King"

"I'm sorry, but it just didn't feel right. I didn't feel like myself."

The episode opens with Aang practicing Firebending with Zuko until Katara leads the gang down to the beach for a break. They try to ignore their problems and have a good time, only for Zuko to start attacking Aang. He chases the Avatar from the beach, up a hill, and into the beach house, only for Aang to get mad and blow Zuko out a window. Beaten, Zuko explains that he attacked Aang to get him ready for his fight with the Fire Lord in three days, since that's when Sozin's Comet will arrive. After hearing from the others that they planned to fight the Fire Lord after the Comet had left, Zuko informs them that the Fire Lord intends to use the power from Sozin's Comet to burn down the entire Earth Kingdom. Horrified, Aang questions himself, but is quickly reassured by the solidarity of his friends.

Some time later, Zuko begins to instruct Aang on how to redirect lightning, a lethal technique. It becomes clear that if Aang wants to survive the Fire Lord's lightning, he'll have to shoot it back and kill him. Aang says that he'll be willing to kill, but he seems very downcast as he says it.

A few hours later, the entire team practices an assault on the Fire Lord. Everything goes well until Aang refuses to strike the dummy standing in for the Fire Lord, unwilling to kill even the proxy of a human. At nighttime, Katara unwittingly shows the gang a baby picture of the Fire Lord, giving Aang more reason not to kill him. Sokka tries to crack a joke about it, but it only makes Aang upset and he leaves. While meditating to calm his nerves, a mysterious island appears by the coast, accompanied by chanting that seems to pull Aang into a trance that pulls him towards the island, with Momo following him.

The next morning, the rest of the gang is about ready to leave, when they notice Aang is nowhere to be seen. They search the house, the coast, and the nearby town, but they find no sign of him anywhere... or of the mysterious island the audience saw. With only two days until Sozin's Comet, Zuko takes charge and leads Team Avatar to the Earth Kingdom to get an expert's opinion on the Avatar's location.

The view changes to show the harbor plaza at the Fire Nation capital. The Fire Lord, standing in front of a massive army of Fire Nation soldiers, informs Princess Azula that he will personally lead the assault on the Earth Kingdom. From this day forth, Azula will be the Fire Lord, while Ozai will rebuild the Earth Kingdom from its ashes as the newly crowned ruler of the world, the first Phoenix King.

Cut to Zuko leading the gang into an Earth Kingdom bar, where they find June, the bounty hunter from "Bato of the Water Tribe." Zuko explains that June's shirshu can track Aang's scent anywhere in the world, saying "It's the one shot we have of finding him."

Meanwhile, Aang and Momo are asleep in a forest. Aang stirs and begins to wake up. He breaks off in surprise as he sees he's on a forest island, which is now in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight.

This episode provides examples of:

  • Abdicate the Throne: Ozai hands Azula the title of Fire Lord... so he can adopt the even greater self-created title of Phoenix King.
  • Apathy Killed the Cat: The Gaang never bothered to tell Zuko they planned to wait until after the comet to move on Ozai. Zuko made the assumption the Gaang had a plan to deal with his father during the comet instead of mentioning the genocide plan the guy had in mind, not knowing the group was intending to wait for it to pass.
  • Avengers, Assemble!: After Aang is reminded he is not alone, Sokka announces "Team Avatar is back!". Cue a shot of each member and their respective element/weapon called out.
  • Back for the Finale: June
  • Beach Episode: Subverted. Sokka throws a beach party that Zuko quickly breaks apart.
  • Bullet Time: When Zuko's fire tunnel catches up to Aang.
  • Call-Back: Actress!Aang and Actor!Toph return from the previous episode, much to Katara and Suki's annoyance.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: In a way with Azula when Ozai refuses to allow her to come along with him on his conquest, thinking he's treating her like Zuko. The irony is that's exactly what's happening.
  • The Coconut Effect: The violence of Sokka chopping the melon is particularly meaningful for the audience, as violence against melons is very often used in media as a sound effect for brutal acts of violence against humans.
  • Continuity Nod: As the Gaang enter the seedy bar to find June, the dance party music from "The Headband" can be heard playing.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Zuko goes back to being a stern instructor, even when Aang would rather goof off.
  • Evil Laugh: Toph gives one while pretending to be Melon Lord.
  • Foreshadowing: When commanded to firebend, Aang bends from his hands and mouth. Ozai will do the same thing in Part 3.
  • Funny Background Event: The following dialogue is said while Sokka gets himself out of Appa's mouth. (He put himself in.)
    Zuko: Why are you all looking at me?
    Katara: Well you are the expert at finding Aang.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: When Katara found the picture of a toddler playing on the beach while hiding out in Zuko's old summer home, Suki, Toph, Katara and Sokka assume that this boy is Zuko and tease him about this. But much to their dismay, Zuko corrects them, stating that the kid in this picture is actually Ozai, leaving them confused and horrified as to how this sweet and innocent-looking child would one day become the tyrannical monster and unhinged brute they're now up against.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Sokka "kills" the Melon Lord offscreen, to emphasize Aang's horror at the idea of killing someone.
  • Group Hug: The Gaang gathers in a group hug that Zuko joins reluctantly before they are all tackled by Appa.
  • Jerkass Ball: When faced with the possibility of having to kill the Fire Lord, Aang becomes incredibly hostile towards everyone else.
  • Kick the Dog: A case where Ozai passes it off as a Pet the Dog moment. Azula, who has been nothing but loyal to Ozai is finally rewarded for it by being appointed Fire Lord...just as Ozai proceeds to make that title useless and redundant by crowning himself Phoenix King, supreme ruler of the world.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Toph chooses to go with Zuko to find Aang. Her reason:
    "Everyone else went on a life-changing field trip with Zuko. Now it's my turn."
  • Large Ham: Toph as "Melon Lord"
  • Never Say "Die": Given that this show usually doesn't shy away from it, hearing everyone say "taking [Ozai's] life" rather than saying "kill" is somewhat jarring.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: When the mysterious island is present.
  • Omniscient Morality License: Sokka tells Aang that he has this with regards to killing Ozai.
  • Orifice Invasion: Sokka crawling into Appa's mouth because he thinks that Appa ate Momo.
    "Get out of the bison's mouth, Sokka."
  • Poor Communication Kills: You should have mentioned that your father was going to go burn down the Earth Kingdom immediately once the comet appears, Zuko. And y'all could've kept Zuko in the loop, everyone else in the Gaang.
  • Reality Ensues: After an entire show's worth of building up the importance of training Aang before the Sozin's Comet deadline, the Gaang's initial plan of letting it pass is rather pragmatic. Aang simply isn't ready, and since the Fire Nation has pretty much taken over the whole world at that point the deadline is meaningless. Too bad the Fire Nation's new genocide plan forces the Gaang back into action.
  • The Reveal: Zuko reveals what occurred during the war meeting he attended during "Nightmares and Daydreams" that prompted his Heel–Face Turn. Ozai decided to use Sozin's Comet to burn the entire Earth Kingdom to the ground.
  • Rock Bottom: The Gaang assumes they've reached this when the Fire Nation took Ba Sing Se. Zuko informs them that they're dead wrong. No matter who won or lost Ba Sing Se in Book 2, the endgame for the war remains the same.
  • Sarcasm-Blind:
    Aang: Maybe we could make some big pots of glue, and then I could use gluebending to stick his arms and legs together so he can't bend anymore!
    Zuko: Yeah! And then you can show him his baby pictures and all those happy memories will make him good again!
    Aang: Do you really think that would work?
    Zuko: NO!
  • Shout-Out: The above-mentioned conversation between Aang and Zuko may possibly be one to Xiaolin Showdown, another cartoon with elemental warriors as its focus. When brainstorming plans to defeat the Big Bad of the season, who has actually already taken effective control of the world, someone suggests dumping a bucket of glue on her.
  • Skewed Priorities: After Zuko attacks Aang to get him to train, Sokka gives us this:
    Katara: What happened?
    Sokka: Zuko's gone crazy! I made a sand sculpture of Suki and he destroyed it! [beat] Oh, and he's attacking Aang.
  • Teach Him Anger: Zuko repeatedly attacks Aang to try to force him into retaliating aggressively instead of running away as usual.
  • Terrible Artist: Only with sand sculptures instead of drawings. While Aang can make a pretty decent Appa and Toph can make an amazing miniature Ba Sing Se (complete with miniature Earth King and Basco), Sokka's attempt at sculpting Suki ends up looking more like a weird anemone than a human face. Suki still thinks it's sweet, though.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: The reason Aang has such trouble with the idea of killing Ozai.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Katara finds a baby picture of Ozai.
    Zuko: That sweet little kid grew up to be a monster, and the worst father in the history of fathers.
  • "Well Done, Daughter!" Gal: Turns out Azula's no better than Zuko when it comes to daddy's approval. The minute it looks like he's not giving her the respect she wants, she wigs out. It takes some flattery and smooth words from Ozai to calm her down.
    Azula: You can't do this! You can't treat me like Zuko!
  • Wham Episode: Aang learns about Fire Lord Ozai's plans to destroy Ba Sing Se and fight the Fire Lord. Aang disappears and finds himself on a mysterious island.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Katara scolds Zuko for trying to hurt Aang, but Zuko gives her and the others one of these for lazing about when the Comet was to arrive.
  • Worst Whatever, Ever!: Toph calls her time with Zuko "the worst field trip ever". Zuko calls Ozai the worst father ever.