Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Crossroads of Destiny"

"It's time for you to choose. It's time for you to chose good!"

Aang and Sokka quickly travel back to Ba Sing Se on Appa, intercepting Toph, who is promptly terrified and loses her balance as she couldn't sense them coming. They know they must return to the city as quickly as possibly in order to ascertain whether Katara is truly in trouble. They ask whether Aang mastered the Avatar State, but he lies, not baring the fact that he gave up its power in order to continue to love and protect Katara.

Azula, meanwhile, is continuing to reign in the control of the Dai Li, giving the troops a terrifying speech of what will happen if she gets anything but the best. The Dai Li find her both incredibly intimidating, but yet, inspirational.

Iroh is incredibly pleased that he has been given an invitation to serve tea to the Earth King, and Zuko, still strangely cheerful from the last episode, happily accompanies him. They quickly realise something is amiss, and are startled when Azula appears, ready to apprehend them. Iroh proves why, exactly, he is called 'The Dragon of the West', by breathing fire and making his escape. Zuko, however, hesitates in following him, instead challenging Azula to an Agni Kai. His sister refuses, and the banished prince is quickly captured.

Aang and his friends arrive to question the Earth King, who assures them everything is fine. Katara attended a meeting with the Council of Five, then went to see the Kyoshi Warriors. When they arrive at their house to see it empty, they realise that she must indeed by in danger. There's a knocking at the door, and they open it. To Sokka and Aang surprise and horror, and Toph's delight, it's Uncle Iroh. Toph says she trusts him, and is a friend, and Iroh explains how they must work together to save their loved ones. He has even brought a captured Dai Li agent who under questioning reveals they're being kept in the crystal catacombs underneath the city.

Scene change to Katara, who is standing in an underground cave lit by green crystals. The ground opens up above her, and Zuko comes falling in. Initially shocked, Katara eventually changes to anger, her full wrath descending upon him. How dare he? This truly evil man, spreading evil and horror, trying to capture the world's one chance for peace. Does he know what the Fire Nation had done to her? They took her mother away!

Zuko looks sad, and explains that might be one thing they have in common.

The Gaang, meanwhile, manages to confirm that the there is indeed a city underground. While Toph and Sokka set off to warn the Earth King about the coup, and face Ty Lee and Mai in order to rescue Bosco, Aang uses Earthbending to guide Iroh down beneath the ground. To his surprise, Iroh proves to be very wise, as well as a good tea maker. He consoles Aang on his choice, saying that power is overrated compared to love, and that destiny is a strange thing. He explains that while "you can't always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you keep moving...you may come to a better place." Just as he speaks those words, they burst through the rock into a beautiful cave filled with shimmering green jewels.

Above ground, Sokka and Toph face off against Ty Lee and Mai, as Azula holds the Earth King hostage. They are eventually disabled and surrender. Long Feng, head of the Dai Li enters, and orders his troops to imprison Azula; but they do nothing. Azula steps forward smugly, explaining this is the point where they must see where their allegiance truly lies. Who has the divine right to rule? This peasant boy who has to fight his way to the top, or the manipulative princess raised in politics since she was little? Long Feng realises it is hopeless, and admits defeat.

Long Feng: You have beaten me at my own game.
Azula: Don't flatter yourself. You were never even a player.

Down the prison, Katara apologises, sensing genuine remorse in Zuko, and begins to wonder if he is truly as horrible a person as he had always appeared. She admits she always saw his scarred visage as the face of the enemy. He explains that in a way, he viewed it similarly, as though it marked his destiny, signaling that he had no destiny but to mark him as a banished prince, doomed to chase after the avatar. The waterbender offers to use some special healing water from the North Pole spirit oasis to heal the scar, and reaches out to him...

...when they are promptly interrupted by Aang and Iroh who burst into the prison cell. They embrace their respective friends, while Zuko and Aang exchange glares, before the members of the Gaang head off to rejoin the others. Iroh knows how much Zuko has changed in recent months, that he is wiser, and now it is finally time for him to choose his destiny; to side with good. At that very moments crystal spikes surround Iroh, and Azula appears. She quickly feeds him a tempting story; that with his help they can over throw the Earth King, becoming heroes, and restoring Zuko's honour. He will finally regain his father's love, be allowed to return to the palace, everything he ever wanted. Iroh pleads with him - Azula always lies, and what she offers is not true redemption. The princess wanders away, allowing him the chance to choose, while he looks conflicted.

Azula catches up with Aang and Katara, sparking a battle between them. They fight skillfully, and eventually Zuko joins the fight, clearly about to tip the balance for Team Avatar, allowing them to win. Except, after a moment of hesitation, he sides with Azula, lashing out at Aang with fire. Katara calls out in betrayal, saying she thought he changed; "I have changed!" he retorts. Above ground, Sokka and Toph orchestrate a break out, and manage to escape with the bear Bosco, partly due to Ty Lee and Mai really not caring anyway. The fight below continues fiercely, and although Katara and Aang are powerful, they are severely outnumbered.

Aang realises there is only one way; to activate the Avatar State. He summons a protective shield of crystal around him, and begins to meditate, knowing he must let go of his attachment to Katara. He comes ever closer to enlightenment, finally snapping into true mastery. His tattoos begin to glow, and he rises out of the crystal, a powerful force. Everyone looks up in fear and awe as he towers above him, prepared to smite them all...

And is shot by lightning.

The cave fills with light as sparks shoot around Aang's body. The shot is reflected in Azula's eyes as he falls to the ground. In a look of pure fury, Katara summons all her abilities, riding in a wave above the Dai Li to her fallen friend, catching him just before he reaches the ground. Holding him, she is defenseless, but Iroh comes to protect him. Using his fire bending they are given a chance to escape. Iroh, however, is captured and taken into custody. As their eyes meet, Iroh looks away in disgust, and Zuko looks away in shame.

The entire group and the Earth King manage to escape on Appa, flying above the night cloaked city. Katara bends over Aang, taking out the spirit water and desperately trying to heal him. His tattoos briefly flash white; his eyes open, and he manages to give a brief smile before fading into unconsciousness again.

In the palace Zuko looks conflicted over his actions, but Azula coldly reassures him that he truly had no choice. Zuko wonders about returning home, but he is assured that he will be greeted as a hero, and has restored his own honor. Above, on Appa, the assembled heroes look out as they leave the city, grim and defeated looks on their face. The last line of the season is simply; "The Earth Kingdom....has fallen."

Tropes:

  • At the Crossroads: Not a literal example, but the episode is a crossroads for the choices made by Zuko and Aang.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The second season ends with Azula absolutely crushing the heroes, taking over Ba Sing Se within 48 hours, turning Zuko away from his Heel–Face Turn, and killing Aang, until he gets better. Really, the only positive thing you can say for Team Avatar is that they got away with their lives.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Iroh appears to fight off the Dai Li, Zuko and Azula to allow Katara to escape with Aang.
  • Cardboard Prison: The Dai Li lock Toph, Sokka and the Earth King in a cell, and once they're gone, Toph kicks the door down with metalbending.
  • The Chessmaster: Azula.
  • Close-Call Haircut: Katara gives Azula a minor one during their fight.
  • Clothing Damage: Aang and Katara's outfits take damage during their fight with the fire siblings. Surprisingly, not from being burnt, just scratched and torn.
  • Darkest Hour: The ending of the episode is the darkest moment thus far for the heroes.
  • Death Glare: Aang, Aang of all people, shoots Zuko one when he hugs Katara in the catacombs. Zuko returns it.
  • Downer Ending: So, to summarise, the season ends thusly; The Earth King is de-throned, Aang loses his connection to the Avatar State, Zuko subverts his heel face turn to betray Badass Grandpa Iroh, who is imprisoned, Aang is near-fatally wounded, and the one last great strong hold of Earth Kingdom falls to the Fire Nation.
  • Drama Bomb
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Zuko's betrayal of Iroh, resulting in his uncle being imprisoned.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Just after Azula blasts Aang, we see Zuko looking shocked at what's happened.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Azula vs. Long Feng, though Azula wins pretty quickly
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Katara rides a gigantic wave of water over Zuko and the Dai Li in order to catch Aang's falling body.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Subverted. In the last two seasons, Zuko has had to face the reality that he was banished for no good reason, that his father and the Fire Nation is unjust in their actions, that the war is harming good people in the Earth Kingdom and that he can choose his own destiny. Finally, after two seasons, it's time for him to change sides and join the Avatar. Over the previous two episodes, he has been so thoroughly set-up for a Heel–Face Turn that practically the only thing not done is a public announcement of his turn (which was done if one counts the episode's trailer). Shame he missed the memo and decided to go with Azula, anyways.
  • Hero Killer: Once again, Azula.
  • Hope Spot: When Aang enters the Avatar State voluntarily for the first time.
    • Before that, when Zuko arrives between the battle when Azula and Aang with Katara, just after Katara and Zuko spent a moment trapped in the cave.
  • Instant Armor: Aang does this with the crystals in the catacombs.
  • Locked in a Room: Subverted with Zuko and Katara.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Azula. Not only does she complete her coup of the Earth Kingdom, she wrestles control of the Dai Li away from Long Feng and persuades Zuko back to her side, all before taking a proper stance. To say she brought her A game here would be an understatement.
  • Mood Whiplash: In-between the serious discussion of Zuko's choice, and Azula's manipulations reaching their peak, there's Toph and Sokka "rescuing" Bosco.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Aang getting shot just before mastering the Avatar State.
  • Out-Gambitted: Azula led Long Feng to think she was less intelligent than she really was. He falls for it and pays dearly for it.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Katara cradling Aang after the above Negated Moment of Awesome.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner
    Iroh: Did I ever tell you how I got the nickname the Dragon of the West?
    Azula: I'm not interested in a lengthy anecdote, uncle.
    Iroh: I was thinking more of a demonstration...
  • Punch Clock Villain: Mai makes it clear she's completely uninterested in fighting Sokka and Toph for Bosco, even after Toph's contained Ty Lee. She doesn't even get up from her seat.
    Mai: Just take the bear.
  • Season Finale
  • Ship Tease: The former page image for the trope is Katara touching Zuko's scar as she prepares to heal it. Which was first shown in the episode's trailer. Which centered almost entirely around the two of them being Locked in a Room.
  • Slipknot Ponytail: Happens to Katara on the climactic battle.
  • This Is the Part Where...: "Now comes the part where I double-cross you."
  • Tired of Running: The reason Zuko stays and challenges Azula.
  • Title Drop:
    Iroh: You're not the man you used to be, Zuko. You are stronger and wiser and freer than you have ever been. And now you have come to the crossroads of your destiny. It's time for you to choose. It's time for you to choose good.
  • Took a Level in Badass: While by no means weak, Katara went head to head against Azula and nearly won before a timely interruption by Zuko. To put that into perspective, Azula has previously knocked out Aang in The Drill and would moments later strike him down.
  • Transformation Is a Free Action: One of the most pointed aversions in fiction. Aang unlocks his final chakra, accesses the Avatar state, starts glowing and levitating... and Azula shoots him in the back with a lightning bolt, leaving him clinically dead until Katara resuscitates him with the spirit water.
  • Twist Ending: What have we learned today? Never Trust a Trailer.
  • Two Roads Before You: Zuko must choose between Azula and Iroh.
  • Under City: Old Ba Sing Se.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Azula shooting Aang makes Katara go crazy like we've never seen before. She waterbends a massive wave, knocks down everyone in the room, and catches Aang's lifeless body before it falls to the ground.
  • Villain Team-Up: Azula and Long Feng, though it doesn't last long.
  • Wham Episode: Possibly the biggest one in the entire series.
  • Wham Line:
    The Earth King: The Earth Kingdom...has fallen.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Recap/AvatarTheLastAirbenderTheCrossroadsOfDestiny