Recap: Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Painted Lady"

"I will never, ever turn my back on people who need me!"

When the Gaang comes upon a fishing village that has been having hard times due to the pollution from a local factory, Katara cannot resist helping the villagers in the guise of the local river spirit, the Painted Lady.

Tropes:

  • An Aesop: "You can't wait around for someone to help you. You have to help yourself."
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Katara. The page quote is basically the defining statement of her personality. (It's even her quote on her character sheet listing.)
  • Don't Explain the Joke:
    Sokka: (when he finds no fish to catch in the polluted river) Normally my fishing skills are off the hook! (nobody reacts) Get it? Like a fishing hook?
    Toph: Too bad your skills aren't on the hook. (everyone laughs)
  • Filler: One of only two episodes of the show that you can skip with no problem (the other being "The Great Divide").
  • God Guise: Katara
  • Green Aesop
  • "I Was Just Joking..."
    Sokka: ...I also said to use spirit magic and made funny noises! (facepalm)
  • Left the Background Music On: The ominous Painted Lady music comes from Sokka playing the flute.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Whenever the gang are walking on the wooden streets of the town, Toph (who can't "see with her feet" here) is always seen holding hands or arm-in-arm with Aang or Sokka.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Destroying the factory just gets the soldiers stationed there mad at the villagers.
  • Real After All: The Painted Lady. Whether she would have done the same thing Katara did, had the pollution not kept her from acting, is unknown, but she is at least quite grateful.
  • Scarecrow Solution
  • Shout-Out: When Katara, disguised as the Painted Lady, begins approaching Fire Nation soldiers, a child says "She's com-ing!" in the exact same tone as the line "They're he-re!"
  • Sleeping Dummy: Katara stuffs her sleeping bag with grass to sneak away from the group.
  • Spit Take: Aang has this reaction when Sokka announces they might have to take potty breaks and food breaks at the same time.
  • Split Personality: Dock/Xu/Bushi
  • Ungrateful Bastard/ What the Hell, Townspeople?: Subverted, for once. The villagers are plenty mad that the local girl is a waterbender and has been masquerading as their patron goddess, until Sokka calls them out on it and points out that now the village is safe and can grow prosperous again.
  • Word of God: In the commentary for Book 2 of The Legend of Korra it's stated that the Painted Lady was human once, and although the spirit world isn't an afterlife for everyone, some people with spiritual connections can basically generate a spirit with their personality and appearance, though it becomes more spiritlike as time passes.