Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Southern Raiders"

"I'll never forgive him. But I am ready to forgive you."

Our heroes are woken explosively by the arrival of a fleet of Fire Nation airships, with Azula at their head. Zuko buys time by facing her one-on-one, completing his integration into The Gaang, who now seem to have no further reservations about his presence; he even jokes about chasing Aang around for old time's sake. Only Katara continues to resist, explaining that she can't forgive him and the Fire Nation for all they've done.

That night, Zuko goes to Sokka for advice and is treated to a Flashback of how their mother Kya was killed during a Fire Nation attack on the Southern Water Tribe. The next morning, Zuko offers to help Katara hunt down those who slew her mother. Sokka and Aang are hesitant, the Avatar in particular stressing that forgiveness and not violence will bring peace, but when Aang discovers Katara preparing to steal Appa if necessary, he relents and lets them go.

Using Zuko's knowledge of Fire Nation communication channels, they identify the division which was responsible for Kya's murder, The Southern Raiders. From there, they track down the group's retired captain, Yon Rha, who now lives with his overbearing mother. Upon being confronted with this vengeful Waterbender, he expresses incredulity: he was dispatched to the Southern Water Tribe to kill their only living Waterbender, which Kya claimed to be. Katara prepares the killing blow... only to stop at the last moment, deciding that this shriveled, pitiful man doesn't even deserve death.

Back at the camp, she hugs Zuko and thanks him, seemingly over her mis-directed hatred. Aang comes, saying how proud he is that she was able to forgive. She shakes her head, saying coldly "I didn't forgive him. I'll never forgive him." Nonetheless, Aang is still proud, and stresses that violence is never the answer.

Zuko has only one answer to that: what is Aang going to do when it's time to face the Fire Lord?

Tropes:

  • Armor-Piercing Question: The episode ends with Zuko asking Aang what he plans to do when he faces Ozai, if he truly believes that violence is never the answer. Aang's got no answer.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: When enraged, Katara's waterbending is so powerful and so precise that she can halt individual raindrops mid-fall and then turn them into a swarm of deadly ice-daggers.
  • Blade Brake: Azula does this with her hairpin.
  • Cain and Abel: Now that they're on opposite sides, the need for subtlety is gone.
    Zuko: What are you doing here?
    Azula: Isn't it obvious yet? I am about to celebrate becoming an only child!
  • Call to Agriculture: Subverted by Yon Rha, who is living a miserable life with a shrew of a mother.
  • Character Development: Zuko and Katara get this the most. See Impossible Task below, and Zuko using his head to find out what was really bothering her.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Katara is not amused when Zuko lies on top of her after her performed a Diving Save to save he life.
  • Disturbed Doves: These alert Aang to the first of the incoming bombs.
  • Diving Save: Zuko knocks Katara out of the path of some falling debris.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Rolls when Katara confronts Yon Rha.
  • Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables: Unsurprisingly, the world that has platypus-bears, wolfbats, and flying bison also has "tomato-carrots."
  • Flashback: Katara telling Zuko about the fateful day when she lost her mother during a Firebender raid.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Zuko goes to Sokka for advice, he's evidently preparing for some sort of meeting with Suki. At night. In the privacy of his own tent. With candles and flower petals. With no pants on. In a tableau that used to be the trope picture for "Ready for Lovemaking" (in case we needed to spell it out any further).
  • Henpecked Husband: Henpecked Son, but otherwise the trope is played straight.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: It is revealed that Kya turned herself in as the last waterbender to save her daughter's life.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Katara comes very close to crossing this line, but holds herself back at literally the last second.
  • I Am Spartacus: It is revealed through flashback that Katara's mother, Kya, claimed to be the waterbender the Fire Nation was looking for to protect Katara. She ends up dying for it.
  • Impossible Task: When Zuko asks Katara what he can do to make up his earlier betrayal to her, she gives him two options: recapture Ba Sing Se in the name of the Earth King, or bring her mother back to life. He decides to Take a Third Option and figure out what really is bothering her— her mother's death— to give Katara closure.
  • It's Personal: Katara steals the Gaang's ride and flies off after the Southern Raiders, despite Sokka pointing out that they're on a deadline and actually tells Sokka to his face that he didn't love their mother as much as she did because he's not willing to take a huge detour to pursue a grudge. She gets over it by episode's end though.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Katara when pointing out to Zuko that the one time she trusted him, he betrayed her in Ba Sing Se; she doesn't even have to mention that Aang nearly died as a result. Zuko admits this when he doesn't contest her point.
  • Lampshade Hanging: There's a bit of this when Katara marches up to Aang and requests the usage of Appa. Aang, noticing Zuko standing behind her, is quick to jokingly ask if it's her turn to "take a little field trip" with him, just as Aang and Sokka did in the preceding episodesnote . Katara's answer is a Blunt "Yes", which leaves Aang momentarily startled.
  • Large Ham: Azula's sheer joy at getting to "celebrate becoming an only child" makes her release her usual self-control a bit. While it's true she might have needed to shout to be heard at that distance anyway, it is quite clear that's not the reason for her hamminess at this point. It's clear that she's starting to go a bit crazy.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Katara discovers that karma beat her to Yon Rha a long time ago: his life is completely miserable and he's stuck farming with his overbearing, hateful mother. She points out he's nothing but a pathetic, empty person.
  • Let's Get Out of Here: Sokka tells Aang that they gotta get of of there when Azula arrives.
  • No One Could Survive That!: lampshaded when Azula gets knocked into an apparently-bottomless pit: "She's not gonna make it," Zuko exclaims in equal parts apprehension and relief. She then uses a Blade Brake against a cliff wall and saves herself; "Of course she made it," Zuko says in equal parts disbelief and relief.
  • Noble Bigot: Despite having Took a Level in Jerkass and refusing to see the good in Zuko, she does agree to bring Zuko along to lead her to her mother's killers.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We don't see exactly what Yon Rha did to kill Kya. Poor little Katara did, though.
  • Not Worth Killing: Katara is unable to take revenge on such a pathetic person.
  • Oh, Crap!: Yon Rha audibly gulps when he recognizes Katara as the little girl whose mother he killed.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Katara hated the fact that she learned bloodbending. The fact that she uses it here shows just how serious she is about possibly killing the man responsible for her mother's murder.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Katara's motivation for this episode. She even cites this trope as the reason that she isn't like Jet, as the person she's after is anything but innocent.
  • Punch Parry: A pretty damn epic one between Zuko and Azula, as they're just about to shoot fire at each other. This results in a rather huge explosion.
  • Ready for Lovemaking: See Getting Crap Past the Radar above.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Katara gives a very potent one to Yon Rha. No more than he deserves.
  • Rejected Apology: Yon Rha was remorseful for what he's done to Katara's mother, but Katara will never ever forgive him.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Yon Rha eagerly offers Katara this opportunity, but she turns it down after realizing how "pathetic" he is.
    • This is likely the reason why Yon Rha went against procedure and murdered Kya. Having such an abusive and hateful mother of his own, discovering that the "last waterbender" was a loving mother likely spurred him to vent his anger on Kya.
  • Slipknot Ponytail: Happens to Azula during her fight with her brother.
  • Snow Means Death: Black snow, to be precise.
  • Surprise Vehicle: Twice during the confrontation with Azula. First it's Azula's surprise appearance on her airship and a little later it's Zuko pulling the same trick on her emerging on his Zeppelin behind her. Zeppelins produce little noise so these are justified examples.
  • Sword Drag: Azula stops her falling from the Zeppelin by sticking a dagger into the rock face.
  • Sword over Head: Katara has her mother's killer at her mercy but stops the finishing move because she cannot bring herself to commit this crime.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Katara ends the episode without having forgiven her mother's murderer and emphatically stating that she never will.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Katara following Azula's ambush, a sign of her going down the path of He Who Fights Monsters; it's implied that she's angry at Zuko since he indirectly caused her father to leave again and blaming him for leading Azula to the Gaang to ambush them in the first place. She then deliberately goad Zuko when the other cheer him, calls out Zuko for expecting her to trust him given what happened in Ba Sing Se, and accuses Sokka of not loving their mother enough. She finally calms down after finding closure, and being able to forgive Zuko.
  • Ungrateful Bitch: Katara towards Zuko at the beginning of the episode, due to her Fantastic Racism of the Fire Nation and her bad history with Zuko.
  • Villains Want Mercy: The murderer begs Katara to spare him.
  • Visual Pun: The morning after, Sokka is fiddling with a necklace of flowers. To indicate that, you know, he got lei'd and/or that Suki was de-flowered.
  • Wham Line: The episode ends with one curtsey of Zuko.
    "You (Aang) were right about what Katara needed. Violence wasn't the answer. [...] So I have a question for you: what are you going to do when you face my father?"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Yon Rha's "sources" that informed him of the survival of one waterbender in the Southern Water Tribe have never been revealed.
  • You Killed My Father: Yon Rah was responsible for Kya's death.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Zuko takes on his sister alone so that the others can escape.

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