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:

  • An Aesop: Zuko reminds Katara that violence is never the answer. That's saying something coming from the guy who tried to kill Aang.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: Instead of being killed, the Southern Raider lost everything he had and now lives in pure fear of Katara changing her mind.
  • 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.
  • Berserk Button: Katara bloodbends the first man she thought was responsible for her mother's death.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: See above. Also, when enraged, her 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.
  • 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.
  • Dirty Coward: What the murderer turns out to be, as he practically begs Katara to spare him.
  • Disturbed Doves: These alert Aang to the first of the incoming bombs.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Type two occurs 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
  • Genre Savvy: Aang and Sokka knew Katara would try to steal Appa so that she can find her mother's killer, and catches her in the act. Aang allows her to take him anyway.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: When Zuko goes to Sokka for advice, he's evidently preparing for some sort of meeting with Suki. Half-dressed. At night. In the privacy of his own tent.
    • Visual Pun: The morning after, Sokka is fiddling with a necklace of flowers. To indicate that, you know, he got lei'd.
    • And that Suki was de-flowered.
  • 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.
  • 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 episodes. 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.
  • Not Worth Killing: Katara decides that Yon Rha is this, thanks to Zuko.
  • OOC 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.
  • 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: Sokka, once providing the trope picture. See Getting Crap Past the Radar above.
  • 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.
  • Slipknot Ponytail: Azula from this episode supplies the page image.
  • Snow Means Death: Black snow, to be precise.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Katara's to Yon Rha; it's even the page quote for the trope.
  • You Killed My Mother: For what very little it's worth, he thought she was the rumored waterbender he was searching for.