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Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "Sozin's Comet, Part 3 - Into the Inferno"

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Their powers enhanced by the comet, Zuko and Azula engage in an Agni Kai for the right to be Fire Lord.

Azula: I'm sorry it has to end this way, brother.
Zuko: No, you're not.

Azula's mental stability, undermined by the betrayal of her childhood friends at the Boiling Rock, begins to deteriorate as her coronation as Fire Lord approaches. Zuko and Katara confront her just as she is about to be crowned, but Azula challenges her brother to an Agni Kai. Zuko, although initially winning, is gravely injured when Azula throws lightning at Katara which he dives in the way of. Aang duels Ozai without result, still unwilling to kill him. Sokka, Toph, and Suki attempt to halt the airship fleet but are soon separated, while the Order of the White Lotus battles for Ba Sing Se's freedom.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Accidental Truth: Sokka uses it being a crew member's birthday as a ploy to get all the Fire Nation soldiers above a Trap Door. Nope, it really was one of their birthdays.
    Other Crew Member: Happy birthday.
  • Acoustic License: Suki and Sokka can understand each other airborne over quite a distance when their Zeppelin breaks apart.
  • All Your Powers Combined: While still restricted to "mere" firebending during the Agni Kai, Zuko shows that, as Uncle Iroh had wished, he has learned from all the other nations and disciplines: he remains firmly rooted like an Earthbender, redirects momentum into attack like a Waterbender, and uses his element to deflect attacks like an Airbender.
  • Big "NO!": Zuko lets out a slow-motion "No!" when Azula attempts to strike Katara with lightning.
  • Blatant Lies: Azula says she's sorry about having to possibly kill her brother. Zuko sees through what it is and shuts her up.
  • Book Ends: In Zuko and Azula's first battle, Zuko let his anger control him and fought aggressively, while Azula took the defensive position and easily blocked or countered all his attacks. In their last battle, the positions are now reversed, with an unbalanced Azula on the offense and Zuko fighting defensively with a firm stance, reflecting the siblings' respective character development.
    • The White Lotus attack on Ba Sing Se is one for Iroh in terms of his character arc. It was Iroh's original siege of the Earth Kingdom capital and the death of his son Lu Ten that began his reformation prior to Book One. Now, that journey has literally and thematically brought Iroh right back to Ba Sing Se to attack it again — but this time to liberate the city rather than to conquer it.
  • Bullet Time:
    • Ozai uses lightning against Aang. Slow-mo happens to emphasize that Aang decides not to redirect it at Ozai at the last second.
    • It is also utilized when Zuko taunts Azula to use lightning-bending. She does, and the animation slows down when she realizes that Zuko can redirect it—but Katara can't. Cue Big "NO!" and Taking the Bullet.
  • Call-Back:
    • During Zuko's lightning redirection training, Iroh warned Zuko not to channel the lightning through the heart, which happens when he redirects Azula's shot at Katara—having jumped in its way, he isn't properly positioned to send it through his stomach instead.
    • The fight between Zuko and Azula is also a culmination of what Zuko has learned from his journey. He even uses Zhao's hand motions to dissipate one of Azula's attacks, and even Azula's own massive fireblast from the episode "The Crossroads of Destiny" to deflect another one.
  • Car Fu: Sokka takes out most of Ozai's air fleet by crashing his commandeered airship into them, angling it to skip over the tops of the others and sending them each towards the ocean in turn.
  • Charge-into-Combat Cut: Used once or twice to switch between the Aang/Ozai fight and the Zuko/Azula fight.
  • Comet of Doom: Sozin's Comet heralds a brutal Fire Nation invasion plan.
  • The Coats Are Off: Ozai throws aside his regalia once he spots Aang, to engage in battle with him.
  • Continuity Nod: Once again, Zuko has to fight The Heavy in an Agni Kai, and once again The Heavy takes a cheap shot when Zuko has the upper hand.
  • Cruel Mercy: Azula shows forgiving mercy towards her servant for a minor mistake—by banishing the poor girl. However, bear in mind that this is a relatively lenient sentence when compared to her original intent to have the girl punished for treason.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Ozai vs Aang without the Avatar State. Ozai stomps.
    • The Order of the White Lotus vs the Fire Nation army. The White Lotus make quick work of the army.
  • Darkest Hour: Sokka, Toph and Suki are about to be overwhelmed by the Fire Nation fleet, Zuko takes a massive lightning blast due to improper stance to redirect lightning to save Katara, and Aang blows his chance to stop Ozai and is about to be overwhelmed by the man.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Katara stays hidden for the first part of Zuko & Azula's duel, and with Azula's composure slipping, Zuko's newfound motivation is more than enough for him to keep up with her. Then Katara decides for some reason to walk onto the battlefield. Azula spots her and attempts to kill her, correctly guessing that Zuko will attempt to save Katara while simultaneously taking himself out of the correct stance to counter Azula's attack, which is exactly what happens.
    • Zuko goading Azula to use lightning wasn't a terrible idea. Reminding her that he could redirect it, though? Not the best move.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Azula banishes her servant for giving her a cherry without the pit taken out. She also fires the Dai Li for taking 5 minutes to reach her.
  • Disturbed Doves: When Ozai begins his attack. Justified because he's burning down their home.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Before their battle begins, Aang tells Ozai that he has the power stop the war and his genocidal campaign without needing to fight. Ozai simply took it to mean that he has all the power in the world to do whatever he wants, including killing the Avatar and the Earth Kingdom.
  • Drunk with Power: Drunk on the boost of Sozin's comet:
    Ozai: I have all the POWER in the WOOOOOOORLLLLLLD!!
  • Duel to the Death: Zig-zagged. Azula challenges Zuko to an Agni Kai for the title of Fire Lord. As far as Azula is concerned, it's an opportunity to finally eliminate her brother. She states this duel was a long time coming, given their history.
    Azula: You want to be Fire Lord? Fine. Let's settle this. Just you and me, brother. The showdown that was always meant to be: Agni Kai!
    Zuko: ...You're on.
  • Evil Gloating: Ozai delivers one at the end of the episode, while gaining an advantage against Aang.
    Ozai: You're weak, just like the rest of your people! They did not deserve to exist in this world ... in my world! Prepare to join them. Prepare to DIE!
  • Evil Is Hammy: After three seasons of being a Soft-Spoken Sadist, Firelord Ozai goes full Unlimited Powah with his comet-enhanced firebending.
  • Field Power Effect: Sozin's Comet gives firebenders one hundred times their normal strength.
  • Flaunting Your Fleets: A side pan from the airship captured by Sokka, Toph and Suki over to Ozai's airship.
  • Force and Finesse: The Agni Kai. Azula does bring out the tricks, to be sure, but she is on the offensive from the start with little thought to strategy, while Zuko is patiently standing his ground and deflecting Azula's attacks with calculated defensive techniques. His entire strategy is to bait her into using lightning, which he has learned to redirect and would be something that she knew about but have no way to counter.
  • Futile Hand Reach: Sokka and Suki uselessly reach for each other when their airship breaks apart and separates them.
  • A God Am I: Aang attempts to get Ozai to relent his attack, but the self-proclaimed Phoenix King has become too Drunk with Power to listen.
    Aang: Please, listen to me. We don't have to fight. You have the power to end it here and stop what you're doing.
    Ozai: You are right. I do have the power. I have all the power in the WOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRLLD!!!
  • Grapes of Luxury: Azula tries this out at the beginning of the episode, though with cherries instead of grapes. Finding a pit in one cherry contributes to her paranoia and slip into insanity.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Zuko takes the lightning meant for Katara.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: It's strongly implied that Azula felt unloved by her mother because of how she was raised. She also feels betrayed by Mai and Ty Lee, who may have unintentionally triggered Azula's downward spiral.
  • Important Haircut: Azula decides to cut her bangs herself, sloppily, which underscores her Sanity Slippage.
  • Instant Armor: Toph with a metal airship door and Aang with rocks.
  • Interesting Situation Duel: Zuko and Azula are two firebenders under the influence of Sozin's Comet, so we end up getting quite a spectacle of cerulean and crimson fire throughout their Agni Kai.
  • I Will Show You X!: When Zuko taunts Azula for not doing her usual lightning bending.
    Zuko: No lightning today? What's the matter? Afraid I'll redirect it?
    Azula: Oh, I'll show you lightning!
  • Killing Intent: Played straight. Azula takes a potshot at Katara with lightning, knowing full well that Zuko will jump in front of the shot with little reaction time and thus get badly hurt (if not killed) by the shot. It looks like it's an attempt to kill Katara, but it is in fact a ploy to get at Zuko, whose defenses she couldn't crack in the fight.
  • Kubrick Stare: Azula has a lot of downward-looking glares in this episode, to emphasize her Sanity Slippage and increasing alienation from those close to her. A lot.
  • Lonely at the Top: Azula is left lonely after banishing all her advisors, guards and maids. She is also abandoned by her underlings Mai and Ty Lee, and discarded by her father.
  • Meaningful Echo: Sokka suggests using an "Airship Slice" to take out the airship fleet, echoing both his suggestion that Aang use an "Airbending Slice" to break out of jail in the episode "Avatar Day" and his cheering on of Aang moments earlier.
  • Midair Collision: "AIRSHIP SLICE!" (That is, steering airships into each other to make them crash.)
  • No OSHA Compliance: Averted. Fire Nation troops on the airships have safety tethers to keep them from dropping to their death should they fall of the catwalk. Ozai isn't using one, but he's just that cocky. (Also, he can use his firebending to fly.)
  • Not Himself: Zuko thinks he can take Azula because he notices something's off about her. He doesn't say it, but he might have subconsciously noticed that her normally perfect hair is askew.
  • Oh, Crap!: Ozai's face screams this when he sees Aang channeling his lightning and looking like he's going to redirect it at him. Also more likely that he recognized Zuko's stance during their own fight, realizing his son is playing a role in his defeat.
    • Zuko and Katara when Azula attacks the latter with lightning.
    • The Fire Nation troops at Ba Sing Se when Iroh and the White Lotus come to retake the city.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: The Agni Kai — it's Zuko's fire (orange) vs. Azula's (blue).
  • Parallel Conflict Sequence: The fight scenes between Azula versus Zuko/Katara and Ozai versus Aang play out simultaneously.
  • Playing The Heartstrings: The Agni Kai opens with a very somber string piece before it cuts away. When it cuts back, the audio is muffled as a piece of Sad Battle Music, plays over it all.
  • Prepare to Die: Said word for word in Ozai's "The Reason You Suck" Speech. Has a bit more weight behind it than usual because he is totally capable of carrying out his threat, and then he tries to make good.
  • "Psycho" Strings:
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The crew of the airships behaves this way. When Sokka (pretending to be the captain) invites them for a birthday celebration, we get a brief scene of the crew meeting each other and wondering whose birthday it is before they're promptly dropped into the ocean.
    Random firebender: I can't believe the captain remembered my birthday! He really does care!
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Azula rages at her hallucination of her mother in a mirror as she realizes that she is completely alone and unloved, thus also clearly raging against herself.
  • Redemption Promotion: Iroh, during his time as a loyal Fire Nation general, struggled for 600 days to bring down Ba Sing Se's walls. As the Grand Lotus of the White Lotus? One massive comet-enhanced boost and the wall goes down.
  • Redemption Rejection: Aang offers Ozai a chance to end the war peacefully in a last-ditch effort to not engage in the fight for his life and soul. Ozai ignores his offer, seeing the potential glory he could get by killing the Avatar in his bid for total world domination.
  • Sad Battle Music: The somber soundtrack for Zuko and Azula's Agni Kai, driving home that these are two teenage siblings in a fight to the death.
  • Sanity Slippage: Azula continues on this path from the previous two parts, after losing her partners in crime in earlier episodes due to her actions, as well as seen as being betrayed by Ozai. She fires people for trivial reasoning, such as exiling a servant for finding a pit in a cherry she was eating (which the poor girl has no control over!), as well as the Dai Li for taking 5 minutes to arrive when summoned (though her concerns are more about treachery, as they were all traitors to the Earth King, so her reasoning is at least understandable). When she's trying to prepare herself for her coronation to become Fire Lord, she has a conversation with her mother Ursa; the later wide shot reveals that Ursa was never there.
  • Scenery Gorn: The comet-enhanced firebending is used to make some of the most horrifically beautiful and eye-catching visuals in the series.
  • Shirtless Scene: Ozai throws off his robes and burns them to allow him to fight Aang without anything to slow him down.
  • Shout-Out: The nickname of "Captain Boomerang" gets briefly used here by Toph to describe Sokka.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Aang tells Momo, his silly lemur friend, to leave just before engaging the Fire Lord in a battle for the destiny of the planet.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    Azula: I am sorry it has to end this way, brother.
    Zuko: No, you're not.
  • Slasher Smile: Azula and Ozai get some pretty psychotic grins in this episode — Azula when fighting Zuko, and Ozai while relishing in the power brought about by the comet.
  • Slipknot Ponytail: Happens to Azula during the Agni Kai, with her hair coming loose from her already messy updo. Since Azula has never let her hair down in public before this point and she already cut off her bangs beforehand, it serves to make her look even more unhinged.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The sad violin piece playing during the Agni Kai only underlines the fight's ferocity and senseless destruction, as well as the underlying sadness of a battle to the death between two siblings.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Cutting your hair with scissors (even if it's just your bangs) doesn't look as stylish as you'd expect. Fittingly, Azula tries to cut her bangs, but it only makes her look more deranged. Also, the reason she cuts her own hair in the first place is that she's frustrated because she can't instantly make a perfect bun—as a princess, she's likely never done her own hair in her life, but by this point it looks like her banishment spree has taken out every single attendant. Turns out, your employees provide valuable services and getting rid of them all on the day of an important event is a bad idea.
    • Despite his innate strength and talent, without the Avatar State, Aang is still a kid, who only started learning how to bend anything but air this year. Ozai, in contrast, has lots of experience and is amped up by the comet in the bargain. The first half of the fight thus goes about the way you'd expect a grown man trying to murder a child to go—Aang's stuck on the defensive, and after he doesn't take his chance to kill Ozai, he doesn't get another opening.
  • Taking the Bullet: Zuko takes a lightning bolt from Azula that was meant for Katara.
  • Tanks for Nothing: The Fire Army tanks are junk after the Old Masters are done with them.
  • Tempting Fate: One mook is overjoyed that the airship captain remembered his birthday. Cue the Trap Door opening.
  • Third Act Stupidity: Again, Azula banishing all her minions. By this time, she's completely bonkers.
  • Trap Door: Sokka tricks the crew of a Fire Nation Zeppelin to gather in the bomb bay. He then opens the bay doors and the crew drops hundreds of meters down into Soft Water.
  • Tuck and Cover: Sokka throws himself over Toph to protect her from debris raining down from a crashing airship.
  • Villain Has a Point: Azula, despite being on a Villainous Breakdown, when banishing the Dai Li, justifies it by pointing out how they betrayed Long Feng to join her. While she's definitely paranoid, she has a point. If the Dai Li was willing to betray their long-time leader who, until Azula's infiltration, had their absolute loyalty, even after Earth King Kuei ordered his arrest, who's to say they wouldn't eventually turn on her, too?
  • Villainous Breakdown: Azula. Starting with an overreaction to sloppiness, then escalating to total paranoia and now it's reached total raving madness.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Earth Kingdom's army is nowhere in sight anywhere in the battle for Ba Sing Se. Considering that ongoing rebellions by the earthbenders have caused Ozai enough grief to prompt his plan to raze the continent, their absence here is baffling.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: The Fire Nation soldiers in the ship Sokka commandeers act like Punch-Clock Villains, with one pair conversing about how they've never met up in the very large ship, seeming genuinely friendly with each other. When Sokka claims that the reason he's called them to the bomb bay is to celebrate someone's birthday, one of the soldiers even shows delight that the captain remembered, only to be unceremoniously dumped into the ocean.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Having cut ties with his abusive father, trained with the Sun Warriors, and found his path in training Aang and befriending the rest of Team Avatar, Zuko is more mentally and emotionally centered than he's ever been in his life. Azula, by contrast, is in the middle of a nervous breakdown, following the betrayal of two of her closest friends/allies/"pawns", and being discarded by Ozai. Zuko lampshades this before their Agni Kai, saying that for some reason, he's sure he can take Azula by himself as she's off.