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"You will learn respect, and suffering will be your teacher."
Fire Lord Ozai
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The group is in need of money, so Sokka decides to help out a fisherman who is willing to pay him to help him on his next fishing trip, even though a storm seems imminent. The fisherman recognizes Aang as the Avatar "who turned his back on the world". Aang runs away in guilt, but Katara manages to track him down. Aang reveals to Katara that the monks at the Southern Air Temple wanted to send him away to the Eastern Air Temple to separate him from Monk Gyatso, the only person who cared about Aang as a person instead of as the Avatar. This led Aang to run away from home and (eventually) seal himself in the iceberg. Meanwhile, on Zuko's ship, Zuko's crew begins to question his leadership, until Iroh enlightens them on how the prince was scarred in a duel and was then banished from the Fire Nation, by his own father.

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Tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Fire Lord Ozai has no problem with not only instigating a duel against his own son, but also dealing the equivalent of a blow-torch shot to his face when the then-thirteen-year-old prince refuses to fight. All because the prince spoke out of turn in defense of his nation's soldiers. No wonder the kid's messed up. And much like many real children who have faced abuse, Zuko blames himself and continues to seek his father's approval.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Appa shakes himself like a dog to get the rainwater out of his fur.
  • Angst: This really isn't so uncommon to get it from Zuko, but when Aang's lurking in a cave crying, you know something has to be up.
  • Artistic License - Meteorology: To escape the fury of the storm, Iroh suggests they turn the ship toward the storm's eye. According to NOAA (last paragraph), any experienced mariner should know better than to go anywhere near the eye. It's pretty clear the resident member of the brass on board is not an admiral. (While the eye of a typhoon is very calm in the air, this is not so on the water, as the winds storms circling the eyewall push very large and ferocious waves into the eye).
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  • Backstory: The viewers finally get to learn more about Zuko and Aang's lives from before we first meet them.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The old fisherman was acting rudely when he calls out Aang for running away and getting himself frozen in ice for 100 years, but his anger is still justified: That single action allowed the whole war to grow out of all proportion. However, as Katara pointed out, the Fire Nation massacred the Air Nomads shortly after, meaning it's possible Aang would have been wiped out then since he'd only mastered airbending, which didn't do his people much good. In the end, the fisherman acknowledges he wouldn't have been still alive if the Avatar didn't show up that day, and Aang decides not to dwell on the past that can't be changed.
  • The Cameo: Mark Hamill as the Fire Lord. Also, Zhao can be seen along with a girl we've never seen before, one who seems to be more than happy to see Zuko get burned...
  • Campfire Character Exploration: Half of the episode is devoted to discussing Aang's backstory around a campfire. The other half is Iroh revealing Zuko's backstory to his men sitting around a Trashcan Bonfire.
  • Catapult Nightmare: When Aang wakes up from his dream at the beginning.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Zhao's reaction to the younger Zuko being struck down by his father proves his vindictive hatred toward Zuko goes back farther than we thought.
    • A young girl smirking beside Iroh later proves to be very important to the series...
  • Chekhov's Skill: Iroh discreetly redirects the storm’s lightning to stop a crashing wave. Now why would he need to know how to do that?
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Ozai does this twice over; first, he challenges Zuko, his 13-year-old son, to an Agni Kai because Zuko spoke out of turn. After Zuko refused to fight, Ozai burned his face as a "lesson" in respect, permanently scarring the boy, then exiled him.
  • Dramatic Thunder: The storm underscores the reason that Aang ended up in the iceberg.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • After hearing about Fire Lord Ozai for several episodes we finally get to see him in person, and the first thing we see him do is scar his own son's face as a punishment.
    • In the flashback of Ozai burning Zuko during their Agni Ki, a young girl sitting near Iroh is shown smirking cruelly at Zuko's cry of pain. This girl will return later in the series and her personality definitely lives up to this moment.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Jee may be part of the imperialistic Fire Nation, but when he learns about how Zuko got his scar and got banished, he is noticeably shocked, as are his fellow crewmen.
    Jee: I always thought that Prince Zuko was in a training accident.
  • Foil: The episode is about both Aang and Zuko's backstories being brought into the light. But whereas Aang's backstory reveals him to be Secretly Selfish for a hero, Zuko's backstory reveals his motive for hunting the Avatar to be secretly sympathetic for an antagonist.
  • Foreshadowing: When Zuko tells Lt. Jee that the safety of his crew isn't important, Iroh tries to settle things by telling Jee that Zuko didn't really mean that. The reveal of Zuko's backstory later in the episode, specifically the "offense" he was banished for, confirms that Iroh wasn't lying about that.
  • General Ripper: The Fire Nation general who suggested sacrificing 20,000 new recruits against the Earth Kingdom.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Used for the moment when Ozai gives Zuko the scar.
    Iroh: ... I looked away.
  • How We Got Here: Aang narrating his past about a hundred years ago when he ran away from the Air Temple due to the monks trying to force him and his guardian apart, which leads to him freezing himself as the iceberg seen in the very first episode. Aang wasn't lying when he says he couldn't realize a hundred years have passed, as from his perspective only seconds passed from him getting frozen to Katara rescuing him.
  • "I Can't Look!" Gesture: Iroh does this, as he says above, when Ozai burns Zuko's face, horrified at what his brother is doing to his nephew.
  • Impossible Task: Zuko was given this by his father as a part of his banishment: Defeat an all-powerful Physical God and bring him back to the Fire Nation alive. Said Physical God has also not been seen in nearly 100 years.
  • Ironic Echo: When Katara tells Aang that she thinks him being in the iceberg was meant to be, she mentions that his current existence gives people hope. When Jee later says that he realizes Zuko is obsessed with capturing the Avatar because he wants his life to return to normal, Iroh says that things will never return to normal but the Avatar's existence gives Zuko hope that it will.
  • It's All My Fault: It's clear that Iroh at least partially blames himself for Zuko's scarring and exile since he was the one who allowed Zuko into the war meeting in the first place.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • The whole crew's been complaining what a complete douche Zuko is, while that very day he goes on to risk his life in order to save that of the helmsman. And then of course, there's the reason he got the scar...
    • Also the Fisherman. He may be a rude cheapskate, but in the end, he acknowledges that if Aang weren't there, the fisherman would've drowned and sincerely thanks Aang for saving him.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The monks at the Southern Air Temple decide they need to move fast before the Fire Nation threat grows. To speed things up, they tell 12-year-old Aang he's the Avatar several years early, intensify his training and plan to send him away from his home and father figure. ...Which results in Aang running away and being frozen for a hundred years, clearing the way for the Fire Nation to start the war and wipe out the Air Nomads. Monk Gyatso calls out the other monks at the time for pushing Aang too early and in retrospect, easing him into his Avatar role was a much better option.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Iroh has no problems with eating and hanging out with the crew. Zuko, however, sees them only as servants—but that doesn't stop him from risking his life to save them.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: For speaking out against needlessly sacrificing the lives of inexperienced but loyal Fire Nation soldiers, and refusing to fight his father in a duel, Zuko's father permanently scarred his face and banished him from the Fire Nation to complete an Impossible Task.
    • The monks attempting to help the Avatar grow into his task only became the reason for Aang running away and the Fire Nation stomping them eventually.
  • Origins Episode: This episode delves into Aang and Zuko's backstories and explains how their respective journeys began.
  • Picked Last: Jinju, when picking teams for the air scooter game.
  • The Reveal: Among other things, this episode reveals how Zuko got his scar. It's not a pretty story.
  • Secretly Selfish: When Aang tells Katara about how the Air Nomads were going to separate Aang from Monk Gyatso, she sympathizes that Aang was allegedly sent away. Aang uneasily reveals that's not what happened: in reality, he ran away from home.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Inverted when Zuko gets his scar. It's a bright light discretion shot instead, showing Iroh's wince and a girl's smirk.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The general who suggests using inexperienced soldiers as cannon fodder. If Zuko hadn't spoken up to rebuke him, his injury, dishonor and banishment would likely never have happened.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: It's revealed that underneath Zuko's angry exterior is a young teenager dealing with a lot of pain, desperately trying to win his abusive father's love.
  • A Storm Is Coming: The metaphorical storm is the oncoming war. The literal storm mirrors the one when Aang ran away and froze himself into a Human Popsicle.
  • Stunned Silence: Zuko's crew are appropriately horrified upon learning that his scar was given to him by his own father in an Agni Kai. The only responses come from Jee quietly saying that he thought Zuko's scar was from a training accident and him realizing why Zuko is so obsessed with capturing Aang.
  • Too Qualified to Apply: A flashback shows that after Aang was publicly revealed to be the Avatar the other airbender kids stopped playing competitive games with him because they felt he'd have an unfair advantage, even though his actual level of ability hadn't changed.
  • "Too Young to Die" Lamentation: Quite possibly the Trope Codifier.
    Sokka: I'm too young to die!
    Old Fisherman: I'm not, but I still don't wanna!
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The Whole Episode Flashback contrasts Aang and Zuko's backstories. While both the Gaang and Zuko's ship get caught up in the same storm, the two groups don't meet until briefly at the end, where Aang and Zuko share a Meaningful Look.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Zuko, while a bit impulsive and impatient, was very patriotic and thanks his uncle for allowing him into the war chamber and speaks out against sacrificing soldiers' lives in order to achieve victory, which ultimately leads to his banishment.
  • We Have Reserves: The basis of the plan that Zuko speaks out against. To elaborate, the plan was to sacrifice a force of around 20,000 new recruits as bait against an Earth Kingdom force of around 500 veterans.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: The true reason for Zuko's desperation to capture Aang becomes clear.
  • Wham Episode: We learn about both Aang and Zuko's pasts, along with the devastating reveal that Zuko had to fight his own father. And for those who still didn't pick on the hints that Zuko's father is the Fire Lord himself, this episode confirms it.
  • Wham Shot: Iroh redirecting a bolt of lightning.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • The old fisherman chastises Aang for running away when the world needed him most.
    • Pre-series Zuko gives a "What the Hell, Villain" version of this trope, to a Fire Nation general when said general suggests using rookie soldiers as decoy while he and the experienced troops attack from the rear.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: This episode features many flashbacks from the lives of both Zuko and Aang.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Fire Lord Ozai was already established to be a warmongering dictator, but this episode really spikes his level of villainy to a more personal level by revealing that he scarred his own son, who was 13 years old at that time.
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