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07/18/2014 19:14:48 •••

Season 2 - A Great Improvement

So, the bad news is that season one was a bit on the shaky side. The good news is that season 2 fixes the bulk of the problems. The season's overarching plot is much more consistent and relevant to the individual episodes, and it builds to an epic conclusion rather than being a bunch of loosely connected episodes. Furthermore, the cast dynamics are a lot more fun and interesting once Toph is introduced. Aside from shaking up the existing relationships, the original cast begins to settle into consistent roles, with Katara as the motherly Action Girl, Sokka as the pragmatic strategist, and Aang as the groups spiritually attuned but naive heart. With the characters clearly defined, they can truly begin to grow in a consistent fashion over the season. Zuko and Iroh's interactions also get a major kick in the pants; it's this season where Zuko really begins to grow out of his "angsty teenager" persona and into one of the show's most complex characters.

There's also a massive amount of much-needed worldbuilding. The first season established the setting, but this season gives it more color and creates the sense of an interconnected world rather than just a series of independent villages. Previous plot points begin popping up and snowballing, connecting the seasons together. The bending itself is also further developed; while most fights in S1 were mostly "shoot [element] at enemy", the show starts really digging into the more versatile applications (metalbending, lightningbending, etc.).

Finally, the show introduces Azula, who's a superior villain (and character) to Zhao in pretty much every way. She's competent, dangerous, more entertaining, and serves as a vehicle for Zuko's development. In general, she's just more well developed, and is the first real sign of just what the Gaang is really up against.

The season isn't quite perfect, but the flaws are pretty minor. Mai and Ty Lee, while fun, don't really get a whole lot of development. And the pro-wrestling styled earthbending is funny, but it's a little too spot on and doesn't quite fit in with the more archaic culture that the world is based on. But as I said, those are minor, and don't detract a great deal. The second season is, for the most part, stellar, and is likely the strongest season of the show.

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