Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Avatar S1E3: The Southern Air Temple

Last time on Avatar, Zuko proved he is a Terminator-level badass, Sokka proved he has tons of heart and lets it turn off his brain at will and Aang proved that snow beats battleship. Katara had nothing to prove because she basically introduced herself by 'sploding an iceberg. This episode is called "The Southern Air Temple," so I think it must be the episode in which Aang completely loses his shit after realizing what being gone for 100 years really means. We all know it's coming. Shall we?

OMG LOL AANG THAT WAS A PERFECT TROLLFACE. Telling Sokka there's a snake in his sleeping bag is certainly one way to wake him up. Oh man. Zuko and Iroh's lying to Commander Zhao is far less successful. Let this be a lesson to you, Zuko: don't use Iroh as a crutch when it's time to tell tall tales. He's either really bad at it or doesn't give a fuck again. ("What, did we crash or something?" could seriously go both ways.) You're clearly the one who is both willing and able to think on his feet with that bit about crashing into an Earth Nation ship. IDK about its plausibility, but I'm sure you could've made it work.

Huh, so Aang does have what seems to him good reason to believe that the airbenders are all just hiding rather than extinct: you can only reach an air temple via flying bison. At least, you could only reach an air temple via flying bison one hundred years ago. How quickly does technology progress in this world of martial arts-based telekinesis? Aw, poor Zuko. Didn't anticipate this interrogation so he couldn't give his crew orders to cover up the Avatar's capture and escape. Ahahahaha! Sokka's face, though! If he doesn't get some food soon, will it freeze that way?

People must be super sturdy in this world, because playing airball with Aang looks pretty deadly. It's so nice of Sokka to risk severe spinal injury to keep Aang happy! Aw, Katara, I know you want that innocent lightheartedness to last forever, but Sokka's right. You've successfully hidden that Fire Nation helmet from him, but you won't be able to distract him from everything, especially when he goes looking for his old friends. Flashback! Squee, Monk Gyatso has an "ancient cake making technique!" I love him already. Huh, so Aang wasn't supposed to be told until he was 16. I can see how that would LOL Monk Gyatso taught Aang to throw cakes on old monks' heads I KNEW I LOVED HIM!

Oh, Sokka. I'm not even sure what you were trying to do there, open that huge wooden door with your face? Hunger is messing with your mind, dude. Oh Iroh, never change. Your nephew is being stripped of his Avatar-chasing power by a condescending Zhao and has just kicked over the table, tea and all (with one neat little jerk of his leg, just sayin'), and your only response is a slightly-miffed "More tea, please." Screw the mission, you gotta keep Iroh in ginseng tea. It's his favorite!

I don't understand how Sokka's able to not believe in reincarnation when it's just a known fact that before the war, there was always an Avatar to keep all of the nations in line. It seems fairly easy to live to be over a hundred in this world (unless Zuko was just inadvertently insulting Katara's grandmother), but clearly the limit comes soon after, so it's not like he could've just assumed that the Avatar was always the same person for thousands of years without giving himself over to way more implausible magical thinking than the idea of reincarnation. Also, Avatar Roku was from the Fire Nation, but he was not just a firebender. He bent all of the elements, just like Aang will. Therefore, Aang not only "was" a firebender, he will be again in the near future.

This giant-eared winged white bundle of cuteness is just called a lemur? Not, like, an albino lemur bat? It's like the penguins all over again. Go Aang go! It's obviously far too scrawny to be Sokka's dinner and far too adorable not to become your mascot! ZHAO. Playing the "daddy doesn't love you" card is hitting waaaayyyy below the belt. Aww, Zuko looked down when he declared that his father will welcome him back "with honor." Poor kid. :( BTW, excellent touch, animators. Oh snap, they're gonna have an agni kai at sunset. Also, we will soon discover how Zuko got his scar and it will be absolutely heartbreaking.

Speaking of absolutely heartbreaking, the lemur has led Aang to a snowy cave of death. Gyatso's skeleton is posed serenely yet surrounded by a bevvy of felled Fire Nation soldiers, which speaks to some incredible badassery on his part. Go Gyatso! Aw Sokka, you're so brotherly to Aang: "Hey, I wasn't really gonna eat the lemur, okay?" Too bad that is very much not what Aang is crying about. Check it out, each nation has an Avatar alert beacon! Now at least the population centers of each nation know he's back.

Iroh may not care about the Avatar-seeking mission, but he sure does care about his nephew! Look at how proud he is! And look at how Zuko is kicking Zhao's ass after Iroh's reminder to "cut off his roots." Terminator-level badass, I'm telling you. How old is he, fifteen? Sixteen? His maturity is astounding. Sure, he's not handling emotions like a grown-up yet, but it would be freaky if he were. Look at how he refrains from blasting Zhao's face off even when Zhao calls him a coward for not doing it. (For real, dude? Do you want to look all extra-crispy? Also, I wouldn't assume that everyone would survive catching a fireball in the face.)

ZHAO YOU ASSHAT YOU DO NOT GO FIREKICKING PEOPLE IN THE BACK. Goddamn, was that "coward" bit some heavy transference. Thank you for shutting him down, Iroh, and for reminding Zuko not to taint his victory by sinking to Zhao's level. "Disgraceful" is the exact word I was about to use. Also, this: "Even in exile, my nephew is more honorable than you. Thanks for the tea." Ohhhhh! You happy now, Zhao? You got your face-scorching burn after all! Plus Zuko got some much-needed props and Iroh got to be totally awesome in the process.

I also like that the solid writing on this show means that Iroh doesn't have to switch immediately to open affection to show he cares, thereby making us wonder why Zuko would be surprised to hear this praise from him. The writers have enough trust in their skill that they don't feel the need to bludgeon us over the head with things that work best when they're subtle. When Zuko asks, "Did you really mean that, uncle?" he gets the coy response, "Of course. I told you ginseng tea is my favorite." Children's shows usually go straight for the sap in such moments, regardless of whether that's how the scene should play with the characters at hand. It's the little things that show you care. (And if you're wondering whether I'm talking about the characters or the writers now: yes.)

Katara defuses the A-bomb by telling him that she and Sokka are his family now. Spontaneous adoption! Hugs for everyone!! THE BAT-WINGED LEMUR BROUGHT SOKKA FOOD THAT IS SO CUTE I CAN HARDLY BREATHE. And now Aang has named him Momo, and the mascot is officially the only (sort of) main character whose name I did not use before the reveal despite knowing it already. I never promised consistency.

Tune in next post, when Aang and friends continue their journey and mayhem ensues! I think I remember what's coming next, and I am SO EXCITE.

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