7.12.2010

TV Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender - Book Two: Earth.

So a while back, I reviewed Book 1: Water (Season One) of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Now I'm back for the second season. Any self-respecting Avatar fan would agree that season two is where the show really starts to get excellent. Why? Because this is the season that introduces Toph.

Like before, I summarized the episode, gave my thoughts, and then discussed if I thought this episode would be in the movie version. Now, despite the epic fail that was the first movie, I'm still holding out that the next one will be made (though hopefully in a much better fashion than the first). So I'm going to continue with that "in the movie" trend.

Now, the second season is a bit different from the first. It's slightly darker, but it's also more straightforward. There aren't the strange semi-filler episodes (or at least not as many). This season is a straight-shot with very few detours. In other words, it could both be easier and harder to make this season into a movie: it's easier to keep a focus, but harder in figuring out what to cut. All that being said, let's get into this detailed analysis.


Book Two: Earth (Season 2)

Episode 1: The Avatar State
Synopsis: Leaving the Northern Water Tribe, the gang decides to go to Omashu to find King Bumi and have him teach Aang to Earthbend. In order to get to Omashu, they stop at a military outpost to get an escort. But while there, the general decides to forgo all their plans by attempting to force Aang into the dangerous Avatar State, even if it's at the cost of Katara and Sokka. Meanwhile, Zuko's deranged sister Azula has been sent by their father to arrest Zuko and Iroh, ending in quite an extreme family fight. And when Zuko and Iroh escape, they're forced to go into hiding as refugees within the Earth Kingdom.

Thoughts: This is a great way to start the season. It reintroduces us to the uncontrollable nature of the Avatar State, which comes back into the plot later in the season. But my favorite part of this episode has to be the Zuko/Iroh/Azula stuff. One thing this season does is begin to introduce the fact that there's an evolution to bending. For instance, Firebenders have the ability, after extensive training, to use create and/or control lightning. Azula uses this almost exclusively, which makes her incredibly formidable and powerful. The fight between Zuko and Azula is a great one, too; one of my favorites. Then Zuko and Iroh cut their hair and go into hiding, which begins their side story. What I love about this season is that Zuko begins to grow even more as a character. No longer is he just a semi-villain focused on capturing the Avatar. Instead, he's forced to figure out who he truly is on the inside. His journey is treated with equal importance to Aang's, despite being on separate paths now.

The Movie: Of course, this episode would have to be in a movie version. Like I said, they'd have to reintroduce the Avatar State, as well as introduce us to our new main villain (Azula) and the new journey of Zuko and Iroh.

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Episode 2: The Cave of Two Lovers
Synopsis: Now traveling to Omashu sans escorts, the gang stumbles upon some traveling hippies who let them in on a secret tunnel that will take them right to Omashu. The cave was a secret meeting place for two star-crossed lovers many years ago. But once within the cave, the gang gets separated. Aang and Katara are on their own, while Sokka is stuck with the hippies. Meanwhile, Zuko and Iroh are brought in by an Earth Kingdom family and shown kindness, as well as how much the war has devastated everyone.

Thoughts: A memorable episode. This episode really brings the budding relationship between Aang and Katara to the forefront. There is also some great comedy with Sokka and his interactions with the hippies. Zuko and Iroh's portion isn't their most interesting, but it helps Zuko understand the actions of his father a little more.

The Movie: This could be cut. They could show the necessary aspects of this episode (Aang/Katara's relationship and Zuko/Iroh getting a bird-creature to travel on) in other, quicker ways.

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Episode 3: Return to Omashu
Synopsis: The gang discovers that Omashu has been taken over by the Fire Nation, and King Bumi has been taken prisoner. They end up getting the people of Omashu out of the city, but accidentally take the Fire Nation Governor's baby son with them, and they believe he's been kidnapped. The gang use this to their advantage and try to trade the baby for Bumi, but Bumi ends up telling Aang he was captured on purpose and to let him stay that way. Meanwhile, Azula goes to find her old "friends," the monotone and emo Mai, as well as the cute and flexible Ty Lee.

Thoughts: There's a lot of fun action in this episode, and Bumi is always fun to see. And then, of course, Mai and Ty Lee are important to the rest of the show. I've always been more partial to Ty Lee than Mai (who is just kind of boring, but I think that's intentional). But in the overall scheme of things, this isn't a highly important episode. Aang learns that he needs to find an Earthbending master that listens well (or something along those lines), which is important. But that's about it. And, of course, it removes Bumi from the equation of teaching Aang Earthbending (which would have been a plot hole if not addressed).

The Movie: If this was a sequel to the movie that just came out, this might not be used at all. Bumi wasn't introduced in the first movie, but I suppose Aang could just say "I had a friend who lived in Omashu 100 years ago." But I think it would be easier to just leave Bumi out of it. However, it should still keep in Mai and Ty Lee.

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Episode 4: The Swamp
Synopsis: The gang gets separated by a tornado after flying over a swamp. While in the swamp, they all see things that aren't really there (Sokka sees Yue; Katara sees her mother; Aang sees a girl he's never met). Appa and Momo are captured by backwoods Waterbenders. Near the end, Zuko regains his Blue Spirit guise to steal food and money from people.

Thoughts: While there is fun action at times, the only important aspects of this episode are Aang having a vision of the girl and Zuko continuing his Blue Spirit guise. Overall the episode is rather campy, thanks to the hillbilly Waterbenders.

The Movie: I don't think this one would translate well to screen. The first movie definitely needed the comedy from the show, but this might take it too far into the realm of camp. Aang can have his vision elsewhere. Though it should keep the Zuko/Blue Spirit thing, as that comes back later in the season to importance.

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Episode 5: Avatar Day
Synopsis: The gang shows up at a village that has an annual anti-Avatar day. They blame the Avatar Kyoshi from a couple cycles back for murdering their most respected warrior. Sokka spends most of the episode playing detective, and we're reintroduced to Kyoshi Island from the first season. We also learn that Suki and the other Kyoshi Warriors left the island to do their own part in the war. Meanwhile, Iroh discovers what Zuko's been doing as the Blue Spirit. After an argument, Zuko decides to go separate ways and leave his uncle behind.

Thoughts: This episode is the closest this season gets to filler (besides an episode a little later). Besides some good comedy from Sokka, Aang's half of the story is nearly pointless. Zuko and Iroh's half, on the other half, is pretty important. It shows Zuko continuing to struggle with his new situation, having to stay in hiding. A decent episode, but not the best.

The Movie: Almost assuredly they would cut the "Avatar Day" part of this episode, but they should definitely keep in the bit with Zuko and Iroh.

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Episode 6: The Blind Bandit
Synopsis: The gang stumbles upon an Earthbending tournament. Aang realizes he might find an Earthbending Master here, so they decide to check it out. Aang finds the recent champion, a young blind girl known as the Blind Bandit, to meet his requirements--she waits and listens. She also happens to be the girl from his vision. Unfortunately, she turns him down. They figure out where she lives, and it turns out she's part of a very high class wealthy family who thinks she's weak due to her blindness. They also don't know of her amazing Earthbending abilities, having easily mastered the art by listening to vibrations in the ground with her feet. The man who runs the tournament, Xin Fu, captures Aang and the girl thinking they worked together to cheat and win extra money. Of course they escape, but her parents confine her even tighter to the house. She eventually decides to sneak out and leave with the gang to teach Aang Earthbending. But when her parents find out, they hire Xin Fu and an Earthbending instructor, Master Yu, to capture her at any cost. Oh, and this powerful blind girl? Her name is Toph. And she's awesome.

Thoughts: This episode has some amazing action and is a great introduction to Toph. She's such an ingenious character, having her be blind and have to listen and feel with her feet in order to fight. Toph is only 12, I believe, but she's a tough little cookie with a strong personality (in more ways than one). And her little nicknames and quips to the rest of the gang are funny.

The Movie: Of course this will have to be in the movie. There's no way it wouldn't be.

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Episode 7: Zuko Alone
Synopsis: Zuko, now alone, wanders into an old west-style town where a gang of Earthbender soldiers have taken over like a band of thugs. He joins a young boy and his family, growing close to the family. The majority of the episode shows flashbacks of a young Zuko and Azula and how their father rose to power and became Fire Lord. It also shows how close Zuko was to his mother and how she disappeared the same day his father became Fire Lord. At the end, Zuko stands up to the gang of Earthbender soldiers, but in the process shows himself as Fire Nation and is shunned by the family that had taken him in, due to their eldest son having recently been fatally wounded by Fire Nation soldiers. During all of this, the gang (primarily Katara) struggles with the new dynamic of Toph. Toph, fed up with Katara, decides it was a bad idea to join them and leaves. She stumbles upon a lone, wandering old man who declares he's looking for his nephew who has lost his own way. They have a nice talk and they share tea. Of course, the old man is Iroh.

Thoughts: Focusing almost entirely on Zuko, this episode is one of a kind. This is a very dark episode, which is fitting due to its focus. The flashbacks are particularly menacing, showing how evil Azula really is as she relishes in the death of her cousin's (Uncle Iroh's son) death which lead to her father becoming Fire Lord. She also shows zero compassion for the "disappearance" of her mother, who sacrifices herself to save Zuko. The episode doesn't even have a happy ending, with this once welcoming family shunning Zuko even after he helps save them and their town from the soldiers. The Toph portion of the episode is good because it shows the group having to get used to the new dynamic. What usually happens in these cases is that everybody gets along so perfectly and melds well. Not in this case. And then, of course, Toph gaining a bit of a friendship with Iroh (not realizing who he is). Overall, this is an amazing episode.

The Movie: I could see this going either way, but I certainly hope this would be in the movie. Assuming Zuko is shown going off on his own, this would almost definitely have to be shown. It's great characterization for both Zuko and Azula. It also brings in the idea of Zuko losing his mother to the Fire Nation, which is something that comes back later (though, unfortunately, was one of those things the series didn't tie up nicely by the series finale. But perhaps the movies could do a better job).

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Episode 8: The Chase
Synopsis: The gang is chased by a machine, and no matter how fast or far they go, the machine is able to find them. They get zero sleep, which is especially bad for Appa, who eventually loses the strength to keep flying them forward. Everybody getting on each other's last nerves from lack of sleep, the gang realizes the reason they've been able to follow them is Appa shedding and leaving a hair trail as they fly. Aang decides to create a separate path to a deserted town and waits for the followers (who happen to be Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee) to show up. Eventually, everybody shows up (including Zuko and Iroh) and fight against Azula. Azula eventually pretends to back down, only to severely injure Iroh and escape.

Thoughts: An average episode that turns stunning in its climax. This episode has one of the greatest fight sequences of the show. At first we only have Aang versus Azula. Then Zuko shows up and there's a 3-way fight with Zuko and Azula fighting each other as well as Aang in order to capture him. And then Katara, Sokka, and Toph show up and add to the fight, making it even cooler. And it's not over yet... as Iroh shows up. Of course, she does a bitch move and nearly kills Iroh while their guard is down. So yeah, the majority of the episode is alright, but the big fight scene is epic.

The Movie: I'm sure you saw this coming, but while I might not include the whole "chase" bit, I'd definitely include the fight.

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Episode 9: Bitter Work
Synopsis: Aang finally attempts to learn Earthbending from Toph. But as it's the opposite of Airbending, Aang finds it nearly impossible. And Toph doesn't make the situation any better by constantly yelling at Aang and degrading him when he fails. Aang loses heart and thinks he'll never learn to Earthbend. During this, Sokka goes hunting but gets stuck in a crevice and befriends a cute little animal that he had just attempted to kill beforehand. Meanwhile, Iroh teaches Zuko how to re-direct lightning so he might stand a better chance against Azula.

Thoughts: Overall a good episode, and a necessary one. Toph proves that her tough love approach is just as good as Katara's kinder one (as Katara has become Aang's Waterbending Master). The Sokka moments are funny, and the Zuko parts are good, as well. Iroh even has a funny line (I believe it's in this episode) where he declares Azula as being crazy and needing to be stopped. Though it does end on a bit of a dark note as Zuko shouts at a storm to strike him with lightning, impatient and wanting to attempt his new abilities as Iroh refused to go that far.

The Movie: Again, this would be a necessary episode, though possibly part of a montage. However, I'm sure the Sokka stuff would be cut out (or at least modified), as it was a bit too cartoonish to fit in a live-action movie.

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Episode 10: The Library
Synopsis: The gang comes across a professor who is searching for a fabled library (the very library that Zhao mentions offhandedly in the first season--and quite a few times directly in the movie version). This library is essentially like a more mystical version of the library of Alexandria, where it's infinitely expansive and includes every bit of written knowledge imaginable. Once they find the library, which happens to be under a desert, they try to trick an owl spirit into letting them look around. While there, they discover a solar eclipse that will occur and remove the ability to Firebend. This eclipse will happen days before Sozin's Comet and will be the perfect time for Aang to strike against the Fire Lord. But once Sokka proclaims they need to get to Ba Sing Se and tell the Earth King to use this information for the war, the owl spirit is angered that his library is only used for violence against humanity and begins to sink the library. Toph, who decided to stay outside with Appa, tries her best to keep the library above ground using her Earthbending while the others can get out. Unfortunately, this is when some Sandbenders (a variation of Earthbenders) decide to show up and kidnap Appa to sell on the black market. Toph, forced to use all of her focus and energy on keeping the library above ground, is powerless to stop them from taking Appa.

Thoughts: A very important episode. They discover about the eclipse and decide to begin their journey toward the capital city of Ba Sing Se. This also begins a major subplot of trying to find Appa and get him back, which lasts basically the rest of the season. Overall it's a good episode, and the owl spirit is pretty creepy.

The Movie: This would have to be in the movie. They have to find out about the eclipse, and Appa's kidnapping is a huge part of the rest of the season.

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Episode 11: The Desert
Synopsis: Aang, competely distraught at Appa's kidnapping, searches the desert for his friend while everybody else attempts to find a way so they can get to Ba Sing Se. Eventually they catch up to the men who stole Appa, and Aang nearly kills them in his rage. Instead, they find out they sold him to some merchants who were probably going to take him to Ba Sing Se, now having even more of a reason to go there.

Thoughts: There's really not that much to this episode... at all. I mean, it's important and all in giving an extra reason to get to Ba Sing Se, but that's about it. Not all that thrilling outside of Aang going totally ape-shit on the Sandbenders.

The Movie: Yeah, it would probably be in the movie, but it would probably be made much shorter. There would be no real reason to use the entire episode.

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Episode 12: The Serpent's Pass
Synopsis: The gang stumble upon Suki and the other Kyoshi Warriors, much to Sokka's liking. They're helping refugees get across to Ba Sing Se. Unfortunately, they are unable to use the boats to get across to the city, so they must venture across the much more dangerous route called the Serpent's Pass. Suki joins them, as well, to make sure they get across safely. Meanwhile, Zuko and Iroh get on a ferry to the city, but they come across Jet, the freedom fighter from season 1. Eventually, both groups make it across, both finding interesting obstacles to pass.

Thoughts: It was fun to see Suki again, especially without makeup. And it was a good way to continue building on the relationship that she and Sokka began in season 1. I also liked that they kept in his feelings for Yue, not just forgetting her completely. Like I said in my season 1 review, Jet would be returning with a much bigger purpose. This episode is the one that reintroduces him. He's slightly more tolerable in season 2, but I still don't care for him.

The Movie: I'm not sure if this would be in the movie or not, honestly. Again, if going from the first movie, it would be strange to introduce Jet now (especially when he'd have to interact with the gang later). They could certainly do it, but it wouldn't be the same as in the show. I think if they were to cut down on time, the whole Jet subplot of the season would be a good thing to cut (and there is quite a bit of it). It would also be strange to introduce Suki now, considering she was cut from the final version of the film. So the whole episode would be difficult. Not to mention trying to CGi the giant sea monster sequence would probably turn out bad.

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Episode 13: The Drill
Synopsis: Technically a 2-parter (lumped together with the following episode), this one show the gang trying to stop a giant drill from breaking through the famous walls of Ba Sing Se, the same walls that Iroh couldn't penetrate many years ago when he lost his son. So Aang and the rest of them try to destroy the giant drill and stop Azula et al. from getting through. Meanwhile, Jet wants to recruit Zuko and Iroh into his freedom fighters, but realizes they're Fire Nation when he sees Iroh heat his tea with his breath (which is also kind of foreshadowing to something at the end of the season).

Thoughts: At first it might seem like filler, as there really is no major purpose to the whole event at the end of the day. But the drill itself (or at least the evidence of the attack) does come back into play later on. It's an interesting episode, and there's yet another good fight sequence involving Aang versus Azula.

The Movie: If done right, this could be used around the mid-point of the movie as a good action sequence. It wouldn't have to last very long. In fact, if you cut out the Zuko/Iroh/Jet stuff, and then get to the point of the drill stuff, you could easily knock it down to about 10-15 minutes.

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Episode 14: City of Walls and Secrets
Synopsis: Again, technically part 2 to "The Drill," the gang has officially arrived within Ba Sing Se, and Aang is itching to hunt for Appa. However, they're hindered at every turn by their royal guide, Ju Dee, who acts very strangely. During their time and tour, they are told how the city has been told that the war has been kept secret from it citizens, despite the rise of refugees its been getting. We are also introduced to Long Feng, the head of the Dai Li (basically the special forces of the city's cops who work directly under the Earth King... supposedly). But Ju Dee says they cannot get an audience with the king, despite being the Avatar and having urgent news. In fact, she says the best she can do is one month from then. Meanwhile, Jet continues trying to show Zuko and Iroh as Fire Nation, but it just brings attention to the Dai Li that Jet is speaking of the war. So the Dai Li detain Jet. By the end, another woman (also acting strange) appears before the gang proclaiming to be Ju Dee, though she is clearly a different woman.

Thoughts: This episode sets up the strangeness and conspiracy within Ba Sing Se. However, this episode is just that: a setup episode. Nothing is really all that memorable about it, except for maybe Jet attacking Zuko and getting arrested himself.

The Movie: If there's anything I don't care for in season 2, it's the whole Ba Sing Se conspiracy subplot. However, it is a major part of the second half of the season, so you have to include it. That being said, most of this episode would probably be included, though the Jet stuff would be cut. They can easily do with Ju Dee what they do with Jet and get the point across.

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Episode 15: The Tales of Ba Sing Se
Synopsis: I'm going to quote Wikipedia for this, as it pretty much says it the best way possible. This episode contains a collection of six "mini-episodes": Katara and Toph have a girls' day out; Iroh helps people in town before celebrating the birthday of his dead son; Aang helps a zookeeper build a new zoo; Sokka accidentally ends up in a poetry club; Zuko goes out on a date; and Momo looks through Ba Sing Se for Appa. Iroh's mini-episode was dedicated to his voice actor Mako, who had just died.

Thoughts: It's a fun episode, but it's mostly filler. Katara and Toph's mini-sode is OK, as is Aang's. Sokka's is pretty funny. The best ones, however, are Iroh, Zuko, and Momo. Iroh's is very emotional. He spends the entire day planning for something special, and you're never sure what. He helps people out throughout the day, as well. And then at the end, you realize he's celebrating his dead son's birthday. He sings to him and starts crying, and then the scene freezes and "In Honor of Mako" appears. It's very touching. Zuko's mini-sode is, of course, great, because Zuko's actually going out on a date. It's a very cute scene. However, if any of these were necessary to the plot, it would be Momo's. Filled with no real dialogue, the mini-sode follows Momo as he flies through the city looking for Appa. He's chased by some cat-creatures, and they all end up getting caught by the equivalent to the Pound. Momo escapes and frees the cat-creatures, who then take Momo to a spot in the middle of the road. The scene pans out, and you can see Momo is sitting in Appa's footprint.

The Movie: I doubt it would be handled the same. It would probably be a montage of events to get through the month of waiting. But overall it would take up too much time of the movie.

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Episode 16: Appa's Lost Days
Synopsis: Beginning with a flashback to "The Library" episode, this one begins when Appa is getting kidnapped by the Sandbenders. We then follow Appa's journey. All sorts of bad things happen to him, such as being forced to work for a Firebending circus and fighting wild animals. Becoming almost wild and distrusting, Appa is found by Suki and the other Kyoshi Warriors. However, Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee show up to fight them and Appa flees. He ends up at the Eastern Air Temple where he finds an old man, Guru Pathik, who gains Appa's trust and ties a note to his horn for Aang. He sends him to Ba Sing Se, where Appa is almost immediately captured by Long Feng and the Dai Li (right after leaving the footprint we saw with Momo in the previous episode).

Thoughts: It's a great episode, and we find out all the struggles Appa had to go through. You can really feel his fear and pain, even without him being able to talk. Of course, the best moments are with Suki and then with Guru Pathik, both of which are also the most important moments of the episode.

The Movie: At the very least, we would see the Suki and Guru Pathik stuff. But if this were used, it would be interspersed throughout the rest of the movie, not shown as a flashback. However, due to the lack of Suki's introduction in the first movie (again, assuming we'd be going off that), it would be interesting to see how this panned out, because the fight between the Kyoshi Warriors and Azula et al. is pretty important for something that happens soon.

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Episode 17: Lake Laogai
Synopsis: The gang continues looking for Appa, which causes disruption within the city that the Dai Li do not appreciate. So Long Feng sends a brainwashed Jet after them to try and get them to leave the city. But it doesn't take long to figure out what's happened to Jet. They figure out where the brainwashing happens, a place called Lake Laogai, and go there hoping to find Appa (since it's a secret Dai Li headquarters). Meanwhile, Zuko sneaks into Lake Laogai himself, disguised as the Blue Spirit. Iroh yells at his nephew and gives him a choice. Zuko chooses to free Appa. Long Feng then uses Jet to attack Aang, and Jet gets fatally wounded by the end of the fight. The fight is taken outside, and Appa arrives just in time to do his own damage to Long Feng. And finally, the gang is reunited with Appa. Then Zuko rids himself of the Blue Spirit persona.

Thoughts: Again, the brainwashing stuff isn't my favorite thing about this season, but it's necessary, I suppose. The fight with Jet is cool, and you actually do feel bad for him by the end of the episode. However, that's another unanswered question from the show. Does Jet live or not? There's heavy allusions that Jet dies, just as there are heavy allusions that Zuko's mother was murdered, but neither question is outright answered. Anyway, there is a great character moment here for Zuko, and the scene where Iroh yells at him in excellent. You can tell the man has finally gotten fed up with his nephew and sees better in him than the path he keeps choosing to follow. And in the end, Zuko chooses to do something good. I also love the moment where Long Feng tries to attack Appa. Appa just bites down on his foot and throws him into the lake. It's very gratifying.

The Movie: If we're going with the lack of Jet thing, this episode would be pretty impossible to do in this same fashion. Like I said before, they could easily find their way to Lake Laogai through Ju Dee (in fact, they even hear of the place for the first time from Ju Dee, not Jet). Though we can still have Zuko's (first) redemption scene, and the gang can just fight the Dai Li instead of Jet.

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Episode 18: The Earth King
Synopsis: Fed up with waiting, and now with proof that the Dai Li are conspiring against the king, the gang forces their way into the Earth King's palace. The king is revealed to be a young man, naive to the world having never been outside the palace. In fact, as far as he knows, there is no war with the Fire Nation and never has been. After repeatedly failing to prove the war or the Dai Li conspiracy to the king, they get an idea for definitive proof. They take him to the outer wall to see the drill (told you it'd come back!). The king has Long Feng arrested. Meanwhile, Zuko falls dangerously ill after returning from Lake Laogai. Iroh declares that Zuko performed an act that was so against his nature that his body is fighting with itself, changing. Back with the gang, they receive all sorts of letters that the Dai Li had been holding out. Sokka and Katara get a letter and directions to their father's base camp; Toph gets a letter from her mother saying that she's in town and wants to see her; and Aang gets the letter from Guru Pathik. Katara lets Sokka go to their father and decides to stay behind and work with the military to come up with a strategy for the Day of Black Sun (the eclipse). At the end of the episode, they hear that the Kyoshi Warriors have arrived. But unbeknownst to the gang (and knownst to us), the Kyoshi Warriors are really Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee, having defeated Suki and the other warriors and taken their guise.

Thoughts: A good episode where things finally start looking up. The Dai Li is under control now that Long Feng has been arrested, and they receive wonderful letters. And then it all comes crashing down when you realize Azula has defeated the Kyoshi Warriors and is now secretly invading the capital city. A lot happens in this episode, but it never feels cluttered.

The Movie: This is where things get tricky. Of course most of this episode would be in the movie, and it could be vastly shortened to maybe just 10 minutes at most. I'm not sure how well Zuko's part of this would translate to a wide audience, so that would probably be trimmed down considerably. But the tricky part is Azula et al. If we are never introduced to Suki and the Kyoshi Warriors, how is Azula going to get into Ba Sing Se, much less the palace and eventually gain control of the Dai Li like they do? It'll be tough. However, the storming of the palace would look amazing if done right.

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Episode 19: The Guru
Synopsis: This is part 1 of the season finale. Aang has gone to visit Guru Pathik to learn how to open his Chakras and gain control over the normally uncontrollable Avatar State (again, I told you this would come back!). He has an easy time with it up until he has to open his final Chakra, which would force him to let go of those he loves, primarily Katara. During this, Toph goes to meet her mother, but it was actually a trap set by Xin Fu and Master Yu to bring her back home. Despite being put in a metal box, Toph proves once again how awesome she is by learning to Metalbend. Elsewhere, Zuko is now better and has clearly become "good." He's warm and loving of his uncle and openly decides to work with him at his brand new tea shop. Katara stumbles upon the tea shop and sees Zuko and Iroh and goes to report them. But she ends up captured by Azula et al. (who also ends up capturing Zuko and Iroh). Aang sees this in a vision and stops his training to go save Katara, against the warnings of Guru Pathik that he might not even be able to even enter the Avatar State if he stops now. Along the way, Aang picks up Sokka, who had been bonding with his father and their forces.

Thoughts: To me, this episode is hit and miss. I love the idea of the Chakras and having to struggle within yourself to open them. However, besides the final one, Aang goes through them like they're nothing. There's almost no real challenge, and that disappointed me. I know it's just a 20+ minute episode and they didn't have the time to really focus on it, but I would have liked to see more struggle to open the Chakras. Everything else was pretty good, especially Toph learning to Metalbend, which is awesome. Though Zuko's sudden bizarro transformation is a bit strange. I know there's some kind of spiritual thing that goes along with it, but it just feels too sudden, almost like a cop-out to get Zuko "perfectly good" quickly.

The Movie: I'm actually not sure how the Guru Pathik stuff would be handled in the movie. Similar to the show, there wouldn't be a whole lot of time they could spend with the Chakras--maybe even less time than on the show. And I'm not sure how many people would buy Zuko's sudden amazing transformation. Though it is a good ending to the Xin Fu/Master Yu subplot.

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Episode 20: The Crossroads of Destiny
Synopsis: Part 2 of the season finale, this is definitely where the action's at. Azula is purposefully captured by the Dai Li and taken to Long Feng, where she makes him think he's in control. They make a deal that he will get control over the Dai Li if he will turn over the Avatar to her. However, eventually, Azula double crosses him and takes control of the Dai Li herself. Now even more powerful, she performs a coup on the top five generals. Katara and Zuko are imprisoned together, and it takes a while for Katara to warm up to him. But they eventually start getting closer, and Katara believes he's almost on their side. Meanwhile, Iroh shows up to Aang, Toph, and Sokka, asking for their help. They end up liberating Katara and Zuko, but then Azula shows up. She offers Zuko his honor back with full reconciliation from home, and Zuko becomes conflicted. However, he ends up backstabbing his uncle and taking Azula's deal and fights at her side against Aang. Aang attempts the Avatar State, but Azula gets in deadly shot, killing Aang (you read that right). The gang escapes with Aang's body, and Katara uses a special water from the Northern Water Tribe (which she gets in the first episode of this season) on Aang's wound, which brings him back to life--though in a coma. With the Avatar in a coma, Ba Sing Se under Fire Nation control, Iroh arrested, and Zuko standing at Azula's side to return home with his honor, the season ends.

Thoughts: This is quite a season finale... a very dark one, at that. It never goes where you expect. With Zuko having turned good, you never see him choosing Azula coming. With Aang going into the Avatar State--his nearly unbeatable form--you never stop to think that with one shot, Azula can take him down. There is a lot of action in this episode, and all of it is great. And it has such a downer ending to top it all off. The best part is that Aang and Zuko have completely changed roles now (though that becomes more obvious in the first episode of season 3). Aang has become the scarred outcast who needs to regain his honor, and Zuko has returned to the world as a long-lost "hero."

The Movie: Of course this would be in the movie. The hardest part would be Azula gaining control of the Dai Li assuming the Suki/Kyoshi Warriors thing was cut (seeing they were never properly introduced in the first season). I'm also unsure if they would end the movie on such a downer. It would be marketed as a kids movie, after all. And this day and age, if a kids movie ends on such a low note, it probably wouldn't be received very well by the masses. Then again, it might just be more cause for people to see the third one. After all, Empire Strikes Back ends on a downer, and it's considered the best of the bunch. So who knows?


Conclusion

Overall, this is a great season. It has a couple issues here and there, but for the most part it's pretty solid. Not to mention it introduces Toph, who is one of the most badass characters on the show. It's a darker season than the first, and it ends on a downer, but it's also the second of three acts, so isn't it supposed to?

Besides Toph, the best parts of this season deal with Zuko and his slow but steady character growth. There are a lot of great moments with him, despite being bothered by the complete personality change near the end (though it's quickly remedied after he chooses Azula).

As for a movie, if it were ever to be made, it would be difficult to pull off... mostly because of Suki and Jet's exclusion from the first movie. However, Jet's exclusion is much easier to handle, unlike Suki's. In fact, Jet's exclusion helps a little bit in figuring out what to cut. There are a lot of "partials" this season, mostly because there really aren't that many purely filler episodes.

Anyway, this was a great season that introduces us to more character depth and an even nastier villain in Azula. There's amazing action sequences--some of the best of the entire series. There's some good comedy, as well. And, of course, a lot of heart--particularly in dealing with Appa. Who didn't feel a rush of happiness when Appa bursts onto the screen to save Aang in the Lake Laogai episode? It's just amazing what this show has done. So if you watched season 1 and weren't hooked (how is that possible?), keep watching with season 2. It just keeps getting better and better.

31 comments:

  1. My nephew loves this show, one of my best friends loves this show. Really, I don't get it. She wants to name her children after the characters, I tell her she's crazy. She tells me I'm a tight-ass. Safe to say, we've hit a stand still.

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  2. I just finished the series. Thank you so much for slapping me in the face and telling me to watch it. It was amazing.

    This season was very good, and I agree with you on what should and should no be cut. I'll be interested to see how they handle the whole Suki thing, since they kinda shot themselves in the foot with that one.

    On another, more personal, note: Appa's Lost Days was on the most difficult things I've watched in forever. That episode was so friggin' sad!

    Can't wait for you write up on Book 3.

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  3. Andrew: If you haven't seen it... try watching it.

    Sebastian: You're welcome! Are you gonna review the show on your blog?

    Yeah, Appa's Lost Days is a sad episode.

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  4. I might review it. I just finished Sozin's Comet last night, so it's fresh in my mind. I'll see.

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