TV Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender - Book One: Water.

There are plenty of other TV shows I owe you reviews for, but since the movie for this one is coming out soon, I wanted to get it out sooner than later.

I became a pretty big fan of this show when it first came out. It dabbles in some great religious ideologies. There's a great cultural mix at play. The story is epic, the characters are fun, and it isn't your average cartoon. Yes, it's technically anime (despite being American-made, which is almost an oxymoron). But while it does have its moments that cater to the younger audience, it has just as many that appeal to an older one (especially as the show goes on, like its third and final season).

For those of you who do not know, the show takes place in an alternate world where there are 4 major Nations: The Water Tribes, the Air Temples, the Earth Kingdom, and the Fire Nation. Throughout these Nations, there are people known as "Benders," who can control one of the respective elements. Peace is generally kept by what is called the Avatar, a spiritual leader that can control all 4 elements. When the Avatar dies, it is reincarnated into the next Nation in the cycle (meaning the Avatar has its original element but learns the others in extensive training). 100 years before the show begins, a 12-year-old Airbender monk named Aang is told he's the newest Avatar.

Over the hundred years before the show begins, Aang disappears and the Fire Nation basically takes over the world in a devastating war (that is still going on throughout the show). There are many battles over the years. All the Air Nomads are killed, leaving the missing Aang as, well, the last Airbender. The son of the Fire Lord, Prince Zuko, is disgraced, scarred, and banished from his home. His father sends him on a wild goose chase to find the Avatar to bring back home if he wants to regain his honor. So along with his equally disgraced Uncle Iroh (who is kind of a Mister Miyagi-type), who had once been a great general, Zuko travels the world trying to find the disappeared Avatar.

When the show begins, we meets two Water Tribe siblings, Katara and Sokka. Katara is a Waterbender and will serve as the sole strong female lead of the show (at least until season 2), while Sokka is a wannabe warrior who actually is a good strategist, though is often used as comedic relief and slapstick. They accidentally uncover Aang frozen in an iceberg, along with his giant flying bison, Appa.

This begins the epic story of Avatar: The Last Airbender. From this point on, I'm going to discuss each episode one at a time. I will give a brief synopsis of the episode, what my thoughts on the episode are, and if I believe they will use or cut the episode from the movie (and why). So let us begin.

Book One: Water (Season 1)

Episode 1: The Boy in the Iceberg
Synopsis: Katara and Sokka discover Aang and his flying bison Appa in an iceberg and try to figure out who he is. But they soon discover the Fire Nation is heading right for their little village.

Thoughts: Great way to start the show. It's basically just an introduction to all the major characters. Aang is lighthearted and a bit on the immature side; Sokka is well-meaning, but comedic relief; and Katara is strong, emotion-driven, and potential love interest to Aang.

The Movie: Of course this will be in the movie. We've only seen a couple clips from the Southern Water Tribe stuff (like the actual boy in the iceberg big), though they did seem to change how they discovered him. In the show, Katara gets pissed at Sokka and shows the real strength of her bending powers, which destroys an iceberg and reveals Aang frozen inside. The movie shows it to kinda come up out of the ground for some reason or another.


Episode 2: The Avatar Returns
Synopsis: Basically a Part 2 to the first episode, where everybody fends off Prince Zuko and the Fire Nation attack on the village. But Katara and Sokka discover that Aang is the missing Avatar in the process.

Thoughts: Again, a good way to start off the show. It's not technically a Part 2, but it feels like one.

The Movie: Again, of course. This is where you begin to see Zuko's drive for the Avatar, discover who Aang is, and begin the journey around the world to help Aang become who he needs to be in order to stop the Fire Lord from taking over completely. And thus, they head off to the Northern Water Tribe so that Aang (and Katara) can find a waterbending master to learn the art more professionally.


Episode 3: The Southern Air Temple
Synopsis: Interested in reliving his past and going to his old home, the gang travels to the southern air temple. Unfortunately, they discover it in not-so-good shape. Meanwhile, Zuko and Iroh stumble across Commander Zhao, a high ranked officer of the Fire Nation Navy, who discovers that Zuko knows more about the Avatar's whereabouts than he's letting on. Zuko and Zhao end up in a major fight, which ends up showing some honor in Zuko, but the horrible temper of Zhao.

Thoughts: This is where we initially discover that Aang truly is the last Airbender and that all the other air nomads have been killed off. It's a great emotional episode for Aang, and it's also the first time we see a glimpse of the Avatar State--a powerful state of being where all previous incarnations of the Avatar possess Aang and give him incredible, though uncontrollable, power. Zuko's fight is a good one and is one of the first bits that shows us there is more to the guy than the show is letting on at first.

The Movie: There's no way this can't be in the movie, and I'm pretty sure it is based on the trailers. There are two air temples they travel to in the show, but the second is more of a filler episode. However, in the trailers, they show the temple being attacked, which only happens at the second air temple. So perhaps they merged the two occurrences together. This episode introduces quite a few things--the Avatar State, Zhao (who is the secondary villain of the season), the fact that Aang really is the last Airbender, more into Zuko's past, and--most importantly--Momo! Momo is a flying lemur native of the air temples. They take him in as a kind of pet/new friend, and he becomes one of the team after that. And M. Night has said Momo is in the movie, and I also recently saw a picture, so... yeah.


Episode 4: The Warriors of Kyoshi
Synopsis: The gang ends up on an island with warrior women who honor a past Avatar, a warrior woman named Kyoshi. Sokka, misogynistic at first, eventually trains under Suki, the leader of the warrior women. There's also a slight romantic edge between them. But Zuko also catches up to them here and nearly destroys the village while trying to capture Aang (who inevitably gets away).

Thoughts: A memorable episode. This episode would generally be considered filler if it wasn't for the fact that Suki plays a pretty important role later in the series. Not to mention she's Sokka's first love interest, though it isn't played up too much in this episode as it is in later seasons. Sokka's real first major love interest comes in at the end of this season.

The Movie: I'm both happy and surprised that Suki is in the movie. I don't believe she's shown in the trailers, but she is listed as part of the cast. I'm happy that they introduce her, as she is important for multiple reasons later on. But I'm also surprised, because there is a lot of story to get through for this movie to include what is mostly a filler episode. (I did, however, find this poster of her. Click to enlarge.)


Episode 5: The King of Omashu
Synopsis: The gang travels to an Earth Kingdom town called Omashu, where Aang reminisces about an old friend named Bumi. They end up in the clutches of a crazy king who forces Aang to do three challenges if he wants to save his friends.

Thoughts: Another memorable episode. This is a good episode, as it introduces us to (SPOILER) Bumi, who is the 'crazy king'. He becomes an important figure later on in the series. The three challenges Aang has to face are fun, though sometimes silly (Flopsy, anyone?). This episode also introduces us to a running joke in the show about the Cabbage Man.

The Movie: Cut. M. Night declared that most of the Earth Kingdom stuff in this season was cut and left for the second season, which is understandable. However, there is at least one Earthbender shown in the trailers, and I'm wondering who that is or if it's even a relevant character. He also declared that the Cabbage Man was a bit too cartoonish to leave in the films, which is also understandable.


Episode 6: Imprisoned
Synopsis: Still in the Earth Kingdom, the gang stumbles upon a village that has been taken over by the Fire Nation. Katara accidentally gets a young Earthbender named Haru arrested by the Fire Nation, who had declared the act illegal in that village. So she devises a plan to get herself arrested and taken to the same prison ship to rescue Haru and all the other Earthbenders.

Thoughts: A very fun episode, and a great one to build Katara's character--not necessarily as a Waterbender, but as a smart young woman and a leader.

The Movie: Cut. Again, the Earth Kingdom stuff has been cut from the movie.


Episode 7: The Spirit World (Winter Solstice, Part 1)
Synopsis: An Earth Kingdom village has been taken over by an angry spirit monster, and they enlist the help of Aang to try and figure out how to stop it. Unfortunately, Aang's attempts get Sokka taken and Aang trapped in the Spirit World, where he learns that the previous Avatar, Avatar Roku, has a message for him. However, he needs to get into the Fire Nation and to a Fire Temple before the end of the Winter Solstice in order to speak with him, which occurs very soon. Meanwhile, Uncle Iroh gets kidnapped by the Earth Kingdom to be taken back to the capital of Ba Sing Se for trial--he had laid seige to the capital for 600 days (though inevitably failed) as a young general. Now Zuko must decide between chasing after the Avatar or going to rescue his uncle.

Thoughts: At first, this feels like a filler episode, but pretty much everything that happens in it is important for one reason or another (including helping the spirit monster, which comes back into a play a little later in the season). The most important part of this episode is Aang learning he needs to get to the Fire Nation and speak with Roku before the end of the Winter Solstice, which will set up the rest of the series. Zuko and Iroh's part of the story doesn't further the story, but it does set up some great character development for Zuko as he chooses to rescue Iroh instead of continuing after the Avatar.

The Movie: I'm not sure to what degree this will be in the movie, but it will be in there somewhere. I doubt they'll include the Zuko/Iroh portion (but then again, maybe that's what the random Earthbender in the trailer is). But the Roku bit is incredibly important. However, the cartoon kind of draws it out in juxtaposition with the spirit monster subplot, and I can see them condensing this to take much less time.


Episode 8: Avatar Roku (Winter Solstice, Part 2)
Synopsis: Zuko and Iroh chase after the gang toward the Fire Nation, where Zhao has a blockade set up. But after getting through the barrier, they head for the temple, where Aang gets help from a guardian to get into the sacred chamber and talk to Roku. Roku tells Aang of Sozin's Comet, a comet that comes by the planet every 100 year and gives nearly unbeatable power to Firebenders. The comet will be coming at the end of the summer (just a few months away), and Aang will have to learn all the bending disciplines and defeat the Fire Lord before this time, or else the Fire Lord will use this event to make his final strike against the other Nations.

Thoughts: This is a very important episode, as it essentially sets up the sense of urgency for Aang learning the bending techniques. The rest of the episode is essentially one long chase scene, which is awfully cool. Between being chased in the water by Zuko, being attacked through the air on Appa by the blockade, and then being chased around the temple, it's a really suspenseful and action-packed episode.

The Movie: Some form of this needs to be in the movie, as the Sozin's Comet thing is highly important to the overall plot. However, I've heard that M. Night extended it to about 3 years instead of about 3 months, which was smart for multiple reasons. One, it'll let the audience buy Aang's learning of the disciplines (and all the drama that occurs) in that amount of time. Two, it'll allow for the kids to hit growth spurts if necessary. This is mostly necessary for the kid playing Aang. But anyway, the Roku/comet stuff is going to be in the movie. The other stuff? Not sure.


Episode 9: The Waterbending Scroll
Synopsis: In need of food and supplies, the gang goes to a market, where they discover a waterbending scroll in a pirate ship. The scroll could give Aang and Katara some good techniques to learn, and Katara ends up stealing it as the pirates want too much for it. However, Katara starts getting annoyed with and jealous of Aang, who learns the moves very easily, while Katara struggles. The episode ends as Zuko and the pirates all catch up with the gang and end up in a major fight where, of course, everybody gets away fine.

Thoughts: A pseudo-filler episode where much doesn't come out of it except for Katara's learning of the water whip move and getting jealous of Aang's abilities. A decent episode that's good to see the relationship between Aang and Katara.

The Movie: I seriously doubt this will be in the movie. There's no purpose to it. The point of the episode is that Aang learns some waterbending techniques, which can be done in other ways besides how it was done here. It can also be easily just done when they reach the Northern Water Tribe and give all the important waterbending moments to Katara alone.


Episode 10: Jet
Synopsis: The gang comes across a band of guerrilla fighters out for revenge against the Fire Nation, all led by a smooth talker named Jet. And despite what Sokka tries to tell them, everybody thinks Jet is awesome. But he's really not what he seems to be.

Thoughts: This is a love-it-or-hate-it episode for most fans. I'm on the more negative side, as Jet just gets annoying... but probably not for the reasons you'd expect. His voice actor is just so... dull. Even when Jet is angry or upset, there's almost no emotion there. Jet does come back in a bit later in the series, as well. The episode is mainly a character development episode for Sokka, overall.

The Movie: Jet has been cut from the movie, according to M. Night. Not really missing anything here, and they really won't need to include him in the later movies, either.


Episode 11: The Great Divide
Synopsis: The gang ends up having to travel across the world's largest canyon, the Great Divide. There are two warring Earth Kingdom tribes that refuse to travel together. But to save time, Aang talks them into traveling through the canyon together, as there is only one guide and it takes an Earthbender to make it through the place. But after the guide gets injured, they have to try to figure a way to stay alive and get out, as there are no other Earthbenders in the group.

Thoughts: This is almost purely a filler episode, as I don't believe anything of importance comes back later from this episode. It's overall a pretty silly episode at times (specifically the guide), but the only real positive thing to come from the episode is a bit of development for Aang as a leader figure.

The Movie: I'm pretty sure this will be cut from the movie. First of all, it's Earth Kingdom stuff, which has been mostly cut from the movie. Second, it's filler and unimportant, so there wouldn't be any reason to waste movie time with this part of the story.


Episode 12: The Storm
Synopsis: Needing money, Sokka takes a job with a fisherman, though he recognizes Aang as the Avatar and is spiteful for him "turning his back on the world" so long ago, driving the world into what it is now. A major storm appears, and we're given background info on Aang's past and how he ended up in the iceberg, as well as Zuko's background and how he ended up banished.

Thoughts: This is a brilliant episode. It fills in the missing information that we began the show with, letting us know Aang isn't as noble as we might have been led to believe, and Zuko isn't as evil or heartless.

The Movie: This episode has to be in the movie in some form or another, as it gives us excellent background on two of its main characters. It also leads nicely into the next episode, which I know to be in the movie.


Episode 13: The Blue Spirit
Synopsis: After the storm, Katara and Sokka get really sick, and it's up to Aang to find some medicine. But while he's out looking, he gets captured by Commander Zhao. However, while in captivity, Aang is rescued by a silent, blue-masked figure and they have to work together and fight their way out of the prison. The big shocker here, of course, is that this figure--named The Blue Spirit--is actually Zuko.

Thoughts: I love this episode. It's a great development piece for Zuko, and the prison escape sequence is just fun.

The Movie: I'm so glad they left this in the movie. You can see a really brief clip of Aang and The Blue Spirit fighting side-by-side in the trailers. I'm just not sure if they'll reveal him as Zuko in this episode like they do in the show, or if they'll stretch out the mystery and reveal it at the end.


Episode 14: The Fortuneteller
Synopsis: The gang ends up in a village that relies heavily on the fortunetelling of an old woman, even for the most minute details of their lives. But when she says that a nearby volcano will not destroy the village--and the Aang and Sokka discover it will--they have to try and convince the town that the fortuneteller is wrong.

Thoughts: Another filler episode that doesn't do much except slowly build the romantic relationship between Aang and Katara.

The Movie: I doubt this will be in the movie--again, because it is such filler. However, I wouldn't put it past the movie to include stronger relationship building between Aang and Katara elsewhere to compensate.


Episode 15: Bato of the Water Tribe
Synopsis: The gang come across a friend of Sokka and Katara's father, Bato, who was injured and left to recuperate. But Aang, feeling left out and ignored by everybody, hides a message he receives about Sokka and Katara's father for Bato. This inevitably leads to them distrusting Aang and almost leaving him to go with Bato to see their father. Meanwhile, Zuko hires a bounty hunter who rides a giant creature that hunts with smell and can temporarily paralyze with its tongue. This all leads to a major fight sequence.

Thoughts: Overall a good episode, but the highlight is the fight at the end. What I love most about the fight is that Appa gets involved and fights the other giant creature. It's a great moment for Appa.

The Movie: I know the bounty hunter character was kept in the movie--if not for the fact M. Night said so, then for the fact you can clearly see her on the creature in the trailer at one point (climbing up a wall and watching out over a battle, I believe. I couldn't find a still shot of it, but I promise you, it's there). I doubt the Bato thing is still in there, but considering I preferred the part of the episode that was the fight at the end, this doesn't bother me. I hope they have Appa fight the creature at some point, because that was a great part.


Episode 16: The Deserter
Synopsis: The gang get taken to an ex-Fire Nation soldier, who Aang begs to teach him firebending, not thinking he'd get another chance this good. The soldier, Jeong Jeong, decides to teach him basics, but is wary, especially after what happened with a hot-headed former student who was all about the power of the fire and not respecting the fire. Of course, this student is revealed to be Zhao, who ends up fighting Aang, who outsmarts him. However, before this, Aang gets taken in by the power of firebending and accidentally hurts Katara, scaring him off from firebending. Though Katara learns that she has another special ability of her own.

Thoughts: A semi-important episode. Aang gains a fear of firebending in this episode due to hurting Katara, which comes back in during season 3. Katara realizes she can heal with her waterbending, which comes in use throughout the rest of the show, as well. There's also a bit of development with Zhao, as we learn more about his character.

The Movie: I doubt this will be in the movie. It would take too much time to introduce a few aspects of these characters that could be done in other ways (the firebending accident could happen in season 3, Katara's healing ability could be learned at the Northern Tribe or just already be known, and Zhao could be characterized as a hot-head prior).


Episode 17: The Northern Air Temple
Synopsis: The gang realize that some people have begun living in the Northern Air Temple and have used the technology of the gliders to create gliders of their own (but without needing airbending to control). In fact, the guy who runs the place is an inventor and has invented many things. But after they discover something not-so-good about this man, the Fire Nation invades the temple, and they have to fend them off.

Thoughts: There's some good development with Sokka in this episode, but is mostly filler. The only other major importance in this episode is the creation of the War Balloon, which the Fire Nation will use later in the series.

The Movie: Like I said earlier, the movie will probably mix the battle from this episode with the Southern Air Temple sequence. Except, of course, it won't have all the extra people fighting along, nor will it probably have the War Balloon stuff (though that could easily be solved by just having the Fire Nation already have them).


Episode 18: The Waterbending Master
Synopsis: Finally reaching the Northern Water Tribe, the gang begins looking for a waterbending master. They find one by the name of Pakku, but he refuses to teach Katara due to sexist customs. Infuriated, Katara challenges Pakku to a fight. Though it's not long before Pakku and Katara realize there's a closer connection between them than they both realize. Meanwhile, Sokka becomes infatuated with Princess Yue, a beautiful young woman who likes him in return, but has a confliction. Also, Zhao hires the aforementioned pirates from the "Waterbending Scroll" episode to assassinate Zuko and get him out of the way. But Zuko isn't so easily defeated.

Thoughts: The best part of this episode is definitely the fight between Katara and Pakku. It's an amazing fight sequence. Also, Sokka meets his real first love interest (as the Suki one doesn't really go anywhere until later), Yue, which is sweet. However, the relationship between them moves very fast and isn't all that believable because of that.

The Movie: This will definitely be in the movie. Hell, most of the trailers have been with an icy backdrop, so it's like the majority of the movie takes place at the Southern and Northern Water Tribes. Also, you can see Yue at a couple different points in the trailers, so I know she's in it. But I sincerely hope they keep in the Katara and Pakku fight.


Episode 19: The Siege of the North, Part 1
Synopsis: The Fire Nation troops are getting closer to the tribe, and they're forced to start preparing themselves for battle. But Iroh persuades Zhao to hold off on the fight until morning, as Waterbenders are stronger at night due to the moon. Meanwhile, Zuko sneaks into the tribe his own way to try and get to the Avatar before Zhao can have his chance. Aang, on the other hand, decides to enter the Spirit World and find the Moon and Ocean spirits to get advice for defeating the Fire Nation. While he's there, Katara has to protect his body from any attackers, which ends up being Zuko. And Zuko wins the fight, taking Aang's body away.

Thoughts: A great way to begin the season finale. The fight between Zuko and Katara is a lot of fun. The Spirit World stuff is a bit strange (though cool, and sometimes creepy), but it takes its time getting to the point.

The Movie: Again, we know this will be in the movie. I'm not sure how much of the Spirit World stuff will be in there, but at the very least, there has to be a fight between Katara and Zuko. Not to mention everybody getting ready for the big battle.


Episode 20: The Siege of the North, Part 2
Synopsis: The Fire Nation infiltrates the tribe, and Zhao reveals he knows how to find and destroy the mortal incarnation of the Moon Spirit in order to take away the power of the moon from the Waterbenders. Iroh, however, does not like this, as he respects and reveres the spirits, not to mention (as he says) the moon creates balance, and even the Fire Nation would be lost without it. Aang ends up escaping from Zuko, and Katara gets her revenge on him. But Aang, being as good as he is, saves Zuko from freezing to death and brings him back to the tribe. There, everybody is in the midst of a major battle. Zuko has his final fight against Zhao. Aang eventually goes into the Avatar State and joins with the Moon Spirit to destroy the Fire Nation armada (except for Zuko and Iroh). Things wrap up for the season.

Thoughts: Great way to end the first season. The part where Zuko and Zhao fight, ending around the time Aang takes the Avatar State and becomes the giant water creature is epic. This is a good emotional ending with the battle and with something that happens (which I talk about in a minute). And after the battle, there's enough to wrap up the season, not to mention one great cliffhanger giving us a brief introduction to Zuko's sister, Azula.

The Movie: There's one major thing I didn't include in the synopsis, as it's a pretty big spoiler, but I know it's in the movie for two reasons. First, there's a clip of part of it happening in the trailer. Second, I've read in early reviews of a "ridiculous scene" in the movie where a bad guy punches a fish to death. At first, I wasn't sure what this came from, but after re-watching this episode, I know exactly what it is (granted, I'm not sure why M. Night went with punching instead of using fire like in the show, but whatever). Also, the trailer is almost entirely made up of stuff from this episode. It's almost ridiculous how much of the climax the trailer shows, making me wonder how much of the movie takes place at the Northern Water Tribe instead of elsewhere. I'm not sure if the giant water creature part is gonna be in the movie, but you never know. (No picture from the movie. Just watch the trailers. They're chock full.)


Overall, this was a great way to start the show. It's not the most straight-forward season, much like the second season is. There are a lot of little detours. The strangest part is that even the most filler-based episodes aren't always purely filler. There always seems to be at least one little thing that will come back later on in the story. There are childish moments, as it is an American cartoon, but it's also one of the most adult cartoons not aimed at an older demographic (such as Family Guy). There are some incredibly adult themes and dilemmas. There is also a story-arch, unlike most American cartoons. And the story always knew where it was going. It knew there were going to be 3 seasons and what each of the 3 seasons would entail. And I think that's one major reason it works so well.

As for the movie, I'm really not sure how it's gonna include all that it did. According to what I've seen in the trailer, what M. Night has declared, and what has to be in it for plot purposes, I have deduced the following episodes to be in the movie:

Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, partial 7, partial 8, 12, 13, partial 15, 18, 19, 20.

Excluding the "partials," which are episodes where either a story element or character is taken and not necessarily the story of the episode itself, this leaves us with 9 episodes. If you round down to 20 minutes an episode, that's 180 minutes... 3 hours... worth of story. And that's not including the partial episodes/story bits/characters.

I'm sure they can change things and cut things that aren't necessary from those episodes included... but damn if that's not a lot of story to include. I suppose if you cut about 5 minutes for the episode introduction (there's usually about 5 minutes of story at the beginning that isn't really relevant to the rest of the episode), as well as maybe 5 minutes for cartoon silliness (or maybe a way to merge or shorten things for the movie) and make them 10 minutes each... you have 90 minutes. Plus all the 'partial' stuff, you end up with about 100-120 minutes, which is exactly what the producers were shooting for. So I suppose that could work.

And the strangest thing is that, of all the early review complaints, having a rushed story wasn't one of them (the biggest was the acting, actually, followed by some choppiness... but that was explained by the producers and how the early screening was an incomplete version of the film, missing a pretty good chunk of footage still being worked on). So maybe what I just said about cutting things is what they did. Who knows?

Anyway, I definitely recommend the television show, if you haven't gotten into it already.

1 comment:

  1. such a nice show is this.I love this show.Actually i love to watch animated show.My favorite animated show is Bleach.I have seen all
    Bleach episodes


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