Avatar: The Last Airbender
Book One: Water
1.02 Chapter Two: “The Avatar Returns”
Written by: Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, and Eddy Fan
Tocsin: There be a few spoilers hung below.
Thoughts on the Show in General:
Avatar’s fight scenes are usually well thought out. They look a lot better than most Hollywood choreography and the fighting styles usually make sense in the context of Avatar’s world with little superficial movement (the only exception is sword fights, but at this point in my life I’ve given up on hoping for realistic sword fights in any media, much less a cartoon). That a cartoon show can beat out a big blockbuster Hollywood blockbuster in terms of choreography when it likely doesn’t even have a quarter of the same budget is a sad indictment of the movie industry.
Thoughts on the Episode:
The reveal of the Fire Nation ship as it arrives at the village very well done. Coming out of the fog it is deliberately contrasted to Sokka’s size and it does a good job of showing how massive a war machine like this must seem to people who only have canoes and live in igloos and tents.
The super powerful Avatar State is introduced in this episode. If this were a crappier cartoon, this device would return episode after episode in overpowered fight after overpowered fight (Naruto!), but it rarely appears at all in the series and when it does there is usually a reason for it from the show’s context rather than a belated form of deus ex machine.
This is the first episode that the chimera type animals are mentioned (Hog-monkeys).
Aang’s glider is a pretty neat vehicle. Usually a staff that can aid in airbending it has wings and a tailfin inside that spring out when the staff is moved in a certain way.
Sokka’s weapons: A boomerang, a knife, a type of club that could double as an axe (a blunt end and a sharp end), all are used pretty effectively throughout the show. This episode doesn’t showcase Sokka’s prowess with the weapons but at this point he is a bit more useful than Katara in a fight; she can barely waterbend and the one time she uses it on Fire Nation soldiers she disables them more by accident than skill.
Airbending is based on Bagua a Chinese martial art. It incorporates ideas of circular defense and most of Aang’s movements are in a circular pattern.
The show starts with a shorter version of the prologue from the first episode (all subsequent shows start with this).
Katara and Aang head back to the village after triggering the signal flare to find predictably hostile villagers. Sokka is convinced Aang set the flare on purpose, but the other villagers don’t believe that. However, they do blame Aang for going on the scuttled ship and Sokka declares Aang banished from the village. Katara tries to argue this, but Sokka is backed by their grandmother. Katara declares that if Aang is banished she is too. Aang being unsettled by Katara’s decision convinces her to stay while he goes alone. Katara remains furious with the tribe because she sees Aang’s departure as the last chance she had of becoming a waterbender.
As Aang sits with Appa on a floating iceberg trying to figure out what to do next, he spots a Fire Nation vessel heading toward the village.
On the ship, Prince Zuko dons his armor while back in the village Sokka attempts to set up defenses but as he only has children to work with it doesn’t go very well.
Standing guard on the wall looking for Fire Nation ships, Sokka is nearly crushed when Zuko’s ship does show up. It is larger than the entire village and breaks the ice up to Sokka’s defensive wall.
Zuko demands that the villagers turn over the Avatar, but since Zuko describes the Avatar as being really old (about Katara and Sokka’s grandmother’s age) nobody knows what he is talking about. Sokka tries to fight Zuko, but is outmatched and not able to land a blow until he throws his boomerang (Zuko is not expecting the return motion). Fortunately for Sokka, Aang returns at that moment to confront Zuko.
Zuko says he’s surprised the Aang is the Avatar and that’s he’s prepared for this meeting a long time and is disappointed Aang is just a child. Sokka and Katara are stunned to hear Aang is the Avatar.
Realizing that Zuko will destroy the entire village if he doesn’t come quietly, Aang secures a promise from Zuko to leave the village alone if he, the Avatar, surrenders. Zuko accepts. Katara protests, but Aang tells her not to worry and to take care of Appa for him. The Fire Soldiers take Aang aboard the ship.
Katara and Sokka decide that they must rescue Aang. Their grandmother agrees saying that since Aang is the Avatar he is the last hope of the world to overcome the threat of the Fire Nation. Katara asks how they are supposed to catch a warship in a canoe and decides Appa would be a better choice of transportation.
On the ship Zuko states that Aang’s glider/staff will make an excellent present for his father. Aang escapes the guards leading him to his cell even with his hands behind his back.
Meanwhile, Katara and Sokka are having problems getting Appa to fly. “Go. Fly. Soar,” Sokka says clearly disenchanted with the beast and very much in the tone of boredom and disgust. He lists synonyms for “fly”, “up”, and “move” until finally saying “Yip yip” and Appa lifts up in the air to both Katara and Sokka’s surprise.
Aang searches for his glider on the ship, avoiding guards and causing havoc. He manages to cut the rope binding his hands on a guard’s helmet and checks room after room. Finally he comes to Zuko’s room where the staff is waiting. So is Zuko. But Zuko is as outclassed by Aang as Sokka is to Zuko so there isn’t much of a fight. Aang disables Zuko and rushes out to the top deck.
Aang tries to fly away on his glider but his foot is grabbed by Zuko who has already recovered. They crash onto the deck.
Katara, Sokka, and Appa arrive. Zuko is temporarily amazed by the sight of the giant six-legged flying bison but recovers quickly. Zuko proves to be far more dangerous in open areas than confined spaces and manages to knock Aang into the water.
As Aang sinks into the water, his eyes and tattoos start to glow and he rises in a large column of water. Zuko and the rest of the Fire Nation soldiers watch in dismay as Aang waterbends them all off the ship. Aang collapses and Katara and Sokka rescue him. Sokka goes to retrieve the glider on the other side of the ship but is confronted by Zuko who is hanging onto the edge. In this position all it takes is a few pokes with the glider to knock Zuko off.
As our heroes are flying away on Appa, the ship tries to shoot them down but to no avail. The fireball Zuko sends after them is blown astray by Aang and collapses an iceberg onto the front most part of the ship.
Iroh comments that Zuko’s father will be pleased to hear the Avatar is just a kid. Zuko states that the “kid” just destroyed his ship and that he wouldn’t underestimate the Avatar again.
On Appa, Katara asks Aang why he didn’t tell them he was the Avatar. Aang says it was because he never wanted to be the Avatar. Aang expresses doubts about his ability to end the hundred year war. Katara says that according to legend the Avatar must master all the elements; Water, Earth, and Fire; so they should go to the North Pole to find a waterbending master. Aang agrees, and the heroes go off into the sunset, as it were.
Sokka: I’m just a guy with a boomerang. I didn’t ask for all this flying and magic.
Cite sources or be punished justly!: http://www.tv.com/avatar-the-last-airbender/show/28841/summary.html http://www.avatarchapter.com/episodes.html http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0417299/