Book 1, Episode 2: “The Avatar Returns”

Hi there everyone. My name is Danielle. Welcome back to Secret Tunnel, an Avatar blog that looks at every single episode and reflects on the content inside. Let’s get into it.

  • This is the first time we see the official introduction to the show. The dialogue has changed a bit to note the passage of time. Where the first episode had Katara talking about the war and the hope of the Avatar, she now speaks to the notion that the Avatar is a thing in her life and that she knows him. I also should note that I really love the intro. It combines the perfect amount of storytelling elements with epicness. Just perfect.
  • Avatar is definitely a show that takes us on the Hero’s Journey. These first two episodes have given us the first two steps of the Hero’s Journey: Ordinary World and Call to Adventure. Aang shows he is ordinary by his childlike attitude and his admittance that he never wanted to be the Avatar, he just wanted to be normal. Although he does not outright make comments about being normal, it is implied. We then see Call to Adventure when Gran-Gran sends her grandchildren on their way with supplies to help the Avatar and bring peace back to the world. She tells them that their destinies have been intertwined with the Avatar and that they found Aang for a reason.
  • It is clear that Aang is the last hope to end the war with the Fire Nation and bring balance back to the world. Gran-Gran notes that it has been so long since she has had hope. She then says that Aang is their last hope.
  • I really love the interaction between Sokka and Katara and their grandmother. She calls Katara her “little Waterbender” and Sokka her “brave warrior.” It is a really touching family moment.
  • One thing I love about this show is how consistent the characters are. Each one slowly develops over time and their story is never rushed but kept at a steady pace.
  • The Sokka humor is limited in this episode with jokes about potty breaks and his plans always collapsing from something silly. What I enjoyed, though, was a more of a view into Sokka the warrior. We see him suit up for battle and put on war paint. We see him standing up to Aang when he believes he is the enemy who led the Fire Nation to their village, claiming he must keep his promise to his dad and protect them from threats. Sokka’s boomerang makes its first appearanceĀ in this episode too which was awesome, especially seeing it lay the smack down on Zuko. One other thing I thought was cool is how we see Sokka getting dressed by himself for battle juxtaposed with Zuko being dressed for battle.
  • Katara has a pretty solid episode. This episode, more than the previous, gives us a glimpse into Katara’s convictions. She is willing to choose a stranger over her family, much to Sokka’s dismay, because it is the right thing to do. She also Waterbend’s a bit but it doesn’t go as she planned. I won’t say she didn’t have any luck because she did freeze two Fire Nation soldiers but it wasn’t as controlled as one would hope.
  • One thing we need to get out of the way at this point is the age of the characters. They are young. The kids more often than not outsmart the adults and we are meant to accept this. While they are young, a great example of a similar age issue comes in the A Song of Ice and Fire book series by George R.R. Martin. Most of the child characters in a Game of Thrones television show have been aged up compared to their book counterparts. In the books, Rob Stark is 15 vs. being 17 in the show. Bran is 7 in the books but 10 in the TV show. Despite the younger ages in the books, they are no less worthy. In fact, I would always argue in favor of the books. While I doubt the creators of this show (who I eventually will talk about, fear not) put that much thought into the character’s ages, it is still something to think about. At the end of the episode, Uncle notes after Zuko is defeated in a battle with Aang, “Good news for the Fire Lord. The Fire Nation’s greatest threat is just a little kid.”
  • On another age note, it is clear that Aang’s youth completely throws Zuko for a loop. He has dedicated his life to training and meditating, all to find the Avatar is just a little kid (to which Aang responds that Zuko is just a teenager. Extremely fair point). Zuko expected Aang to be old and brittle and that is just not the case.
  • Throughout the show, Aang will become notorious for coming up with quick plans and executing them well. Here we see him go with Zuko willingly, a selfless act but also one of confidence. Aang is very skilled in his Airbending abilities and trusts himself to escape any situation. This makes total sense since Aang is a defensive fighter, he can use the actions of those around him to his advantage.
  • This episode gives us a real clear difference between fire and air. When Aang and Zuko fight, Zuko is much more aggressive while Aang is defensive/passive and uses Zuko’s attacks against him. I also loved the animation when Aang arrives to fight Zuko after he arrives at the village and snow lands on Zuko’s shoulders but melts straight away. It was a really cool shot.
  • As I said in the previous blog, I love Zuko. I love everything about him, from his character design to his backstory to his character arc. There is one shot in this episode that I absolutely adore. It is when the camera pulls a close up on Zuko’s face, panning over his eyes. One eye is clean, the other is tainted and as we know it is burned. One side is whole, the other one broken. This suggests two sides to Zuko and the war going on inside himself. In film, a shadowed area often hints at something the audience does not yet know. It reveals that the character has more to them and that they are hiding something. Not only is the shaded side of Zuko’s face literally hidden from us as we still don’t know it is a burn, but the backstory of how he came to look this way is also hidden. It is a really powerful moment.
  • Aang is the Avatar. This episode officially reveals it (though how could you not know? Honestly!). We see him enter the Avatar state, doing some intense Waterbending during his third battle with Zuko. At the end of the episode, Aang admits that he never wanted to be the Avatar. Katara then explains to him that the world has been waiting for his return. She then tells of the legend that the Avatar must first master water, earth, then fire. The episode is left on a high note when Aang and Katara decide to learn water bending together when they find a master.
  • Overall, not a bad episode. It flows very well with the previous episode and gives us more insight into the topics introduced while also keeping our interest high. It isn’t a favorite of mine but I still really enjoyed it.

That is it for my thoughts on Book 1, Episode 2 of the Last Airbender. If you like what you read and want more, be sure to click the follow button on the right for email updates when new content is posted. I also invite you, dear reader, to let me know what you loved about this second episode! Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading and here we exit The Secret Tunnel for this week of September 12th 2016.

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