Book 1, Episode 4: “The Warriors of Kyoshi”

If you are wondering why this blog is late for the second week in a row, blame the platypus-bears. They stole my notes and I only just got them back. Can I say a platypus-bear ate my homework?

  • This episode introduces two new things to us. The first is Suki, who will remain an important character throughout the series. We also meet our friend, the guy who foams at the mouth whenever Aang does something amazing.
  • The biggest takeaway from this episode is the feminist theme put at the forefront of the plot. Not only does it exist in Sokka’s storyline but also in Aang and Katara’s a small bit. I love how the show effortlessly weaves this theme in through dialogue and organic character interaction. Sokka’s comments in the beginning of the episode about girls sewing and guys fighting isn’t far off from what is implied in our culture. I grew up believing this idea…or at least hearing this idea a lot. I shouldn’t say I believed it as from a young age I have been adamant about doing what I want despite my gender or age. When the Kyoshi warriors reveal it was they who took down Team Avatar, Sokka can’t believe he got his butt kicked by a girl! He then goes even further with his sexism by referring to the Kyoshi warrior practice as dancing lessons (and no, he isn’t using dancing as another way to say bending or fighting). By the end of the episode, we see Sokka taking steps toward ridding himself of these bigoted thoughts. At the end, when he apologizes to Suki for treating her as a girl instead of a warrior, she corrects him and says, “I am a warrior. But I’m a girl too.”
  • Sokka’s character growth is top notch in this episode. He starts out as very close-minded and sexist. While he will still show signs of his sexist attitude throughout the show, this episode greatly humbled Sokka and is sending him in the right direction. We see Sokka exclaim that he is the best warrior in his village and when asked to show off his skills, he is immediately taken down by Suki. This experience humbles Sokka and he asks for lessons from Suki. These are lessons he will take with him as Team Avatar journeys on.
  • Sokka and Suki blooming relationship is one that I actually adore. While this episode only hints at things and doesn’t give us much, it shows us the chemistry these two have with one another (chemistry Aang and Katara don’t have I will add). When Sokka is able to momentarily take down Suki, she tries to act like she let him do that on purpose but Sokka yells, “Admit it! I got you!” The dialogue is playful and believable. It makes sense that Sokka would like Suki for her patience with him and he respects her capabilities, and it makes sense that Suki would like Sokka for his fun and playful attitude. They really are a cute match.
  • One big question I have about this entire show is – how do people not realize that Aang is not only an Airbender but the Avatar? I mean, I know lots of people think the Avatar is gone and also believe all of the Airbenders to be gone but don’t the older folks recognize the tattoos and outfit Aang wears? The Kyoshi islanders are so hesitant to believe Aang is the Avatar until he shows off his Airbending skills. I know this is a plot device because not every single character can know who Aang is and this would create entirely new conflict on the show but it still kind of bothers me.
  • There is a lot of neat little details about bending and culture in this episode. For example, in the beginning, we see Zuko meditating and as he breathes, the fire breathes with him which I thought was really interesting. When Sokka is training with Suki, she explains the technique of a Kyoshi warrior isn’t about strength but using their opponent’s force against them. She tells him to loosen up and think of the fan as an extension of his arm. This really shows how the showrunners stayed rooted in martial arts traditions. When Sokka dresses in the Kyoshi warrior outfit, Suki explains that “the silk thread symbolizes the brave blood that flows through our veins, the gold insignia represents the honor of the warrior’s heart.” We also see a bit of the difference between Water and Earth Kingdom culture when the gang sits down to eat. Katara almost seems hesitant to eat the food presented to her.
  • According to the Avatar State podcast, the spelling of Kyoshi is a level of martial arts but the pronunciation the show uses means “pure.” Suki means “like.” This is cool because it is clear Sokka likes her.
  • We once again see how the war is touching the nation. In the beginning, the Kyoshi islanders believe Team Avatar could be spies for the Fire Nation. One character, Oyaji, even says that Kyoshi has stayed out of the war and intends to keep it that way. When Zuko arrives searching for Aang, the war is brought to them when houses are set aflame including the statue of Avatar Kyoshi which the villagers just repainted in honor of having the Avatar stay with them.
  • We see a bit more of Katara’s waterbending in this episode. She practices it a bit and then uses it to save Aang from the Unagi. This episode I believe is the first to introduce the concept of using waterbending to put water out of a person’s lungs.
  • The plot thread of Aang’s fame getting to his head is an overused one but greatly repurposed in this episode. It is actually really funny. Fangirls chase Aang all over the place. Katara and Aang go at each other in one scene that is hilarious banter between the two of them. My favorite scene of the entire episode is where Aang is being painted and every time the painter looks up, a new girl is standing with him!
  • The perception of Aang is really observed in this episode. In the beginning, Iroh tells Zuko that the Avatar has been seen but is impossible to track. This leads Zuko to believe that Aang is a master at evasive maneuvering when in actuality, Aang has no idea where he is going and guessing along the way. When the fangirls chase Aang, he acts like he is super talented and has it all together when really, this is not true.
  • The actual Aang really shines in this episode. When Aang realizes he was wrong to stay in Kyoshi for a long time, he uses the tools available to him to make things right. When he sees the destruction Zuko brought as a result of trying to capture Aang and thus bringing Kyoshi into the war they never wanted to be apart of, Aang jumps off of Appa and uses the dreaded Unagi to spray water all over the island and put all of the fires out. Then the trio flies away to lead Zuko away from Kyoshi. Good on ya, Aang!
  • To conclude, this was another great episode. I really enjoyed the character development and the themes presented. Plus, we got to meet Suki for the first time! It is an overall strong episode…which is crazy to think about as it is still really early on in the show!

That is it for my thoughts on Book 1, Episode 4 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 fourth episode! Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading and here we exit The Secret Tunnel for this week of September 26th 2016.

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Book 1, Episode 3: “The Southern Air Temple”

This blog comes to you a day late but only because I was starving yesterday and had to chase a flying lemur all over the place until it brought me a peach. Now we are BFF’s and we watched Avatar together so I could bring you this blog a day later. Here we go…

  • Upon my first watch, this episode changed the way I thought about the show. Avatar went from being some kids show to something much deeper and more complex than I ever imagined it could be.
  • We learn a lot of new information during this episode and meet a few new character.
    • We meet Momo, the flying lemur who accompanies Team Avatar throughout the rest of the show. We also meet Commander Zhao, the season’s main villain. Zhao is voiced by Jason Issacs, also known as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films. Finally, we meet Aang’s mentor Monk Gyatso through flashbacks and comments Aang makes.
    • We learn Uncle’s name is Iroh and that he is the Fire Lord’s brother. We also officially here that Zuko is the Fire Lord’s son though it was always implied he was so since he is a Prince and is from the Fire Nation.
  • A big theme of this show is war and all of the areas war touches. We see the war from various angles. Zhao talks of it with Zuko and Iroh, telling them that the Fire Nation will soon claim victory in the war once they take the Earth Kingdom capital. We see Zuko comment on the war, specifically referencing his father’s part in it and that his father is a fool if he believes the world will blindly follow the Fire Nation. Finally, we see the war from Team Avatar’s perspective, specifically Aang’s. The trio have all lost loved ones to the war. Sokka and Katara lost a mother and now their father is away fighting. Aang finds that his home has been destroyed by the Fire Nation, killing everything he held dear including the Monk who taught him everything he knows, Gyatso. It is a really dark theme for a kids show but is handled beautifully.
  • This episode switches back and forth between Aang’s storyline and Zuko’s. Both are being forced to grapple with their past and both are mourning over the loss of their father figures. Aang must deal with the loss of his people and his mentor. Zuko must confront his relationship with his father and his Nation by fighting Zhao and sparing his life. Both storylines are strong.
  • The concept of Team Avatar becoming a family is introduced in this episode. When Aang realizes that Gyatso was killed and his entire race destroyed, he becomes very upset and Katara talks him down by telling him that they can be a family now. All of them have lost someone dear to them in the war, but they still have each other. It is a bit cliche but I am a sucker when a story shows characters growing so close to one another and viewing each other as family.
  • As I mentioned, we meet Momo in this episode. There is an awesome podcast called “The Avatar State” and one of the hosts, I assume, took Japenese. When they discussed this episode, the one host mentioned that Momo means peach in Japanese which is very nicely juxtaposed with Momo giving Sokka a peach.
  • Throughout the episode, it is made clear that visiting an Air Temple is basically unheard of. Air Temples are in the sky, making them uniquely accessible to only Air Benders. While Sokka complains of hunger, Katara reminds him that he should be marveling at being one of the only outsiders to step into an Air Temple. We see a lot of cool flashbacks to what the Air Temple looked like 100 years ago. It was once very vibrant and full of life. Now it is full of death and destruction. Aang notes that he, Appa, and Momo are all that is left of the Southern Air Temple.
  • Aang once again enters the Avatar State, a term we won’t be familiar with for some time. It seems Aang enters this state when he feels a strong emotion or when he is at his weakest point and the Avatar must take over. When he enters this state, the statues of past Avatar’s begin to glow and we see a Fire Nation Temple where a guard tells another to send word to the Fire Lord that the Avatar has returned. When Aang enters the Avatar State, he begins to levitate and is surrounded by a tornado. The elements take over. We will see a lot of the Avatar State in future episodes.
  • I love seeing all of the past Avatars. Their statues are all lined up in Air Temple Sanctuary. When Aang first enters, he says he has no clue who these people are but feels as if he knows them. This makes sense since these are all his past lives. (Side note, I hope to talk about the religious undertones of this show in future blogs). As I watched this on Amazon Prime, a note popped up that I found very interesting. It said, “When in the sealed Air Temple room, Aang looks at the statues of the former Avatars, specifically at the statue of Roku. The statue next to Roku should be Kyoshi, a female Earthbender, but a male with a sword is shown as the previous Avatar to Roku.” I imagine this was a simple mistake made during the animation and don’t take it too seriously. My hope is that one day this show will be restored in 1080HD and this piece of animation will be fixed. Fingers crossed! Aang wonders how the past Avatars can speak to him if they can’t speak. This will come into play when Aang connects with his spiritual side.
  • Monk Gyatso is such an interesting character and gives us a great picture of what it looks like to be an Air Nomad. Aang comments that Gyatso has taught him everything he knows. We see an example of this through an important flashback. Aang is reflecting on his new identity as the Avatar and asks if the Monks made a mistake. Gyatso says the only mistake was telling Aang before he was 16, “but we can’t concern ourselves with what was. We must act on what is.” Gyatso then tells Aang that when he is old enough he will enter the Air Temple Sanctuary where all of his questions will be answered and he will meet a guide for his Avatar journey. When Aang shows frustration, Gyatso asks Aang to help with the cakes he is making and they blow them off onto the heads on meditating monks. Gyatso tells Aang his aim has improved as they laugh. This scene reveals to us that Gyatso was a very silly but very wise man. This is reflected in Aang and brings up the question, is Aang silly because he is a child or is he silly because Gyatso too was silly and reminded Aang not to take life to seriously? Or both?
  • Another theme present in this episode, specifically in Aang’s storyline, is change and accepting what has happened.
    • In the beginning, we see Katara trying to warn Aang that the Southern Air Temple may look different from when he last saw it. She warns that the Fire Nation destroyed the Air Temples and were ruthless. Aang, who still has not come to the full realization that 100 years have past and a lot has changed, is excited and does not accept Katara’s warnings.
    • The episode gives us a good look at what the Temple looked like 100 years ago. 100 years ago Aang played ball with his fellow Airbenders. He shows Sokka and Katara where the flying bison slept. Where there used to be monks, flying bison, and lemurs there is overgrows weeds and emptiness. In the flashback with Gyatso, we saw the Air Temple was full of life and now it is full of rotting and death.
    • Katara tries to hide the truth from Aang when she realizes his mental state is so fragile. In the end, Aang does find out as we have already discussed.
    • Aang must accept what has happened, no matter how hard. “I really am the last Airbender,” he says aloud.
  • This is the first episode that really affected me, mainly because of Zuko’s storyline. Zuko and Iroh went from being the typical villains, to much more complex and interesting characters. Suddenly, I was questioning if Zuko was even the bad guy in this show. The way things are set up, it seems that Zhao is the real bad guy, along with the Fire Lord.
  • Uncle Iroh proves himself to be the most badass character. During their confrontation with Zhao, Iroh remains perfectly calm and has to reprimand Zuko more than once. He puts on a calm face but inside is very calculated and aware. While Zuko fights in the Agni Kai, Iroh coaches him and tells him to break Zhao’s root and stick to the basics after Zuko is continuously attacking and getting nowhere but tired. When Zhao tries to attack Zuko from behind after losing the Agni Kai and being spared, Iroh immediately jumps into action and reveals not only his fast reflexes but his amazing strength. He tells Zuko, who is extremely angry, not to taint his victory because the great Commander Zhao is a sore loser. He then says, “So this is how the great Commander Zhao acts in defeat. Disgraceful. Even in exile, my nephew is more honorable than you. Thanks again for the tea, it was delicious.” I love that line so much. All of this begs the question, what else don’t we know about this man?
  • The Agni Kai is an amazing scene. Not only does it show off the tactics of Firebending but it also has a great character moment from Zuko and amazing music. The music is scored by Jeremy Zuckerman who would also go on to score Korra. Unfortunately, none of the music from Avatar is for sale (question – WHY??) The music will prove to be of the highest quality as the show continues. Agni Kai is a traditional Firebending dual that proves one’s honor. It is won when the opponent burns the other. The term combines two words. The first, Agni, comes from the Sanskrit term agniḥ which means both fire and the deity presiding over fire. Kai is the Japanese word for “meeting.”
  • Lots of hints are dropped about Zuko’s past in this episode.
    • When Zuko tells Zhao that his father is a fool if he thinks the world will blindly follow him, Zhao comments, “Two years at sea have done little to tamper your tongue.” This suggests that Zuko was banished for words he said, but what? Zhao later says that Zuko is a disgrace to the Fire Nation.
    • Zuko comments that he has been hunting for the Avatar for two years. Two years since he has been banished and all those years he has been hunting the Avatar.
    • Zhao takes it a step further and comments that Zuko is just a banished prince with no home, no allies, and his “own father doesn’t even want [him].” Zuko says he is wrong and that when he captures the Avatar his father will welcome him home with honor. What did Zuko do to tamper with his honor?
    • Zuko’s search for a father figure is made apparent in this episode. Zhao taunts him and says his father doesn’t want him; if he did want him, he would have welcomed him home already no matter if he had the Avatar or not.
    • When Zhao and Zuko agree to an Agni Kai, Iroh asks Zuko if he remembers what happened during his last Agni Kai? The camera focuses on Zuko’s burnt face and ear. Zuko says he will never forget. It is safe to assume now that Zuko’s face is burned based on the hints dropped throughout the series thus far. We learned that an Agni Kai is fought between Firebenders and is won when the other burns their opponent. This suggests that Zuko fought and Agni Kai, lost and was then banished. Why was the Agni Kai fought and against who?
  • What I adore about this show is how nothing is spelled out for you. Characters don’t give long monologs explaining certain concepts or rants about their personality to make it easier for the viewers. This show asks a lot from its audience, and that audience is meant to be kids. In other words, the show doesn’t talk down but talks with the audience. It challenges the viewer to figure things out on their own and not the way Dora challenges children. This is a much more complex form of asking the viewer to be an involved participant in this story. It doesn’t dumb itself down to reach a certain audience but chooses to tell a story and tell it well. It allows characters to learn things and then move forward with what they have learned.
  • This episode is one of my favorites. It reveals so much new information, moves the plot forward, and gives us amazing character moments. And yet it seems to raise more questions than answers. Questions like – How did the Fire Nation reach the Air Temples to destroy them? Why was Zuko banished? How much did Monk Gyatso know? What else is there to learn about the fascinating Iroh? And most importantly, how the heck did Momo survive everything that has happened? Was he somehow frozen too? All in all, a fantastic episode. I can’t wait to watch more!

That is it for my thoughts on Book 1, Episode 3 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 third episode! Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading and here we exit The Secret Tunnel for this week of September 19th 2016.

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 appearance 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.

Book 1, Episode 1: “The Boy in the Iceberg”

Since this is the first ever blog post on the Secret Tunnel blog, allow me to quickly give a walk through of what I expect from this blog and what you, the reader, can expect. I have watched the entire Avatar series once. Watching these episodes again brings to light many elements that I never noticed before. My goal is to list out the things I noticed on my second/third watch of this amazing show and then give an overall statement of the episode itself at the end of the blog. As stated on the front page of this blog, these are not spoiler free. If you are new to this universe, please watch the series as a whole before continuing. These blogs will still be here when you get back. While I don’t plan to spoil the Legend of Korra (Avatar‘s spin-off show), I may mention it sometimes and will make sure to put a warning should I spoil anything. With that said, let’s begin!

  • As first episodes go, this is a very strong opening to a TV show. I know I carry some bias, this being my favorite TV show of all time, but it is rare to see a pilot lead a show on such a high note. There is a unique energy to this episode that seems to surpass simple introduction tactics. For example, most if not all of the many pieces of this story introduced carry weight and significance. No element is introduced by accident. Some of these elements aren’t even touched upon until later episodes in Books 2 and 3. Pilots are known for their clumsiness in understanding where the plot is going and the characters. Clearly, a lot of time and effort went into doing this right which says a lot because TV, especially for kids, is often times very commercialized and designed to meet requirements of a certain demographic. In a crunch for time, showrunners often conform to these tactics and therefore sink to a lower quality. Take a show like Rocket Power for example. While I greatly enjoyed this show as a kid and still have fun watching it as an adult, I am aware of the blatantly obvious conformance to culture at the time. It doesn’t age well, nor does it create memorable or likable characters. Avatar is different, creating plots and characters that are timeless and real. The show is setting itself up as an adventure story and will later prove that each adventure has value to the plot. Each character not only grows after an episode but takes that growth with them from then on. Many kids shows do not do this but have their characters remain stagnant, unable to change from their past experiences. Then there are shows like Adventure Time that purposely have random adventures every episode and it is the randomness that makes it so interesting. Avatar clearly sets itself a high bar in this first episode and holds itself above the hindrances of a kids show. The purpose is to tell a story, making it enjoyable for audiences of all ages.
  • The Introduction/Theme gives us Katara as the narrator. I wonder why the showrunners thought she would be the right narrator vs. Aang? Perhaps it is a perception thing. Katara’s narration gives us a real world perspective. She is not some special god or Avatar; she is a normal girl like the viewer. This reminds me of the novel the Great Gatsby, told from the point of view of passive Nick instead of Gatsby himself. Having Katara narrate also seems to emit the feeling that this tale is being retold or is a legend being passed down. In some regions, the show is known as the Legend of Aang vs. how we know it as the Last Airbender. This makes sense as the Avatar is seen as a legend at this point in the show to many people. At one point, Zuko sees a bright blue jet of light into the sky and proclaims it symbolizes the return of the Avatar while Uncle (the name we know him by currently) claims it is the light playing tricks.
  • Only minutes into the show, sexism shows itself to be a big theme. We see Sokka trying to teach Katara how to catch fish and outdo her (an action that is not only sexist but moves beyond the bounds of sexism, showing Sokka trying to outdo his little sister and revealing his older sibling syndrome. Also, he is self-conscious about the fact that he cannot Bend the elements). Sokka shows evidence of being sexist a lot in Book 1 of the series, constantly questioning the validity of girls being better at things than boys (specifically himself). At one point in the episode, Sokka says, “Leave it to a girl to screw things up,” and Katara even calls him sexist.
  • Bending is very different than magic like many may expect. It requires actual technique. Sokka explains Waterbending is an “ancient art unique to [the Water Tribe] culture.” Uncle tells Zuko later in the episode that “power in Firebending comes from the breath, not the muscles. The breath becomes energy in the body. The energy extends past your limbs and becomes fire.”
  • We will later see in the show that each form of Bending has clear attachments to many ancient arts in Asian cultures. This is another important element to the show. Since it is American made, it is important to recognize that the average American child isn’t watching shows about Asian culture or really any cultures other than their own. Kids shows are doing a lot better these days, giving us plenty more diversity than existed ever before. But it still needs work…a lot of work. This show existed in a time when kids TV was dominated by white characters or animal characters and if there was a character of color, it was rare they were the main character of a show. But it isn’t like they did not exist. Dora the Explorer is the first that comes to mind but also Little Bill, That’s So Raven, The Proud Family, and a few other shows that really didn’t get far past the first season. Avatar features two main characters of color. This is in contrast to the terrible movie that committed several atrocities, race being a big contribution as Sokka and Katara became whitewashed and the bad guys went from having light skin to dark skin.
  • As sibling relationships go, I think Sokka and Katara’s is a bit cliche but still has a lot of importance. We are introduced to their rivalry but also their bond. In any other TV show, Sokka would be nothing but comic relief. In Avatar, Sokka is a character that is very capable and is a protective older brother.
  • I have to address the blooming romance that is introduced between Aang and Katara. Right off the bat let me state, I’m not a fan. Sorry to all of the Aang/Katara shippers out there. I won’t say my personal ship until it comes to fruition. Anyway, the romance is clearly introduced as Aang first opens his eyes and he sees Katara whose braids are blowing in the breeze. Aang then takes a deep breath in awe of her beauty. It isn’t that I don’t find their romance believable, I just don’t buy that they have any chemistry. But more on that at a more relevant time.
  • I really like how the show lets us know about the war beyond what we know already. It doesn’t give us long ended info dumps (think Harry Potter) but gracefully inserts plot elements through character interaction and dialogue. For example, when Aang and Katara come across the old fire navy ship and Katara exclaims that it holds bad memories for her people. Katara then explains to Aang, after being asked, that this ship came when her grandmother (referred to as Gran-Gran) was a little girl and the Fire Nation first attacked. Earlier in the episode we see Sokka coaching some young boys and telling them that their fathers’ away at war are depending on them to be the men of the tribe. This is another look at the war and how it has impacted the Southern Water Tribe specifically, as well as reveals a bit of Sokka’s relationship with his father and the manliness he believes he needs to live up to. Another conversation about the war occurs even earlier when Gran-Gran first meets Aang and explains that the village is shocked to see him because they believed Airbenders were extinct and that they had been destroyed for 100 years. This is another outcome of the war that will be explored more in a few episodes.
  • Focusing on characters now, let’s first talk about Aang. This episode reveals so much about his character in brief meaningful glimpses. We see Aang as the Avatar but also the Airbender and the child.
    • Aang the Avatar – Although it is not said, it is pretty much a given that Aang is the Avatar that everyone speaks of but when asked by Katara if he is the Avatar, he says no and says he didn’t even know him. This comes right before we see Aang looking off in the distance with a look of anxiety, suggesting he has something to hide. Of course, we know he is hiding his identity as the Avatar, leaving us to wonder why. We are also given clues when we see a nightmare Aang has, evident by the sepia tone, of him and Appa plunging into the sea and Aang’s eyes and tattoos suddenly glowing as he encapsulates the two of them in ice using what we will learn to be advanced Waterbending techniques. This shows us how Aang ended up in the title card iceberg. While Aang is an Airbender, we now see he can also Waterbend. The Avatar is the only person who can master all four elements.
    • Aang the Airbender – Aang has many traits that reveal his culture and identity as an Airbender. The most obvious are his tattoos on his arms, legs, feet, neck, and head seen by Katara as Aang dresses in the morning. What these tattoos symbolize is not yet known to us. Aang is also very light on his feet. His movements are very fluid and…well, airy. He also carries a glider with him, used to fly and assist in further Airbending techniques.
    • Aang the child – Many kids shows often portray the hero as a serious and much smarter character vs. those around him/her. Aang is realistically a kid and the show lets us know this by his silly actions and dialogue. The show even goes as far as having Aang himself make a statement about still being a kid to Katara who seems to view herself as much older than she really is. This is very interesting because this once again seems to hint at the war. Katara does not feel like a child because she has experienced a lot of trauma and war has made her grow up quickly and take on responsibilities that children traditionally do not carry. Aang, however, has not been touched by the war and has a relatively simple outlook on the world which is evident by his carefree nature.
  • I know I am not the only person who views Zuko as their favorite character. While I would love to start gushing about my reasons, I will keep my commentary to the episode at hand. I find his introduction to be very interesting. Many elements seen in this first episode did not even phase me on the first watch. I remember just seeing Zuko as the bad guy and nothing more. This is a fault of my own as I can sometimes be a very passive viewer (a habit I am trying to break). But we learn a few things during our time with Zuko. We know he is a member of the Fire Nation. We also know he is a Prince as Uncle calls him “Prince Zuko.” We see a red scar on the side of his face, suggesting an ingury or perhaps a birth defect. He is hunting the Avatar and is desperate to catch him/her in order to restore his honor. Once again, this show is surpassing typical kids TV tropes. Zuko isn’t just the villain. He is a character with a backstory and his own motivations. This will become more apparent as the series continues. It is also clear that while Zuko is a skilled Firebender, he still has a lot to learn as told by Uncle. Zuko is hindered by worldly ideas as exemplified when he sees Aang and Katara fleeing the old fire navy ship and he makes a comment that the Avatar is very agile for his old age. It doesn’t occur to him that the Avatar could still be young. And I guess I should also mention angst. Zuko is extremely angsty. Personally, I love this. My favorite Harry Potter book is Order of the Phoenix with angsty Harry. This speaks for itself.
  • Uncle is another character I absolutely adore. This first episode does his character beautiful justice, showing him playing a game of Pai Sho (which will become super important as the show continues) and drinking tea. We also see Uncle teaching Zuko about Firebending as quoted earlier, revealing a wise and skilled man behind the relaxed attitude.
  • Sokka’s comedic character trait is immediately apparent in this first episode. Despite his serious façade, it is his insecurities that often make us laugh. We see this when Sokka struts his muscles in the boat with Katara. Sokka also makes several snide comments throughout the episode, usually saying what the audience is thinking. But we also see a bit of Sokka the warrior as he tries to train the young boys to be soldiers so they can take their fathers’ place while they fight in the war and when he is very protective of Katara early in the episode.
  • Katara is not a character I grew to love throughout the series but I still think she is an awesome character. For one, she is extremely well rounded. The show does a great job at making her capable yet also has many flaws. She can be a badass but also has a temper. She will risk her life for her friends but has a lot of pride. But most importantly, Katara stands on firm ethics. She stands for what she believes and this is vagely apparent in the first episode after Sokka’s sexist comments and Katara correcting him. Plus, Katara is a very good Waterbender. She is the last Waterbender in the South Pole. In this first episode she is still learning but it is clear she has a lot of potential and it is apparent that we will see her potential in later episodes. Despite the fact that I don’t think she and Aang have chemistry on a romantic level, I do think they share a special bond as friends but I will talk about that more in the future.
  • My final thoughts on this episode…I believe that this is a very strong opening episode. It introduces a ton of content that foreshadows character moments more than anything else. But what is most important to me after viewing the first episode is that the show already knows what it is about. It clearly has a story to tell and it isn’t simply on a season by season basis (one reason why I like Avatar better than Korra). The creators worked perfectly with what they had at their disposal and they introduced enough information to keep me interested and wanting more.

That is it for my thoughts on Book 1, Episode 1 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 first episode! Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading and here we exit The Secret Tunnel for this week of September 5th 2016.