Mark Watches ‘Avatar’: S01E03 – The Southern Air Temple

In the third episode of the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Sokka, Katara, and Aang head to the Southern Air Temple so Aang can reunite with his family and continue training. What they discover there is both heartbreaking and terrifying. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Avatar.

Despite that this episode is not perfect, the way that the story is organized in “The Southern Air Temple” shows why I think this show is more than just a cartoon. (And why I will probably grow to enjoy it.) It wasn’t until the final five minutes that I literally struck my forehead with my palm, realizing the very title of the show gave away the plot of this particular episode. Maybe I was distracted by the events on screen to the point that something so terribly obvious hadn’t leapt out at me, but the adventure that Katara, Sokka, and Aang were on was entirely fascinating to me.

Before I launch into that, I do have admit that the plot lines between Iroh, Zuko, and the newly-introduced Zhao is not my cup of tea. Yet. Well, wait, let me qualify that. I think I liked the Southern Air Temple scenes so much that every time it switched perspective, my brain yelled at the episode NO GO BACK I NEED TO KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON. Plus, it’s dudely dudes being all dudely and masculine to prove their honor and ewwww. lol my masculinity issues LET ME SHOW YOU THEM. But I jest. I think the show does the battle/fight/man-off between Zhao and Zuko surprisingly well, but it’s not until the end of the fight that I feel it’s going to go somewhere more captivating than where it starts off. The truth is that the Zhao/Zuko storyline kind of feels a bit familiar. (I’m avoiding the word “cliche” for the time being.) But it does two things that are fantastic:

1) I cheer for Zuko over Zhao and then I realize I’m technically rooting for a villain at the same time I’m rooting for the good guys, just in two different contexts. And that’s pretty neat.

2) Watching Iroh and Zuko grow closer is ADORABLE and opens up a totally new story: Will Zuko take on more of his uncle’s personality traits and ideas and, in turn, lose some of his aggressive behavior? Will this turn into a story where Iroh/Zuko break off from the Firebenders to be on the side of the Avatar??? HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE.

OK, so let’s just talk about the Avatar. I mean Aang. I mean WOW THIS PLOT IS SO AWESOME. Once Aang reveals that they’re headed for the Southern Air Temple to meet up with his family/tribe, Katara vocalizes what all of us are probably thinking: THIS IS PROBABLY A BAD IDEA. A lot can change over the course of a hundred years, and Katara and Sokka become worried that Aang will be heartbroken and disappointed to discover that there are no Airbenders left. And look….IT’S RIGHT THERE IN THE TITLE OF THE SHOW. THE LAST AIRBENDER. So clearly he has to be the last one or else the title of this show is a dirty goddamn lie. Nickelodeon won’t lie to children, will they? WILL THEY?

This is what I love about this episode and why not spoiling me is ABSOLUTELY KEY: For at least 15 minutes of this episode, I believed that Aang would find SOMEBODY left alive in the Southern Air Temple, even more so once we got the flashback concerning Monk Gyatso. For only being on the third episode and for being a show aimed at kids, I was kind of surprised how…tense this all was. The Southern Air Temple itself is not disappointing in the slightest; as they pass through the Patola Mountain Range and begin to head upwards to the temple, Aang makes a good point. How could Firebenders make it to a temple so high in the sky?

When the Temple appears into view, it’s such a wonderful spectacle to witness.

The animation provides a grandiose sense of scale and size to the place, and I loved that there was a long, jagged path up to the temple itself. We get to see an airball court (WHICH LOOKS LIKE AN AMAZING GAME, LET ME TELL YOU) and the location where the flying bison would feed. (OH MY GOD, THERE USED TO BE MORE THAN ONE APPA, BRB DYING). All of this not only gives us a portrait of how massive the Airbender world was, but it conversely creates a sharp pain of loneliness for Aang and the viewer. Here’s this amazing, gorgeous temple that is completely empty. The size of it makes the loneliness so much worse.

But Aang’s sense of hope is so infectious! Maybe that’s why I still clung to the thought that there could be just one Airbender left. Aang’s flashback to Monk Gyatso certainly didn’t help, as we got a glimpse of what the Southern Air Temple used to be like. Gyatso himself starts off as what seems like a stereotype of the wise master, but the man’s sense of humor breaks with that preconceived notion. Also: TONS OF FLYING BISON what the hell.

When the group finally reaches the door of the temple and Aang unlocks it using Airbending (seriously, this universe is just plain cool, you guys), this episode becomes SO FANTASTIC SO QUICKLY. I was on the edge of my seat during this entire scene, so unbearably curious as to what the temple itself would contain. Did I guess that it would be a bunch of statues that represented all of Aang’s past lives? NO, I DID NOT. It wasn’t at all disappointing that there were no people left in the Southern Air Temple because what the writers provide instead is just so creepy and fascinating. As the three of them begin to explore this strange and unsettling arrangement of statues in the grounds, Katara points out that they’re lined up in a specific pattern: The Avatar cycle. (Air, Water, Earth, and Fire. Which is some brilliant foreshadowing, considering we’re starting this off with Aang as an Airbender and we know he’s moving on to Water.)

Adding another mysterious dose to the mythology of the show, Aang recognizes the last statue in the spiral, Avatar Roku, Well…maybe recognize is the wrong word? He just knows, man. He knows because technically, that’s himself. The Avatar is passed along in various incarnations in the order of the Avatar cycle. So, as I understand it, the Avatar has always been around in this alternate world? From the beginning? Where did all these people come from and how did they get their powers? OBVIOUSLY DO NOT ANSWER THIS, but man, this show just keeps giving me MORE QUESTIONS I WANT ANSWERS FROM. Ugh, I don’t think I have ever regretted doing a show in this manner so quickly. I NEED TO KNOW ALL THE THINGS.

I’m glad the lemur scene exists to break up the growing weirdness of the Temple (NOT THAT I DISLIKE IT) because so much of this episode is NOT FUNNY AT ALL. And lemurs are cute! I enjoy cute things! But it’s such a jarring contrast to the scene before and after it and that makes the effect of Aang’s transformation SCARY AS HELL. Chasing after the lemur with a goofy smile on his face, Aang discovers a room full of the bodies of Fire Nation soldiers, with Monk Gyatso’s corpse propped up by itself in the center. If Aang was going to find out about the destruction of his people here at the Southern Air Temple, this was certainly the absolute worst way to do it. Heartbroken and enraged by the sight of his mentor, the knowledge that his people are completely gone, that he’s the final Airbender left, Aang is pushed into a rage, transforming to the Avatar state with glowing eyes and arrow markings, an air sphere violently throwing Sokka out of the way. I’m glad that we’re this early into the series and they’re already dealing with the terrifying power that the Avatar possesses. I don’t think the writers are going to ignore this dichotomy between Aang’s personality and the violent qualities of the Avatar, either, and I look forward to seeing that develop. Interesting as well is the fact that when Aang passes into the Avatar State, it notifies all four nations that the Avatar has returned, so it is no longer a secret that he exists, which is also pushing the plot forward a lot quicker than I expected. THIS IS QUITE EXCITING.

So, we’ve got a fascinating plot, some nice character parallels, some unorthodox storytelling…yet I’m drawn to the characters the most. Katara brings Aang out of the Avatar State by accepting him as part of her family along with Sokka, and I love the message it sends, that people can struggle with life and themselves and still have people who aren’t even related to them backing them up as their family. They don’t need blood relations to have that sort of support system, and if kids are watching this and understanding that friendship can be a powerful thing, then I certainly want to give the creators a few million high fives.


  • A full note must be devoted to Uncle Iroh, who RULES THIS WHOLE EPISODE. Is this a man after my own heart? Surely there is no one who better understands the brilliance of tea more than him? my body is ready, Iroh.
  • “Did you really mean that, Uncle?” “Of course. I told you Ginseng tea was my favorite.”
  • “I’m just a simple guy with simple needs!” I am surprisingly not irritated in the slightest with Sokka. Something about his constant anger is so endearing to me. I can’t figure it out yet.
  • Ok, so they outright acknowledge that Aang survived in an iceberg for 100 years, and yet no one asks the obvious: HOW DID AANG NOT AGE?
  • “Firebenders! Nobody make a sound.” “You’re making a sound!”
  • Ok, am I seriously this forgetful or did they explain what Zuko did to get banished? I don’t think they did yet.
  • Ugh, Katara and Sokka’s mother died. 🙁 🙁 🙁

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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359 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Avatar’: S01E03 – The Southern Air Temple

  1. TDM says:

    Oh, as for the title spoiler…

    Here in the UK, they call this show Avatar: The Legend of Aang (presumably because 'bender' is unfortunate slang in more ways than one), so good thing the show reveals who Aang is so quickly in episode 2 or that'd be a pretty big title spoiler too, haha. I meant to say this in response to your review yesterday but forgot.

    • George says:

      Which channel shows it in UK, btw?

      • TDM says:

        Pretty sure it was Nickelodeon here too – I caught onto the show later (probably late season 2), at which point they were showing 2 episodes a day every week day – so ten episodes in a week, and when they ended the episodes they had they cycled back around to season 1 episode 1.

    • Cat_Eyed_Fox says:

      See now part of me likes that title more because it avoids Spoilers, but I almost have serious problems with shows whose title features the main character. They tend to result in me hating the title character. Ally McBeal, Dawson's Creek (hated his ass first episode!), Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
      … Although without going to Spoiler Town I think this show could have broken that tradition. 😀

  2. lastyearswishes says:

    lol So you obviously know by now that Jason Isaacs does the voice of Zhao. ;P

    IROH. <3 He's so awesome, I'm glad you're loving him as much as I am. :'D

  3. barnswallowkate says:

    Mark covered the substantial stuff so:
    – LEMUR!
    – Sokka's obsession with acquiring noms just got him onto my list of TV Boyfriends. Promotion to my list of TV Future Husbands is pending.
    – I misheard "Monk Gyatso" as "Money Atso" at first so I was like WHAT A MONKEY TRAINED HIM?
    – Conversation in my living room last night:
    Husband: Why are you watching that show? Isn't it for kids?
    Me: Mark Readsharrypotter [that's Mark's last name in my house] is reviewing it.
    Husband: Do you just do anything this guy on the internet tells you to do?!?!
    My husband thinks Mark is a cult leader 😀

  4. corporatecake says:

    This episode actually made me mist up a bit on this viewing. Man, it's just so freaking tragic. They don't call what happened to the Air Nomads genocide, but that's what it is, and it's sort of surprising that a children's show actually tackles a topic this big, and I think that they do it really well. There's something so poignant about, like you said, that big empty temple, especially when contrasted by how full of life it used to be.

    (BTW, that one shot of the Southern Air Temple used to be the wallpaper of my laptop. Now it's another vista from later in the show. This is telling.)

    MOMO. I always forget he wasn't around in episodes 1 and 2. But I'M GLAD HE'S HERE NOW BECAUSE HE'S SO EFFING CUTE.

    You start to see some of Zuko's ~inner depths~ and issues coming forward in this episode. So many questions about his banishment and why he's looking for the Avatar, NEED ANSWERING NOW. I don't really think that the Zuko B Plot has really taken off yet as of this episode, but I do have to admit that the Zuko/Zhao Agni Kai has some of my favourite music of the series. I'm trying to find a link that isn't at YouTube, where they have spoilery "related videos" along the side to NO AVAIL.

    For me, though, this was the episode that really got me hooked on the series. 1.01 and 1.02 were enjoyable, but this one made me go, "I NEED MORE. TELL ME MORE NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!!!"

  5. herpestidae says:

    Darn it, I didn't know you'd started already.

    First thing you did was rip on Shyamalan. Thank you. I'm kind of torn between wanting you to review the Live Action Movie (which supposedly covers all of season 1). On the one hand, it's physically painful at times. On the other, I just can't get enough of that movie being torn to shreds.

    On to the actual:

    Aang is among my favorite characters for a simple reason: humility. Most of the main male characters are these overhyped, hot-head know-it-alls who think they're all that. Not Aang. He realizes that this is a big responsibility and doesn't treat it lightly.

    I like Katara for being a vocal, proud, strong female Character.

    I Like Sokka because he is me. No, seriously. When I'm watching with my family and Sokka says something, 9 times out of 10, they'll all look at me.

    Question: Where'd you get the term "Avatar State?" I can't remember it being called that so early in the series.

    I can't say much else because SPOILERS, So I leave you with another Dante Basco Vid.

    Or not. Screw you Youtube Embed Codes! I don't want to spoil you in case you look at the "Related videos" thing, so i guess I'll have to wait. 🙁

    • Question: Where'd you get the term "Avatar State?" I can't remember it being called that so early in the series.
      I don't think it's used till later either, but someone accidentally used it in the comments yesterday, so he's spoiled on the nature of the glowy.

      • Violets are Blue says:

        I thought it was used in this episode but Katara calls it his Avatar spirit.

      • Jaxx_zombie says:

        Yeah… I didn't like that person….now Mark knows something he shouldn't, it's not fair!!! My heart broke every single time I saw "Avatar State", but this is why we are so rough on spoilers, because we don't want bits like that leaking out….

  6. Ms Katonic says:

    YAY YOU LIKE IT!!!! How could you not, awesome show is awesome. If rather heartbreaking due to the whole Airbender genocide thing.

    OTOH, Momo is adorable and I totally want a Momo!

    It is rather unusual to have two separate plotlines, the main hero's story AND the sub-plotline focusing on what the hero's nemesis is up to when not fighting the hero, but it really works and is one of the reasons this show is so awesome. Plus Iroh wins all the prizes ever – it is not possible to not love this guy.

    It isn't really said why Zuko got banished – lots of hints, allusions and implications, but it's not actually said outright. Which is as it should be – Zhao, Zuko and Iroh already know all the backstory, why would they need to go over it in detail? Zhao doesn't need to remind Zuko why he's banished, Zuko's fully aware of why.

    An awful lot of backstory revealed in this episode, on the Air Nomads, the Avatar and Fire Nation politics – it's done well filling us in on key concepts without making us feel like we're being explicitly having backstory thrust at us.

  7. shyfully says:

    Now we’ve gotten to an episode that I consider to be really good. The first two episodes are good, but this one is really good. It’s less bogged down by exposition, though there is some, and has lots of emotional moments, some fun, and a very cool fight scene.

    Are you ready for this?

    <img src=>

    I’m going to start off with Aang and Gyatso. That flashback was really lovely. It was interesting to see Aang not wanting to believe he is the Avatar. And we find out that he wasn’t supposed to be told until he was sixteen. It raises a lot of interesting questions. How do they know who is the next Avatar? Why are they supposed to be told at 16 (or is that just Aang?) and why was Aang told early? Gyatso clearly doesn’t agree with whoever told him. Who went over Gyatso’s head/behind his back?

    Gyatso seems like a good teacher for Aang. He has a right sense of fun about him. I thought it was very cute how they tossed the cakes on the other monks heads. Hee hee. But it is also clear that he was a wise man and that Aang truly respected him. And, damn, did you see how many fire benders he took out before he died? That is some serious skill. I’d have loved to see how that battle played out, even though the ending would obviously be sad.

    <img src=>

    It was interesting to see how Sokka and Katara both tried to cheer up/protect Aang in this episode. Katara starts off by trying to get him to emotionally prepare himself for what he might see, but Aang doesn’t believe that there will be anything to see. It’s very interested what he said about how Air Temples were only able to accessed by using a flying bison. I remember all the different theories about how the Fire Nation’s army managed to invade them. Did they capture bison? Were there traitors that let them in? Or did they find a way to reach the temples without a bison? Interesting.

    Anyway, Katara changes tacks once they get to the temple. In the moment where they do find the first helmet, she at first wants to show him, but changes her mind. Ultimately, I think she miscalculated there. Aang was totally blindsided when he saw Gyatso’s body. Sokka was right, she couldn’t protect him forever. Still, I understand where she was coming from. And Sokka was very sweet to let Aang pummel him at a game he didn’t even know. I like that Sokka is shown to be a bit protective of Aang as well. It was interesting that he was the one to first find Aang after they found Gyatso’s body. Most of their interaction through the episode was more silly, but Sokka instantly understood what was happening and tried to comfort him.

    Which leads me to the next point, the return of the OMFGLOWING! So, this episode confirmed that it is connected to Aang being the Avatar, since all the statues glowed and Katara said it was his Avatar spirit etc. I know some people had a problem with the fact that there was glowing set off in areas around the different nations this time when Aang had glowed before. However, Aang clearly had some weird reaction going on when he stood in front of the Avatar Roku statue. I think that it was connected to that. Something about being in that room, looking at that statue triggered something in Aang which meant that when he did his glowing thing, it sent out some kind of signal. And what a signal! So, now the news of the Avatar’s return is out, so to speak. It will be interesting how that plays out. I’m excited at the prospect, hohoho, and I already know what happens!

    <img src=>

    So, Aang does his glowing deal, seemingly out of pure grief. The scene where Katara is able to talk him down is very powerful. There really isn’t anything you can say to make the fact that a loved one is dead any better, but you can remind someone that they are not alone. Normally, I’d say it’s a bit early for her to be saying that they are family now, but considering the pretty intense circumstances and the fact that they had just left their home to travel with him, I don’t mind it. I also am such a sap for created families.

    Also, LEMUR!!! I love real lemurs and I love these fictional ones, too. Momo is super cute and quite smart, considering he brought food for Sokka. Although, I wonder what they will do about food in long term. Anyway, I also wonder if Momo is the only lemur there. Did they die out without the monks, did the fire nation kill them, or did they just leave? In any case, now we have the three remaining parts of the Air Nomads. Aang, Appa and Momo. Poor guys.

    <img src=>
    (Another poor guy, but for a different reason. Heee at him getting the snow knocked onto him. Sokka has no luck.)

    I also am very impressed with the continuity, both with the show’s A and B plots. Many kid shows would use the first two-parter episode to set up why the group is together and then just have one-off adventures, but this show isn’t. The last episode has a direct effect on this one. Aang goes to the Southern Air Temple, like he said he was planning to last episode when he was sent away from the Water Tribe. And Zuko and Iroh have to deal with the damage their ship got from Aang.

    • herpestidae says:

      "I know some people had a problem with the fact that there was glowing set off in areas around the different nations this time when Aang had glowed before."

      My theory is that in the second episode, Aang went Glowy out of self-preservation instinct, while in this episode it was "I AM GOD AND I AM PISSED OFF, FEEL MY DIVINE WRATH!"

    • Shay Guy says:

      Many kid shows would use the first two-parter episode to set up why the group is together and then just have one-off adventures, but this show isn’t.

      I've seen the first four episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and for all the acclaim it gets (admittedly well-deserved if "Applebuck Season" is anything to go by), it sure seems to be doing this. (That's not a spoiler, is it? Nah, he's already committed to 277 episodes of other series counting A:TLA and MLP isn't even on the suggestion page.)

      • shyfully says:

        Haha, that is actually one of the shows I was thinking about, since my niece is in love with it and we have watched all the episodes together. It's a cute show and I think actually a really great one for little kids, especially little girls to watch, though there are a few episodes that had some mixed messages, but if Mark watched it for the blog I think I'd have to bow out for a few weeks so as not to spend too much of my non-baby sitting time watching it!

    • Skulls, Candied says:

      AWEsome review as usual, at this point I look forward to these as much as the actual Mark Watches!!!!!

      Lovin the gifs 😀

      And sorry I can't elaborate more or add any analysis, but you actually said absolutely everything I was thinking about so kudos to you!!!!!

    • sabra_n says:

      I know some people had a problem with the fact that there was glowing set off in areas around the different nations this time when Aang had glowed before.

      I also think it has something to do with the fact that this time he started glowing in a sacred place – it seemed that the other places around the world that saw the beams of light were also houses of worship/monastaries of some sort, IIRC. So maybe those places in each nation are spritually connected to each other and to the Avatar somehow. (The spirit of bending!)

  8. Hotaru_hime says:

    In this episode, we learn a little more about Aang and the fate of the Southern Air Temple, his old home. Though Katara tries to gently tell him that all of his people are dead (as Gran-Gran eloquently stated last episode, “I thought all Airbenders were extinct.”) and not to expect much, Aang goes on believing that while his people may not be at peace, they are definitely not gone. This belief is readily shattered by the discovery of his dead master, Monk Gyatsu, who was probably the coolest old man during his time (who bakes four cakes to intentionally drop on the heads of four senior Airbenders?!) and the strongest, considering that Word of God says that Airbending is defensive, not offensive.
    Aang also finds a statue of his former life, Avatar Roku. What does this mean? It means watch more episodes so I can resist the urge to spoil you. We are also introduced to the flying lemur Momo (whose name means peach, the fruit he was eating when Aang named him) who is adorable and furry and d’aaaaaaaawwwwwww.
    It also shows the fall in status for Zuko, whose exile has debased him in front of nearly all of his citizens and shows how even the crew of his own ship do not hold much loyalty to him. It also introduces General Zhao, who is the stereotypical villain in his behavior. His attack on Zuko after the Agni Kai, though, only highlights the power of uncle Iroh, whose appearance belies his agility and strength as he redirects the fire and stops Zhao. Honor is clearly a very important deal in the Fire Kingdom, but clearly Zhao doesn’t take it as seriously as either Prince Zuko or formerly-general Iroh. It also shows that while Zuko orders his uncle around, Iroh’s opinion of him matters very much.
    And now we know that Bending Masters of all types know that the Avatar has returned… DUN DUN DUN.

  9. shyfully says:

    Speaking of that plot, I’m going to discuss it! I’m sure this comes as a surprise. Anyway, I find it very intriguing that they introduced a new character here, Zhao. I was expecting the first season to follow a pretty linear pattern of Aang and his group showing up some where, Zuko attacking them/being dastardly, Zuko getting defeated, rinse, repeat, but already it broke that mold. Instead Aang’s group didn’t even think about Zuko and Zuko ended up being set in more of a protagonist role in his story. I mean, when the other guy is basically saying “LOL you suck teenage boy your daddy hates you neener neener,” it isn’t exactly hard to come across as the better person, but it is still unusual that they went in that direction. All these shades of gray, oh my!

    <img src=>

    There were so many tantalizing hints in the story, both backstory and world building-wise. I find the concept of the Agni Kai to be very interesting. It would make sense to have special bending duels. The whole fight scene was gorgeously shot. I love the angles they use in the bending scenes- they are a bit unusual but absolutely lovely. And the music was suitably epic. I was surprised to find myself rooting for Zuko, but Zhao had been such a monumental dick to him and, well, I am a sucker for underdogs. But I was very happy that he won. And that he didn’t kill Zhao, although that would have been a very intense move for a cartoon show. But, it’s interesting to have a primary antagonist who will show mercy. And he didn’t want to humiliate Zhao, he wanted to be taken seriously.

    I loved Iroh in this episode. He was very funny, with him and Zuko fumbling to come up with a non-Avatar related reason for their ship to be damaged, to knocking over things in Zhao’s office area, to asking for more tea after Zuko destroyed the table. I find his relationship with Zuko to be very fascinating. Through the episode, he tells Zuko to treat Zhao with respect, to not taint his victory and so on. He really wants Zuko to be a respectful young man, doesn’t he? The way he stopped Zhao’s attack was very badass and then his lecture was awesome. I love the way he pretended not to know what Zuko was asking about afterwards and Zuko made a dorky smile. Awwwww.

    I find the firebending displayed in this episode to be fascinating. Both Zuko and Zhao shot fire from their hands at different points when they were emotional but not in battle. It reminded me of Katara accidentally waterbending when she was angry in the first episode. Bending seems to be tied to the bender’s emotional state, at least fire and water. We don’t see Aang specifically air bend when he is upset (although he did glow) so I wonder if it is different for airbenders or if having been raised as a monk means that he has a better handle on his emotions. I would say it is because of his level of skill, but Zhao did it, too. Unless Zhao was mainly trying to intimidate Zuko, which is of course a possibility. It would have worked better if Zuko hadn’t just seen a glowing Avatar, probably. We never see Iroh do it, but he is a much calmer individual.

    <img src=>

    I also like the glimpses of the war we get here. It seems that the biggest threat, according to the Fire Nation, is the Earth Kingdom. It’s interesting that they don’t mention the Water Tribe, since we know Sokka and Katara’s father and the other men all left to fight them. And, no mention of the Northern Water Tribe, either. It’s interesting. Also, considering the air temples are so remote and the we know there are only two water tribes on the two poles (so not taking up much space), it seems that the two largest of the nations would be fire and earth.

    We also get to see different kinds of fire bending in this episode. I think it is interesting how they seemed to block another firebender’s moves. It’s very offensive, but we do see a bit of defensive in this one, as well. It was interesting that Zuko was able to win. I don’t know if he is really a better technical fire bender, but he seems to be a better fighter. Zhao underestimated him, I think, and got too into the idea of humiliating him versus actually paying attention and fighting smart. Since he seemed interested in going after Aang himself, it will be fun to see if that continues with him. If he becomes a recurring character, how will that change the role of Zuko? Zuko beat Zhao in this fight, but Zhao has a lot more resources than Zuko. So which one will be the primary antagonist. And, Zuko is clearly set up as being morally superior to Zhao. It’s also interesting to have two bad guys going after the good guy, but also being antagonists to each other. It’s an unusual dynamic. Usually villains don’t have to deal with more villainous villains stealing their villainy.

    • shyfully says:

      Iroh: 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.
      Zuko: Did you really mean that, uncle?
      Iroh: Of course! I told you ginseng tea is my favorite.

      Aang: This whole Avatar thing… maybe the monks made a mistake.

      Aang: Monk Gyatso, the greatest airbender in the world. He taught me everything I know. (cut to the past)
      Gyatso: (making a cake) But the true secret is in the gooey center!

      <img src=>

      Zhao: That’s quite a bit of damage.
      Zuko: Yes, you wouldn’t believe what happened… Uncle! Tell Commander Zhao what happened!
      Iroh: Yes, I will do that. It was incredible! What, did we crash or something?

      Sokka: Firebender. Nobody make a sound.
      Katara: You’re making a sound!

      Katara: Aang, I know you’re upset and I know how hard it is to lose the people you love! I went through the same thing when I lost my mom. Monk Gyatso and the other airbenders may be gone, but you still have a family. Sokka and I, we’re you’re family now.
      Sokka: Katara and I aren’t going to let anything happen to you. Promise.

      And, I’m done!

      (PS: There is a prickle snake in your sleeping bag.)

      <img src=>

      • echinodermata says:

        Lovely comment. But I just wanted to quote this bit:

        "I also am such a sap for created families."

        SO MUCH YES.

      • arctic_hare says:

        As usual, this is a fantastic review and I love reading what you have to say. <3

        I also am such a sap for created families.

        YES YES YES me too! It's one of my favorite tropes in fiction. 😀

    • monkeybutter says:

      I love that Iroh knocked over the weapons just as Zhao was getting around to the Avatar. Genius old man 🙂

    • Shay Guy says:

      Usually villains don’t have to deal with more villainous villains stealing their villainy.

      Oh, I dunno, I've seen it before. Though come to think of it, all the examples coming most readily to mind — Akira, Final Fantasy VI, VII, and possibly others, Sailor Moon R, the Sonic Adventure games — are Japanese stories. And the most popular manga in Japan, One Piece, has so many villains and mostly-villains and maybe-villains that it's hard to be sure who IS the "main" villain.

      • Gundam Wing had fun making us wonder who was the villain, too.

      • shyfully says:

        Hm, I haven't really seen any of those, but I guess what I meant was that it is more unusual in American cartoons. I certainly don't remember anything so ambiguous when I was growing up. I think that whole idea has become increasingly popular, though.

    • I'm kind of under the impression that the Fire Nation is pretty much already pretty close to toppling the Water Tribes when this series starts. I mean, look at the state of Sokka and Katara's tribe. Not much to speak of and all the warriors are already off fighting anyway. I won't go into much more due to spoilers but my feelings are that at this point the war with the Water Tribes is pretty much over or close to over and so they're moving on to the Earth Kingdom next.

    • Pelleloguin says:

      Hope this link works: <iframe title="YouTube video player" width="425" height="349" src="; frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

      It's the music played during the Agni Kai, which means (in which language, I can sadly not recall) Fire Meeting or Fire Dual. I love all of the little touches like that in the show.

      • Pelleloguin says:

        Alas it did not! And I cant seem to edit it. Just look up Agni Kai on Youtube and you'll get it.

  10. monkeybutter says:

    I was really looking forward to you getting to all of this backstory! You're right, the characters are the best part of the show. It’s hard watching Aang’s excited optimism while Katara and Sokka exchange knowing glances. They’ve lost a mother, and they know what the Fire Nation can do. I like that Katara tried to warn Aang off, then tried to protect him from the truth, only to fail and have Aang discover that the Fire Nation had invaded in the worst way possible: stumbling upon the remains of his closest friend and mentor. Eventually Katara brings him back, showing her protective nature has its benefits and flaws. She’s not perfect, but she’s like the heart of the family (and now I’m thinking about Captain Planet and the useless power, darn it).

    On a cheerier note, flying lemurs are the best!

    <img src=""&gt;

    They're a much needed break from the heavy-handed stuff. Momo’s theme music makes them even more awesome. I know I don’t have room for Appa, but I could handle a flying lemur. Someone needs to play god and make that happen. Anyway, I love Momo’s addition to the family. He’s so cute, and I’m glad he, Appa, and Aang all have each other. On that note, can I mention how gorgeous their original home is?

    And Zhao! Knowing that Lucius Malfoy Jason Isaacs did his voice also made me want to watch this series. Jason Isaacs makes me love bad guys (does anyone else root for the British in The Patriot?). Add some fabulous muttonchops, and I can’t help myself. I'm glad you like the layers of villains. What Zhao says to Zuko about being a disgrace, and his father not wanting him back home is awful. He knows just how to cut Zuko down; he’s nothing but a bully. Who got his butt kicked by a banished prince, who was in turn beat by a twelve-year-old. A million cups of tea to Iroh for having Zuko’s back and telling him he’s not terrible and dishonorable. How sad is it that Zuko needs that kind of reassurance?

  11. monkeybutter says:

    Now we know the true story behind what happened at the Southern Air Temple…hungry lemurs.

  12. echinodermata says:

    APPA IS A BISON. Ahem.

    The architectural design created for this show makes me wish I actually knew things about architecture. But it's more than just the visual design, as it's also the thought that went into creating each culture. Things like "airball" (SO COOL!) and the fact that the bisons are integral to the airbender society. Additionally, how the Fire Nation helment is so clearly not a part of the airbending society, and how obvious that is even 3 episodes into the show.

    And can I just say that as a band geek (flute, myself), the door lock is ridiculously awesome to me. Love these little world-building details.

    I will never tire of Iroh's obsession with tea.

    One thing that always bugs me about the way fantasy fiction is written is that the skeptic is almost always wrong. That's a pet-peeve for me because I'm so enthusiastic about science, and so it makes sense to me to default to disbelief until sufficient evidence is provided. That's basically my worldview, and so while it is nice to see that sort of characterization in Sokka, the fact that his skepticism is wrong makes me a bit unhappy. But I'm used to it, and can let it slide pretty quickly.

    Case in point: Momo! That little lemur music at both Momo's entrance and Aang's flashback with the cakes is really fun. Probably my favorite musical bits of the show so far.

    The glowing eyes thing, and the fact that it spreads to all nations, is pretty damn awesome.
    And then shit gets even more real. HAHAHA kid's show. And yet, genocide and a room full of dead bodies, leading to a very scary Aang.

    It's Commander Zhao! He's a pretty bad-ass dude. I'm also really glad the show didn't magically fix Zuko's ship – we actually see repercussions of the fight from the last episode. Good job, show. And then the fight scene between Zhao and Zuko is the best yet, in my opinion.
    <img src=""&gt;(Source)

    And it's nice to see Zuko being pretty bad-ass himself, since he hasn't been too impressive so far.

    And this is really pretty, so I'll leave it here at the end.
    <img src=""&gt;(Source)

    • shyfully says:

      This show is so gorgeous.

      I agree with what you say about skeptics in fantasy fiction. I think they mainly assigned Sokka that role so that he and Katara could do the exposition about Avatar-stuff in a dialogue-y way, but it still is annoying, alas.

    • arctic_hare says:

      The architectural design created for this show makes me wish I actually knew things about architecture.

      ME. TOO. <3 Isn't it gorgeous? I love it. And WORD to the rest of the review, too, as usual!

    • affableevil says:

      These pictures are gorgeous and they will live in my gigantic picture folder of pretty Avatar related things.


    • I can see how the "sceptic being wrong" trope is over-used. That being said, I'm equal-part skeptic and romantic/believer, if that makes any sense, so in a fantasy series it sort of makes my heart flutter. I get tired of it being beat to death, and it certainly shouldn't be used to the extent that it is, but for kids who wish and dream for magic, I can get why it's applied. They definately need to balance it out.

      For me, the worst offender of the "skeptic always being wrong" trope is Paolini's Eragon series. Yikes. (I already checked, and Mark hasn't said he'll ever read it, so I feel safe mentioning it.)

      Hugs for skeptics?

    • MichelleZB says:

      But Sokka is the skeptic who isn't wrong! He is a genius whose skepticism is totes justified! Something I love about the show.

      • echinodermata says:

        Well, bisons can fly and reincarnation is real. He hasn't been right so far. I'm not saying his skepticism isn't justified, but he has been wrong on multiple occasions even by the third episode.

  13. Tauriel says:

    Zhao is a deliciously evil villain, because JASON FUCKING ISAACS!!!

  14. It wasn’t until the final five minutes that I literally struck my forehead with my palm, realizing the very title of the show gave away the plot of this particular episode.
    Show's not called Avatar: One of Many Living Airbenders! I didn't comment on your question the other day about whether this show would let characters die, but here you go: this children's show is essentially predicated on GENOCIDE.

    I cheer for Zuko over Zhao and then I realize I’m technically rooting for a villain at the same time I’m rooting for the good guys, just in two different contexts. And that’s pretty neat.
    It is TOTALLY neat. I love the way the show splits the two stories of hero and villain so that you become attached to them both for different reasons.

    the location where the flying bulls would feed
    They're called sky bisons, by the way.

    (Air, Water, Earth, and Fire. Which is some brilliant foreshadowing, considering we’re starting this off with Aang as an Airbender and we know he’s moving on to Water.)
    It's also the same order the elements are introduced in the credits (Water, Earth, Fire, Air).

    Ok, so they outright acknowledge that Aang survived in an iceberg for 100 years, and yet no one asks the obvious: HOW DID AANG NOT AGE?

    Ok, am I seriously this forgetful or did they explain what Zuko did to get banished? I don’t think they did yet.
    They did not.


    • Inner Voice says:

      "Show's not called Avatar: One of Many Living Airbenders!"


    • Skulls, Candied says:

      I always guessed it was a combination of ancient-cryogenics (aka ice) and Avatar-spirit-power that kept Aang in suspended state…..I guess I never looked to much into it because nearly every sci-fi show or something has SOME kind of suspension-frozen state for characters, that doesn't age them 😛

      • I don't even understand why you would age when you're frozen. Chemical reactions won't even occur below certain temperatures, so your body would be in stasis. That's the whole theory behind cryogenics, after all.

        • Elexus Calcearius says:

          That, and add in glowy-avatar-powers, and I can completely accept him surviving in eternal frozen youth for 100 years.

  15. shyfully says:

    This comment is a spoiler. Please read the spoiler policy- discussing ANYTHING that has not already happened is considered a spoiler.

  16. Dragonsong12 says:

    This episode, more than the first two (which were awesome!) really set in my mind how different and well-thought out this show was going to be.

    On the one hand, you have Aang’s story of finally going home after 100 years. You KNOW it’s going to be heartbreaking, but you still have to see it. We got to meet Monk Gyatso, who taught Aang airbending, and who instilled in him his lightheartedness and humor…and then we find out what has happened to him. And it’s horrible and heart breaking even though you knew it was coming.
    To anyone who’s ever wanted A:tLA to be “darker and edgier” I would like to point out that this “children’s show” began WITH A FREAKING GENOCIDE! How much darker do you need it to be? Sheesh!

    And we also get to meet Avatar Roku (sort of), the previous Avatar. I love this moment, because it’s set up that Roku was of the Fire Nation, and as he is Aang’s past-life, he was Aang, in a way. This, along with Aang saying in the first episode that he has Fire Nation friends are nice moments because they indicate that the Fire Nation isn’t ALL bad, we’re mostly just seeing the soldiers.

    On that note, there’s the B story with Zuko, which I adore, because it really fleshes out his character quite a bit. He’s not doing this because he’s evil. He’s not even doing it for the sake of the war. He’s doing it for his own honor and to earn back his father’s respect, which is sad and inspiring at the same time, and you can start to see where his angry attitude came from. This is the point where I really sat up and took notice of Zuko as a character instead of just another villain, and started paying much closer attention to his interactions.

    And then there’s Iroh…words cannot describe how awesome he is, so I won’t even try.

    Fun fact (though someone may have beaten me to it already) Zhao is voiced by the same guy who played Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies. Have fun hating that character!

    ((promise I won’t babble on like this on every episode, this one is just really important!))

  17. hallowsnothorcruxes says:

    Jason Isaacs gives the voice of Zhao if I'm not mistaken. Also I absolutely love the music during the agni kai.

  18. HanLin says:

    Uncle Iroh is such a BAMF. I love him.

    Momo is the coolest thing since the teacup pig

    I love the part with the pies.

  19. Bacon_Bomb says:

    airbender flavoured? are you going to tell us next that soilent green is made out of people?

    • Thiamalonee says:

      Gasp! Spoilers! Lol.
      I was talking about a video where someone recalls everything she knows about Star Wars, never having seen the movies, and I was like, "How does she know Han Solo ends up in Carbonite, but not that Luke and Leia are siblings?" Another of my friends freaked out because I'd "spoiled" her.

      I told her there's a 25 year statute on spoilers for pop culture legends.

  20. Thiamalonee says:

    This episode really left me with a ton of questions about the Air Benders/Nation.
    (PS- these are for the expression of my confusion, do not spoil me or Mark.)

    The way I see it, the Avatar is like the Dalai Lama, right? A reincarnated leader, taken from his family, raised by monks, etc. But the fact that he's born from a different nation every time throws me. This Airbender Temple, with all of its statues of all the incarnations, seemed like a kind of home base. But if the Avatar is born a Waterbender, would he still be raised here?

    Also- Maybe this was just me, but this episode gave me the impression that all of the Air Nation is made up of Monks, but that can't be true. Shouldn't Aang be interested in checking out where the non-temple Air Nation used to live? He's the last "Airbender," but is he the last of the whole Nation? Was this genocide? I'm not exactly clear on what went down. (Once again: Don't answer these questions.)

    Finally, I'm just kind of curious how they ID the Avatar. The search for the Dalai Lama involves visions by a lake, or following the smoke of the cremation, and then there's a belongings test (I know this from LOST research…). I really hope they explain how the Avatar is found.

    Those are the questions that this episode inspired for me. Once again: DO NOT ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS WITH SPOILERS.

    • Yeah, actually the idea of the Avatar is based on the idea of the Dalai Lama. Many of the culture parts of Avatar are based on real world cultures/religions/ideas. Not saying which or who or any for fear of spoiling. But if you pay attention you can probably figure out the influences on your own.

    • agrinningfool says:



      Seriously! DYING OVER HERE.

    • slharrop says:

      The way I see it, the Avatar is like the Dalai Lama, right? A reincarnated leader, taken from his family, raised by monks, etc. But the fact that he's born from a different nation every time throws me. This Airbender Temple, with all of its statues of all the incarnations, seemed like a kind of home base. But if the Avatar is born a Waterbender, would he still be raised here?

      In the episode, after Aang found the bodies he started glowing, then the statutes in the Airbender Temple inner chamber started glowing, after that they moved very quickly through 3 other temples. I know the last one was the Fire Temple, and it looked like the middle two were Water and Earth (I think they were in the same order the show has been using consistently: Air-Water-Earth-Fire). So, to me from the episode it looked like each element has a temple with an inner sanctum with either statutes or pictures of the prior avatars which activate when the Avatar is taken over by the 'avatar spirit' (at least that is what Katra called it) close enough to a temple sanctum it activates all the temple sanctum idols notifying the world the Avatar is awake/back/active. So, my guess is that each time the avatar is born in the cycle s/he is raised within the appropriate temple.

      What I don't know is how do they learn to master the other elements, do the masters come to their temple, do they have to quest for other masters. I guess in Aang's case he's going to have to quest, because whatever system they had was destroyed in the war.

      Which leaves me with the burning question: Who is going to teach Aang (Don't spoil me, I'm watching for the first time along with Mark!)? Particularly, fire bending, given the war. He obviously has to learn the skill and someone has to teach him, but who?

    • FlameRaven says:

      No spoilers, just some extrapolation from the information already presented:

      The airbenders are referred to as the "Air Nomads," so I would assume that most of them were traveling around the world from place to place, but probably had the temples as population centers/bases/trading points. Thus, if you destroyed the temples, you would probably wipe out a large percentage of the population. I would imagine that any airbenders who weren't at the temples would be SERIOUSLY DEEP IN HIDING because apparently the Fire Nation has been hunting them down for the last hundred years, looking for the Avatar. D:

      If Sokka and Katara's comments are any indication, THEY certainly think there are no airbenders left. There could be some still hiding somewhere, we have no idea. But consider this: Katara had a hard time learning to waterbend because there were no other waterbenders in her tribe. If there were airbenders in hiding, they would have a hard time training any other airbenders, because probably anyone caught airbending would be killed. ): Not a good situation at all.

  21. Violets are Blue says:

    See, I enjoy the fight scene between Zuko and Zhao more for it shows their personalities (which I don't know if it's a spoiler or not so I'll keep quiet). That and I am unashamed to admit that I enjoy their nakedness. Yum. That and the music just makes me happy.

    And poor Zuko's ship. It's so tiny in comparison to EVERYTHING else there.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      They are so distractedly BUFF in that scene. Good GOD.

      • Violets are Blue says:

        It always made me wonder how female Firebenders do an Agni Kai o.0

        • sundaycoma says:

          It always made me wonder just how much time a percentage of the wonderfully talented animation team had to spend staring at animated feet. Hyper masculinized animated feet. Drawing and animating and critiquing and revising and inking and coloring… feet.

    • Inner Voice says:

      It's even more striking because in the last episode, Zuko's ship was all SCARY HUGE AND INTIMIDATING AND BIGGER THAN THE WHOLE WATER TRIBE VILLAGE.
      <img src=""&gt;

      And then now we suddenly get a dose of perspective as we realize that by Fire Navy standards, it's actually a tiny little ship. D: Holy crap. How much scarier does that suddenly make the Fire Navy (and Zhao)??
      <img src=""&gt;

    • canadadian says:

      "Zuko's ship [is] so tiny in comparison to EVERYTHING else."
      As opposed to on the Internet, where Zuko's ship is one of the biggest, if ya know what I mean. 😉 That's not a spoiler, right? Right?

      • Violets are Blue says:

        Good one.

        Trolling creators are trolling.

        • canadadian says:

          Indeedydoo they are. And it is not the first time they have trolled with regard to ATLA ships. Don't believe me? Go look at the entry for Avatar on Tv Tropes. (Obviously not you Mark and others who haven't seen the whole thing because OMG SPOILERS EVERYWHERE). I don't remember exactly where but there is a link on there to three separate vids about ships created by the creators.

  22. alexamarie0813 says:

    i love this episode so much. it's so intense.
    <img src=""&gt;
    it's quite sad too, especially how aang points out at the end that he, appa, and momo are the only ones left of the air nomads. stupid fire nation, killing off super awesome civilizations >:(

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      I almost made a reference to Doctor Who but I'VE MADE ENOUGH WHO TALK THE PAST FEW MONTHS.

      • The Last of the Time Lords vs. The Last Airbender!

        Master of Time and Space vs. Master of the Elements!

        900-year-old man vs. 112-year-old boy!

        TARDIS vs. APPA!

        • wahlee says:

          No, not versus! Because if the Doctor ever met Aang, they would not fight, they would be friends! Aang would take the Doctor to visit all the cool animals and the Doctor would take Aang to Barcelona, where the dogs have no noses. And yea, it would be awesome.

          Anyone want to write crossover fic? 😛

          • Elexus Calcearius says:

            I've been very tempted to write crossover fic, involving either Eight or Eleven chilling with Iroh.

        • jubilantia says:

          This is a thing that needs to happen. Can this please happen? Oh god Aang as a TARDIS companion. Sokka as a TARDIS companion. Is it big enough to hold Appa?

          • Elexus Calcearius says:

            I'm planning on doing one with Iroh, but I might be able to pull Sokka in at some point.

  23. Bacon_Bomb says:

    <img src=""&gt;

    hey mark. my name is richard. i will like to welcome you to the party that is grammar and the whole, LAST AIRBENDER OMG HOW DID YOU MISS THAT? thing.

  24. Patrick says:

    Iroh is totally a bamf. But he is the chillest of bamfs ever. Mark, you are so unprepared for Iroh. You are unprepared for the amazingness of all the characters.

  25. Doodle says:

    I LOVE MOMO <3 I'm so glad you got to meet him at last =]

  26. @anzel89 says:

    I have found in writing a review for this episode that I know this series entirely to well not to post spoilers. So ever episode I will only give random facts about production and such.

    MOMO!!!!!!!!!! 0.0
    [IMG ][/IMG]
    [IMG ][/IMG]
    [IMG ][/IMG]

    I wanna hug him forever and ever and ever!!!!!

    [IMG =][/IMG]

  27. cait0716 says:

    I want to live in the Southern Air Temple!

    Sokka's attempts to cheer Aang up, despite the physical pain it cause him, are so sweet. Especially since Aang burned all his food.

  28. NeonProdigy says:


    I'm a massive fan of Avatar the Last Airbender, so the fact that you're liking it so far makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

    …I really wish I had something more intelligent to say than that, but I'm terrified of accidentally spoiling something for you and having AtLA spoiled for you is tragic.

  29. hungriestgame says:

    Sokka is my ultimate cartoon crush. I love him and I love him.

  30. arctic_hare says:

    I looooooooooooooove this episode. So many of my reactions were the same as yours, Mark – I love Gyatso, and Momo, and Aang's backstory is ALL THE SADS, and the animation and design are just GORGEOUS. OMG. I love the Air Temple, it is so beautiful. The emptiness and creepiness were right up my alley too, as you all might expect. 😀 I enjoyed the storyline with Zuko, though, mainly because IROH. IROH IS THE BEST, I ADORE HIM. <3 <3 <3 He is so funny and so badass and I awwwwwwwwwwww'd at him saying that about Zuko and then feigning ignorance when Zuko asked about it. It's so sweet, it's like – I know they're Fire Nation, and thus the bad guys, but I really find Zuko interesting with shades of grey, and Iroh's so wonderful, I kind of can't help myself rooting for them at times even though, yeah, antagonists. It's haaaaaaaaaaaard. ;_;

    That's the main attraction for me with this show: as much as I love the setting, and the lovely animation, and the story interests me, the heart of it all is the awesome cast. I love Katara, Aang, and Sokka (something I didn't expect after episode one; he is as mysteriously endearing to me as he is to you, Mark), I'm intrigued by Zuko, and I adore Iroh. Zhao is a douche, and a bully, but that's what I think will make him a very good antagonist, and I love the fact that there's "dissent in the ranks", so to speak – it makes the villainous side more interesting to have Zhao and Zuko clashing. I can't wait to see where it all leads!

  31. Ryan Lohner says:

    I'm surprised you haven't noted Zuko's scar yet; I didn't mention it before since I assumed it was makeup before this episode (until the line "Have you forgotten what happened the last time you dueled a master?" and the closeup of it) so I figured you might have too.

    Funny story about Jason Issacs as Zhao: just like Betty White in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, he heard that the show was looking for a Jason Issacs type actor, and told them they could have the real thing.

    • jubilantia says:

      Oh, I didn't know that backstory about Jason Isaacs. How awesome is that? I knew he was the voice, but didn't know they didn't have him from the beginning. There are some other really recognizable voices as the show goes on, too. Like REALLY SUPER AWESOME ONES.

  32. sabra_n says:

    As everyone and their mother has pointed out, it's quite nifty how the show split into two and let Zuko be the protagonist of his own story in this episode. And man, I'd forgotten how quickly Avatar parceled out its infodumps. We're only on the third episode and we've seen Aang's home, learned about the genocide of the Airbenders, discovered the outline of Zuko's past, and learned what happened to Katara and Sokka's mother. And while it was a wee bit expositiony, for the most part it went down mostly smoothly. The gorgeous animation and excellent voice acting certainly didn't hurt.

    Oh, and we welcomed Momo to the cast! Yay flying lemur! 😀 Basically, the fauna in the Avatar world are the best ever.

    Also the best ever: Iroh, retired General of Awesomeness. I'd have some jasmine tea with him any day.

    • arctic_hare says:

      I think Iroh needs to have tea parties of awesome with all of us. And Appa and Momo.

    • echinodermata says:

      Basically, the fauna in the Avatar world are the best ever.

      I waffle between this show and Pokemon, with Pokemon winning, but the point stands: awesome animals.

      And ditto (see what I did there?) on the smooth exposition and Momo and Iroh.

  33. Depths_of_Sea says:

    So remember when you (generic you) thought this was just going to be a typical light-hearted kids' cartoon? And then this episode comes around and SURPRISE GENOCIDE and GLOWING EYES OF GRIEF AND DOOM?

    I just love how Mike and Bryan throw all our expectations for a loop.

  34. arctic_hare says:



  35. auddie956 says:

    IMHO i think Iroh is just the best character EVER!!!! i just love him!!!

  36. So, we’ve got a fascinating plot, some nice character parallels, some unorthodox storytelling…yet I’m drawn to the characters the most.
    A:TLA is one of the few shows I can think of where I like—and usually love—every single fucking character. There are a couple characters I'm not ga-ga about, but all the major ones, for sure, are amazing and complex and brilliantly drawn and compellingly acted.

    It also helps that nearly everyone gets hilarious lines every now and then.

    • corporatecake says:

      I totally agree with you on the characters. When I say "I'm not a fan of So and So" when referring to an Avatar character, it just means I love them somewhat less than the characters I ABSOLUTELY ADORE, as opposed to generally, in a series, there are some characters I really just don't care for.

    • @redbeardjim says:

      This, so very much. *Every single* character is awesome in some way.

    • Cat_Eyed_Fox says:

      There are definitely characters I HATE, but not because they're badly written, or 2 dimensional. In fact these characters are just as well written and fleshed out as everyone else, and just as realistic. Oh no, I hate them for being EVIL convining douchebags. That is all I will say about it, because SPOILERS but yeah. Hate.

    • Skulls, Candied says:

      EXACTLY. It's quite disappointing that I've come to accept the presence of flat, generic, already-used-before characters in shows… I love Avatar for MANY reasons but one big one is that the main characters are genuinely LOVABLE, and real. If you really wanted to, you could derive from Katara, Sokka and Aang the protective weak female, the overly reactive macho male, and the all-around goody good, but then you would be COMPLETELY IN THE WRONG. This show makes every character have his/her flaws, weaknesses, hopes, and strengths and I LOVE it for that. <3

  37. affableevil says:

    OMFG Guys. Last night, I had a dream where I left a super spoilery comment by accident and I got a ton of downvotes and was promptly banninated and it was the MOST TRAGIC THING EVER. And then I woke up and had to make sure that didn't actually happen. Seriously. Spoilers have literally become the stuff of my nightmares

    Okay, about the episode itself: I love it. I really, really love it. I love the way it pits two antagonists against each other and before you know it, you are kind of rooting for a villain and wait what. I love Momo and his giant ears. I love the happy flashbacks to the air temple. I love how the show addresses the genocide of Aang's people, and he shows some heartbreaking emotional turmoil. And I love Iroh. Full-stop, I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT IROH.

    "my body is ready, Iroh."

    you are not alone in this

  38. psycicflower says:


  39. Ryan Lohner says:

    One neat bit showing the Asian influence on this show: "Momo" is Chinese for "peach," which is why Aang names the lemur that after he steals a peach from Sokka. Really neat that it's just thrown in there and not explained, with the producers trusting the fans to follow them regardless.

    It's been theorized that the characters are even meant to be speaking Chinese, which we hear as English through translation convention (see TV Tropes if you don't know what that is). I definitely buy it.

    • echinodermata says:

      Japanese, I'm pretty sure. But yeah, I appreciate that it's just there and that the people who get it will be pleased.

    • Avit says:

      That's not Chinese. It's one of the other big East Asian languages, I forget J or K, but definitely not Chinese.

    • PAWN1 says:

      "It's been theorized that the characters are even meant to be speaking Chinese"

      This is supported by the fact that all of the written text in the show (in-universe, of course!) is written in Chinese! NOT RANDOM ASIAN-Y SQUIGGLES, even– the actual language. The team that worked on Avatar really went all-out in their devotion to the show's Asian influences!

    • Inner Voice says:

      Not only is "Momo" Japanese for "peach," which is what Momo the lemur ate, it's also a stereotypical name for pet dogs in Japan, like "Fido" or "Spot" in English.

      (Which is why, in the Japanese manga/TV series Kimi Wa Pet, when a woman takes in a homeless teenager as her [completely nonsexual!] "pet", she names him "Momo".)
      <img src=""&gt;
      /only-slightly-relevant-to-ATLA MatsuJun moment

    • Shay Guy says:

      (see TV Tropes if you don't know what that is)

      Or rather, don't, because despite it being possibly my favorite site ever*, there are spoilers EVERYWHERE. There's markup to block it out, but it's inconsistently applied, and even at its strictest it's nowhere near this site's standards. Plus just its presence can act as a spoiler, like if it's used to block out a gendered pronoun.

      If they're speaking "Chinese," though, the question is, which dialect? Or possibly one that doesn't even exist in our world.

      *Speaking of which, hey, didn't expect to see you here. Small internet. 😛 I'm like three volumes behind the official 20th Century Boys releases, sorry to say.

      • sundaycoma says:

        Heyo tropers! It's kind of a trip to finally have gotten through the Avatar: The Last Airbender page just as Mark is starting it. I'm like so overloaded of Avatar information and tropes that it's like every comment takes me seven to eight minutes, five of which is just re-reading and trying to possibly construe if this could in any ruin anyone else's first time viewership.

        Kind of like the reverse for EVERYBODY ELSE when Mark starts watching Buffy, at which point I'll hopefully have at least finished the fifth season. (And I'm still on the first season of Angel. I am so, so far behind)

    • stephanienienie says:

      Here to confirm that momo is Japanese for peach, but the thing is that Bryke didn't have that in mind when they named the flying lemur. It happened to be a coincidence that worked well in their favor.

  40. arctic_hare says:


  41. @halvedfool says:

    One of the things I really like about this episode is the paralleling of family, with a focus on father-son relationships, in both Aang's and Zuko's storylines.

    You have Aang hoping to find his people, and the person who encapsulates his childhood memory of the Air Nomads is his father figure, Gyatso. So when he discovers Gyatso is dead, with a horde of Fire Nation corpses at his feet, it finally brings home to him the fact that his people have been wiped out and he is the last Airbender left. And the realisation sends him into the Avatar State.

    For Zuko, a lot more of his motivation is revealed to show that he's got a personal stake in the matter — it's not just for the sake of the Fire Nation that he wants to capture the Avatar. He's got to do it to prove himself to a father who has sent him out, as a teenager, on what amounts to a wild goose chase on a single ship, not a fleet, as Zhao commands and without anyone but a crew and his uncle. It's been a hundred years since the Avatar was last seen, and people think he's a fairytale. Also, it's Zhao's jibe that his father doesn't want him and thinks Zuko's a failure that instigates him to challenge Zhao to the Agni Kai.

    Ultimately, though, both of them are reminded that they're not on their own. Sokka and Katara step in to tell Aang he has a new family. Iroh steps in to protect Zuko (specifically calling him 'my nephew' to highlight their familial connection), and to point out that this banished prince has more honour than Zhao even when out of favour with his father. They are not alone.

    Other things:
    – Sokka is not wrong to point out that keeping the truth from Aang will be a problem, even though he couldn't have predicted how horribly it turned out. I appreciate that he's not just a comic relief character.
    – Katara being unafraid of Aang at his most violent. She's not afraid of the wind and the anger or the glowing eyes. She knows how badly he's hurting and she's the one who calms him down.
    – Momo is awesome. In the art book, it's specifically noted that Momo is not a tiny human and emphasise that his poses and movement shouldn't be animated like a human's, which I thought was pretty neat.

  42. @redbeardjim says:

    The moment when Iroh blocked Zhao's attack (WITH AUTHORITY!!!) and took the time to kick him right in the honor was when I knew that this show was gonna be different (and awesome). I fell in love with the "OM NOM NOM" in ep. 1, but that took it to an entire new level.

  43. shadeedge says:

    Last episode I posted about how, already, the characters on this show were exhibiting interesting and impressive characterisation. I think in this episode, we're taking that road of interesting ideas and putting it on the world instead; the title gives it away, but what we're looking at seems to very much be the Last Airbender. This is a world where an entire culture of people, capable of defending themselves, have been wiped out – and wiped out within a century. This is, basically, our true introduction to the Fire Nation's power and reach; we've seen Zuko and Iroh (and in this episode, Zhao) as individual representatives, but this is what the Fire Nation itself is apparently capable of. This is what they have the ability to do. The questions now are; how did they do it? And for what reason?

  44. Tilja says:

    you just remined me of something I read in a page of ATLA: OTP = Iroh + Tea Time. xD

  45. be_themoon says:

    a;slkdhgkd I am SO HAPPY you are enjoying it. 😀 I'm reading your reviews and bouncing up and down and making herculean efforts to keep my mouth SHUT so as to not spoil you.

    I always forget how awesome it is until I rewatch it. Also, KATARA. MY GIRL.

  46. Quaero says:

    So, what do you think of the music so far?

  47. Angie says:

    I know everybody and their Gran-Gran has mentioned the fact that Jason Isaacs is the voice of Zhao. <img src="; title="Hosted by"><img src="; border="0" alt="jasonisaacs,movie"> (Also, why has he not yet been in Doctor Who?! Moffatt, get on that, okay?). I can't help but compliment the voice cast every chance I get.

    And again, the artistry of this series is amazing. Every single frame is beautiful.

    I'm going to refrain from further commentary on this episode, because I watched like five episodes last night and I'm feeling a little paranoid about not remembering what event took place in which episode and accidentally spoiling. 😛

    ~This comment brought to you from the Jason Isaacs Appreciation Society~

    • Julia says:

      HE HAS BEEN IN DOCTOR WHO! He voiced the scilence. LIke the voice that told the doctor that scilence will rain. YEAH THAT TERRIFYING VOICE OF DOOM!
      ~so sayeth wiki

      • Elexus Calcearius says:

        HA? REALLY?

        Boy, I hope that means he'll be in the next season, THAT WOULD BE EPIC.

  48. Nikki says:

    Ah, this episode is the one that changed everything for me. I wasn't very into the show just from the first two episodes. I wasn't seeing what my friend who introduced me to the show was raving about. I felt like I could have easily stopped watching, but then I saw this episode and it all changed for me. I was blown away! This is the episode where I really felt like this show would be different.

    First of all, I was surprised when I saw that the story would continue to follow Zuko and his uncle despite not being in direct contact with Aang or company. I have to admit I assumed Avatar would just be your average adventure show with your average cardboard villain who dumbly and pathetically continues to chase after the heroes each week only to be foiled time and again. With their reasons for the chase being just as shallow as they are, or worse yet, not even having a reason other than they're the bad guy. This episode showed me (or at least gave me a glimpse) how wrong I was about what type of story this would be and about the type of character Zuko would be.

    I actually found myself more interested in Zuko's story than Aang's in this episode. Zuko isn't just a prince searching for the avatar. Zuko is a banished prince, possibly unwanted by his father, but desperate to prove himself to him. He looked impressive in the last episode, but now at the port around other military members you can see that he is actually not highly regarded. I found the visual of his smaller, damaged ship surrounded by the much larger, finer war ships to be very informative. It seems to reflect his standing among the Fire Nation perfectly. He gets no respect and is up against what had seemed an impossible task, but continues on with fierce determination (and an almost desperation), with the sole purpose to get what he calls his honor back. And this idea of honor seems to connect back to his father. I couldn't not be intrigued with Zuko's story.

    Why was he banished? What's the deal between him and his father? "You have the scar to prove it" WHOA. WTF does that mean? What's he trying to say here?

    He seemed to so much want his father to welcome him back, who Zhao said didn't even want him, and yet he is accompanied by his uncle who seems to be the only person around to treat Zuko with kindness and respect. I can just feel the love Iroh has for Zuko, but for the most part Zuko seems to take him for granted, which is very realistic, especially of a hot-headed teenager. Zuko spends so much time brooding on what he's lost or thinks he's lost that he doesn't appreciate what he has.

    He has this warped idea of what honor is, but he demonstrated his morality and honorable nature during the Agni Kai. Even Iroh praised him on it and you could tell Zuko was very touched to hear him say it. It meant a lot to him and I got the feeling that he didn't hear that kind of praise about himself often. I feel that Zuko has a lot of wrong ideas about himself and what's important. I was very interested to see where this would take him and I was so glad to see some depth given to a villain.

    I LOVE the dynamic between Zuko and Uncle Iroh! They may not always agree, but there's a familiarity and comfortableness in their relationship.

    Speaking of Iroh, HE IS TOO COOL FOR YOU! Seriously! He's so damn awesome! And he just keeps getting better and better! General Iroh? Hero of the nation? Now retired, chillin' out traveling the world, drinking tea, and loving and supporting his banished nephew? Awesome. Also made me want to know his story too.

    Aang's story was quite tragic. Fully realizing what happened to his people. Again, the story surprised me. I'm still impressed genocide was in a Nick kids' cartoon. I know the show's called Avatar: The Last Airbender but it was still a bit of a shock to see Aang coming to terms with being the only member of his people alive on the planet. It's so messed up. I think this showed me that the war itself was actually going to be dealt with within the story and in a way that didn't entirely sugar coat its horrors. There's a big difference between SAYING the Airbenders were killed in the war, and showing the last surviving Airbender look at the empty ruins of his home and the bones of his long dead people. I had to respect the show for that.

    Also, reincarnation. I don't know much about it, but I know it's not a concept that shows up in American cartoons very often, if at all before. And it ends up being a big part of one of the characters and it is just an accepted fact that the Avatar reincarnates. Here is where the respect for other cultures and beliefs really shines through for me for the first time.

    Great episode. I had to keep watching after that and I really think the show only get better and better!

    • sundaycoma says:

      I absolutely had the same reaction to everything you mentioned about Zuko. At this point, there were still a few episodes left before I was won over but the second that "You have the scar to prove it" line left the speakers, it was like someone fire-punched me in the face. I was instantly cued to it, like "Wai–wha? We're gonna talk about WHY he has this scar? It's not just a 'I'm mega-creepy guy with giant disfiguration hai I'll be yr villian now' thing? Like, there's backstory? That's going to explain why Zuko's so angry– my god!! There's going to be some angst ahoy, isn't there? On a Nickelodeon show?" (And then, next scene, genocide yayayay kids enjoy the sweet taste of that with your sugary afternoon snacks and carbonated beverages yayayay!)

      And then the Agni Kai was just so beautifully animated and the fluidity in the martial arts is something I know we've all raved about but truly, something no amount of words is ever going to truly encompass. It's definitely here that I was persuaded by my bestie to not roll my eyes and make sarcastic comebacks to /every/ little thing Katara said (still one of my least favorite characters).

  49. hpfan04 says:

    "Even in exile, my nephew is more honorable than you."

    My favorite line in this episode. Tears forever. Oh, Iroh. <3 <3 <3

  50. hpfish13 says:

    I am having trouble commenting on anything about this show because I watched the last 5 episodes of season 2 first, so I can't even say my initial reactions to these episodes for fear of spoilers. This episode is so intense though.

    Still, I'm excited to get to episode 4, and 5, and 6 and 7 and…………………………

  51. arnenieberding says:

    I thought I'd be able to nicely follow along. But I'm at book three now. In two days.

    (even though I have lots of work to do and… – Arne, you're kinda ruining the point of "regretting nothing")

    • Bacon_Bomb says:

      I watched all of these a while back and started watching these on Netflix the other day just cuz they were there. I was tickled turquoise to see that Mark started watching these so I stopped at Episode 34 to pick up where he is now. ALL THE FUN IS TO BE HAD.

    • jubilantia says:

      Yeah, somehow the amount of media, books or TV or random Asian live action dramas, increases in direct proportion to the amount of stuff I have to do.

      It doesn't make sense! And yet, when you see how ridiculously awesome Avatar is, IT TOTALLY TOTALLY DOES.

    • HoneyBunny says:

      Ha! You sound like me earlier this summer. They ran a marathon of 12 episodes a night for a week, but I didn't make it past the first day. I stayed up for 24 hours straight to finish the series. I got hooked just that fast! I'm on my third viewing, and I'm taking my time and savoring the series. Mark's input is just icing on the cake!

  52. PAWN1 says:

    A liiiittle spoilery here.

  53. Goldensage says:

    I'm sorry about accidentally spoiling the Avatar State one episode early!

    Anyway, yeah. Zhao is awesome and is voiced by Jason Isaacs (aka Draco Malfoy). I'm sure somebody has already posted this, but it's still awesome.

    And the architecture in this show is gorgeous.

  54. jubilantia says:

    I like your observations, although I personally love this episode. I know the whole duel thing seems a little bit "done before," but at the same time, the characters are unique enough to make it new for me. However, I have probably consumed fewer things where that would come into play, so maybe you are more jaded.

    Side Voice Actor Bonus (otherwise known as Three Degrees of Awesome): Zhao–>Jason Isaacs–> Lucius Malfoy->YAAAAY. Guy does a bang-up American accent.

    Also, firefighting. How could it not be cool? And it's an important characterization scene. Which, maybe it annoyed you because it is really obviously stated by Iroh? Can anything seem not awesome it's stated by Iroh? Anyway, it's early days yet; they are still finding their feet with the storytelling.

    There is a dread in this episode because you know what's coming, but it makes sense that Katara would keep it from Aang. The thing is, I'm not entirely sure Aang didn't know. Katara said "the Fire Nation is ruthless", and he said "I have to see it for myself." This makes me think that although it didn't sink in, he knew what the truth was, deep down.

    But that scene! Oh lord. When he just sinks to the floor, it is so heartbreaking. However, it's good that our Trio now has something to hold them together other than "we were in the right place at the right time." That they actually have things in common and yay.

    It's with the illumination of the airbender temple that I find Zuko's comment in the last episode funny: "I suppose you don't know anything of fathers, being raised by monks." Wouldn't that mean he just has lots and lots of fathers?

    Plus, I love Gyatso for being such an unconventional mentor. I want to live in an Airbender temple! But… then I couldn't eat MEAT. Maybe not. Clearly I am the reincarnation Sokka twice removed from animation, or something.

    As for fast-moving, intricate plot? Yeah, not prepared. I'm also interested to know if are you keeping to the one-episode-a-day schedule because you really want to, or because you just haven't had time. I know you mentioned you might do more than one episode a day, and frankly, I don't know how you are holding it in.

    Also also, I hope that our intense squeeing in the comments isn't raising your expectations too much. I worry that it will make you more critical than normal- kind of like what happened with me and Blue Person Avatar.

    Oh other random thought: I think it's great that you like Sokka, because I can see why he would be annoying. I think he adds another dimension to the group that keeps things fresh, and he is just so lovable. Plus, for every insulting thing he does or says, he gets kharmic retribution by being buried in snow or snotted by a flying bison or something, so it's easier to like him.

    I will close with a Sokka funny: "Making him feel better is putting me in a world of hurt."

  55. Moonie says:

    I got into this show late, and thought for yeaaars that all avatars had the little arrow tattoos.
    It wasn't until I watched this episode that I realized… nope, just airbenders.
    Did anyone else think that?

  56. Anonymouse says:

    MOMO!!!!!! I Can has a momo? y/y?

    You didn't like the Zuko plot? I definitely preferred the Zuko subplot to the gAang. I want a Zuko backstory and I want it NOW. The Zuko scenes show his motivation. He doesn't do what he does for the evulz. I don't even think it's 100% for his honour (although that's definitely part of it). Zuko has a strong desire to prove himself. And that's awesome. He's already become a different villain than in most Nick shows, and I'm a sucker for the villain. Also the B Plot has Iroh, screams badass no matter what he's doing…

    Maybe it's because of the roles they had to play in their village, but it's surprising and cool how easily Katara and Sokka stepped into the role of "parent." The way they immediately feel they know what's best for Aang, and act on that belief is very… wow. After my mom left, I've found myself in the "mother" position increasingly often with my two teenage siblings, especially my sixteen year old sister. It's not easy, and it rarely comes as natural as it seems to for Katara and Sokka. And if anyone has figured out what my point is… I seem to have lost it.

  57. Kelly Kilcoyne says:

    I, too, was surprised early on by how little Sokka irritated me. Likewise Momo. I thought he'd be a bit twee, but not so much.

    I devoured this series on Netflix Streaming, then dove right back in as I forced my husband to watch the entire run. He loved it every bit as much as I did, and was seriously impressed by the richness of the storytelling. Most of all, though, he loved that flying bison so much he never refers to this as anything other than 'The Appa Show.'

  58. Grant says:

    He didn't age because he was frozen. Like cryogenics. I would have thought this word be obvious 😛

    • cait0716 says:

      I agree. It's just like Austin Powers or Fry. This is basic sci fi

    • It's never actually stated in the show, it's just sort of assumed as kid's psuedo-science that frozen in ice = TOTALLY FROZEN IN TIIIIIIIIIME~

      It was originally aimed at 7-10 year old boys, after all. Apparently the creators originally wanted to show him suspended in a ~ball of magical energy~ inside the ice, just so you knew without a shadow of a doubt it was all magicky~ and shit, but they were under a lot of time and budget stress and eventually had to drop the idea.

  59. Flea says:


    I won't spoil, don't worry. That shit isn't cool.

    1) I cheer for Zuko over Zhao and then I realize I’m technically rooting for a villain at the same time I’m rooting for the good guys, just in two different contexts. And that’s pretty neat.

    I love this, it is so very, very true. I think it's great that this show can illustrate that just because someone is The Bad Guy in one situation, doesn't mean he is Always The Absolute Bad Guy. Kid's shows often just have one concrete, douchebag villian character or group and I'm so pleased you've picked up on how this show is already pushing that and not letting people have a totally black and white world view. Hell, there are plenty of fictional things for ADULTS that fail to do that TWILIGHT I AM LOOKING AT YOU HERE.

    In short, AtLA > Twilight. Actually, AtLA > Everything > Twilight.

  60. ALSO ALSO Jason Isaacs was Hook in a version of Peter Pan. Sooooo, Rufio was fighting Hook.

  61. I think it's the mark of a truly great show/series/book if you fall in love with multiple characters in so little time, but this show does it over and over again. There are probably 30 various characters throughout this series where I am like "OMG I LOVE THEM THEY ARE MY FAVORITE <3"

    I definitely fell head over heels for this show when I realized that the villains were going to be more layered than simply LOL EVIL CUZ IT'S FUN. The best villains are the ones who have reasons for their behavior and truly believe they're doing the "right" thing. Sooooooo many stories feature the "criminally insane" villain or the "born evil" villain or the "I just like to fuck shit up because that's how I roll" villain. And those are BORING. SO SO BORING. So when Zuko's backstory started being fleshed out and we could see how he and Iroh are operating by a different set of rules than Zhao, I was like YES. YES, THIS.


      ASDFGHJKL this SHOW, man, I want the my (fictional, possibly never to exist) kids to watch this show, I feel like it'd raise them so much better than I could. Adventure! With no "isms"!

  62. I love this episode for many reasons. First reason: Momo! We get a new addition and how adorable is he? Second is I find it interesting how they plotted it. I agree that Aangs was much more interesting because it shows us more mythology as well as lets us know about some of Aang's past and what Airbenders were like and so on. But likewise I find the Zuko plot a little interesting too because you get a new character as well (Zhou, man I forgot how much he sucked personality wise) and I love that they're showing us that there is more to Zuko then just a villian. Don't get that with many kid cartoons. And yes, Iroh ruled so hard in this ep, but he's my favorite so I tend to think he always rules 😉

  63. yodalicious says:

    I'm just informing you Mark, if you ever say a single negative word about Sokka you and I are done professionally.

  64. ThreeBooks says:

    MARK WATCH OUT! The involuntary ads on Youtube are sometimes Doctor Who ones!

    (It makes my stomach flutter like a little bird, because WTF WTF MOFFAT IT HASN'T EVEN STARTED YET AND I AM TERRIFIED, AHSAJSSTOPPIT!!)

  65. Classtoise says:

    I can definitely agree about "rooting for the villain". This show does a great job of establishing the villain so he's not just "CURSE YOU AVATAR! I'LL GET YOU YET!"
    He has motivations, he has feelings, he has conflict. He's not just some faceless "bad guy" who wants to kill the Avatar because ???. And it does a great job of making you care (in only the third episode!) when he confronts his OWN conflict in Zhao.

  66. Julia says:

    I think I saw Zuko's backstory here. It wasn't explicitly stated. I won't say it just in case it is spoilery. Zuko is so ~emo~ I love it
    Favorite thing about Avater:
    1. Characters (totally agree with you)
    2. Story- it is the perfect balance between shit just got real and LOL.
    3. Color- that looks looks like it took a LONG time to make
    4. Various Themes- many of which are spoilery but the ones we have already seen (feminism, friendship, war v. peace, honor) are epic and fantastic to see in a kids show. Normally they just tell kids to brush their teeth or listen to your parents to the fairygodmother of doom would get you.
    Sokka's anger for me just seemed… not actually anger but his personality. He is out of his comfort zone like he said in the 2nd episode and expressing his frustration accordingly. His character is so REAL after just the first three episodes. I want to know who wrote this and send them baked goods.
    This show makes me all nostaligic. I would huddle around the TV on saturday mornings when they showed the reruns and glare until everyone else left the room. lol I was so friendly. BUT YOU CAN'T TAKE MY TV!!! NEVARRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!
    DFTBA y'all

  67. qwopisinthemailbox says:


  68. @gladdecease says:

    No live review from me today, between being five hours late to the party and my file of this episode not wanting to play right…. *pokes computer suspiciously*

    That said, I find myself agreeing with a lot of your review. In particular, I'm glad you noticed and commented on the "rooting for the villain" aspect of this episode. I love how this show plays around with your typical cartoon black and white view of the world – there are a lot of greys to be found. I'm also kind of surprised how early some of these tidbits of backstory were presented, though I'm probably confusing the tidbits in my memory with when the complete backstory is revealed, which isn't until [spoiler].

    And yes, Uncle Iroh is the best ever. I see no way you won't grow to love him more and more and more with each passing episode, and I look forward to seeing it happen in real time.

  69. Nomie says:

    Ugh, I don’t think I have ever regretted doing a show in this manner so quickly.

    I mainlined the entire show in…. a week, maybe? Possibly two weeks? Because it was that good and I really resented things like having to go to work or sleep or shower that were OBVIOUSLY LESS IMPORTANT OR INTERESTING.

    • FlameRaven says:

      Yes! I think I watched all existing episodes within a couple days when I really got into this show. Unfortunately at that point the show was only on Season 2 Episode 7 and I had to wait for the rest of the episodes to come out, which sometimes took months! Fun fact: The seasons were at first split up into halves in spring/fall, but later Nickelodeon screwed up the airing schedule so bad that in Season 3, some episodes actually were released on DVD before they were aired! WTF!

      In light of that, watching just one a day doesn't seem so bad, but I know that the first few times I shared this with other people, we did long four-or-five hour binges with about 10 episodes at a time. 🙂

  70. Ryan Lohner says:

    Love how at least every third post so far on every episode features "Iroh is awesome" somewhere. I distinctly remember being very concerned that Shyamalan had cast an Indian actor for Zuko just so he could play Iroh himself. Even now (and Shaun Toub's performance was pretty much the one shining light of the film, even though he looks completely wrong for the part) I still shudder at the thought.

    • jubilantia says:

      Oh, the thought of that movie makes me cry all the tears. And I haven't even seen it. As soon as I heard they were doing a live action I was like, "Oh, honey, no, that would not work. But, I guess I'll give it a shot."

      And then months pass. Movie creators: "Hooray! M. Night Shyamalan is directing!" Me: "Um… interesting choice? I don't see any evidence that relates to epic fantasy in his previous material at all? And haven't his last couple of movies sort of sucked…? But I'll still give it a shot…?"

      And then The Day Came: "Aaaaand here is the main cast! Don't you love how pearly white they are?" Me: "….oh hell no."

      A month later: the movie casters: "OK, you complained about it being racist so we made the bad guys brown! Everything's okay now, right?" Me: "OH HAAAAAAAALE NO. I WILL SMITE YOU FROM THE DEPTHS OF THE EARTH WITH RIGHTEOUS FIRE. BOYCOTTING!"

  71. sundaycoma says:

    There really isn't a single Sifu Kisu martial arts featurette that I can find that isn't super spoileriffic and I want so badly to introduce first time watchers to him via youtube!

    But what you guys need to know is that there really is someone out there doing all the flippity-doo shit for the artists to use as a reference and this guy is god damn amazing. He's like the epitome of cool (while our creators Mike and Bryan are kind of the epitome of adorable dorkness) and once we've gotten past the halfway mark of the season (because it isn't so much that videos include any plot points or introduce any characters outright so much as they just use clips from the show to compare animation to the movements as performed by a real life guy), there will be posts. JSYAK.

    But I found a youtube vid of him at San Diego Comic-Con taking time out in the hallways to help cosplayers perfect their martial arts stances for their characters!! D'AWWW<3×1,000

    • Inner Voice says:

      "him at San Diego Comic-Con taking time out in the hallways to help cosplayers perfect their martial arts stances for their characters!!"

      Oh my God.
      I can't decide whether I desperately, desperately want that to happen to me, or whether I hope it never does because I would absolutely die of shyness.
      I think the "OH PLEASE DO WANT" side is winning.
      /is not even an ATLA cosplayer (yet)

      • sundaycoma says:

        It's especially adorable because the first cosplayer is really imitating him and trying to get it right while the one right after that is just so intimidated and overwhelmed that he just kind of stands off to the side with a like "CANNOT BELIEVE MY LUCK RIGHT NOW" grin.

        Apparently Kisu tipped off the creators and Mike and Bryan dropped by later.
        Most awesome creative team ever yes/yes/superyes?

        Would it be safe at this point to ask which character you plan on cosplaying as?

        • Inner Voice says:

          Heee, that second one would totally be me. I would try to get it right but my brain would just be frozen. And superyes, most awesome creative team ever!! 😀

          Nope, it would not. 😛 It'll probably never happen, actually; it was planned as a group cosplay several years ago and people just never had time to pull it all together and then we drifted apart…
          /sad story bro

  72. hilarius11 says:

    I feel like Iroh is the Dumbledore of this show, except on the bad side? Is that ok? I'm going with yes.
    "Even in exile my nephew has more courage than you. And thank you for the tea." Did anyone else hear that in Dumbledore's voice? I totally did

  73. Zac says:

    when you wrap up the first season check out "avatar abridged" on youtube

    • Anonymouse says:

      O.o… the Abridged series left me forever scarred….naked Iroh time…
      Also, I keep hearing Zuko's whiny emo voice in my head.

  74. Elexus Calcearius says:

    Okay, very much late to the party, but I already had thoughts written out, so I’ll post them anyway. \

    You know, the first thing that comes to mind about this episode, is that for the third part of a kids’ series, it sure gets the angst on pretty fast. Here we have a (1)12 kid crying over the skeletal body of his teacher and the rest of his people, and going into a GLOWING HOMICIDAL RAGE. I mean, geez. I know in the HP re-read Mark commented on how much of early Harry Potter was directly related to the death of Lily and James, but here it’s directly related to genocide. That’s harsh.

    I really do appreciate how much time is spent focusing on these more serious issues. This is a world at war, and if the show didn’t at least reference the effects this had, I would feel cheated. But here, Bryke fully explores the pain the conflict have caused. Katara and Sokka have lost their mother, and haven’t seen their father in years. Aang has lost not only all his friends and family, but his entire culture. This isn’t like in some series where you know the army/big bad/dictator is ‘bad’, but you don’t really know why he’s bad, he just sort of is. Here you see why.

    In my opinion, the Zuko sub-plot isn’t as interesting, but it fleshes out our villains nicely, and introduces their antagonist, Zhao, also known as Git With The Sideburns. I like how this not only begins to add more conflict to the show, but also because it gives a very peculiar sensation of simultaneously routing for both the villain and the hero. It’s a very different, and enjoyable dynamic, at least for me.

    As for the tension between Zhao and Zuko, I can see why this wouldn’t appeal to Mark, and I admit fights about who is the ‘most manly’ are really quite stupid. But I feel that in the context of the world and characters it makes perfect sense. The whole universe is based on Asia, whose culture on a whole has a large emphasis on ‘honour’; the Fire Nation was highly influenced by Japan, which is even more so. Plus, Zuko’s confrontational nature makes it even more so.

    I don’t really have much more to say about the episode in general, so here are some cool notes about language and the mythology/religion behind this episode.

    1)A note on reincarnation; the concept of people returning for multiple lives on Earth is a common one, especially in Eastern religions. The way it’s presented in Avatar draws on a lot of them, but I don’t think it follows any specific ‘type’ completely. In religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism (which have very similar roots) everything has a soul, part of a higher reality, and when its physical body dies it would get a new one; how ‘good’ this body is will be based on how good the soul acted (the concept of karma). Eventually you could break free of the cycle of death and rebirth and achieve liberation or moksha, which was like a destruction of the ego. Avatar doesn’t seem to follow this, since only the Avatar is explicitly said to reincarnate, although possibly other people do too; in neither case does it appear to be based on karma.

    Furthermore, while the concept of the Avatar almost certainly stems from Hinduism, it differs a lot. In Hinduism, the god Vishnu was the preserver, and he would take mortal forms to protect the Earth. (Famous forms include Krishna and Buddha). Aang isn’t a god, at least in the sense of Hinduism, and the Avatar seems to never exist simply as a god.

    2)The reincarnation thing is pretty obviously related to Eastern Religions, but so is the Agni-Kai, which gets its name from Hinduism. ‘Agni’ is the Hindu god of fire; he is the acceptor of sacrifice as well as knowledge. He has two heads, showing how he can be both destructive and life giving.

    3)Momo the lemur! Hello! Aang named him while the little lemur was eating a peach- and in Japanese, Momo means peach. I think that’s kind of cute. XD

  75. Pingback: Mark Watches 'Avatar': S01E03 – The Southern Air Temple | Mark Watches | The War You Dont See

  76. Kchano says:

    ATLA, much like Harry Potter, constantly has me going "WHY IS MAGIC NOT REEAAALLL!?" I am so excited that you are enjoying it! Something I love about this show is that it appeals to so many people – children and adults alike. My parents and I are clashing more and more over politics and (my lack of) religion, but at least we can still sit down with a bowl of popcorn and enjoy an episode of Avatar once I've stopped yelling about the GOP.

  77. fey says:

    Totally unrelated to anything shown or said on the show, I'd say that Aang didn't age because he was frozen! It's like food doesn't go bad when you put it in the freezer and then it comes out just like it was when you put it in!

    Of course this doesn't really work on people, or on food really, but the Avatar-Word already has bending, so why not cryogenics?

    And that's also totally how stasis works in most sci fi and fantasy environments. The "slept and woke up old" thing in fairy tales is a different trope.

  78. Chris Brown says:

    First of all, I want to say that I think it is awesome that you are reviewing Avatar and that you like it so much. It is one of my favourite shows and is vastly underrated.
    I used to watch it religiously when it first came on YTV (Canadian TV station for kids) then I watched the full series online and I am now rewatching it on DVD.
    I probably know more about the Avatar universe than than one person should but I also hate spoilers and will not tell you anything that you should not already know.

    Sorry this comment is so long. I will actually get to my point now.
    I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this yet or not but, Katara actually tells you about the Avatar reincarnation cycle and that Aang is the Avatar in the opening credits:

    "Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, can stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. 100 years passed and my brother and I found the NEW Avatar, an airbender named Aang…[etc.]"

    I'm glad you hadn't realized that though. It seems to have given you a whole new perspective on the episode.

    One last thing. Have you heard about the new Avatar series coming out? It's going to focus on a waterbender Avatar. I won't say anything more about that but here is a link if you want to check it out:

    • chrisbrown390 says:

      and now I have an IntenseDebate account so I can discuss things in the future without having to constantly check my comment.

  79. ladysugarquill says:

    First thing I noticed: they have to fix the ship. The events of the first episode actually have consequences, that have to be dealt with before they can move on. This is amazing.

    Oh, man. Shirtless Zuko. It's not even my favourite character an I apprecieate it XD

    it’s dudely dudes being all dudely and masculine to prove their honor and — > I'd finish that sentence with a "yay! :D".

    But seriously though, I don't think it was a MANLINESS competition. They're buff because they're soldiers trained in hand-to-hand combat, and I imagine they're shirtless because clothes could catch fire and screw them up in the fight. And the concept of "honor" is not bad…

    How I love that fight. Even though it's obvious many of it was shot to save budget (we see al lot of close ups and shots of Iroh, and not that much of the fight involves full body shots Zuko and Zhao moving), it's really thought through. How awesome was Zuko's strategy? Iroh says Firebending is "breathe and root", so he attacked Zhao's feet so he could't grab to the floor.

    This show is so smart. Like the Momo naming scene: "momo" means "peach"; Aang names him after the fruit he steals from Sokka. And that scene is built expecting one to know that.

    Also: Momo brings Sokka food so he won't eat him *_*

    • notemily says:

      I heard SOMEWHERE (probably the internets) that "Momo" is also a generic "pet name" in Japan, like "Fido" or "Spot." So it's kind of a joke that Aang names his lemur that.

  80. Erica says:

    When I first watched this episode, I thought Aang kept saying "Monkey Atsu" instead of "Monk Gyatso." I couldn't figure out if Monkey was the guy's first name or a nickname (pretty bad nickname) or a very strange title. This was the first anime-type thing I ever watched, so I didn't know if that was normal for anime. Boy did I feel stupid later on when I figured it out.

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  82. Christie says:

    Something about your excitedness in watching A:TLAB is infectious. I've been feeling pretty crappy lately, and your blogs really cheer me up. 🙂

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  89. David says:

    "So, we’ve got a fascinating plot, some nice character parallels, some unorthodox storytelling…yet I’m drawn to the characters the most. "

    THIS. As good as the world and its plot are, characters make a show. They are the cake, and everything else is just delicious TV icing.

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