Mark Watches ‘Avatar’: S01E06 – Imprisoned

In the sixth episode of the first series of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Katara faces a difficult situation when she willingly gets imprisoned by the Fire Nation in order to save a kingdom of Earthbenders….only to discover that maybe they don’t have the desire to be saved after all. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Avatar.

I love it when writers choose to go down more difficult routes than to simply go with what’s expected.

I think that, with the exception of Stephenie Meyer (BOO HISS SNARK), every author or writer/group of writers I’ve dealt with in my various projects over the last year and a half have all done something with their story that showed they were willing to take risks. Of all of those, I think Suzanne Collins, who penned The Hunger Games trilogy, did this the most often, especially in the second half of the series. (No more info about that, as I don’t want to spoil anyone. COULD YOU IMAGINE THE ~HORROR~) Sometimes, going a more difficult route can allow a writer to explore avenues or plots that prove to be more entertaining and fruitful. I personally enjoy when that happens due to realism, and here in “Imprisoned,” the writers go out of their way to create a fairly uncomfortable story for Katara that is realistic AND gives her a steady dose of character growth in the process.

It’s nice to see that this episode focuses almost entirely on her, as Sokka and Aang are largely relegated to the background so that the story can be mostly about her. We’ve been given a fairly specific portrait of Katara so far. She’s reckless (to an extent), but she acts purely out of this impulsive desire to do good and BE good, to help others. She craves adventure, but this is sometimes limited by her desire to be practical. Above all else, though, Katara is full of hope. We see that even in the pilot episode; she’s prone to believing Aang is special without knowing much about him, and she’s hopeful about her own skills as a Waterbender. And that really beautiful, innocent hope works for her, time and time again. Until “Imprisoned,” she has no real reason to question that. If it works for her, surely she can merely impart this philosophy on others, right?

So when the trio meet a shy and fleeing Earthbender and follow him to his small town, it’s only sensical for them all to be friendly and accepting to this fellow bender. This is the first time (of a few) that Katara’s own personal philosophy is show not to work for anyone aside from herself. She argues with the young man’s mother about his ability to Earthbend, giving an impassioned speech about who vital and virtuous it is for people who have a bending ability to use it.

That’s when Haru’s mother lets Katara know that this is precisely how her husband and Haru’s father was captured by the Fire Nation. Oh, who have taken over the village. Oh, and who view other forms of bending that aren’t Firebending to be both a threat and inferior. (That’s….actually kind of a strange dichotomy, isn’t it? How can something be a threat if it’s inferior to you? Those in power rarely make sense, though.) I fully expected either Aang or Sokka to say, “AAAWWWWWKKKKKWWWWWAAARRRRDDDDDD” when this happened, and you could feel the tension in the room. In an animated cartoon, by the way, which is great sign to how strong the writing is.

A large part of what occurs throughout imprisoned is both the build up and the execution of Katara’s friendship with Haru. She’s got her heart precisely in the right place, and I enjoy her for that, but I think we can all relate to thinking you’re doing the right thing and finding out that the effects of your actions are actually kind of detrimental. (OMG did I just basically spell out the INTENT IS MAGIC argument in a review omg). It starts off gently enough with subtle pushings by Katara, and Haru ends up having to face a difficult decision when they come upon a man stuck underneath a pile of rocks.

I honestly believe that had Haru not met Katara, those rocks would have crushed that man to death. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Katara’s influence on Haru grows strongly over a rapid period of time, and he can’t help but agree with her that bending just feels right. You can see the look on his face after it happens, a mixture of fear and joy, and the seed’s already been sowed inside him after this.

Man, what I really love about “Imprisoned” is how the plot seems so terribly obvious and you can guess exactly what is going to happen next, and then NOPE, YOU’RE WRONG. After seeing that glimmer of excitement on Haru’s face, I assumed the next day they’d begin to do more dangerous and powerful bending together. I expected a montage set to dramatic, upbeat music. I did not expect the quiet revelation scene where Katara finds out that Haru was taken away overnight. We only get to see it in a silent flashback! (Marvelous choice, by the way.) It’s all made even worse by the fact that the man Haru saved was the one who turned him in! Thanks for the gratitude, dude.

Katara knows it’s her fault, and while Sokka and Aang try to comfort her to feel otherwise, she knows that what she’s done has negatively affected her new friend and put his family in even more immediate danger. Seriously, Haru’s mother lost her husband and NOW her son, too. See? This is all so uncomfortable and then I have to remind myself THIS IS FOR CHILDREN. Seriously, where were shows like this when I was ten years old? (OH THAT’S RIGHT, I WAS WATCHING THE X-FILES WHEN I WAS 10. Fuck yeah.)

Knowing that she got everyone into this mess, Katara does the mature thing (and admittedly impractical thing, too) by organizing to have herself arrested so she can get on board the Fire Nation ship to save her friend. I can’t really ignore how absurd it is, but it works. After a particularly funny scene where Katara “earth bends” and Momo almost takes credit, we head aboard the Fire Nation ship and that’s when everything is TRULY uncomfortable.

The short expository scene we get as the introduction to this ship and the process that the Fire Nation has in place is unsettling and UTTERLY BRILLIANT. It shows the organized brutality of the Fire Nation in a way that was only hinted at in “The Warriors of Kyoshi.” That episode showed us their attacking ability, but here we see the true extent of their ability to enslave and oppress. Again, CHILDREN’S SHOW. ON A MAJOR NETWORK. Oh god, you all ~truly know my soul~.

These regimented, hellish scenes also focus on the psychological element to the Fire Nation’s drastic oppression, of which Katara will learn of firsthand–the hard way, of course. This is first introduced through the Warden, who I first thought was going to be revealed to be Lord Ozai, but instead just runs the ship. (NOTE: I have to do this. I do. OH MY FUCKING GOD, IT’S GEORGE TAKEI HHHHHHNNNNNNNNGGGGGGG AMAZING.) The Warden knows that separating the Earthbenders from any earth is practical, since it deprives them of fighting back. He also knows that it deprives them of spirit. Since Katara is free to perform Waterbending where she lives, she cannot even comprehend the notion that there are people who have, for the last FIVE YEARS, been unable to bend for a single second. Because of this AMAZINGLY UNDERSTANDABLE DEPICTION OF HOW PRIVILEGE WORKS, she operates under the assumption that the act of bending and rebelling is a very simple thing.

The speech that she gives to the ship is wonderful, make no mistake. And because I was caught up in the moment and I didn’t really take the time to dissect what I was watching, it seemed obvious to me what to expect: Katara would give her impassioned speech, the Earthbenders would rise up, and then AWESOME BATTLE SCENE ON A SHIP.


[Crickets chirp. Silence.]

Oh god, it is so painful to think about in hindsight. Those seconds of silence are goddamn brutal for Katara to sit through, but the point stands: Katara has no idea what it’s been like for these people to live on this ship, detached from their family and their powers, and a bunch of inspirational words aren’t going to make it any easier.

That night, Aang gets involved to help devise a plan to assist the Earthbenders in escaping. I will admit that I was so engrossed in the story that I literally forgot him and Aang were even in on this plan. Believing the only way to help the Earthbenders is to give them the actual means to throw an uprising against the Fire Nation, Aang helps Katara and Sokka organize their attack: to use the coal (part of the “earth”) from the fires burning in the ship to provide the Earthbenders with a chance at a revolt. I even enjoy this subtlety, that while Katara, Aang, and Sokka provide the method in which the Earthbenders can fight back, the battle itself can only truly be won if the Earthbenders fight it themselves.

The final battle seriously is WONDERFUL. From the use of conflicting colors (brown versus red), to the chance to see yet another different kind of Earthbending, to the Earthbenders finding the inner power, strength, and inspiration to rise up against the Fire Nation, it’s one of the most exciting moments so far. I almost felt like cheering! And look, I NEVER DO THAT. Unless it’s a horror movie and the monster is about to rip the head off a terrible racist, because I do a lot of that occasionally.

Haru thanks Katara at the end of this, and I like that he thanks her for a very specific thing: giving his people hope. In the end, her own personal philosophy does end up helping the Earthbenders win back their freedom, but she has to learn that she cannot force it on anyone. Hope can be inspired, but it needs to come from within to truly work.



  • EARTHBENDING IS SO COOL. Some of it looked like Tai Chi moves in this episode!
  • Every episode without Uncle Iroh is JUST SHORT OF PERFECTION. Sorry, that’s the way it is.
  • “I lost my mother in a Fire Nation raid. This necklace is all I have left of her.” “It’s not enough, is it?” “No.” MY GODDAMN CREYS, holy shit.
  • “Just relax. You’re taking the fun out of this.” “By ‘this,’ do you mean purposefully being captured by an army of ruthless firebenders?” “Exactly. That’s fun stuff!” I LOVE AANG’S FACE DURING THE DELIVERY OF THIS LINE. Pure joy.
  • “No! I can’t swim!” “Don’t worry. I hear cowards float.” SICK BURN, BRO.
  • “Shouldn’t we run away from huge booms, not toward them?”
  • “Well, which was it? A flying buffalo or a bison?” “I’m not really sure what the difference is….” I MADE THE SAME MISTAKE.
  • “Wake up the captain and search the rig.” “Sir, that was the captain you just threw overboard.” “Well, then wake up someone that I haven’t thrown overboard!”
  • GEORGE TAKEI!!! Thank you for not spoiling this GLORIOUS GUEST APPEARANCE.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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310 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Avatar’: S01E06 – Imprisoned

  1. This is one of two episodes in the series that I would consider Not Very Good. The series sets a pretty high bar of excellence, so this is easily one of the worst episodes, in my opinion. I can't even remember specifically why I've never been fond of this episode, but I think it feels so facile and too much like a kids' show with its heavy-handedness. (Obviously, you disagree!) It does, however, have two of my favorite moments:

    1. "That lemur…he's earthbending!"


    Warden: Tell me exactly what you saw.
    Captain: Well, Sir, it looked like a flying bison.
    Warden: What?
    Guard: It was a giant flying buffalo, Sir, with an empty saddle.
    Warden: Which was it? A buffalo or a bison?
    Captain: Uh, I'm not sure what the difference is, but that's not really the point, is it, Sir?
    Warden (angry): I'll decide what the point is, fool!

    (Warden throws the Captain over the railing. A scream trails off into nothing as a splash of water is heard. Cut back to the Warden and the remaining guard.)

    Warden: You! Wake up the Captain. Search the entire rig!
    Guard: Sir?
    Warden: What!?
    Guard: That was the Captain you just threw overboard, so…
    Warden: Then wake up someone I haven't thrown overboard and search the rig!

    In conclusion, Haru is Sexyfine.

  2. Dragonsong12 says:

    George Takei is seriously amazing and steals the show AS A LOATHSOME BAD GUY! WHAT? (I love that he's Galactus in Super Hero Squad, seriously, Marvel should make him the canon Galactus voice.)

    "รขโ€”ยฆEvery episode without Uncle Iroh is JUST SHORT OF PERFECTION. Sorry, that’s the way it is."
    This is a great truth.

  3. Taryn says:

    Is Uncle Iroh your new Big Daddy Hagrid?

    • ThreeBooks says:

      Leather* Daddy Hagrid. Gosh, get it right.

      …I wonder if Uncle Iroh has feet the size of baby dolphins.

      • Elexus Calcearius says:

        He doesn't need feet the size of baby dolphins. He could probably go down to the ocean and be so nice and charming that the dolphins would over to be tied to his feet.

  4. echinodermata says:

    So I didn't really talk about ableist slurs in the last post, and instead focused more on Bumi himself, and not the language. That's mostly because I'm pretty damn used to hearing ableist slurs that I pretty much don't expect television to get it right. ATLA uses words like "crazy," but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a show that doesn't. It sucks that so few people, and it seems so few who are in the entertainment business, are aware of the fact that it's a slur. This ep had at least two instances of "crazy" as a slur, and while I personally admit to not always noticing the use of this particular slur, I think the conversation from yesterday did help raise my awareness. That's why I always think it's good to talk about these issues, even if it sometimes seems pointless. For me, it's never pointless. As evidence, I'm talking about it in this comment when I probably would have not felt inclined to discuss this issue for this episode had the conversation about Bumi not taken place. Raising my awareness is never a bad thing in my book.

    And now more plot-related things:
    "After seeing that glimmer of excitement on Haru’s face, I assumed the next day they’d begin to do more dangerous and powerful bending together. I expected a montage set to dramatic, upbeat music."
    The episode is called Imprisoned. Just pointing that out.

    I can imagine why that guy sold out Haru, but it still sucks. And I do wish they elaborated on it, instead of us having to just assume it was due to the firebenders' intimidation tactics and the extortion or what have you. But props to Katara for intentionally getting herself on the prison-ship in such a stylish way. (I love that entire scene so much, but especially Momo earthbending.) Basically, props to Katara for this entire episode, though. Girl is amazing.

    Also, I love rebellion plots and a good motivational speech. Her optimism may be naive, but I think she needs hope to survive this show. I really enjoy the fact that we're getting a look at the political aspect to this, and that we see people fighting against their oppressors so early on in the show. Plus, it makes sense to me that it takes the threat against family to get people to start rebelling. Also, that it's a younger, less jaded generation that starts the uprising. Basically, fuck yeah political themes! They may not be new, but I'm welcome to them anyway. Plus, Kid's. Show.

    George Takei's voice is so goddamn recognizable, and he's a wonderful addition to this show. And now some Takei appreciation time:
    <img src=""&gt;
    <img src=""&gt;
    So Takei and the bison/buffalo thing is pretty much the only reason why I like the warden. Well, also, he gets a pretty cool speech himself, even though it's demoralizing in intention. But speeches! I love them.

    Also, this is awesome:
    <img src=""&gt;(Source)

    I really do enjoy all the details and creativity that goes into designing this show.

    • Hotaru_hime says:

      Oh my God, that tweet! God bless you, George Takei!

    • monkeybutter says:

      I really appreciate the increased awareness, too. I never noticed how often the word "crazy" is thrown out in this show on first view. The "giant-eared cretin" thing made me cringe, too. It's not bad to think and talk about pop culture below its surface.

    • Dragonsong12 says:

      In regards to Takei and twitter, I'd also like to point out that he's leading a petition to WB to protest the whitewashing of the Akira movie:
      I'm not on twitter, so I can't join in his crusade, but I would encourage everyone who is on twitter to do so!

      • Nikki says:

        WHOA WHOA WHAT? My favorite comic + movie of ALL TIME is being made into a Hollywood movie?! And they're whitewashing it?! ….. UGH. >__< God, it'll probably be worse than the Dragonball movie. I don't know how that's possible, but I'm sure they'll FIND a way. >__>

        • monkeybutter says:

          Hmm, now I wonder what's worse: Dragonball movie or ATLA movie. Quite the conundrum.

          • rainbowsinside says:

            I think I lean towards Dragonball being a bit better, but I may just be biased on that. I saw both of them in theatres, but I saw DBE with a group of friends who smuggled in some rum to drink while we watched it. Makes things a whole lot bearable.

          • lossthief says:

            DEFINITELY "The Last Airbender" is worse. While DBE was bad, it was at least so bad and completely balls-to-the-wall off the mark that you could laugh at it. But "The Last Airbender" was just the type of bad I had to groan and shake my head at. And at least going into DBE I knew I wasn't going to get anything close to good, but I still had some expectations for TLA.

            Those hopes were summarily dashed as soon as "Soh-kah" opened his mouth.

            • Tauriel_ says:

              Actually, I think the "racebending" in TLA movie is the least of its problems… That movie is so bad and dull on so many levels, it's hard to name even a few good things about it. Oh yeah, the costumes and sets were pretty nice. But that's about it, everything else was horrid – the awful script, the non-existent direction, the cringeworthy so-called "acting", the forgettable music… heck, they even managed to make bending look BORING. SRSLY. Twenty seconds of macarena to make a small rock move. *facepalm*

              I do hope Mark is going to do a TLA movie liveblog, so we can all enjoy keysmashing and abusing that travesty of a film… ๐Ÿ˜€

        • Wow, how's living under that rock workin' out for ya?

      • jubilantia says: was inspired by the Avatar movie, but they now do other projects too, including this Akira one, so I would suggest going there for information. And there are other ways to protest as well, even if you aren't on Twitter. Down with whitewashing!

    • nanceoir says:

      ATLA uses words like "crazy," but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a show that doesn't. It sucks that so few people, and it seems so few who are in the entertainment business, are aware of the fact that it's a slur. This ep had at least two instances of "crazy" as a slur, and while I personally admit to not always noticing the use of this particular slur, I think the conversation from yesterday did help raise my awareness. … Raising my awareness is never a bad thing in my book.

      I know discussions here have certainly raised my awareness of some of these things. I know I fall short a lot, but I'm finding myself trying to be better. For example, last week, I was writing a couple of movie reviews, the first time I've done it since I've been actively engaged in commenting around these parts. I think the fact that the movies themselves were varying degrees of problematic made me all the more aware of the problematic phrases in my own writing. I know I spent a good amount of time trying to think of a different way to say, "things got crazy" (I ultimately went with "wacky" instead).

      It's only one review on a site without a lot of visitors, but if it means there's one less instance of a slur and that I'm starting to learn the lesson, it's a Good Thing.

  5. Patrick says:

    Love this episode so much. Iroh is awesome (but we knew that), all of the humor is fantastic, and GEORGE TAKEI!

    ALL IN FAVOR OF A GEORGE TAKEI .GIF/IMAGE MACRO PARTY IN THE COMMENTS? Seriously, someone needs to post a pic of him with "Oh My" as the caption. I can't do it, sadly.

  6. monkeybutter says:

    That’s….actually kind of a strange dichotomy, isn’t it? How can something be a threat if it’s inferior to you? Those in power rarely make sense, though.

    Yup, logic doesn't apply to oppressive regimes. Any difference is a threat.

    I don't really like this episode, even though it's good for Katara's character growth. Hope doesn't solve everything, and you can't save people, but you can help them. I did like that she wasn't able to magically fix everything or unrealistically spur people to rebellion in an instant. It took work, like you said. But the only things I really enjoy about this episode are Earthbending Momo and GEORGE FREAKIN' TAKEI. Best guest voice ever. I may have laughed and said "foolish girl" along with him. I'm glad you weren't spoiled and got to experience the shock of hearing his voice come out of a cartoon villain!

    • Erica says:

      When I first watched the episode, I thought about the inferior/threatning thing, too. Then my mind went to the relationship between the Romans and the people they called barbarians. The Romans thought them inferior and uncivilized. The two go together. However, they also recognized the threat they posed and kept them out for several hundred years. So, when I rewatch this, I think that the fire nation thinks all other benders' uncivilized nature makes them inferior to the cultured word, but also a threat to it.

      You can also equate it a little bit to the Holocaust. The Nazis thought the Jews were inferior in every way. Logically, there would be no reason to kill them and imprison them if they are so inferior as to pose no threat. However, the Nazis also saw the existance of inferiors as being a threat to the civilized world.

      • monkeybutter says:

        Good examples, and I agree! They obey a certain internal logic, but it's based on the faulty assumption that they are in fact inherently superior, so it doesn't hold up under scrutiny from outsiders like us. Imperial powers tend to have an egocentric view about what comprises "civilization," and anything different is inferior and a threat to their somehow superior way of life.

  7. Julia says:

    Actually all the styles of bending are inspired by actual martial arts, but WATERBENDING is the one inspired by Tai Chi. Earthbending was based on Hung Gar, and if you care, Firebending was based on Northern Shaolin and AIrbending on Ba Gua Zhang. Hope you find this useful/entertaining!

    • @MeagenImage says:

      Once you've watched the- first season? Or two? You can look up the "Creating the Legend" shorts on YouTube. (DO NOT LOOK THEM UP YET IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS, THEY CONTAIN SCENES FROM THE SHOW) It has the show's martial arts consultant explaining how the styles match up to the elements, and really nice side-by-side of the cartoon and him showing off the moves. Great stuff, and it really shows the creators of this show went the extra mile.

      (Meanwhile, the people in charge of the live action movie went "ah, whatever, let's just throw in the usual wireworks, not like it matters".)

      • @audzilla says:

        Seconded. The 'making of' stuff on this show just cements what I felt watching it, that the team behind it actually DID THEIR RESEARCH, in addition to not getting waylaid by network involvement or focus testing or anything else that would have diluted their original vision.

        Resisting the urge to go into more spoilery details. But all the weapon/martial arts research through the whole series – beautiful.

        The art book is damn good too, for anyone who nerds out about costume/setting details like I do.

      • Has to be after the second season. They talk about a specific character.

  8. stefb says:

    Hahaha I think the second time I watched this episode online, the warden came and spoke and I was like "Whh…wha–what–is that–is–is that George Takai?!!" And then I immediately looked it up and it ~was~ I don't know how I didn't notice when I first watched this episode.

    Glad no one spoiled that for you! Monday when I was watching it I was like "Ohh I think Mark will like that George Takai's in this episode!"

  9. FlameRaven says:

    Can't say too much about this one– it's just an okay episode for me. I don't know what it is, I never found myself terribly attached to Haru or his story. I like the overall sentiments of the episode and it is nice to explore earthbending a little more and see the actual effects of the Fire Nation's war on everyday people, but… yeah, this is one I almost never revisit.

    • jubilantia says:

      Dude, I'm the same way! I love earthbending Momo, and the Warden (even though I didn't know who George Takei was until later), Aang's adorableness, and Katara's speech, but I just never rewatch it. Maybe because it is uncomfortable. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one. Maybe Haru just wasn't as developed as he could have been, or something. And it's not because it's a Katara episode, because I like all her other ones, but… yeah.

  10. lelandjs says:

    “Above all else, though, Katara is full of hope.”

    Oh man you can’t do it yet because of SPOILERS but once you’ve finished the series you HAVE to watch GanXingba’s Avatar: The Abridged Series.

  11. shyfully says:

    Grrr this is so late. STUPID WEDNESDAYS I will always be late for Wednesday reviews, probably, and this makes me sad because inevitably my favorites will be one Wednesdays.

    Katara-centric episode! Awww yeah. This episode is so interesting with the different insights we get. There is a lot of information here, about Katara, about the Fire Nation, about earthbending, about the war. I love it. Although I don’t have a lot of Katara gifs from this episode, sadly.

    <img src=<img src=>

    I love Katara in this episode. I know a lot of people in certain parts of fandom found her annoying, meddlesome and naive. I disagree. (And, I have to wonder how many of those accusations would fly if Katara were a boy.) I loved Katara in this episode. Yes, she didn’t always understand everything, she made mistakes. But she never lost sight of trying to do the right thing.

    I liked seeing her form a bond with Haru. Both of them have lost so much to the Fire Nation, in very similar ways. Their parents, but also the ability to really understand their bending. Haru can’t practice his without fear and Katara never had a teacher. We also got to find out that Katara’s necklace was originally her mother’s. Of course, the second Katara explained that I was like OH GOD SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO IT. But, I got distracted enough that I didn’t actually notice it was gone until close to the end, so it didn’t bother me.

    So, while last episode we saw a free Earth Nation city, this time we got to see a town conquered by the Fire Nation and completely oppressed by them. Seeing them taking everything away from Haru’s mother, the fear everyone had of them was quite terrifying. I think it was very important, at this stage of the game, to show how evil the Fire Nation is. We saw small things before- Katara mentioning the raids, a sense of how small the Water Tribe was against Zuko’s ship, Monk Gyatso’s body, the fight on Kyoshi, but those were all either far in the past or else we didn’t really see the aftermath. This was the right time in the show to step it up a notch. This is what is happening all around the world in places that the Fire Nation conquered, the show is telling us, and it is really, really bad.

    <img src=>

    It was horrible to see how the prison was set up. All hope, taken away. It’s also fascinating to see the logistics of how they imprisoned earthbenders. Taking them out to see in a metal ship, no earth around (except for the coal, which seems to have been a secret). It also made me think about the massacre of the Air Nomads. Waterbenders could be taken away from water (presumably), earthbenders away from rock, but it would have been impossible to keep an airbender away from all air. Perhaps that is part of the reason they killed all of them without taking prisoners/leaving some people behind, unlike how they are treating the earth and water opponents.

    I liked Katara’s development in this episode. I wouldn’t exactly describe her as naive in the beginning of the episode, since she definitely knows how cruel the Fire Nation can be and the reality of war, but she didn’t understand what it was like to be occupied and imprisoned. That was the difference. I knew someone who said that she disliked the episode because she didn’t feel like Katara learned anything by the end, that she just made a few speeches and everyone had hope again, but that is so untrue, in my opinion. What motivated the others wasn’t actually her repeat speeches, or even the coal. It was when Haru stepped in. And why did Haru step in? Because of the personal connection he had to Katara. It’s all about forming a true connection, a joint empathizing of suffering, and then drawing strength from each other. Also, yeah, it would have been so amazing to have Katara learn to give up on people and just leave them to be imprisoned forever! What a wonderful message! Not. But I think the way she helped them wasn’t to give them hope, which would be condescending, but to help them remember their hope. It is very different and a lot more powerful.

    <img src=>

    (cont as always)

    • shyfully says:

      Even though the focus was on Katara, it was interesting to see Sokka in this episode. It appears Sokka has mostly taken on the role of getting food and planning their journey, to some extent. I know a lot of people talk about how Katara is the Team Mom (some in a nice way, many others in a less nice way) but Sokka was the one deciding when they have to leave, not letting them sleep in, etc. While Katara is definitely kind and nurturing toward people, I don’t think it is fair to say that she is the one acting as the adult of the group solely. It seems more like the roles are split up a bit more.


      Sokka: Shouldn’t we run away from the huge booms, not toward them?

      Katara: Dawn? Can’t we sleep in for once?รขโ‚ฌยจSokka: Absolutely not! This village is crawling with Fire Nation troops! If they discover you’re here, Aang, we’ll be eating fireballs for breakfast! Good night.
      Katara: I’d rather eat fireballs than nuts.
      Sokka: Good night!

      Sokka: Get out of my way, pipsqueak!
      Katara: How dare you call me pipsqueak, you giant-eared cretin!
      Sokka: What did you call me?รขโ‚ฌยจKatara: A giant-eared cretin! Look at those things. Do herds of animals use them for shade?รขโ‚ฌยจSokka: You better back off! (quietly) Seriously, back off!
      Katara: I will not back off! I bet elephants get together and make fun of how large your ears are!

      Soldier: That lemur! It’s earthbending!รขโ‚ฌยจSokka: No, you idiot, it’s the girl!
      Solider: Oh, of course.

      Sokka: Momo, you have some big ears!

      Guard: Well, sir, it looked like a flying bison.
      Warden: What?!
      Guard: It was a giant flying buffalo, sir, with an empty saddle.
      Warden: Which was it, a buffalo or a bison?

      Aang: I wish I knew how to make a hurricane. The Warden would run away and we’d steal his keys!
      Sokka: Wouldn’t he just take his keys with him?
      Aang: I was just tossing ideas around!

      Warden: No, please! I can’t swim!
      Tyro: Don’t worry. I hear cowards float!

      And then that ending. That is actually something that really creeps me out. I’m sort of weird about being a really, really private person. I hate it when people touch my personal things without my permission because it almost feels like they are stealing bits of me. So having an antagonist holding something so personal of Katara’s, my current favorite character who I somewhat identify with… It really creeps me out. I don’t want him to touch it! He is getting his energy all over her mother’s memory! Gross.

      <img src=>

      And that’s it for me! I’m out.

      • sundaycoma says:

        I normally love your reviews (not to say I didn't love this one) but one thing I felt compelled to point out (if only because I had to nix my giant essay on my views on feminism and Katara in my own post until a later date when such would be more relevant) that Katara's Team Mom status doesn't necessarily come from being the one who ensures the team's survival. She's more of the one that's supposed to hold them together emotionally and make sure everyone /emotionally/ is okay. Likewise, having a male character be the one who has to go out and provide for them (in a much less monetary sense than normally applied) is hardly revolutionary as is the concept that the oldest male figure being the one to have the plan laid out.

        So seeing Sokka take up the practical matters like actually directing where they're going was not such a huge surprise for me.

        • shyfully says:

          That's a very good point! That's what I get for adding a paragraph 15 minutes before the review goes live! I think what I more meant was that I get tired of seeing people bash Katara by saying that "Oh, She's the ~team mom~ character who never let Sokka and Aang have any fun and telling them mom-ish things!" when in this episode it is Sokka who wants them to leave early when she wants to stay since she made a friend, she wants to sleep in and he doesn't, she makes fun of him, etc. I just didn't word it well.

          • sundaycoma says:

            Awh no, don't get the wrong idea! I love your reviews! And I understand what you were trying to say because that's exactly what caught my attention onto that detail too, that when Katara and Aang have a good laugh at Sokka's expense, it's almost played like two children snickering at a parent during a sleepover. So I get it but at the same time, I'm one of the detractors. So I think the important point for everyone to recognize is that -everyone- at this point is trying to cramp Aang's style. Everyone else has lived through a century of war and now that the Avatar has returned, he has to be made to understand just how serious that is. That's kind of the theme of these first few episodes and the creators go back and forth on having Bumi/Sokka/Katara be Aang's wet blanket.

            I gotchu, I gotchu~

            • shyfully says:

              Don't worry, I wasn't offended at all! And I don't mind that you dislike Katara since, well, there is no character that is universally loved. I just get tired of people bashing her for reasons that don't make sense. I'm also especially protective of her because I originally watched most of season one of this show with someone who was one of those people who loves every male character but hates every female character and so I heard so much awful, awful stuff about Katara.

              What you said about the various characters being Aang's wet blanket is totally true! And it works a lot better than either just suddenly having him be serious or else try to pass it off like him being so light hearted all the time is completely perfect. It's a nice blend, and also works to teach the viewer how serious things are since, like Aang, we don't really know the situation.

              • affableevil says:

                There is no character that is universally loved.

                Except Iroh. It is a scientifically proven fact that it is impossible to not love Iroh.

                (Seriously though, I have yet to run across a person that doesn't like his character. He's so Iroh.)

      • Skulls, Candied says:

        AWEsome review as always ๐Ÿ˜€

  12. Kaci says:

    You pretty much said everything I wanted to about this episode, so instead I'm just going to say word, yo and leave it at that.

    Oh, no, I do have one thing to say. I do like that even though she's acting from a place of privilege like you pointed out, that Katara is a BAMF in this episode. A BAMF who's acting from a place of privilege but whose heart is in the right place. Because for all that you're 100% right about your assessment of how she can't fathom what life has been like for the Earthbenders, getting herself captured and giving that speech in open defiance of the Fire Nation is incredibly brave.

    Does that make sense? I don't want it to seem like I'm discounting the other side of it, but just…for me, to see a girl being that brave on a kid's show is like, "Heck, yes. Hopefully kids watching this will learn that girls can be just as brave and awesome as boys, and hopefully they will also learn that Katara was acting out of privilege and that intent isn't magic."

    • shyfully says:

      Is she acting from a place of privilege, though? The oppressors in this instance are the Fire Nation and she definitely isn't Fire Nation. She's oppressed by them, too, just in different ways.

      • herpestidae says:

        The privilege was that she grew up in a place where her bendables were always literally underfoot, and has never been separated from it, so she wouldn't be familiar with how it feels to be separated for so long (some of the prisoners probably haven't been able to bend for YEARS), and thus assumes that once they get the means to fight, they'd have the spirit to do so.

        At least I think that's what he meant. I could just be talking bollocks.

        • shyfully says:

          Hmm, I guess. I just am not sure I really agree with calling it "privilege" specifically. Like, I am gay and therefore don't have straight privilege. I also did not grow up in a (homophobically) religious family, whereas many gay people do. I don't understand what that's like and if I went in and tried to explain their experiences or to "save" them or something, it would be wrong, but it wouldn't be because I had some sort of non-homophobically-religious-family privilege, it's just because my lack of straight privilege interacted with my life differently than theirs. Me being bullied in school for being gay and a hypothetical person being mistreated by their family for being gay when that was against their religion are just different representations of heterosexism.

          Of course, that is just my opinion and the analogy isn't perfect. I'm just not sure if I'm comfortable using the specific word privilege in this exact instance.

  13. redheadedgirl says:

    I loved this episode. LOVED IT. BEcause any chance of George Takei chewing scenery (EVEN ANIMATED HE CAN CHEW IT THAT IS BEAUTY AND POWER AND EVERYTHING IS RAINBOWS) is a good thing.

    I loved the "THEY CAN TAKE AWAY YOUR EARTH BUT THEY CANNOT TAKE AWAY YOUR FREEEEDDDOOOOOOM" speech- parts 1 and 2. And how it didn't work.

    And Katara-Zuko shippers? Awwww yeah. I know you got ammo in that last shot. (….is it a "shot" if it's animated? INQUIRING MINDS)

  14. cait0716 says:

    I loved this episode. It was so nice to finally meet some earthbenders. I feel like the world is a bit more complete, now that we've met a bender of each element. And I like that they're heading out to take their villages back by the end of the episode. Stuff like this is just as important to the war effort as Aang eventually mastering all of the elements. Plus it was nice to see some more development of Katara and for her to make a friend.

  15. By the way, it's Fire Lord Ozai, not Lord Ozai. Fire Lord is the title. It's not like "Lord Vader" or something.

    …Although Fire Lord Vader would be kind of fun.

  16. Angie says:

    * George Takei!!1! His voice is so amazing.
    * "THAT LEMUR IS EARTHBENDING." I'm giggling just typing that out.
    * "Every episode without Uncle Iroh is JUST SHORT OF PERFECTION." Word. I don't know why I have such love for wise older men who happen to be badasses – Iroh, Wilf, Dumbledore, Gandalf, et al, but I do.
    * According to my source, earthbending is a combination of moves adapted from Northern Shaolin, Shaolin wrestling, and Judo.

    • arctic_hare says:

      Word. I don't know why I have such love for wise older men who happen to be badasses – Iroh, Wilf, Dumbledore, Gandalf, et al, but I do.

      ME TOO. SO MUCH. It's like they made Iroh JUST FOR ME. *sniff*

  17. herpestidae says:

    I've been avoiding posting so far because I feared the spoiler, but this was the first episode of the show that I actually watched, so I felt I had to say something. This made me want to be an Earthbender.

    Seriously, I just love how earthbending is. Sometimes it's graceful and serene, perfectly quiet, and at other times (Like how Bumi does it), it's loud and power and AAARGH MANLINESS! There was a more in depth explanation of Earthbenging by Bryke (Mike and Bryan), but it showed clips from other episodes, IIRC.

    Basically, Hung Gar (the martial art Earthbending is based on) is split in two styles: Tiger (hard) and Crane (soft). Hard is what Bumi does. Big stomps and punches, over-the-top moves, big attacks. No quarter, no surrender. Soft is kind of what happened here. Like when Haru and his father (did they say his name in the episode? I forget) bent all of the coal into one big dense rock. It's smoother and more graceful, and overall more defensive.

    On to the show itself, i like that it isn't afraid to challenge the characters' worldviews. Aang got his attention-seeking thrown in his face, while Sokka got beat by a girl for being a sexist pig (I still love him, but I admit he was a jerk). Now Katara gets her "Hope" dashed to pieces. When Katara got the silence, it ranked pretty high up on the "I totally didn't expect this" meter. Of course it's got nothing on [SPOILER REDACTED], or when [SPOILER REDACTED].

  18. arctic_hare says:

    ALL HAIL GEORGE TAKEI, LORD OF AWESOME ๐Ÿ˜€ I'm really glad no one spoiled that for you, Mark! It was a really nice – and incredibly cool – surprise for me too, I am happy to say. ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

    SO YEAH. Between George Takei, Katara being awesome, and the fantastic depiction of privilege and oppression and all the stuff you talked about, I EFFING LOVED THIS EPISODE. <3 <3 <3 So much win!

  19. who_cares86 says:

    Hmm to be honest I can't really recall this episode.

    • shyfully says:

      Part of me wants to be outraged because I like this episode but mostly I'm just amused at how well your name matches your comment ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Inner Voice says:

    This is one of my least favorite episodes, not because it's a bad episode (it's a good one!) but because I simply cannot bear watching how completely flat Katara's speeches fall. It's just too painful and secondhand-embarrassment-squicky to watch. They're good speeches, but Katara just doesn't understand the psychological/emotional toll imprisonment has taken on the earthbenders, forcing them into a grit-our-teeth-and-get-through-another-day survival mentality. It was really brave of the show to give the message that one inspirational speech isn't enough to magically fix everything, and I admire them for that choice. I just personally can't bear watching it.

    Anyway, as for the rest of the episode:

    <img src=""&gt;
    Haru and Katara's bonding moment is so poignant. Just think, this is how teenagers in the world of ATLA find common ground: in terms of how the fire nation has ruined their families. It really shows how the war's effect on the world is very widespread.

    <img src=""&gt;
    Something occurred to me this time that never occurred to me on previous watchings! AANG IS ALREADY PUTTING BUMI'S LESSON FROM LAST EPISODE INTO PRACTICE. He's thinking outside the box, which is why he was able to come up with the coal trick when no one else had before!

    And last but not least:
    <img src=""&gt;
    THE MOMENT THAT LAUNCHED A THOUSAND ZUTARA SHIP(PER)S. Or at least, the moment when the idea of Zutara first occurred to me!
    (Disclaimer: I do not ship Zutara exclusively, nor am I a "rabid" shipper. But come on. The episode fricking ended on a shot of Zuko holding Katara's necklace. You can't tell me that's not ship bait.)

    • Inner Voice says:

      (forgot to add: screencaps from!)

    • echinodermata says:

      I'm kind of sad you had to add that disclaimer. Oh this fandom. Like, ATLA fandom, aside from the racebending aspect, is basically just shipping wars all the time. I give you my solidarity, even if it's not something I ship.

      And I feel you on the secondhand-embarassment squick. I'm okay with this episode, but it's generally a big squick for me. Also, I like what you said about Haru and Katara.

      • sundaycoma says:

        This. I'm pretty hardcore Katara/Aang but I've never seen why other shipdoms have to be invalidated for mine to survive. People from the ATLA fandom would rip apart the fabric of space/time had they first been introduced to the world of fan'ing from mediums like X-Men and Avengers. (There are no canon couples: there are just people sleeping with each other… for the moment)

        Also like the portion about Haru and Katara

        • hpfish13 says:

          Well, I just came this close to spoilers whilst trying to post my opinion on shipping!!! Thank goodness for the backspace button!!

        • FlameRaven says:

          My only issue with Zuko/Katara is that in order to make it work at all, you have to bend canon so far out of shape you really just might as well write original stuff. I guess people feel their ages work better together or like the fire/water dynamic, but I can't see their personalities meshing well, and that's not even mentioning the half a dozen other spoilers that might get in their way. Like, I think it's a decently interesting possibility to explore, but it can only really work in an AU because canon!Zuko has pretty much no reason to even look at Katara unless she's in the way of him capturing Aang. And on Katara's side, she's determined to protect Aang, also [spoiler] [spoiler] and [spoiler].

          • sundaycoma says:

            Hell, that's what I think about Jean/Wolverine but apparently people feel differently. (And apparently, all those people got together to make film adaptation of their interpretation but whatev's, man.) Shippers gonna ship, haters gonna hate. Natural order of things, the rest of us just kind of gotta learn to say "que sera, sera" and stay out of their way.

            • echinodermata says:

              Your comment made me laugh. And then the "natural order of things" bit made me think 'ships come in, haters go out. (Never a miscommunication)'.

          • echinodermata says:

            Um, so this is how shipping wars get started. Your "only issue" with Zuko/Katara is basically 'it doesn't work' ("can only really work in an AU"). That's a pretty big issue, and therefore reads as sort of wankbait to me. Things I would point out:

            1. Whether or not personalities mesh is entirely subjective, so whether or not a ship is plausible on the merits of being 'in character' or 'plausible in canon' is always going to be debatable.

            2. So far, Katara and Zuko have only met once, right? Pretty sure people's ships are based more on the other 50 or so episodes left. So saying it's not plausible in canon isn't something that's really able to be discussed given the spoiler policy. Just puts anyone wanting to defend the ship on the merits of canon at a big disadvantage.

            3. This is more a pet peeve point. When I ship things, I tend not to care whatsoever about how canon it is. I like fanfiction, and I like AUs, and so many times, I'll say watch a show, then go ooh shiny fanfic to the extent that canon is way secondary to whatever it is I want to see explored. Just remember that people care about canon to varying extents. I'm pretty sure most of the Harry/Draco shippers didn't expect it to work in canon, for instance, for similar reasons to the points you made about Zuko's and Katara's motivations. And yet it's still a huge ship.

            • affableevil says:

              Seconding all of this.

            • FlameRaven says:

              All right, all right, don't flip out on me.

              I have to say I pretty much have zero interest in romance in most series at all, which is I guess why I don't really understand shipping. I'm also prone to follow the writer's intent– basically canon, first and foremost, while occasionally enjoying "what if" fanfic.

              However, I don't have usually have a problem with non-canon or obviously AU ships (like your mention of Harry/Draco) because like you said, most fans understand that it wouldn't happen in canon and are happy to explore it in fanfic. I myself enjoy a Zuko/[spoiler] non-canon friendship in fanfic, but I understood full well that it was a complete crack!ship and was never actually going to happen in the show. That wasn't the case for a lot of the die-hard shippers in AtLA fandom that I saw. I don't know that I can get into it any more than that without spoilers. Let us just say that even considering the ENTIRE canon, I find Zuko/Katara extremely unlikely.

              However, I won't argue that this ending was probably ship bait.

            • hpfish13 says:

              This is how I am. With Harry Potter I am a hardcore Ron/Hermione shipper, but I love reading the Draco/Hermione fanfiction. Mostly because it takes more story and more effort on the part of the author to get those two together. I would never want it to happen in canon, but its still a fun ship to read (Unless, to make it work, they make Ron evil just plain awful, because that bugs me).

    • Inner Voice says:

      One more thing that I forgot to add:

      <img src=""&gt;
      This shot, with Aang in the foreground playing with Momo while Haru and Katara watch him from the background and talk about him–"That's him, isn't it? The avatar."–is very powerful. It shows how innocent Aang still is compared to the two of them, and yet how their hopes ultimately rest on him.

    • @magfrypie says:

      This icon pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter:

      <img src=""&gt;

      • DuskQ says:

        Not because I agree but because it's hilarious I'm going to thumbs-up that! I take it God rested on the seventh day, but it's still so jam packed.

        • @magfrypie says:

          Haha, I actually didn't start shipping them with that episode either. In fact, the first time I watched the series I had no shipping preferences whatsoever. It wasn't until I re-watched it a year later that I developed an interest in the pairing, and I don't even remember what episode made me think of it. But… funny icon, yeah? :DDD

    • agrinningfool says:

      Ah Zutara… *content sigh* My Ship.

      Fond memories.. very fond memories.. lotsa fanart.

  21. alexamarie0813 says:

    can i just say: the most memorable part of this episode for me, besides katara's HOPE FOREVER speech, was when the firebenders come into haru's mom's shop and sokka's all ACT NATURAL. i must find a gif of this.

  22. sundaycoma says:

    I initially had this grand composition typed out in response to this Katara-centric episode and the feelings I have about her as a feminist but I decided to wait until later in the series when there could be more open discussion without so much fear of spoilers and more time for newcomers to the series to become more familar with the character. I'm just going to leave it here as: I don't like her. I appreciate certain aspects of her character and the ultimate end the creative team was trying to achieve but I feel that both as a character and as a subject for feminist discussion, Katara fails to live up to the standards I myself hold characters up to. We'll leave it there for now.

    • sundaycoma says:

      As for the episode itself, as it is so heavily Katara-centric, I can't say it's ever rated as one of my favorites. There are terrific moments (as there are interspersed throughout even the worst episodes of this series) such as the Earthbending lemur and George Takei's very funny guest appearance as a very unfunny and merciless prison warden but I think the side moments are all that glimmer here in this episode for me. The main storyline lost me almost entirely and the soft-focus-at-dawn revelation that Haru was taken in the middle of the night and Katara instinctively just "knowing" from the streams of tears running down Haru's mother's face as she turned away from the cliff overlooking the sea… my eyeballs tried to break my nose, they were rolling so hard. They even seriously had violin string music playing in the background, really, Avatar guys?

      • sundaycoma says:

        To me, the real tragic moments were much more subtle. The look on Haru's mother's face as the Firebenders strongarm her into paying a higher tax, the moment before the door is fully closed and she's standing completely rigid for a beat while eyeing them before getting down on her knees, sacrificing her pride in front of complete strangers, to pick up a few (apparently) nearly-worthless copper pieces… So much more heartbreaking to me. Maybe just because of what I've seen my own parents go through as immigrants to a country whose language they barely spoke but that hit me so much harder than Katara's kleenex moment.

        • sundaycoma says:

          Other than that, I feel like there isn't much to say about this episode. Haru was kind of a jerk for calling the people of his town "cowards" when there's the implication that he's including his own mother along in that assessment, being that the only reason she's afraid is because she clearly feels she still has so much to lose, namely, uhm, him. So way to be an asshole in that regard. Haru's father is absolutely amazing and from the second he spoke, I was like "Whoa, guys. There's a man to give President Obama a run in the Impressive Voice race". Not to mention his way sick burn – "I hear cowards float". Plus it's the very first instance (that I've noticed on this rewatch) of a high-level bender doing my absolute favorite move in this show after they've just finished doing something incredibly badass (which I won't talk about for fear of spoiler) but it's here. And Sokka feeling insecure about his ears. "No — seriously. Back off". Otherwise… onto the next.

  23. Anonymouse says:

    I think one of the best parts of this show is that they show human nature as it is. People respond to situations in a natural way, not just what would make the best story. To give up, wait out the war in a Fire Nation prison camp, and not act until one of their own is threatened, that's what many people would be doing in that situation. Let's face it, we aren't all badasses.

    The old man that Haru and Katara saved is another example. There's a war going on, the village is run by a group of oppressive fire benders who want to remove everyone with the power to fight them. It seems quite likely to me that anyone who saw someone earthbending and didn't turn them in could be punished. Can you blame the guy for being scared? It's also possible that there was some kind of reward for turning in Earthbenders, and judging by the taxes Haru's mom had to pay, I'm willing to bet money is a problem for a lot of people in the village. I'm not saying what the old man did was a good thing, but everyone has their own circumstances.

    Also, much love for Katara. It's part of her established character already to be mothering/protective, and I enjoyed watching that desire spread to an entire group of people, rather than just Aang. I also love how Sokka is done trying to stop her. While Katara still has a desire to be protective and (s)mothering all the time, Sokka is mature enough to realize that there are some things people have to do, no matter how reckless… even when his sister is the one being reckless.

  24. Dragonsong12 says:

    No worries, that's what Julia's saying, only that Tai Chi is only used by waterbenders, not all benders. I think you misread OP's first sentence there.

  25. tethysdust says:

    I would just like to point out that this episode is the first time we've seen the group do something to help the situation of the world. I mean, they do have a vague general plan of training up the Avatar to somehow stop the Fire Nation, but all the episodes up until now have mostly involved them learning, traveling, and playing around. But in this episode, they inspired the Earthbenders to rebel. And the departing Earthbenders said they were going to try and free all their occupied villages. It is indirect, but it is the first time the Avatar's group has successfully opposed the Fire Nation in a way that will probably have lasting consequences.

  26. Openattheclose says:

    "Every episode without Uncle Iroh is JUST SHORT OF PERFECTION. Sorry, that’s the way it is."

    100% TRUE FACTS.
    <img src=>
    Oh hi there George Takei!
    <img src=>

    • monkeybutter says:

      To be fair, a scene with Iroh and Warden George would cause our heads to explode due to their inconceivable awesomeness.

    • echinodermata says:

      <img src=""&gt;

      (With bonus Masi Oka and an adorable face with a blade to his neck.)

      • Openattheclose says:

        Hiro is the reason I kept up with Heroes for so long. <3 So much love for both him and his father. And Ando too.

        • fantasylover120 says:

          Hiro and Ando are honestly the only reason I kept watching Heroes , though I admit to having a fondness for the crazy Petrelli clan.

          • sundaycoma says:

            I watched for ~Peter~ (hubba hubba, hey there emo guy in the hoodie, how you doing)
            Then I stopped watching 'cause of ~Peter~ (oh. you're in fucking ireland now, i guess, that's how you're doing — do we really have to spend an entire season watching you discover what we watched you discover last season? really?)

            WTF third season why did you happen?

      • Elexus Calcearius says:


        This is where I watched George Takei! I have a horrible memory. Yeah, he's awesome.

      • @redbeardjim says:

        How many nerdgasms were there around the world when Daddy!Nakamura's car had the license number "NCC 1701"?

  27. Violets are Blue says:

    What is the spoiler policy on the live action movie, Mark? Fair game or, to be safe, don't mention anything about it?

    • who_cares86 says:

      considering it covers all of series one. I'd say don't mention anything about it. Also it sucks so it shouldn't be mentioned, period.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        HAHAHA. Yes, don't spoil any plots I haven't come upon, but I know it's awful and I don't care to be kept spoiler-free in terms of the movie. So as long as it doesn't spoil Book One at all, I don't care.

        • lossthief says:

          Well, since we've reached this episode I can finally talk about the equivalent scene…

          IT'S TERRIBLE. Haru is never mentioned by name, instead it just being a random earthbender child. Then, when the GAang get taken to the prison, there's one big problem with it…


          If that wasn't enough, they took Katara's speech and gave it to Aang, who actually has to SPELL OUT TO THE TOWN OF EARTHBENDERS THAT THEY ARE STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF A FUCKING ROCK QUARRY.

          Don't even get me started on the Pebble Dance either…

          • alexamarie0813 says:

            LOL they earthbend like crazy and all you see is a little PEBBLE FLOAT ACROSS THE SCREEN GOD WHY.

          • arctic_hare says:

            Not coincidentally, that part has probably my favorite line in the Rifftrax. Immediately after the stupid dance, Kevin Murphy (AKA Tom Servo) says "Let us never speak of what just happened again", and you can practically hear him shuddering with horror.

            Sums up the whole movie, really.

          • Violets are Blue says:

            Yes, this is the part of the movie that was the lowest of the low., After they screwed this up, they couldn't go back. It's just awful.

          • Hotaru_hime says:

            You've got to be fucking kidding me.
            M. Night… what the fuck? Did you even watch this series? Were you even paying attention?

          • I don't remember the exact words, but I think this is pretty close:

            AANG: Earthbenders! Would you fight back if the Avatar returns?
            PRISONERS: (Murmurs of affirmation)
            AANG: What if I told you that the Avatar has returned? And he is me?

            I think Shyamamlan was intent on making the worst adaptation ever.

        • Inner Voice says:

          Oh hey, that means that I can now post THE MOST INFAMOUS GIF:

          <img src=""&gt;

          I had been silent while watching the movie up to this point, but this where I burst out incredulously, "oh my God."

          • sundaycoma says:

            I gave up as soon as they left the Southern Air Temple. If that kid couldn't nail Aang then, there could be no hope for anything else.

            Unfortunately, I was on a mass group outing so I couldn't just leave. Super unfortunately, they purchased tickets to the 3D showing before I got there to help inform the decision so I ended up having to buy tickets to the 3D showing. Unspeakably super unfortunately: guy I'm crushin' on was in that group and had never seen Avatar before. Now he never wants to. Thanks, Shamyalan. For ruining that opportunity for me.

          • @redbeardjim says:

            Inevitable follow-up!
            <img src=>

          • alexamarie0813 says:


          • agrinningfool says:

            that first bit of earthbending was impressive.. but then WTF. SERIOUSLY. WTF.

  28. I love that you posted about this one on George Takei's birthday ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. daigo says:

    I'm glad you're enjoying this show, Mark. It's definitely one of my favorites.

    I think you're mistaking a few of the martial arts styles for each other though:

    Waterbending: Based off of Tai Chi, which focuses on internal energy and flowing movements. Normally the motions are very slow but they quicken the pace a little to get the feel of the water's momentum.

    Earthbending: Southern Hung Gar, with heavy, direct strikes and deeply rooted stances. There's a certain "weight" to the movements that's really iconic, and I think that describing it as looking like Tai Chi is a little… off.

    Firebending: Northern Shaolin, which is very graceful, acrobatic, and has quick strikes and sharp stances. Very good for an element as aggressive as firebending.

    Airbending: Ba Gua, with circular motions and evasive maneuvers that focus on getting around and behind your foe. The martial arts consultant who did a lot of the choreography actually mentioned a Ba Gua classic move you saw in episode 2 (and will see again in the future!), where Aang gets behind Zuko and places his hands on Zuko's shoulders, using that as a guide to the upper-body movements so Aang can stay behind his enemy by stepping around and about.

    There are certain variants of course, but I'll mention them as we go along. There's also videos on YouTube detailing these martial arts styles in a little more depth, but they contain scenes from future episodes so I'll post them later.

  30. Emily says:

    Fun Fact of the day! That isn't a spoiler! YAY! All bending moves are in SOME WAY based off of a type of martial arts! It's really cool! It's never mentioned in the show, it's something the writers said when they did behind the scenes videos. Each nation's bending is based off a different martial arts! I think that's pretty nifty ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Bill says:

      I actually think the behind the scenes stuff on that had aired by this point so Mark would be missing out if he didn't know about the martial arts stuff since he can't find out any other way… Unless he wanted to guess that on his own

  31. kartikeya200 says:

    So shall we have more somewhat poorly scanned art book love? Lets!

    <img src=""&gt;

    The Fire Nation prison was inspired by modern-day oil rigs. Located in the middle of the ocean, the prison is made entirely from metal, so Earthbenders are unable to bend there. The Fire Nation put them to work forging their giant metal ships.

    <img src=""&gt;

    <img src=""&gt;

    Sadly, there aren't many images for this episode, but it's a Katara episode, yes? Let's have Katara!

    <img src=""&gt;

    Hours before the pitch, we realized we had been so focused on what Aang looked like that we didn't have any close-ups of Katara or Sokka, so Bryan whipped out these Katara concepts with little time to spare.

  32. FlameRaven says:

    I know what you mean about the movie, although I personally thought that scene ended up in So Bad Its Hilarious territory. Like, if anyone needed a single example of how M. Night had no idea what he was doing, that was it.

    • Elexus Calcearius says:

      That scene. Oh, Lord, that scene.

      If you want non-spoilery idea of it; take away anything about the characters or plot that made this episode good or unique, and add in bollywood dancing.

  33. shadeedge says:

    So, firstly, total voice crush on George Takei.

    Anyway, today's word of the day is "agency". Here we see a different side to the Fire Nation's power. We know they're mighty, that they have a long reach, that they are capable of impressive feats of war. But in such a situation, we might still expect underground resistance movements all over the place, guerilla warfare, and the like. But the Fire Nation's power extends not only in terms of simple brute force, but into control through fear. I mean, a person whose life is literally saved by earthbending is so in feared awe of the Fire Nation that he'll turn in his saviour. That's a sign not only of brute force, but of all those aspects of the most "successful" oppressive regimes whose aim is control. It's not enough to put the Earthebnders somewhere where they lose their physical agency – they must lose their mental agency, their capacity to even think about rebellion.

    It's not enough for the Fire Nation to be powerful – they want everyone else to be less powerful, too.

  34. fantasylover120 says:

    I'm kicking myself now for not realizing till you mentioned it that the warden was voiced by George Tekai ;is a bad Trekkie;

  35. Viyamusic says:

    <img src="; border="0" alt="that lemur is earthbending!">

    "Look, that lemur is earthbending!" "No, you idiot, it's the girl!"

    Momo earthbending makes me laugh so hard every time!

  36. Ryan Lohner says:

    I love how Zuko only shows up in the last few seconds of the episode (and was entirely absent from the last one) and yet we're fully expected to remember who he is, and exactly what his finding the necklace means. If only more kids' shows trusted them this much.

  37. fantasylover120 says:

    At that point in the movie I started ranting. My dad, who has never seen Avatar: The Last Airbender but did watch the movie with me out of curiousity had no clue why I was ticked and kind of backed away from me after the movie cause I was so mad about it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  38. Ryan Lohner says:

    And one little tidbit: the movie's version of this episode's climax is pretty much universally considered to be its worst scene (and that's quite the competition). PEBBLE DANCE!

    • Bill says:

      How the hell does someone fuck that scene up?! I could forgive a low budget but they clearly should have just cut that scene altogether if it would be filled with that many mistakes!

      • FlameRaven says:

        The thing is, there aren't really that many "mistakes" in the scene according to movie canon. Pretty much all the bending there is just random flailing and then SFX happen. :/

        • DuskQ says:

          If Mark gets around to reviewing the movie, I think that this is spoiler-y.

          • sundaycoma says:

            He commented on a thread on this page that he doesn't care about being spoiled for the movie so long as we don't inadvertently also reveal any spoilers for the general plot of this season and it's over-arching storyline. ๐Ÿ™‚

          • FlameRaven says:

            People have already posted the infamous pebble!bending gif and Mark has stated that he doesn't care about movie info, as long as it doesn't spoil upcoming episodes from the show.So mentioning that there is massive martial arts fail in the movie doesn't count, I don't think.

      • Hyatt says:

        Start by missing the point of the prison being entirely devoid of earth and work from there, that's how.

  39. Love Haru! I think at this point we can pretty much assume I love everyone. I also adore the difficult route of "sometimes inspirational speeches just don't work" that the writers went with here.

    This was also the first episode where I really noticed eye color in relation to tribe/bending ability. Katara/Sokka are blue-eyed (water), Haru and his dad are green-eyed (earth), Zuko has sort of yellow-orange eyes (fire), and most of the Airbenders save Aang have these sort of gray, ethereal-looking eyes. Aang's brown-eyed, which is interesting, but makes sense as he's a combination of all of the elements. Plus he gets the cool glowy eyes, so. Just a fun little tidbit I noticed while watching.

    • stefb says:

      Aang's actually gray-eyed most of the time, but I HAVE noticed upon rewatching that they seem to be brown in an episode here or there. Most of the time they ARE gray, though.

      • sundaycoma says:

        Sometimes gray, sometimes brown, sometimes even skewed a little to a green-hazel color. It mostly has to do with lighting in the shot and the emotions the character is supposed to be going through at the time. I think he's canonically supposed to be gray.

        • Pseudonymph says:

          I've definitely noticed Aang's changing eye color on this rewatch. I think it settles down after this season. It strikes me as the writer's being unsure what they want his eye color to ultimately be. They show a close-up of his face toward the end of "The Southern Air Temple" and I swear his eyes are bright purple.

    • I'll have to watch more closely! I could have sworn he was brown-eyed, although I kind of like the idea of his eyes "changing" color.

      • Elexus Calcearius says:

        That's what my eyes do; they constantly change between varying shades of green and hazel brown.

  40. monkeybutter says:

    Yeah, you have to justify conquering and killing people somehow. People generally don't do things that they feel wrong about, and by saying that the group or individuals whom they oppose are inferior and somehow deserving of abusive or oppressive treatment, they get to claim the high moral ground and not lose any sleep over their actions.

    • sundaycoma says:

      "We're not destroying the culture that's held you and your family together for hundred/thousands of years! We're just ~replacing it with something better~. Swear, guys. You're totally going to flip over this Messiah guy — this totally white and blue-eyed Messiah guy! All you have to do is come live with us on our plantations and we'll, uhm, ~educate~ you guys on it. Not with like whips or raping your women or anything. Just, with, like, the example of our own good behavior. It'll inspire you guys to have your own good, right and proper civilization. Seriously, it's gonna be the best sleepover of FOREVER". ๐Ÿ™

  41. monkeybutter says:

    Yay, looking forward to it!

  42. kartikeya200 says:

    This is actually what I was thinking when I was scanning that one. And yet, by far, the most common defense I saw of the whitewashing all over the internet was 'they looked white to meeee :V'

    The only bad part of this book is that, sadly, it has a Foreword by Shyamalan talking about how much he liked this show and appreciated all the work that went into it. Fortunately it also has a very badass picture of someone to distract from that guy's utter fail.

    • arctic_hare says:

      I've actually had people say to me that they thought Aang looked "ambiguous enough". Which… how in the world is he ambiguous? And even if he was, why does ambiguous have to translate to "could be played by someone white" in some people's minds? Ugh.

      • kartikeya200 says:

        It's the old 'white is default' mentality which, unfortunately, I find my privileged white female self falling into more often than I'd like (which, since I'd like that to happen NOT AT ALL, it is irritating). Unless a character is very, very specifically designated as 'not-white' (and sometimes/often even then) then it just gets assumed that they're white. Basically when someone says that Aang or whoever looks 'ambiguous', what they mean is 'Aang isn't drawn in the extremely stereotypical way that Westerners use to designate 'an Asian dude', so therefore he 'could' be white'. Except I don't know how anyone could watch this show and Not Get It that hard, but there you go.

        There was this fantastic essay I read a while back all about how people of Asian descent depict themselves in animation and comics, and how it is completely different from all the overexaggerated, often racist caricatures that we tend to find in Western media, but sadly I can't seem to find it now.

        • echinodermata says:

          I remember seeing this one person remarking about race in stick figures, and specifically the xkcd webcomic. Basically, the comic uses stick figures, and the default stick figure is a guy, then longish hair is added when the person is female. So sex is visually coded, with male being default.

          But there was this one comic with Obama, and it was just the normal stick figure. And how that was sort of remarkable to the commenter, that race wasn't distinguished visually in the comic, so they kind of went back and reread the comics visualizing POCs instead of white people in the comic, since the commenter essentially thought of the stick figures as white people by default.

          Basically, "white is default" to the extent that a highly unrealistic image of a person (e.g. a stick figure) is still read as a white person usually.

          • notemily says:

            XKCD is interesting. How would he draw a girl with short hair? A guy with long hair? I think it'd be better to just draw them all the same, but then people would probably think they were all dudes, just like they (we!) usually think they're all white.

        • affableevil says:

          ^That's the post you were referring to, I believe. And it's a good one ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Dragonsong12 says:

        Well, I have to admit that I could have accepted a white actor for Aang if I honestly felt that he was cast because he was simply the best actor for the part….
        …that said – they didn't, obvs, and there was this great kid who auditioned for the part (I want to say he was from the Phillipines, but I might have that wrong) who was AWESOME and HE ACTUALLY KNEW THE FORM OF MARTIAL ARTS THAT AANG USES IN THE SHOW! …WHY DID WE NOT USE THIS KID????? (His audition is up on Youtube somewhere, because he was so awesome)
        But the worst is the casting call they put our for Aang, which specifically asked for caucasian actors…um…what? And while I'm actually willing to believe that THAT horrific blunder was actually more Paramount's fault that Shyamalan's, he still defended it, which means I don't feel bad assigning blame to him. (If he'd even just said nothing, I'd have been more sympathetic.)

  43. Jaxx_zombie says:





  44. Pelleloguin says:

    I've always liked Katara because I see a bit of me in her. Within my circle of friends, I watch over everybody, make sure they eat and are happy and stand up for them. It's a vary realistic trait for someone like her to have, especially considering that when her mother died, Katara had to take her place. The way she acts, I sometimes wonder if, like me, it's just an instinct on her part.

    I also really like how they don't pull punches with the Fire Nation's effect on the people. They live in fear, they have to hide essential parts of themselves to stay alive and free, and they cant trust one another. It's tense and scary and I spent the whole episode wondering if Katara might do something that gets the village burned down. Then she made the speech and I was all "Standard kids show ending, they'll fight back now because someone believes in them"…Woops. Forgot this was Avatar and they know that that's not how life works. It's very real and very well written and I love seeing how the characters have developed so much over only 6 episodes… Cant wait for the next review.

  45. ThreeBooks says:

    Well, anyone with a decent set of Shipping Goggles immediately noticed it right there, but most of it starts… later. You'll know it when you see it.

    • sundaycoma says:

      LOL. Just… LOL.'Cause I know /exactly/ what moment you're talking about.

      So many good things coming up. So many.

  46. Elexus Calcearius says:

    The good thing about the episode is that it allows for a greater exploration of the Fire Nation, and the effects they’ve caused world over. We get introduced to an Earth Kingdom village which is under the control of the Fire Nation, and they experience heavy taxation, discrimination based on bending and poverty. This is one of the examples in the show about how realistic they try to portray things- they show the horrible things the Fire Nation have caused, instead of simply saying they’re evil.

    Of course, when you have an evil empire, you always face the danger of making them the only villains, and at this point, that’s really all we’ve seen them as. Characters such Zuko and Iroh may gather our sympathy and enjoyment, but they’re still villains, and otherwise we’ve had major jerks such as Zhao, unpleasant Fire Nation officials such as the warden, and swarms of faceless Fire Nation troops. However, this episode does allow the chance to explore that just because you’re against the Fire Nation, doesn’t mean you’re a good person- see the old man that gave information on Haru. Yes, I can imagine he was probably poor and desperate, but not only does this show that not everyone is united singularly against the Fire Nation, but adds a bit of realism to the fact that when you’re under an oppressive government, people will not always act in a show of solidarity. They’ll become desperate and think for themselves, which is another of the major horrors that war inflicts on any society.
    On the subject of war, and fighting oppression, I like how this episode handles it. When Katara says how brave Haru was to save that old man, its commented that she must have really inspired him. This seems to set the theme that all that’s needed to overcome oppression is inspiration; faith and hope will save the day! When she discovers the Earth Benders on the ship-building rig, abused and hopeless, she feels confident that a dose of inspiration is all that’s needed to spark rebellion in them. But here we finally get to see that Katara’s hopeful naivety isn’t exactly right. These people are literally exhausted, more concerned about surviving than escaping, and who could blame them? They’ve had to shoulder slavery and physical labour for years, and it’s only to Katara, well fed, innocent, and armed, that escaping seems easy. When in other shows Katara’s inspiration speech would rouse a deep rebellion in the people, it doesn’t happen here. However poetic her words, it’s not ‘hope’ that finally changes anything. While it does contribute, its being armed, having something to fight with that finally allows the prisoners to escape. I love the realism of this message, and how you sometimes need something more vague than general proclamations of strength.

    We also get more insight in the main character’s personalities. Sokka becomes solidified not only as the comic relief, but also the intelligent and practical one. He’s the one who points out the folly in staying in a village crawling with enemies, or risking staying in a Fire Nation prison. He can be rather selfish, but I think he comes off as more pragmatic and realistic, focusing on the big picture and caring for those closest to him. While Katara is also practical, we see how her caring nature and idealism often distracts her; she’s the moral center of the group, but that’s not always useful in a situation where her first duty should be making sure Aang is trained. Aang, of course, is shown to have the same innocence of Katara, but with less focus on it. Like the wind, he’s easily distracted. He wants to do good, but his nature means that things such as plans and fighting are hard to concentrate on.

    While Aang is good at thinking creatively, he needs to work more on focusing on his creativity, which is something that Sokka and Katara are able to do- Sokka when he feels its absolutely necessary, and Katara when she thinks its morally necessary. We also see that despite being the comic relief, Sokka has keen intelligence, and is the one who eventually orchestrates the plan to arm the Earth Benders. It’s an interesting dynamic the three have developed, and I like to see how their personalities compliment and help one another.

    “Don’t worry, I hear cowards float.” I had forgotten that particularly epic line. Awesome.

    Also- how epic would it be if Momo could actually Earthbend?

    • sundaycoma says:

      I really love your breakdown of their dynamic, especially because I've always been searching for the right way to do it but never quite nailing it completely. Sokka is practical and focuses on the bigger picture (thus why he was the 'warrior' of the tribe, because he thought there had to be some kind of defensive strategy to the village), Katara is practical but focuses most on what she is directly experiencing (thus why she took up more of the daily chores back in the Water Tribe village), and Aang is capable both of foresight and immediate compassion but lacks focus.

    • lossthief says:

      how epic would it be if Momo could actually Earthbend?

      Fun Fact, when this episode was going to premiere, nickelodeon had ads just showing the guy saying "That lemur, it's earthbending!" without showing the whole thing, and in fact played it completely seriously (no comedic music, etc)

      This had me convinced that Momo would end up being the one to teach Aang Earthbending.

  47. Elexus Calcearius says:

    Oh, I think Zutara must have started as soon as people noticed the voice actors between Katara and Zuko.They played two characters in the other cartoon American Dragon: Jake Long, which started as a kind of Batman/Catwoman relationship, with alter-ego fighting and crushing going on, before developing into a romantic relationship. It got people thinking.

  48. Classtoise says:

    I don't think inferior necessarily means no threat.
    I mean, if I can't fight a master swordsman with a sword, I am inferior. But if I am a train marksman, he might see guns as loud, noisy, and clunky…doesn't mean I can't take him down 500 yards away.
    Point being: Inferior can be any number of reasons. Not necessarily because it's not good enough.

    Love these reviews and can't wait for the next ones! It's like I'm watching the show for the first time again!

  49. @Nycteridae says:

    I'd had this series highly recced to me by a bunch of people I like, but I remained unconvinced about it until this episode. I thought it was, you know, too limited by being a kids' show, with Zuko seeming like a pretty stereotypical villain, with SCARS ARE BAD and FIRE IS EVIL and so forth, and issues like genocide being fixed by hugs. But this, this episode, specifically that long, uncomfortable moment when Katara's Hope Speech doesn't work, subverting all expectations…that's when I fell in love. That was the sign that this show was capable of depth and subverting cliches.

    I've only fallen deeper in love with it since. ๐Ÿ™‚

  50. Bill says:

    A monster ripping off the head of a racist? What horror film is that in? No, seriously if anyone knows if thats in a good horror movie tell me cause I wanna see that!

    • sundaycoma says:

      It ain't exactly qualify as good but it happens in Jeepers Creepers 2 after you've been forced to sit in a bus full of racist high school jocks and cheerleaders for way longer than you ever wanted to be in your life.

      • Bill says:

        I saw that. They were racists? I mean, they were annoying so that would have sufficed but now its even more satisfying!

        • sundaycoma says:

          I seem to recall a lot of racism and only one black football player it was all directed at. It was mostly a terrible movie so I remember a lot of bathroom breaks with more clarity.

  51. Quizzical says:

    very episode without Uncle Iroh is JUST SHORT OF PERFECTION.

    \o/ word!

    (proud moment for me: kids were filling in a fun quiz thing. question: 'what cartoon character does your mother remind you of?' they all said uncle iroh! TRUE STORY BRO! :DDD)

  52. Classtoise says:

    "The Warden"
    Oooh myyyyy.

    I freaking loved this episode. But just a side note, Earthbending is hung gar, Waterbending is tai chi, airbending is bao gua, and firebending is shaolin kung fu.

    I figured now that you've seen Earthbenders it's okay to post this. It literally never comes up (Why would it? This is just the styles they're based off of) and anyone who's seen even a second of the styles can probably figure them out if they know the correct martial arts ๐Ÿ˜‰

  53. sundaycoma says:

    !!!completely off the topic of this episode!!!

    Listening to some of the commentary from the co-creators on an episode later on in the season, they mention how they were noticing kids picking up on their use of character development.

    Bryan: Kids liked that, they liked that Aang had to earn his skills [and that Katara had to gradually grow into her skills] and I really think they–
    Mike: No they didn't. Kids just like magic karate, Bryan. :joking:
    Bryan: No! No they don't! :distraught:

    Hahaha. ~dismissed~

  54. @Siesiegirl says:

    "Every episode without Uncle Iroh is JUST SHORT OF PERFECTION. Sorry, that’s the way it is."

    True story, dude.

  55. ladysugarquill says:

    Katara knows it’s her fault,

    But it wasn't her fault! She did the right thing, the only one at fault was the fucking asshole who blabbed on the kid who'd just SAVED HIS LIFE.

    George Takei! I knew the guy's voice was too awesome ๐Ÿ˜€

    I love the villains are smart in this. Some guard sees something weird, and instead of dismissing it the warden gets the whole place searched. And all villains are like this ๐Ÿ˜€

  56. chrisbrown390 says:

    Man, I want to discuss so many things about this show but it doesn't feel worth it with so many comments.
    I feel like I'm adding a spark to a bonfire and no matter how bright my spark is, it gets immediately overwhelmed.
    I guess I'll just have to be content with sharing insights with friends.

  57. notemily says:

    "That lemur! It's Earthbending!"

    As for the bit about something being both inferior and a threat, it actually reminds me of the things Hitler says about Max (and Jews in general) in The Book Thief. They're supposedly so inferior to the Master Race, but they're also played as a threat to the economy and the German way of life, or whatever. As Max finds out in his fantasy of fighting Hitler, you can't win either way.


  58. brieana says:

    Whe Katara went on that ship, I thought for shiz that she was going to waterbend and expose to ocean floor and the earth benders would take things from there.

  59. TheWelshPirate says:

    KATARA: "I'd rather eat fireballs then nuts."

    <img src=""&gt;

  60. hogwarts13 says:

    I thought you might enjoy this featurette of the martial arts style they used for earthbending :). They also have one for each element. It’s interesting to know that they used a different style for each bending and that they just didn’t make it up. There’s no spoilers at all, and the clips they show are of episodes you’ve seen already ๐Ÿ™‚

    Also did you know that Jason Isaacs aka Lucius Malfoy voices Zhao? I might have completely missed you mentioning that so sorry if I did.

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  97. Anonymouse says:

    I wanted to comment on when you mentioned that some of the earth bending looked like tai chi. The creators of this series actually based all the different bending on real martial arts. water bending is based on tai chi, earth bending on kung fu, fire bending on northern shaolin kung fu, and air bending on ba gua. You might have been told already, but thought i would mention it.

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