Mark Watches ‘Avatar: S01E07 – The Winter Solstice Part I: The Spirit World

In the seventh episode of the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang is asked to help rid an Earth Nation village of a destructive spirit that is kidnapping villagers, but his lack of knowledge about what an Avatar actually does gets in the way. Meanwhile, Uncle Iroh gets into a dangerous position all because he takes a nap. In a hot tub. Basically. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch Avatar.

HOLY GOD, WHAT AN EPISODE. Amazing, fantastic story-telling, gorgeous coloring, and a gigantic advancement of the show’s mythology, all in just twenty-four minutes. I hadn’t commented on it before, but I have to say that I love how serialized this is. I don’t think I anticipated that I’d be watching an animated serial on a kids’ network and thoroughly enjoying it, but so many of the cartoons I watched growing up were only loosely grouped together. They’d have an overarching mythology or canon, but you could easily miss any number of episodes and not feel out of place. If you’d stuck me in front of “Winter Solstice Part 1: The Spirit World,” I would have been fairly confused.

I know I’ve spoken about my love of serialized fiction, but not in the context of a show for such a younger audience. I can only hope that Avatar inspires a similar desire to find more stories told in this method, because there’s something inherently rewarding in the medium. I hate saying that it’s almost an elitist form of storytelling, since the world implies a nasty sense of superiority, but being able to watch or read something that demands so much more of your attention is terribly exciting to me. I seek out things that are difficult to consume in terms of media, because I want to be challenged. It’s why I’ve gravitated to a band like The Dillinger Escape Plan or enjoy David Lynch (sometimes, not all the time) or Michael Haneke, or why House of Leaves seemed to be as close to book porn as I could possibly get. (Oh my god, I have to do this: Please give House of Leaves a chance. What a REWARDING book.)

I don’t want to suggest that Avatar is an inherently complicated or difficult-to-understand show, as even in this two-parter, we see how they can simplify a complex story into an easy-to-digest format. Now that is a feat in and of itself, and the writing deserves to be praised in this case.

Right from the beginning of “Winter Solstice Part 1,” the writers go for the uncomfortable: we see, again, the effects that the Fire Nation have wrought upon the Earth Nation, in this case reducing what was probably a lush and vibrant forest to nothing but a charred scar upon the earth. Katara, ever the hopeful dreamer, manages to fine a few acorns littering the ground, and she uses these to confront (and assuage) Aang’s guilt.

It’s actually fairly sad to me that Aang feels so personally responsible for disappearing for 100 years when the world appears to have needed him the most. I still don’t know why Aang sealed himself and Appa into a glacier, and I’m not even sure I’ll find out. Regardless of that, the show is still willing to deal with that awkward reality: Aang disappeared and for 100 years, the world was without the Avatar. Katara knows that despite any inherent meaning to this, Aang cannot allow himself to feel that he’s ruined the world, because no matter how long he disappeared, it’s still the Fire Nation’s fault that this forest has been decimated. She makes sure he knows that the accountability does not rest on his shoulders. That’s the fault of the Fire Nation. Even then, the forest has a great chance of rebirth, and the metaphor of the acorn is something I think we’ll see again in the future. The seeds are here for beauty and peace. That means that all hope is not necessarily lost.

When a local earth bender makes contact with the trio, asking for help, Aang also has to deal with another unfortunate reality of his situation: he was frozen in ice for so long, and no one was around to teach him exactly what he is supposed to do as the Avatar. It’s easy to see how hard it is for Aang to bullshit this anymore, as he accepts to help in a situation that is completely and utterly over his head. The spirit world? Aang can battle people in the physical realm, but how do you fight a spirit?

Simultaneous to this, this episode is also the first time we get to spend a lot of time with Uncle Iroh, which, in my book, already makes this episode better than most. Look, he’s the best character. He loves tea and napping. Doesn’t that basically describe our Saviour? That sounds like the recipe for world peace, if you ask me. Though…ok, I have to admit that his napping SORT OF gets him in trouble in this story. When Zuko demands that they head out immediately to continue searching for the Avatar, Iroh is pretty content in his self-heated earth pool. SELF. HEATED. What a BAMF. I seriously feel like Iroh enjoys trolling his nephew as much as possible in his own way, and we get to watch him do that right after Zuko insists they leave right away. Oh, he does it entirely naked. Can I just grow up to be Iroh? I’d like that. That’s what I’d like to be when I grow up.

But yes, I have to admit that Iroh’s extended nap gets him caught by a trio of earth benders. It’s a bit strange to see Iroh with his guard down like this, but I won’t complain if we get to spend more time with him. On top of this, this predicament gives the writers a chance to do something interesting, which we saw briefly before, that inspires an unusual sensation: I end up cheering for the bad guys.

I’ll get there. I have to talk about something. Cartoons aren’t generally creepy for me. That’s not to say that they can’t be, but I don’t think I’ve seen much outside of comics and graphic novels that’s unsettled me. I never watched much anime either, so most of what I watch that’s animated has always been comedic. And yet….the Hei Bai. That first image of it, standing behind Aang….OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL. IT HAS AN EXTRA SET OF ARMS. I actually had to pause the episode because it creeped me out so much. I find this hilarious because it’s later revealed to be the spirit of a FUCKING PANDA BEAR and how the hell something so cute ended up being mortifying to me is just MAGICAL. Bless this show.

When Sokka ran out to assist Aang, who clearly has no idea what he’s doing with the Hei Bai, I instantly thought, SOKKA IS GOING TO GET CAPTURED. I knew then that what would make this interesting was seeing where Sokka got taken. Once the chase started and we got to the scene where Aang dramatically reaches out his hand to grab Sokka, I assumed that Aang would miss or manage to grab him at the last second. They lock hands and I felt relieved AND THEN SOKKA AND THE HEI BAI DISAPPEAR. What?!?!?!? WHAT?!?!?!?! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE. WHAT THE. WHAT IS THIS SUPERNATURAL SORCERY. Oh man, this twist only gets weirder and weirder, as Aang returns to the earth bender village, defeated and dejected because he failed his mission, discovering that no one can see him. Or hear him. I’m guessing that by touching Sokka when the Hei Bai switched to the Spirit World, Aang came along with them. WHICH OPENS UP A HUGE NEW SET OF POSSIBILITIES FOR THIS SHOW. There’s a world of spirits??? And a person can pass in between those two worlds? Oh, this show just catapulted into the POTENTIALLY THE BEST THING EVER level for me.

As Aang wonders what on earth he is supposed to do as a spirit that cannot interact with the real world, he’s approached by a frightening dragon spirit that proves to be not-so-frightening, as it’s Avatar Roku’s spirit animal. What I love about this plot is not only that it’s left unanswered by the episode’s end, but it also answers a lot of questions I had. How exactly was Aang supposed to communicate with an Avatar who was dead? And what exactly was Roku supposed to tell Aang?

Through Roku’s dragon, Aang is privy to a set of images that help him understand what is going on, and we can easily substitute ourselves, as the audience, into this situation. Somewhere, on a crescent-shaped island, there’s a statue of Avatar Roku, and there is a small window of time when they can communicate: the moment the Winter Solstice starts. And then there’s a comet? What the hell is that comet about? (Seriously, please do not answer that. There are a few of you who think it’s awesome to answer my rhetorical, just-thinking-out-loud questions, and you should really NOT do that. THANK YOU.) I don’t understand how the comet factors into the story at large. Isn’t this all about the Avatar bringing harmony back to the world?

But these questions are clearly not meant to be answered now. Seriously, this is why I love serialized fiction. It inherently makes you want to keep going just out of curiosity alone.

Back to Iroh! Never underestimate Uncle Iroh, my friends, because not only does he always have a back-up plan, but that back-up plan is a thousand times more crafty than you will ever be. We see the first seeds of his escape when he feigns falling asleep (WHICH IS ENTIRELY BELIEVABLE, BY THE WAY, since the man absolutely adores sleep) in order to leave behind a sandal for Prince Zuko to find.

We learn that Iroh’s captors are taking him to Ba Sing Se, a place where Iroh laid siege for 600 days straight. I’m assuming this is an Earth Nation place, since earth benders capture him. As the group moves towards this ultimate location, a really confusing thing happens: Iroh is able to see Aang riding on the back of Roku’s dragon. Even though they’re spirits. WHAT. No one in the real world seems to be able to see these specific spiritual forms, so what’s so special about Iroh? Why does this vision of the dragon inspire Iroh to trick his captors yet again with an escape attempt? Also, his escape attempt, while failed, is so brilliant. He literally ROLLS OFF OF A CLIFF TO ESCAPE. My god, this man is my hero. MOVE OVER, HAGRID, YOU’RE BEING REPLACED. Just kidding, you can both be my manly, unassuming heroes.

I was kind of surprised when the narrative switched back to Aang, who gets taken back to his physical body and learns why the spirit is attacking the village, and Aang doesn’t seem to explain much to Katara. I mean….HE JUST ENTERED THE SPRIT WORLD. Ok, it’s totally possible that this happened offscreen, but had I transferred to the world ofร‚ย  spirits, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have kept my mouth shut about it. But I’m much more childishly irritating than Aang is, so there’s that. It was nice that Katara’s hopeful message in the beginning is re-used when Aang confronts the terrifying Hei Bai, who in turn becomes hopeful and changes back into a panda. No, seriously, what inspires a panda to become the most terrifying animated creature I’ve ever seen? Oh, that’s right, the utter destruction of their natural habitat. Pretty sure that’s the best environmentalist message ever.

So…cheering on the “villains.” I put that in quotation marks because I don’t even know how to refer to Uncle Iroh and Prince Zuko anymore. And that’s an amazing thing to experience in a show that drew such clear lines of villainry and heroism in the pilot episode. Why did I want Iroh and Zuko to escape from the earth benders even though they’re just going to go after Aang and his friends. I FEEL SO CONFLICTED. Omg this show.

But after all this, after one of the most interesting and exciting episodes yet, there’s still one grand reveal: Aang knows how to get to the crescent island to speak with Avatar Roku! Oh joy!


Thank you, cliffhanger.


  • Uncle Iroh is the Dragon of the West? I need to know why he’s called that. And soon.
  • Best small moment in the whole episode…the look on Sokka’s face when he says, “Yeah, we’re all gonna get eaten by a spirit monster.” PERFECTION.
  • “I found a way to contact Roku’s spirit!” “That’s great.” “Creepy, but great.”
  • So this is the first time the concept of an animal guide is explicitly mentioned. I’ll take a flying bison, first of all, but if not….oh god. I don’t even know. Maybe a baby raccoon.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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377 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Avatar: S01E07 – The Winter Solstice Part I: The Spirit World

  1. GrrSong says:

    I want to thank you for introducing me to this show. It is totally and utterly amazing! Everything is so well written and thought out! I'm now halfway through season 3. And it just keeps on getting better!
    What I love about this is that if I ever think of a question, it gets answered. Sometimes right away, sometimes a season later. No matter what it is. Very rarely does this happen. I also love the world they've created. And the bending is pretty damn awesome. They do things I imagined some badass Jedi Knights doing in the games I played as a kid. I also love the interactions between all the characters, and the backstory that the writers keep on developing. So much detail, so many twists…
    Let's just say, You Are SO Not Prepared!!!

    • echinodermata says:

      I kind of want to take a poll of how many people started this show with Mark, and how far ahead they are now.


      • barnswallowkate says:

        I started with Mark and am up to the last episode of Season 1, but only because I'm trying really hard not to get TOO far ahead. I can't stop thinking about it when I'm not watching it!

      • GrrSong says:

        I was really excited, because I'd already seen everything that Mark is watching before (apart from the Classic Who, but I count those as one-off special reviews). So I was determined that this time, I could watch along properly, and experience the excitement and suspense along with him. But I was weak, and gave in to temptation… And I sat there and watched… and watched… and watched some more… You should totally do a poll and see how many have also done this!

        The worst thing is, this is all so fresh and new to me! So I want to discuss and talk about it! And I can't, because of things which must not be named!

        And yes, I am really not prepared!

      • ldwy says:

        I think my comment got deleted, and I just realized it was because I used a future episode name (I'm so sorry, I forgot that that can be spoiler-y. I will definitely remember in the future).

        Basically, I'm new, I started with Mark, very rapidly watched through season 1 episode 11. However, then I got busy and stopped watching, and since then, I have intentionally not been watching, so that I can get back on track with Mark. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was really hard to watch just one at a time, though.

      • Skulls, Candied says:

        I actually finished and constantly-rewatched this series long before Mark started it, but I've been keeping pace by watching that episode the day of the review.

        But, SRSLY even though I've already watched this show like 4 times over and I've completely memorized all plot twists, I STILL want to watch ahead!!! That's just how strong of a series ATLA is!!!! <3

      • Kookaburra02 says:

        I watched this show about 6 months ago, completely enthralled and thoroughly amazed. I discovered Mark Watches while working my way through Doctor Who, and I was only a little bit behind him as he reviewed that. I read some review over on the Who posts where someone had mentioned off hand that he should do Avatar next and I was like "Yes! That'd be so awesome! I've seen that one and it rocks!" And lo! Here it is. It's kinda fun to be on the other side this time and know what's coming as Mark Watches! (without spoiling, of course!) And reading his reviews is like reliving this amazing show again!

    • stefb says:

      Welcome! You'll never turn back from this lol

      I still rewatch the series now and then–I'm pretty sure I've rewatched it as a whole three or four times so far.

  2. barnswallowkate says:

    The spirit was so terrifying to me, I think I yelled at it and really wanted to close the laptop. It looks like something out of Princess Mononoke (which I lent to my brother who watched it so many times he wore out the DVD, how is that possible? And why isn't it on Blu-Ray?) or Inuyasha (which I never finished, so don't spoil me! I just realized it's on Netflix!). Super extra creepy. How did kids not get nightmares from this? Or is it OK to them because at the end it's a panda?

    I was also hoping Iroh would escape, and I was also weirded out by that. I completely missed that he could see Aang in the spirit world so it's a good thing I read this review.

    I don't get why Aang has to go through all this stuff to talk to Roku. Since Aang is Roku reincarnated, shouldn't Roku be in his head/spirit somewhere? Can't he just talk to himself and get the info?

  3. Gimlimonkey says:

    I love this show, and am glad you started watching this. I don't normally comment, as I prefer to just read your reactions to the awesomeness of this show (Uncle Iroh <3 forever). However, I felt the need to point out something: not everyone is a bender. I first caught it with "the Warriors of Kyoshi" where you commented about seeing a type of Earth bending. There was no Earth bending in that episode, just awesome fighting skills. In this episode, too, you stated "a local earth bender makes contact with the trio", he's not necessarily an earth bender. I didn't see any earth bending, though I could be mistaken. He is a citizen of the Earth Kingdom, but there's a difference. Earth bending = bending earth, like Bumi (also <3) or Haru do. People can fight without the use of powers (again, the Kyoshi warriors)

    Sorry, but these little things get to me.

  4. shyfully says:

    OH GOD Okay I wasn’t sure if you were going to watch both 1×07 and 1×08 together or separately so this is JUST 1×07 and if I am wrong I will write another review for 1×08 and just reply it. They did air separately, so I hope I chose right, because otherwise I will get all stressed out. You don’t want to see me when I’m stressed out!

    <img src=>

    I really love that so much of this episode is about Aang’s connection to nature. From the moment he sees the burnt forest, he’s so upset. Sokka and Katara are, as well, but Aang has a deeper connection than normal. I really liked how Katara was able to show him that the forest would regrow by chucking the acorn at him. In a way, if you think about it, the Air Nomads are like the forest and Aang is the acorn. On one hand, he’s all that’s left. On the other, just by being alive, he keep the culture alive with him.

    We also find out more about the Avatar’s traditional duties. We know the whole balance deal, and how that relates to Aang and the war, but now we learn more about what Avatars do even in peacetime. Aang is the great bridge between man and spirits. Of course, he doesn’t really know what that means! The sequence where he was desperately trying to talk to Hei Bai but has no idea what to do and was just trying everything was nerve wracking! I felt very bad for him. Everyone is counting on him and he truly has no idea what to do.

    <img src=>

    I liked that Sokka ran out to try to help him. It’s nice to see how much Sokka has grown to care for Aang since he tried to banish him. And of course, I felt so bad for Katara when Sokka was taken. She’s already lost her mother, her father has been gone for years with no word, and now her brother was stolen by a spirit! Poor Katara.

    The reveal that no one could see Aang was so well done. I truly wasn’t expecting it! At first I was worried that he had died somehow because apparently my brain thinks a kids show would kill off the main character in the middle of season one. Anyway, it was very cool to see that he’d crossed over into the Spirit World. Which apparently has a blueish tint. And no bending! I thought it was sweet and sad how Aang was sitting next to Katara while she couldn’t see or hear him, still trying to cheer her up. He has no idea what to do.

    <img src=>

    And then the dragon shows up! Avatar Roku had a dragon! I WANT A DRAGON. Also, oh my god, the debates the single line “You’re Avatar Roku’s animal guide, like Appa is to me!” has caused. Do all Avatars have animal guides, is that an official thing? Or does Aang just mean that this is something that he and Roku have in common, a quick way of explaining to the audience the Roku-Dragon relationship? I will keep track of this debate as more episodes are reviewed.

    So, the dragon shows Aang a way to talk to Roku and shows him visions that are very mysterious. What’s up with the comet? But the dragon also helps Aang realize what has been upsetting Hei Bai, making it attack. And then we see why Aang really is the bridge between the spirits and humans- Hei Bai was sharing the exact feelings Aang had in the beginning of the episode! Only Hei Bai didn’t have anyone to point out the acorns and didn’t understand who it was that burned the forest, that it wasn’t the villagers. And so Aang is able to talk to the spirit and the stolen people are returned.

    <img src=>

    • shyfully says:

      Over in antagonist land, Zuko and Iroh have a story! It’s interesting how they will have stories that are only tenuously related to Aang. So, in this one, Iroh is taken captive. Well, no, I want to start earlier than that, with Iroh enjoying the hot springs. I love that he totally does not care that Zuko yells at him. And also I laughed at Zuko being all horrified when Iroh stood up! I don’t want to see my uncles naked either, Zuko, but I didn’t order them to get out of a hot spring right away! But yes, then Iroh gets captured. How dare they? Oh, right, he’s an enemy! An enemy with a very cool nicknamed, the Dragon of the West!

      I liked that Zuko didn’t actually leave without him. Oh Zuko, that is why he didn’t take your threat seriously! But I am still glad he didn’t leave because then I would have to be mad at him for leaving Iroh instead of just trying to capture Aang and stuff. I loved the moment when Zuko had to choose between following Aang and going to rescue Iroh. I really like this dynamic where Zuko has something he does actually care more about than the main villainous plot, and that it is a connection to another person. It makes him a lot more of a murky character, morality-wise, which makes him unpredictable. I like that in an antagonist!

      <img src=>

      And Iroh is a badass! A smelly, naked badass! It is one thing to be badass when you are wearing clothes but to be that awesome toward captors while naked is a true accomplishment. I loved that he was able to sneakily leave clues for Zuko (his smelly sandal!) and then was so, so awesome in the fight. Watching Zuko and Iroh fight together was really sweet until I realized that they are actually Fire Nation and the people they are fighting are actually from a city that Iroh apparently laid siege to for 600 days(!!!) and therefore have legitimate beefs with them. But you know, I still was happy they got free! Oh Avatar, you confuse my moral compass so much! But I also laughed that Zuko told Iroh to please put some clothes on. Stop oppressing Iroh’s naked identity, Zuko!

      <img src=>

      And then dundundun cliffhanger! Aang needs to make it to the Fire Nation and needs to get there in a day. Whoops!


      Katara: Hey Aang, are you ready to be cheered up?
      Aang: No. (is hit in head by acorn) Ow! Hey, how was that cheering me up?!
      Sokka: Cheered me up! (Katara hits him with an acorn) Ow! Yeah, I probably deserved that.

      Sokka: Yeah, we’re all gonna get eaten by a spirit monster.

      Iroh: Where are you taking me?รขโ‚ฌยจSoldier: We’re taking you face justice!
      Iroh: Right, but where, specifically?

      Iroh: I acknowledged my defeat at Ba-Sing-Se. After 600 days away from home, my men were tired. And I was tired… and I’m still tired.

      Soldier: Surrender yourselves! It’s five against two. You’re clearly outnumbered.
      Iroh: That’s true, but your are clearly outmatched!

      Sokka: What happened?รขโ‚ฌยจKatara: You were trapped in the Spirit World for 24 hours! How are you feeling?
      Sokka: Like I seriously need to use the bathroom!

      And that’s all for this episode! Now I am going to rush a review for the next one so I could smash them together if need be.

      <img src=>

    • Classtoise says:

      Magic Panda Butt with Bamboo Action!

  5. Maya says:

    I'm new to Avatar as well, and I just have to say that I agree that Uncle Iroh is the BEST THING OF ALL TIME. Katara (her? egg?) is awesome and all, but Uncle Iroh takes awesome and smashes it to pieces.

    /my thoughts so far re:this show

    • mou issai says:

      Oh George Michael. He's planning on getting Egg all decorated with diamond dust for Easter.

    • Ryan Lohner says:

      If you want real fun with a Mae Whitman role, check out Scott Pilgrim. You actually get to see George Michael KILL Ann!

      • Maya says:


  6. echinodermata says:

    Aw, Aang feels guilty again. As a recurring thing, it's pretty depressing. Also, that he's challenged to do lots of things only he can do, but basically has no training. Damn you, Fire Nation.

    But Iroh is love. I love that he uses firebending to relax, since all the other firebenders we've seen so far have been so serious and joyless.

    It makes you wonder if Iroh was himself joyless as the "once-great" general, and somehow learned to love life, or if he's always been able to separate the duties of war from the other aspects of his life.

    I also like that he uses cleverness to escape. And that he doesn't mind people thinking he's a foolish, lazy old man, especially if it's in his interest to look harmless. Plus, he uses firebending more as a defense tactic than anything – his intention didn't seem to be to incapacitate, just enough to get free and to distract the rhinos (I like them. Basically, all the animals on this show are awesome in design). Even when he breaks the chains, he uses the chains to fight, not firebending. It just seems very interesting, as though he has a sort of reverence for the ability and wishes not to use it for reasons that would sully its goodness. Basically, dude has a lot of honor, and it's interesting to see his character contrasted with Zuko's. (But it was nice to see Zuko deciding to help his uncle than to go after the Avatar. Just so you know, Zuko, that's how you do honor.)

    IROH BACKGROUND SOON PLZ. HE CAN SEE AANG IN THE SPIRIT WORLD WHEN NO ONE ELSE CAN! Also, more three-dimensional firebenders, please. (But remember NO SPOILERS.)

    Hei Bai is super creepy looking (also, I don't know why it took so long, but it was only today that I went wait, hei means black and bai means white in Mandarin). I do enjoy how it so looks not of this world. I'm constantly appreciating the amount of creativity and design that goes into constructing this world. Now, I don't entirely understand why it turned into a panda, but whatever, pandas are cool too.

    Also, the dragon is interesting in design. I appreciate that it's very serpent-like, and I imagine it represents a pretty conscious move away from the more Western version of dragons. Basically, I like how much this show attempts to make sure its Asian influences are genuine and not just superficial ideas.

    • monkeybutter says:

      I liked that Hei Bai turned into a regular panda and Roku's dragon looks like a more Eastern dragon, and not cross-species animals that are common in Avatar world. They're unique for being regular to us. I love all of the work they did to design an Asian-influenced world, too.

    • ldwy says:

      It makes you wonder if Iroh was himself joyless as the "once-great" general, and somehow learned to love life, or if he's always been able to separate the duties of war from the other aspects of his life.

      Very interesting questions, that I also wonder about. To continue a MarkWatches/MarkReads trend: IROH BACKSTORY NOWWWW!

    • Skulls, Candied says:

      I like your observation about the thing with Uncle Iroh using his firebending for good/respectfully. I mean, I could TOTALLY picture him using it to heat a natural spring, or to light a lantern, or to heat up food or tea – but I could NEVER picture him burning down an entire track of forest. And yet he laid siege to a city in the past, which almost certainly means the loss of life or atleast the intent. Which begs the question: what happened in his past to make him so wise and kind and gentle that he can even see spirits?


  7. Dragonsong12 says:

    IROH! I love this episode primarily for him, but ALL OF IT IS GOOD!
    I love the moment they give, though, when Zuko sees Appa flying overhead and you can see the indecision in his face to capture the Avatar or rescue his uncle, and the choice he ultimately makes. LOVE IT!

    I love the Hei Bai is a panda. They're usually the most peaceful creatures, it was such an excellent subversion!

    Also, Iroh and Hagrid would totally hang out together. FYI.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Really? Whenever we went on field trips to the zoo, the keepers and vets always told us that pandas can be dangerous (just look at that drunk guy who tried to hug a panda). Hei Bai seems like a perfect representation of pandas!

      • Dragonsong12 says:

        Nah, you're talking real life! I'm talking how pandas are represented in media which is usually (not always, but usually) as peaceful, cuddly teddy bears.
        …which now that I think on it, might be why the zookeepers had to stress that they were dangerous, since based on most shows and movies, zoo-goerrs would likely think otherwise. haha!

    Yeeeeah, now is when the series starts to get cooking.

    I can only hope that Avatar inspires a similar desire to find more stories told in this method, because there’s something inherently rewarding in the medium.

    (Oh my god, I have to do this: Please give House of Leaves a chance. What a REWARDING book.)
    Mark—and other House of Leaves fans—you must experience my awesome review. For serious.

    And yet….the Hei Bai
    No article needed. It's just Hei Bai. That's its name.

    Oh, this show just catapulted into the POTENTIALLY THE BEST THING EVER level for me.
    And you're only on episode 7! There is still so much catapulting left to do!

    So…cheering on the “villains.” I put that in quotation marks because I don’t even know how to refer to Uncle Iroh and Prince Zuko anymore.
    Yep. They're not VILLAINS, per se, but they're still antagonists. They're trying to capture the protagonists.

    One does not simply WALK into the Fire Nation.

    • echinodermata says:

      "One does not simply WALK into the Fire Nation."

      Haha, according to a tweet, this is one of the few things Mark actually knows about LotR.

      • FlameRaven says:

        Wait… has Mark not seen/read LotR? Really? o_O I would have thought that it was even harder to avoid information on that series, considering it has inspired like 90% of all fantasy and D&D cliches following its publication.

        • lossthief says:

          Mark apparently hasn't read LotR yet, as it's on his list for "Mark Reads" sometime later on.

          • FlameRaven says:

            I can see not reading the books, but did he manage to even escape seeing the movies?

            • lossthief says:

              He managed to know practically nothing about "Harry Potter" for an entire decade, so I think it's possible.

    • @redbeardjim says:

      [i]One does not simply WALK into the Fire Nation.[/i]

      Good thing one has a flying bison. *grin*

    • affableevil says:




    • KVogue says:

      Princess Tutu is indeed the answer! I'd never been surprised so wonderfully by an anime until I came across it.

      • It was the first complete anime I watched, and I burned through it in a few days. So unbelievably amazing, and it was even better the second time. I want to make everyone watch it to show them what anime can do as a storytelling medium that other media cannot. And I think anyone who's a writer would love the crap out of it.

        For anyone who's intrigued, here's my review.

        • Goldensage says:

          Princess Tutu is my favorite anime. It's fantastic. The only downside is when I try to recommend it to my other anime-watching friends, I get odd stares. I'm like SERIOUSLY, YOU GUYS, IT'S AMAZING.

          And the music is wonderful.

        • jubilantia says:

          Yaaay, will try now. My favorite is Ouran High School Host Club, which isn't as serialized and is probably really off-topic, but notable because it is a shoujo anime while also poking fund at the genre in general. I watch anime to escape to a happy place, and it is literally impossible to watch Ouran and not be happy.

          However, Princess Tutu sounds awesome for the sheer dichotomy of name vs. story.

          • agrinningfool says:

            Ouran ๐Ÿ˜€

          • KVogue says:

            Ouran! Gotta love it! I found that while I was in the middle of some much more serious stuff, so that was a beautiful breath of fresh air! It really is impossible to watch it and be in a bad mood. How are you supposed to with Tamaki's charm? Definitely give Princess Tutu a shot, completely worth it.

            Now since I'm in the process of collecting fanvids and I love to share (Both contain spoilers to the end of the series, so don't watch if you haven't seen it all yet!);
            An Ouran vid you've probably seen:
            And one you maybe haven't: (It's not as good as the first, but I love it anyway.)

            • jubilantia says:

              Oh man that first video! It's basically the whole series…! And it's so awesome! But seriously… how did they possibly find the time?? Haven't seen the second one yet, but I will. I missed some of the later videos; my main binges were when I was desperately searching for fresh Ouran material in between new episodes airing, so most of my favorites are from just the first few episodes- like this one!

              There was this other awesome one to Relient K's Be My Escape with just the first few episodes, and there are others, but the one I'm thinking of is really great and I can. not. find it…

              But anyway, such a great series. And such a wonderful surprise- not too deep, but deep enough so that you don't feel too guilty ๐Ÿ™‚

              • KVogue says:

                I know right? I've got a few videos (Including some Avatar ones, but I can't bring those out until MUCH later.) that you just know took so long to make. I barely have time to surf YouTube! There are so many good Ouran vids out there.

    • hpfish13 says:

      Princess Tutu!!!! I was so skeptical about that show, but man, it is amazing!!

    • linguisticisms says:


    • @halvedfool says:

      SO late, but YES YES YES to Princess Tutu.

  9. stefb says:

    I don't know, I think dragons would be pretty kick-ass animal guides.

  10. TDM says:

    Decided to rewatch this one and note down my thoughts for this blog. ๐Ÿ˜› Never tried it this style before so hopefully it makes some semblance of sense:

    -I really like the “turns out clouds are made of water!” note at the beginning, possibly because this is a kid’s show. Facts are fun, kids! ๐Ÿ˜€

    -I’m struck by how young Aang sounds here (I think his voice actor was only twelve-ish himself, yet he has a great voice, right? True of all the cast actually! Very good voicing.)

    -I remember really liking this solstice mention since when I first watched this, I’d recently read a book about the solstice and was having one of those smug “hey, I know what that word means!” ๐Ÿ˜€ moments, lol.

    -I like that Aang has no real idea how to help out – it makes sense. As he says, there’s nobody to teach him, and he’s only young.

    -When the little animal was jumping, I expected it to bellyflop into the water. XD

    -Interesting to hear that Iroh was a general. It’s not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when looking at his personality!

    -Aang’s awkward attempts to get the spirit to leave the village alone is a really powerful sequence to me as he looks so tiny and he resorts to the kind of thing I think I would – start off with gentle convincing, and, er… that’s about it really!

    -I really like Sokka’s development from being so scornful of Aang in episode 1 to here; it’s gradual and believable. It’s a suggestion that character personalities aren’t static here, and I like that.

    -“My uncle’s been captured by earthbenders!” Always found this fascinating: it’s not only the firebenders who go around doing the capturing; it is, after all, a war.

    -Iroh’s excuse about the siege always makes me laugh. And I love that while he may look helpless, he clearly isn’t; he knows exactly what he’s doing.

    -Aang’s realisation he’s in the spirit world really interests me. The idea nobody else can hear you but you can see them is really creepy, too.

    -Appa and Katara bonding! Aww.

    -Aang being so unsettled that he can’t airbend seems very realistic to me; he seems to use it far more than anybody else. He lives in airbending, it seems; it’s so often in the way he moves (on the glider etc.), and he’s powerful. Nobody else seems to live in their element that much. It’s a strange thought.

    -And here we see Iroh is not someone to be trifled with!

    -I love that the animal guide speaks in pictures. He’s not human, and he doesn’t speak like a human. I love that Aang doesn’t have to spend ages figuring it out either; Roku was his past life, after all!

    – That Zuko chooses not to chase Aang, but to go and find his uncle speaks quite a lot about his personality.

    -The Zuko and Iroh combination fight is great. (I’m not sure if I should feel bad for rooting for the two of them? I don’t care anyway!)

    -The spirit of the forest being so angry is a really interesting concept to me, and I totally buy it too.

    • affableevil says:

      I really like that you point out Sokka's progression. Yes, he didn't trust Aang in the beginning, but that distrust wasn't without reason. And, having accepted Aang as family every bit as much as Katara has, he's becoming more protective of him. Pretty heartwarming.

    • shyfully says:

      Yup, Aang's voice actor was 12 when this season came out! It's really impressive how much emotion he puts into Aang's voice.

    • Skulls, Candied says:

      Wow, this is a very good way of noting down reactions- I might try it out myself ๐Ÿ˜€

  11. monkeybutter says:

    Yay! Plot! I don't care if it's somehow elitist, serialized shows are rewarding, dammit. I really like this episode, because in addition to all of that awesome Aang/Avatar development and leading towards new problems, there's a lot of naked Iroh. Totally makes up for the lack of him in the last episode! He's so clever, and no, you should not feel bad for rooting for the bad guys when one of them is Iroh. He doesn't even need firebending to beat you, he will beat you with chains

    <img src=""&gt;

    And it was pleasant to see Zuko hunt after his uncle rather than the Avatar!

    I also really love that this episode shows the creator's Miyazaki loving ways. Environmentalism, bad humans, and a pissed off forest spirit? Yes please! I laughed at you being creeped out by Hei Bai, and now I wonder if you've seen Princess Mononoke. I would love to see your reaction to a few of the things in there!

    I would have a flying lemur, because they're a lot less obtrusive and they're good for cheering you up. Momo <3

    <img src=""&gt;

  12. Tauriel_ says:

    I love the Miyazaki influences in this episode: the ecological theme of the burned forest, and the "angry spirit" form of Hei Bai which looked like something out of "Spirited Away". ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Karen says:

      Yeah. I see the Spirited Away influence here as well as the Princess Mononoke influence.

    • Whitney says:

      When I rewatched this episode last night, I realized how much Hei Bai reminded me of No-Face in “Spirited Away.” Glad I’m not the only one who thought this!

      Also, Mark? Seriously, you need to remedy your lack of anime knowledge ASAP because there is so much great stuff out there that you’re missing! :’D

  13. PAWN1 says:

    TRIVIA: Hei Bai means "black white" in Chinese! (Or at least, according to the Avatar wiki it does.) Interesting bilingual bonus there.

    GOSH, I LOVE THIS EPISODE. Uncle Iroh is such a BAMF, and seeing Aang struggle with how to fulfill his duties at the Avatar was such an uncomfortable but brilliant plotline. ALSO EVERYTHING IN THE SPIRIT WORLD, GUH.

    But just as an aside, I don't know that Iroh was actually legit trying to escape when he rolled off the cliff– it seemed to me to just be a gambit to get the Earth Kingdom soldiers to stop traveling long enough for Zuko to catch up with them, judging by Iroh's AMAZING CRAFTY SMIRK once he's recaptured. Seriously, what a badass.

  14. herpestidae says:

    Once again, I cannot talk about anything, because I might spoil (Hell, I might not be able to offer any constructive words till the end of the season [that doesn't spoil anything, right? That the season has a specific ending? I AM PARANOID ABOUT SPOILERS OKAY, JEEZ!]).

    Anyway, you seem to be referring to everyone as "benders." This is wrong. Think of this world like X-Men (you know what that is right? Can't just make assumptions). There are normal humans, and there are mutants with special abilities. It would be (semantically [IS THAT EVEN THE RIGHT WORD!? I don't know anymore.]) wrong to refer to the entire world as "mutants" (of course, the moral wrongness of using the word "mutant" is another issue entirely). Likewise, not everyone is a bender here. You said that they met with a "local earth bender," when that is inaccurate terminology. This continent is referred to as the "Earth Kingdom" So the guy would be an Earth Kingdom Villager.


    "Oh, that’s right, the utter destruction of their natural habitat. Pretty sure that’s the best environmentalist message ever."
    The Pandas already have this guy on their side:

    You'll have to forgive lack of… embeddedness.

  15. Kaci says:

    Eee! This episode is one of my favorites of the entire series. Not only is so much information doled out here–the spirit world! Aang can enter it! Spirit animals! Aang can talk to his past lives! etc–but IROH. IROH IROH IROH.

    He is my favorite. <3

  16. KVogue says:

    I would also choose a sky bison first to be my animal guide, since I will forever want an Appa for my own. However if the purveyor of magical animal guides decided to give me an awesome looking dragon, I would certainly not complain.

    For me, I really have to commend Zuko for his choice here in going after Iroh. I mean, yes. We all pretty much knew he would. However he had to have paused for a least a moment. The Avatar who he's been hunting for some time is literally within his sights. This is a perfect opportunity to go after Aang. Instead he chooses to put family first and rescue his uncle who had his faith in Zuko the entire time. I think it's a nice show of the bond and trust between those two, that Iroh knew that Zuko would find his clues and chase after him and Zuko gave up a chance at the Avatar to save him.

  17. Tauriel_ says:

    Oh, and Mark, it's Earth Kingdom, not Nation. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The names of the four "countries" are very clearly divided:

    Water Tribe (or Tribes, as there's one in the South Pole and one in the North Pole)
    Earth Kingdom
    Fire Nation
    Air Nomads

    EDIT: And the man who asked Aang for help is NOT an Earthbender! He's just an ordinary citizen of the Earth Kingdom. Come on, Mark, you should know by now that not all people are benders in the Avatar World… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      Come on, I don't? It is not that clear to me, I've been corrected a thousand times, please drop the condescension, THIS IS THE SEVENTH EPISODE. You've all seen this a billion times, ok?

      I get that you guys love this show, but I am new to it. THAT IS THE POINT. I have not figured out all of the terminology because no one has spelled it out in the show and I'm avoiding looking it up so I don't get spoiled. I'll get it right, but what fun would any of this be if I didn't fuck up during the process?

      • Tauriel_ says:

        Oh, please, don't misunderstand me – I never intended to sound condescending. It was just a friendly piece of information and maybe a playful jab ('cause people have already pointed it out several times), but I didn't mean it seriously. I'm sorry if my post seemed condescending to you. ๐Ÿ™

      • dreining says:


        Don’t worry, Mark, you’ll get the hang of it after a while. The Avatar fandom tends to get pretty intense when it comes to proper terminology, although you haven’t seen the half of it yet. There’s a certain term that I can’t go into right now due to spoilery reasons that many fans still get into heated debates over its proper name.

        The ATLA fandom is a lot like the HP fandom in that our passion for the material has the habit of getting out of hand, but I find it kinda endearing (ATLA was the first show to introduce me to Internet fandom, so it holds a special place in my heart).

      • Kitzo says:

        Just checking, but didn't Katara tell Aang in the first episode that she was "the only Waterbender in the whole South Pole"? I know you could have missed that, but I just thought I'd point it out. Plus Haru had to keep his bending a secret fro the Fire nation soldiers, remember? They took any Earthbenders away, leaving the regular people behind.

        I don't think people are trying to be condescending. They're just telling you for future reference, since you HAVEN'T had time to figure these things out for yourself, and it's just something about the world that everybody in it (literally. I mean characters, not fans) already knows, so they're not going to spell it out. And proper terminology isn't (usually) a spoiler.

        • xpanasonicyouthx says:

          Just because she was the only bender doesn't mean that's the same for everyone else. I mean, I don't think I've seen anyone who's a part of the Fire Nation who can't fire bend. (Please don't tell me if there are people who can't.)

          There's a difference between correcting and doing what that person did up there, which is to sound completely irritated that I don't know everything after seven episodes.

          • Mandi says:

            You know, that's a really good point… We haven't seen any people from the Fire Nation who can't bend…. Makes sense that Mark got confused, thinking about it.

          • Tauriel_ says:

            I wasn't irritated! I honestly meant it only as a friendly reminder/correction – hence the smiley at the end. Again, I'm sorry if you interpreted it as condescension…

          • Iroh King of Pop says:

            You haven't seen any fire nation citizens who aren't bender because so far all we have seen are soldiers. I imagine that the Bender to non-Bender ratio would be quite high in the military.

  18. Julia says:

    Anyone who doesn't love Iroh to pieces is a silly, silly person who shouldn't be allowed to consume this delightful piece of serialized fiction… on second thought, we must make them all watch more! We will indoctrinate them with his badassery!

  19. Karen says:

    I absolutely LOVE Iroh for a lot of reasons. I mean, not only does he love tea and naps, but his relationship with Zuko is one of my favorite bits of the show. I think that it humanizes Zuko for the audience. Yeah, Zuko is the main antagonist, chasing after Our Heroes, but there is a lot of genuine affections between Zuko and his uncle. So, as the audience, who has seen that Iroh is pretty much the most amazing person ever, we're more inclined to not completely hate Zuko because if someone as awesome as Iroh clearly cares for Zuko, he can't be ALL bad, right?

    No, seriously, what inspires a panda to become the most terrifying animated creature I’ve ever seen? Oh, that’s right, the utter destruction of their natural habitat. Pretty sure that’s the best environmentalist message ever.
    heh. All the stuff with spirits, the destruction of the forest and the environmental message at the end totally made me think of Princess Mononoke.

    So this is the first time the concept of an animal guide is explicitly mentioned. I’ll take a flying bison, first of all, but if not….oh god. I don’t even know. Maybe a baby raccoon.
    After watching Game of Thrones this past weekend, I WANT A DIREWOLF ANIMAL GUIDE. TYVM.
    <img src=""&gt;
    <img src=""&gt;
    <img src=""&gt;

    Ok, those pictures were totally off topic and pointless, but idec because BABY WOLVES!!!!!

    • elusivebreath says:

      I want a direwolf too!! And wasn't Game of Thrones amazing?? I was seriously SO HAPPY while I was watching it lol

      • Karen says:


        • Shay_Guy says:

          Didn't see it, but I picked up my copy of the book and re-read bits and pieces. This episode ended on "The things I do for love," didn't it? I hope they keep the line "[[Ur'f abg gur yrnfg ovg yvxr gung byq qehaxra xvat!]]" when it comes up. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Tauriel_ says:

      I second the direwolf for an animal guide! Or any kind of wolf for that matter. Wolves are cool. <3

    • stefb says:

      I can't even–those wolves–oh God they're so adorable. I can die now.

      I want to watch Game of Thrones sooo badly though.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Okay, changed my mind I WANT A DIRE WOLF. Summer's ears were so freakin' cute. Going off topic for dire wolves and Game of Thrones is perfectly acceptable! Jon Snow! <333

      On topic: yup, I thought of Princess Mononoke, too!

    • Maya says:

      Ommmmmmmg I want one SO BAD. Summer is the cutest damn thing I have ever seen in the history of ever.

    • @Chiparoo says:

      I havn't read the books.
      LET ME KNOW IF THIS SHOW IS WORTH WATCHING if you havn't read the books.
      Because it looks HAWTSOME.
      I imagine it'll take a few episodes to create a clear picture, though.

      • Karen says:

        Even though I have read the books, I've heard from other people who haven't read the books and they LOVED the show. So although I think that reading the books will make things more clear and easier to understand, it's not necessary to enjoy the show.


      • jubilantia says:

        … you still need to read the books! They're SO GOOD. And they don't take long because… well, they're really good.

    • jubilantia says:

      OH must watch that. I've been waiting and waiting and waiting, and now there's no time to watch! argh. Also brief and totally off-topic GO ARYA *FISTPUMP*

    • Patrick says:

      D'awwwwwww, look at the fuzzy puppies. How can something so adorable grow up into a killing machine?

    • Weston says:

      Is A Song of Ice and Fire on any of Mark's to-do lists? Just in case.

      • Karen says:

        Nope, he doesn't have any plans to read ASoIaF. Which is probably for the best because going chapter by chapter through that series would take Mark an entire year probably. And GRRM isn't even finished writing yet! haha.

      • lunylucy says:

        I made a case for it in the suggestions post on Mark Reads ๐Ÿ™‚

    • mkjcaylor says:

      How do I watch this if I don't have HBO? ๐Ÿ™ Sad. Not iTunes or Amazon on Demand or any sort of online outlet I can fined.

      I am willing to wait until after I finish this book (soon) but I would still very much like to watch it SOON.

      The puppies are adorable! I haven't seen any photos of any cast members at all so as not to spoil (mostly because I was planning on watching this SOMEWHERE on the internet) but I think I can name them just by looking at them and what wolves they have.

      I hope they can animate the wolves when they get to the 'size of a horse' that they are supposed to be.

      • Karen says:

        LEGALLY, I don't think that thee is any way to watch it online. You might want to check the HBO website and see if they have any more info about that though.

    • doesntsparkle says:

      OT, but that's what you get for posting these pics.
      I know it's only been one episode, but I have a giant crush on the actor who plays Jon Snow. He has the best expressions.

    • enigmaticagentscully says:


      I don't have the right channel to watch it. :'(

  20. For some reason, I haven't re-watched this episode much, and after watching it in preparation for this review, I cannot imagine what that reason was. This episode is just so fantastic. Mostly because, let's face it, Iroh is just too awesome for an episode with a lot of focus on him to be anything short of flawless.

    But I love Aang's introduction to the spirit world, and Zuko not chasing the Avatar. I mean, seriously. That's like the only thing he's been shown to care about, and he chooses his Uncle over it. This is where he started to earn my respect as well as my interest. Turns out, some of his priorities are in the right order.

    Also, the guy that finds the Gaang isn't an earthbender. He's just an Earth Kingdom villager.

  21. Hotaru_hime says:

    I'm glad I rewatched this episode because I didn't remember it at all. I remember the events of the second part, but this one was a total blank.
    So! This episode.
    I found it interesting that Sokka wanted to help Aang while everyone else was like "He'll handle it, he's the Avatar." Sokka and Katara fully know that while Aang is the Avatar, he only ever got Airbending training and he doesn't know a thing! It really shows that while at first he's all, "We're gonna die" he has genuine concern for Aang as a person and as his friend. It's really kind.
    Poor Aang now meets people who don't just marvel at his being the Avatar but genuinely require his abilities for a siege on their town by a spirit! Poor Aang, who dives in clouds and finds laughter in everything now has to behave as an Avatar at the age of twelve, four years before he was even supposed to be told! He tries his hardest but finds himself suddenly in the Spirit World? And then there's a dragon?!?!?
    Roku fucking rode a dragon. HE IS SO BADASS. Aang must be this badass (he already has points for Appa) when he grows up.
    The "evil" spirit was an enraged panda who is put at peace with the knowledge that the forest will probably grow back (that topsoil looked really scorched) and the GAang have to go into the Fire Nation so Aang can speak to Roku. ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY WALK INTO THE FIRE NATION!!
    We also get to see more of Iroh… maybe more than we wanted to. But oh my God, how epic is this old man!? We learn that he set a 600 day siege on the Earth Kingdom city of Ba Sing Se and while we don't really know anything about the city or the attack itself, I find it amazing that he would stay for 600 days… the question is what stopped the siege, though. I guess you have to watch.
    We also learn his nickname, Dragon of the West and that he can see into the Spirit World! Iroh, why aren't you MY uncle?!?! We'd drink tea and play Pai-Sho and chill in (separate) hot springs!!
    Are you going to review the second part today?

  22. alexamarie0813 says:

    hei bai. HEI. BAI.
    no really, he DOESN'T HAVE EYES, MARK. WHAT IS THAT.
    anyway, i really love seeing aang struggling with his position as avatar. he's only twelve, and he's had no one to teach him. poor baby <3

  23. < i >Italics< /i >
    < b >bold< /b >
    Without the spaces.

  24. JonT says:

    Mark – not every citizen of the Earth Kingdom is an earthbender. The three guys who captured Iroh were earthbenders but the village was an Earth Knigdom village, not an earthbender village.

    • @Chiparoo says:

      I kind of think of the two terms as interchangeable. I mean, if it is a Earth Kingdom village, it means that earth benders can be born into it, right? If someone with the ability to earthbend were born into the village, would you insist that the village be called an "Earthbender Village," now?
      I'm not really understanding what you're trying to correct, here. :

      • sabra_n says:

        Earthbenders aren't a political/geographical entity, which is why it's more appropriate to refer to the village in this episode as an Earth Kingdom village and the citizens as Earth Kingdom villagers. Some of them may be Earthbenders, but that's something that's specific to just them. Does that make any sense?

        Earth Kingdom people: Anyone who's a citizen of the Earth Kingdom.
        Earthbenders: A subset of the Earth Kingdom people – they are people who have the ability to earthbend. All Earthbenders are of the Earth Kingdom, but not all Earth Kingdom people are Earthbenders.

      • shyfully says:

        Well, no village would ever be called an earthbender Village since earthbending is just a trait. If there was a village in Canada, we'd call it a Canadian village. If a blue eyed person was born there we wouldn't call it a Blue-Eyed Village or refer so someone with brown eyes from it as being blue eyed. Or if there was a great singer born there, it wouldn't become a Singer Village.

        We call them Earth Kingdom villages since a village can be a part of/under the control of/loyal to the Earth Kingdom, but it cannot be part of/under control of/loyal to earthbending since earthbending is an ability, not a political entity.

        So like… the village Sokka and Katara come from is a Water Tribe village. Katara and Sokka are both Water Tribe. Katara is also a waterbender. Sokka is not. They are both equally as Water Tribe as the other. Katara was the only waterbender there. While she was there, it was a Water Tribe village and now that she is gone, it is still a Water Tribe village.

        It helps if people don't capitalize the names of the different kind of bendings, since they are really just abilities and do not afford proper noun status, which makes them sound more politcal.

  25. ldwy says:

    Can Uncle Iroh see Aang on Roku's spirit dragon BECAUSE HE IS THE DRAGON OF THE WEST.

    Seriously, I didn't think of it while watching, but now that you ask in your review…"why can he see them, no one else can?" and "why is he called the dragon of the west?" I have to wonder.



    P.S. my chums, if you've already watched this show and this theory is right or wrong I do not want to know! I am a first time watcher with Mark and it is so fun to theorize and not know.

  26. foobar says:

    > that inspires an unusual sensation: I end up cheering for the bad guys.

    The last time, we were cheering for one bad guy (Zuko) against another bad guy (Zhao). But these earth warriors are actually the good guy! Iroh besieged them and is responsible for many deaths, they have every right to capture him and put him on trial. And yet we are happy that he can escape. This is so messed up.

  27. stefb says:

    "Fetch. Fetch. Fetch."
    "Aang, stop playing games with the spirit monster."
    "You mean fetch, Sokka?"
    Hai Bei grabs Sokka
    "No wait, I didn't mean fetch Sokka."

    Oh wait…it didn't happen this way….

    • TropeGirl says:

      I just watched that for about the fifth time yesterday. I think I'm getting to the point where I mix up the abridged series with the real show.

      • stefb says:

        Yeah I recently rewatched them all–episode 11 was removed though (I just saw it like 2 days ago!) But there are parts now where I just can't help but think of certain parts of the abridged series when I watch the real show ๐Ÿ˜€

      • Elexus Calcearius says:

        Happens to me occasionally, too. I mean, I know that Katara didn't break Aang out to be a chocolate cannibal, but I honestly couldn't help but remember Aang saying "I have hair, like Haru!" in the show.

  28. Tauriel_ says:

    Yep, there will be more elements that seem to have been directly inspired by Miyazaki films, but we'll get to those when we get to those. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  29. stefb says:

    Thank you! I will now abuse the italics and bold from now on.

  30. Tauriel_ says:

    I think serialised shows (the good ones, obviously) prove that sometimes being élitist can be a good thing. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  31. ABBryant says:

    Those who know laugh at your reviews frequently.

    Yeah, you're just awesome like that.

  32. stefb says:

    I'm trying not to watch any more episodes because I'm already on the second episode of season two but it's so very hard!

  33. Jaxx_zombie says:

    If you spoil Mark, Krampus will come after you.

    For those who do not know who Krampus is:
    Krampus accompanies St. Nicholas during the Christmas season, warning and punishing bad children. He roams the streets frightening children with rusty chains and bells. He then beats the bad children…

    Are you a bad child?

    • ldwy says:

      I had never heard of Krampus, so I looked it up.

      Good gracious, that is horrifying.

      People actually dress up as this creature and scare children in the streets? I'd be scarred for life!

      • Tauriel_ says:

        Oh yeah. He's basically a cartoonish version of a devil, but still scary enough for naughty kids. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (We have him in Slovakia, too, where the feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated on 6th December. The kids get sweets for St. Nicholas Day, and their "regular" presents on Christmas. Twice the fun, yay! ๐Ÿ˜€ )

    • Coughdrop01 says:

      thank god I am an adult and too old to be scared by such stories….

  34. Moon_Shadow says:

    I'm not watching along with this because I heroically loaned my first season DVDs to a friend, and this is one of the very few episodes I decided to warn her about because she's watching it with a sensitive six-year-old and, yeah, SCARY GIANT PANDA THING AGH.

    What I really like about this episode is the Iroh storyline. I mean, how cool is that trick with the handcuffs? I never could see him as a bad guy, myself. Zuko, yes, but Iroh? Iroh is too awesome!

  35. hpfish13 says:

    The serialized nature of this show is usually my biggest selling point when trying to get new people to watch it. I love that its a kids show with an overarching plot, thus it can be deeply funny and deeply dramatic.

  36. TropeGirl says:

    "Best small moment in the whole episode…the look on Sokka’s face when he says, “Yeah, we’re all gonna get eaten by a spirit monster.” PERFECTION."

    So here's the thing. I read that sentence, and then I suddenly I went into some weird motion that, within the space of about two seconds, had me slapping my desk several times in rapid succession and then executing a very small but intense flail in my chair. It was so fast that I pretty much didn't even realize that I had done it until I had stopped. The point is that Avatar is one hell of a drug. I think. Or maybe I just love Sokka.

    Also, IROH. I want to adopt him as my uncle or grandfather.

  37. leenwitit says:

    Just a clarification that others have made but I don't think Mark has seen:

    NOT EVERYONE IS A BENDER. The guy who comes up to Aang? Not a bender. Everyone who lives in that village? Not a bender. They are all citizens of the Earth Kingdom, but not everyone who lives in the Earth Kingdom is a bender. Just like Katara is the only water bender in the South Pole.

    I think this is an important point that may affect your future watching of the show if any are confused about it.

  38. God, I love it when people underestimate Iroh and think of him as just a lazy/whiny old man. I love it so much. Because he's just like, "SURPRISE, MOTHERFUCKER!" And it is the very best thing. The man is brilliant and awesome.

    • ldwy says:

      Because he's just like, "SURPRISE, MOTHERFUCKER!" And it is the very best thing.

      That is exactly what he's like. And it is the very best thing ever.

      I just felt that ought to be quoted, it's so true. Great comment.

    • GrrSong says:

      It took me a while to warm up to Iroh; he seemed too much like an old guy who sits there and just makes bad "comic" remarks and drinking tea, neither of which I care for. But MY GOD he is awesome! This was one of the episodes where I first took a step back and thought "Hey, hold on, there's one hell of a character in here, and I can't wait to find out more!" And later on when we do…? Well…

      Let's just say he's now one of my favourite characters…

  39. Patrick says:

    Iroh is able to see Aang riding on the back of Roku’s dragon. Even though they’re spirits. WHAT. No one in the real world seems to be able to see these specific spiritual forms, so what’s so special about Iroh?

    Mark…he's IROH. That should answer all your questions.

    And all I can say is that you are SO GORRAM UNPREPARED FOR IROH'S BACKSTORY.

    • Patrick says:

      Also, I just thought up the best crossover ever. Iroh meets The Dude. Oh god I need to know how to post images so that I can post one that portrays just how magical this idea would be. Actually, I just want to see all the "Cool Old Guy" characters from everything ever hang out and chill on a beach somewhere. Ok, the Dude's not old, but you get the idea.

  40. tinybit92 says:

    I tend to think that when it comes to Iroh and Zuko, there is always a distinct difference between antagonist and villain.

  41. FlameRaven says:

    Mark, you are so unprepared for this show, you have no idea. We are only just getting started.

  42. @audzilla says:

    <3 Zuko and especially Iroh.

  43. corporatecake says:

    Zuko and Iroh are, to me, Anti-Villains. Which are so much cooler than Anti-Heroes, js. Sure, they're after Aang, but you want to root for them all the same. They're compelling characters.

    Iroh's escape? So awesome. I basically want to be him, okay.

    And HEI BEI. So scary! So… cute?

    I like that this episode's environmentalist message isn't too heavy-handed. A lot of children's shows would wag a finger and say, "That's why pollution is BAD, KIDS!" but instead makes the consequences and reveal interesting and compelling rather than preachy.

    Also, I hope that there are two reviews today because Part 2 makes me go:

    <img src=""&gt;

    • plaidpants says:

      I like that this episode's environmentalist message isn't too heavy-handed. A lot of children's shows would wag a finger and say, "That's why pollution is BAD, KIDS!" but instead makes the consequences and reveal interesting and compelling rather than preachy.

      See exhibit A, Captain Planet.

  44. kartikeya200 says:

    Now that the Avatar's spirit connection (and the fact that spirits exist) has been established, I can finally answer a question the art book actually has a comment on (in a teeny tiny, easy to miss caption at that:

    <img src=""&gt;

    We never imagined that Aang and Appa were frozen solid inside the iceberg. Rather, we envisioned them floating within a hollow pocket of spiraling energy. We would have loved to show them rotating within the iceberg, but that would have been too difficult to animate.

    <img src=""&gt;

    <img src=""&gt;

    <img src=""&gt;

    <img src=""&gt;

  45. @gladdecease says:

    Before this episode, I thought Uncle Iroh was a funny old guy kind of character. This episode made me realize he was a badass. A badass with some kind of spiritual powers, I guessed from that reaction to Aang+Roku. But that only made him cooler in my mind. (And seriously, a line like "Yes, but you are clearly outmatched." in response to a "You're clearly outnumbered." threat? How could Iroh be anything but badass after that? ccc:)

    I really like Hei Bai's character design – you can see the panda bear source if you look hard enough, but it's not the first thing you'd think of when you saw it.

    And hooray for more of Aang's responsibilities being outlined in the show! Master all four elements, maintain a/o bring harmony to the world we already knew, but it's the definition of "world" that matters here. It's not just harmony within the human world, but harmony between the human and spirit worlds. And hopefully Roku will be able to give us some more answers soon. Ya~ay answers!

  46. who_cares86 says:

    Yeah I'm totally with Mark on serialised cartoons. The thing I hate about western outlook on cartoons is that nearly all of them are comedies with nothing but stand-alone episodes without any plot or character development. Most of it even the good shows are utterly disposable entertainment with made with the notion that kids are stupid and have the attention span of a cat. Well they're not stupid and they can follow an ongoing story easily enough. The succes of Avatar or more than proved that.

    The same can be said of Harry Potter conventional wisdom would tell you to never make a childrens book bigger than around 200 pages. Who would have thunk kids wouldn't blink an eye devouring 400, 600 or even 800 pages. In fact they love it more and want it to be longer. (which in turn freed other authors to do longer and more complex stories). I think the most important part that's proven to me time and time again is that the best kids entertainment will always better than nearly all adult entertainment. (if not better at least more enjoyable)

    • sabra_n says:

      Most of it even the good shows are utterly disposable entertainment with made with the notion that kids are stupid and have the attention span of a cat.

      Or, to be fair, they're trying to reach the maximum audience possible. If a show is difficult or impossible to get into in the middle, you're reducing the possibility of picking up new audience members.

      Don't get me wrong; I adore serialization. But there's a reason that the highest-rated shows out there are procedurals and reality contests – you don't need to know what happened last week to understand what's going on this week. And for people who don't have the time or willingness to really devote themselves to watching a show closely every week, that's for the best.

      But for those of us who are willing to show that kind of devotion, it's great to have shows like Avatar, that reward our attention by being detailed and thoughtful and continuity-licious. The effort we put in is reciprocated on the creative side, so we put more effort in, and then we end up with an awesome show that people mainline in three days because they can't stop watching. ๐Ÿ˜›

      Anyway, there's no one right way to experience television. The Avatar way is deeper and perhaps more rewarding, but the House way (for example) isn't inherently horrible or even stupid. It's just different.

    • jubilantia says:

      I agree that serialised cartoons are better. There is really nothing like this in other Western animation, and kids can definitely keep track of it. The catalyst for my addiction was a 7 year-old kid and his 9 year old sister who I coached on a summer swim team and then babysat for.

      This was back when reruns were airing with Danny Phantom on Friday or Saturday (can't remember which) and it was I think episode 13, *title spoiler redacted*, that we watched. He was so excited, explaining all the plot points to me. My reaction was "well, this is pretty- OH MY GOSH AMAAAAZING!!!!11!!1!" and then I was hooked.

      Kid's entertainment is great because you are a little bit assured of the ending, and sometimes it's like the author's or creator's personality is more clearly shown in kids' media than in others. Madeleine L'Engle is a great example- I looooved her Wrinkle in Time series, and all her other YA stuff, but thought her adult stuff was so-so.

      Although, Danny Phantom is a good example of a show that was episodic, but still tackled interesting themes and had character development as the series went on. Not as intense as Avatar, but definitely not talking down to kids. Also, the theme song gets stuck in your head forever.

      But yeah. Never ever ever take the intelligence of children for granted. EVER.

  47. alfalfaknight says:

    I'm not a fan of non-serialized shows. I like to learn about characters and see how they grow as problems are presented to them, without worrying about inane episodes that are just meant to waste people's time and destroy the very essence of storytelling. That's not to say that non-serialized shows are inherently bad… One of my favorite cartoons is Phineas and Ferb, which follows the same formula in each episode, but its just so rewarding to see the subtle differences between episodes, and moreover, have excellent self-aware running gags and references to other episodes, so it does attempt to have a albeit irrelevant continuity (unlike other shows you may be starting soon that have episodes that completely and unapologetically contradict each other). (I am using the right definition of serialized, right?)

    Also, I don't remember when they met the person that asked for help, but please, do NOT assume everyone from the Earth Kingdom is an earthbender. Its like saying all asians are Chinese, except its fiction and doesn't matter. At all.

    As for Iroh, SO MUCH LOVE!!! And if you are confused about the term "villains", the term "antagonists" is a lot more apt.

  48. shadeedge says:

    Ok, largely we have lots of interesting things going on in this episode. But i'd like to mention Iroh too. Largely we're getting hints towards his background here; the Earthbenders don't like him, but they seem to respect his abilities. He has a very cool nickname. And he can see spirits.

    By and large, these are the kind of characteristics we'd expect of someone in a powerful position (and he seems to have been at one point, to command a siege). Yet, now he's essentially second in command to a teenager, and doesn't seem particularly bothered by that. It doesn't seem to be a matter of age diminishing competence or skills; we see here that he's got some fight and cunning in him (along with all that cake). So why on earth is he where he is? Iroh is, at this point, even more of a mystery than Zuko; at least we know what Zuko is trying to do, even if not why.

    There's the cliche in such shows of the wise old man who advises and helps our heroes. Here, it's interestingly subverted; for one thing, these are the bad guys. But for another, such characters generally don't get much in the way of backstory themselves; they're just a means by which a hero can learn what they need to, and they don't do much on their own behalf. Here we see that, while he appears content to follow Zuko, he's perfectly capable of taking matters into his own hands. Which leads into another question; why is it that Zuko is in charge of their little group?

  49. Shay_Guy says:

    While serialization is central to Avatar, most of the episodes are still discrete, with their own specific plot. This is reflected in their titles. For instance, so far, following the beginning, we've had "the one where they visit the island with the warrior girls," "the one with the city's crazy king," "the one where they have to break people out of a floating prison," and so forth.

    Other stories, like The Wire, have more blurring, but I've found that manga and anime often blur things to the point that cliffhanger endings and episodes picking up immediately after the previous one's ending (seconds of in-story time) are the rule rather than the exception. Certainly, some are heavily episodic, such as Case Closed, Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, but then you have something like the manga One Piece, which is the most popular comic in Japan, and the anime based on it.

    One Piece, like many of the most popular manga, is published in weekly chapters of like 18 pages or so, with paperback collections released at a rate of around five volumes a year. It's been going on since 1997, so it's up to 61 volumes and more than 620 chapters. (When I say "popular," I mean it. Volume 61 broke records by having 3.8 million copies published in its first print run.) There's a lot of fluidity between chapters and episodes, to the point that individual fights can go on for a full volume or more. I don't think the Skypiea arc was more than two or three days in-story other than flashbacks, but it lasted for 66 chapters and 43 episodes. Other anime can be even more extreme — Dragon Ball Z famously spent 20 episodes (by my conservative count) on a single fight.

    One anime note that's relevant to this episode, though, which I don't think has been mentioned yet: Hei-Bai's monster form was inspired by the Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion. I know you're booked for the next year or so, but if you've considered it (I know it's on the suggestions page), that might help tilt the scales.

    • stefb says:

      Sorry, I have to say this and I'm sorry I can't come up with a more well thought out reply to your wonderful comment but—

      I LOVE COWBOY BEBOP AND SAMURAI CHAMPLOO!!! (Mark should watch, y/y/y?) Just because they're so cool (and the art/animation! God it's beautiful)

  50. Elexus Calcearius says:

    There is so much to talk about this episode. Most prominently, we get to learn more about what being the Avatar actually entails. Yes, we know that it’s keeping balance between the nations, and we could probably guess that with the power of controlling all four elements gives you a lot of power you can use to make people listen to you and settle disputes. But what about when there are no wars? No fighting among the people? Here we discover that the Avatar is also the bridge between the two worlds, and acts like a diplomat. He’s not just meant to be a fighter, but a peacekeeper.

    In a way, though, this is so much more difficult than just fighting. Don’t get me wrong; fighting of any description is a difficult skill, and war involves incredibly planning, tactics and politics. But I also think that to a clever boy like Aang it’s understandable. He can see how defeating armies and destroying ships will stop the war, and how defeating leaders and generals will also impact the war. But the spirit world, and how he’s meant to reason and interact with the spirits is a complete mystery to him. Like he said, there’s no one to teach it to him.

    Thankfully, Aang is a rather perceptive boy, and also one how I think intrinsically appreciates peace. Would a more hot-headed Avatar have worked out that Hei Bai was acting only in grief and revenge? Or that peaceful solution offering resolution and hope would work better than going against it physically? I doubt it, and I think it demonstrates two things. One, that Aang is not ideally suited to a situation where he has to use violence, preferring peaceful methods, but that, two; he would be powerful in peace talks and the like.

    I also appreciate Sokka so much in the episode, all though I suppose he isn’t on screen for the majority of it. I love how once again we see how willing he is to fight, even though he’s scared. It is not right, in his opinion, that Aang should have to face the spirit alone. It also demonstrates how much his and Aang’s relationship has developed since the fire episode, since Sokka willing comes to his defence. They’ve become friends.

    Also, we absolutely have to focus on the Fire Nation aspect of this. First, let’s look at Iroh. I remember when I first watched this pretty much staring at the screen, saying “come on, you have to tell me more about this guy!” I mean, first of all, we get to see how kind and tender he is to that jumping-vole and how much he enjoys his sauna, which is so wonderfully Iroh. (Also, interesting note- the focus of this episode is to a certain extent about the FN’s destruction of nature, yet Iroh has no problem feeling kind and considerate to that wild animal). When he gets captured, though, we see how he keeps a cool head to escape, both leaving a trail for Zuko to follow, and managing to put up a fight, even though he’s bound and chained, out-numbered and far older; it obvious to me that he earned the title of ‘Dragon of the West’. Not to mention the information about his 600 day siege of Ba Sing Se. And he manages to see spirit-Dragon and spirit-Aang, which left me desperate for more information. This episode seemed like it was just leaving so many teasers for Iroh, I wanted back-story, damnit!

    And Zuko. Zuko, Zuko, Zuko. Once again we see him do something morally right, even when he had another choice. It’s the classic ‘friend or idol’ decision, but I was so genuinely pleased to see him go after his Uncle rather than decide to track down what he assumed would be the avatar. We continually see glimmers that while Zuko is certainly a villain, he’s more multi-faceted than you often get in western media.

    In other, briefer points;

    I love the revelation that Aang is in the Spirit World is slow and drawn out, and hidden from the audience with clever use of lighting or colour. Although, is it just me, or does that village have the fastest sunsets and sunrises ever?

    Sokka’s snark is wonderful, as always. “We’re gonna get eaten by a spirit monster.”

    I really like the design of the dragon and Roku’s temple, and I really like the idea of it being triggered by sunlight on specific dates. The Winter Solstice being the day that the two worlds are closest is also an interesting point, one which is very much drawn from existing philosophies.

  51. Jaxx_zombie says:

    I found this episode to be very interesting. This episode, as many people have said, just screams influence from Miyazaki-san (Yes, I did just use an honorific… why? BECAUSE HE DESERVES IT!!). Miyazaki-san's Princess Mononoke is what I believe to be one of the main influences, it shows what humans do to the environment and the reaction that it causes. (If it wasn't painfully obvious Miyazaki-san is one of my heroes.)

    • jubilantia says:

      Don't you mean MIYAZAKI-SENSEI? or even -sama. Dude is freakin' awesome. Also, he still does lots of the animation for his movies. The traditional, really tedious, hand-drawn animation. And he was supposed to retire after Princess Mononoke. You cannot even keep him down.

      • Jaxx_zombie says:

        Yes, I should have used -sensei, because he is the creator of life itself! ๐Ÿ˜› The man is a machine because he keeps putting out awesome anime!! …I really want to go on a Ghibli binge now…. (though I will never watch Grave of the Fireflies ever again… one time is enough).

        • jubilantia says:

          Ohhhhh god that movie. I'm glad I watched it, it's definitely an important movie and unique in the fact that it is unflinching in its portrayal of war and its effect on children, but… well, let's just say that I was full. on. bawling by the end of it. My housemate at the time came in to see me clutching a pillow and sobbing my eyes out. I almost think it was worse because it was animated- it made the scenes so much more jarring. An excellent use of the medium, though. You wouldn't see anything quite like that in America- live-action war movies here tend to include child scenes to really obviously tug your heartstrings, but that movie came from a more raw, genuine place.

          It makes me think about how much WWII shaped the Japanese mindset and culture in the subsequent years. I visited Japan to do research last summer, and on the plane from Tokyo to Hokkaido I sat a couple of seats over from an older Japanese gentleman. It was his birthday, and the flight attendant brought him a copy of a newspaper from the year he was born in a little card. I think I must have wished him Happy Birthday, or he said it was his birthday, and said in English "I was born in 1941, the year we attacked Pearl Harbor", or the year the war started, or something. I can't remember the exact words, but he definitely mentioned Americans- he might have even talked about Hiroshima- dang it, I can't remember. It's probably in my journal. Anyway, I froze for second in guilt, because in my opinion, whatever happened at Pearl Harbor was nothing in comparison to the bombings. Anyway, I didn't have enough Japanese to apologize and not even knowing what to say in English, before I realized that he had said it with no malice or sadness whatsoever. Just a fact of life. I don't think I realized how much more WWII affected them. I mean, duh, clearly their entire culture was changed and it was on their turf, but that tiny encounter really made an impact.

          Aaaaand talking about Grave of the Fireflies triggered this whole discussion. Indirectly caused by Avatar awesomeness! Yay Avatar! Proof of a great movie- but, will never watch again, unless I have to bully someone else into watching.

          As far as Miyazaki binges- I just watched Totoro again a few weeks ago, and liked it better than I did the first time. Maybe my next movie-buying treat will be Nausicaa… also need to watch Kiki again. Hooray Miyazaki! If I ever get the chance to meet him, I hope he will not be too insulted if I leap to hug him like the kids did to Totoro…

  52. sloosh says:

    I love that you're watching Avatar ๐Ÿ˜€
    Your reviews are amazing and you bring joy to my day.
    One thing though that I think is an accident but has appeared a couple times is that you refer to some people in the Earth Kingdom as earthbenders, whether or not they actually earthbend.

  53. fantasylover120 says:

    This ep is probably the most responsible for my Iroh love. At first I was just mildly amused by him but after this ep (and later on) he became so much more interesting to me. This ep started it though because 1)He kicks butt in a loincloth. How awesome is that? and 2) all that talk of Ba Sing Se had me dying of curiousity, and 3)he saw Aang and the dragon when they were spirits! How did he do that?! Bravo show for taking what could have been a 2-D character and making him interesting.

  54. Zuzu says:

    I think that emphasizing that this is a kid's show by the comment people and stuff is getting really annoying. Sure it's a kids show and has some messages in it that would usually not be in a kid's show but there's no need to really emphasize that fact.
    It's sort of condescending to children saying that "I can't believe kids didn't get nightmares from this" and stuff like "OMG this is WAY TOOO DEEP for a child!" That sort of thinking is probably exactly why children's show these days are well…stupid.
    I just think that children understand and can take way more than adults think they can. Let's all get over how this is totally different from childrens shows.
    Anyways the audience was definitely not JUST children and the writer's probably recognized that.
    hahah sorry just had to /rant

    • Shay_Guy says:

      I just think that children understand and can take way more than adults think they can.

      Certainly, which is why people are pleased at this stuff being in a kids' show. I'm personally of the opinion that a lot of American writers don't respect kids enough and that they can handle a lot more than many adults (who write angry letters to networks) think they can. They know it, too — look at how they ate up Harry Potter. Or Avatar itself, for that matter; the series finale had 5.6 million viewers.

      and the writer's probably recognized that.

      Not yet, they hadn't. I don't think the show had even started airing when this episode was made, and the periphery demographic took them by surprise.

    • shyfully says:

      Well, I mention it because I'm so happy at how this show doesn't condescend to children. America has some super weird and fucked up ideas about what is okay for kids to see and what is not and this show in particular helped break down many of those boundaries (some that it had to follow early on, but was able to successfully push off by the end). So, when I mention it, it's more in awe and noting how important this show is even beyond it's individual awesomeness. It's a compliment, not a detractor, both to the show AND children. It's less "omg too deep for children" and more "YES, finally something that doesn't think that children are idiots!"

  55. Mikan says:

    You know, this is an important message the episode wants to tell, but I always just kind of laugh at the way they use the burned off area of forest as a symbol for omg evil destruction of nature.

    Usually I can ignore little inconsistencies for the sake of the plot and the methaphor presented, but I watched this episode on the same day I had a biology lecture that mentioned the importance of natural forest fires. ^^' They do not necessarily cause any harm to biodiversity, on the contrary: they offer niches for species that benefit from the area newly exposed to sunlight and the nutrients left in the ashes. An environment is in more danger if it's a monoculture or the number of species is very low. Meh, maybe the panda spirit was just concerned that humans would make a habit out of burning forest.

    Of course this whole message was kind of in the episode as well, but still. We tend to think burning nature is inherently bad omg, but this kind of a small area is certainly more of an advantage to the forest on whole.

    With the annoying lecture out of my system, I think this was the episode that caused my love for Uncle Iroh to reach dangerous levels. After I semi-succesfully erased the image my frind caused by suggesting someone somewhere had probably written a slash fic about the bathtub scene with Zuko and Iroh. XD

  56. Quizzical says:

    it's funny you said about how confusing this would be, because this was in fact the first episode we (kids&i) saw. luckily we then were able to watch a marathon on the telly where they saw the entire book water in one day shortly after that to fill in the gaps.

    &uncle iroh;

  57. MEE says:

    I love your reviews ๐Ÿ™‚
    Am I allowed to post the Avatar Abridged episodes of the shows you already watched on here? If so I think someone should totally post it! (because I suck at embedding…) bahaha

    • stefb says:

      I don't exactly think that's a good idea–there are some spoilery things in a few of those videos from episodes Mark hasn't watched yet. It's better if he watches them when Mark is finished with the series—I think it's better and funnier that way, anyway! (there's no stopping quoting Avatar Abridged, though! as long as it's not spoilery)

  58. Cuurrline says:

    The Hei Bai is the most terrifying animated creature you have ever seen?
    Seriously, have you SEEN Spirited Away?!

  59. Pelleloguin says:

    I agree with Mark, serialized cartoons are wonderful. It's fun to see an overarching plot and it's characters develop over time and come to a final conclusion. You get to guess until your head explodes because of the detail you get in the world. (I spent a lot of time on why Iroh got his title. All I could guess is was he was just that awesome, why not call him a Dragon?)

    And you get a lot of smaller detail too, like how the other nations dress, based off of what we've seen of them so far the Earth Kingdom wears a lot of green, Fire Nation has red, there's lots of blue in the Water Tribe, and the Air Nomads wear orange and yellow. This all corresponds to their elements, except for Air. Not sure if I can say where they get their color scheme from, so I'll wait on that.

  60. Ryan Lohner says:

    TV Tropes actually made the "Anti Villain" page in large part because people were having a hard time deciding what to call Zuko. That's how powerful the show was.

    To everyone who's saying how much they love serialized cartoons, I highly recommend any show by Greg Weisman. Especially nice is WITCH, as he wasn't on the team during the first season and the improvement once he came on board is palpable.

  61. sundaycoma says:

    Hellish day at work so brief comment: it's at this point that the series is really underway. Every thing else was just starter, HERE shit gets real. Only gets better from here on out. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Look forward to your review tomorrow, Mark!

    EDIT: also, claiming digs on barn owls for spirit guide kthx. Or Siberian Fox. /thatisall.

  62. Anonymouse says:

    Awww… I'm late to the party. Gorram English finals…

    I'm going to be honest, the end of this episode irritated me just a little bit. I love the environmental message, and the Hei Bai is a giant panda spirit reveal, but the ~*MAGICAL PLOT RESOLVING ACORN*~ just irked me. I think it was Aang's speech to Hei Bai. After the spirit monster doesn't listen to you all episode, all you have to do is hold out an acorn? However, I'm not sure what I would have done differently, so that's all I'm going to say on that subject. (Let the downvoting begin!) The positive in this episode (IROH <333) waaay outweighed the negative for me, so I'll let it go.

    Also, I love how the panda spirit leaves behind a bamboo grove, and that's the door out of the spirit world. I thought it was a really nice touch…

    • DuskQ says:

      I like the acorn bit because it's a visual representation of the forests' potential to return. Also, Aang learned something on his own through having gone on this adventure. The dragon touched his head to communicate the information about Roku and the solstice to him. Aang uses this technique to calm Hei Bai before he showed him the acorn. I think it was a good way of wrapping up Aang's original problem that no one can teach him how to be the Avatar. Part of the Avatar's responsibility is bridging the spiritual world and the physical world. The dragon taught him how to reach out to Hei Bai, or else Aang made a logical connection about how he could appeal to the spirit.

      • Anonymouse says:

        yeah, I get all of that, something about the execution of it just bothers me, on a subconscious level i guess… Still one of my favourite episodes in the series, so whatever.

  63. Avatar is my FAVORITE CREATION OF HUMANKIND, so I guess I should start being more vocal in these comments.

    I don't think anyone mentioned how poorly the Spirit World is handled in the movie. Buuut, if I tell you what the dragon says in the movie (yes, he talks…with his big boy voice!), I guess it kinda clues you into what doesn't happen in the show. And that would be a spoiler, wouldn't it? (I LOVE your spoiler policy, btw. It's exactly the same as mine. And yet people'll spoil major plot points of things and then have the nerve to get annoyed with me when I call them out on it.) But UGH! I hope you watch the Airbender movie right after Book One, just so we can agree it's the worst thing ever and move on with our lives.

    • kartikeya200 says:

      Actually, I agree this would be the best thing. I was just thinking that it'll be a real shame for him to watch it after the entire series is over, because then the last Avatar thing he gets to see is the Utter Fail, and I know I rewatched the series just to get the taste of Fail out of my mouth.

      I'm wondering if there might be spoilers for season 2 that they didn't actually put into the actual season 1. This would require me to watch it again though. Rifftrax, help me be brave!

  64. travelinghobbit says:

    This makes so much sense. Hei Bai is seriously pissed, y'all, if he's appearing like one of those things!

  65. enigmaticagentscully says:

    " I never watched much anime either, so most of what I watch that’s animated has always been comedic."

    That's a shame, because from what you've said about ATLA and other things you've watched in the past, I think there's a lot of anime you'd really enjoy! I'd love to see you watch a few series for Mark Watches!

    I just adore anime because it's so different to most Western cartoons. Animation is taken much more seriously as a medium (not seen as just for kids) and some anime shows are just as complex in their plots, themes and characterisation as live action TV – perhaps even more so.

  66. MichelleZB says:

    This show was always conceived as being three seasons, which means the writers were able to do some long-term planning. Like Harry Potter, little things that are just mentioned in passing come back. SO NEAT. I knew you'd enjoy the serialization!

    I SO EXCITE to see you enjoy this whole show. You can't even know.

    Don't get mad that people have pointed out about the whole "not everyone is a bender" thing. It is actually pretty obvious by the first 7 episodes, and not at all a spoiler. And you've seen lots of Fire Nation soldiers who don't bend. That's not even remotely a spoiler either.

  67. @halvedfool says:

    I don't think anyone's mentioned this, but of all the Miyazaki references, the one that gets me is Katara's acorns, because homg Totoro.

  68. AlmostLiterally says:

    Totally channeling Miyazaki. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Oh man, I can't wait until you get into season two. It kicks it up a thousand notches.

  69. plaidpants says:

    I love seeing just how much Sokka cares about Aang. He was initially seen as the grumpy, sexist older brother but you can really tell just how much he wants Aang to succeed and how much he cares about his safety. I knew he was going to jump out there and put himself in danger to try and help Aang. So cute!

  70. meatandsarcasm says:

    I haven't watched any episodes of this series for a while now, but I do remember this being the episode when Iroh became my favorite character, who then became my second favorite later on. *insert spoilers here*

    "I never watched much anime either, so most of what I watch that’s animated has always been comedic."

    I really hope A:TLA sets you on the path of checking out anime because this series has great homages to some great anime.

  71. kchano says:

    "He loves tea and napping. Doesn’t that basically describe our Saviour?" If anyone has knowledge of screen printing, may I suggest a line of WWUID shirts?

  72. notemily says:

    This episode is straight out of Miyazaki. I love the black and white spirit.

    I also love the environmental themes in Avatar. The Fire Nation is bad not only because of what they do to people, but also because of what they do to the earth. Fuck yeah. That's a Miyazaki thing, too, obviously, especially in Princess Mononoke, which this episode seems like something of an homage to.

    Mark, the great thing about Avatar is you don't have to be confined to just ONE spirit animal! You can have a panda-raccoon! Or an alligator-bear! Or a cat-fish! Wait.

  73. Niki says:

    FYI, only people who can control the element are called benders. So the man who asked for Aang's help was not an earthbender but only a member of the Earth Kingdom and the Kyoshi Warriors are not Earthbenders either.

    loving your reactions to one of my favorite series ๐Ÿ™‚

  74. Niki says:

    can we also talk about how Zuko is such a BAMF for breaking the chains that held Iroh JUST WITH HIS FOOT. His skill will be more obvious in later episodes I guess, and I hope its not spoilery, but the dude doesn't even need fire-bending to be a bad-ass.

    Animal guides are just for the Avatar and its Hei Ba not the Hei Bai (sorry if this was already mentioned).

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