In the fifth episode of the second series of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Team Avatar stumble upon a city that holds an annual Avatar Day. This day is not what you might expect and then the episode gets incredibly strange. Oh, and somehow, the side plot with Zuko and Iroh is a thousand times better than the main story. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Avatar.
I take it back. This episode is weird.
Oh god, what do I even say about “Avatar Day”? Saying that I don’t like it isn’t genuine to what I actually feel, because there’s a lot of great stuff in here and some particularly hilarious moments from Momo and Sokka. But overall? Oh lord, this is all just too unevenly paced and strange for me to say that it was all that enjoyable.
Obviously, I think this was bound to happen, as I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a show that was LITERALLY flawless. (Though….Rubicon and Breaking Bad sure do come real close.) I’m also the kind of person who will try as hard as possible to find something to enjoy in a series I already like, and all you have to do is just TAKE A SHORT JOURNEY AROUND THIS VERY SITE. Again, I do intend for so many things to go back to Twilight, but these days, there’s enough negativity in the world and in my life to spend time finding more things to be angry and sad about. It’s actually really fun that I get to be excited nowadays.
All that said, I can’t really buy into some of the absurd notions that “Avatar Day” tries to get me to believe. I don’t pretend to know what outside forces may have prompted the formation of the story we see here, but even the writing is not what we’re used to. The mere appearance of the Fire Nation during the two scenes of this episode feels about as forced as one can imagine, with absolutely no character development or even names given to us, and these small plotted points only seemed to get more grating as the episode progressed.
But this happens during shows with a main mythology centered during the storytelling, so this in and of itself is not nearly enough to complain about. Yet even when I set this aside, I find myself unable to suspend my own disbelief for the entire situation because….seriously CAN WE TALK ABOUT THIS.
I get that the Avatar is a being that passes from life to life, much like The Doctor does in Doctor Who, but unlike The Doctor, the shared memories and experiences between “lives” are far more disparate and separate. We’ve seen Aang able to access his past lives while in the spirit world and we know that all his past lives are passing through him while he is in the Avatar State itself. But, as far as I know, Aang’s identity is still his own. He has his own life and his own thoughts and his own experiences. (I rather like this and the free will this entails, don’t you?) The show’s done a great job so far of demonstrating just how difficult it is, though, that Aang’s birth as the Avatar has made everything innumerably complicated for him, so much so that he chose to freeze himself and Appa in a sphere of ice. (Well…sort of chose? I mean, he did it in the Avatar State and we know Aang is prone to overaction/hyperbolic behavior whilst in that state.)
Ok, what I’m trying to get at: Aang is a twelve-year old boy. This twelve-year-old boy HAD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MURDER OF CHIN THE GREAT. Avatar Kyoshi did do this, yes, but seriously, I don’t feel like there was enough resistance on the part of anyone towards persecuting a twelve-year-old boy. I don’t think it’s problematic or anything, and there’s certainly something to said for the fact that Aang choose the noble route of clearing his past life’s name, but seriously. SERIOUSLY. THIS IS JUST TOO RIDICULOUS FOR ME.
Again, flying bison? Magical elemental powers? A world of spirits? I accept without question. Yet something this trivial sets off my bullshit meter. WHAT IS MY BRAIN.
Actually, no, wait, there’s another aspect of this that irks me. Seriously, what the hell is the point of a court where the “evidence” given is merely the story told by two people who were not even alive when the event in question happened. Is this supposed to be some sort of deep philosophical commentary on something? Because it honestly makes no sense to me, and not only since Mayor Tong CONVENIENTLY FORGETS TO TELL AANG HOW THE JUSTICE SYSTEM WORKS IN HIS CITY. It honestly just doesn’t fit anywhere in the story, unless I am missing something completely obvious. WHICH IS ENTIRELY POSSIBLE. But just like use of the Fire Nation in “Avatar Day,” the inclusion of this absurd system of judicial law just seems…thrown in the mix? I mean, I do admit that it allows Aang to be the only one to address how unfair this is when Mayor Tong requests Aang’s help at the very end, but it ends up being one single line in the whole episode. All that set up for one line?
I normally write the bulk of the review and then include any miscellaneous thoughts at the end, but today, I’m just going to jump right into all those thoughts I have swirling in my head, because what’s left is actually surprisingly positive. I don’t know if I dislike this episode more than “The Great Divide,” but I do want to acknowledge all the rad shit this story does give us, too! Shall we?
- I think it’s a telling sign when the subplot overshadows the main one. Zuko’s journey of enlightenment is way too brief for what eventually happens, but even the tiny glimpse we get of it is just SO FANTASTIC. He returns to his Blue Spirit persona to rob a rich Earth kingdom citizen after he decides he can no longer take the shame of the situation he’s in. When Iroh and Zuko discuss Zuko’s newfound fortune later in the episode, it’s obvious that Iroh knows his nephew has done something wrong, and he tells him one hell of a piece of advice: “In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.”
- AND IN RESPONSE, ZUKO DECIDES TO STOP TRAVELING WITH UNCLE IROH.
- can you hear my heart breaking
- can we please have an entire episode devoted to this.
- what an AMAZING character development, because it could go so many ways from here, so while I’m sad Zuko will go off on his own and there’s a chance we won’t have as much Iroh, I’m genuinely excited to see where Zuko’s story will head from here.
- Sokka proves yet again that not being a bender is not an awful thing, and I must admit the pure joy I experienced watching him slowly turn into a detective over the course of the episode, most especially his physical actions and the change in his demeanor. I don’t need to over-intellectualize this: it was plan funny.
- The whole opening scene with Momo and Sokka is so charming. Where is my Momo 🙁
- I definitely did not expect Sokka and Katara to travel back to Kyoshi Island, and it was a real treat to see all of these people again and learn that Suki has gone off to fight the Fire Nation, inspired by Team Avatar’s actions in the last season.
- FOAMY MOUTH GUY!!!!!!!!
- Seriously, the Kyoshi Island origin story is so rad. Hell, this show does origin stories so well, making them both mind-blowing and very myth-like, and the emotional parallels to the larger story are always well thought out.
- I really adore the entire revelatory scene where we learn that Avatar Day is not a day of celebration. It’s actually kind of eerie.
- Aang’s prisoner friends giving him relationship advice = <3
- Aang not being the slightest bit reluctant to wear Avatar Kyoshi’s outfit = <3. Which is also funny if you think back to “The Warriors of Kyoshi” and how much Sokka was resistant to do the same.
- I can’t lie. I was pretty stoked that Avatar Kyoshi showed up.
- BOILED. IN. OIL. WHAT.
- “Boomerang! You do always come back!”
- “Some people don’t like you, big deal! There’s a whole nation of fire benders who hate you.”
- I refuse to imagine a world without Katara’s hair loopies. I refuse.