Mark Watches ‘Avatar’: S02E09 – Bitter Work

In the ninth episode of the second season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the emotional journeys of both Aang and Zuko are paralleled as they learn how how to deal with the mental blockage of their past from two different masters. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Avatar.

For an increasingly familiar pattern that this show gives us, I am continually surprised with how riveting this all is.

And for an episode that accelerates the plot forward maybe a millimeter, I’m in love with how well Avatar focuses on personal, emotional storytelling. That’s not to say that this hasn’t been happening the whole time, as I’ve come to recognize just how well the writers are able to root all of the action in concepts that are deeply heartfelt. I just simple adore the way an episode that is so “slow” can give us so much in terms of the world these characters live in.

It was inevitable that Aang begin to learn to earth bend, and I’d been confused for a bit about where exactly Team Avatar was traveling to, since they’d already found their earth bending master in Toph. But it turns out that they were simply looking for the best place for Toph to teach Aang, ending up at a rock quarry in some unnamed part of the Earth Kingdom. Aang’s excitement about this new journey in his life is infectious, though only to an extent, since Sokka’s natural interests remain rooted in sleep, food, and sarcasm. (Wonderfully so, these are actually addressed in this episode, which we’ll get to.)

However, excitement doesn’t equal talent, and “Bitter Work” is a perfect example of how a willingness to perform an action doesn’t mean that that is all a person needs. Despite that Aang feels he is naturally inclined to exceeding at his ability to earth bend, when Toph teaches him a basic stance and move to send a rock flying, he is disappointed to learn that all he can do is blast himself backwards. The rock is moving him, not the other way around.

Miles and miles away, Uncle Iroh dreams about his life with his young son, Lu Ten, and the joyous moments they shared together. In a brief scene of loss, he kneels before the grave of his lost son, claiming he’ll see him soon, and he awakes to discover his nephew kneeling before him instead. Zuko updates Iroh about what happened, and it’s obvious to see the sudden temperamental change in Zuko. I’d like to think that Zuko was served one gigantic slice of humble pie in “Zuko Alone” and that the start of this new change we see hear was inspired by his experience. Indeed, despite that Zuko certainly hasn’t released the shame and anger he feels, I do believe that he’s beginning to see how much trouble those very things have brought him over time.

We can see this in simple acts such as Zuko making tea for Iroh, and at his calm suggestion that perhaps he should learn more advanced techniques to defend himself against his sister. You can tell that Zuko expected a denial of his suggestion and was prepared for such a thing, but to his surprise (and mine), Iroh is completely on board with this. (Unfortunately, there’s another use of “crazy = bad” here, which is both irritating and unnecessary, since the unspoken suggestion is that merely having a mental illness or mental problems is enough for a person to change their entire outlook. No, Iroh, Zuko should learn to defend himself better not because Azula is “crazy,” but because she is an awful person who is much more skilled than he is.)

From this point on, the writers balance the time spent in “Bitter Work” between Aang’s lessons and Zuko’s lessons, contrasting and comparing their journeys in poetic ways. Back at Team Avatar’s temporary headquarters, Aang’s frustration at being utterly unable to earth bend continues to grow worse. I know that Katara was probably a bit hesitant to pull aside Toph and tell him how she was able to teach him, but she does it well and with tact. Still, Aang’s mental block certainly runs deeper than this, so Toph temporarily ignores Katara’s advice to run Aang through a series of increasingly tough exercises that she hopes will put him in the right emotional place to properly earth bend.  It seems that Aang is able to respond well to these challenges, but that still places both of them in a bit of an awkward situation: despite knowing the movements perfectly, Aang is still unable to earth bend at all.

It didn’t become clear to me until I thought about “Bitter Work” after it was over, but there’s a nice parallel between what happens with Aang and Zuko, and Sokka’s own little journey off on his own. We know that the ongoing gag is that Sokka is inherently prone to creating situations and problems entirely of his own doing, so while he tries to hunt down THE CUTEST CREATURE KNOWN TO HUMANKIND, he accidentally gets stuck in a bizarre crack in the earth. There, completely alone and hopelessly wedged into the earth, he has an entirely one-sided conversation with that cute creature (later named Foo Foo Cuddlypoops, a stroke of pure genius) that forces him to reflect on his own mental blocks. And while you might be able to claim that Foo Foo is Sokka’s teacher, I still think that this situation is a chance to think about his own identity. I think it’s great that all of his scenes are laced with exactly the kind of humor that make up his character as well; the writing is treated as a loving homage of sorts to what Sokka represents to the entire show.

We switch back to Zuko and Iroh as Iroh gives Zuko (and, by nature, us) a lesson in exactly how a fire bender is able to produce lightning instead of fire. I knew that it was probably a much more focused effort to do so, but Iroh explains in detail about the positive and negative nature of the energy that must be separated and how, unlike normal fire bending, this act is devoid of the emotional aggression that is inherent with fire bending. As soon as Iroh said this, I know that this would show us why Zuko would probably have a hard time conjuring up lightning himself. Zuko’s growth has been slow since we were first introduced to him, so it would be unfair to expect him to magically “get” the lightning effect. So the writers instead draw that direct visual parallel to Aang’s teaching: Zuko tries to bend lightning, and is instead violently thrown backwards, despite perfecting the move itself. In that moment, it’s clear that both of these acts are tied to a mental state that neither Zuko nor Aang can reach.

Toph takes the chance to change her approach with Aang, just like Iroh will do later, instead forcing him into a situation where he’ll have to stand his ground like a real earth bender. Setting up a boulder high on a hill, she plans to roll it down at Aang and make him stop it with earth bending. When Katara vocalizes her hesitation about this plan, Toph admits this is not ideal.

SO SHE BLINDFOLDS AANG INSTEAD. Oh god, bless her heart forever. Believing that Aang will “listen” to the earth and hopefully get to the mental state he needs to be in, she’s dismayed that he instead chooses to jump over the rock at the last minute. In complete contrast to what Katara suggested, Toph provides no positive reinforcement at all. I don’t think that she realizes how this techniques is not good for Aang at this moment, but it might have been part of the tipping point for her. She knows that Aang is a courageous and brave bender, yet time and time again, he cannot seem to get past whatever it is that’s blocking his mind from being an earth bender.

Unlike Toph, though, Iroh decides that he needs to change his approach to Zuko, as merely demonstrating a move is not allowing his nephew to learn anything. His lesson about the emotional base of each of the four elements is fascinating and I was happy to see that Zuko, while initially somewhat offended at the reference to the Avatar, seemed to be willing to listen to his uncle for once. (Also, I know this is absurd of me at this point, but every chance I get to dearly wish for it to happen, I will: OH MY GOD WOULDN’T THIS BE AWESOME IF THIS LESSON WAS FORESHADOWING THE FACT THAT ZUKO AND IROH WERE ON TEAM AVATAR. I realize that this is ridiculous and at this point, it would kind of ruin the awesome storytelling dynamic we have right now, but omg I JUST WANT THEM ALL TO BE FRIENDS omg all the tears) Iroh then states plainly to Zuko that he’s going to teach him a move that no one else knows, since by studying the water benders, he was able to create it himself. (!!!!)

Sokka, meanwhile, has faced the utter absurdity of his predicament, believing that this is a case of the universe speaking to him about his life and his choices, like some cosmic Sassy Gay Friend. Is he stuck in this crevasse as a test of will power? A message of moral certainty? Is the world telling him that his life is a complete lie? In a moment of understanding, Sokka tells the universe that he will give up both meat (and later sarcasm, two of the main identifying factors of who he is, if he is freed from this earthly prison. The moose-lion thing wags its tail. Sokka is stuck. THE JOURNEY CONTINUES.

For Aang, though, one journey does finally come to an end. After taking a much-needed break from earth bending, Aang spends some time working on basic water bending with Katara. He initially refuses to talk about his inability to earth bend and Katara wisely claims that this is precisely the problem: as Toph had said, earth bending is about dealing with things head on, about rooting one’s self in a way that posits you as stronger than a rock, and this is an example of how Aang is failing to do just that.

This is when we see how Katara’s positive reinforcement works well on Aang, too. She gives him hope: she tells him that she’s sure he’ll figure it out and he smiles in response, probably the first time that entire day that he was able to. She then surprises Aang by hurling a reed at him and, in an instant, he’s able to water bend so quickly that he slices it in two before it reaches him. As Katara congratulates him for having the “reflexes of a water bending master,” he bows and refers to her, for the first time, as Sifu Katara.

SEE THIS SORT OF STUFF WORKS. And we finally get to see this in action when Katara realizes that Sokka hasn’t returned, and her and Aang decide to split up to look for him. Just in the nick of time, Aang finds Sokka stuck in the ground and, almost hilariously so, this still doesn’t mean that Sokka is going to get out of the ground. We haven’t seen much of these two hanging out alone, and it was actually kind of calming to listen to both of them talk to one another and expressing such polar attitudes about things. I mean, think about it: Sokka normally would have been yelling his guts out at Aang not freeing him from the ground while he is making constant unintended references to Sokka being stuck in the earth. Usually, Aang is the positive one, and here, he’s absolutely dejected about the fact that he cannot figure out how to earth bend. That’s precisely when Foo Foo Cuddlypoops returns to Sokka and he introduces the creature to Aang, who is quite excited to see a sabertooth moose-lion cub. Who is away from their mother. WHO IS NOW STANDING AT THE END OF THE CLEARING. And this becomes a real test for Aang, who is faced with a gigantic, angry creature, threatened by the mere presence of these two, and he has to do something both to free Sokka and protect him from the sabertooth moose-lion. After so many lessons about what it means to be an earth bender, this is the first time in the entire story that Aang truly gets it. He stands his ground to protect Sokka, and even if he air bends to save him, the point still stands. Instead of a rock plunging towards him, this moose-lion represents that force that Aang needed to root himself against. As the moose-lion quickly loses interest and walks away, Toph reveals that she’s been watching this whole time. In a moment of rage, Aang stands up to her, too, even as she (sort of) congratulates him for standing up against the moose-lion. And without even realizing it, he’s mastered that very first mental step towards becoming an earth bender.

Bravo, Aang!

I wish the same could be said of Zuko. We watch as he patiently listens to Iroh’s lesson about guiding light through his body, which we’d seen him do once in each season so far, and this is how we learn exactly how he was able to do that. Surprisingly, after much practice, Iroh believes that his nephew is actually prepared to pull off the move, but he refuses to shoot lightning at Zuko himself. The move is a last resort, he claims, ones that he hopes Zuko should never have to use himself.

While I do view Zuko’s choice at the end of this episode to be a relapse of sorts, a way for him to cave-in to the horrific inner turmoil that he feels, it’s hard to criticize the guy for doing what he does. He takes off to find lightning on his own, always certain that these things must be done alone, but when he makes it atop a large mountain, a storm raging above, he is disappointed. As he begs this very storm to strike him, recalling how willing the universe has been to harm him time and time again, no lightning falls upon him. As tears fall down his face, you can see that this young man desperately wishes just one thing would go right for him.

But for now, it doesn’t, and Zuko collapses in anguish. He is alone in the universe once more.


  • “Now come back, boomerang.” Seriously, Sokka, you are my hero.
  • As a sign that the events in “The Chase” mattered, I love that Toph concedes that Katara was right about positive reinforcement. CHARACTER GROWTH, I LOVE YOU DEARLY.
  • “The Air Nomads detached themselves from worldly concerns and found peace and freedom. Also, they apparently had pretty good senses of humor!” Well, we’ve seen Zuko tell a joke. will we ever see him laugh
  • “So that’s why we are drinking tea. To calm the mind.” “Oh, good point! I mean…yes!” UNCLE IROH FOR PRESIDENT, 2012.
  • Uncle Iroh did the wave. Completely anachronistic, and I don’t care.
  • “The stomach is known as the Sea of Chi. Or, in my case, it’s a vast ocean!” One day, my review will be filled entirely with just Iroh quotes.


About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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454 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Avatar’: S02E09 – Bitter Work

  1. Zuko's Angst Level (in Angst-roms*)
    "The Boy in the Iceberg": 100 milliangst-roms
    "The Avatar Returns": 150 milliangst-roms
    "The Southern Air Temple": 50 centiangst-roms
    "The Waterbending Scroll": 10 deciangst-roms
    "The Storm": 25 kiloangst-roms
    "The Blue Spirit": 25 angst-roms
    "Bato of the Water Tribe": 500 milliangst-roms
    "The Waterbending Master": 5 angst-roms
    "The Siege of the North, Part 1": 0.1 decaangst-roms
    "The Siege of the North, Part 2": 500 angst-roms
    "The Avatar State": 666 angst-roms
    "The Swamp": 8 hectoangst-roms
    "Zuko Alone": 75 kiloangst-roms
    "The Chase": 100 kiloangst-roms
    "Bitter Work": 1.21 gigaangst-roms

    *One angst-rom is defined as the amount of angst it takes for a Firebender to heat a cup of tea by one degree.

  2. Tauriel_ says:

    Let me just point out that I COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY identify with Sokka's indignant muttering because Toph and Aang didn't let him sleep. THAT'S TOTALLY ME, SO MUCH. XD

  3. Tauriel_ says:

    Interesting factoid: Young Lu Ten is voiced by Mae Whitman, a.k.a. The Voice Of Katara. 😀

  4. hallowsnothorcruxes says:

    Zuko: You’ve always thrown everything you could at me! Well I can take it! And now I can give it back! Come on! Strike me! You’ve never held back before!

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  5. justira says:

    Yet another highly anticipated episode for me — funny how that keeps happening in this series. Almost as if… there are very many excellent episodes!

    This is one of those kinds of episodes that Avtar excells at, and pretty uniquely, too. In many series, this would have been pure filler, and in terms of action/plot movement, nothing much happens: the plot is stationary (note how no travel is depicted in this episode). Some folks practice some bending. Sokka is involved in waky highjinks. Whatever, right? But as Avatar's story is so very character-driven (and, in a less prominent way, worldbuilding-driven), this episode didn't feel one bit like filler to me because of all the character/relationship development and tasty, tasty bending meta. It may be a breather (that still moves so much along!), but I can't call it filler at all. As you said, it's wonderful how the show continually roots plot progress in emotional developments.

    First up! More of "bending as identity", as I talked about in my comments on "Zuko Alone". For me, that theme is just everywhere in this episodes, and makes the Zuko half of the story even more painful.

    Stray-thought sidenote: possibly this is just me reading too much into things in which case WHY NOT, ISN'T THIS THE PLACE FOR SUCH THINGS. …but anyway, I can kind of see some commentary here about being secure in your identity as a particular element bender — as a parallel to something like, say, being secure in one's masculinity. I feel like part of Iroh's strength as a bender comes from security (a lack of shame, if you will!) in his identity, including as a firebender: Iroh borrows freely from other bending traditions and techniques, and doesn't see this as conflicting in any way with his identity as a firebender. (For contrast, this is something I have a hard time seeing Zhao doing, but I can imagine Azula borrowing the enemy's own techniques.) Aang, on the other hand, shows a little conflict about being an earthbender, as it goes against the philosophy he was taught and embodies as an airbender — but he is an earthbender, by virtue of being the Avatar, same as he is a waterbender and a firebender. I'm also reminded of how Aang vowed, in "The Deserter", to never firebend again — this denies a part of his identity. I don't feel like these bending-identity/security conflicts are a huge theme right now, but it's something I noticed while following along this time, and would like to keep my eye on as I re-follow the series along with Mark's posts =D

    One of the main things that makes this episode so great for me is the excellent balance between the three storylines — it makes for such a great mix of humour, bending meta, and emotional development that I just. I just sit in the corner and glee. I love how this show can pull this off.

  6. Well, we’ve seen Zuko tell a joke. will we ever see him laugh
    We saw him laugh in "The Waterbending Scroll," when the pirates were leaving the captain behind. His laughter was short-lived, however, as he quickly realized they were leaving on his boat.

    I just want to quote Iroh's four elements monologue, as it's one of my favorite moments in the whole series:

    Iroh: Fire is the element of power. The people of the Fire Nation have desire and will, and the energy and drive to achieve what they want. Earth is the element of substance. The people of the Earth Kingdom are diverse and strong. They are persistent and enduring. Air is the element of freedom. The Air Nomads detached themselves from worldly concerns and found peace and freedom. Also, they apparently had pretty good senses of humor! Water is the element of change. The people of the Water Tribe are capable of adapting to many things. They have a deep sense of community and love that holds them together through anything.
    Zuko: Why are you telling me these things‌?
    Iroh: It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If we take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale. Understanding others, the other elements, and the other nations will help you become whole.

  7. thefireandthehearth says:

    I won't lie: there's a part of me that giggles at the end of this episode, because the animation for Zuko's face looks cartoonishly (imagine that!) ridiculous. However, there's a greater part of me that wants to hug Zuko, give him a towel, and offer him some hot chocolate.

    Also, a sabertooth moose-lion might be the most amazing thing that ATLA has ever created. I want one almost as much as I want a sky bison.

  8. Kaci says:

    So much character development happens in this episode and yet all can focus on is Sokka being willing to give up meat and sarcasm. LOLZING FOR DAYS.

  9. Stephalopolis says:

    This episode is one of my favorite episodes of all time for one reason: FooFooCuddlyPoops. (actually, the whole Sokka sidestory. Meat and Sarcasm guy indeed.)

  10. monkeybutter says:


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    I love how this episode deals with the show's theme of balance. We've already seen how waterbending comes from the balance between the push and pull of the ocean and the moon. Now Iroh gives us a lesson in the four elements, and how they complement and can inform each other, and how Zuko's internal turmoil prevents him from being able to separate positive and negative energy, which also want to seek balance. Then there's Aang, who has to balance his peaceful, easygoing airbender nature with that of the strong, stubborn nature of earthbenders. And I guess Sokka needs to balance his desire for meat and his tendency to get into messes.

    And, uh, I think Toph was being sarcastic about the positive reinforcement thing. In the end, Katara's gentle nudging got Aang to admit that he needs to be more confrontational, but it was Toph's allowing him and Sokka to be in a dangerous situation that finally pushed Aang over the edge. Direct, angry confrontation is what did the trick. Katara and Toph's personalities and teaching methods are both correct for their individual elements. There has to be a ~balance~ between coddling and confrontation for Aang to master all of the elements. I agree that there was character growth, though, since Toph has learned not to get into fights with Katara, hehe.

    • luzzleanne says:

      It was a little of both, I think. Sure, Toph was screaming at him, but what she was screaming was "Dammit, Aang, you're totally good enough to do this! You're just refusing to see it!" Positive reinforcement and tough love combined.

    • Shamu says:

      Yeah, I definitely got the sense that Toph was being sarcastic there. When did she ever invoke positive reinforcement, except after Aang had already stood up for himself? The sarcasm explanation makes Katara seem a little naive, but there isn't anything wrong with either of their approaches, just like you said. One approach was more appropriate for teaching waterbending, and the other, earthbending. I like Toph's version of tough love. >:D

    • arctic_hare says:

      I always took it as her praise for him standing up to her and the moose-lion and saying he could do it, etc. being the positive reinforcement. And look how confident he was afterwards, showing off to Katara.

      • monkeybutter says:

        It was definitely praise after the fact, I agree! But Toph's response was ironic, what with putting Aang and Sokka through all that danger. She's not a Master Pakku kind of mean, but she takes a sterner tack than Katara does during the teaching process.

    • MichelleZB says:

      Yes, Toph was lying to Katara. She was all, "Oh, sure, I tried that positive re-enforcement shit. NOT."

  11. Tauriel_ says:

    "Okay, karma-person or thing, whoever's in charge of this stuff… If I can just get out of this situation alive, I will give up meat – and sarcasm. Okay? That's all I've got. It's pretty much my whole identity. Sokka the Meat and Sarcasm Guy. But I'm willing to be Sokka the Veggies and Straight Talk Fellow. Deal?"
    *Aang arrives*
    "AANG! Thank goodness! Have you got any meat?"

    Yep, that lasted long… XD Oh, Sokka, how I love you. <3

  12. elusivebreath says:

    You know, Toph and Iroh get a lot of love in the comments (well deserved!), but for me, Sokka is the BEST THING EVER. I absolutely love his sense of humor and honestly he makes each episode for me. His lines are always so quotable, so hilarious, and so adorable! I really like all the characters on this show, but I LOVE Sokka. Just had to share 😛

  13. Michelle says:

    "Sokka, meanwhile, has faced the utter absurdity of his predicament, believing that this is a case of the universe speaking to him about his life and his choices, like some cosmic Sassy Gay Friend."

    Best. Description. Ever.
    Just needed to point that out.

  14. Len says:

    It's interesting and almost a little sad how Aang as to give up some of his air nomad teaching and ways of thinking in order to master earthbending and become the Avatar. It feels a little like a loss, even though the benefits are undeniable. They mentioned that they initially didn't want him to learn that he was the Avatar (and presumably other forms of bending) until he was older – I wonder if it would have been even harder for him then, or how other Avatars managed it? The situation with Iroh helps to show that benders can do the same thing even if they aren't trying to master all of the elements, with his awesome special techniques that he learned from studying water bending – it helps show that there are positives to breaking out and being open-minded.

    • Mandi says:

      I don't think he has to give them up. He just has to learn to set them aside so the earthbending can take over.

  15. herpestidae says:

    You know what I kind of liked about this episode? The subtle emasculation going on. Toph takes Aang's nuts without his permission, and then his staff, which she uses to crack the aforementioned nuts. I can't be the only one who saw that. And if I am, I have obviously made some horrible choices in the past.

    Also: Aang is learning "masculinity" (in quotes so as to show my general disapproval for gender stereotypes) from a girl.

    • Tauriel_ says:

      That was some good psychology on Toph's part, actually. Aang's nature has always been very kind and forgiving, and he usually avoided or ran away from problems rather than confronting them. Which is exactly the opposite what an earthbender would do. So Toph tried to provoke Aang into a more stubborn mindset by making him angry.

    • Manself says:

      “I can’t be the only one who saw that.”

      Well *now* you’re not. I can’t believe I never noticed that before, and I really hope it was intentional on the part of the writers. Although now the scene where Momo eats Aang’s Nuts of Masculinity has gained a strange new context in my brain. Adorable Little Animals = NOT MANLY? Surely you jest.

      AANG: Give me back my phallic symbol!

    • MocataJoy says:

      Never thought about this! I can't decide if the idea of this is funny or not…well, I'm laughing so I guess it is.

    • calimie says:

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who saw it, I couldn't look away. I found it so embarrasing for poor Aang (which was the point).

      LOL, Toph, she's wonderful.

  16. dragonsong12 says:

    Next he's going to go write about it in his live journal.

    …which in this case is a real journal…

    …that he keeps next to his broken heart.

    • lilah80 says:

      Just had the same idea!

    • Steeple says:

      And he writes angry poetry utilizing seasonal motifs to demonstrate how every change of nature reflects his deep teen angst.

      • Classtoise says:

        WOE IS ALL.


  17. kaleidoscoptics says:

    Half this episode seems made for some cheesy 80s montage music. Toph became The Thing. Iroh has mad dance moves. This show is so wacky it’s great.

    The flashback with Iroh and Lu-teng is the saddest thing ever. Ozai clearly is so focused on power he doesn’t care who gets in the way. Iroh just wants his son back. Then Zuko actually does something thoughtful and fixes Iroh tea. ;_; Sure, it’s crappy tea, but it’s the thought that counts.

    The whole B-plot here is really just wonderfully done. I really like how they expand on the mythology/philosophy here. All the elements have different philosophies and styles, but they are strongest when you understand them all. The two plots tie in nicely together with Iroh teaching the philosophy and theory behind the techniques, and Toph teaching Aang on a more practical level.

    Then Zuko goes off on his little emo spat. “It keeps exploding in my face! Like everything always does!” It’s melodramatic as hell, but you just feel so sorry for him. At least he never does anything by halves, I guess.

    Sokka gets all the best lines. “You are awfully cute. Unfortunately for you, you’re made of meat.” Plus you gotta love his whole conversation with Aang where Aang’s just giving him the most perfect straight lines, and is totally oblivious. “Well, I wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable.” Poor guy just can’t catch a break. At least he makes friends with Foo-Foo Cuddly Poofs. Sort of. Cutest baby killer beast?

  18. arctic_hare says:

    I distinctly remember watching this episode for the first time recently. I'd been intending to go to bed after finishing The Chase, but the ending of that was like "LOL HELL NO I HAVE TO SEE IF IROH IS OKAY." So I stayed up a little longer to watch this one too. I was a bit impatient, I must confess, with the first few minutes or so because NO MUST KNOW ABOUT IROH NOOOOOOOOOW. Still, I laughed pretty heartily at poor Sokka getting his sleep disturbed and talking mostly incoherently, and Toph's nickname for him, "Snoozles". I LOVE YOU TOPH. <3 <3 <3

    After the funny, the episode feels the need to TWIST THE KNIFE IN MY HEART by going into happy flashback of Iroh and his cute little son, followed immediately by Iroh at his son's grave. Oh, Iroh. ;_; Thankfully, though, we then immediately find that he's okay, and waking up, and Zuko is taking care of him. <3And he's made him tea. <3 And I proceed to laugh my ass off at Iroh's reaction to the taste of the tea: the look on his face and the sound effect say it all. Aw, he can't tell Zuko the truth, though, bless him. I love that Zuko tried, but obviously didn't get it right. Sure, it tastes nasty, but I'm sure Iroh appreciates that his nephew made the effort, and knows as I do that it was out of love and concern for him. So sweet. It's a gesture that's so Zuko: trying really hard, but not quite succeeding. I feel bad for him even as I laugh at Iroh tossing the second cup out the window, cause it's gratifying to see him trying to take care of his uncle and to know that his heart is in the right place, whatever the results are. The last part of this scene sets up what will be the mirror for this episode: Zuko and Aang are both stepping up their training for their respective battles to come.

    (I could really do without the "She's crazy" line, though. Ugh.)

    Deepening that contrast is what goes on in Zuko's side of the story. After his efforts to use lightning fail (and I feel for him when he says that it's blowing up in his face like everything else in his life), Iroh decides to teach him a technique he invented himself. WHICH IS EXCITING ENOUGH IN ITSELF, Y/Y? I love what he has to say about the four nations, and about how it's important to learn things from all of them in order to become whole. In my opinion, this is something that happened for Iroh later in his life, probably after his son died. It seems obvious to me that that wrought a great change in him, and afterwards in his search for answers and peace, he studied the other nations and came to the conclusions he has, and grew into the Iroh we all know and love. Zuko points out that this sounds like "Avatar stuff", and he's right; and yet, as Iroh says, the balance between the elements can make non-Avatars more powerful too. I love that he invented the technique of lightning redirection after studying the waterbenders; it's a really neat idea in itself, and shows just how creative and wise Iroh is. It also is another parallel between Zuko's story and Aang's, for while Aang struggles to bend the element that is the opposite of his, Iroh has invented a technique for firebending that draws on what the benders of his opposite element, water, do.

    Over on Aang's side, I feel that there isn't a clear answer as to whether or not Katara or Toph was more correct in their teaching methods. Certainly, Aang initially does seem to respond better to Katara's style, and she has a point about having worked with him for a while. Aang and Toph, on the other hand, are still getting to know each other, and getting used to each other, which introduces an element of awkwardness into it. (And may I say, I'm glad to see Katara and Toph getting along better here when they're not exhausted and stressed, even when they disagree – it really seems like they learned something from last episode.) Plus, it must be noted that they're teaching two entirely different types of bending, and what works for one will not for the other. As Katara points out to Aang, earth is air's opposite, and as Toph earlier said, thinking like an airbender is not compatible with earthbending. It's going to be an uphill struggle for Aang to master this element, but he needs to do quickly, which makes it all fairly tense as we watch him contemplate throwing in the towel. And in the end, Aang does listen to what she was trying to teach him and uses it to stand up to both the sabertooth moose-lion and Toph herself; while Toph incorporates positive reinforcement afterwards, and it works well. Balance.

    Zuko, meanwhile, has decided to resort to a more, er, extreme method of testing out his new technique after Iroh quite understandably (and yet I also understand Zuko's frustration too) refuses to shoot lightning at his nephew. I worry about that kid sometimes… okay, a LOT. 🙁 Poor Zuko.

  19. Meenalives says:

    Mark and I have such completely opposite reactions to Katara's actions in this and the last episode. While in the last episode I was very sympathetic to her annoyance with Toph (if not the way she chose to express it), here I just wanted to tell her to shut up and let Toph work, because she was undermining Aang's confidence and support of his new teacher. She reminded me of the parent who sits in on their child's every violin lesson, nitpicking and commenting on everything the teacher says, even if the parent knows nothing about playing the violin (as Katara knows nothing about earthbending or the attitude conducive to it). It just makes you want to scream and ban all parents from the studio. Katara may even have been right about the approach to take with Aang (although I think Toph's confrontational style might have worked if she had been allowed to use it without interruption) but giving the advice in the middle of the lesson in front of Aang is not helping. Katara, I love you, but Aang is not a delicate little flower and he's not your child.

    • Shamu says:

      Hmm, that's an interesting anaolgy. I definitely was less sympathetic to Katara in this episode, even though she meant well. That mild bossiness I think is what causes some people to dislike her, outside of shipping-related nonsense. I didn't want to yell at her, but I did want to pull her aside and say, "Honey, no."

  20. Randomcheeses says:

    One day my review will be entirely filled with Iroh Quotes


  21. chichichimaera says:

    There's a lot of really great worldbuilding stuff this episode about the philosophies behind the different bending disciplines, which is pretty interesting to see. It's clear that these personality traits are true of the benders we've met so far as well – Aang in S1 was kind of flaky, wanting to go all over to ride animals, and not really focusing too much on their destination of the North Pole, drifting like the wind. Toph is stubborn and brash and her teaching style is very Army Bootcamp, which makes sense for Earth. We've seen how important family is to Katara, plus from the progress she was able to make with regards to her bending skills without a master shows how adaptable she is. And Zuko is basically the definition of willpower – it's the only thing keeping him going half the time, and he simply refuses to give up.

    Poor Sokka, trapped in that crevasse. I really do feel sorry for him sometimes. Foo Foo Cuddly Poops is ADORABLE though.

    And then at the end, Zuko turns the Emo-meter up to 11. That boy needs hugs.

    A few more Texts From The Fire Nation .

    <img src="; border="0" alt="Photobucket">

    <img src="; border="0" alt="Photobucket">

  22. Shay_Guy says:

    That first screenshot looks like something from Sonic the Hedgehog to me.

  23. Erica says:

    I want my own sabertooth moose-lion cub! I'm not so sure the adult would fit in my house.

  24. Tauriel_ says:

    And I don't know why, the last scene with Zuko in the thunderstorm always reminds me of this Discworld quote:

    "If complete and utter chaos was lightning, then he'd be the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting 'All gods are bastards'."

    I know, the context is totally different, but I can't help it. XD

  25. Ina300 says:

    "I love that Toph concedes that Katara was right about positive reinforcement."

    I'm 100% sure Toph was being sarcastic. Damaging Aangs staff and watching as he almost dies are not positive reinforcements.

  26. lilah80 says:

    Also, what I wouldn't give to read Zuko's diary entries.

    "Dear Diary, another terrible, horrible, no-good very bad day. Azula tried to kill me again, and then I fell down. Can't find Avatar, but stepped in sky bison poop, so maybe he's around. Nobody understands my pain. No progress re: my honor. Now Uncle is snoring, so can't even sleep. Guess I'll just brood in the dark. – Zuko."

  27. hpfish13 says:


    That is all…

  28. chichichimaera says:

    Well FFCP did eat that grass at the beginning of the episode, so it would seem the latter.

  29. H. Torrance Griffin says:

    There were a couple of amusing gags slipped in here. Firstly was Iroh's reaction to Zuko's tea (he made it a point not to hurt the kid's feelings, but the smoothness with which he chucked the second offering out the window says it all). Secondly… be honest here, Toph's theft of Aang's bag of nuts and her abuse of his staff were probably written in full knowledge of what would go through the minds of some older viewers….

    On a more serious note, I am not sure that one could call "Abandon student to face giant wild animal alone" Positive Reenforcement. TVTropes calls it 'Sink or Swim Mentor', and while it is far less than some of the examples on that page the term does some it up.

    Concerning the issue of calling Azula crazy. You have a good point. It should be made clear (especially to children) that the reason for concern is not her mental health. The the reasons for concern is that she is implicitly homicidal and arguably sadistic, is taking the charges against them (or more precisely the "Wanted: Dead or Alive" part) seriously, and can dismantle Zuko in any confrontation with little real effort. Whether Azula can accurately be called a Sociopath can be debated at length, but "Crazy" is not a catch-all for "Must flee or defeat".

  30. monkeybutter says:

    Nah, I don't think you're reading too much into it. Confidence has a lot to do with ability; Aang has to think he can and want to bend earth to be successful. Internal peace is tied closely to bending, and if you're at unrest like Zuko and Aang, explosions and smushing may result!

    And I also love that Iroh lets Zuko go through trial and error. Only Zuko would know if he's getting the hang of it.

  31. kartikeya200 says:

    <img src=""&gt;

    This episode has another one of my favorite Iroh philosophy quotes:

    "Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. True humility is the only antidote to shame."

    It puts his whole attitude back when they were begging in that Earth Kingdom town into further perspective. Iroh wasn't ashamed, even when the asshole guy was making him do humiliating things, because Iroh is already humble and content with himself and is not letting other people decide who he is or what he should feel.

    <img src=""&gt;

    The image of him (Sokka) getting stuck in the hole was inspired by Tom Hanks in The Money Pit.

    <img src=""&gt;

    • kartikeya200 says:

      <img src=""&gt;

      In this design, consideration was given to the fact that Toph is blind, so she would only need a breathing hole in the rock suit. However, the animation was drawn so that the hole appeared over her eyes. Unfortunately, that mistake slipped right by us when we were doing retakes and ended up in the final animation!

      <img src=""&gt;

      I love that earthbending is hard for Aang in this episode. It makes sense that, given his entire original training involved an art that specifically is all about avoiding attacks (just watch that fight he and Zuko have in Zuko's quarters, or his 'fight' with Zhao), he'd have issues with an art that is it's exact opposite: you stand your ground and prove to be the more immovable object. Little details. <3

      Also, I learned from this episode that sometimes you've just got to go yell on top of a mountain. Poor Zuko.

      • shirtninjas says:

        I always thought that she left her eyes uncovered not to see, but because it was more visually intimidating to Aang. That's kind of a classic image, the disembodied eyes staring back at you kind of thing.

        • herpestidae says:

          I, too, sort of took it as Toph just screwing around. Of course, I was looking back on that scene after watching *certain spoilery events* in *future episodes that will be unnumbered*, but I never thought that it was a screw-up until I read about it.

    • arctic_hare says:

      The image of him (Sokka) getting stuck in the hole was inspired by Tom Hanks in The Money Pit.

      That is AMAZING. I love that movie. 😀

    • Avit says:

      That's one of my favorite quotes from the whole show, if I haven't forgotten something.

  32. @maybegenius says:

    Iroh can still shoot lightning AND be patient with Zuko WHILE RECOVERING FROM SERIOUS INJURY. BAMF forever.

    Zuko's angst is always and forever LOL-worthy (because, just, COME ON, Zuko. Life's been a bitch to you for certain, but would it kill you to like, laugh at one of your uncle's jokes? Okay, yeah, it probably would.). But this episode just makes me want to give him an enormous hug while he holds his arms out uncomfortably and gives me confused-angst face.

    I don't actually have much to say about Team Avatar this time around, other than I'm glad they're continuing to learn and kick ass and get along. And Sokka's commentary about Foo Foo Cuddlypoops will never get old. "You're awfully cute, but unfortunately you're made of meat."

  33. Depths_of_Sea says:

    Ngh, I get warm fuzzy feelings in my soul EVERY TIME Aang calls Katara "Sifu Katara" and she gets the Shinest Anime Eyes of Glee.

    <img alt="" src="; />

    And I was rather amused by the innuendo they managed to sneak in with Toph manhandling Aang's staff and bag of nuts.

    Also, baby Sabertooth Mooselion. Want one.

    <img alt="" src="; />

    • Macy says:


      • Depths_of_Sea says:

        Tee. I do enjoy the occasional side-dash of Taang. Mostly because Toph would TOTES WEARS THE PANTS and Aang would be completely okay with that fact.

    • elusivebreath says:

      Thank you so much for posting those links! I have been guilty of some of these things in the past and am trying to learn since coming to Mark Reads/Watches and those were very helpful, thanks 🙂

      • echinodermata says:

        No problem. I found them helpful too, which is why I have them bookmarked.

        • elusivebreath says:

          While I was reading the third one (about derailing tactics), it struck me that having been in an abusive relationship in the past, I have actually had a lot of these things used against me, without even knowing it, especially the "You've Lost Your Temper so I Don't Have to Listen to You" one. It is wildly infuriating!

    • I never really knew much anything ableism until Mark did "The King of Omashu." I reacted to his negative reaction with defensiveness, incredulity, and a little bit of anger. I think my exact reaction was, "So, should unintelligent people be offended by the common use of the word 'stupid'?!" (To be honest, I'm still not 100% sure.) Then I took a step back and tried to dissect why I was acting like an ignorant ass who just got shot down for telling a racist joke or something. At first I didn't get it, which is exactly what privilege does to you.

      I personally get offended when people are overtly and/or subtly sexist or racist or anti-LGBT or ageist or otherwise insensitive…especially when they try to justify it by saying we're "too PC." I have said "gay" pejoratively once (which I regret) in the past seven years, "retarded" and racial slurs practically never, and I've been seriously trying to eradicate "b*tch" (not "botch," "butch," nor "batch") from my vocabulary for three years. Adding "crazy" (I've also added "lame") to the list of taboo words felt like an unnecessary chore. But what gives me the right to be offended by certain common words and use one that offends others?

      So I'm giving it a shot, and well, IT'S REALLY FREAKIN HARD TO STOP! I've been saying "crazy" my entire life! "She Drives Me Crazy" was my favorite song when I was three. Whenever I catch the word in my throat, I literally have to pause, flip through my mental thesaurus, and pick out "unbelievable" or "beyond illogical." It's challenging as hell, but I agree that language has the power to affect an entire culture and that ignorance of a slur doesn't strip it of its cruelty.

      I'm rambling. My point is, thanks for the education. I'll continue to work on this.

      • echinodermata says:

        Thanks for your effort, and for maybe helping others in a similar position realize why the site policy is what it is. And I agree from personal experience – it's hard to eliminate specific words from one's vocabulary, especially if it's widely used by society, as "crazy" is. But I think the effort is worth it.

        (As for the question of the word "stupid," I would actually refer you to a post about the concept of intelligence itself.

        And note to anyone – I am so not interested in debating the content of that post. If you read it and disagree with it, please just keep it to yourself. There's been enough of that in the comments of this post.)

  34. FlameRaven says:

    I actually don't think Toph was conceding that the "positive reinforcement" worked. I always heard that line as being pretty sarcastic. Toph more or less ignored Katara's advice and went ahead with her own teaching style, and it did work. She just tells Katara that her suggestion worked to keep her happy.

    And honestly, I think Toph was right in this. Earthbending is all about stubbornness and cold hard reality. The rock doesn't CARE if you feel bad, it's still going to be there. Aang needed to acknowledge that as much as anything in order to be able to earthbend. Airbending is all about avoidance and detaching yourself from the earth, but for earthbending you have to be absolutely there and face everything that comes at you. There's no running away and no softening the facts for earthbending. So while positive reinforcement and encouraging words were what Aang wanted to hear, they weren't what Aang needed to hear to get better.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Nicely said!

    • Tauriel_ says:

      THIS. ALL OF IT.

    • Viya says:

      But I think in a way it WAS positive reinforcement to Aang. She may have meant the line to Katara sarcastically, but the words she used to Aang, "You just stood your ground against a crazy beast, and even more amazing, you stood your ground against me. You've got the stuff…" were much more positive in nature than before, "…at least give me the pleasure of watching you get hit by that rock."

      It was just HER way of positive reinforcement. And it WAS exactly what Aang needed to hear.

    • Strabo says:

      But she uses positive reinforcement at the end, after he defeated the Moose. Everything before (Toph's original method) brought only marginal success. Standing his ground against the Moose _while_ using Airbending instead of Earthbending was the thing that broke the mental block. And after that it is positive reinforcement.

  35. ShinSeifer says:

    Love this episode. When a kid's series manages to do an episode with so little action and so much character development, you know that you have quality stuff. Not that this was not painfully apparent from the last, say, twenty-eight episodes XD

    One of the neat things I noticed last time I watched this episode is the subtle parallelism between the two protagonists (Can I speak of Zuko as a "protagonist"? he's not really an antagonist any more… a deuteragonist, maybe? a parallel protagonist?), each having to learn the bending style opposite to theirs. And Iroh's explaination about the philosophy and attitudes behind each bending art is one of my favorite bits of worldbuilding, and a much needed one… strategically placed almost at the halfway point of the series, I must notice.

    What a masterpiece…

  36. samibear says:

    'Privileged comment'? I was just expressing a different opinion to the way Mark interpreted that line. I didn't believe that, as ShinSeifer put it above, Iroh was saying Azula needed to go down because she was crazy, that's all.

    • arctic_hare says:

      You were derailing by suggesting that he was being "overly sensitive" and dismissing his dislike of an ableist slur being used in the show. That is a privileged comment.

      • samibear says:

        It wasn't my intention at all. My apologies.

      • CrazyhorseNaysayer says:

        What do you mean exactly by privileged and ablism? I've seen you say this a number of times in the comments. Is disagreement looked down upon?

        • arctic_hare says:

          Scroll down to the links posted by echinodermata and educate yourself, please.

          • CrazyhorseNaysayer says:

            Okay, I don't see anything with regards to feminism or transsexuals. What does "privileged" mean in your context? Does the fact that my username pays respect to the great Indian hero Crazyhorse (who is one of my ancestors) offend?

    • ShinSeifer says:

      unfortunately it can be easily read as that, so I kinda see Mark's point, even if I personally find that line appropriate for its context.
      My take on that particular line is that the writers specifically used the word "crazy" referring to Azula to instill the idea that her personality is somewhat pathological and not simply "evil". Don't know if this makes the line even worse, though. On one end, the writers tried to actually imply that Azula is ill, not simply shoving the word "crazy" to mean "really evil".
      On the other hand, there's still the very unfortunate implication that the reason we should hate Azula is specifically because she is "crazy".

      • Azula is referred to as "crazy," and we are supposed to hate her.

        Bumi is referred to as "mad," and we are supposed to like him.

        So I do think the mental status of these characters is divorced from their actual actions, which is what we are to judge them by.

        • ShinSeifer says:

          Fair point. I guess maybe the implication here is that Azula is evil because of her supposed "illness"? I'm not an expert by any stretch, but I guess it's safe to say that some people are indeed dangerous specifically because of their pathology.
          Not sure is this makes it ok to say "she's crazy and needs to be stopped", even if the meaning is "she has done horrible stuff, possibly because she is not sane, and we need to stop her before she does horrible stuff again"

          • I guess it's safe to say that some people are indeed dangerous specifically because of their pathology.
            I would think so. But my impression is that they are in the minority and usually more dangerous to themselves than other people.

            I think someone said in an earlier discussion that Azula's sociopathy certainly makes it easier to be evil—not being able to connect to other people surely makes it easier to hurt them—but it doesn't make her evil. As a corollary, of course, the person mentioned Sherlock, the self-proclaimed "high-functioning sociopath" who may not be able to connect to people but doesn't go around killing them either.

            • ShinSeifer says:

              "I would think so. But my impression is that they are in the minority and usually more dangerous to themselves than other people."

              oh, absolutely! absolutely this. The problem with tv and movies is that almost always the "crazy" character will be the dangerous kind or at least the very-low-functioning kind, and of course this actually creates a bias in the viewer's mind… Now, this can be one of the underlying cause of some ableist thinking or speech, especially in tv and movies themselves, where it becomes quite easy to just say "she's crazy" and imply "she's dangerous and needs to be stopped", even though in MIGHT make sense in its context.

            • Tauriel_ says:

              That was me, but I'm not sure if I posted it here or on the spoiler blog…

              It's important to stress that while there certainly may be a correlation between sociopathy/psychopathy and evilness, it definitely does not mean there is a direct cause between sociopathy/psychopathy and evilness.

              • TheWelshPirate says:

                I'm curious as to what exactly "evilness" is. Is Azula possesed by Lucifer or something? The word "evil" is a rather genaric term with little real meaning to it. What is it that makes a person "evil" that can't be attributed to a severe mental illness?

                I agree that having a mental illness doesn't automatically make someone a bad person, but what makes them "bad" people IS attributed to some form of mental and/or emotional instability. Azula is as much a product of her enviroment as anybody else is.

                • Avit says:

                  Welp! All evil people are crazy, so now I don't have to think about

                  • Avit says:

                    taking accountability for harmful actions or avoiding the same route in myself and others who I consider normal! Brush up on the Stanford Prison Experiment, or Milgram. Othering the perpetrators of atrocities might make ~normal people~ feel better, but it's useless at preventing anything, and it actively harms anyone who doesn't fall into that paradigm of normality. Fuck that.

                    • TheWelshPirate says:

                      Who ever said that they don't have to take accountability for their actions? How does "they're just evil" prevent anything? Wouldn't understanding exactly why they think hurting others is ok be more helpful in prevenitive action then simply saying "no need to understand them, they're just evil".

                      People who think take enjoyment out of harming other people are not mentally or emotionally healthy, even if they've learned to act like they are.

                  • TheWelshPirate says:

                    Why wouldn't you have to think about it? As opposed to "no need to think about why she does what she does, she's just evil".

                    Again, I'd still like to know exactly what "evil" is supposed to mean. Hopefully somebody will be willing to answer me this time instead of dismissing me with sarcasm.

                    • Avit says:

                      What, as opposed to "no need to think about why she does what she does, she's just crazy"?

                      Evil is malicious harm to others. Evil is malevolence. Evil is a cloud of meanings, none of which should include "having an 'abnormal' mind", many of which have been fulfilled and perpetrated by people who are otherwise considered as neurotypical as can be until it comes time to remove them from humanity and accountability by retroactively calling it madness.

                    • TheWelshPirate says:

                      "no need to think about why she does what she does, she's just crazy"?

                      If that were true, than the field of Psychology wouldn't exist. As far as I know, there isn't a field that studies the behavior of "evil people".

                      "Evil is malicious harm to others. Evil is malevolence."

                      Psychologists call this "Malignant Narcissism", which is a highly-advanced and degenerative form of Sociopathic Behavoir. These things don't remove people from humanity, they are a way of understanding them. The word "evil" is what conveniently removes a person's humanity to make it easier to hate them because it doesn't require you to understand them.

                    • Avit says:

                      So… this time you are <em=>explicitly stating that any time there is malevolence or malicious harm to others, it is a psychological disorder.


                      I think I'm done here.

                    • jeno says:

                      When it's a pattern in that person's behavior? Yeah, that's a psychological disorder. It's the definition of a psychological disorder.

            • wishywashy says:

              "I would think so. But my impression is that they are in the minority and usually more dangerous to themselves than other people."

              Yes and no. If you are referring to people with mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, then yes, absolutely. Those who are a danger to others are definitely in the minority, far less so than popular media might lead us to believe.

              However, when referring to those with antisocial personality disorder, they are far more of a danger to others than themselves by virtue of their pathology. They are out for self-gratification and will manipulate or harm others to get what the want with no qualms about it. Not all of those with antisocial personality disorder will physically harm people, but all have no remorse for emotionally harming/manipulating others (it is, in fact, one of the possible diagnostic criteria).

  37. Tauriel_ says:

    How is this a filler episode? Aang learning earthbending is crucial!

    • echinodermata says:

      Because it doesn't really move the plot forward much – we knew this was going to happen, and frankly, if this episode didn't exist and Aang just started earthbending in an episode, we'd all understand why and how, even if we might be disappointed that we didn't get to see it.

      • Tauriel_ says:

        Okay, so it doesn't move the plot forward much – but there's a shitload of character development in it. IMHO a "filler episode" neither moves the plot nor has much character development (*coughTheGreatDividecough*).

        • echinodermata says:

          Well, I did say "if" it is a filler episode.

          Honestly, I don't think the term "filler episode" is very worthwhile. Great Divide is a weak episode imo not because it's filler but because it's not particularly enjoyable or well-written.

          Before S5, "Blink" was technically a filler episode for Doctor Who, since it didn't have to do with other plot points, and it was Doctor- and companion-lite, and you could remove it or incorporate it into a different season without affecting other episodes. But I think Blink is awesome.

      • Strabo says:

        It would only be a filler if all the development and insights would be lost in the next episode, like on so many, many TV series. However, this is ATLA, so all those things learned in this episode? They stay with the characters. They might not have moved in a geographical sense, but they moved (especially Zuko and Aang, but also Iroh, Toph, Katara and Sokka) a lot in a mental sense.

  38. Tauriel_ says:

    Pretty much this.

  39. mou issai says:

    Sokka and FOOFOOCUDDLYPOOPS! That entire storyline is the best.

    I absolutely never noticed that Toph takes Aang's nuts and staff, that's hilarious… But what does it mean for her to crush the nuts with the staff :/

    Why can't I do it?! Instead of lightning it keeps blowing up in my face… like everything always does.

    Oh Zuko. You're sad but in the back of my head I snicker a bit at your drama.

    You've always thrown everything you could at me! Well now I can take it, and now I can give it back! COME ON! STRIKE ME! YOU'VE NEVER HELD BACK BEFORE!

    And then I feel bad because obviously you do have a lot of inner turmoil.

  40. MocataJoy says:

    Been waiting forever for you to get to this episode! One of my all time favorites!!!


    2. Why does Toph bother keeping her eyes uncovered when she turns into a rock soldier and charges Aang? Is it to intimidate him or something?

    3. "Now come back boomerang." LOL.

    4. "No, she's crazy and she needs to go down." Ah, Azula just got IROHED.

    5. "Keep your knees high twinkle toes!!!"

    6. "It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If you draw it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale." I love this so much because it goes against everything Zuko (and all other citizens of the fire nation) have been taught. Remember in season one, when the admiral speaks to the crowd and describes fire as "the superior element?" It's amazing that Iroh, one of the oldest generals in the fire nation, knows that this is not true. You have to learn about others to become great.

    • luzzleanne says:

      Why does Toph bother keeping her eyes uncovered when she turns into a rock soldier and charges Aang? Is it to intimidate him or something?

      That was an animation mistake; the original design only had a breathing hole for her.

      (The person who usually posts the artbook stuff may have already said this, so sorry if I'm repeating something here.)

      • Hyatt says:

        They did; they quoted the creators' statement in the artbook that captioned the picture of Toph's original rock armor design with the hole visibly over her mouth.

  41. blackrose says:

    Does anyone else see a parallel to the 4 houses of Hogwarts in those descriptions of the characteristics of the 4 nations? Fire Nation= Slytherin, Earth Kingdom= Hufflepuff, Air Nomads= Ravenclaw, and Water Tribe= Gryffindor, more or less. The personality traits mentioned here are so similar to those mentioned by the Sorting Hat. Also, I love how Avatar actually develops the Fire Nation characters, unlike Rowling's portrayal of the Slytherins, and refuses to portray all of them as bad. All throughout the HP books, I kept wanting more attention to be paid to the Slytherins and it kept not happening. It just ended with an admission that a couple of the Slytherins managed to change their evil ways and actually did some heroic things and some of them managed to not be completely evil, but for the most part Slytherins are still inherently bad people. So that's why I love the Zuko/Iroh story sooo much. It is so unusual in any kind of tv show/movie/book to spend so much time focused on the "bad guys" all throughout the story. That never happens! And I would have loved to see that in HP as well, but ultimately it never truly happened in my opinion. And Draco, you will never be nearly as awesome as Zuko.

    • Manself says:

      Rowling has actually assigned an element to each house, although she associates Water with Slytherin and Gryffindor with Fire (That’s why she had the Slytherin common room under the lake and made Dumbledore use a lot of fire). Thank you, Wikipedia!

      • Tauriel_ says:

        And Hufflepuff with Earth (their common room being on the ground floor near the kitchens) and Ravenclaw with Air (their common room being very airy and having big windows).

    • Lariren says:

      I am prepared to make a case that Toph is a Slytherin, Sokka is a Ravenclaw and Iroh is a Gryffindor. I'm not saying that this assessment isn't wrong (thought I would actually make the Earth Kingdom Ravenclaw and the Air Nomads Hufflepuff) just that there are exceptions to everything (see Peter Pettigrew and Sirius Black).

      • Lariren says:

        I think that isn't should be is…*sigh* my typing skills. Or was I referring to myself? Or did I think I was? No I'm pretty sure I meant to say that your assessment isn't wrong. So the sentence should read "I'm not saying that this assessment is wrong…"

    • potterfanatic says:

      When making comparisons between Avatar and Harry Potter, I actually reject Rowling's House/element combinations and substitute my own. I do this mainly because I think her House/element comparisons are based largely on the mascots and personalities of each House. In regards to Avatar though, I think it's more appropriate to assign Houses to the elements/Nations based on the personality similarities between each of the 4 Houses and each of the 4 elements/Nations.

      For example, I believe that:

      Gryffindor=Earth Kingdom
      Iroh says in this episode, “Earth is the element of substance. The people of the Earth Kingdom are diverse and strong. They are persistent and enduring.”

      Katara says in ‘Imprisoned’ in Season 1, “Every child in my Water Tribe Village was rocked to sleep with stories of the brave Earth Kingdom, and the courageous Earthbenders who guard its borders….But they can't take away your courage. And it is your courage they should truly fear….It is the strength of your hearts that make you who you are….So remember your courage, let us fight for our freedom!”

      Both Gryffindor and the Earth Kingdom are described as brave and strong:
      “It is the strength of your hearts that make you who you are.” –Katara, S01E06

      "Third – to Mr. Harry Potter…" said Dumbledore. The room went deadly quiet. "For pure nerve and outstanding courage, I award Gryffindor House sixty points." –Dumbledore, SS, Ch. 17

      Slytherin=Fire Nation
      “Fire is the element of power. The people of the Fire Nation have desire and will, and the energy and drive to achieve what they want.”

      They have “desire” and “the energy and drive to achieve what they want”. They know what they want and they won’t stop until they get it. Sound like ambitious Slytherins to me.

      Hufflepuff=Air Nomads
      “Air is the element of freedom. The Air Nomads detached themselves from worldly concerns, and they found peace and freedom. And they apparently had great senses of humor.”

      Hufflepuffs aren’t really in the spotlight a whole lot. They’re content with their lot in life and strive to live in harmony with everyone.

      Ravenclaw=Water Tribe
      “Water is the element of change. The people of the Water Tribes are capable of adapting to many things. They have a sense of community and love that holds them together through anything.”

      Waterbenders have shown to be very clever and creative in how they manipulate and change the water into different forms (solid, liquid, gas). Luna is also very adaptable and open to new things, and I think it’s safe to say she felt a great sense of community in the DA. “I liked being in the DA. It was like having friends.”

  42. vermillioncity says:


    I'm not even kidding, I could happily sit and watch half an hour of Sokka in a hole. 'Now come back, boomerang!'

  43. silentstep says:

    We have actually seen Zuko laugh! In "The Waterbending Scroll," when the pirates are chasing their own boat, he points after them and goes "HA HA HA HA!" I may yet wear out my DVD at that point. I love it so dearly.

  44. giga_pudding says:


  45. Patrick721 says:

    Honestly, I don't have a problem with them using Crazy as bad, at least in this episode. Mostly because I understand that what Iroh means is "She's a manipulative, sociopathic bitch who needs to go down."

    …did I use sociopath correctly there?
    Also I would totally watch a prequel that shows Iroh's earlier life. Especially how he visited the spirit world. For all we know, he just accidentally walked there, and decided to explore.

    • …did I use sociopath correctly there?
      I believe you did, but then you used a sexist slur, so you're back to zero.

      • Tauriel_ says:

        I dunno, Azula acts pretty bitchy quite often…

        • arctic_hare says:

          No, she behaves cruelly and manipulatively. There's no reason to use a gendered slur for her behavior when there are other, non-gendered words that more accurately sum up her behavior. Knock it off with the use of that word, please – this is the second time I've had to warn you about that.

    • arctic_hare says:

      What spectralbovine said. Don't do that.

  46. ShinSeifer says:

    Quite accurate, but then, "protagonist" and "hero" aren't necessarily synonyms.

  47. I love this episode for many reasons (Foo Cuddlypoops not least among them!), but a big one is how much actual martial-arts philosophy is in it. Watching it was like being in class!

    –Iroh emphasizing the importance of the belly in firebending. That's the dantian in Chinese arts; the corresponding acupuncture point is qihai, or "sea of qi," exactly as Iroh names it.
    –When Iroh and Zuko were practicing together while they talked outside, they were doing a partner exercise that we do in my classes to improve the sensitivity to the dantian and qi. (You move with the other person, back and forth and back and forth, neither of you leading or following, and when you get good at it, you can do it with your eyes closed, feeling the energy moving back and forth as your guide.) So it was perfect for that scene! Zuko needed to be in his dantian before he could try anything with lightning.
    –Aang and Katara bowing to each other, and "sifu" to address one's teacher. My classes end every time with the students and teacher bowing in the same way, and we address visiting teachers as "sifu" (or laoshi, Chinese for "teacher"). The right hand, closed in a fist, represents power; the left hand, palm open, represents discretion. So you have discretion folded over, or controlling, power — the perfect encapsulation of bending, no? (Fans of the Jade Empire video game will recognize the Closed Fist/Open Palm morality spectrum. Love that game.)

    Anyway, I burble, but this show gets so much right, so right, it just warms my soul.

    • Manself says:

      I really like this post. It’s so cool hearing a martial arts practitioner’s viewpoint on all of the aspects of the show that I can only ignorantly call “kung fu stuff.” I really hope you continue to post about all the awesome martial arts details in the show that have probably gone way over my head.

  48. GeneralNerd84 says:

    The thing I like most about this episode is the way Iroh describes bending lightning as the manipulation of positive and negative energy. Because that's what causes lightning in real life; the interplay between positive and negative energy.

    Toph's "positive reinforcement," by the way, is that if Aang earthbends he'll get his staff back. Which isn't really positive reinforcement but is as close as Toph can get to the concept.

  49. linguisticisms says:

    I am an awful person and Zuko screaming in grief at the sky like the angry emo teenager he is will never not be funny to me.

  50. isoycrazy says:

    She was inserting herself unnecessarily, but her caring nature is befitting of a waterbender as she seeks the best route to go for the best results. Consider when water travels down a mountain, it will take the path of least resistance. So, similarly she doesn't completely admonish the harshness Toph gives but suggests the earthbending master adds something.

    Toph, by contrast, represents earth in all its glory, being headstrong and direct in her thoughts. She cares little about political correctness and sugar-coating her beliefs, but like the earth if the right leaver is presented she can be moved.

    • @Ahavah22 says:

      Toph, by contrast, represents earth in all its glory, being headstrong and direct in her thoughts. She cares little about political correctness and sugar-coating her beliefs, but like the earth if the right leaver is presented she can be moved.

      That's a great way to describe Toph. Toph's teaching style is reminiscent of a Drill Sergeant from the army, and sometimes we need drill sergeants. In fact, most people learn best when different subjects are presented with a variety of different teaching styles. She can and should be the strong disciplinarian who expects the MOST and only the BEST from her student! Aang needs that, too.

      And Katara has a lot to learn still when it comes to dealing with people who are different from her. (Did I mention that I love both Toph and Katara? Because I do!)

    • Tauriel_ says:

      Toph, by contrast, represents earth in all its glory, being headstrong and direct in her thoughts. She cares little about political correctness and sugar-coating her beliefs, but like the earth if the right leaver is presented she can be moved.

      And that is precisely why Toph is my favourite female character of the entire show. <3

  51. audzilla says:

    That first one cracked me up. XD

  52. audzilla says:

    I enjoy this episodes mostly for Iroh's firebending lesson and the slooooow opening of Zuko's mind. But man, poor Zuko – I really feel for him at the end. 🙁

    I don't really feel as though Katara's teaching style is "better" for Aang, though. I think it works better for Aang and Katara within the context of their relationship, but to me, Katara comes across as kind of bossy for trying to adjust Toph's style to match hers. Instead, I feel like their different styles are a good illustration of the different natures/mindsets required for the two different types of bending.

  53. Mauve_Avenger says:

    Did anyone else think that Foo Foo Cuddlypoops was some sort of hippo/donkey hybrid? I was really surprised when Aang called it a sabertooth moose lion.

    In other news…

    Everybody dance now!
    <img src=""&gt;
    Give me the music!
    <img src=""&gt;
    Uncle Iroh dance now!
    <img src=""&gt;

    …And these are not running anywhere near as fast as I had them set to do. Gah.

  54. Fusionman29 says:

    Just to let you know I find that this show (that already was good) somehow improved with Toph and Ozai's Angels. (Sorry find it better than Dangerous Ladies)


    Also… these guys are making a Green Lantern show with the people who made the 90's animated Batman show… SQUEEEEEEEE

  55. Gimlimonkey says:

    "Unfortunately, there’s another use of “crazy = bad” here"

    As much as I really love your reviews, Mark, here I think you are wrong. If I recall, the first occurrence where you saw this, Mark, was when we first met Bumi. You interpreted his first actions and the way his character was portrayed (lettuce leaf?) as showing a crazy evil person. For me, and for everyone I know who has watched this show, Bumi's introduction was an example of Crazy = Awesome.

    There are different kinds of "crazy". Often crazy is chosen when the user can think of no better words. Bumi is "crazy" because he acts and thinks in a different manner. This is not wrong and is not portrayed as wrong. To me, Iroh is not calling Azula the kind of crazy you seem to be thinking of. Instead, she is mad with power. Look at the way she forced her childhood friend Tai Lee into joining her hunt for Zuko/Aang. She is abusing her power as Princess of the Fire Nation in order to achieve her goals. This, to me, is a type of "crazy".

    So, recap: it's not that Azula is insane. It's that she really likes abusing her power and, to Iroh, that is a completely alien way of thought. And remember, Iroh knows Azula a lot better than you do, Mark. After all, he is her uncle 😛

    • Mina says:

      I very much agree. I'll be honest, I find the idea of people taking "crazy" offensively. I've been diagnosed with manic depression for 3 years now, and I feel that the offensive meaning of "crazy" is so far divorced from its source that getting upset over it is like getting upset that Americans use the term 'pants' for 'trousers'.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        are you literally saying a word that is an ableist slur is the same as people using a different word for the same objects in two geographically-distant cultures

        I would like to get that worked out before I ban you into oblivion. thanks.

    • HoneyBunny says:

      Completely agree.

      #1) Iroh is wiser than all. He knows that of which he speaks.
      #2) Azula has proven to be a manipulative, cruel, and sociopathic character from an extremely young age. More so than any other villain that we've seen on this show. Was Zhao crazy? No. Mad with power? Absolutely. Even the minor antagonists (random bullies, the governor in Avatar Day, the pirates, etc.) none of them have been as calculating or twisted as Azula.
      #3) Azula, nor Bumi were being mocked for being different, or for having a disability. Their behaviors were initially deceptive and bordering on dangerous. Bumi's "mad" thinking was a way of testing Aang and turned out to be harmless. Azula's introduction showed how far she'd go to trick Zuko and send into harm's way. She's not only a pathological liar with a prediliction for violence, she's a sociopath with no redard for other people's feelings or well being. And that screams crazy to me.

      • HoneyBunny says:

        Plus, I think the term sociopath is a little heady for the average Nicktoon audience. ;D

      • arctic_hare says:

        She's not only a pathological liar with a prediliction for violence, she's a sociopath with no redard for other people's feelings or well being. And that screams crazy to me.

        No. No no no. That says that she's evil. Stop using the word "crazy" to mean "evil". If you think she's manipulative, cruel, calculating, twisted, etc. JUST USE THOSE WORDS. STOP CALLING HER CRAZY.

    • agrinningfool says:

      I support this. I've be quite afraid to express this sentiment before here because of the negative reaction it seems to get. Thank you for doing so.
      There can be and often is a difference between the meanings and contexts of words and I'm sure we all took this as Azula is unpredictable, power hungry, and willing to go to extremes rather than a individual who suffers from a true mental illness although there are plenty of fans who will argue that she does and I agree.
      While I support the movement to equalize all people and to reduce the negative connotations of words and actions, sometimes things are so ingrained into cultures and languages, such as the word 'crazy' and it's many meanings, that it is probably near impossible to change it.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        If you mean that Azula is unpredictable, power hungry, and willing to go to extremes….

        SAY THAT

        why the hell do you HAVE to say that she is "crazy"

        I literally do not understand why so many of you cling to this word like it's your best friend or something. It is remarkably easy to strip from your vocabulary if you take like FIVE MINUTES TO THINK ABOUT IT.

        • Pan says:

          I think the key word here is self-image.

          *Most* of the defenders of crazy tried to argue rationally, they weren't rude nor did they call anyone "too politically correct". I doubt that they would accept it, if someone explained Azula's behaviour with her gender, "because, y'know, women are simply irrational because of their hormones and stuff" or with any other explanation that is clearly discriminating against a minority/marginalized group.

          The vast majority of the visitors of Mark reads/watches has some sort of left-wing self-image, which includes to be open minded, against discrimination and welcoming towards the diversity of people. So if you tell them off, because they've used oppressive language, this self-image crushes. Or, at least it WOULD crush, IF they accepted this. I honestly believe them, that they don't use crazy with someone in mind, who really has mental illness or that they support the discrimination of that group. But as they did so, they have to re-define the meaning and the usage of the word to avoid identity problems – which ends in the way we've seen.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      No. Simply: Nope!

      You are literally justifying ableism with more ableism. Amazing.

      To break down your argument, you assume it's ok to use a word that many in the mental health community consider a slur because:

      1) You or others are simply unable to think of a better word, which is just a lie.
      2) Because YOUR definition is MUCH BETTER than the ACTUAL DEFINITION
      3) Because she IS crazy, so what else am I supposed to use?

      Honestly, replace that with any number of oppressive slurs (which I won't list) and think about how awful your horrific logic sounds.

      Think about this. You are literally saying that because someone acts different or maniacal or rude or cruel that there is something wrong with their mental health. And you are creating an environment to silence people who actually are experiencing a mental disability.

      So no. Stop it.

      • Gimlimonkey says:

        I won't argue with you. For the most part, I agree. I am simply trying to point out that despite the fact that the proper definition can be and is considered rude, an insult, and a slur does not mean it is always used in that context. You think I support the discrimination of disabled people? So be it. I don't but I doubt any of my arguments will matter now. I apologize for attempting to provide another way of thought that many in this world adhere to.

        I did not wish to create a firestorm of hateful words and angering altercation. If you wish, I will gladly delete my comment. Such malcontent will not help this wonderful community 🙁

        • xpanasonicyouthx says:

          Look, I swear I am not trying to jump down your throat, but this is not about having another way of thought. You are talking about people's lived experiences, and do you know how awful that feels when someone tells you that what you've experienced should be up for debate?

          THAT is why these terms, as outlined in the rules, are not up for debate.

          Again, please, to all of you who think this is ridiculous: Swap out "crazy" for any number of historical slurs (like "gay" or "fat") and realize it is the SAME tired defense:

          1) I didn't mean it like that.
          2) The word has more meanings than yours.
          3) It is too hard for me to change.

          Please, please, PLEASE stop this.

          • Avatar_fan_mom says:

            Thank you, just thank you.

            Your policy on these words and their needless defense is so inspiring. Words DO matter. I only wish more people would understand that. It's so disheartening and disgusting to hear 5 year olds (seriously) say something is "gay" – no matter how they mean it. I can only hope that future generations (my 3 kids included) will be more thoughtful of their word choices because of people like you.

          • notemily says:

            Man, I'm finally catching up on Avatar and I just want to say I love you, Mark, and the environment that you've worked so hard to maintain in this blog. Thanks.

        • Candy says:

          But it is, in this context. They're saying crazy as if it's the same thing as evil or cruel – because it's obvious that they're giving a reason for why Azula's so bad and has to go down. She doesn't have to go down because she's 'crazy' – as far as we know, she isn't even actually 'crazy' at all – she has to go down because she's evil.

          By using the word crazy instead of evil or abusive or hateful or, hell, sociopathic or something, they're implying that having a mental illness is a good reason for someone to be brought down. Not that her horrible actions or behaviour are a reason for her to be brought down.

    • Candy says:

      I agree that it's about her abuse of power, but I also think they could have used a better word. Iroh could have said "No, she's evil and she has to go down," that would have fit better. In any event, we haven't seen any evidence in the show yet that she's actually 'crazy' – she's manipulative, domineering and cruel, but she doesn't show any mental illnesses. The closest we ever get is her obsession with perfection in the first episode of season two, but even that isn't really an illness.

      They're using the word crazy as a synonym for bad here, and that's the thing that's bothering Mike, as far as I understand.

      • jeno says:

        Iroh could have said "No, she's evil and she has to go down," that would have fit better.

        No, that really wouldn't be better. Bad example. Say she's a dangerous person and she has to go down. I really don't get why people are more okay with calling someone evil than they are with calling someone crazy. They are both bad!

        he's manipulative, domineering and cruel, but she doesn't show any mental illnesses.

        She's shown more than a few signs of Antisocial Personality disorder. Her entire characterization at this point is practically a checklist for it.

  56. Diana Kingston-Gabai says:

    I actually thought Iroh's comment about Azula being crazy had less to do with "crazy = evil" and more to do with the fact that at the moment, she's Ozai's sole heir. Being mentally unstable doesn't make her inherently dangerous or evil by default, but it does mean that she'd be an absolute disaster as the ruler of the Fire Nation…

    • Avit says:

      So having a non-normative mind doesn't make you inherently dangerous or evil by default, but it does make you inherently a bad leader by default?


    • arctic_hare says:

      What the fuck is this? Azula is a bad choice to run the Fire Nation because she's evil, not because she's neuroatypical. I am getting really tired of all this defending of the use of the word "crazy", it's grating on my very. last. nerve. Knock it off and don't reply to this with an attempt to justify the ableist things you just said.

    • Candy says:

      But… there's no indication so far that she's actually mentally unstable? She's shown herself to be driven, cruel, manipulative and very, very capable. She hasn't shown any sign of being insane – being a perfectionist desn't count.

      • Hyatt says:

        I think people are pointing to her lack of empathy even for people she considers friends to be evidence of her having Antisocial Personality Disorder. Being mentally unstable doesn't mean that someone can't be very capable.

  57. RAWRR says:


  58. bookgal12 says:

    I remember this episode mostly for Sokka's moments with the Sabertooth-moose lion cub because they were funny and adorable on so many levels.
    <img src=""&gt;
    Why would anyone want to kill this for food? It is too adorable for me to think of eating.

    Moving on, I really like the difference in training approaches between Katara and Toph. Toph is a lot more agressive then Katara and it ends up not flowing with Aang like water bending does. I can understand Toph's philosophy of teaching a little bit because earth is a tough element, something that is harder to dodge then water or air. Aang has to learn to face things head on, which is a new type of strategy for him. I am glad the show takes he time to show his attempts and his continual feel of the amount of pressure he is under. Zuko shows this trait as well, except with more anger and impatience then Aang. But, we have come to be used to these emotions from him, he wants to well at something like Azula and is frustrated when it doesn't work. I look forward to his continued growth this season.

  59. Avit says:

    In English, does "bitter work" also have the meaning of just "very hard work", or is that just Chinese?

    • Vikinhaw says:

      It does, more or less. Bitter can mean 'hard to bear' or 'distressing'. Interesting that the metaphor seems to be the same in Chinese.

    • laleia says:

      I've never actually heard the phrase "bitter work" used in English, though I've heard it in Chinese a bazillion times (usually my parents telling me I'm not working hard enough … >.>). I hadn't realized how apt the translation was until you pointed it out, though!

      • Avit says:

        Haha, same. Apparently it works in English too though!

        • Vikinhaw says:

          It works in English but it's actually not a common phrase. I originally thought that it was some American phrase that I'd never heard before but maybe the writers got it from Chinese. Really shows how much work they put into the series.

  60. Avit says:

    Oh wow, is that so? I never noticed. That poster's comment about him needing eyedrops was quite true then.

    • @Ahavah22 says:

      I'm that poster. My eyes were burnt out from an allergic reaction a few years ago, and If it weren't for eyedrops they might not have made it. Eyes are meant to be moist all the time, and dry eyes leads to an increased risk of corneal infection and blindness.

      So watching Zuko only being able to cry with his good eye is almost literally painful to me…the fact that his father did that makes me want to cry, too. :“(

  61. Viya says:

    "I was annoyed with Katara for butting into Toph's training lessons with Aang. I know that she's his best friend and water bending master, but I thought she needed to step back and let Aang and Toph explore and build on their relationship without her interjecting."

    I do want to add, however that sometimes an interjection for positive reinforcement can be necessary.
    I definitely fit the "airbender" personality to a T, and the whole "tough love" thing does not work at all to help me learn things. I have 2 younger sisters who fit the "waterbender" and "earthbender" personalities, and there have been plenty of times when my middle sister (water) has had to step in to help us overcome those vast personality differences. Sometimes my youngest sister (earth) and I just can't see eye to eye and I can't understand what she's trying to say- or teach- and it absolutely helps to have my middle sister come in and do a little interjecting for me to get past the block in understanding my youngest sister.

    From my own experience, I think it would have taken Aang a whole lot longer to get past the mental block if Katara hadn't tried talking to him about it, and I really don't think Toph would have ever thought of positive reinforcement (albeit a perhaps sarcastic one) unless Katara hadn't mentioned it. So I guess I'm glad Katara said what she said, especially when it was with love to both parties.

  62. xpanasonicyouthx says:

    Hey guys, wanna know how to get banned because I'm in a bad mood?

    Be a silencing, condescending asshole by making a poor joke about how I am unable to understand context.

    Matt_Thermo, I don't care what someone means. I care about the affect it has and that word has a negative connotation and affect on people in this community and the mental health community at large.


    • Matt Thermo says:

      OK, after reading a few responses and initially getting upset that I was being misunderstood, I did what I try to do in these situations.  Read what I’m being told and really try to understand it. 

      Mark, I’m sorry.  I’m actually incredibly embarrassed about my response now that I’ve had s few minutes to reflect on it.  After reading a few more responses from both yourself and Artic_Hare, it really helps clear up why you find the use of “crazy” so offensive. 

      I actually thought of what it would be like if the word “crazy” was exchanged with another word.  Like how certain slurs are often given the same treatment without regard to the weight behind the word.  I really wasn’t giving a whole lot of though to what I was writing (as should be obvious).  To be honest, in the space of a half an hour, I’m pretty upset at myself for the callousness of my response.  I know this might come across as insincere, but it’s the truth.

      I know I’m probably violating the rules by posting this from my phone after getting the ban, and if so,deal with me as you will, but I seriously felt I needed to make amends for my behaviour and apologize for the insesnitivity of my post.

      Again, I’m sorry, and thank you for giving me a few things to think about.

    • arctic_hare says:

      I am not in any kind of mood for more of this ableist apologism shit.

    • Mina says:

      The fact that you prefaced this comment with the threat of banning people who civilly disagreed with you is incredibly enlightening.

      Farewell, Mark Reads/Watches. I understand you feel strongly about the word crazy, and I find it rather offensive that you are appropriating a word that has been used in an overwhelmingly positive context for years.

      PS Your banhammer must be getting pretty heavy, eh?

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        Good riddance. I don't want you around here if you insist on being a dismissive asshole.

        This word hurts people, myself included. If you insist on telling me that myself and others are not allowed to be hurt and offended by this, then the door is wide open. If you are so blatantly willing to ignore history and personal experience, make sure the door doesn't hit you on the way out.

        If this is STILL confusing to any of you, please remember this: There is a difference between disagreeing and telling people they should not be having a conversation. This person utterly fails at that.

      • affableevil says:

        The thing that's really striking to me, is that people seem to be taking all of this as if they have some sort of right to be walking around, spouting all kinds of bullshit in this blog. Mark states clearly in his rules that he doesn't want to put up with these things, and he's really not obligated to provide room for anyone who wants to come in and sling around words that's he's repeatedly requested not be used. This is his blog, and he gets to set the boundaries and decide what the rules are for acceptable conduct, and if he feels that someone is disrupting the environment he's trying to foster it feels perfectly reasonable (to me) for the banhammer to be swung.

        /wanders off soapbox

        • echinodermata says:

          The thing that's really striking to me is that people think their desire to not let go of this one particular word somehow has greater priority over NOT OFFENDING PEOPLE.

          Someone says some thing causes them offense? That you (general you) are not offended does not somehow negate the original person's feelings.

          Apparently this isn't as intuitive a suggestion as I thought: don't be a dick. Someone explains to (general) you that a word is bigoted and hurtful, and yet you decide to keep using it and defend your use of the word? Then you're being a dick.

          So that's my first reaction to this mess, and then the reaction you outlined comes second for me. Because it's still totally true and I do not in any way mean to say I disagree with you.

          /my soapbox is bigger than yours

          • affableevil says:

            (I totally agree with that sentiment too, I was just also marveling at all the commenters running around wondering why everyone is being so mean to them when all they did is use a word they've been repeatedly told is offensive and hurtful and HEY JUST USE ANOTHER WORD, and gosh darnit they have some inexplicable Right to keep using it in an area that was intended to be a safe haven from slurs and no one else had pointed that out yet so I figured I might as well.)

            /i challenge you to a soapbox-off

            field at dawn

            past the Denny's

            • echinodermata says:

              (But they didn't mean anything by it! And and censorship! And throwing around the term "appropriation" without any sense of what that word actually means to most people while accusing other people of misunderstanding a different word!)

              Challenge accepted.
              <img src=""&gt;

              • affableevil says:

                (Quit appropriating my well-intentioned slurs and making them mean what they actually mean!)

                Okay I'm going to sleep now because I'm on the East Coast US which means it's closing in on 3 AM and I can stay up later but damn do I like sleep. Rest assured that I have not given up!

                <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

                • echinodermata says:

                  (I'm pretty sure intent is actually magic.)

                  And good night/good morning/good afternoon depending on when you see this.

                  <img src=""&gt;
                  I will battle every day
                  To claim my rightful place.

                  • Claire says:


                  • affableevil says:

                    Good mornoonight to you too!

                    I…cannot defeat such a gif. I capitulate.

                    <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

                    And I'll have you know that the Pokémon theme is stuck in my head now! (thank you)

                    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

                      Thank you all for taking a thread that made me depressed and making me smile from ear to ear.

                      Proof that the commenters here ARE wonderful people and there are only a few bad seeds in the bunch.

                    • affableevil says:

                      Thank you, in turn, for taking so much time to run this blog and trying to make sure that it's fun for us, and a safe place, and for continuing to fight against these words!

                      Thanks to the internet, I've realized that as a white cis woman from an economically comfortable family, I exercise a whole hell of a lot of privilege. The only one that I really don't have that immediately comes to mind is male privilege. And I'm still working on adjusting my vocabulary and thoughts to work around all of this privilege. What I've seen in this thread is a ton of Not Getting It combined with Not Trying To Get It. And that's disheartening. I'm glad we could cheer you up after this rather train-wrecky display of ableism (with a side helping of sexism wheeee).

                      In the spirit of feel-goodiness, I submit a picture of my dog on the first day we got him. May this thread now descend into cute pet pictures.

                      <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

                    • echinodermata says:

                      Random ducks in my pool. Not actually pets, but close enough.

                      <img src=""&gt;

                      (And whee I win!)

  63. Colin says:

    I took Iroh's comment about drawing wisdom from many sources literally. Still doing that to this day. 🙂

    Out of all the episodes, I think this is the plain funniest – I love meta humour, and Sokka was never snarkier than when he contemplated giving up meat and sarcasm. Even at the end, he can't get a break – his heartfelt moment was ruined by Aang going "Look what I can do!".

  64. Pelleloguin says:

    Not much to say about the episode today. However, this review really cheered me up. While I thought the pacing for the episode was a bit slow, it was done well. The mellow mood really lets the speeches about balance and understanding work with the audience and characters.

  65. xpanasonicyouthx says:

    THANK YOU FOR LINKING THIS. I probably should have.

  66. arctic_hare says:

    Ok, that was The 80's calling, it just wanted to tell me to remind Mark that "Bad" can also mean "Good".


  67. @Ahavah22 says:

    I entirely emphasize with Zuko, too.

    I tend to be very melodramatic, and went through some hard sh**. So I've had my fair share of pity-parties and "WHY IS G-D PUNISHING ME?!" moments.

    The worst part, though is when people agree with you and even try to answer you. For example:

    Me (angsting bitterly about abusive childhood and dysfunctional family in my freshman year): "Why does my mother hate me? What did I do to deserve this? Was I a Nazi in a past life?!"

    Mentor: "Yeah, That could be. You are probably being punished for horrible things you did in a past life."

    Me: (thinking) "so i was a nazi?"


    It is not helpful and reinforces already implanted beliefs by the abuser that the victim/survivor brought everything on to his/her self, and the abuser is not to blame.

    So, yeah, Zuko. I feel ya.

  68. Macy says:

    I just loved seeing Toph's approach to teaching. She just literally beats her lesson into Aang. I love it.

  69. Oh man, so much drama in the comments!

  70. Angie says:

    One of my favorite moments in the entire saga is when Zuko is atop the mountain, howling at the heavens amidst a raging storm. I've been there. In my case, though, it was a wide-open prairie, and I wasn't looking to redirect lightning with my body. But I've stood, facing down the elements – and myself – weeping and yelling and hurting with every atom in my body. This scene never fails to bring tears of empathy to my eyes. Because I still feel the same way sometimes. Hello Occasionally Over-Dramatic Anonymous. My name is Angie, and I occasionally have an over-dramatic moment. They're more under control now, but I know they're there, under the surface, ready to burst out.

    I love Sokka's scenes in the crack. And I love every single second with Mr. Foo-Foo Cuddlypoops.

    Iroh continues to be 10000% awesome 10000% of the time. <3

  71. beeftony says:

    I really liked Iroh's speech about positive and negative energies, because that's how lightning works in real life; positive and negative charges get split within a storm cloud and the lightning discharges to bridge the gap (how the charges get split in the first place is still a matter of scientific debate, but that's the gist of it). I love how often the writers paid attention to actual science when writing this show.

    Another thing I noticed in regards to Aang's mental block here: he has a history of always running away from his problems as a means of avoiding them, as seen when he literally ran away from the Southern Air Temple and got himself frozen. The unstated moral regarding his character development so far has always been that running away from your problems doesn't solve them; it only makes them worse and may actually add new problems to the list. That's the core of what Toph is trying to teach Aang here: in order to earthbend, you have to stand your ground and face the rock head on; just like more abstract issues. I love how bending is so explicitly a mental, emotional and spiritual discipline instead of just a purely physical one.

    Overall, one of my favorites. But I say that about nearly every episode in this series.

    • Avit says:

      Hah, did I ever mention here that the frogs in "The Blue Spirit" were accurate wood frogs? A species which, incidentally, is known for being able to survive literal freezing?

  72. HoneyBunny says:

    Putting aside my personal feelings/experiences aside, I'll just ask academically: is the term crazy a recognized slur in the mental health community? This is not questioning if is it's offensive, or if it's okay to use on this board or in real life, just that I've never heard of crazy being a highly offensive slur until I started reading Mark's posts.

    I know some slurs are obivous: N word, retard, "that's gay". Terrible awful words, but I've never heard "crazy" being deemed off limits. Should you say someone has "mental health" issues?

    And the message has been received. Azula (and anyone else) shouldn't be called crazy. Is sociopath still okay?

      • Manself says:

        So I was typing “crazy ableist” into Google. Lo and behold, when I got to “crazy abl,” the most popular search was “crazy black names.” Seriously, humanity? There is not enough facepalm in the world.

      • HoneyBunny says:

        That was unnecessarily rude. I am fully aware of Google and how it works. I was actually looking for links and specific names of organizations.

        • arctic_hare says:

          Oh yay, tone argument! Something else you SHOULD NOT DO.

          • HoneyBunny says:

            So I shouldn't speak out if I feel like someone is being snarky or sarcastic towards me when I'm sincerely asking for more information about a serious topic? And the CAPSLOCK stuff isn't offensive or a tone issue either? Right. No point in posing here anymore. Enjoy the rest of the series Mark. It was nice while it lasted. I'll see myself out.

            • xpanasonicyouthx says:

              No, you should not.

              There comes a point for most people who have marginalized bodies where we simply get SICK of the constant drilling, the overly-polite questions, the invasive interrogation. I don't necessarily mean you were doing that, but honestly….this happens so often. And I know that we HAVE to learn about other people and other experiences, but most of that is simply done by listening. Just listen. (Well, and Google.) When you question people like this, it grates on us, because we are reminded that for many people, our bodies and lives seem like dictionaries for other people, supposed to be left open for the world to peruse.

              We just get tired.

  73. accioetoile says:

    when I went to dragon con last year, during the Doctor Who meet up, I wandered over to a group of avatar cosplayers, where I met this cute little thing:

    <img src=""&gt;

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


    • Manself says:

      Usually, I find child cosplaying creepy (Much like little girl beauty pageants, I can’t help but think that the child is simply being used as a human doll by their parents), but this is quite possibly the most adorable thing. Where is my stuffed Foo Foo Cuddlypoops? Or, for that matter, my pond full of turtleducks?

      • accioetoile says:

        I'm not a huge fan of children cosplaying when it's obvious they have no idea who they're cosplaying as, and the parents dressed them up. But this kid was so adorable, he was tugging on my arm, and asking "do you remember that episode where Sokka got stuck?? Do you recognize who this is??" Srsly, I was dying from the cute.

        • Manself says:

          Are you trying to kill me by overdose of D’AAAAAWWWW? The Avatar fandom may have its flaws, but stories like this make me glad I can be a part of something that can inspire such love. And pure adorability.

  74. xpanasonicyouthx says:

    I mean….gosh, this also sounds so catty, but you really should Google all that? There's no quick way to answer that in a single comment, actually.

  75. @Ahavah22 says:

    Okay, I actually watched this episode to comment, so before I forget:


    2. Every scene with Zuko and Iroh is wonderful. Iroh is finally able to really teach Zuko about the value of other nations and cultures, how everyone is important and can be a source of knowledge. He's starting to tear away at a lifetime of Fire Nation "Superiority" propaganda and prejudice in Zuko's head, and that is the most important thing for him to learn…

    3. "What inner turmoil?!" I actually laugh out loud at that line!

    4. Sokka promising the forces of karma to become the "veggies and straighttalk guy" "Even though meat is so, so tasty!"

    5. Toph taking Aang's staph and hitting it on rocks–an example of Toph going a little too far. Forget about the emasculation (which I agree it was a reference to), that staff is over 100 years old and is one of the last things Aang has left of his people!!! If she had broken it, I would have supported Aang going Avatar State on her! (or at least getting angry).

    6. On the other hand, seeing Aang meditate and acting monk-like and saying that he is willing to share everything he has is so cool!

    7. Sokka: "Don't leave me again!"
    Aang: "I won't" — I love that exchange. It shows Aang's dedication to his friends and once again refers to Aang working against his character flaw of running away and avoiding a problem, which is one of the themes of the episode!

    8. Sokka: "No crushing, please!" I'm glad Toph was there!

    9. Sokka: "when I was stuck in that hole, not knowing whether I would live or die, a man starts thinking about things that are important…"
    Aang: "Katara, look what I can do!"

    Poor Sokka. Upstaged by bending again! (It's still funny, though!)

    10. Zuko, on a mountain, demanding his lightning and breaking out into tears (from his good eye; presumably his burnt eye can't produce tears) is one of the most powerful and emotional moments in Avatar for me. Wow. 🙁

  76. simplefaith says:

    "Sokka, meanwhile, has faced the utter absurdity of his predicament, believing that this is a case of the universe speaking to him about his life and his choices, like some cosmic Sassy Gay Friend."

    I literally lol'd at this sentence. This is both incredibly random and completely spot-on.
    Anyway, one of the things I love about Avatar is the focus on the characters, and that they don't feel like they have to keep going, going, going, and that they can slow down so you can actually *see* who you're watching and why they do the things they do.

  77. jubilantia says:

    FOO FOO CUDDLYPOOOOOOOOOPS! omg this is one of my favorite episodes, I don't care if the plot doesn't move. The Sokka parts are the. best. ever. "Meat and sarcasm! That's pretty much my whole identity!" LAUGHING FOREVER ILU SOKKA.

    And it's great that you see more of Toph's personality too. Positive reinforcement is good, but I think Toph's methods in this episode make more sense and match with her personality. They are more about making you realize your positive points yourself.

    It's interesting that the bending forms seem to elicit certain personality traits. Or maybe it's the way in which Toph grew up more than the element that she wields.

    I understand your point about the word crazy being ableist, but I still love that quote. I think that Azula is specifically sociopathic (maybe?) since she was pretty much hurting turtleducks since the age of, like, 5, which means that her inherent unhingedness will cause her to use her superior skill against Zuko…? You can be mentally unstable, skilled, or evil, but the combination of those elements is what makes her lethal, I think. I know that is not a nice thing for Iroh to say, and perhaps only part of the issue, but in her case I think it might be a partially accurate statement, rather than an ableist insult. In her case, I think that part of the reason she is dangerous is because she is missing bits of the inherent moral compass that people are born with, Dr. Holmes from Devil in the White City-style. I don't know, I'm trying to think of other words that would flow and get the point across. "She is more skilled than you, is slightly unhinged and has different views on what is right in the world, and thus must be taken down" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

    Ahhhh, language. I think about this stuff all the time and I can never come to a consensus with myself.

    • Avit says:

      "She is evil and must be taken down"

      "She is poisonous and must be taken down"

      "She is the reincarnation of Mau the Devourer and must be taken down"

      …I could go on, but I'm getting carpal tunnel from my lack of a proper desk.

  78. sabra_n says:

    I can't imagine "we have to all work together for our common good!" Katara being a rabid laissez faire capitalist, but maybe that's just me. 😛

  79. lossthief says:

    I'm going for Omnivore

  80. Lariren says:

    I think Nick needs to realize how much money they would make if they made a line of stuffed Avatar animals. They could make Appa, Momo, turtle ducks, a baby saber tooth moose lions. I WOULD BUY ALL OF THEM.

    I feel like Avatar does a really good job with storytelling because the past few episodes have had a lot of good development and information in them but they seem longer than 24 minutes (at least to me) in a good way. They managed to do it in the first season as well but right now the writers seemed to have hit their stride.

    I love this episode because we see Aang learning in a different way than he has before. It's apparent that Gyatso was really encouraging to him and so is Katara but the only other time a teacher has been hard on Aang has been Master Pakku. Aang just goofed around then and had to have Katara really teach him later. So I do like that the show also emphasises there are other teaching methods and they do work even if you don't like them.

    I guess I always thought half of Zuko's outburst at the end is to his father. Like that he's now where he is because of everything that's happened to him in relation to his father (who sent Azula after him). I could entirely just be over thinking things.

    I like that Iroh is teaching Zuko and how Zuko actually asks to be taught a new move rather than demanding it like before. I don't like Iroh's writing off of Azula. She apparently beyond hope to him and that never sat well with me because I feel like Iroh would be more forgiving considering he knows what Ozai is like. I just…it's not only the crazy comment that bothers me but also the whole writing her off as a person from someone who seems to be much more accepting than that.

    • Avit says:

      I am not a stuffed animal person, but I know I am not everyone! Turtleducks and Momos and sabertoothed mooselions would be brilliant just on principle.

      • Lariren says:

        Think of a giant Appa as well!

        • @ambyrglow says:

          (apologies if this double-posts)

          I don't have to imagine it, since it exists.

          So does stuffed Momo.

          You're on your own for the others, though.

          • Lariren says:

            I will not spend money that much money on a stuffed Appa. I will not spend that much money on a stuffed Appa. But so awesome.

            • @ambyrglow says:

              Keep an eye on the store that sells the stuffed Momo, then–they seem to be sold out of Appa for the moment, but when they did have him in the past he was maybe half the prize of the Amazon one.

              Or, you know, just get a smaller Appa. The foot and a half models are a lot cheaper than the three foot one!

              But everyone needs an Appa somehow or another.

    • Hyatt says:

      Well, she did just try to kill him. Even Iroh has limits to what he'll accept and need some cooling-off time.

      • Lariren says:

        I've been trying to write a response to this but I get about half way and want to say something that is spoilery. I guess it boils down to Iroh was ok with helping Zuko and putting up with him but Azula, who is still young (she's 14!) can't be saved? It's just I…I don't like it.

        • Hyatt says:

          Oh, I know the spoilery urge. And the speculation on whether Azula is young enough to be saved. But my point is that Iroh is human and probably doesn't think too charitably about someone who just tried to kill him.

          I wondered why the focus on Azula, when Ozai's the one who made her who she is and is the one who really needs to go down, but then I remembered that from Zuko's POV, Azula's the one chasing him and throwing lightning at him, so she's the one he needs to figure out how to defeat.

          • Lariren says:

            I guess I always see Iroh as more forgiving. But it is a rather rash thing to say.

            If you take it another way Iroh is to Ozai as Zuko is to Azula. Azula is also the more pressing danger as she is in the Earth Kingdom and Ozai is not. Also Iroh never had the chance to really confront Ozai (he seems to have just been in the Capital living but allowed into war meetings as 'The Storm' suggests) about their relationship while Zuko does have the opportunity to defeat Azula.

  81. qwopisinthemailbox says:

    i hear Zuko's voice perfectly for the horse one…WHY.

  82. Hotaru_hime says:

    Poor Zuko. He just tries so goddamn hard and nothing ever goes right for him!

    • @Ahavah22 says:

      But don't you know how important that quality is to the Animation Music Video (AMV) making community?

      Just about every rock song (AKA: any song Weird Al would put in his "Angry White Boy Polka") applies to him!

      Certainly every song by Linkin' Park!

      I tried so hard, and got so far, and in the end, it doesn't even matter!

      (Disclaimer: I love AMVs, Weird Al, and Angry White Boy music. But the reuse of these songs is pretty funny!)

  83. Hyatt says:

    Also, I know this is absurd of me at this point, but every chance I get to dearly wish for it to happen, I will: OH MY GOD WOULDN’T THIS BE AWESOME IF THIS LESSON WAS FORESHADOWING THE FACT THAT ZUKO AND IROH WERE ON TEAM AVATAR.

    Not so absurd! Remember last episode where Katara offered to help heal Iroh? What if Zuko hadn't driven them away? What if he'd accepted their help, even temporarily? The Gaang's shown that they're willing to give Zuko a chance when he needs their help, now Zuko just needs to accept it, and they'd have a solid foundation for joining forces.

  84. Tauriel_ says:

    Toph and Sokka — "masculine". Katara and Aang — "feminine". Like that?

    Ohh, I want to say something to this SO BADLY, but can't, because SPOLERS!!! XD

    Know what I mean, guys? Nudge nudge, wink wink? 😉

  85. "I know that calling people crazy is a touchy subject, but Iroh dead panning, 'She's crazy and needs to go down.' is the absolute funniest thing in the history of Avatar. "

    I'm not trying to shoot you down, don't get me wrong, but I think it would've been just as hilarious if he said evil, horrible, heinous, scary, awful, or my favorite, nasty.

    • TheWelshPirate says:

      I might make myself unpopular for saying this, but I find that I'm rather 50/50 on this debate about the word "crazy". I agree wholeheartedly with Mark that Sokka was out-of-line calling King Bumi 'crazy' in "The King of Omashu", because that supports the wrongful stereotype that crazy = mental illness, as well as the stereotype that strange = dangerous.

      But when you think about it, the true definition of "crazy" or "crazed" refers to irrationality with the potential of being harmful to the self or others. So technically, "crazy" is more of a symptom of certain mental disorders, not a blanket term for anybody who acts different then what we're used to. It's the fact that media has an unfortunate habit of using the incorrect definition is why it's become an ableist slur.

      And let's face it: Azula is quite irrational. She might be collected, controlled, even logical in her actions. But her goals, motivations, and methods are quite irrational. So personally, I can't help but feel that Iroh was somewhat justified in referring to her as "crazy".

      • sakiexcel says:

        That's a valid point, but the fact that the word "crazy" is so frequently used as an ableist slur means that it's hurtful for a lot of people to hear, regardless of the intent. Maybe this is a weird comparison, but it's kind of like if a white guy uses the n-word because he hears it in the rap he listens to all the time. He might not be intending to use a racist slur, but that's still what it is. It's more understandable to use a word like "crazy" that gets thrown around a lot (and I have to admit I use it pretty frequently myself, because I haven't managed to get that one out of my vocabulary yet. Before I started reading about ableism, one of my favorite things to call people was "crazycakes"), but I think that at least people who are aware of the implications of the word should try to avoid using it as much as possible.

        As for Azula, I wouldn't call her irrational. I think that her goals, motivations, and methods are quite rational considering where she grew up and the way she was raised. She seems irrational to people who weren't raised by a power-hungry, immoral jackass, but she's acting in the way she was taught to act.

  86. Shan Xi says:

    Lewis Carroll said it best:

    "“When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

    "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

    "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master–that’s all."

    • moussajinx says:

      To You, I present the internets.
      In all is misinformed and conflicting nature: this I give to you

      Huge smiley face and a basket of miscellaneous goodies.

      Take them, you deserve them. 🙂


  87. beeftony says:

    I don't think Azula is crazy.

    For one thing, it's a diagnosis none of us are qualified to make (unless there's a psychologist reading, which given the comments so far I doubt). Psychoanalysis is not as simple as opening up the Wikipedia article for "psychopath" and going down a checklist. It takes a lot of observation to be able to identify legitimate mental illnesses and distinguish them from sometimes distressingly normal human behavior. That's why psychologists go to school just as long as regular doctors do.

    Another thing to consider is Azula's age. Most psychologists refuse to diagnose anybody under age eighteen with any sort of personality disorder simply for the fact that kids and teenagers can be cruel. Their bodies and minds are still developing, and it's difficult to tell if they're legitimately mentally ill or just haven't developed to the point where they can comprehend right and wrong the way adults can. Azula is only fourteen, and while I don't think this sort of behavior is something you can just grow out of, we might wait until more evidence presents itself before labelling her nutty.

    Also, psycho/sociopaths are not Hannibal Lecter. They're people whose brains are wired just a bit differently who have trouble seeing the world the way the rest of us do. Not to mention the fact that all but a few of them lead perfectly normal lives. Azula's charisma, cruelty, and manipulative tendencies are a product of her natural personality, not any sort of mental illness.

    And finally, it's important to note that Azula is just as much a product of her environment as Zuko is. She caught her father's eye literally from the moment she was born, and has spent every waking moment of her life trying to impress him. Given Ozai's screwed up values, that means she pushes herself to be even more ruthless, vindictive and driven to perfection than she would have been if Ursa was the one who found favor with her. Once Zuko got banished for "disrespecting" Ozai, she got even more deterrmined not to screw up. While I admit that these natural tendencies are the reason Ozai was impressed with her in the first place (whereas Zuko was more naturally compassionate and got along better with Ursa), her time spent impressing him has exacerbated them to the point where we can safely say it's Nurture that's twisted her into what she's become, not Nature.

    So yeah, not really fair to call her insane. I love Iroh, but the man is awesome, not perfect. Every character has at least one flaw.

    • Avit says:

      Thank you.

      Reading all the comments on Azula's ~early sociopathy~ being proven by her cruelty to the turtleducks — honestly? I was the treehuggy type as a kid and thus was obliged to know when other children were dismembering crickets with plastic knives or squeezing baby frogs in their hands until they popped. Children with "normal" minds can be quite cruel.

    • monkeybutter says:

      Thanks, this comment is exactly what I've been longing to see. The minds and personalities of children and adolescents are still quite plastic, and while broad characteristics like extroversion or shyness might be fairly rigid from early childhood, it's not the end of psychological development. It's unfair and honestly wrong to just call Azula "evil" (let alone equate that with "crazy," because even if she was mentally ill, it shouldn't be used as a pejorative or to otherwise condemn her. But plenty has been said on that point.) It makes it seem like her behavior is wholly about her nature, and not about her choices or environment. I sort of mentioned it in the Zuko Alone review, but I think Azula would have benefited a lot from influence that wasn't Ozai. It's unfortunate that she doesn't seem as close to Ursa or Iroh as Zuko was in his memories, but I imagine that wasn't an accident.

      I don't think she can grow out of the basic facets of her personality — charisma, manipulation, lying, cunning — and it's certainly harder to change now that she's been behaving maliciously, unchecked, for years, but that doesn't mean she has to be cruel and violent. Azula's a complicated villain.

      Again, great comment.

  88. Avatar_fan_mom says:

    I love that this series can touch on so many deep philosophical ideas while maintaining balance with humor and entertainment. It's remarkable brilliant actually to do so in such a short timeframe. One minute I'm laughing at Sokka's reaction to his predicament; the next I'm completely entranced by Iroh's explanation of the generation of lightning and the balance of the nations.

    Seriously – this episode solidified my complete and total obsession with Iroh and his wisdom. How true that we must learn from other cultures in order to achieve balance? That we must face inner struggles if we are to be strong enough to deal with challenges outside of ourselves? That we must understand humility? It is amazing to me the depth in which you can explore this episode.

    Again here, I love what the writers have down with Zuko. I think it would have been a bit of a stretch if he had completely abandoned the angst within and been able to produce lightning. It's one thing to understand a theory, and completely another to achieve it. We see Zuko still full of rage and desperation and desire atop the mountain, despite Iroh's advice. Iroh realizes that mastery of this lesson can only come from within Zuko, and allows him to forge his own path, yet again.

  89. Classtoise says:

    So do we have to sit through a paragraph long rant EVERY time someone says crazy? Or are you eventually gonna realize that yelling into an echochamber over a 5 year old show is probably not the best place to start this crusade?

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      Trigger Warning: for discussion of ableism, slurs, abuse, etc

      This was initially deleted by the mods (as it should be, since my site is not going to be host to derailing, policing, and silencing bullshit), but I am acutely aware at this point that many of you do not understand what it means to be both derailing and silencing, and why I am not allowing this word on my site. (Note that I said my site, one of billions, not your entire life.

      If you'll notice, there are other people who commented about that very paragraph you are referencing and their comments were NOT deleted and there are not huge comment threads below them. The very distinct difference between them is that these people wanted to discuss the issue, either because they were confused or thought I interpreted the scene wrong, etc. The people who were banned? They wanted the conversation shut down. They used their power as people who are not affected by the word "crazy" to lord over the rest of us who have been hurt and marginalized by that word, and they insisted that we cater the conversation to THEIR needs. On my site.

      Certainly you can recognize how fucked up that is, right?

      But the fact is that what you've done here is not only misrepresent the situation, you've used your power to tell me, on my site, that I cannot discuss what I want to discuss. The characters on this show have used the word "crazy" probably a hundred times at this point and I have talked about it maybe–maybe–three times. If that. So no, you don't have to sit through a paragraph (GOOD GOD THAT IS SO LONG POOR YOU) because I don't do that every time.

      I am also not the first (nor last) person to take issue with this word, so there is no "crusade" being started. And I hate that you frame it with that word, as if we're going around and driving stakes through the hearts of people who ask you not to use a word around us. You are framing this as if it actually harms you, which is bogus and fucked up. But you still misunderstand me: I am not "yelling into an echochamber." (Do you really think NO ONE reads this site?) I am not criticizing the show because I hate it (I adore it, actually), and I'm not vocalizing my concern because it's part of a crusade. This is simply what I've been doing for TWO YEARS: Create a space where we can all analyze popular media through a critical lens, while still loving the show.

      And for those who still don't get it, allow me to elaborate. I grew up as an abused child who was violently and ruthlessly bullied. I have been suffering from long-term, clinical depression since I was nine years old. It has never gone away and while I may have a day or two where it recedes away, that's the best I can do. For years, I have been called "crazy" in a joking and in a serious manner, and most of the time it was used to dismiss the very-real problems that I was having. My own counselor in high school said that he didn't deal with "crazy people" when I tried to talk to him about depression. When I tried to talk about all of the PTSD and ridiculous effects of my abuse with my first boyfriend or other friends, it was always written off the same way. "Oh, everyone's a little crazy!" It sounds funny to you, and it hurts me.

      And really, that's what this comes down to. I have been trying to create a space, firstly, for myself, where I can feel safe to open up about my abuse, my depression, my life as a queer dude of color, and that's the primary reason this site has strict rules. I don't want to wade out in the comments and waste my energy and time trying to establish the very basic facts about my experience. And while I know I still have a lot of work to do, I'd like to extend that safety to people who have marginalized bodies in ways I do not.

      We are saying this word hurts us. We are asking you not to use it on ONE SITE. When you further defend that, you are purposely hurting us. And I will not tolerate that.

  90. TheWelshPirate says:

    Yet I've never heard Katara or Aang boast about how their bags match their belts.;)

  91. Tauriel_ says:

    One more thing (and I can't believe I forgot to mention it yesterday) – when Aang tried to attract the adult sabre-tooth mooselion's attention, did anyone else think of "LOOK AT ME, I'M A TARGET!"? XD

    • TheWelshPirate says:

      I just enjoyed the return of Aang's floppy-armed dance from "The Deserter". Complete with "boingy" music.

  92. jeno says:

    There's something I think needs pointing out – the show never says anyone is evil. Not the Fire Nation. Not Zhao. Not Azula. In another kid's show, Iroh wouldn't have said 'Azula is crazy and needs to be taken down.' He would have said, 'Azula is evil and needs to be taken down.' While so many people are focusing on the ableist word (not that they're wrong to do so), I do think they're missing the overall point the show's trying to make.

    Eastern philosophy is a lot different than Western philosophy. In many Eastern schools of thought, there's no binary between 'good' and 'evil.' There are actions and consequences. The urge to point at an action or person and say, "That's evil!" (like Mark has done a few times with Azula) is pretty rooted in Western culture. But Avatar? Is not based on Western culture.

    Azula is a complicated character. But is calling someone evil better than calling someone crazy? Really? That's a hell of a moral judgment to put on anyone, particularly (imo) when the source text is saying otherwise.

    • Avit says:

      Well, let me see… evil is predicated on one's actions and their consequences, crazy is predicated on a culturally variant conception of normal and abnormal mentality. Hmmmmmmmm. I wonder why there's a problem with that.

      • jeno says:

        I'm saying that what we label as evil (a term that is absolute in it's moral judgment) is also a culturally variable concept – or have you never spent five minutes in the vicinity of a Planned Parenthood clinic?

  93. echinodermata says:

    You should stop with this discussion.

    It's the kind of discussion where the other side is tearing their hair out because people cannot just accept that their argument is insulting and offensive, while your side is going 'isn't debating fun?'

    Just, stop. You are frustrating people.

  94. herpestidae says:

    I can only assume that drawing his face was much easier that writing whatever the Chinese character(s) for his name is/are.

    • Avit says:


      The fourth one looks pretty simple! I think it was just Rule of Funny,

      • TheWelshPirate says:

        Wow! Is that whole thing Aang's name? I know nothing about linguistics or writing systems, but I would've thought that "Aang" would be simpler to write. Chinese (and Japanese) calligraphy is beautiful, but I don't think my brain is capable of understanding their complexities.

        • herpestidae says:

          I'm inclined to believe that those are simply all possible Chinese characters that can be vaguely pronounced "Aang." For example, they once wrote Iroh's name (2 syllables, 2 characters) with characters that are pronounced "Ai Low"

          • TheWelshPirate says:

            Ah, I see! Thanks. I spent three years living in Japan, and I don't think I understand the workings of Kanji any better now than I did before. And maybe I'm wrong, but Chinese characters look even more complex than Kanji does.

  95. Anonymouse says:

    This episode is one of my top 10 (maybe top five) for three reasons. Paralells, martial arts philosophy, and angst. I am now going to comment on all three. Even though I am late for the party and probably nobody is reading this.

    Martial Arts Philosophy: Toph's introductory comment about stance. Without a strong stance in earthbending, you will accomplish nothing. The same goes with all martial arts. Even in stances like cat stance, which is essentially standing on one foot, maybe using the other leg for balance, you need to be strong and unbreakable. Someone with a good stance will be nearly impossible to tip over. Attitude is also important, for various reasons, most of them demonstrated in this episode. Why do we kiai in karate? Attitude (among other things, which I may elaborate on another day).
    Also, the idea of taking wisdom from many sources. A lot of martial arts have paralells to one another. Stances, forms, ideas, etc. all can reach across different disciplines. My favourite karate stance, back stance, is identical to L-stance in Tae Kwon Do. Even many of the katas used in both karate and TaeKwonDo can be traced back to Kung Fu and Tai Chi.

    Paralells: Aang is having trouble learning a new move? What a coincidence, so is Zuko! The story paralells are all over the place, but neither story feels unnatural or contrived. The natural progression of each storyline just happens to overlap. And by showing those parallels, we can see the contrast between the two.

    Angst: Poor Zuzu. I love that the "villain" is given such a tragic yet beautiful backstory. And his angst, given what he's actually gone through is perfectly understandable, and doesn't come from nowhere. We also see that he is trying to work through it, an admirable trait in any character.

    In other news… SOKKA IS AMAZING!!!!

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