Mark Watches ‘Avatar’: S03E14 – The Southern Raiders

In the fourteenth episode of the third season of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Katara takes a long-needed journey with Zuko to find the Southern Raiders in the hopes of confronting the man who murdered her mother. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Avatar.

Sometimes, I feel like I am a man consumed by rage.

It’s a feeling I’ve had to fight down for years, and while I do think I’ve been able to control my anger in much more positive ways in the recent past, it’s still something that flares up from time to time. I grew up angry for a lot of reasons, and anyone who’s followed Mark Reads or Mark Watches knows that I have a past that is RIFE WITH TRAGEDY. I poke fun at it now because it’s one of the ways I cope with it. Straight up: I did not have a pleasant childhood or teenage experience, not by a long shot, and the things that happened to me from a fairly young age created a time bomb.

(Just as a warning, but there will be discussion of abuse, bullying, homophobia, anger issues, and other such emotional trauma below. If this is possibly triggering to you, just wanted you to know so no harm is caused.)

My anger is caused by the things that were done to me. There’s no doubt about that. I am angry that my parents, specifically my mother, did such horrible things to me in the name of love. I’m angry that I was regularly treated as less than a person, as an outcast, as one to be disgusted by, as one who was never trusted, and as one not deserving of positive affection. I’m angry at the pain that both of my parents caused me for being brought up to believe that homosexuality was such an abomination that the slightest sign that I might not be straight was met with violent, traumatic repulsion. I am angry that I grew up in a household where it was perfectly acceptable for my parents to call me a faggot and tell me they’d rather have a dead son than a gay one.

I am angry that I had no support system at school. I’m angry that I was picked on for being brown by the white kids, and then picked on for being not brown enough for the other brown kids. I’m angry that I was beat up for being queer, that I was cut and stabbed and dunked in toilets and locked in classrooms, and when I did exactly what I was supposed to and told an adult, I was told not to be so gay.

I’m angry that I did not have a childhood, that I had no childhood friends who could visit me, that I was never allowed out of the house except for school, that I couldn’t stay up past seven in the evening until I was sixteen and ran away from home, that I couldn’t visit other friends or socialize or have a boyfriend (or a girlfriend for that matter) because everything that wasn’t focused on getting perfect grades was evil or satanic or unbecoming of a God-fearing Christian.

I’m still angry that the guy who was my very first boyfriend was an emotionally manipulative waste who used me for affection, money, and emotional support, all the while cheating on me and planning to kick me to the curb once he didn’t need any of that. I’m still angry at a lot of the institutionalized fuckery I faced in junior high and high school that led me to want to end my life because of how much systemic homophobia was built into the “support” system I was supposed to turn to.

I’m angry about a lot of things. And that’s ok.

My problem, at least for a full decade of my life, is that I had nowhere to take that anger. I lived in a household that urged me to keep everything to myself. If I was silent, that meant I was obeying. This is now wonderfully ironic because holy shit I talk so much. If you had known me as a fourteen-year-old little teenager who loved No Doubt and Minor Threat and Bad Religion and wanted to be best friends with Monique Powell because omg she is amazing, and THEN you met me as I am today, you would see to dramatically different people. I was able to speak in class and in front of large audiences rather easily, but I was otherwise a silent, introspective, and frighteningly shy person. That was because the world around me told me to keep it all to myself. The one time I did reach out and try to get help, I was shamed for the actions of other people. And my parents were certainly not the sort of people to want to discuss the finer intricacies of a heteronormative society and how misogyny can creep into the gender roles prescribed to men as well. They were more interested in making sure I was a perfect student, that I did what I was told, and that I feared God every waking hour of my life.

That anger built up over years. Imagine not having a soul in the world to talk to about feeling like you want to end your life, or your desire just to get a hug from your own mother, or wishing you could have a semblance of normalcy to your teenage years. I am very aware that the term “normal” is pretty awful most of the time, as it suggests there’s only one experience that is the accepted narrative of being a teenager. For me, though, it actually is a great way to explain why I felt so much sadness and rage from such a young age: The majority of the people around me, and the vast majority of narratives on television and in the books I read, described coming of age stories in a very specific way. Obviously, the spectrum of human experience should never be whittled down to some hegemonic entity, but some of the most basic things that many people go through were denied to me. I had no teenage romance, no high school sweetheart, I had no childhood friends to get into shenanigans with, I was refused driving lessons, I wasn’t allowed to spend the night at anyone’s house, I wasn’t allowed to play in the neighborhood, I wasn’t allowed to do anything that some people see as the quintessential experience. For me, the word “normal” is not offensive in this context. I wanted those things, and on days when my depression rears its head unexpectedly (as it generally does), I think back to those years and I still want them. And I honestly don’t think that is a bad thing, to want to have experiences that allow you to relate to other people.

Here’s a great example. I loved J.J. Abrams’s recent movie, Super 8. I’m a sucker for emotionally-heavy science fiction like that, so it was right up my alley. I thought that Abrams captured the creativity and the infectious energy of childhood innocence brilliantly, and those child actors, who made up most of the movie, held it all together. But the movie had a second meaning for me: I could not relate to a single second of it. I know it seems hyperbolic for me to say I had no childhood friends, but I am not exaggerating. I had none. I had people I knew at school, and by the time I got to high school, I was closer to some more than others. Until I ran away from home when I was sixteen and in my junior high, I had not a single meaningful or emotionally intimate relationship with anyone. Not one.

Sometimes I wonder if that’s ruined my ability to hold lasting relationships and if it’s a cause for why I seem to drift from person to person, why I’m so reluctant to let people get close to me. I did not grow up with that experience at all.

It all culminated in a period in my life, right around the time I turned twenty, where all that anger that had been bottled up and repressed for years began to turn into a festering wound. I wanted revenge. As I learned more about the world around me and what experiences my new set of college friends and classmates had gone through, I knew I had missed out on everything. I had been denied so many experiences that might have given me a much more positive outlook on my past. And I wanted revenge for it.

However, it wasn’t a fully-formed concept at all. How exactly to you get revenge on your parents? Years later, when my very first serious relationship crumbled after I got dumped on MySpace (literally, one of the funniest things ever, but only in hindsight), I went through the same thing: How can I get revenge on this guy? How can I inflict the same amount of paint that was put on me?

It’s….absurd. I think about it now, as someone who has been letting go of my anger instead of keeping it inside of me, and I cannot understand how I thought I was going to pull that off. What I did understand, though, was my desire for closure. I knew that, at heart, I had no closure at all. Until a few years ago, I never really communicated to my mother what her actions had done to me, and that fact ate away at me, as if she was getting away with it. To me, it was the simple idea that I thought she had no idea what she’d done that made me feel so enraged. (She did know, though, and I’m happy to say that my mother and I have never been closer than we are now.)

I never did get closure on my first relationship, though, and I think there will always be a part of me that resents that. But that part is smaller and smaller as the years go by. I don’t want to suggest that pain always lessens with time, but it did for me. I never did confront my ex to tell him that what he did to me severely fucked me up for years, that I still have trust issues that plague my heart, and that I haven’t escaped the sensation that I lost time to him that I’ll never be able to get back.

But what can you do when anger starts being so goddamn tiring?

Anger has been a companion in my life since I was at least eleven or twelve, and it’s always been by my side to exhaust me, to derail me, and to make me feel that something is wrong in my head. Anger can be a beautiful thing, and it has certainly done wonders for me as an activist. But I’m tired of all that anger. It’s too present. It’s too persistent, and it’s too distracting. What am I supposed to do?

I’m supposed to watch “The Southern Raiders.”

It wasn’t until this episode that I saw something I’d never even noticed before: For three entire seasons, anger has been floating just under the surface of Katara. I honestly never even considered her an angry character; her moments seemed few and far between, always a necessary reaction to what was happening around her. It took an episode that parallels her life with Zuko’s for me to see the obvious: Katara had no outlet for her rage. She had bottled up the terror of her mother’s death, the unfairness of it all, and when she found that outlet, she let it all out at once.

“The Southern Raiders” not only acts as the third episode where a member of Team Avatar spends time alone with Zuko, nor is it just about revealing one of the only “mysteries” in the show’s canon. It’s a way to completely contextualize everything we’ve seen in a new light. Was Katara always working to vindicate the memory of her mother? Was she always this close to erupting in anger?Were Β her actions motivated more by this memory than anything else?

Well, it’s not that complete. Obviously, Katara is a much richer character than having a singular motivation for everything. But that’s what this episode does: it gives a new layer of Katara that quickly makes her one of the most intriguing and fascinating characters on the show. I especially love that the writers waited until the very end to give us this story, too.

For me, though, it’s not even a matter of seeing myself in Katara’s journey. Of course, I can relate to the anger that comes from trauma deep in one’s past, but I found myself more interested in where Katara would go than where she came from. (Don’t get me wrong, though; the flashbacks were some of the best things this show has ever given us.) I wanted to see what decision Katara would make when she finally faced her anger and rage. And I mean that literally: What would she do when she finally looked upon the face of the man that stole her mother away from her?

I can’t deny that it was utterly horrifying to watch Katara use blood bending again without the slightest hesitation, and it was a sign to me that this anger of hers had now become all-consuming, so much so that she was willing to discard any personal moral rules she’d set for herself. And in the process, she discovers that fully giving in to that anger has caused her to make a grave mistake: It’s not the right man.

I think people may have jumped at the possibility to criticize Katara for this, and maybe people even complained that Nickelodeon would show such a dark character turn to children. I, on the other hand, grew an immense amount of respect for Katara out of jealousy: She was able to confront her anger in a way I wish I had the courage to do. Yes, she made a mistake, but I can’t deny that there will probably always be a part of me that feels my life is eternally out of balance for the things done to me, and I do have a desire deep down in my heart that the guys who bullied me in junior high end up blowing up in a freak snowmobile accident or something, or ten years down the line, I’m some mega-awesome billionaire and one of them sits down for a job interview at my office and I get to tell them that they ruined my life as a kid, so NO, I WILL NOT GIVE YOU THIS JOB, and I’ll get to cackle maliciously as they sulk out of the building and get hit by a comet. It’s obviously an irrational desire. I know that. And I know there are so many systemic forces at work to keep life unfair for the people who don’t fit into the world’s normative design.

All that’s left is release. Watching Katara confront the actual man who killed her mother and then prepare to end his life, only to stop at the last moment, was an empowering thing to witness. I don’t even care if it was expected because it’s done with such a respect for the pain that it still causes her. Even as she relents and walks away, she’s not joyous. It doesn’t answer all of her questions. She doesn’t feel like skipping into a field of chocolate chip cookie flowers. She’s exhausted, depressed, and dejected. But she found a release that didn’t destroy her. And it’s not always about forgiveness, either. She doesn’t forgive Yon Rha for what he did, but she knows that she’s let her rage spill over to her view of Zuko. That hug and those words of forgiveness are just so powerful to witness. We know she means it, and we know that she’s found a way to move on.

I suppose that is all I can hope for, isn’t it? And that’s not even really a bad thing. I hope that there’s a day when I’m not bogged down by my past and that I can move forward without the weight of my trauma. Even if that day never comes, I know that, for my own life, letting go of my anger is not a betrayal to the truth or an insult to my memory. Sometimes, it is the only way to survive without tearing everything else down.

Surviving is perfectly fine with me.

THOUGHTS

  • OH MY FUCKING CREYS baby Katara and baby Sokka just seriously throw me off a cliff you are so cute. The best part is Sokka throwing a snowball onto the back of a downed Fire Nation soldier.
  • Best chilling moment after the blood bending scene: Katara revealing to Yon Rha that her mother lied about being the last waterbender in the tribe by MAKING THE RAIN STOP. holy shit.
  • omg WHALE TAIL ISLAND.
  • Good god, that opening battle between Azula and Zuko was SO INTENSE. The image of both characters falling into the mist is just so unsettling to me.
  • So Katara and Sokka’s mother is finally given a name: Kya. Ugh, MAYBE THE MOST DEPRESSING FLASHBACK EVER.
  • “So can I borrow Momo for a week?” “Why do you need Momo???” SHRUGS.
  • OH MY GOD SOKKA WAITING FOR SUKI IN HIS TENT. One of the best jokes of the entire series.
  • “That’s cute, but this isn’t Air Temple Preschool, it’s the real world.” SICK BURN.
  • THE ENDING. THE ENDING. oh my god that final line is so haunting. I AM SO UNPREPARED.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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363 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Avatar’: S03E14 – The Southern Raiders

  1. My Friend's Response to Azula's SAVING HERSELF WITH HER HAIRPIECE
    "I hate her!"

    My Response
    "I love her!"

    • Tauriel_ says:

      She's a wonderfully clever and genre-savvy villain, isn't she? πŸ™‚

    • Cakemage says:

      Seriously, right? She may be the evilest evil who ever eviled an evil, but goddamn has she got style.

    • ambyrglow says:

      What I love is Zuko's expression when she's doing it, his tone when he says, "She's not going to make it. . . . Of course she did." There's real grief there, mixed in with the hatred. Because yeah, she's made his life hell. . .but she's also his sister. Boy is seriously conflicted–in a way he clearly isn't about his father.

      • notemily says:

        Yeah, there was a moment when I thought he was going to ask them to have Appa turn back and save her before she fell to her death. But… then she saved herself, as usual.

    • majere616 says:

      My Response
      WHY HAS THE INTENSITY OF MY HATRED NOT REDUCED HER TO A SMOLDERING PILE OF ASH!?!?

    • Embies says:

      She's just fierce.

    • IKR, GIRL IS SUCH A FLAWLESS BAMF

      now if only she would use those powers for good ;_;

  2. arctic_hare says:

    What a way to start off an episode, eh? Birds singing, sun shining, bombs flying… wait, what? HO NOES IT'S AZULA. And… hooooooly crap is she ever pissed. She seems angrier and more destructive than ever, and disturbingly thrilled about killing Zuko. Makes sense: she is still furious about what happened last episode, with Mai choosing protecting Zuko's life over following her, and Ty Lee backing her up (I still cannot get over you predicting that one, Mark). It seems to have flipped a switch in her (the one labeled "EXTERMINATE!", if you're curious), and she's blaming Zuko directly for her friends' betrayal. Who else, after all, would she blame? I don't think "taking a good, hard look at your life and your choices and where you might have gone wrong" is even on the menu for Azula. This is a good way of showing just how far gone she is in her belief in her own perfection, in her need to be perfect for daddy dearest, how much Ozai has truly twisted and warped her. When Mai told her she didn't know people as well as she thought she did, right after she declared herself a people person, she immediately went into furious denial that that could be true. The problem wasn't that she didn't know Mai well enough, but that Mai wasn't as scared of her as she should have been. The source of Mai's problem? Zuko, naturally. So she's lashing out and attempting to remove that problem. Notice that she seems more interested in killing Zuko than Aang? This really is, as Zuko said, a family visit: she's here on a personal grudge more than anything. I think that getting rid of the Avatar counted as a secondary goal here, a "killing two birds with one stone" thing. Or should I say, one bomb. If she'd succeeded, I think that she not only would have reported her "glorious victory" to her father, but might've visited Mai in prison, despite her stated desire to never see her face again, and gloat about having killed the person Mai betrayed her for.

    Later at the camp, it seems that that joke of Zuko's was TOO SOON for Katara. I laughed, and so did everyone else, but she's still having a hard time of it. Which I get – it's more personal for her than for anyone else, after what happened in Ba Sing Se. And we all know that despite being a waterbender, her personality can be rather, well, fiery at times. She has a lot of anger issues and sometimes can't control her anger all that well, as we've seen on many occasions. Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing her: she's a favorite character of mine and I love her. But loving a character doesn't mean not acknowledging their flaws and issues, quite the opposite. Especially since hers come from a very human and understandable place, given how she grew up and what she's been through before and during the series at the hands of the Fire Nation, and at Zuko's hands personally. Everyone else has come to accept him wholeheartedly into the group already, but let's consider: Aang and Sokka have both had bonding experiences with the guy that forged friendship and trust with him. Suki shared some of the latter, and she also had only previously had one run-in with him (granted, a memorable one, but considering he helped bust her out of the Boiling Rock, that probably counts for a lot). Toph lacks that extensive history, and was okay with him joining pretty much from the getgo because she knew he was sincere and that Aang needed him for a firebending teacher. Add all that up with Katara's past experiences with him, her temper, the trust issues that Jet probably helped create, and that very personal betrayal below Ba Sing Se, and it makes perfect sense for her to act the way she does. I can't find it in me to be hard on her at all for it. It would probably be better for her to let go of her anger towards him and let herself heal inside, since it's not fun carrying all that rage inside (particularly given that we've seen what can happen to someone after years and years of that – hello, Hama, how you doing?), but she has to do that in her own way, on her own time. It can't be forced. So I'm not in the least inclined to be irritated at her.

    Especially since, y'know, Zuko's desire to make things right with her leads to one of the greatest moments ever in the show.

    <img src="http://i54.tinypic.com/4v2v0x.gif&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

    Without Katara being pissed at Zuko, we wouldn't have had that scene, and that would be a crime. Katara is a true heroine for indirectly causing that to happen.

    • arctic_hare says:

      It's time, then, for her to get her own super special field trip with Zuko. Aang even asks if that's what's going on, which makes me lol. On a serious note… I understand what Aang is saying, and I agree with him, and I think what she says to Sokka about not loving their mother the way she did was way out of line and uncalled for (that one I WILL criticize her for, because that's a horrible thing to say and completely unjustified) but I also think that Katara does need closure. She needs to see this guy if she's ever going to move past this; what worked for Aang won't necessarily work for her in letting go, because they have two different personalities with two entirely different sets of circumstances and experiences. It's one thing to grow up as an Air Nomad and absorbing those teachings over your whole life, it's another to simply hear them from another at this point in time, and it doesn't surprise me that Katara would be resistant to his point of view. She's going to need to do this her way to move on, and she does need to move on. I don't want to see her end up like Hama, with this need for revenge festering inside her for decades. Of course, I also didn't think she would actually go through with killing him, no matter what she said; I called that one right away, because I've seen similar plots before.

      What I didn't predict on first watch, was her using bloodbending again, on that man who turned out to be the wrong one. Whoa. Holy shit. On rewatch, the shot of the full moon before she and Zuko have their conversation on the cliff seemed like subtle foreshadowing, but on initial viewing I didn't catch it and was thus gobsmacked by her going there. It was a clear sign to me of the real danger she was in, of going too far and losing balance, and becoming like Hama. I'm glad that in the end, my prediction proved true and she held back and didn't kill Yon Rha. Her use of bloodbending is never addressed outright in the episode, which kind of bugs me, but I like to think that afterwards, as she stared down at her mother's murderer, she did stop and think about the possibility that she was starting to go too far, and that that's part of what held her back, and is also part of the turmoil we see on her face as she sits on the pier at the end.

      (To his credit, Zuko seems a bit disturbed by the bloodbending too. And I appreciate that he's simply there to support Katara in whatever she chooses to do – he never argues with her about her decision not to kill the guy.)

      It would have been too easy, too trite, too cliche, if she had decided at the end of the episode to forgive him. Maybe later in life she'll be able to get to that point, maybe not; who can say? But I won't judge her either way. What's most important for her right now is that she's chosen to forgive Zuko, to accept him and call him a friend. Awwww. πŸ˜€ The ending is so cute, I love it: I'm glad to see them finally able to be friends. It's another kind of closure for her, that I think she needed nearly as much as the confrontation with Yon Rha – closure for what happened in Ba Sing Se. The field trip wasn't a waste at all, for it was exactly what was needed to move past that day. I've heard this episode isn't too well-liked among the fandom, but personally, I'm a big fan, because of the character development it provides for Katara. She was never going to just forgive Zuko on her own without something like this happening, it had to happen like this. That's just the way she is. Which is very human, and I love her for being who she is, faults and all. The Painted Lady may have been a retread, but this was a progression for her, and so I'm very fond of it in the end.

      Other stuff:

      – "She's… not gonna make it. … of course she did." LOL this felt like such a lampshade. I love it.

      – Sokka has a lei I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE, SHOW. Nice job getting crap past the radar!

      – The better question, Aang, is why wouldn't he need Momo? We all need Momo. Or at least I do.

      – Yeah… what is Aang going to do when they get to that point? I'm glad Zuko pointed it out.

      • monkeybutter says:

        Sokka getting lei'd will never not make me giggle cackle.

        The way Sokka says Katara's name after she says he must have not love their mom the way she did kills me, and the hurtfulness of what she says really gets across how angry she is. And I love the look of shock on Zuko's face when Katara bloodbends. Yet another 14-year-old who can destroy him in a fight.

        • Tauriel_ says:

          Yeah, I felt so sorry for Sokka at that moment. I know Katara probably didn't really mean that (she was angry and it was in the heat of the moment), but… ouch.

          I'm glad that she's not portrayed as this perfect goodie character. She has flaws, which makes her realistic. I mean, who hasn't said something nasty and rash in their life which they regretted later? I know I have, and I'm not proud of it…

          • monkeybutter says:

            Yeah, saying just the right nasty thing while in a pique is a specialty of mine, and I've tried to rein it in as I've gotten older. Katara's shown her flaws before, but they're rarely this raw.

            • Tauriel_ says:

              Yeah, and on top of everything, she's 14. I mean, they're all special and more mature than other teenagers because of all the responsibility they carry, but they're still teenagers in the middle of puberty – and that doesn't really help with being diplomatic and weighing words before saying them…

      • hpfish13 says:

        I wouldn't say I don't like this episode, but it's not one I watch repeatedly. I think it's because it's such a painful and heavy episode. It's brilliantly crafted and everything, but it's just so difficult to watch. There's an episode of Buffy "Gur Obql" that I feel the same about; a fantastic piece of film-making (is it film-making if it's for tv?), but not one I particularly enjoy watching.

      • echinodermata says:

        "And I appreciate that he's simply there to support Katara in whatever she chooses to do – he never argues with her about her decision not to kill the guy."

        QFT. I would've been pissed had he jumped in and legislated morality to Katara or something. A Fire Nation prince, even if he's basically disowned, does not get to tell someone to stop seeking revenge on their GENOCIDAL WAR OPPRESSORS.

      • Senna says:

        I have to admit, her shot at Sokka bothers me every time too – mostly because I know that feeling. That being so angry that it stops mattering who it is who's standing in front of you, just feeling that impulse to go for the words that will hurt the most because you hurt so much and you're finally letting it out. Its my head canon that they did talk about it afterward because Katara strikes me as the sort who, in retrospect, would be horrified that she'd said that.

        I also really like that conversation all of them have, because all of them are right, in a sense. Aang is right that forgiveness will be the best path, but Zuko and Katara are right too. She needed to go. She needed to face that man. And she needed to see and decide for herself who she was going to be. Forgiveness is hard, Aang was right about that, and however strong a person might be in any other aspect of their lives, forgiving something so horrible isn't something everyone can do. The best you can do is confront the pain and try to be strong enough not to fall to their level – and Katara I think surprises herself by being strong enough to stay her hand. But the important thing is, no amount of Aang's philosophy, however correct and well-meaning, could have given Katara what making that decision herself did, and in that respect she and Zuko were right – she needed that.

        All in all, this is one of the episodes that's grown on me the most from first watch to now.

      • tigerpetals says:

        Really? I was unaware that this wasn't well-liked. Of course my main go-to places for discussion were Television Without Pity and the Zutara community.

        What I find funny is that Zuko's way of proving he is a good person to Katara is by helping her hunt down and kill a man. Of course it isn't really about proving himself, and it's more complicated than hunting down and killing a man, but still.

        Thinking about that, it bothers me that Katara was the only one treated as if her personal issues were the real problem to be overcome, and not anything Zuko did. She tells him off about Ba Sing Se, but that gets swept under a rug quickly.

        Also interesting is that this subverts a popular misconception of Katara as the sweet forgiving one, a self-righteous goody-two shoes, and even Mary Sue for some people. Of course part of the fuel for this mission was righteous rage, but it can hardly be called self-righteous or goody-goody.

        • Hey, are/were you in the Avatar thread on TWoP? I'm Polter-Cow.

        • Lavanya6 says:

          What I find funny is that Zuko's way of proving he is a good person to Katara is by helping her hunt down and kill a man.

          Well, Zuko *is* still from the Fire Nation. His is a culture with legally sanctified duels to the pain/death and that has spent the better part of a century putting the world under a yoke. Zuko is pretty well-adjusted despite all the crap he's endured over his lifetime, but he's still rooted in that mindset.

      • notemily says:

        It's one thing to grow up as an Air Nomad and absorbing those teachings over your whole life, it's another to simply hear them from another at this point in time, and it doesn't surprise me that Katara would be resistant to his point of view.

        Yes, this. I believe in a lot of Air Nomad Buddhist teachings myself, but they're not something you can just tell people and suddenly they'll GET IT. In fact, concepts like acceptance and forgiveness can seem downright insulting when you're trying to deal with a huge harm that has been done to you. Thanks for saying this.

        OTOH, yeah, telling Sokka he doesn't really love their mom as much as she does was out of line.

    • notemily says:

      OMG, Zuko's FACE. I can't even!

    • kartikeya200 says:

      It seems to have flipped a switch in her (the one labeled "EXTERMINATE!", if you're curious

      <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/ozaidalek.jpg"&gt;

  3. Matt_Thermo says:

    Before I get to the meat of my post (sorry Toph, just an expression), I just wanted to address Sokka tent scene. This isn't the first time there's been implied sex between characters. The creators admitted that in "Nightmares and Daydreams", they wanted to subtly suggest that Mai and Zuko were sexually active. They did that by showing Zuko at Mai's house at night, then in the next scene (between them), it's morning and Zuko's in a robe. It's not real obvious, so I can see how that slid past the censors.

    But there's nothing subtle about the implied sexing in this episode. Sokka's expecting Suki in his tent, with a rose in his mouth, and he's not wearing pants!

    How the hell did they get away with that on Nickelodeon!?

    Alright, just had to get that out of my system. Now on to the real point of my post…

    "Then you didn’t love her the way I did. "

    I can still remember how much flak the fandom gave Katara got for that line. And it does seem like an especially cruel thing to say, but I think it really helps to understand whats really fueling Katara's anger in this episode.

    Guilt.

    Just imagine the situation she was put in back when her mother died. She was there, in that igloo, standing face to face with both her mother (for the last time) and the man who killed her. She was there, and she ran away. Can you imagine living with that your whole life. Now granted, there was nothing she could have done. Her own mother even told her to leave. But do you really think that makes a difference to Katara? How many time do you think she's run through that scenario in her head. Constantly wondering if there was something she could have done, something she could have said. Heck, maybe even just not leaving would have prevented this man from murdering a mother in front of her child. Katara's been living with that her entire life. Imagine how many night's she's gone to sleep, seeing that man's face and reliving that moment over and over again, always wondering "what if…"?

    So here, she's finally been presented with the opportunity to face the man who not only took her mother away, but who's also haunted her since that day, and Sokka's telling her to just let it go! Now, yes. What she said was cruel, but when you really understand where all that anger is coming from, then it's a little easier to understand why she lashed out the way she did.

    In fact, I took the liberty of using Bablefish and I set it to translate from "English" to "Angry, Guilt ridden Katara" (which may not be supported by all browsers), and I got this.

    "Then you didn’t love her the way I did. " translates into, "Screw you Sokka, you're not the one who let mom die!"

    I'd even be willing to bet that that same guilt may have been one of the driving factors that led her to take on her mothers role as much as she did.

    • Shamu says:

      Man, I had to bite my tongue to keep from mentioning the tent scene and Sokka getting "lei'd" when arguing with people about the Zuko/Mai scene. A+ flying under the radar, there, Bryke.

    • Imasalmon says:

      Not only that, but the next morning, Sokka is wearing a lei. Clearly, he got lei'd.

    • sam says:

      I've been watching this show for such a long time and for some reason I never made that connection with Katara's guilt. You worded it perfectly!

    • Strabo says:

      I never understood the hate Katara got (as with much hate she got over time) for the "You didn't love her the way I did". Because, you know, it's probably true. She doesn't say Sokka didn't love his mother. He surely did, but the connection between a daughter and a mother can be something far, far stronger than between a boy and a mother. And Sokka himself admits that he often doesn't see the face of Kya anymore when he thinks of "mother", but Katara. All the time during the series he was oriented and fixated on his father (and loves him in a way Katara proably never could – the bond between father and son can be something special too after all). Katara was/is the same with her mother. In the swamp, when everyone saw the person they desire most it was Katara who saw her mom.

      • sam says:

        Yeah, a lot of people sort of listened to only half of that sentence. But I don't think it's necessary to point out tthat "mothers and daugthers" have special "connections" like that. I know you used the word "can" and all that, but it would have been easier to stick to discussing the canon of this show, as you were doing.

      • Classtoise says:

        The reason is because (and it was portrayed like this) it was her anger getting the best of her. She was insisting because he had moved on, he didn’t love their mother.

        It was SUPPOSED to make you mad at her, because it was the point when her anger boiled over to her lashing out at FAMILY. Not just friends, her actual blood related brother.

        I just love her scene in the rain. It’s so amazing when you watch the first episode where she can barely create a small bubble of water without concentrating, to now where she STOPS A NATURAL EVENT. Literally. She just stops the rain. It’s just a completely intense moment that shows she truly is a master Waterbender (And, barring the Avatar state, better than Aang.)

      • Rickard says:

        Actually, the reason she gets so much flak is a combination of this and earlier behavior.

        She's a hypocrite(see The Runaway), self-righteous(seen several times), and incredibly bossy(pretty much any time she decides on something, she either bullies the entire group into doing it, or simply forces them by other means- Purple berries). Oh, and she has no problem throwing around grievously hurtful remarks without even saying Sorry(Toph and the Beautiful Stars, this comment now), if somebody even merely disagrees with her.

        I have no problems with people liking her for her positive sides. It's when people put her on pedestal, or glorify her while talking smack about other characters I get irritated.

        Katara is perhaps the character that has the most good sides. But she also has the most BAD sides as well.

        This makes her a very well developed character, but I personally don't like her because her flaws are the exact kind that makes me rage when I encounter people like her in real life. And to me, that outweighs her positive sides.

        "but the connection between a daughter and a mother can be something far, far stronger than between a boy and a mother"

        Not true, and even the show itself acknowledges that with Ursa(who killed a man to save her son, then left without doing a thing for her daughter). Boys can have just as close bonds with their mothers as girls.

        • Strabo says:

          The keyword is "can". And in my experience it is more often the case than between mother and son. But YMMV after all.

          In "The Runaway" she wasn't a hypocrite – Katara didn't have a problem with the scamming, she had a problem with it drawing attention to them, which Sokka himself was complaining about several episodes before.

          Yes, she is bossy and angry a handful of times. So is Sokka. So is Toph. Hell, Aang has his angry moments when he snaps at people. You don't see pages and pages of diatribes over it. Or "lol, PMS" posts.

        • Gabby says:

          Completely agree with everything you said (so much so that I had to comment even though I'm incredibly late).

          I one-hundred percent despise Katara in this episode — not because she does what she does or because she feels what she feels — but because she never apologizes to Sokka. For someone who spends her entire existence bemoaning the loss of a family member, she sure does tend to treat the ones she's still got in her daily life pretty terribly (which is true to life for some people and carries the message about opening your eyes to the blessings that are still around you every day but since the show never really vocalizes that… it's kind of left to be an implication to pick up on and not something that's openly addressed).

          Katara never apologizes to Sokka and what makes this more heinous is that it clearly felt (to me) like Katara was rubbing in Sokka's face the incredibly brave confession she overheard him make to Toph during The Runaway. Nice. To your own brother, use a moment that he was openly talking about something that's clearly painful to both you and he to help forge a bond between you and another teammate and throw it in his face to get your way. Good going.

    • hungriestgame says:

      I really love the way this episode recontextualizes all of Katara's actions, especially those in The Painted Lady and The Runaway. At the time, it seems like she's way overdoing the protective bit. She seems controlling and even a little petty. But when you see she was the one person who could have saved her mom and that she failed (not that she could have actually saved her mom because she was very small, but to her that's how she feels), it makes way more sense why she goes to extremes to keep people safe.

    • @amyalices says:

      This is an excellent comment.

      Poor Sokka – but dear god, poor Katara! How horrible to have that guilt on you for years, and have no way of letting it out.

    • linguisticisms says:

      I never saw Katara getting that flak, but hearing about it brings to mind the heat Ginny gets for her fight with Ron in HBP.

  4. lilah80 says:

    "Dear Diary,
    Azula tried to kill me, and then I fell down. But this time she fell down too. I'm making progress! Oh, and I have two friends now, Sokka and Aang. They say good morning to me and everything, and they don't cower when they see me, which is really nice. Sokka even let me throw his boomerang once, and there was barely any blood. I am on fire! Now all I have to do is win over Katara by helping her kill somebody. Then I'll have THREE friends, which is more than Azula ever had, so there!" – Zuko

  5. accioetoile says:

    So, when Zuko goes to chat with Sokka about what's bothering Katara, he first bumps into Suki outside Sokka's tent, and then encounters this when he enters the tent:

    <img src="http://i52.tinypic.com/2a64mit.png"&gt;

    And then the next morning, Sokka is seen playing with this:

    <img src="http://i53.tinypic.com/4r6q9k.png"&gt;

    Sokka, you sly dog, you. πŸ˜‰

    (or should I say Bryke, you sly dogs, you?)

    • accioetoile says:

      And now, on a more serious note, this episode. OH, this episode. How I cry every single time I watch you.

    • Time-Machine says:

      This remains one of my favourite visual puns ever. Sokka is playing with a lei, because he got lei'd.

      Mike and Bryan: getting shit past the radar. πŸ˜€

    • Embies says:

      To me, the most ground-breaking part of that scene was how Suki was totally ok with it.
      I don't know, I guess I'm too used to some girls from anime acting like preschoolers when facing the idea of sex, or many different instances in the media implying that women can't possibly have any reason to do it other than getting pregnant.

      • viyamusic says:

        I don't know, it wasn't so surprising to me considering how well rounded and strong all the female characters have been portrayed up unto this point. They may be youth, but youth who have had to live on their own, reasoning and acting like adults, having to deal with situations above and beyond things that the normal adult encounters, and are about to go into a war where they may not all make it. I think that knowing all this, the writers portrayed exactly what would go down and were realistic in their writing. Not all anime characters are put in such precarious situations, or act as realistically as the characters of Avatar.

        • Embies says:

          You're right, we shouldn't expect anything less from the Avatar creators. I was just so unprepared!
          When Sokka's "well hello" was shown in a trailer, the fans' imagination ran wild. Some were even saying that snippet was just for promotional material, many dismissed the idea of Sokka waiting for Suki as too adult for Nickelodeon. A lot of people were even able to predict that Zuko would have interrupt him, but even during the fandom speculation Suki was considered unaware of Sokka's romantic plan at best, or even repulsed by it.

    • mou issai says:

      Ohh… I thought he was making a necklace for Suki, like how Aang made one for Katara.

      Oh good lord. Do not tell me that Aang's necklace meant anything else.

      • jeno says:

        Well, you could say there's some subtext in Aang's necklace to Katara in the sense that it's a replacement for an engagement necklace (according to Northern Water Tribe customs).

  6. Embies says:

    The animation for this episode is kinda cheap, the studios in Korea were probably busy with the last episodes, but there's still some nice details.

    Toph is still sleeping in her little earth tent:

    <img src="http://iroh.org/screencaps/ep56/ep56-4.png"&gt;

    Azula's expressions when she's fighting have completely changed: she used to look calm and focused:

    <img src="http://piandao.org/screencaps/ep36/ep36-1253.png"&gt;

    Now she's more angry and out of control:

    <img src="http://iroh.org/screencaps/ep56/ep56-285.png"&gt;

    Yon Rha's mask strongly resembles Zuko's scar:

    <img src="http://iroh.org/screencaps/ep56/ep56-685.png"&gt;

  7. Tauriel_ says:

    This episode. THIS EPISODE. <3

    Epic firebending duel on top of an airship!

    Suki officially joining Team Avatar!

    Sokka's romantic tent!

    Character history flashbacks!

    Aang speaking words of wisdom: "Let it be"!

    Ninja!Zuko and Ninja!Katara!

    Epic waterbending! ("So there I was, and I was like, you know… AAAAAAARRRGH!!!" *whoooooosh*)

    Scary Katara is scary!

    Katara forgiving Zuko and hugging him! (my inner Zutarian dances with joy πŸ˜€ )

    … and then the most poignant exchange ever:

    Zuko: "Violence wasn't the answer."
    Aang: "It never is."
    Zuko: "Then I have a question for you: What do you intend to do when you face my father?"
    Aang: …… aw crap.

    Touché, Zuko. Touché.

    Interesting factoids:

    Katara and Sokka's mother was voiced by Grey "Azula" DeLisle! And she sounds COMPLETELY different! That woman is a genius voice actress.

    In the unaired pilot, Katara's name was originally Kya, but apparently that was a name of the main character of another show (or game, I can't remember), so Bryke had to change it and came up with Katara. They later gave the name Kya to the (until this episode unnamed) mother of Katara and Sokka.

  8. RocketDarkness says:

    One episode after her friends betrayed her, we get to see what Azula's like when she doesn't have anyone to second-guess or restrain her. She decides to show up at the Western Air Temple with the sole purpose of killing Zuko. I love the way they use her slightly unkempt hair to symbolize both horns and her growing lack of restraint. Her plan isn't nearly as clever as any of her previous ones; opting to simply bring a whole squadron of War Zepplins and bomb the whole damn temple. It's interesting to see how she completely ignores the rest of the gang's escape attempt in favor of focusing on Zuko. And what a great confrontation it is. With his newfound firebending knowledge, he easily matches up with Azula blow for blow, effortlessly slicing through her blasts and returning fire with equal ferocity.

    I just want to take a brief intermission right here and say how hilarious (and accurate) it is that Sokka and Suki waste no time in getting it on as soon as the adults are gone.

    In the main plot, however, we see Katara angrier than we've ever seen her before. She's out for blood, and puts aside her normal moral code to do whatever it takes for vengeance, even voluntarily employing bloodbending. With her doing most of the fighting, we gain an understanding of how incredibly powerful she has become. Whereas in the Book of Water she could barely keep herself dry during a light rain, here we see her creating an enormous rain-free bubble with ease. Terrifying.

    In regards to Yon Rha, how incredibly frustrating must it be to find out that this horrible man who utterly ruined your childhood was a lowlife nobody with no redeeming qualities? At least if it was someone more…successful, you could feel more vindication. But he's not, he's an old man who lives with his mother because he has no other friends. The last thing you want to feel about your target of vengeance is pity and revulsion. It does make me wonder whether Katara would chosen to/been able to end his life if he was more powerful and less pathetic.

    • Rickard says:

      Actually, I was kinda miffed at the "obviously pathetic" guy Yon Rha turned out to be.

      Why couldn't it have been a guy who was basically a saint to his men and to all the people he knows, but also was a loyal soldier?

      It certainly would have provided a nicer plot.

      • H. Torrance Griffin says:

        But reconciling that with shooting a surrendering woman down in cold blood rather than taking her prisoner would be a lot harder….

  9. monkeybutter says:

    Katara’s turn for a little field trip with Zuko! There are a lot of thrilling and funny moments in the past few episodes, but “The Southern Raiders” is so much sadder than Aang and Sokka’s adventures. Aang can learn firebending, Sokka can rescue the people he thinks he’s let down, but Katara can never bring her mother back. I can’t rewatch this episode without crying, especially when we get a glimpse at the last carefree moment in Katara and Sokka’s life.

    <img src="http://i53.tinypic.com/dow714.gif"&gt;
    They’re adorable, and it’s hard seeing how young Katara was when she effectively took her mom’s place. Everything goes to crap when the sooty snow starts to fall.

    I think it’s really fitting that Zuko was the one to make the trip with Katara, since the loss of their mothers is what they bonded over in the Crystal Catacombs. He understands her loss and desire for revenge, as unproductive as that may be. Even though he’s not guilty for his nation’s crimes, he betrayed her after Katara revealed how badly the Fire Nation has hurt her family. Her mother’s death is the worst day of her life, and her journey with Aang to save world, and the smaller individual actions of helping people in need (oh hey, that line would be great here) all spring from that loss; to have someone else know just how terrible the Fire Lord is, how badly he hurts people, and then rejoin the fight against the Avatar is a terrible betrayal. Katara’s Roku-echoing threat to Zuko is even more powerful after seeing what happened to Kya. Katara and Zuko have to do this together to bring closure to what happened in “The Crossroads of Destiny.”

    I love the growth Katara shows in this episode; I think everyone has mentioned Aang and Zuko’s amazing character arcs, but Katara does most of her emotional maturing before the series began. We get to see her as an undeveloped waterbender, helpless to save her mother, and the extraordinary master she’s become.

    <img src="http://i55.tinypic.com/2qkndvl.png"&gt;
    <img src="http://i54.tinypic.com/14y1ytu.gif"&gt;
    Everything she’s done over the course of this series, especially mastering waterbending, has been for the fulfillment of her personal journey. Though she only now learns that her mother died to protect her, learning how to waterbend, and using those skills to help others and defeat the Fire Nation is the best way to avenge her mother. She now has the ability to protect people, and while she uses bloodbending, she also displays the wisdom not to fall into the unsatisfying spiral of revenge as Hama did. I agree, it was so cathartic to see Katara let out all of her seething rage. I love Katara. She’s an amazing character, and I’m glad we got to see this before the series end.

    Oh, and I guess Azula is still scary, Sokka and Suki are cute, and Aang just got smacked upside the head.

    • monkeybutter says:

      I teared up while watching this last night, I teared up while proofreading this, I bawled while watching JK Rowling and the trio talk at the premiere, and now I've teared up at your review. I'm officially a wreck. I'm sorry, Mark. The MySpace dumping is sad and funny, but otherwise, I'm sorry you sympathize so much with Katara's seething rage. Hugging you through a series of tubes.

    • sam says:

      That last gif. I still think waterbending is the most fun to watch. It's based on tai chi, which has this beautiful gracefullness that's perfect for waterbending, even angry waterbending. And Katara just looks so cool when she's doing it. Like, when she's collecting all the rain above her head. So much awe.

      Anyway, I'm already loving all the Katara talk in the comments today. <3 (she's gravely underappreciated)

      • Strabo says:

        "Anyway, I'm already loving all the Katara talk in the comments today. <3 (she's gravely underappreciated)"

        Yes, she is underappreciated. She helds the group together, has incredible patience 90 % of the time and asks for nothing in return. But the handful of times in the series she actually gets angry (and when she does she knows exactly where to hit people to hurt her the most) or steps out of the moral center of the group are discussed and held against her endlessly by the fandom.

        • tigerpetals says:

          Totally. And I love those moments where she stops being the center or gets angry.

  10. @maybegenius says:

    I always think of this episode as "The Episode Where Zuko Got A Hug." I can't help it.

    Also, "The Episode With The Sokka-An-Suki-Got-Lei'd Innuendo." KID'S SHOW.

    There are many other hilarious and awesome (AND SAD) things about this episode, but that's always what sticks with me.

    • @maybegenius says:

      Also, I'd like this comment to be "The Comment Where I Give Mark Immense Hugs And Tell Him How Amazing He Is And How Much My Heart Hurts For His Experiences."

  11. Tauriel_ says:

    or ten years down the line, I’m some mega-awesome billionaire and one of them sits down for a job interview at my office and I get to tell them that they ruined my life as a kid, so NO, I WILL NOT GIVE YOU THIS JOB, and I’ll get to cackle maliciously as they sulk out of the building and get hit by a comet.

    I'm probably a horrible person for thinking it, but this mental image is HILARIOUS, and I literally lol'd. XD

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      RIGHT

      IT'S SO EPIC

      • arctic_hare says:

        EXACTLY, WHICH IS WHY I LOL'D TOO

        YOU JUST HAVE A WAY WITH WORDS AND CREATING FANTASTIC MENTAL IMAGES, MAN πŸ˜€

        • xpanasonicyouthx says:

          like CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE FLOWERS

          fuck those would be delicious

          i'd roll around in a field of those

    • jubilantia says:

      RIGHT? So funny. I think what really got me was the hilariously unexpected "hit by a comet" at the end.

  12. MocataJoy says:

    Well, there's a lot of dark shit in the episode, but let's focus on the positive. Katara's acceptance of Zuko at the end means that ZUKO IS FINALLY, OFFICIALLY, A PART OF TEAM AVATAR, 100% FOR REALZ.

    So, Mark, in honor of your wonderful predictions of Zuko's eventual acceptance, I give you this:

    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/Axoha.jpg&quot; alt="" title="Hosted by imgur.com" />

    It is Team Avatar, atop a giant cupcake. Aang is dancing and rainbow-bending. Sokka and Katara are love-bending, Katara while riding a unicorn. Zuko is holding a cookie. Toph is petting a puppy. Enjoy.

  13. Strabo says:

    This episode had some of the most powerful and beautifully haunting scenes and dialogues in the series, maybe on TV in general. The whole sequence when the the zeppelins appear, and the bombs fly. When Katara and Zuko take out the ship of the Southern Raiders (you don't want to mess with a Waterbender on the sea. During a full moon). Then when Katara Blood Bends – love the surprised look on Zuko's face. Of course the whole sequence when she confronts the man who killed her mother. And the flashbacks. It's such an amazing, intense episode, one of my favourite of the whole series and in many parts a second part/closer to "The Puppet Master".

    I love how Zuko is absolutely willing to go with Katara to give her revenge. And that she doesn't do it. "I won't forgive him, but I fogive you". And of course Zuko asks Aang the crucial question: What will you do when you defeat Ozai?

    PS: Damn, Sokka and Suki, got lucky that night.

    • Shiroikami says:

      "Then when Katara Blood Bends – love the surprised look on Zuko's face."

      This.

      Specifically that the expression conveys not just surprise at seeing the bloodbending technique for the first time, but also a slight edge of fear because at that very moment, Zuko realizes that Katara's been HOLDING BACK whenever she gets mad at him. And then he follows that expression up with one that kind of says "Fine. This is what she needs."

      That single instant is the reason that I watch this episode at every available opportunity. Just that one instant.

  14. daigo says:

    You can really tell Azula's breaking down here. She just seems a little more… wild. Less in control of herself. The way she just declares with glee "Can't you tell? I'm about to celebrate becoming an ONLY CHILD!!!"

    She doesn't seem to be doing too well. πŸ™

    • Fishylungs says:

      That is seriously one of my top 2 favorite lines from her. She just says it with so much conviction and pure hatred.

      For the record my other favorite line is her introduction.

      Captain: Princess, I'm afraid the tides won't allow us to bring the ship into port before nightfall.
      Azula: I'm sorry, Captain, but I do not know much about the tides. Can you explain something to me?
      Captain: Of course.
      Azula: Do the tides command this ship?
      Captain: I'm afraid I don't understand.
      Azula: You said "the tides would not allow us to bring the ship in." Do the tides command this ship?
      Captain: No, Princess.
      Azula: And if I were to have you thrown overboard, would the tides think twice about having you smashed against the rocky shore?
      Captain: No, Princess.
      Azula: Well, then, maybe you should worry less about the tides, who've already made up their mind about killing you, and worry more about me, who's still mulling it over.

      I don't "like" her but her whole character kills me and I could easily watch "evil little girl sets fire to things you like and then jokes about it. (poorly)"

    • Alan says:

      She's losing control of herself. I mean, homegirl brought a small army with her just to take down her brother.

  15. I am angry that I grew up in a household where it was perfectly acceptable for my parents to call me a faggot and tell me they’d rather have a dead son than a gay one.
    This past Thanksgiving, my mom said that she would rather I had never been born than for me to marry a white girl. Parents, man.

    My childhood was not nearly as traumatic as yours, but I do identify with not having a "normal" experience, the one so commonly depicted in television and movies. I do enjoy them, but I can't really relate to them. Even Freaks and Geeks. I wasn't allowed to date. I wasn't allowed to go to my prom. I did have friends, or…something (this one time my mom yelled at me, asking me to name one friend I had, and I couldn't think of anyone), but it wasn't until college that I made real, true friends, and understood what friendship really was.

    I'm glad this episode helped you understand something about yourself. It's amazing when television can do that.

    • Tauriel_ says:

      I am angry that I grew up in a household where it was perfectly acceptable for my parents to call me a faggot and tell me they’d rather have a dead son than a gay one.

      This past Thanksgiving, my mom said that she would rather I had never been born than for me to marry a white girl. Parents, man.

      Reading stuff like that makes me almost ashamed that I have such wonderful and supportive parents who have always stood by me even when I screwed up… I'm incredibly thankful that I have them. Why can't everyone have good parents?! Gah, life is so unfair… πŸ™

      • echinodermata says:

        There's no need to be ashamed, of course, though I have felt similarly being that I know my family is pretty awesome.

        Mine is a mixed-race family, and my parents were the ones to be all shocking and marry foreigners. So I'm thankful that growing up I knew my parents would never stop me from dating someone because of their race. Or that if they ever did, it would be of such hypocrisy that even they would have to eventually admit to being wrong.

        • Tauriel_ says:

          All my family are white (Slovakia is fairly mono-racial, so mixed-race marriages are rare and usually involve foreigners who have moved here), but my Mum has repeatedly made a point that she doesn't care how my future husband looks like, as long as he's a good man, she'll happily accept him into family. I have a feeling she'll be the best mother-in-law ever. πŸ™‚

          … now my only problem is finding a good husband… XD

    • MocataJoy says:

      Holy shit dude. I relate to this so much right now, but in a totally different way. On July 16th (god damn that's coming up fast) I'm getting married to an awesome dude from South Korea. His parents are PISSED that I'm white. Like…completely, totally, irrationally pissed. I feel bad for him and for everything they've put him through.

      At least once we're married I will be in a position where I can more comfortably give them sass. : )

      • Congratulations, and best of luck with the parents! Be prepared for at least a year of shit before they grudgingly accept you into their family.

        • MocataJoy says:

          Lol thanks. Thankfully the cultural norms they ascribe to don't allow them to actually be shitty to my FACE. Which is just awesome.

        • Naru says:

          A friend of mine wasn't accepted by her mother in law (because she's asian and her hubby's family is white, as well as other stupid reasons) until she had kids. And even now its a very strained relationship. So good luck but don't keep your hopes too high.

      • shadeedge says:

        Congrats and best of luck to the both of you! πŸ™‚

        You do realise as a Mark Xs fan, you're contractually obliged to fly us all out to SK for the wedding? :p

    • Avatar_fan_mom says:

      Like, why do people think this crap is OK to say to kids?!

      My favorite growing up was my dad & grandparents saying that they would rather me be a lesbian than date a black man.

      (Ok, so I got some acceptance for being interested in girls….but in a very disgustingly racist way.)

      • skinchanger says:

        My grandparents informed my sister of something similar when she came-out to them. And I quote: "I don't know what's worse – dating a woman or dating a *censored*"

        Tolerance of any kind is apparently something they lack. Go figure.

    • hpfish13 says:

      Yeah, my life experience don't match up with the common ones on TV or in movies, but it's not because I wasn't allowed. I didn't date, didn't go to the school dances, not because my parents kept me from it, but because no one ever asked me. I often feel like I missed out on a huge part of growing up, because at 25, I have been on one date, and it was 2 months ago.

      But then I read Mark's stories and those of the other posters on this blog and I realize that at least I had the option open to me, at least my parents (or really my parent–my dad=not so supportive) were there for me through thick and thin.

      In conclusion…Everyone needs a hug!

      • I'm about to turn 30, and I have been on…two dates? I think having dinner with someone I met on OKCupid counts as a date, even if it didn't go anywhere. I don't think meeting potential future wives really counts, but that would increase the number a bit. (Not to say that I haven't engaged in some hanky-panky. But not so much with the dating.)

        I wish you more dates in the future! You have a great smile.

      • @amyalices says:

        Yeeeeah, I feel you there.

        HUGS FOR EVERYONE.

      • PhsntPlkr says:

        Are you me?

    • lossthief says:

      Well, my mom hasn't gotten to THAT extreme, but over the past year she's given me a lot of shit for dating a Christian girl.

      I really just want to tell me mom that HER experience with Christianity isn't like everyone else's, and that my girlfriend attending church isn't that big a deal.

      • Doodle says:

        I've been experiencing a similar issue with my family. My boyfriend is a Christian, and they always make these snide little comments about it as though it's something horrible. I realize many Christians fail to live up to the ideals of love and acceptance that Jesus puts forth, but they have made judgments about him without even talking to him about his philosophies.

        • freeradicals says:

          I dated an agnostic boy in high school, and his family would give him so much crap about visiting church with me. Which didn't exactly make me feel great, especially with the implication that I was backwards and ignorant because I am religious. I hope the situation you are in improves, I know it isn't a comfortable place to be!

          • Tauriel_ says:

            I think that thinking all religious people are automatically backwards and ignorant is in itself backwards and ignorant.

      • midgi says:

        I'm kind of in the opposite position where my boyfriend's mother has issues with ME being Christian. I know she's had bad experiences and that she's made her own decision about how she feels about it, but she's not letting him do the same, and she's generalizing her specific experiences across the whole of Christianity. It makes me feel horrible because she's such a lovely lady otherwise, but she's gone on rants about how terrible Christianity is RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME and she told him he's not allowed to go to start going to church. It's really painful for me to sit there and listen to that. :

  16. echinodermata says:

    I feel a little silly that this episode can invoke such strong memories and personal reflections on oneself and the struggle of carrying anger around all the time. But my reaction to this episode was GIFSPAM!

    So, um, thank you Mark for sharing, truly. I feel like I don't have an adequate response.

    Anyway, here's my planned comment:
    I love you Katara. And I would root for you, whatever your decision. So have a gifspam in your honor:
    <img src="http://i52.tinypic.com/330y6g4.gif"&gt;
    <img src="http://i54.tinypic.com/2cgln9d.gif"&gt;
    <img src="http://i55.tinypic.com/sdmsue.gif"&gt;
    <img src="http://i54.tinypic.com/14brj4k.gif"&gt;

    (And one of Azula, cause I can't resist.)
    <img src="http://i55.tinypic.com/e9vmud.gif"&gt;

  17. xpanasonicyouthx says:

    can i just say

    i am so glad no one pointed out that I used CANNON to mean a show's CANON.

    like holy fuck what an unfortunate type.

    • Oh please. That's nothing compared to some of your past typos. Like that time Wiress had a theory about a cock.

    • Amy says:

      I saw that in the post and thought, "You gotta forgive the man SOME typos, he writes like a demon, speed-wise!" πŸ˜€

    • Nate Dawg says:

      I wonder if you typing "type" instead of "typo" is a further reference to this travesty?

    • echinodermata says:

      I'm just glad you know the difference, and that this is just a typo.

    • Tauriel_ says:

      Hey, at least you didn't type "consummation" instead of "consumption" like I did a while back in the spoiler blog… XD

      Ah, the joy of being a non-native English speaker. I always manage to find a new awkward typo/wrong word choice. *sigh* πŸ˜›

      • FlameRaven says:

        English is a tricky language. Things like this happen to everybody. I'm a native speaker, and there was a really awkward moment when I was younger where I said "erotic" when I meant "erratic." Everyone looked at me for a second before I realized what I said and then I was like OH SHIT WAIT.

      • hpfish13 says:

        In high school, a girl in my science class meant to say organism, and, well, you can probably guess what came out instead.

        She was pretty embarrassed….

        • accioetoile says:

          haha, in 8th grade, a girl had to read from our science book, and every time she read "organism", she said a word that meant something quite different, too. She never realized it, though.

    • shirtninjas says:

      Mark, if you haven't seen this, it will make you feel better about typos:
      http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alo

    • viyamusic says:

      Don't worry… it couldn't be worse than anything on damnyouautocorrect.com

    • monkeybutter says:

      Nah, when everyone's dreaming of bloody revenge, cannon is a perfect typo. Nothing will beat your Hunger Games typos, though.

    • hpfish13 says:

      I'm pretty sure you also said someone through paint at you instead of pain, as well….

    • enigmaticagentscully says:

      You had a pretty awesome typo once about Haymitch swigging from a 'bottle of win', if I recall correctly.

      The occasional typo makes life more fun and unpredictable. πŸ˜›

    • Mikan says:

      I once wrote 'dick' instead of 'duck'. It was very awkward. XD

    • jubilantia says:

      Heeeeee. Yeah, sometimes I wish I could look over your posts for you because I always see typos, but then I remember: blog post on the internet. Just relax. Let it go.

    • Tauriel_ says:

      I've lost count of how many times I accidentally typed "Best retards" instead of "Best regards" in work e-mails… Luckily, I've always managed to correct it before sending the e-mail. πŸ˜€

  18. Alan says:

    I wonder if Toph saw what Sokka and Suki were doing…

  19. Depths_of_Sea says:

    I have such mixed feelings regarding this episode. On the one hand, SOKKA AND KATARA BACKSTORY HOORAY! And I'm impressed and happy that they took such a risk with this episode and went as dark as they did. On the other hand, it doesn't show off Zuko or Katara's ah… more flattering character atributes. Like at all. But more on that later.

    I love how the episode starts all quiet and peacefully and then whammo! Right into battle. And is it me or Azula look a little, uh, angrier than usual?

    <img src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/ep56-89.png&quot; alt="" />

    That is a terrifying feral grin there.

    Also during this sequence is obvious foreshadowing for Katara's later "field trip with Zuko" (lol and they lampshade it even), and a quick disposing of the excess characters so the writers could stay focused on the Gaang. Plus Suki, and I couldn't help a little giggle when Sokka grabbed her hand and pulled her with him to be with HIS group.

    <img src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/ep56-171.png&quot; alt="" />

    So unsublte Sokka.

    I understand why the writers split up the group-eleven characters are hard to juggle in any medium-but I have to admit it would've been nice to see Teo and Haru and The Duke being part of the main group together with the rest.

    In a wonderful moment of continuity, Zuko's firebending is noticably a lot better, more powerful and more under control since his trip to the Sun Warriors. For the first time on the show he's able to match Azula relatively well. Awesome touch there.

    And then it's back to camping in the wilderness. And I could write pages and pages on Katara's continued bitterness and resentment towards Zuko and how she doesn't think it was funny how he was constantly chasing Aang trying to capture him and how she mentally and emotionally connects Zuko to her mother's death. We got a glimpse of that back in "Crossroads of Destiny", only there it was more abstract, because Zuko's face was just the symbol for the Fire Nation that killed her mother. Here it's a lot more personal. And I kind of wish it had been made a little clearer that Katara projects her anger about her mother's death on Zuko because of that one time he helped almost kill Aang. We've seen that Katara doesn't react well to losing her Most Important Person, and like with Hakoda in "The Awakening", she equivocates and connects Aang almost dying back in Ba Sing Se to the loss and "death" (actual and figurative) of another major support figure in her life. Almost losing Aang reminds her of losing her mother, and Zuko's presence in the group constantly reminds her of how she almost lost Aang and so-by proxy-of losing her mother. Which equals RESENMENT HELL.

    So Zuko naturally concludes that if he can bring Katara closure on her mother's death, he can earn her forgiveness at last.

    (Turning to a slightly lighter subject for a moment, holy cow Sokka and Suki had canon off-screen implied sex in a cartoon on freaking Nickelodeon how did they get away with that?! I am amazed and amused and mostly just want to point at the screen and Suki's awkward little nervous grin when she bumps into Zuko and LAUGH AND LAUGH AND LAUGH.)

    <img src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/ep56-389.png&quot; alt="" />
    Zuko: Master Cockblock.

    (cont.)

    • Depths_of_Sea says:

      Aaaaand then this is where things get uncomfortable for me. I just, urgh, I do not like Katara or Zuko very much in this episode. The nastier parts of their personality surface and I just want to smack them both. Katara I give more slack to, because she's a very hurt fourteen-year-old girl who's still grieving her mother, but it's still terrible as hell to see her snap into BLOOD REVENGE KILLING DEATH mode and get so obsessed with her revenge and anger that she almost loses herself, almost loses that big part of her character that is kind and compassionate and wants to help everyone and has hope in the face of crushing despair. Katara is not herself in this episode. I do love how Aang senses that. He knows Katara, knows her character, and knows this vengeful person out for blood is not who she really is. He can see her self-destructive emotions and actions for what they are. And even though it hurts him to see her that way and he encourages her to be better than that, urges her not to take this path, cautions her against doing something he knows will fundamentally change her… ultimately, he lets her go and make her own decision. By herself, for herself.

      Whereas Zuko encourages and enables Katara's destructive behavior. In order to get on her good side, so that her anger won't be directed at him for once. I think this is the biggest reason these two skeeve me out as a romantic couple, because here we have Katara, clearly obsessive and full of hate and negative emotions, relentlessly pursing revenge to the point where she uses bloodbending which had previously horrifed her to do and Zuko does absolutely nothing about it except aide and abet her and push her to pursue the quest. The first time I watched this episode I literally could not stop thinking about how MASSIVELY UNHEATHY this was. As much as this episode gives Zuko and Katara, it also detracts a whole lot. Too much, for me.

      It didn't help that Zuko mocked Aang's quoting of Air Nomad wisdom. NO I'M SORRY ZUKO, YOU DO NOT GET TO MOCK FORGIVENESS WHEN YOU ARE ACTIVELY SEEKING FORGIVENESS FROM A MEMBER OF THE GROUP. Katara's line about how Sokka didn't love their mother was overly harsh and terrible too but that one at least has the excuse of being made in anger. Zuko's just being a massive hypocrite. I didn't like this slide in character development from him. He had been doing so well.

      Anyway, I do like how wonderfully dark this episode got. Who would've ever thought regular old waterbending could be scarier than bloodbending? I love how they made Kya's killer this pathetic shell of a man. That's something this show has always excelled at-humanzing the "villains", the enemy. And I love how, even though he's not physically there, Aang's presence is just so palpable in the climactic scene, hovering by Katara's ear like a little shoulder angel, whispering encouragement to her in her Darkest Hour. It's an amazingly subtle and brilliant callback to the cooldown hug in "The Desert". Both of them were so filled with rage and grief and despair that they almost killed, almost did something they would forever regret.

      Both of them called out wordlessly to the other and brought them back from the brink.

      It was a nice realistic touch to have Katara not forgive the man who killed her mother. Katara isn't perfect after all, she's a hurting teenage girl and she's probably going to hang on to that bitterness for a while still. She's not ready to let it go. But she is ready to stop blaming Zuko for something he didn't do, and forgive him. Their hug is poignant and wonderful, a beautiful reconciliation and mending of trust between them.

      And then FORESHADOWING DUN DUN DUN! A masterfully suspenseful note to end on.

      • Elle says:

        THANK YOU!!! Zuko just irritated me so much in episode. And I like you mentioned that Aang is kind of like a shoulder angel. His presence is felt in that scene.

      • Hyatt says:

        I just, urgh, I do not like Katara or Zuko very much in this episode. The nastier parts of their personality surface and I just want to smack them both.

        Yeah. I've said that Zuko and Mai bring out the best in each other; this episode shows, in contrast, Zuko and Katara bringing out the worst in each other. If Bryke were trying to push non-dedicated shippers away from Zutara, they couldn't have done it in a better way.

      • sabra_n says:

        I will say, in Zuko's slight defense, that it also would have been the height of hypocrisy for him to dictate to Katara how to feel about or react to the Fire Nation raiders that killed her mother when he's, you know, Fire Nation royalty and did some village raiding himself. Aang was in a proper position to urge forgiveness and caution to Katara – Zuko just wasn't.

        • Elle says:

          True, but what kills it is that he doesn't just disagree with Aang, he has to take it a step further by openly making fun of Aang's beliefs. To me the whole scene was Zuko at his disrespectful worst – his disrespect to Aang, Aang's beliefs, Aang's people, and even to Aang's friendship with Katara.

          • Depths_of_Sea says:

            Yeah that. I wouldn't like Zuko dictating what Katara was supposed to feel about the Fire Nation raiders either but the writers pushed it a little too far into douchenozzle territory with him deriding the Air Nomad saying as "preschool" stuff.

      • thesimplyuninspired says:

        (Lol I come out of lurkerdom for this)
        Hi. You are very smart and intuitive and I love your comment here. I just wanted to point out that I always felt that Zuko was kind of channeling his own mommy issues through Katara; thus, the enabling. Zuko isn't really in a place at the moment where he can get closure over his own mother, but he IS in one to allow Katara to get closure for hers, so I think he was hoping to get closure by proxy? And I really need to stop saying the word closure? idk, idk, it's a thought…

        • Depths_of_Sea says:

          Wow, that's something I never thought of… but it makes a strange amount of sense.

    • tigerpetals says:

      Thank you for connecting Aang's death to Kya's. I hadn't realized this before, and it goes a long way to fixing my one problem with this episode: the idea that Katara's problem was not something Zuko did that he had to make up for, but her own emotional issues.

    • Rickard says:

      "(Turning to a slightly lighter subject for a moment, holy cow Sokka and Suki had canon off-screen implied sex in a cartoon on freaking Nickelodeon how did they get away with that?! I am amazed and amused and mostly just want to point at the screen and Suki's awkward little nervous grin when she bumps into Zuko and LAUGH AND LAUGH AND LAUGH.)"

      It's not like they were the first. Zuko and Mai in "Nightmares and Daydreams".

  20. licoricepencil says:

    I have a question! What did Bryke do in order to get THIS past the radar?

    I mean, seriously. Kid’s 15 and he’s ready for premarital hanky-panky.

  21. ina300 says:

    Mark this is episode 16, the two parters count as two episodes.

    So yea I loved your review I liked how you focused on all the important elements of the plot. When the episode aired all people could talk about was Zutara. I have nothing against shipping but I hate when it consumes the fandom to the point were people would rather talk about some innocent hug over the large amount of back story we got.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      It is listed as episode 15 on my Netflix. The two parters count as one episode there.

    • fantasylover120 says:

      Oh I'm with you on the shipping consuming fandom thing. It happened with Harry Potter, Hunger Games, with this, and so many other stuff I could name where shipping was never the point of the thing in question. I get it, I get attached to couples too, but when it divides fandoms like shipping tends to do for a lot of fandoms then I'm not a fan of it. If it's something where the romance is the point like Twilight that's one thing, but if it's something like Harry Potter where Rowling said over and over again romance wasn't her focus then it gets annoying.

      • MEE says:

        Romance shouldn't have been the point at all in The Hunger Games.
        It was about rebellion and death and war.
        Shipping is so frustrating sometimes.

        • fantasylover120 says:

          Yes, exactly. Thing was, Collins never made Hunger Games about the Love Triangle. Yet, 80 percent of what fans were upset with Mockingjay for was the fact that they felt the love triangle was handled poorly.
          ;head desk;

  22. Dragonsong12 says:

    Ugh. The tiny post limits on here really piss me off some times.

    tl:dr: Katara's line to Sokka (mostly the lack of any recognition of how horrible it was to say) make it hard for to me to watch this episode sometimes, and I recognize that's ridiculous, and I get all the arguments, and anyone who disagrees with me is TOTALLY RIGHT, but I've rewatched The Great Divide more than this episode just because of that line, and I feel terrible about that…

    Though Grey Delisle (a.k.a. Azula) voicing their mom? Kind of a mind-warping touch. πŸ™‚

  23. MissDirect says:

    And again with getting things past the censors… Sokka/Suki forever, y'all. And don't tell me they were just going to talk or braid each others hair because I will not believe you.

    This episode is one of my best friend's favorites because she is a (non-rabid, thank goodness) Zutara shipper, but I personally prefer The Boiling Rock as far as fieldtrips with Zuko are concerned. For whatever reason I just feel that it's a more solid episode, but then again I've never experienced anything as traumatizing as Katara has. I was in one hell of an emotionally abusive and manipulative relationship in high school, but that is pretty much the worst I've ever experienced personally, and in that case I'm much more angry at myself for being so blind to what was being done to me than I am angry at him. So basically revenge is not something I've every craved. Karma to act more quickly perhaps, but I'm mostly with Aang on this one.

    As for Zuko pointing out a potential flaw in Aang's philosophy? YOU ARE SO UNPREPARED.

    • TreesaX says:

      Yay for fellow non-rabid Zutara shippers! Haha. I love the hell out of Zutara but a lot of the shippers legit FRIGHTEN me.

  24. Elle says:

    I'm not a fan of this episode. I think it was necessary for Katara to go on this journey, but I also like to think that Katara was helping herself and keeping the memory of her mother's sacrifice a positive one by trying to end the war, helping those in need. I like to think of Kya being proud at who her daughter has become.

    And I am not a fan of the way Zuko behaved to Aang. I'm sorry, but you don't ask for forgiveness from someone and then mock and ridicule those beliefs that allowed Aang to be the person he is – who would forgive and befriend Zuko. I found Zuko's behavior disappointing. I think it scared and worried Aang to see the behavior in Katara that he saw in Jet and in himself and I think he wanted to not stop her from going, but stop her from going not thinking clearly. She is extremely powerful, just as he is, and he knows what that power can do in the hands of someone consumed by rage.

    • stephanienienie says:

      I always felt very uncomfortable about Zuko's attitude towards Aang in this episode too, and now I realize it's exactly as you said: you don't ask for forgiveness from someone and then mock and ridicule those beliefs.

    • Bard Child says:

      Exactly, how can mock Aang about forgiveness when it was Aang's forgiveness, that allowed him even get a second chance.

      Serious Zuko,

  25. Amy says:

    I think it's wonderful, so very un-AfterschoolSpecialOfTheWeek, that Katara does not choose to forgive her mother's murderer. She does, though, choose not to execute/murder this pathetic old soldier because she recognizes what it will mean to take a life–to her, to this pathetic old soldier who still would like to keep his life no matter how pathetic it is. He can no longer do her or anyone any serious harm, which would mean she'd be killing him in the coldest blood possible. She can't forgive but she can process the need not to fall into that cold-bloodedness, and, oh, just–yeah, Katara rocks.

    And then we get to think about that contrast between Katara's situation and Aang's. Aang isn't filled with rage, and stopping Ozai is going to be a very hot-blooded confrontation, we imagine–kill or be killed. So how can Aang resolve that? For the ten thousandth time: I LOVE THIS SHOW.

    *hugs to you, Mark, for all that this episode in particular made you relive*

    • hpfish13 says:

      I never thought of this comparison before, but something about the way you worded it makes me associate Katara's decision to not execute that gut with Harry's decision in PoA not to let Remus & Sirius kill Peter Pettigrew.

  26. Kaci says:

    *siiigh* Mark, if I were a hugging person, or if I thought you were, I would hug you when I meet you at LeakyCon next week. As it is, I just want to sincerely thank you for capturing my feelings once again. Although the exact details of my childhood differ from yours, I went through more or less similar circumstances that still affect me to this day. And for a long time, I was angry and suicidal and it got to be so exhausting. Eventually, I found a way to let my anger go and now I'm told I'm one of the bubbliest people my friends have ever met, and it never fails to make me proud, because that, in itself, feels like a vindication against the people who harmed me during my childhood. It's a giant you can't get to me, look at me being a happy and whole person, I bet you can't stand it directed right at them. But at the same time, I realize that it's really difficult to do that, to let it all go and move forward with one's life, because I know how hard it was for me.

    One of the many, many reasons why Zuko and Katara are on my list of favorite characters of all time, and why this episode is one of my favorites.

    • Naru says:

      OMG Mark is going to Leakycon? Aww I hate living in Australia sometimes πŸ™ I always miss out on all the good conventions.

  27. Jupiter Star says:

    There's so much going on in this episode…new layers to Katara's character, the ABSOLUTE HEARTBREAK FOREVER of realizing just why her mother died, sexytime!Sokka, the works. My favorite bit though is how in just one battle the writers and animators manage to convey just how much Mai and Ty Lee's actions have unhinged Azula. Through the whole of the show since her introduction, things have almost entirely gone her way; when they didn't, it was always something she could turn to her advantage anyway, like being cornered by everyone in "The Machine" or repeatedly losing the Avatar (about to be captured by a bunch of masters? Traumatize your brother so he won't be an issue if this happens in the future! Keep losing the person you most need to capture? Use that to learn more about him and figure out how to best attack in the future!). But in season three, she's finally having things not go her way….Zuko standing up to their father and taking off was the beginning, but still something she could use to her advantage if she could find him. But Mai and Ty Lee are the first time something has not gone according to plan in a way that she can't manipulate or twist around to be in her favor again. Azula's world has been severely compromised and she's so desperate to get things back under control again that she's starting to lose her own.

    And all it took was a couple of animation segments and her outright admitting for the first time that she wants to kill her brother, instead of trying to manipulate the situation like usual. Bravo, Avatar crew. Bravo.

  28. Christie says:

    Flower necklace? Sokka got lei'd.

    Seriously, it took my a bit to realize the implications of that.

    • TreesaX says:

      I only JUST caught it while reading the comments here. Haha. I FAIL.

      • Alexander_G says:

        Especially since it doesn't exactly carry over the other languages.

      • Doodle says:

        Me too, don't worry. I didn't even notice the Zuko/Mai sex implication either!

      • Ridia says:

        I got it for the first time when I read it on tvtropes, and I once went to a graduation party where each guest had to grab a lei from a suspiciously oblong-shaped balloon. Somehow I still managed to completely miss the reference. "Huh. What's with Sokka and the flower necklace?"

  29. chichichimaera says:

    Not very many Texts From The Fire Nation for this episode, so I'll post the links to a few youtube vids as well if I can find non-spoilery ones.

    <img src="http://i70.photobucket.com/albums/i95/Gestalt1/tumblr_lig15aWcar1qi3k37o1_500.jpg&quot; border="0" alt="Photobucket">

    <img src="http://i70.photobucket.com/albums/i95/Gestalt1/tumblr_lil9o9z6hJ1qi3k37o1_500.jpg&quot; border="0" alt="Photobucket">

    Pretty cool music on this one:
    [youtube GqPsRY1Jnb8&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqPsRY1Jnb8&feature=related youtube]

    (cont.)

  30. TreesaX says:

    OH GOD WHY DID I NEVER PICK UP ON SOKKA'S LEI. =O It always looked kinda random to me, but I never picked up on it. I think I'm losing my touch, lol.

    I have to admit, my Zutara shipper heart burst at this episode. THEY WERE JUST SO AWESOME TOGETHER. LE SIGH.

    Katara using the bloodbending was really disturbing to me, and the writers decided to kick it up a notch by having it the wrong guy. Oh Katara, what happened to that sweet (albeit a little bossy) girl I met in Season 1. Although I knew they weren't gonna have her kill that guy at the end, I still held my breath there and was glad that Katara didn't go through with it.

    "Then I have a question for you, what are you gonna do when you face my father?" Every time I re-watch this episode, EVERY TIME, I always say the same thing. "Brilliant." Honestly, all I was really waiting for was your reaction to this line. Dante Basco delivered this line FLAWLESSLY.

  31. Albion19 says:

    As a Zutara shipper this episode made me very happy lol

  32. Hotaru_hime says:

    This episode was really powerful, for some reason felt really "meh" to me. I've seen it twice and my feelings haven't changed.
    I did like how that General offered to have his mom die. What a pathetic man.

  33. LucyGoosey says:

    Ahh, the Southern Raiders. A wonderful, dramatic, decidedly adult look at revenge. It features character development, wonderful artwork, and an ending no one would expect from a kids show.

    Yet for some reason, in my mind it is permanently referred to as "the episode where Bryke took censor dodging lessons from the writers of Animaniacs"

    • Depths_of_Sea says:

      I think that's an excellent way to remember the episode.

      Hooray for sneaking things past the radar!

  34. kartikeya200 says:

    All the internet hugs possible, Mark.

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/raiders4.jpg"&gt;

    "She lied to you. She was protecting the last Waterbender."

    "What? Who?"

    "Me!"

    I'm quite sure you're right, in that the fandom took a lot of stuff in this episode as an excuse to harp on Katara again. I seem to remember a few remarks about the bloodbending, for instance, or 'omg get over it Katara' and just no. No.

    Also, I'm not a Zutaran, and while I can appreciate the ship and certainly see the appeal, I think my favorite Katara/Zuko interaction, thanks to this episode, is just the idea that these two might be able to be friends. Two people with similar painful losses and similar barely repressed fury that have been set up since the beginning to be bitter enemies eventually finding a way to not only work together but understand each other, I like this.

    Plus, I tend to like stories where two characters have some sort of close relationship that is not romantic. Which isn't to say I don't like well written romances, I most definitely do, but the implication that every relationship like that has to involve romance annoys me.

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/raiders1.jpg"&gt;

    As we reached the end of the series, we really wanted to deal with Katara's feelings about the death of her mother at the hands of the Fire Nation. This was one of our darkest and most serious episodes.

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/raiders2.jpg"&gt;

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/raiders3.jpg"&gt;

    I like that when they finally find him, Yon Rha is made neither sympathetic nor some cackling, mustache-twirling Saturday morning cartoon villain. He's a terrible, miserable, pathetic excuse for a human being. His life after retirement does not look remotely fulfilling or happy. He snivels and tries to set them on his mother to save himself, seriously.

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/raiders6.jpg"&gt;

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/raiders7.jpg"&gt;

    "I ran as fast as I could…but we were too late. When we got there, the man was gone. …And so was she."

    Bravo, Mae Whitman. This line just sells everything. I can't even imagine growing up with the thought of 'if I had only run faster'. 'If only I hadn't left her.' If, if, if. Completely irrational scenarios but especially because Katara is like, I don't know, five? And then finding out that the reason that man was there in the first place was because he was looking for the last Waterbender. Aggh, Katara. Is it any wonder that she's held onto that anger a lot more than Sokka has?

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/raiders5.jpg"&gt;

    I have to detour for just a moment to comment on Azula at the beginning of this episode. Because Azula, what. This is an Azula we haven't seen before. She is not in control. It's kind've terrifying. And then she cheerfully exclaims she's going to kill her brother and celebrate it.

    Also, Zuko, really, there are at least three zepplins out there flinging bombs and you state that you think Azula is there, what exactly were you planning on doing? Your fight with her is amazing but lulz, again with the not thinking ahead there, sir.

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/raiders9.jpg"&gt;

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/raiders8.jpg"&gt;

    So I don't remember if I posted this before, but way back when I was talking about how they came up with Katara's character, her original name was Kya. But then they found out there was some other Nickelodeon character with that name or something, so they changed it. Just a neat little development trivia.

    Also, Kya. You are a badass. Welcome to the ranks of Lily Potter.

    And finally:

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/raiders10.jpg"&gt;

    Katara and Sokka's village, before it was leveled by Fire Nation raids.

    Compare to:

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/puppetmaster7.jpg"&gt;

    The same village in Hama's time.

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/puppetmaster6.jpg"&gt;

    The same village from 'Boy in the Iceberg'.

    • TreesaX says:

      Also, I'm not a Zutaran, and while I can appreciate the ship and certainly see the appeal, I think my favorite Katara/Zuko interaction, thanks to this episode, is just the idea that these two might be able to be friends. Two people with similar painful losses and similar barely repressed fury that have been set up since the beginning to be bitter enemies eventually finding a way to not only work together but understand each other, I like this.

      Funny, this is WHY I ship them. Hehe. But i'm glad that you can see what a great story the Zuko and Katara arc is/could have been. Their eventual friendship is why they still hold a place in my heart.

    • FlameRaven says:

      I love Kya's expression there. Oddly, it reminds me a little bit of Ursa. They both have the same kind of "you mess with my kid, I will fuck you up" determination. πŸ™‚

      Also, a telling picture of just how badly the village was ravaged over the last hundred years. If that was the fate of Katara and Sokka's village, I imagine any other villages in the South Pole must be similarly desolate. Ouch.

    • Depths_of_Sea says:

      "Which isn't to say I don't like well written romances, I most definitely do, but the implication that every relationship like that has to involve romance annoys me."

      This, forever. I am a shipper and a big fan of romances but I also dearly love fictional friendships from the bottom of my soul, and it's so nice to have an occasional Male-Female friendship that is not about the romance.

      That's the way I like Zuko and Katara's relationship. Close comrades-in-arms and bar buddies who've got each other's backs.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      Seriously, child versions of Sokka and Katara just SLAY ME.

    • notemily says:

      NINJA KATARA AND NINJA ZUKO

      I totally forgot about their awesome costumes.

  35. Avatar_fan_mom says:

    This is hands down my least favorite episode to watch πŸ™

    Don't get me wrong, I think it is an amazingly powerful episode – but I just can't handle all the sad. Little Sokka and especially Little Katara having to witness the Fire Nation attacking their village and losing their mother like that? Ugh….literally cannot watch this episode without tears. I hate when my kids click on this episode. Seriously. It is just a show, but there are kids out there all the time who witness terrible things or have their parents taken from them. This episode just destroys me. As a mother, I would do anything, ANYTHING to protect my kids, and my heart goes out to Kya. Its so beautiful how calm she stays during the interrogation by that soldier – just to soothe Katara and get her to leave. Knowing that is the last time Katara saw her mother alive is TOO much πŸ™

    I definitely think this gives us a new dimension for viewing Katara's actions and motivations. I think you have explained that angle very well Mark.

    Lastly, I often wonder about this episode if Katara gained a new appreciation for Hama after using bloodbending on that guy. Think about Hama's circumstances – the anger, guilt, rage, desire for REVENGE that she had…it is easy to see where that can lead. Back in the Puppetmaster, Katara very quickly dismissed the technique, yet here when it was so personal to her it was the first technique she used. I do like that the show chose to have her use the bloodbending…it really drove home how intense Katara's anger had become.

    Oh Katara…I want to give you a hug.
    (And while I am giving them away…come here, Mark, and all other kids with messed up or nonexistent childhoods *hug*)

  36. bookgal12 says:

    Before I comment on this episode, I wanted to thank you, mark for letting us, perfect strangers into your life. The past is a part of all our lives that we must all shoulder. My high school experience was unhappy for me to say the least, I was picked on by the other kids up until my sophomore year. After that, I was too afraid to make myself noticed to anyone without fear of rejection. Even today, when I meet people I am extremely wary. Things have gotten better since I enrolled in college, but part of me still wonders what would have happened in HS. There are a lot of life experiences I have yet to undergo, that majority of my peers did in HS. Part of me is sad for missing out on these milestones but another part of me knows that I had to wait and mature. I am sorry to hear that your first boyfriend treated you so unkindly. My first boyfriend was nice but I had no drive to keep dating him. I try to channel my anger into something cathartic like video games or writing about it. I am glad to see things in your life are getting better. I am so happy to be on this journey with you. *Hugs forever*

    Onto the episode! My first impression of the adventure with Katara and Zuko was surprise. I knew that Katara would not let her feelings towards Zuko go without a confrontation of some sort. Zuko then gets an idea and goes to visit Sokka who receives him in a position that made me giggle at the rose in his mouth. Little did, I know that would be one of the very few jokes made in this episode. Sokka recounts the day his mother was killed and Zuko realizes what needs to be done. He and Katara leave but not without Aang trying to stop them. I agree with both Aang and Zuko's logic here. Katara needs to have closure from this raider. But, I also agree with the letting go of anger philosophy from Aang.

    But they go anyways to find the raiders which are near Whale Tail Island and break into the captain's quarters. Katara is so enraged at this point she uses blood bending to subdue this man who ends up not being the guy. We see her stalk off when the captain tells them the old commander is retired. I like Katara's water bending in the final confrontation and I thought for a moment she would give in and kill him. But, she doesn't, she lets him live. And, Katara finally forgives Zuko and hugs him. I was happy to see that bright spot at the end.

  37. Tauriel_ says:

    An interesting thought just occurred to me:

    Apart from the typically Fire Nation top knot, Kya's hairstyle resembles pretty strongly the hairstyle of Ursa. She even looks a little bit like her. Intentional? I'm willing to bet it was. Gives another parallel between the two mothers and the effect their disappearance/death (we still don't know what actually happened to Ursa) had on their children.

  38. enigmaticagentscully says:

    "ten years down the line, I’m some mega-awesome billionaire and one of them sits down for a job interview at my office and I get to tell them that they ruined my life as a kid, so NO, I WILL NOT GIVE YOU THIS JOB, and I’ll get to cackle maliciously as they sulk out of the building and get hit by a comet."

    I thought I'd share a little piece of irony that this story reminded me of, since I used to daydream about similar things happening to MY bullies when I was at school.
    I was branded a nerd by them and tormented for getting good marks (pretty common, right?). But when I raised it with teachers or family the reply was always the same – 'just keep working hard and getting good grades, and one day you'll walk into a crummy little shop or Burger King somewhere wearing an expensive suit and looking rich and successful, and they'll be behind the counter serving you. That'll be your reward and your revenge'
    I was told by everyone that my good grades meant I'd be happier than them later in life, that I'd go to university and get a good job and they wouldn't. I thought my bullies were all just stupid people.

    And I was totally and utterly wrong. I left University recently after just one year, because I hated it so much. Now I'M the one working long hours for little pay in a crummy shop, and THEY'RE the ones at university with bright futures ahead of them

    And you know what? I've never been happier. Things don't always work out the way you think they will, but I'm really glad I stopped working my ass off and being miserable just in order to get revenge on the people I hated. And if they come into my shop now, I'm going to serve them with a smile.

    πŸ™‚

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      BEST COMMENT

      and

      BEST USERNAME

    • Avatar_fan_mom says:

      Did Iroh get to you too?

      πŸ˜‰

      Humbly and happily working in the shop – somewhere years ago you never thought you would be. Destiny has a funny way of working out, doesn't it?

    • lossthief says:

      See, I got that whole speech too. "It may suck now, but 20 years down the line, you'll look back and realize that this wasn't as important as you thought. And that your GRADES were what was really worth caring about."

      Yeah, that's a nice story to tell, but that doesn't make my current situation any better. Telling bullied 12-year-old that things will be different a few decades from now doesn't make them feel better.

      • Hear, hear! I got so tired of that speech because it did not help me in that moment. Thoughts of my future awesome do not ease my present pain, especially when I had enough pain that I could barely conceive of that future.

        Granted, they were right in the end, but it's still shitty sympathetic advice.

    • There are not enough upvotes in the world for this comment.

      YOU'RE A PRETTY AWESOME PERSON BTW, FYI, JSYK

  39. Jay Gatsby says:

    Okay, so I'll divide my comment in two parts: a response to Mark's personal story and a response to the episode.

    Part I

    Mark, the personal history you gave us was so touching. I've considered giving my own accounts, but I'll just say that my childhood and teenage years were devoid of "normal" experiences, too. I pretty much grew up on my own and my parents weren't there to offer me anything (I literally mean nothing). I'm 20 now and as you mentioned, I'm experiencing anger and rage, but I'm starting to see the light. Parents are just people. They have flaws and they are just trying to live life to what they see as the best way possible. And the funny thing is, growing up without anyone coddling you has its benefits. Your reviews demonstrate that you are incredibly sagacious, wise, compassionate, and intelligent. You are just a good human being. Like Zuko, your experiences have shaped you to become the man that you are now. I feel that I'm going down that path as well and I feel more understanding of the human spectrum because of my experiences. Painful experiences help us grow, so I believe.

    I'm at the top of my class at a very high-tier university and after so many years of suffering, I finally feel like I know why I am. Finally, I accept myself and love myself. Frankly, I know that I wouldn't have had the success that I've had if it weren't for my upbringing. Tragedies may in fact help us become better people. I'm still sorting this all out myself, but it was very great to read someone else who went through similar experiences.

    Part II

    Oh Katara, I know you. Feeling rage is like a poison in your veins that can intoxicate your very thoughts. You can spend months obsessing over your anger. You can almost forget what if feels like to not hold hatred within your distempered human heart. And when you give yourself up to rage, you don't want to give up the feelings of anger. It's all that can console you.

    This episode was very necessary for Katara. Not only does this episode stand as a testament to how organic and real these characters feel, but it goes to teach us that inside of each and every one of us is not just one person with one motivation, but a fragmentation of persons with fragmented motivations.

    Katara is not just a compassionate person who is both sisterly and motherly. She is also an angry, raging, hateful daughter who had her mother taken from her. As Iroh said, "Evil and good are always inside of you." We cannot deny this part of Katara. Think back to Guru Pathik when telling Aang that he is "the Avatar, and therefore, [he] is a firebender." If we think of ourselves as avatars, then we are not just one kind of people. Inside of us are thousands of kinds of people. We are not whole; we are fragmented. I am compassionate, but I am also angry and spiteful. Those are components to my personality that I must accept. The writers understand this, and demonstrate it by Katara's moral war within herself. And in the end, she learns to accept this side of her without letting it destroy her.

  40. lossthief says:

    So I had a post ready full of GIFS and HUGS and GUSHING ABOUT THINGS, but intensedebate decided to eat it, and it disappeared. So instead let me just say this:

    Mark, THANK YOU. Thank you for opening up about yourself so much, and especially for that passage about the want for a "normal" childhood. Starting around 4th grade I found myself more and more ostracized by the kids around me. They saw me as weird, the way I talked and words I used were stuff they'd never heard of, and so they figured I was a freak. Starting in 6th grade I started getting the usual insults, fat, pussy, ugly, creepy. From 4th-9th grade I can honestly say I didn't have a single person I could call a friend. The people in my school could pretty much be divided into 3 groups: People who made fun of me, people who ignored me, or people who didn't know me.

    Somehow I managed to be lucky enough to find people who eventually accepted me, and the last few years I've been becoming more social, but for the majority of my teenage years I would spend every night, every weekend, alone and lonely. I've been to a total of 1 school dance, never been to a party, only rarely spent time with friends outside of school. And while I'm happy with where I've gotten, there's still part of me that's always wanted that romanticized, hollywood portrayed teenage experience. It's just…really nice to know somebody else has felt that way too.

  41. Ooze33 says:

    So has anyone ever seen the Avatar Superdeformed Shorts? They're all on the season 2 box set, but Nick released one online:
    http://www.nick.com/avatarshort/index.jhtml

    The password is KOH

  42. teaspooncapacity says:

    This episode always gets to me because I remember hugging my pillow tightly at how scary Katara was. It was honestly horrifying to see all her rage, guilt, and sadness, and I realized that she'd built up and hidden all these emotions from seeing her mother die right in front of her. It really made me think about how this affected her character, what she said and how she reacted in the past, and I appreciate Katara more. Some things still make me cringe, but now I see where they came from and Katara moved beyond the shadow of her mother's death.

    Also, Katara's bond with Zuko grows exponentially here. Katara needs someone who understands what she's going through, someone who won't ask a lot of questions but will just be there for her. Zuko knows what it's like to lose a mother, especially one who is so loving and leaves/dies for the sake of her child. He is there to back her up when she needs him, and she realizes that she has pushed all her misaimed feelings onto him. Zuko is finally and completely accepted by the group as he and Katara get over their past mistakes and become friends. That hug brought tears to my eyes. KAZUKO: BEST FRIENDS FOREVER.

    • Strabo says:

      "uko knows what it's like to lose a mother, especially one who is so loving and leaves/dies for the sake of her child. "

      Yes. When people question why Zuko was so eager to help her they shouldn't forget that Zuko has gone through the same thing, just with the hope that his mother might be still alive. And that he also has made clear he will bring the pulprit down (although indirectly by helping Aang).

  43. TreesaX says:

    Oh and I also love the subtle difference in Azula's voice in this episode. It's becoming very obvious that she's starting to lose her grip on her sanity. As much as I think there was a lot of manipulation and fear on her end towards Ty Lee and Mai, I think she felt that her friends were the only people that truly loved her, whether she was the perfect soldier ornot.. So when she lost them, I think that was the beginning of the end.

  44. Helldars says:

    Oh man, that episode…that dreaded episode. Definitely one of the darkest and most emotionally powerful of the show, in this one Katara looks so distressed and is so full of anger and pain its heartbreaking. But while on one hand I feel so bad for her, on the other hand she's utterly terrifying.
    "Do you kno who I am ?" Even today, this line still sends shivers of fear down my spine.

    I mean really, look at her ! And here she's just venting her sorrow to Zuko and not yet in full "revenge mode" !
    <img src="http://desmond.imageshack.us/Himg405/scaled.php?server=405&filename=ep56378.png&res=medium"</&gt;

    But when the serious stuff starts…well, let's just say that if I was encountering her while she's in that state of mind, I'd just curl up into a ball and hope it's all a nightmare…
    <img src="http://desmond.imageshack.us/Himg713/scaled.php?server=713&filename=ep56902.png&res=medium"</&gt;

    The most telling image is probably this one, she's using bloodbending to the man she believes killed her mother, a technique she hated learning. And here look at that grin, she's enjoying it. She's exhilarated by the fact that she can finally give back all the pain she's feeling to the one who caused it. And when she realizes that it's the wrong man…you get the picture.
    <img src="http://desmond.imageshack.us/Himg146/scaled.php?server=146&filename=ep56872.png&res=medium"</&gt;

    (source: Piandao.org)

    And in the end I feel that while she learned to forgive Zuko and probably to let go of a portion of her hate, she will never forgive Yon Rha and her wounds will probably never completely heal. Yeah…everything is not raibows and skittles at the end, her anger and mistrusts towards Zuko is resolved, but not her sorrow. But for me the most heartrending part of this episode is definitely the implication of what happened when Katara and her father went back to their house, do you see what it is ? An 8 year old child saw the body of her mother, who was most likely killed with firebending. Just let that sink in for a minute.

    One question remains for me: when did she decided to spare her mother's assassin ? After seeing how far she had gone with the captain of the Southern Raiders ? Or while talking to Yon Rha and realizing what a pathetic, empty wretch he's become ? How killing him would not bring closure and stop the pain she's feeling and thus how worthless it would be ?

    On a more personal note: this show really nows how to scare me. Because home invasion is one of my worst fear…

    • Riel says:

      "Just let that sink in for a minute."

      I try to avoid that. I keep thinking that Kya's necklace wasn't damaged in the attack, so maybe he didn't kill her with firebending, but… anything else would still be equally brutal and horrible.

  45. enigmaticagentscully says:

    On a completely unrelated note, I just have to mention that I watched the Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part 2 premiere tonight and I am now a complete sobbing mess.

    Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.

  46. TDM says:

    It's interesting to hear you talk about anger, Mark. What always strikes me about this episode, somewhat relatedly, is that the man who killed Katara's mother seems rather unaffected by that memory – although he does at least recognise Katara.

    Depressing story time!

    To try and make a long story short, I was bullied for about 8 years of my life – I came out of the last few years of primary school vulnerable due to being bullied, then I started secondary school. I managed to shrug off the person who had bullied me, but near the end of my first year, I found out people were saying some nasty things about me in the rumour mill. I was a kid who didn't really interact with other people if I could help it… I was pleasant enough if I did, but I never used to seek people out (actually, mid way through secondary school, I got diagnosed with Asperger's after my teachers were so concerned about me I ended up seeing a psychiatrist). So I didn't find out until it was too big to stop, and I couldn't remember people's faces so I could only rarely identify people. The net result was this carried on til a little over 4 years later when I left the school. It was an awful lot of people, not the same people, and in many ways it mentally destroyed me. I still have very little confidence and it's ruined my ability to form relationships (the rumours were primarily sexual – this started when I was 11, by the way, and I'm now almost 21 and still can't stomach the thought of a relationship).

    …So. Around the time I was 14, I stopped getting so upset when people said things. I knew it was just causing them to carry on, but while I could ignore a lot of things, I couldn't ignore anything sexual – it just really got to me. Instead, I got really, really angry. I remember I used to worry that one day I'd turn around and punch somebody and never stop, and get myself into some serious trouble. But I didn't, as I'd become a very tightly controlled person by that time and while I felt a lot of anger, I didn't act on it. I might withdraw or swear at them or walk out of class (with permission) to report people (and if it was something I knew I still felt guilty that they'd be told off!), but I never hurt anybody.

    Anyway – fast forward to why I'm telling this story. Years and years later, I joined Facebook. I'm not especially easy to find on there (I'm not using my full name to avoid many of these people finding me), but it's not impossible. And sometimes I get added by names of people I look at and I just remember and I feel a lot of anger. But… the truth is, to those people, I could probably meet them on the street and they'd smile and say hi and how much they've missed me. It's a huge thing to me and has shaped a huge part of who I am today. But to other people? They won't even remember. It's not even a speck on their lives – it's just harmless talk I bet they don't even remember. And while I can forgive… I get angry, sometimes, that something that was so huge to -me- means nothing to anybody else.

    That's what this episode reminds me of. While it's a completely different situation on the severity scale… Katara losing her mother has a huge effect on her, obviously. But to the guy… it's just some woman he had to kill. It's a fact of life, it's realistic, but it still is hard to see.

    …My story aside, onto discussing the episode more fully. I was never too fond of this first time around – maybe as I loved The Boiling Rock so much, and I struggle with Katara a lot. Some episodes I love her, and in some I get really frustrated. On this rewatch, I've liked her a lot more – partly as you've been able to discuss part of what she may be thinking, which I can't really do. So I liked this more this time around.

    I do like the "day out with Zuko!" device. It's a good way to see the interactions with each other change, and I like the moral that violence really doesn't end up helping (and that end question is quite chilling). Also, finally seeing exactly what happened to Katara's mother is pretty horrible – especially as Katara probably blames herself as her mother was protecting her.

    So yeah, quite a nice episode – still prefer the Boiling Rock though!

    • notemily says:

      I think so many people have had that Facebook experience. "You seemed to completely hate me in school, so why are you adding me as a 'friend' now?" I think you're right, that what seems so huge to one person can just be one more thing the other person said that they won't remember. Which makes me wonder how often *I* have hurt people that *I* don't remember… :/

      • Avatar_fan_mom says:

        Ugh, I think that sometimes too. Not even necessarily about people I may have hurt…but also people I have influenced in some way or another. I know there are people out there who helped shape who I am today (both for positively and negatively) who wouldn't remember me at all today. Very interesting. Great original post.

      • hpfish13 says:

        Yeah, as much as I was bullied as a child, when I got the chance at around 10 years old, I turned around and bullied a classmate along with a group of my friends. He moved away just a year later, and the one thing I've always regretted was never being able to tell him I'm sorry. The worst part is, we bullied him because he was nice to us, and at 10 years old, a group of girls wasn't supposed to be friends with a boy.

    • shirtninjas says:

      I had this experience shifting from middle school to high school. In middle school, relentlessly bullied by 1/3 of the people around me, ignored by the other 2/3, generally speaking. So it was pretty weird to enter high school on the first day and most of those people inexplicably walked past me and said, "Hi!" like nothing had ever happened between us. I had wanted to kill myself in middle school because of their bullying, and now in high school it was like I had a clean slate. I'm still not sure what happened.

      Weirder? We talk a lot about privilege and things on this site, but I was a young, white, middle-class, christian, straight, cisgender, athletic boy. You know what I got picked on for? My last name, and not being "manly" enough. Absolutely RIDICULOUS. It still makes me a little mad, but I have always been (as far back as I can remember) a very calm, forgiving person, so I have very little actual anger towards those people anymore.

      • shirtninjas says:

        edit: I guess that wasn't really clear. Not saying I shouldn't be picked on or anything because of privilege, just pointing out how pervasive bullying is that people will and do find any excuse in the world to do it to anyone they can.

  47. Jay Gatsby says:

    Despite how short the final dialogue between Aang and Zuko is, I feel that it is one of the most important scenes in this episode. It sets the entire moral conflict for the finale. Not only does Aang need to challenge Ozai, but now he must make a moral choice:

    Is using violence upon a single individual justified by the benefit it would bring to the greater masses? Or does it only perpetuate the art of tyrannical force in order to get what you want?

    If Aang defeats Ozai with violence, then the violent and warring nature of the Fire Nation will live on through his actions. So what can Aang possibly do in this paradox? WE SHALL SEE! πŸ˜‰

  48. H. Torrance Griffin says:

    Mark. You are well overdue for many hugs.

    With the important parts out of the way… I think on some level Zuko is projecting two possible quests he will have to take onto Katara's mission. You see, he has no way of knowing if his mother or his girlfriend are alive at this point. That being said he is being a bit of a twit in actively blowing off forgiveness as an option here.

    Katara is obviously in a bad place emotionally, and I agree survivor's guilt has a lot to do with it. Combine that with being a pants-wettingly powerful Bending Demigoddess and you realize that Yon Rha is a very, very, fortunate man.

    Zuko and Katara have a lot of things in common in terms of emotional issues. I have to disagree with the idea that this translates to romantic compatability (both of them need an active calming influence IMO), but going to the same group therapy sessions would be a good idea.

    With this episode, we can safely call the FN Royals (Ozai/Ursa/Zuko/Azula) Evil Counterparts(tm) to Hakoda/Kya/Sokka/Katara. Distant/absentee dad, son who seeks approval from same and is overshadowed by overpowered bending genius of kid sister, and now an absent mother who made great sacrifices to protect their child.

    (oh, and the son in both cases has been knocking boots with extremely fearsome amazon-type lass of late ^_^)

    I confess, a few months ago I was toying with an idea ripped off from *ahem* akin to 'Reconstructed Destinies.' Aang is freed by calculating, manipulative, socially inept, and somewhat ruthless waterbender Azula of the Southern Water Tribe; while Ozai seeks to mould his empathetic and diplomatic firebending genius of a daughter Princess Katara into something more useful to him and the Fire Nation… but getting to the stations of the canon stymied me.

    • Ayala says:

      "Zuko and Katara have a lot of things in common in terms of emotional issues. I have to disagree with the idea that this translates to romantic compatability (both of them need an active calming influence IMO), but going to the same group therapy sessions would be a good idea. "

      Agreed on all counts. I think this episode really shows Zuko and Katara bringing out the worst in each other– not a good basis for a romantic relationship. Yes, Katara needed the closure that Zuko's actions enabled her to gain, but they were both really scary in this episode, especially Katara. I definitely agree that they both need a calming influence– and we've seen Mai be that calming agent for Zuko.

  49. notemily says:

    Mark, you never seem like an angry person to me, so I was a bit surprised to read about your rage. Even though you often talk about your horrible experiences, I've never seen you as particularly angry. Which is a testament to how well you've been able to process those experiences, I think. You've brought such a joyous perspective to so many of these reviews, even when writing about horrible things. I admire you for that.

    Anyway, on to my actual thoughts on the episode:

    OMG we're almost to the end, Mark. I DON'T WANT IT TO END.

    This episode has flashbacks to tiny Katara and Sokka, which is ADORABLE, except that you know from the beginning that their lives are about to be RUINED FOREVER. Sadface. πŸ™

    However this episode also has:

    Zuko: FIREBENDING IN MID-AIR LIKE A BOSS.

    Katara: STOPPING THE RAIN LIKE A BOSS.

    Seriously, just from a visual perspective, how awesome is that scene with the rain-knives. HOW AWESOME.

    This is where Katara's angry and violent streak comes to a head. Kind of fitting that she goes with Zuko to resolve it. I kind of love that Zuko knows she needs to do this, too. He understands how it feels to carry that anger around with you for years in a way that Sokka and Aang don't. And the Zutara shippers did rejoice.

    This episode puts me a little in mind of an episode of Criminal Minds, "Remembrance of Things Past." It's about a serial killer who has grown old and now has Alzheimer's Disease. He's old and frail and can barely remember the things he's done, which is so different from the young, strong, malicious killers the show usually features. It's a bit harder to imagine this guy as a villain, and harder to hate him.

    So when we see the man that Katara has hated for years, old and gray-haired and being yelled at by his mom about his gardening skills, it doesn't quite fit with the image of the vicious warrior who killed Katara's mother. Which, of course, is the point–even Fire Nation soldiers are people. Maybe not kind and generous people, but people.

    Which then leads directly into Zuko's question to Aang at the end–how is Aang, a pacifist who doesn't even eat meat, going to end the war without violence, without killing? It's a good question.

    Also, Katara and Zuko hug. And the Zutara shippers did rejoice.

  50. Michelle says:

    Talking of fandom's reactions to Katara, here's my spiel on that bit. (Of course, nobody realizes it's really Momo who caused the fall of Ba Sing Se.)

    Also, Mark, thank you for always being willing to open up about your past. My experiences have been radically different from yours but I have felt a lot of the things that you talk about (like the desire for normalcy, oh god do I get that) and knowing I'm not alone means the world to me, and I know it means a lot to a lot of other people, too.

    • arctic_hare says:

      DO NOT BLAME MOMO, MOMO IS FLAWLESS

      (no, seriously, LOL FOREVER, that is hilarious)

  51. Amira says:

    While it was nice to see Katara no longer hating Zuko, I think it showed what a wonderful bond Aang and Katara have. While she didn't forgive Yon Rha, she did forgive Zuko. While she was so consumed with rage, she was able to stop herself. And I like to think Aang's influence was with her.

  52. tigerpetals says:

    Okay, here's a link to a wacky script recap for the episode. I don't think it has any spoilers after rereading it just now.
    http://avatar-fans.livejournal.com/2721467.html#c

    Excerpt:

    Zuko: *deploys the defensive missionary position*
    Katara: WHAT THE HELL?!?
    Zuko: Ummm…I just saved your life?
    Katara: JERK.
    Zuko: Well geeze, at least I'm on top this
    time
    Zutarains: *iconiconicon*

    Zuko: *falls again*
    Katara: *totally catches him*
    Zutarians: YUSS.
    Azula: *falls*
    Zuko: Dieplzdieplzdieplzdieplz
    Azula: *does not die*
    Zuko: DAMMIT.
    Azula's Hair: *billows sexily*
    Audience: …I would totally hit that.

    • tigerpetals says:

      Later That Night

      Katara: *stares vengefully into the horizon*
      Zuko: Ummm…I think you should get some sleep.
      Zutarians: Awwww! He's worried about her!
      Kataang Shippers: Are you kidding? Who ISN'T worried about her right now?
      Zutarians: …point.
      Katara: I don't need sleep! I need to get revenge for what they did to my family all those years ago!
      Zuko: …You need to flasback, don't you.
      Katara: If you don't mind?
      Zuko: Hey, go ahead. I had my flashback episode already, and I didn't have to share.

      • tigerpetals says:

        Katara: She was lying to protect the last waterbender. It wasn't her.
        Yon Rha: Say whaaa?
        Katara: It was ME! *icicle daggers* My name is Katara of the water tribe. You killed my mother. Prepare to die.
        Zuko: *reaches for popcorn*
        Katara: Offer me money!
        Yon Rha: All that I have and more. Please…
        Katara: Offer me anything I ask for.
        Yon Rha: Anything you want…
        Katara: I want my mother back, you son of a bitch!
        Zuko: *munch munch*

        Finally, Katara poises he icicles on him, fires them and…intentionally misses.

        Yon Rha: Wait, weren't you going to kill me?
        Katara: Well, you're pathetic and empty and you disgust me but…I just can't do it.
        Zuko: What? Seriously?
        Katara: Yeah, I just can't take a human life this way.
        Zuko: …I could do it, if you like.
        Katara: No, that's fine.
        Zuko: …Are you sure?
        Katara: YES, Zuko.

    • Histocrat says:

      Those are always great.

      The full script behind the link seems spoilery to me, though.

  53. notemily says:

    "My name is Katara. You killed my mother. Prepare to die."

    "You must be that little Water Tribe brat I taught a lesson to all those years ago…"

  54. Diana Kingston-Gabai says:

    Hmm.

    Okay, I know I'm probably in the minority on this, but I wanted Katara to kill Yon Rha.

    Here's the thing: when it comes to revenge narratives, there are very specific tropes that get trotted out again and again. And, for the most part, they're actually represented in this episode: Aang is there to remind us that revenge is never a good thing, that it makes victims of everyone sooner or later. The specter of Jet is there to demonstrate how blind vengeance basically inflicts your pain on people who haven't directly harmed you.

    But then there's Zuko, living proof that revenge isn't always a bad thing.

    Consider his behavior during the Eclipse: it's not just the moment where he defies his father, it's the moment where he gains a measure of payback against an abusive parent. No, he will not fight Ozai just because Ozai commands it; he's going to run off with Iroh – his "real" father – and join the group that actively seeks his father's destruction. Of course, this is conflated with a larger issue – as he tells Mai at the Boiling Rock, he's also doing this to save his people.

    But this is why Zuko supports Katara's mission: because he understands that sometimes, revenge goes hand in hand with closure. Sometimes hurting someone who hurt you lets you move past it. Ozai doesn't have any power over his son anymore, and by extension neither does Azula – compare their fight in this episode to their first battle at the start of season 2.

    (cont.'d)

    • Diana Kingston-Gabai says:

      So in this episode Zuko gives Katara the opportunity to address what's most likely the ugliest, most painful moment of her life: her mother's murder. Is it any real surprise that she uses bloodbending? At the same time, she isn't Jet – she doesn't kill Yon Rha's successor because "it's not him". This isn't some "Kill Bill"-esque slaughterfest where the author provides "moral justification" for the wronged heroine to utterly massacre everyone she sees; all Katara wants is to end the life of her mother's killer.

      And she doesn't do it.

      That, in itself, is problematic for me, because it seems to represent a retreat into cliche (or perhaps the more rigid standards at Nickelodeon – if there's only so much you can slide under the radar, I'd have hated to lose the implication that, to paraphrase Monica Geller, Sokka and Suki exchanged flowers).

      But it's why she spares Yon Rha that irritates me: because she sees that he's a pathetic old man.

      Er… so what?

      Ultimately, Yon Rha doesn't just escape death; he escapes justice. And it's a bit of a disappointment, because this show has never been shy on having characters face the consequences of their actions: Hama's backstory is tragic, but that doesn't excuse what she does and she's imprisoned for it. Zhao is drowned by his own ambition. Roku laments not killing Sozin before the war truly began. Kyoshi indirectly caused Chin's death, and never regretted it. (This dovetails into a big problem I had with the finale, but I'll save that for the review.)

      The fact that Katara seems to somehow get closure despite complete inaction on her part seems intended solely as a way to prove Aang right: revenge is always wrong, no matter the circumstances, and you just have to turn the other cheek and forgive, forgive, forgive.

      Eh.

      • jubilantia says:

        I see where you're coming from. However, I think many times that wanting to kill the person who killed someone you love is a misguided form of closure, and doesn't ultimately solve anything. Taking matters into your own hands and deciding to end someone else's life is a huge deal, and it means that you have to carry the weight of that for the rest of your own life. And you'll probably feel way more guilt about it than the other person did.

        Plus, who's to say the guy's mother wouldn't have been completely pissed off and hired people to go after Katara? After which Sokka and Toph and possibly even Aang would go after them? And on and on in an endless cycle of revenge.

        I think a reason to kill someone would be so they don't hurt anyone else, and once Katara saw that Yon Rha was incapable of doing such a thing again, she decided she didn't need that extra tarnish on her psyche.

        The show has never been shy about giving characters what they deserve, but it is almost always through events of the character's own making, and not through someone else, that they receive their comeuppance.

        Ultimately, I think killing that man would make Katara just as bad as him. Killing him would not bring her mother back, so I think it makes more sense to learn to cope with it without murdering someone.

        I think there are rare occurrences when revenge is the right answer, but I think they are few and very far between, and I thought this episode came to a logical conclusion. I think these cliches exist because for the most part, they are true.

        • Elle says:

          I agree with you. And Katara had been doing so many positive things to honor her mother's memory and to move forward. Zuko understood the anger, but he didn't understand healthy ways to channel it and control it. Especially given her abilities. Aang knew she needed closure, knew she needed to confront the man who killed her mother, but he knew that revenge was not the answer. He very easily could have taken revenge on Zuko and others in the fire nation for taking the lives of his people. He has taken revenge before during moments of extreme pain and rage and he knows no good comes from it.

          And in end Aang was right. She forgave Zuko after all. So maybe forgiveness isn't such a bad thing.

          Aang trying to help her and in being concerned and scared for her (remember back in the second season "Avatar State" episode where Katara refuses to watch Aang activate the Avatar State because of him being in pain and rage is scary for her) is one of the great things about this episode.

          As for Yon Rha – he is living in his own hell. Possibly one worse than any fate Katara could have meted out.

        • Diana Kingston-Gabai says:

          Part of my problem with this is that as far as representations of revenge in fiction go? The question of whether it's implicitly approved of or not seems to fall along gender lines. Someone up-thread brought up Inigo Montoya – there's a guy who spends the whole movie obsessed with killing his father's murderer. Which he does. And wouldn't you know, it's just what the doctor ordered.

          Does Magneto get revenge on Sebastian Shaw in "X-Men: First Class"? Most certainly (and later events prove him right). Does anyone blink at Batman killing Joker to avenge his parents in the first Tim Burton movie? Not in the least. How about Wikus going berserk on the mercenaries in "District 9"?

          Somehow this trope never seems to apply as fairly when women are the ones out for revenge – that's when the cliche comes in where "if you kill him you'll be just as bad as he is". I mentioned "Kill Bill" earlier, and that's a perfect example: the Bride had some very solid reasons for wanting payback, but she has to become a comically ridiculous mass murderer to get there. Demona from "Gargoyles" goes too far, to the point where all her sins are explicitly shown to be of her own doing.

          And here as well, the idea seems to be that Katara would somehow be "lessened" by avenging her mother, so she has to have a contrived last-minute change of heart, brought on by a cringing old man. This, after she was willing to resort to bloodbending when she thought she'd caught the killer before.

          It just rang false to me, and still does.

          • notemily says:

            I'm not saying you don't have a point, but Shaw and the Joker and Count Rugen, at least, were all people who were still killing and being evil just for the fun of it. Shaw, in fact, would have started World War III if he hadn't been stopped (and I would argue that killing him is probably the only way to stop him), making him an imminent threat. Yon Rha is just an old dude with a garden. Katara's mother is just one of many people he probably killed in the course of the war. That might make him a horrible person, but it doesn't make him someone who needs to be stopped. Killing him now would solve nothing.

            • notemily says:

              In fact, I would further argue that the best way Katara can avenge her mother is by helping Aang take Ozai down, since he's the one perpetuating the war that was the reason her mother died in the first place.

          • jubilantia says:

            I agree with notemily, that they were getting rid of people who were still actively killing. Shaw is like the X-men equivalent of Hitler, as far as I'm concerned. However, I wouldn't call Magneto, Batman or Wikus the most balanced of individuals. Magneto goes on to become someone pretty warped himself. In the movie you see why he's like that- but that doesn't make what he does right.

            In this case I got the sense that Katara was lashing out in uncontrolled rage rather than logic, and once she was faced with him, it wasn't the fact that he was old, but rather that his ineffectualness made her realize she didn't need it anymore.

            BUT. I do agree with you that revenge plots are gendered in a way I hadn't thought about. Now I'm trying to think of plausibly written revenge plots involving women and… I got nothin'. I haven't seen The Brave One or… I can't think of any others, although I know there must be, so I don't know how that is portrayed. So I see your point a little better now.

            • kartikeya200 says:

              Off the top of my head, there's Kill Bill and both versions of True Grit, I think? But yes, you definitely see that sort of thing more with male leads than female (though in part, this is probably because you simply have more male leads than female leads, but definitely in revenge flicks.)

      • kartikeya200 says:

        The only response I can bring to this without spoiling stuff is basically the idea that there are punishments much worse than dying, and, as I understand it, particularly in a number of Eastern cultures.

        Yon Rha is a pathetic, miserable man. We'll never know what events led to his situation at the end of the Southern Raiders, but he seems anything but happy (and is it me, or does he seem rather jumpy for a guy who's been retired for years?). Does he still deserve to die? Absolutely, I'd agree. Who knows how many Kataras he's been responsible for over the years.

        …But would Katara have been helped by killing him? I don't think so. She hasn't forgiven him, but she has faced him, she's seen what he's become, and she had the opportunity to kill him and chose not to. I don't think this proves Aang right. Forgiveness is a hard, great thing if you can manage it. Katara didn't forgive Yon Rha, and even declares she never will. But this trip has provided her with some closure, which is what she needed.

        • Diana Kingston-Gabai says:

          Would Katara have been helped by killing him? It seemed to me that the reason she was so hostile towards Zuko – and the reason she's so eager to follow him against the Southern Raiders – is because she believes the man who killed her mother is still out there somewhere. And she tells Aang exactly why she needs to confront him: "It's what I need. It's what he deserves."

          What I don't understand is how her choosing not to kill him in any way helps her or provides closure. The man who killed her mother is still out there. She may know that he's miserable, you can even go so far as to say he's in a living hell, but that's neither justice nor revenge. He's not suffering because of anything she did to him.

          In other words, what actually happened here was that Katara chose the most passive way of dealing with her pain: just stand aside and hope the universe corrects itself. And that's an odd choice for someone who's always been portrayed as being an active person who asserts herself.

          • kartikeya200 says:

            She hunts him down, fighting through a number of Fire Nation soldiers to do so, breaking into some tower to get information, confronts him, and practically makes him piss himself in fear. I wouldn't call that passive just because she decides at the end that she can't bring herself to kill a man in cold blood.

            It was the confrontation that Katara needed. She needed to find and face that man, because in the process she had to confront and release her own years-pent-up fury at what he did. I would ask the question: what would the act of killing him have done for Katara's emotional well-being that everything else didn't? Cold justice? He's not able to hurt anyone now. Her mother will still be dead and murdered. He deserves it, sure. And her mother deserves to not be dead. I don't think it would have helped Katara at all.

            She's fourteen, maybe edging on fifteen. I'm okay with her deciding not to murder a guy, however deserving he may be. And I think, for her, that was the most emotionally healthy course of action.

      • Ayala says:

        "Ultimately, Yon Rha doesn't just escape death; he escapes justice."

        Honestly, I think letting Yon Rha live was more punishment than killing him would have been. Look at how wretched his life is at that point. He also has to now live with the fact that he faced death like a coward. This is a guy who was once a big, strong, ~*~manly~*~ soldier (from Yon Rha's perspective, that is). But when death was staring him down, he sniveled and pleaded and offered his mother's life in his stead. Katara leaves him weeping in terror in the middle of an empty road. From the perspective of a "tough guy" like Yon Rha was in Katara's flashbacks, that's probably a pretty sad fate.

      • Lioness says:

        IDK It looked to me like karma was already punishing Yon Rha.

    • Depths_of_Sea says:

      See, I was sort of with you until you brought in Zuko because I don't think Zuko defying Ozai counts as revenge. He's not really "getting back" at Ozai so much as calling him out for being a terrible person and putting it out there that he's not going to take the abuse anymore. That's not revenge, that's just standing up for yourself. So your comparison sort of falls apart for me there.

      • audzilla says:

        I agree with this. As totally rad as Zuko's defiance was, it doesn't seem like revenge to me – Ozai's never given the impression that he actually gives a shit about Zuko, except insofar as his son affects his own reputation. So I doubt any of that actually 'hurt' him.

      • Diana Kingston-Gabai says:

        His act of revenge is joining the Avatar – someone they both know is dedicated to the Firelord's downfall. You can tell by Ozai's reaction when Zuko informs him that Aang is alive that the Avatar still represents a major threat to him personally; Zuko could've just walked away then, but he sticks another pin in by letting Ozai know, in no uncertain terms, that he's going to help Aang win.

        • Elle says:

          An act of revenge in comparison to what you wanted Katara to do would have been for Zuko to walk in to his father's hiding place, saying: "Screw you, Dad!", and with his swords, chopped the man's head off. And would Ozai deserved it, you bet. But Zuko didn't. And even with the lightning redirection he could have aimed it back at his father and taken his life. But he didn't.

        • kartikeya200 says:

          I don't see Zuko joining the Avatar as an act of revenge. That kind've seems to cheapen his journey; he's not joining Aang because he's angry at his father. He's joining Aang because he's realized that's the right thing to do. That he's also, finally, gloriously angry at his father isn't the point of that decision, however fun it is to see him go 'fuck you, Dad, you suck so much I'm going to help the guy you sent me to hunt down remove you from power'.

          Revenge would've been Ozai going 'why don't you just kill me right now?' and Zuko going 'good idea *stab*'.

  55. jubilantia says:

    Yay awesome episode! I love it when popular media does such an excellent job of reflecting real situations and feelings.

    Mark, I can never truly understand what you've gone through, but please know that I empathize, and that my heart aches for the abuse you had to endure. I'm just glad that you are becoming able to work through it and that we've been able to get to know and love such a wonderfully snarky and fiercely caring person. As Avatar repeatedly emphasizes, it's not our experiences or skills that define us, but how we choose to deal with them and how we treat others.

    This episode is so powerful. I love it when hidden complexities are unveiled in characters we thought we knew. I think some people found Katara to be annoyingly optimistic throughout the first part of the series, but here we see how her belief in the Avatar is what got her through the most difficult times in her life so far. It's so beautiful to see each character's strengths and weaknesses, and how they are able to support each other.

    It's also interesting to see that even though Zuko and Aang have common experiences and many parallels in their lives, they still have fundamentally different ways of looking at the world and dealing with others. It's also interesting that Zuko gets a little closure through this too, through witnessing Katara's journey. It's something that had to happen, and I think all the feelings and experiences were woven together in logical, believable ways.

    In conclusion: Casanova!Sokka never ceases to delight me.

  56. doesntsparkle says:

    Oh Mark, thanks for sharing. My life is very different, but I can relate to what you wrote about anger, resentment, and how hard it is to just let go of it. I've been to a few different therapists, with varying degrees of success, but the most valuable thing that I learned in therapy is that depression is anger turned inwards. It's not possible to forgive every person who has ever wronged you, but it's crucial to forgive yourself. When my shrink first told me that, I thought it sounded like utter bullshit, but it's really helped me out over the last few years.

    Katara's letting go is a great message to send. I love that this show doesn't sugar coat the darker themes and make Katara's growth in the episode seem easy.

  57. Jaxx_zombie says:

    I just thought I would drop by from my skulking to do a spoiler reminder due to the final episode coming up soon. On Mark Watches we have this lovely bit at the top that says Site Rules/Spoiler Policy. We greatly recommend that you consult it when unsure of a post, because sometimes people post spoilers.
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    The poster might not be aware that it is a spoiler, but simply report the post and make the job of the mods easier. Some people might have a word or phrase that is a spoiler, but the rest of the post might be okay. In which the post might seem like this
    <img src="http://i1222.photobucket.com/albums/dd494/Jaxx_zombie/tumblr_lnf3g06NkH1qljrneo1_500.gif&quot; border="0" alt="Photobucket">
    So don't forget to be awesome and don't post spoilers!
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  58. cypsiman2 says:

    I really did not like Zuko in this episode. I mean, the only he's able to be with the group is because Aang forgave him, and then he turns around and spits on that, mocks the very virtue that he was desperate to be the beneficiary of only a few episodes ago.

    • audzilla says:

      I didn't really like that part, either. πŸ™ Though it sort of felt like 'I'm going to vocally side with Katara here cause I'm trying to get her to not hate me anymore' which I guess is a pretty teenager thing to do.

    • Elle says:

      The problem I have with this episode too is that Zuko gets hailed as understanding Katara, Aang's beliefs are pushed aside by both the characters and even the fandom. And the fandom makes Aang out to be the bad guy in this episode by daring to actually care about what happens to Katara, not just spouting off what Katara wants to hear.

      Sometimes understanding someone and caring for someone is to say things or present choices they don't want to hear. And Aang knows Katara and he knows what it is like to be in her position.

      Also she does end up following his advice at least in some fashion – she forgives Zuko. A notion that Zuko mocked earlier in that episode.

  59. Pelleloguin says:

    One of the first things I noticed in this episode is that Azula, for lack of a better word, is slipping. She seems much more angrier, more willing to cause needless destruction and harm. Losing Mai and Ty Lee has broken a part of her, and I feel like it was the barrier keeping her from destroying everything around her in order to keep control. Her anger at their betrayal, and probably her obsession with perfection are starting to put too much strain on her and I can not imaging this will end well. She's sort of running parallel to Katara in this episode, using her anger to lash out and hurt people and keeping it close to her no matter what, while in the end, still hurt, Katara lets the anger go in order to try and move on with her life as it is now.

    Personal Anger Story Ahead:
    I was teased without mercy in elementary school. I even received a death threat, which was on a piece of my stationary, so the worker in the office I was sent to told me it was not nice to try to get others in trouble. The reason it was on my stationary, was because I gave a piece to a friend who really wanted one. They day after the note, she was suddenly friends with the girls who were the ones teasing me. To this day the memory still haunts me. Why was she so willing to be so cruel? Why were all of them willing to try to make my life as miserable as possible, even getting teachers to beleive that because I had a very high reading skill, I was cheating on tests or reading assignments.

    Until my freshmen year in high school I hated all of the girls who made my early life a living hell. I would hear about how the leader got hurt in a soccer match and I would feel this sort of 'Karma is being served' feeling.

    Finally, one day after talking to a friend of mine about it and saying very mean and petty things about the group, I slowed down a bit and started thinking about what I was saying. It was just as mean as what they said about me. I asked my self, why should I still be angry? Anger won't fix the past. It wont make the hurt go away. It just makes me ill. I decided to just let go of the anger.

    I will never forgive my bullies for their abuse. I have social anxiety and trust problems because of it, but I am working to minimize the effect they have on my life. (The awesome friendly people at Mark Reads and Watches are a wonderful help.) But I am not angry anymore, and I feel like I can move on now. But let me tell you, It took a long time to get over the anger. My senior year, I could finally say that I felt no more anger. About seven years after the teasing stopped, four after I chose to stop the anger and with a lot of support from friends.

  60. DeaDlineD37 says:

    This is the first time I've ever commented on one of your reviews Mark, though I've been hooked for quite some weeks now. Your insight, your humor, the community you attract, it is to be lauded. I'll postpone my reactions to this episode to the end of the comment, as I feel compelled to respond to your emotional account.

    I'm sixteen years old (just completed eleventh grade) and sincerely, though I cannot (thankfully) relate to you, it cannot go without saying how you've given me a new perspective on high school, and my childhood. I was (and am) fortunate to have grown with some fantastic friends, comprehending teachers and amiable family. Despite my 'nerdy' tendencies, I was rarely picked on for them (I often met conflicts with humor, and to this day I have not gotten into a single fight). Growing in this nurturing atmosphere allowed my personality to thrive, and in the process I have grown confident of my abilities, and of who I am.

    Yet to this day I feel a certain 'angst' if I feel left out for the most mundane of things (and whats worst I KNOW I'm not supposed to, but despite my constant rationalizations I still do), and don't take criticism too well; both of which, from my point of view, are flaws which have been able to develop as a result of my upbringing. I'm definitely not saying that I'd rather have your childhood (with the greatest respect in mind in saying so), but what I mean that the adversity and abuse you put up with have made more impartial to other's opinions, a characteristic which I have always craved immensely. I hope you do not mind my rambling, but I couldn't waste this opportunity. You have shown me how STUPID some of my 'problems' are. I thank you.

    Onto the episode. Though I had seen it as a kid (Fortunately I have the luck of being able to compare my childhood perceptions with my more mature, up to date views), as I did the entire series, albeit in translated form; I find it mentally difficult to assimilate Katara to the anger driven water-bender I was presented to in this episode. Yes, she has every right to be angry. Yes, had I experienced what she has I would have reacted in a similar manner. Yes, I get it that she feels this urge to even out the score; yet I still find this vengeful embodiment of hers hard to take in. I do however know this is Katara we are witnessing when she does the hardest thing that could be asked of her. Forgiveness. (this was somewhat predictable, but it is in the way that it is presented that I find it so great) From my point of view the writer's have often 'eclipsed' Katara's psychological progression in the series (be it with some other character's revelations, or some other event), though in "The Southern Raiders" it is presented to us so clearly, and the parallel with Zuko simply adds to the awe felt.

    On another note Mark, to reiterate the exclamation proclamed be my fellow commentators in hours past YOU ARE DEFINITELY NOT PREPARED. These last few episodes have been action packed, but (and I hope this is not considered to be a spoiler) the next episode (the final one before the GRAND FINALE) really does give you context (being intentionally vague here so as not to break any rules).

  61. SisterCoyote says:

    This probably has already been said a thousand times but if I scroll through all the awesome, awesome comments I’ll get sidetracked (by the awesome) so I’ll just say it here.

    Mark, you are already WAY more awesome than the kids who bullied you could ever hope to be in their wildest dreams. Seriously you are amazing and awesome and cool and they’re… well, not you, so obviously nowhere near your league of coolness. <3

  62. Lavanya6 says:

    Yes, Zuko. Let's argue the virtue of retaliatory revenge to the demigod whose civilization your nation genocided. Nothing bad could possibly come out of that argument if you win it.

  63. beeftony says:

    Fanart time:

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    Source

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  64. freeradicals says:

    I really, really appreciate a couple of the things brought up in this episode. It is interesting to see a somewhat realistic portrayal of what being consumed by rage and pain over being wronged looks like. No longer is Katara acting as her normal, caring self; she can only see her goal of hunting this man down. There are also a lot of great moments in here that I appreciate, particularly how all the characters are interacting. I also find it sort-of darkly funny that Zuko and Katara bond over revenge. But the thing that makes me love this episode is how Katara does not forgive her mother's murderer at the end, like we would have expected.

    Let me explain.

    (unnecessary personal story time)

    I don't want to go into too many details, but I had to deal with a very painful betrayal by my spouse early in my marriage. We are religious, and in Christianity there is a philosophy/ commandment to forgive every wrong against you. I do agree with this, but I think it is very different then the way a lot of people in the churches I have gone to sometimes push for. I think that forgiveness means that I surrender my right to have the offender make up the wrong to me, i.e. I give up my right to revenge. For me, forgiveness does not mean forgetting, or even that I am not angry at the person. But it does mean that I am no longer owed anything.

    There were people in my life who were sort-of horrified that I was unable to forgive my spouse just a few weeks after things came to light. Eventually, I ended up reading in a book that said the time line to forgiveness after a betrayal is something like 3-5 years, and it is ok to be stuck in the grief/anger cycle for a long time. We have now gotten help and I am much farther on the path of forgiveness, but I am still not entirely there.

    I saw this episode just a few months after I started working through the pain, and I was so grateful that this children's show seemed to grasp that forgiveness is a choice, not something you have to do, and that the episode ends with Katara not forgiving Yon Rha. That stuff takes a long time, and even her forgiveness of Zuko took, what, weeks or months? It is realism that I relate to, and it made me feel so good during a shitty time that these writers really got it.

  65. frogANDsquid says:

    Ugh mark your childhood=tragedy! Why was i not around to just give you a hug!

    So even though this might seem like a weird place to open up about childhoods its also feels very safe from judgement. My childhood was not nearly as bad as anything you’ve told us but i had some experiences that are similar in nature. I have bipolar depression and am still learning to cope and manage it but my family never really understood what that meant. I cant even blame them because i cant imagine its easy for anyone who doesnt suffer from bipolar depression to fully understand what its like. My parents always told me i was a dissapointment and often my father would tell me that there was nothing wrong with me that i was just immature and acting out. My siblings (all 4 of them younger then myself) never understood and would get mad at me for lashing out or not wanting to do anything because i was so depressed. And so i decided that if i kept everything to myself i could force myself to have stable emotions. All i did was make it worse. I never had any close friends because i didnt want anyone knowing the pain i cause those close to me. Eventually (as i am going to graduate high school in a year) ive gotten better but i still feel the effects of my childhood.

    So thank you mark for sharing your story and thank you for creating a site where all kinds of people can come together and feel safe to express themselves. Mostly thank you for inspiring me to open up and trust.

  66. Macy says:

    Mark, I wish I could give you a hug and/or a shoulder to lean on. I'm so glad you're still here with us. You seem like an amazing person and I hope you realize you have a TON of fans who love you dearly. <3

    As for this episode, I was really pleased to see Katara's anguish and fury bubble to the surface. Throughout this entire series, she's been the motherly figure who watches out for the rest of the group and tries to treat everyone kindly. She really needed this trip with Zuko. She needed a way to unleash those emotions and I really respect her for not killing Yon Rha. Aang kind of pissed me off in this episode, though. I know he means well, but not everyone deals with their grief and anger the same way. He needed to have faith in Katara and allow her to deal with it her own way without acting all high and mighty and "forgiving" her for going after Yon Rha. UGH. Thanks, Zuko. You really pulled through on this one!

    • Elle says:

      But she wasn't dealing with it like the Katara we know. She blood bended someone. A technique that she hates. And Aang knows what it is like to be consumed with rage and pain and react with great power. Trying to convince Katara of other options and ways to handle what she was feeling is precisely what a good friend would do. Just as she tried to do in "The Avatar State.".

      Aang wasn't acting high and mighty. He was concerned for someone he cares and loves. And Katara did spare Yon Rha and forgive Zuko after all so maybe Aang's advice counted for something.

      And Zuko was obnoxious. He mocked the beliefs of a race his family helped cause the near extinction of. He mocked Aang's notions of forgiveness when he himself wanted it only a few episodes before and and in an episode where he was seeking Katara's forgiveness. He was hypocrite. And he was saying only what she wanted to hear. And sometimes as a friend, you have to say what your friend doesn't wan to hear.

  67. hhgrrl says:

    I did not have a "normal" childhood, either; but, my therapist has a sign hanging on her wall that says: 'Normal is just a cycle on the washing machine.' Seriously, though, I am at a point of letting go of the anger I have had for 20+ years (I am 34, meaning I should be dead, according to the internets). That anger has impacted my life as well as my family's (husband and children) and it should not effect them, too; hence five years (and counting) of therapy sessions for me. If you allow it to, life WILL get easier and better. That being said, HOW DID I MISS SOKKA GETTING LEI'D?! OMG?! I recall when the series originally aired but I didn't watch it then, as it was for ~kids~, but it was when the movie was released that I really got into the series, meaning I am a fairly new fan, but I have watched the entire series in order via NickToons last summer, including Avatar Extras. Oops, way off subject, sorry ya'll!

  68. simplefaith08 says:

    Mark, you are an amazing soul.

    It's funny, I've always liked Katara as a character ever since the beginning, for reasons that seem pretty normal: that she has very strong beliefs, that she's strong without being perfect, that she's a waterbender and that's awesome, etc. But it was this episode that made me realize that she was my favorite, and why: I relate to her on so many levels. I relate to being the "caretaker" type, and the resulting guilt that always comes with it. If you're not able to help someone, to stop something, it always weighs down on you. What could I have done to stop this? If I had been more careful, if I had been faster, if I had been more straight-forward, no one would be hurt, I wouldn't have let anyone get hurt. It's irrational, of course; you can't stop life from happening, but, well, everyone has their fatal flaws.

    And with Katara, all that guilt, all the frustration turns into rage, and she lashes out. It almost physically hurt me to see Katara lash out at Sokka, because it reminded me of those times where I lashed out at my older sister, even when she wasn't the one I was angry at. But the way it was handled, her being able to tell her feelings to Yon Ra (and scare the hell out of him), she was able to straighten everything out: her mother's death was not Zuko's fault, it was not her's, it is Yon Ra's. But more importantly, that killing him would not have made her feel better. It might make things "even," but with the type of person she is…it would have simply come back to haunt her.

    Other Thoughts:

    -Mae Whitman is a BAMF. Seriously, girl gave me CHILLS.
    -Seeing Azula be less restrained is scary. Also, I love the fact that Zuko can match her now. It's almost like their switching sides: Zuko has closure and discipline, and Azula's discipline is not what it used to be.
    -I know everyone's already said it but…tee hee, Sokka got lei'd.
    -I meant to mention this a couple of episodes ago, but Aang's voice is so deep now (something i didn't notice when i was watching the show for the first time)! They grow up so fast *tear* πŸ˜›

  69. tori says:

    This is one of my favorite Avatar episodes ever. Not only because of the emotional message it conveys, but because of the beautiful way it is treated visually. The flashbacks are fantastic, the music is compelling, and the suspense created when Yon Rha is walking in the rain, even though we know who's hiding, is still really intense. But mostly, I love the fact that Katara just stops the rain. I get goosebumps every time. The entire story that this episode goes through makes it my favorite. It's mystery, suspense, family, comfort, and sadness all rolled into one episode. And though we're used to Avatar packing a real emotional punch, this is the only one that I don't have a single complaint about. (Okay, no Zutara kiss is something for me to complain about, but what can you do?) Getting more backstory on Katara's childhood was brilliant as well, but honestly I can't shake the feeling that her confrontation with Yon Rha gives me. This scene is truly the best of the whole show.

  70. Lioness says:

    I don't think Zuko's question was mockery, but the legitimate tactical question that needed to be answered next.

  71. Michael says:

    Forget the finale, you are so unprepared for what is to come in the next episode. :3

  72. Chris says:

    Love this this episode but it breaks my heart.

    "I'm not the helpless little girl I was when they came."

    This line makes me think back to her first fight with Pakku in season one. We know at the time the fight is because she wants to prove that just because she's a girl she can fight and that she's not gonna accept his sexist bullshit but theres more to her anger. In the Southern Raiders we see what actually happened the day they lost their mother. She was the last to see her mother alive and when she goes back for her with Hakoda they find her dead. We can only imagine the surviors guilt she has because of it.

    So going back to the Pakku fight, there is a whole other level to the anger she's feeling then. Pakku is essentially telling her she has no right to defend herself with her waterbending ability. An ability that she probably believes couldv'e helped save her mother, and that now can protect herself and the people she loves as well as the many people she's willing to stand up for and defend. So she lets her temper take over and picks a fight to prove it and show that she refuses to be helpless.

  73. Eisenhorn says:

    "I honestly never even considered her an angry character; her moments seemed few and far between, always a necessary reaction to what was happening around her"

    Great now I'm sad that this exchange was never in the series:
    Katara- I guess I never really thought of myself as an angry girl
    Aang- You're the angriest person I've ever met

    especially this episode

  74. Oh man says:

    I've commented here before, but am commenting anonymously this time, for reasons that will be obvious. I apologise if this gets rambly or if this kind of comment isn't welcome. It is offered in a spirit of sharing and trying to reach out, not trying to derail or detract from your story.

    My parents were far from abusive, and I am not trying in ANY way to equate our experiences, but there were parts of your story that really struck a chord with me.

    I swear my mother invented helicopter parenting. Play around the neighbourhood? You must be joking! There are paedophiles and joyriders and savage dogs everywhere! I remember the one time in my life I climbed a tree (at a friend's house, with adults around) and how incredibly happy and empowered I felt and how furious my mother was when she caught me. In my teens I wanted SO MUCH to do a foreign language exchange, and I think it would have been great for me, but when I brought up the subject at home, I was immediately shot down because I might be sent to live with murderers. I got so many lectures on how dangerous everything was that I had a completely unrealistic idea of how the world worked (I didn't eat mushrooms until I was ten because I'd been warned about poison mushrooms so many times, I assumed supermarket mushrooms might also be poisonous). I relate so much to the idea of wanting to have normal growing-up experiences, and wanting them even now as an adult. I spent all my time reading books about kids who were allowed go out and do things, and I felt so sad because I didn't understand why I was different. I got some freedom by going to college abroad, but when my parents dropped me off, I got a stern lecture about how I must never go out alone after dark, which scared me so much that I ended up with an extremely limited social life. I watched other students going out and joining activities and having fun and I wondered why I couldn't do the same. I tried to improve my confidence with self-defence lessons, but the class was in the evening and I was too scared to make the trip (SO SPECTACULARLY IRONIC).

    For me the legacy isn't anger (although I am still somewhat angry) so much as fear and low self-esteem. I grew up feeling like there must be something inferior about me — I wasn't smart enough or strong enough to be trusted to do the things normal people did — and it's been really hard to shake that feeling. I'm getting better, but it takes a lot of conscious effort. I still have difficulty evaluating risks. I am scared to cross busy roads. I've never smoked a joint because I'm afraid it will damage my brain. I'm afraid to cook chicken in case I get food poisoning and die. My personal relationships have suffered. I have a lot of trouble going anywhere after dark (which really sucks in the winter, when it's dark by 4 p.m.). I know other people do these things, but I don't trust my own ability to do them safely and not screw up.

    Now that I have a family of my own, I have to work out how to raise my kids safely without doing the same kind of damage to them. And honestly I don't really know where to start.

  75. Classtoise says:

    There will literally never be enough Ninja Katara and Ninja Zuko.

    Ever.

    Also, I absolutely adore how close Sokka and Aang became. For a guy who barely trusted him, Sokka’s accepted Aang as a brother. Hell, more than that. A bro!

    “You know, you’re pretty wise for a kid.”

    “Thanks, Sokka :D”

    “Normally it’s annoying, but right now I’m just impressed.”

    “I appreciate it :|”

    “Can I borrow Momo for a week?”

    “…Why do you need Momo?”

    “Iuno.”

    My friends and I have a running theory.

    Aang and Sokka are, apart, brilliant. Sokka is an amazing tactician with a scientific mind, inventors talent, and can pick up skills amazingly quick, on top of his humor and wits and is very likely the smartest person on the show by a long shot.

    Aang is a wise-beyond-his-years kid who has time and again accepted (and shirked, but he is just a kid) his fate as the protector of balance and the most powerful being in the physical world, mediating trouble with an even hand and a sage wisdom more appropriate for someone his ACTUAL age.

    Together, they are a couple of dorks who forget the blind girl can’t write, and then suggest sending a letter FROM the blind girl.

    It’s just an amazing turnabout. I call it the Bro-Proximity Theory.

    Toph is also part of this with Sokka (although she has the most adorable crush on Sokka, too.)

  76. Joe says:

    Mark, I have a request for you:

    When you watch Sozin's Comet, please do not watch it all at once. It's four episodes long–taking it two at a time is the best way to end this series, because it will give you time to think, to contemplate, to really anticipate the ending. This way you'll get more out of it. Otherwise, your review will just be one long stream of OMGWTFAWESOME–I think you owe it to yourself two split your viewing of the finale. Trust me on this one.

    • Kuzon says:

      That's silly. It aired as a complete finale and it would be best to watch it as Bryke intended it.

  77. Embies says:

    Katara didn't kill anybody,

  78. Bard Child says:

    I was honestly meh about this episode. Seeing a ragey angry Katara seemed so out of character, compared to her optimistic stances. I thought it was dark and sharp and it was necessary for her to release that pain.

    At the same time they were both douchey to Aang and that bugged me. Mostly because I've always been the type to let things go, I don't nessarry forgive people (I have never really forgiven my ex or my dad actually) but I don't feel that I have to. I just move forward and let it be in the past. To see Katara and Zuko snark Aang for his beliefs and even when it was over Katara still be rather nasty to Aang (and gotta give him kudos for taking it like a champ, what a Bodhisattva Aang), just really made me angry. I mean…really….

    Still it was a nice tie in that Katara forgave Zuko. That was needed.

    However I would point out how much this fandom really worships justified murder for some reason.

  79. grav_ity says:

    I think what I love most about this episode is that it's entirely built around the last twenty seconds, the conversation Zuko has with Aang, and yet (again!) it's not "filler". Like Sokka's Master, the whole episode is engineered for a tiny moment, and…well I believe the common phrase is "you are not prepared". πŸ˜‰

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